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July 3, 2015 / 16 Tammuz, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘land of israel’

‘Moral Authority,’ Jewish Style

Monday, February 11th, 2013

There’s an interesting article in the Jewish Press by Joe Settler which hinges on the concept of “Moral Authority.”

When a drafter of Israel’s Constitution says there is a problem because too many IDF commanders are religious, we need to worry about what kind of Constitution he is drafting.

“I meant, that as long as there is no solution for the source of the authority in the IDF in general, and specifically, including the integration of women [because listening to women sing, is the biggest problem the army faces], the problems will grow and increase. As the number of religious soldiers and commanders grow, since the authority of their Rabbis is what rules for them, the size of the problem will get larger. More and more officers and soldiers will find themselves indecisive when they face this conflict.” Dr. Arye (Arik) Carmon, head of the Israel Democracy Institute For many years, I’ve been troubled by the fact that even Torah observant (aka Orthodox) Rabbis, especially American Yeshiva University educated ones, such as Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and Rabbi Aaron Lichtenstein, have somehow added non-Jewish concepts/ideologies of Liberalism and Democracy to the 613 mitzvot, Torah commandments.

We Jews have a much more veteran and well documented social and political philosophy/ideology in our Torah and Talmud.  It actually contradicts many modern “moral” philosophies/ideologies, because it’s timeless.

I was especially disturbed in the troubling times leading to the Disengagement expulsions when so-called Torah observant rabbis said that a Knesset vote could over-ride the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel and even banish Jews from their homes, communities and businesses.

ישוב הארץ Yishuv Ha’Aretz, the Settling of the Land is a cornerstone of Judaism, and a large portion of the Torah is centered on it.

The Torah is our MORAL AUTHORITY.  Without it, we Jews couldn’t have had survived as a People during the thousands of years of exile from our Holy Land.  Our Land and our Torah are what has kept us a people.

Last night, I was at a shiur by  Inbal Amiton – “Believe and plant: The Redemption of Land as a Reflection of the Redemption of the Nation, According to Yirmiyahu 32”  in Matan.  Amiton said that according to Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah,) first G-d will return us to the Land and then we will do Teshuva, repent.

I see the process of Torah observant Jews growing in the IDF (Israeli Army) as proof that it is happening today.

Israel’s secular and quasi-secular/religious  leaders don’t understand that our true Moral Authority is G-d given.

Visit Shiloh Musings.

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Twenty-Six: Tevye Takes a Wife

Monday, February 11th, 2013

  Both of Elisha’s two grown daughters were golden-skinned, beautiful, devoutly religious, and nearly half Tevye’s age. The eldest daughter, Carmel, was naturally the first choice of the parents, but Elisha told Tevye he could marry whomever he picked. Embarrassed by the whole distressing business, and wanting the matter to be concluded as discreetly as possible, Tevye told him that Carmel would be fine.      Tevye had never been a man to pay much attention to women, except for his wife, Golda, of course, but now and then on the settlement, he had noticed that Elisha’s eldest daughter far surpassed all of the other young women, not only in beauty, but also in the industrious way that she worked. Whether it was in the dining tent, the chicken coop, or the fields, she seemed to do twice as much work as the others. Now that a match was in the making, Tevye helped himself to a few extra looks. Being a man with a great lust for life and a healthy appreciation of the Almighty’s Creation, he could not help but notice how truly pretty she was. But her youth made him feel so uneasy, he wanted to forget the whole crazy scheme. As if to make sure, he snuck into Ruchel’s house and searched for a mirror. A long time had passed since he had seen his reflection, and now when he stared into her looking glass, he could only shake his head sadly at the old bearded goat that stared back. True, he had not turned grey completely, but white hairs were beginning to sprout in his beard and along the sides of his head like patches of weeds. Catching him with the mirror, Ruchela teased him for being so vain. She said that the “silver” in his hair lent him an air of nobility and wisdom. Laughing, she told him to stop worrying about getting old. But it was not only his age which bothered Tevye. Suddenly, he noticed that his belly had grown rounder and softer, his teeth had yellowed and chipped, and his back ached so painfully that some mornings he had to summon all of his strength to get out of bed. “It’s all in your mind,” Ruchel said. “Besides, Carmel is a woman already with a mind of her own.”

