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October 28, 2016 / 26 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘LOVE’

The Limits Of Love

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

In a parsha laden with laws, one in particular is full of fascination:

If a man has two wives, one loved, the other unloved [senuah, literally “hated”], and both the loved and the unloved bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the unloved wife, then when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the beloved wife in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the unloved wife. He must recognize [the legal rights of] the firstborn of his unloved wife so as to give him a double share of all he has, for he is the first of his father’s strength. The birthright is legally his. (Deut. 21:15-17).

The law makes eminent sense. In biblical Israel the firstborn was entitled to a double share in his father’s inheritance. What the law tells us is that this is not at the father’s discretion. He cannot choose to transfer this privilege from one son to another, in particular he cannot do this by favoring the son of the wife he loves most if in fact the firstborn came from another wife.

The opening three laws – a captive woman taken in the course of war, the above law about the rights of the firstborn, and the “stubborn and rebellious son” – are all about dysfunctions within the family. The Sages (Sanhedrin 107a) said that they were given in this order to hint that someone who takes a captive woman will suffer from strife at home, and the result will be a delinquent son. In Judaism marriage is seen as the foundation of society. Disorder there leads to disorder elsewhere. So far, so clear.

What is extraordinary about it is that it seems to be in the sharpest possible conflict with a major narrative in the Torah, namely Jacob and his two wives, Leah and Rachel. Indeed the Torah, by its use of language, makes unmistakable verbal linkages between the two passages. One is the pair of opposites, ahuvah and senuah, “loved” and “unloved/hated.” This is precisely the way the Torah describes Rachel and Leah.

Recall the context. Fleeing from his home to his uncle Laban, Jacob fell in love at first sight with Rachel and worked seven years for her hand in marriage. On the night of the wedding, however, Laban substituted his elder daughter Leah. When Jacob complained, “Why have you deceived me?” Laban replied, with intentional irony, “It is not done in our place to give the younger before the elder” (Gen. 29:25-26) – a reference to Jacob buying Esau’s birthright and taking his blessing. Jacob then agreed to work another seven years for Rachel. The second wedding took place a mere week after the first. We then read:

And [Jacob] went in also to Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah … God saw that Leah was unloved [senuah] and He opened her womb, but Rachel remained barren. (Gen. 29:30-31).

Leah called her firstborn Reuben, but her hurt at being less loved remained, and we read this about the birth of her second son:

She became pregnant again and had a son. ‘God has heard that I was unloved [senuah],’ she said, ‘and He also gave me this son.’ She named the child Simeon. (Gen. 29:33).

The word senuah appears only six times in the Torah, twice in the passage above about Leah, four times in our parsha in connection with the law of the rights of the firstborn.

There is an even stronger connection. The unusual phrase “first of [his father’s] strength” appears only twice in the Torah, here (“for he is the first of his father’s strength”) and in relation to Reuben, Leah’s firstborn: “’Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might and the first of my strength, first in rank and first in power” (Gen. 49:3).

Because of these substantive and linguistic parallels, the attentive reader cannot but hear in the law in our parsha a retrospective commentary on Jacob’s conduct vis-à-vis his own sons. Yet that conduct seems to have been precisely the opposite of what is legislated here. Jacob did transfer the right of the firstborn from Reuben, his actual firstborn, son of the less-loved Leah, to Joseph, the firstborn of his beloved Rachel. This is what he told Joseph:

“Now, the two sons who were born to you in Egypt before I came here shall be considered as mine. Ephraim and Manasseh shall be just like Reuben and Simeon to me.” (Gen. 48:5).

Reuben should have received a double portion, but instead this went to Joseph. Jacob recognized each of Joseph’s two sons as entitled to a full portion in the inheritance. So Ephraim and Menasseh each became a tribe in its own right. In other words, we seem to have a clear contradiction between Deuteronomy and Genesis.

How are we to resolve this? It may be that, despite the rabbinic principle that the patriarchs observed the whole Torah before it was given, this is only an approximation. Not every law was precisely the same before and after the covenant at Sinai. For instance Ramban (See commentary to Gen. 38:8) notes that the story of Judah and Tamar seems to describe a slightly different form of levirate marriage from the one set out in Deuteronomy.

In any case, this is not the only apparent contradiction between Genesis and later law. There are others, not least the very fact that Jacob married two sisters, something categorically forbidden in Leviticus 18:18. Ramban’s solution (in Gen. 26:5) – an elegant one, flowing from his radical view about the connection between Jewish law and the land of Israel – is that the patriarchs observed the Torah only while they were living in Israel itself. Jacob married Leah and Rachel outside Israel, in the house of Lavan in Haran (situated in today’s Turkey).

Abarbanel gives a quite different explanation. The reason Jacob transferred the double portion from Reuben to Joseph was that God told him to do so. The law in Devarim is therefore stated to make clear that the case of Joseph was an exception, not a precedent.

Ovadia Sforno suggests that the Deuteronomy prohibition applies only when the transfer of the firstborn’s rights happens because of the father favors one wife over another. It does not apply when the firstborn has been guilty of a sin that would warrant forfeiting his legal privilege. That is what Jacob meant when, on his deathbed, he said to Reuben: “Unstable as water, you will no longer be first, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it” (Gen. 49:4). This is stated explicitly in the book of Chronicles which says that “Reuben … was the firstborn, but when he defiled his father’s marriage bed, his rights as firstborn were given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel” (1 Chron.5:1).

It is not impossible, though, that there is a different kind of explanation altogether. What makes the Torah unique is that it is a book about both law (the primary meaning of “Torah”) and history. Elsewhere these are quite different genres. There is law, an answer to the question, “What may we or may not do?” And there is history, an answer to the question, “What happened?” There is no obvious relationship between these two at all.

Not so in Judaism. In many cases, especially in mishpat, civil law, there is a connection between law and history, between what happened and what we should or should not do. Much of biblical law, for example, emerges directly from the Israelites’ experience of slavery in Egypt, as if to say: This is what our ancestors suffered in Egypt, therefore do not do likewise. Don’t oppress your workers. Don’t turn an Israelite into a lifelong slave. Don’t leave your servants or employees without a weekly day of rest. And so on.

Not all biblical law is like this, but some is. It represents truth learned through experience, justice as it takes shape through the lessons of history. The Torah takes the past as a guide to the future: often positive but sometimes also negative. Genesis tells us, among other things, that Jacob’s favoritism toward Rachel over Leah, and Rachel’s firstborn Joseph over Leah’s firstborn, Reuben, was a cause of lingering strife within the family. It almost led the brothers to kill Joseph, and it did lead to their selling him as a slave. According to Ibn Ezra (to Num. 16:1), the resentment felt by the descendants of Reuben endured for several generations, and was the reason why Datan and Aviram, both Reubenites, became key figures in the Korach rebellion.

Jacob did what he did as an expression of love. His feeling for Rachel was overwhelming, as it was for Joseph, her elder son. Love is central to Judaism: not just love between husband and wife, parent and child, but also love for God, for neighbor and stranger. But love is not enough. There must also be justice and the impartial application of the law. People must feel that law is on the side of fairness. You cannot build a society on love alone. Love unites but it also divides. It leaves the less-loved feeling abandoned, neglected, disregarded, “hated.” It can leave in its wake strife, envy and a vortex of violence and revenge.

That is what the Torah is telling us when it uses verbal association to link the law in our parsha with the story of Jacob and his sons in Genesis. It is teaching us that law is not arbitrary. It is rooted in the experience of history. Law is itself a tikkun, a way of putting right what went wrong in the past. We must learn to love; but we must also know the limits of love, and the importance of justice-as-fairness in families as in society.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Soul Talk – Falling in Love, Staying in Love [audio]

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

As people, we change over the years. I am not the same person I was five or ten year ago. Hopefully I can say that and be happier with who I am today. What can one do when one feels that their spouse has changed over time in a way that negatively effects their marriage? When you hear yourself say “This is not the person I thought I married!”, how can you still make your marriage work and flourish?

It can be easy to fall in love, but staying in love takes work and commitment.

Join Rabbi David Aaron and Leora Mandel to get a better understanding of foundational aspects of a relationship that are the keys to make it last!

We welcome your thoughts and questions. Please e-mail us at soultalk@israelnewstalkradio.com

Soul Talk 11Sept2016 – PODCAST

Israel News Talk Radio

Parallel Lives: Three Weeks to Recreate a Bond of Love, Respect and Passion

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person

– Mignon McLaughlin


We are decidedly troubling beings. We are at once noble and sanctified creatures, imbued with the glory and holiness of God while, at the same time, being vulnerable and petty creatures, mired in the sad and troubling realities of the physical world around us, realities that are often the result of our own selfish and foolish behavior.