To make certain that Carmel was not being forced into the marriage, Tevye sent his daughter on a mission to speak to the bride. He wanted her to know what a broken-down husband she was getting. Tevye himself was too embarrassed to go. Since the day he had agreed to the marriage and shaken hands with the father, Tevye had hardly spoken a word to the young girl herself. For one thing, she was shy, and whenever she glanced at him with her dark, sparkling eyes, Tevye was flabbergasted completely. Suddenly, Tevye, the orator, had nothing to say. Whenever he was next to her, he became as tongue-tied as Moses had been when he had discovered the burning bush.

Ruchel came back with a glowing report. Carmel was all smiles, the happiest girl in the world. For months, she had been casting secret glances at Tevye, her father’s best friend. If her father thought highly of him, that was enough for Carmel. The difference in their ages didn’t bother her at all. On the contrary, she told Ruchel that Tevye’s great wisdom would help them build a proper Jewish house. What bothered Carmel the most, Ruchel said, was her own insecurity in being so young. After all, Tevye hardly ever said a word to her, certainly because he was so learned and worldly, and she was so naive and unschooled.

“What did you answer?” Tevye asked.

“I said that while it was true that you ranked with the likes of Rashi and the Rambam, you also enjoyed talking to horses and cows, and that she shouldn’t let your big beard make her think you were as old as Methusalah.”

Tevye nodded. It was good that a wife should feel some awe for her husband. True, Golda hadn’t. But she had lived with Tevye for twenty-five years and seen him in his weakest moments, like when he had let her cousin Menachem Mendel squander all of their savings on stocks. He realized that Elisha’s daughter saw him as a philosopher, a statesman, a pioneer builder. It was important, therefore, that he remain bigger than life in her eyes, and not let her find out that he was really an ordinary nebick like everyone else.

When Tevye Healed the Muktar’s Daughter

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

For readers who think I’m exaggerating when I claim that “Tevye in the Promised Land” is unquestionably one of the greatest Jewish novels ever written, here’s an excerpt from this week’s Jewish Press serialization.

When the daughter of the Muktar from a neighboring village becomes bedridden with hepatitis, the Arab chieftain sends an emergency delegation to bring Tevye to heal her. In order to promote peace between the Arabs and the Jews, Tevye goes to the village and tries a proven, old-fashion remedy on the Muktar’s beautiful daughter….

From Chapter 25:

Before letting the Jews start on their way, the Muktar begged Tevye to pray for his daughter.

“Allah answers the prayers of the Jews,” he said.

What choice did Tevye have? The Arabs were their neighbors. The Muktar, in a way, was his friend. There was nothing in the Bible which forbade a Jew from praying for the health of a gentile. On the contrary, Abraham prayed for the Philistine king, Avimelech, and the king and his wife were healed. And the liturgy of Rosh HaShana, one of the holiest days of the year, was filled with prayers for all of mankind. So Tevye prayed, “May the Almighty heal the Muktar‘s daughter.”

Ten days later, the Abdul Abdulla showed up once again in Morasha. This time his daughter was with him. Like a princess, she rode in a wagon, swathed in a shawl and a veil which covered her cheeks. Flowers, the color of a sunset, were braided into her hair like a crown. Tevye was working in his garden when the Muktar rushed up and embraced him. His daughter had miraculously recovered. His friend Tevye had saved her from death. The very same day that Tevye had come to their village, the sick girl had stood on her feet. The next day, her color had returned to her face.

“See for yourself,” the happy Muktar said, pointing at his daughter.

With the veil hiding the lower half of her face, it was hard to tell how she was feeling. But the look of deep gratitude in her black, flashing eyes told Tevye that she had recovered.

The Muktar barked at his daughter, obviously commanding her to lower the veil for the doctor. When her fingers pushed the silk strands away, Tevye understood why Abdulla was so passionately concerned about his eldest daughter. She was, by all standards, a beauty.