No period of time drives our troubling nature home more forcefully than the Three Weeks. Beginning when, historically, the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans and reaching their mournful, painful crescendo on Tisha B’Av, the date on which the weight, number and overwhelming calamities weighing on us find us grieving and fasting for forgiveness and relief, these three weeks are the darkest of our liturgical calendar.

Three weeks.

Three weeks when we feel most alone, most vulnerable, most distant from God and the safety of his glory and protection. Three weeks when all around us the world basks – or swelters – in the hot, summer sun – we are in our darkest period.

Summer is, for most people, a time of relaxation and fun. But for Jews, these three weeks mark an inauspicious time, a frightening time, a time when God seems withdrawn from us and our humiliations, our tragedies, our exiles and defeats loom large. During these three weeks, we feel God’s absence in a physical way. It bows our heads and tightens the muscles in our stomachs. We ache for Him to be more present. We ache for Him to return and infuse our lives with power and sanctity. We need Him close but He seems to be hiding His face. It is time of hester panim.

The Three Weeks are a hard time, a mournful time. But like any difficult time, it is also a time of opportunity; a time when we can take the difficult and learn from it, take the sadness and learn to appreciate joy, confront our fears and find courage, recognize hurt and discover new ways to heal it.

The truth is, during the Three Weeks God seems distant. But, He is never so far away that we cannot reconnect if we are determined to do so. God wants our bond to be strong, He wants us to reconnect.

Sometimes, the simple truth is as the poet has said, “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and we need to feel God turn away to know how desperately and passionate we want and need Him to be close.

* * *

In Rav Norman Lamm’s “The Veil of God”, he relates how tradition teaches that when the Romans breached the Holy Temple and entered the Holy of Holies, they came upon the two Cherubim, the “…statuettes resembling the faces of young , innocent children, and from between which the voice of God would issue forth. When the enemy beheld these Cherubim, the Talmud relates, they found that the two figurines were facing each other. Now this is most unexpected, because according to Jewish tradition, the Cherubim faced each other only when Israel was obedient to God (‘osin retzono shel Makom); when Jews did not perform the will of God, the Cherubim turned away from each other. The destruction of the Temple was certainly the result of Israel’s disobedience and rebellion. One would expect, therefore, that they turn their faces away from each other. Why, then, were they facing one another, the sign of mutual love between God and His people?”

His answer, shared by R. Pinhas of Koretz, teaches us something powerful about the nature of love and friendship. That is that just as it is most dark right before the dawn, the attachment between two people is always strongest just before they part.

Two people can have an enduring relationship, a warm relationship, a caring relationship for years and years, but let the end draw near and all the emotion, passion, hope and joy that defined that relationship at its onset returns – in abundance!

What does this have to do with the Three Weeks?

God appreciates that we daven every day; He loves that we find rest during the Sabbath and that we observe His commandments. But He wants more than that. He wants a rekindling of the passion that brings us close and lifts us. He wants us to engage in the passion that burns with holiness.

Relationships need constant words of love and appreciation to stay strong and develop. Our relationship with God is no different. During the Three Weeks, we feel the distance in our relationship with God. How do we close that distance? How do we return to the “fear and trembling” of Sinai?

* * *

The love between God and Israel follows the same pattern as genuine human love. Tisha B’av was the beginning of the hester panim, the parting of the lovers. God and Israel turned away from each other, and the great, exciting, and immensely complicated relationship between the two companions, begun in the days of Abraham, was coming to an end. But before this tragic and heartbreaking moment, there took place a last, long, lingering look, the fervent embrace of the two lovers as they were about to part. At the threshold of separation they both experienced a great outpouring of mutual love, an intense ahavah, as they suddenly realized the long absence from each other that lay ahead of them; in so brief a time they tried to crowd all the affection the opportunities for which they ignored in the past, and all the love which would remain unrequited in the course of the future absence. That is why the Cherubim were facing each other. Certainly the Israelites were rebellious and in contempt of the will of God. But they were facing each other; God and Israel looked towards each other longingly and in lingering affection before they were pulled apart. And from this high spiritual union of God and Israel was created the soul of the Messiah! Mashiach was conceived in intense and rapturous love!

* * *

We are, of course, merely human. How can we really renew bonds, genuine bonds between us and God? How could we do such a thing? Our bonds must constantly be renewed. Just as our human bonds – between friends, between parents and children, between husband and wife.

Throughout our poetic and religious literature, the relationship between Israel and God has been likened to that between bride and groom, husband and wife. It is a deep and true image. And, as we learn during the Three Weeks, sometimes in our most important relationships, distance creeps in, complacency takes over, the ongoing day by day weight of life files away the passion and joy.

How do we renew that relationship?

Husbands and wives have done a great many things to renew “the spark” of their initial love. Some things intuitively make sense – long walks, scheduling a “date night”, going on vacation – others are a bit more of a stretch – roller coasters and bungee jumping. At base, every relationship requires communication to grow, to renew, and to stay strong.

Some couples find praying together is a powerful bond. Others, walks in nature. A couple I know very well use a technique I find powerful and moving, they recite the entire book of Tehilim every week, each reciting half the book. One week, the husband recites all the even numbered chapters and the wife the odd numbered; the following week, the reverse. In this way, they communicate their deep love for one another and maintain the spiritual component of their relationship.

“It is a very boding intimate daily connection in a spiritually holy way. We feel close through it; feel like we are doing something together for ourselves and for our family.”

I wondered, How is that bonding with each other?

“It is something that we are doing together. So we are together even when we are not together. It connects us on a different, holy level.”

I grant you, it’s not bungee jumping but this couple has been doing this for four years and they seem closer, kinder, more loving and more deeply committed than ever.

* * *

Yes, there is distance during the Three Weeks. But, just as it is true that devoted friends never forget each other – even if anger and offense have caused distance. It is never the case of “out of sight, out of mind.” A father may be so angry with his son that they don’t speak but his heart aches waiting for his son to call, to write, to make some gesture towards reconciliation. No matter how long the marriage and how “set in their ways” husband and wife become, some of the initial spark will always remain.

All these are instances of separation tense with love striving for reunion.

Such indeed is the hester panim that separates us from our Father in Heaven. We are exiled from Him – but not alienated. We are so far yet so close. God’s face is hidden but His heart is awake. Of course the divine love for Israel has not expired. It is that and that alone that accounts for our continued existence to this day. Certainly “with a great love hast Thou loved us” – for though we are banished, we need but call to Him and He will answer . Like a wise parent, the Almighty may punish, even expel, but never ceases to love His child!

Rabbi Eliyahu Safran

VIDEO: Ben Ehrenreich Shares his Love for the Sbarro Massacre Mastermind’s Family

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

{Originally posted to the author’s website, Elder of Ziyon}

This Tuesday will be the 15th anniversary of the infamous Sbarro pizza shop bombing, masterminded by Ahlam Tamimi.

The attack, on August 9, 2001, killed 15 people and injured 130. Among the dead were a pregnant woman and seven children – some counted eight, including an 18 year-old who had just finished school; the injured also included one young mother who was left in a permanent vegetative state.

For the families of the victims, this year’s 15th anniversary of the attack may well be particularly grim, because of a fawning book that has been recently released by Ben Ehrenreich, lionizing the murderous Tamimi clan.

Who would have ever imagined that an American writer would come out with a book that presents the family of Ahlam Tamimi – the Sbarro massacre mastermind – as simply wonderful people? This despite the fact that the Tamimis not only continue to justify the Sbarro attack, but are openly cheering pretty much every terror attack that has been perpetrated over the past year. And who would have ever imagined that prestigious publications like the New York Times and The Economist would praise this hagiography of the terror-supporting Jew-hating Tamimis to the high heavens? What is it about killing Jews that is so romantic that the NYT would gush about Ehrenreich’s “Love Letter to Palestine” and The Economist would fawn about all “the hope, and the love” that infuses Ehrenreich’s depiction of the Tamimis?

For a glimpse of the intense Jew-hatred and the ardent support for terror that animates Ben Ehrenreich’s protagonists, watch the video below that will introduce you to the four people Ehrenreich lists first in the Acknowledgements for his book: Bassem and Nariman Tamimi, and Bilal and Manal Tamimi.

The video was conceived, researched and written by Petra Marquardt-Bigman. Narrated and directed by Elder of Ziyon.

Elder of Ziyon

Tefillah: A Meeting With Hashem – Love Our Nation

Friday, August 5th, 2016

A friend of mine related that his brother was on a business trip to Istanbul and went to pray in a local shul. He was quite surprised when one of the congregants waved to him. “I don’t know this man,” he thought. “He must be a really friendly person!” But then he noticed the man was waving to everyone in shul. And he was not the only one – every single person in shul was doing the same thing! After davening, they told him that this custom was based on the words of the Arizal, cited by the Magen Avraham (O.C., beginning of siman 46). He writes: “Before the morning tefillah one should accept upon himself the mitzvah of v’ahavtah le’reiacha kamocha – you shall love your fellow as yourself.” In order to fulfill this mitzvah properly, the custom of this congregation is to wave to each and every fellow Jew in shul.