“I can never repay you enough,” the chief said. “But to show you my gratitude, I want to give you my daughter in marriage. She will convert to your religion. She will learn to speak Hebrew. I promise you, she will be an obedient wife.”

Tevye was dumbfounded. For one of the few times in his life, he couldn’t find words.

The Arab held out his hand for his daughter to come down from the wagon. A slender golden leg appeared from the folds of her sari-like gown as she stepped down to the ground. Flustered, Tevye glanced away at his garden.

“Isn’t she beautiful?” the Muktar asked, proudly displaying the girl, as if she were a horse in the market.

Gracefully, like a snake in the grass, the girl moved forward in her long flowing dress. She was young, yes, but a woman all the same. Long black hair cascaded over her shoulders. Embarrassed, Tevye couldn’t find words.

“Please,” Abdulla said. “Take her. She’s yours.”

With the Muktar grabbing his arm, it was impossible for Tevye not to gaze at the girl. But even if a flood of raging waters were to smash the dam inside him, he would never, never give in. Some things were unthinkable. Some things could never be condoned. How could he ever face God? And how could he ever look at his daughters? What would become of all he had taught them if he himself were to be conquered by the wild beating in his heart? No, he would rather spend his life in the barn with the horses and cows than take some strange Delilah for a wife.

“Save me, dear Golda, save me,” he thought, clinging to her memory with all of his might.

“I will give you a rich dowry with land and with horses when you take her,” the Arab chief promised. “The marriage will be like a peace treaty between our two peoples.”

Tevye shook his head. No, no, it never could be. But he couldn’t find the right words to answer.

“Isn’t it written in your Bible that a man should not live alone? Allah heard your prayers and brought my girl back to life. Now she is yours forever.”

Tevye shook his head. He glanced at the girl, and her eyes flashed a look of unabashed gratitude, so bold and direct that Tevye felt as if a bomb had gone off in his head. He looked down at the ground, but even the mere sight of her sandaled foot made him shudder.

“Golda, save me,” he prayed…
HAPPY READING!

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Twenty-Five: Tevye Cures the Muktar’s Daughter

Monday, February 4th, 2013

     On the arranged date, the Jews set out to survey the land which their Arab neighbors wanted to sell. The Muktar Abdulla graciously sent them a guide who showed them the way through the mountains to his village. Traveling on horseback, the journey up and down the hillsides and valleys took them two hours, but a bird could have spanned the same distance in minutes. While LeClerc was adamantly against the meeting, calling it an excuse to take off from work, the Morasha settlers went all the same, having reached the conclusion that the Morasha colony desperately needed to find a new site. The topography of their present location was simply not suited for farming. If the parcel which the Arabs were selling had more potential than Morasha, than the settlers would advise the Baron to buy it. They hoped that by appealing to the Baron directly, they could circumvent his parsimonious clerk.      In the meantime, the Morasha pioneers had made another important decision. After days of debate, the community forum had voted to hire Arab laborers to work with them in the fields. Nachman and Shmuelik were against the plan for ideological reasons. It was important, they claimed, to build a Jewish work force, and to rely solely on Jewish labor. Tevye was more pragmatic. The settlers were shorthanded, the work was never ending, and they needed to make as much progress as they could before the winter began. Also, if there were Arabs to work in the fields, the Jews would be free to erect more houses. In the end, Tevye’s supporters won out. The Arab village was modest in size, consisting of a few dozen mud dwellings, surrounding a centralized mosque. Children walked barefoot and scavenged through mounds of garbage. Many were skeleton thin, and yellow pus dripped from their eyes. Dogs lounged lifelessly in the shade, their tongues hanging out of their mouths, their ribs clearly visible in their emaciated chests. Chickens ran around everywhere. Dangling from a pole was the head of a camel. Flies swarmed around the blood which was still dripping from the cut where the neck had been severed from the animal’s body. “Camel is an Arab delicacy,” Elisha told Tevye.

“They eat it?” Tevye asked, his eyes wide in surprise.

“Not only do they eat it – they’ll expect you to eat it too.”

The Muktar rushed forward and greeted them warmly, falling on his knees and bowing. His hand moved ceremoniously from his heart to his lips in gestures of loyalty and devotion. For what seemed a full minute, the Jews faced the Arabs and bowed in exchanges of mutual honor. How different this tribe was from the Arabs who had murdered Ben Zion, Tevye thought. Still bowing, the chief inviting the Jews into his house, where a feast was laid out before them. Noticing their worried glances, the Muktar assured them that in preparing the food, he had been careful to respect the dietary laws of the Jews. All of the salads, vegetables, and fruits could be eaten, and the main course was to be a Mediterranean couscous with raisins and nuts. The Muktars daughters poured tea from gleaming brass pots, and a water pipe filled with aromatic herbs was passed around for all to imbibe. Nachman refrained from eating the Arab pita, but Tevye and Elisha washed their hands and made a HaMotzei blessing on the bread, not wanting to offend their host who insisted they eat. Watching the Yemenite break off pieces of pita and scoop up the heavily oiled techina and humous, Tevye followed suit, as if he had been eating oriental salads for years. To his surprise, he found himself taking seconds of the pasty, exotic spreads. Nonetheless, as more colorful dishes and salads were spread out before them, Tevye kept an eye out for the other half of the camel which they had seen hanging outside.

The Muktar poured the Jews glasses of a tasty date liqueur which Elisha called Yaish.

L’Chaim,” the chief toasted, allowing himself a small sip.

L’Chaim,” the Jews responded.

After the satiating meal, the Muktar Abdul Abdulla showed the Jews his land deed and led them on a tour of the parcel of land which he wanted to sell, a short ride away from the village. The site was situated upon a plateau, with breathtaking views to all sides. Underground wells were plentiful, and, in the past, much of the land had been cultivated, obviating the need to carve fields out of the rocky soil. Hillsides had been planted with olive trees, and terraced for vineyards.

Teach Your Children About Eretz Yisrael

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Jewish parents should teach their children to live in the Land of Israel. How do I know? Because I’m a Jew and I take the Torah seriously. For me the Torah is real. It’s our guidebook for living.

In the Ten Commandments, it says, “Honor thy father and thy mother, in order that thy days be long upon the Land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” The Land mentioned in the verse isn’t America, nor Germany, nor South Africa, or even Canada. The Land means the Land of Israel.

What is the connection between honoring one’s parents and the Land of Israel? The verse promises that if you honor your parents, you will be rewarded with living in the Land of Israel? Why? What’s the connection? What does one thing have to do with the other? Because if you honor your parents by doing what they teach you, then you will live in the Land of Israel, because every Jewish parent has the duty to teach his children that they are supposed to live in the Land of Israel.

All Jewish parents, for all time, in all generations, no matter where they live, are to teach their children that they should live in the Land of Israel. That’s what the Torah is telling us in this verse, and the instructions of the Torah are forever. In order to keep the Torah in the way it is meant to be kept, you have to live in the Land of Israel.

The Torah is the Constitution of the Nation of Israel, a Nation with religious laws that cover all aspects of life, both the private, and the national, including laws of government, judicial laws, military laws, economic laws, agricultural laws, laws of war, and laws for the king. You can’t have a Jewish army, and Jewish government, and Jewish agricultural laws which only apply to the Land of Israel in Canada, America, or France. So Jewish parents are to teach their children that they should live in the Land of Israel, and Jewish children are to honor their parents and perform the commandments which they are taught, and that way they will fulfill the intention of the Torah that the Jewish People live in the Land of Israel and not anywhere else.

So parents, if you’re Jewish, and if you want to follow the Torah, then tell your children to live in the Land of Israel.

And children, if you want to honor your parents, then live in the Land of Israel. That’s what the Torah is saying.