But what is the Arizal’s reason – why is it so important to fulfill this mitzvah specifically before we start praying?


Plural Power

One who examines Shemoneh Esrei will notice something interesting: we speak in the plural form. For example, we ask Hashem to give us rain, to heal us, to forgive us, etc. That is, I come before Hashem as a representative of our nation – not for myself. Once a person has asked for everyone, he may add personal supplications, as long as he fulfills certain conditions (see Shulchan Aruch, O.C. siman 119). One example being at the end of Shemoneh Esrei when we say “Elokai, netzor leshoni mei’ra – My G-d, guard my tongue from evil… etc.” In general, though we use the plural form. In fact, the Gra in Sh’nos Eliyahu (Brachos 5:1) says that not only must we verbally ask in the plural form, we are not even allowed to think only about ourselves when we pray! But why not?

The Gemara (Brachos 30a) states that when a person prays he should always include himself as part of the community. Rashi explains that this will cause his prayer to be accepted. On a simple level, we can explain that one who includes himself with the tzibur will be answered in their merit, because the community usually has more merit than the individual.

However, I believe there is an even deeper reason why including ourselves with the tzibur helps our tefillos be accepted by Hashem. The whole concept of approaching Hashem in prayer is absolutely mind-boggling. How do we have the audacity to approach the Master of the Universe, who is holier and greater than anything we can possibly imagine, and expect that He is interested in hearing us? Only because Hashem tells us so in the Torah. “For who is a great nation that has G-d close to them like Hashem our G-d, whenever we call out to Him?” (Devorim 4:7). Hashem gave our nation the special privilege of turning to Him in prayer, and He has promised to listen to our prayers. And why did we merit this special closeness? Simply because He loves us, as stated throughout Tanach. The prophet Yirmiyahu (31:3) says in the name of Hashem: “I have loved you with an eternal love.” And Yeshaya (54:10) says even more: “For the mountains will depart and the hills will move, but My loving-kindness shall not depart from you, nor will My covenant of peace move away.”

Hashem’s love for our nation is so great that even though we sinned and were sent into exile, He still loves us. Hashem did not choose us because of our good deeds; rather, He has an unconditional love for us (Maharal, Netzach Yisroel, chapter 11). Therefore, even if we sin, He will not forsake us. On the contrary, He will make sure that we repent and perfect our ways, so that we will be worthy of Him dwelling amongst us.

Rabbi Eliezer M. Niehaus

A Meeting with Magda Haroun, Head of Egypt’s Jewish Community

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

Hard to believe our trip to Egypt lasted only four days given all the meetings we jammed into it. Dr Omer Salem hosted Rabbi Yaakov Nagen of the Otniel Yeshiva, Fulbright Scholar Dr Joseph Ringel and myself for a tour of Cairo in March 2016, to help develop personal relationships, so needed between our peoples.

We assumed that theology was the real stumbling block between Muslim and Jew, and expected to enter into theological debate. We found, however, that the overriding concern of those we met was the quality of life for their Arab brethren in the Holy Land.

We also learned that misinformation abounds in Egypt concerning the various philosophies that led to the founding of the state of Israel. We frequently heard this phrase, ‘Israel was founded only to be a Jewish state.’ This is inaccurate both from a religious perspective and from that of the founders of modern Zionism. The Torah has an extensive framework for the inclusion of the non-Jewish “ger toshav”, based upon Talmudic tractate Avodah Zarah 64b -65a, and Leviticus 19:33-34: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not taunt him. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be as a native from among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt, I am the Lord your God.”

Regarding the oft-repeated statement, ‘Israel was founded only to be a Jewish state’ – Dr Joseph Ringel shares: “when I began learning Arabic, I was exposed to this perception in the Arab world.” And he was inspired to educate himself further. “The chief theorists for the Zionist movement, Theodore Herzl and Asher Ginsberg (pen-name: Ahad ha-‘Am) held that Arabs had an important rule to play in Jewish society in the land of Israel and demanded they be treated equally. Aspects of religious Zionism had a strong universal element believing that Zion would become the harbinger of the messianic age and the conduit for divine blessing to flow to the entire world. Socialist Zionists regarded Zion as a place to create an ideal equality between all classes and ethnicities – Arabs included. The fact that less conciliatory voices exist does not mean Zionism as a whole is tainted; indeed, the existence of violent people in any national or religious movement does not mean the entire movement is tainted.”