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Twenty-Four: Morasha

Monday, January 28th, 2013

The Jewish Colony Association had chosen the mountainous location not for its suitability as farmland, but because of its price. When more and more Jews began immigrating to Palestine, the Turkish government began doubling and tripling the cost of the land until parcels were often ten times more expensive than farmland in Europe. The Baron had learned that supporting a settlement through its first struggling years was a certain financial disaster. Having to pour relief funds down never-ending holes, he strove to keep his initial investment to a minimum. While the theory was sound, Morasha was a perfect example of the problems inherent in absentee ownership. True, the vast stretch of property sat on the strategic ledge of mountains which ran down the spine of the country. But if the Jews chose to live near the only spring of underground water, they would have to trek two hours to work every day to reach the cultivatable fields. Likewise, if they built their homes near the fields, then their water supply would be an impossible distance away. But that was their problem, not the Baron’s. “Some big metsia,” Elisha had said during a scouting trip to the site. It was one of the Yiddish expressions he had learned in the winery. The Yemenite had taken the words out of Tevye’s mouth – the tract of land was no big bargain. Once again on their second scouting visit, all of the settlers had protested, but Mr. LeClerc, the Company manager who was in charge of the project, told them to take it or leave it. What did he care? After a few years with the Company in Palestine, the unctuous gentile would return to Paris and a secure job in one of the Baron’s banks. He had come to Palestine, not for ideological reasons, but for the promise of advancement in the Rothschild empire after his two-year indenture. Unlike the Frenchman, the settlers were committing themselves for a lifetime. They were ready to sacrifice for the mitzvah of building the land, but shlepping two hours to work, or to fetch a barrel of water, that was a proposition doomed from the start.

“Surely there are other areas more suited for settlements,” Shilo, the carpenter, had argued, when a caravan of camels had dragged lumber out to the site in preparation for the approaching encampment.

“The Company has made its decision,” the redheaded LeClerc declared.

“Then let the Baron live here,” Hillel remarked.

“All of you Jews want to live like the Baron,” the Frenchman answered in disdain.

“We don’t have to live like the Baron,” Tevye said. “Give me a wagon and a horse and I’m happy. But the Lord created man with a brain, and He expects him to live with some intelligent sechel. We are not Bedouins that we can live without water.”

“Our agronomists have determined that this acreage comprises some of the best farmland in the country,” the manager asserted.

“That may be so, but if we have to travel two hours to work, and another two hours to return, so that four hours a day of work time will be wasted on traveling instead of plowing and planting, then it sounds like the Baron has been given some lousy advice on what to do with his money.”

“Therefore,” LeClerc said. “The main camp will be built in the middle of the property, equidistant from both the fields and the water. Thus, you will only need to travel one hour each way.”

Tevye had sighed. Could it be that the Almighty had brought him to the Land of Israel to take orders from this pompous Frenchman? But what choice did they have? To go back to Russia? That was out of the question. America? Who knew what troubles would be waiting him there? If a Jew was hounded by troubles and tzuris in Israel, in the place he belonged, he could be certain to find even more heartache in a foreign country.

At least, with hard work, the parcel of land would become their very own. A man had to look optimistically toward the future and trust that everything would turn out for the best. Nothing was built in a day. As Nachman reminded them, the Torah itself starts with the words, “In the beginning….”

And the Winner is…

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

I have no clue how many religious Jews are in the Israeli Knesset now after the election. But I have been told that if they would all combine, they would be the single largest party in Israel. That – in and of itself – is a pretty sad commentary on the state of Achdus. If there is anything that should unite religious Jews it is the fact that they are religious. Nothing should be more important to us that serving God through his Torah. And that is what all of us try to do. What unites us should therefore be far greater than what divides us.

But as can be plainly seen that is hardly the case. Especially in Israel. Just to cite one example of why it isn’t – is the way the observant Kipa wearing Naftali Bennett, head of ‘HaBayit HaYehudi’ was treated by differing rabbinic leaders.

Rav Ovadia Yosef the spiritual head of Sephardic Jewry in Israel condemned him telling people they dare not vote for him. (Actually Israelis do not vote for people but parties. But it is often the party leader that people are really voting for when they vote party.)

But Rav Dov Lior, Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba and nearby Hevron – a strong supporter of right wing Religious Zionist settlers enthusiastically supported him.

Mr. Bennett’s party was expected to win big in these elections. His newly minted party is said to have taken over where the National Religious Party (Religious Zionists) left off. But Bennett is so right wing that he makes Netanyahu look like a liberal. Bennett’s political views are much closer to those of Rabbi Meir Kahane. He advocates abandoning the peace process and annexing certain portions of the West bank right now. This is a position that has a lot of sympathy among the right wing in Israel. A lot of Israelis see the peace process going nowhere and simply say, “Let’s do what we have to – and let the chips fall where they may”.