We thus need to ensure we are educated about the rights of the non-Jewish residents of the land of Israel, as enshrined both in Torah and in modern Zionist thought.

Most importantly, we must ensure these rights are a reality. This closes the loop with the above noted concern expressed to us in Egypt – the condition of their Arab brethren in the Holy Land.

Dr Ringel adds, “the point of dialogue is to face various perceptions, shedding light upon who we are, and learning from each other.”

Here is one example:

Magda Haroun, President of the Egyptian Jewish Community

Magda Haroun deserves credit. The head of what remains of Egypt’s Jewish community, she openly maintains her Jewish identity at self-sacrifice, and reminisces about a cosmopolitan, tolerant Egyptian past, the memory of which she insists must be preserved.

She graciously hosted us at the Shaarei Shamayim synagogue, Adly Street, Cairo. Hesitating a little before this small group of kippa-clad and scarf wearing orthodox Jews, she said, “I have views you probably will not agree with.” Rabbi Yaakov Nagen wisely responded, “we want to hear your views, if we wanted to hear only what we agree with. we could have stayed at home.”

First, some stories of Magda defending her Jewish identity in the face of rejection. When she was a child in school, the teacher denigrated Jews. The entire class turned to look at her, and she walked out. As a young adult, she requested a birth certificate, and the officials demanded her full contact information. When she asked why, they responded – “for security reasons,” as they suspected every Jew of spying for Israel. She refused to furnish the information, and left without a certificate. 1

She told us that upon her divorce, she retained her Jewish identity despite the threat that her husband, as a Muslim divorcing a non-Muslim wife, could take custody of their daughters at any time. She thus did not admit that she could not afford the girls’ expenses when he witheld financial support. She refused to give up her Jewish identity, even to rid herself of the constant threat she would lose her daughters.

Magda Haroun holds onto her dream, and her dream is this: Egyptian society will reclaim its cosmopolitan and tolerant heritage. Dr Ringel shared, “I studied the history of Jews in the Islamic world, and I know Egyptian Jews, some of whom were expelled, some of whom had traumatic experiences but some of whom have very strong memories. What I love about Egypt’s history is that it was such a beautiful culture. Egypt was a refuge for Jews from Yemen and from Russia, from Syria and Iraq. Yiddish was spoken here, both Karaites and Rabbinites lived here, and they all got along.”

Magda nodded enthusiastically, we were on the same page. She added, “Egypt was the land of refuge for people suffering all over the world. Look at Musa Ibn Maimon (Maimonedes), he was on the way to Palestine but he came through here and stayed here and died here.”

And she offers an inspiring humanitarian proposal. One of the Jewish cemeteries is under threat of falling into disrepair and neglect. It is located in the middle of the Bassateen slums. Magda’s dream is to get the Jewish community worldwide involved in renovating the slums, developing its schools and parks. “I cannot just build a wall around the slums. When the area will be developed, the residents of Bassateen will be the first to take care of the Jewish cemetery.” And they will feel positively about Jews as well.

I was in the company of visionaries. A great moment. Then we started getting out of step on two subjects: Magda’s view of the state of Israel, and the future of the remaining Torah scrolls in Egypt. But hang on, getting out of step during efforts at dialogue is to be expected.

Divisions in her School; Seeing her Relatives Emigrate

Regarding her view of the state of Israel, I wish to provide a bit of context first. Magda described what it was like as a child to suddenly have her schoolmates divided along religious lines. She studied in a French school, a lycee, and never knew who was Christian, Jew or Muslim, until they started imposing religion in the schools, after 1956. Then, they were divided up and sent to different classes to learn their own religion. No classes for Judaism, Magda was sent to the detention room.

Magda continues, “It was painful for me to see my relatives leave Egypt. They left for two reasons, the founding of the state of Israel and the rise of pan-Arabism. My father was a humanitarian, he loved humanity, in front of G-d, in front of each other, we are all equal. I never learned to make a difference

between black, white, poor, rich. When we were all divided up along religious lines at school, I said to my father that my Christian friends know what to do to make G-d happy, my Muslim friends know what to do to make G-d happy, what am I supposed to do? He led me to the mirror and said, ‘if when you look at yourself in the mirror, your eyes do not go down in shame, you know you have hurt no one, then you are making G-d happy.’ ”

Loyalty to Your Country – Even When that Country Betrays You

Magda made a statement that I would hear as a sentiment shared by other Egyptian Jews in days past: ”I was born in Egypt, I will live in Egypt and I will die in Egypt.”

That tenacity of identity and loyalty did not prevent the expulsion of the Jewish community from Egypt in the late 1950’s. Dr Ringel elaborates: the expulsions began under Nasser, following the 1956 war. Many Jews who lived in Egypt were not Egyptian citizens, as most of the Jews (with the exception of the indigenous Jewish population) hailed from foreign countries, which included Ottoman lands, Eastern Europe and Italy. Egypt was under de facto British control until after World War ll, despite some local autonomy, so that it made sense for these often multi-lingual families to acquire European passports. In addition, once autonomous Egypt began registering its population for citizenship, there was some discrimination against non-Muslims. In 1956, Nasser nationalized all foreign assets, and the fact that many Jews still only had European passports, despite their having lived in Egypt for a number of generations, made the expulsions easier to implement.

Magda said that a member of the Muslim brotherhood, Mr Essam El Eryan, did express regrets about the expulsions. “I thanked him for opening the Pandora’s box, but it is going to be very difficult for Jews to return, they left and put their roots in other countries already.”

And now there were six. Not six thousand or six hundred, but six Jews left in Egypt. But Magda was holding on, echoing a proud (though not very effective) Egyptian Jewish sentiment, determined to preserve the cosmopolitan ideal.

Haroun’s Demand: Egypt Must Honor its Jewish Heritage

When she became leader of Egypt’s Jewish community in 2013, Magda gave interviews in Egyptian newspapers and on television, with the conviction that Egyptian society be aware of its former thriving Jewish society and that the nation’s remaining Jews should be respected. She told us, “I walk in the streets and people know I am a Jew.” When I asked, “Do you feel safe in Egypt?” she responded adamantly “Of course I do!” She admits her sense of security is not shared by the other Jews who remain. “They are afraid of being suspected as spies for Israel.” So her stance is part reality, part ideological determination.

Magda said, “I have asked for help from Jewish communities around the world to preserve the Bassateen area because it is part of the heritage of this country. They want something in return.” She paused, her tone foreboding, grim, “they want the Torah scrolls.”

Dr Ringel explained, “they are afraid the Torah scrolls will go into disuse” and added that in order to achieve conciliation, the challenge of preserving both the Torah scrolls and the Jewish cemeteries should not be linked. Keep the issues separate. (He emphasizes that he was speaking as a private citizen in reaction to the information presented to him at the time and not representing any side.)


Dr Joseph Ringel with the Torah scrolls

Dr Joseph Ringel with the Torah scrolls

Keeping issues separate is probably a good rule of thumb in conciliation work. Right the wrong, improve a situation, without bartering. Deuteronomy 16:20 – “Righteousness, righteousness you shall pursue so that you will live and take possession of the land that Hashem, your G-d, gives you.” The pasuk does not say to pursue justice as long as you get something in return. Psalm 43:15 – “Seek peace and pursue it.” According to the Midrash: “Seek peace, and pursue it means that you should seek it in your own place, and pursue it even to another place as well.” (Leviticus Rabbah 9:9)

Magda Haroun and the State of Israel

Magda does not take money from Israel nor does she use a Rabbi from Israel. Her position against Zionism is part of her conviction in a cosmopolitan, varied society, and that a state in the modern age

should not be based on religion. “Maybe it made sense in the sixth century, but not today.” And she joined in the street protests in Cairo, 2011, against an Islamic government.

Her stance may also be influenced by the fact that, according to physician and author Dr Wakif Moustafa, “There are still laws on the Egyptian statute that criminalize Zionism and, should any Egyptian citizen declare themselves a Zionist, they risk losing their citizenship.”

Her boycott of Israel may well soften. Sure makes me feel bad. Indeed, Egyptian leaders such as Dr. Aly ElSamman call for the softening of the tatbia – boycott – of Israel. “Tatbia is not logical or ethical, we have a peace agreement.” 2

As the tide changes and there are increased calls in Egypt towards warmer relations with Israel, perhaps the relations between Israel’s Jews and the remaining Egyptian Jews can warm up as well.

Magda’s view of the state of Israel was a challenge to me, though it must be understood that it is a nuanced view, and as Rabbi Nagen said, “if we wanted to hear only what we agree with, we could have stayed home.”

And a further challenge waited in the wings – see next article: Hitting a Wall, Building a New Bridge. You Need to Take that Risk.