The fact is that even though Mr. Bennett’s party won big with 11 seats, it fell short of predictions. The big surprise is Yair Lapid’s centrist, “Yesh Atid” party. He unexpectedly won more seats than Bennett did. With his 19 seats he is second only to Netanyahu’s combined Likud / Yisrael Beitenu coalition with 31 seats.

How did this happen when all the predictions were for a right wing blowout election that – by including Bennett’s party in a governing coalition – would have ended up with the most right wing government in Israel’s history?

And what about the religious parties, like Shas (11 seats) and United Torah Judaism (7 seats)?

How is this all going to break down? What will a new government look like?

To me it looks like the new governing coalition will include Lapid’s centrists instead of Bennett’s right wingers. It will probably also still include the religious parties as it always has making the coalition consist of 68 seats. That is a very comfortable majority of the 120 member Knesset. Bennett may very well be out of the coalition.

Yair Lapid is the son of the anti religious (although he claimed he was not) Tommy Lapid who led the Shinui party and who won six Knesset seats in 1999.

But this Lapid is not his father. Although he favors drafting Haredim into the military, I don’t see him doing it as an anti religious move. Because if that is considered anti religious, so am I. I too think Haredim should be drafted. But that is not the issue here.

I believe that his views are pretty much the mainstream views of most Israelis. Which is why his party is referred to as centrist. His list (of members filling those 19 seats) includes Rabbi Dov Lipman, a velvet Kipa wearing Haredi Rav with Semicha from Ner Israel. People may remember him from his activism in the Sheinfield area of Bet Shemesh, where he lives.

He was in the forefront of the opposition to Haredi extremists from neighboring Ramat Bet Shemesh who terrorized 8-year-old Naamah Margolese as she walked to her Religious Zionist elementary school every day. Rabbi Lipman is a man of great integrity and courage. He would never join forces with a man who is anti-religious.

I don’t know how this will all shake down. But I for one am glad that the new government will not be take the right turns everyone expected it to. Much as I would like to reclaim all of the Eretz Yisrael – which is the policy of the right, I realize that this is currently an impossibility. Trying to do so can only lead to disaster. Netanyahu is smart enough to know that. Which is why I support him.

So even though I liked and even admired Bennett, I was not thrilled with the idea of a governing coalition that included him. My feelings about him are similar to those I had about Meir Kahane… a man who spoke the truth but whose ideas about how to deal with that truth were so dangerous that in my view they could have destroyed the State of Israel.

The one thing people like Naftali Bennett do not factor in enough is the importance of the relationship with the United States. The financial, military, and intelligence benefits of this relationship are immeasurable. It is extremely naïve to think that U.S. support for Israel is open ended. Even though there may be members of congress or political candidates that might even go so far as Bennett does (Newt Gingrich comes to mind.) support for Israel may erode if Israel thumbs its nose at a U.S. administration that hardly has the warmest of relations with it right now.

An Israeli Government that would move even further to the right with Bennett’s influence could seriously damage and further alienate an administration that already disapproves of Israel’s current settlements policies.

If building new settlements upsets the current administration now, wait till talk of unilaterally annexing parts of Judea and Samaria enters into the political discourse. Fortunately that doesn’t seem as likely now that the Israeli electorate has spoken.

Of course one never knows what will happen. There is no governing coalition yet. Negotiations haven’t started yet with the political parties who might be considered coalition worthy. It is still possible that Bennett’s party will be in and Lapid’s party out. It is possible that both Bennett and Lapid will join the new government, leaving out one of the religious factions – like United Torah Judaism (the Ashkenazi Haredi party).

One thing seems certain. Even though there will be an unprecedented number of religious Knesset members – Haredim are closer to being drafted than at any time in Israel’s history. Whether that will actually happen, how they will ultimately react if it does, and how this will affect the country as a whole – remains to be seen.

Aren’t Israeli politics fun?

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

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