{This two part article emphasizes the process of conciliation and its challenges, it is not an exhaustive piece on Ms Haroun’s views and personal history.}

For more information on Magda Haroun, see:



See also:

Egypt: The Elusive Arab Spring, Dr. Wakif Mustafa, Gilgamesh Publishing 2014

Rights of the Ger Toshav in the Land of Israel: http://www.wikinoah.org/index.php?title=Ger_Toshav

Rebecca Abrahamson

Peace And Love And their Murderous Consequences

Friday, July 1st, 2016

Among the pile of books on my night table, there are always a few volumes about war.

It should be obvious to any clear-thinking person that war is the final arbiter of all great conflicts. Those who speak of negotiated peace speak of fiction.

The great world wars have made this world what it is, and there are numerous lessons to be learned militarily in terms of the present war with radical Islam. Thus I draw your attention to two very fine books: The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman and A World at Arms by Gerhard L. Weinberg.

Tuchman’s volume is about World War I and Weinberg’s is about World War II. Tuchman is a riveting historian who can tell a great story and make history come alive. Weinberg is more academic; his book has thousands of footnotes. But he does detail. Oh boy, does he do detail.

An interesting – and timely and intensely important – theme crops up in both books: Pacifists, peace movements, and their murderous aftermath.

Tuchman points out that the peace movements in France and England that preceded World War I immobilized both countries’ heavy industries to such an extent that when war finally did break out, France and England were at least sixteen months behind the Germans in heavy production.

You see, the peace movements advocated a policy of appeasement: Give the Germans what they want and they won’t go to war.

As if.

Tuchman also points out that France and England were tragically behind Germany even in small manufacturing, so that when their soldiers marched to the Western front, they did not have proper winter uniforms, and thousands of troops froze to death.

It is true that millions of soldiers died on the Western front from the new technology of machine guns and from generals impaled on outmoded military doctrine. But on a deeper level, millions were slaughtered because of the peace movements that self-righteously refused to recognize reality and confront evil.

You would think that lessons had been learned from World War I. You would think that the pacifists, appeasers, and so-called peace activists would have lost all credibility, but truth has a funny way of getting buried in the avalanche of Big Lies.

And, I suppose, the word “peace” has an almost narcotic effect on people. They hear the word often enough and they get, well, kind of stupid.

The messages of the peace movements before World War II were almost a carbon copy of the nonsense spewed before World War I – except that communications had improved greatly. Newspapers like The New York Times wielded immense power. And of course the Times, astonishingly dim then as now, saw no reason to get involved in foreign conflicts.

The peace movements in America, France, and England were utterly infiltrated by the ruthless agents of Hitler and Stalin. And in a replay of the Kaiser’s attitude, Hitler absolutely adored the peace movements. He kept a close eye on them, smiling the whole time. He understood they were his best allies. As long as those fools kept up their blather, he would be able to swallow countries whole.

Once again, the pacifists and peaceniks advocated appeasement. Just give Herr Hitler what he wants and surely he won’t go to war.

Rule #1 of Peace Movements: They cannot imagine or confront evil.

Rule #2 of Peace Movements: They do not care about history.

Rule #3 of Peace Movements: They are always secretly financed and penetrated by the enemy.

Weinberg points out that by the time Great Britain declared war on Germany, both it and America were two full years behind Germany in armament production. Once again, the peace camps had made sure the great democracies were at their weakest when they were fighting for their lives.

Thus another world war dragged on for more years than should have been necessary, and millions of lives were lost that could have been saved had evil been confronted at an earlier stage.

It’s not a great leap to the Vietnam War. Because of the peace movement at home, we betrayed our allies, and the North Vietnamese slaughtered hundreds of thousands of their political enemies.

After that, the Khmer Rouge were emboldened to commit genocide in Cambodia, murdering a million men, women, and children, mostly by suffocation with plastic bags. These barbarians knew that America would not interfere, not after Vietnam. Not after the peace movement colonized the Democrat party.

The postmodern peace movement is on the march again, denying the murderous nature of radical Islam and pretending that guns are the problem. For Obama-style peaceniks, radical Islam does not exist – not even linguistically. Radicalized Muslims are merely unemployed youth. Give them jobs and their yearning for jihad will disappear.

This deeply paternalistic and racist view denies the immutability of Koranic teachings and the power of a belief system that has held sway over millions of pious Muslims since the seventh century.

So the next time you see the crowd at a peace demonstration, cloaked in all their moral vanity, keep in mind that they are precisely the sort of people who enable mass murder and genocide.

Robert J. Avrech

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/peace-and-love-and-their-murderous-consequences/2016/07/01/

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