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Israel And America, Bound Together

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Editor’s Note: The following is adapted from an address by Gov. Romney to The Jerusalem Foundation on Sunday.

To step foot into Israel is to step foot into a nation that began with an ancient promise made in this land. The Jewish people persisted through one of the most monstrous crimes in human history, and now this nation has come to take its place among the most impressive democracies on earth. Israel’s achievements are a wonder of the modern world.

These achievements are a tribute to the resilience of the Israeli people. You have managed, against all odds, time and again throughout your history, to persevere, to rise up, and to emerge stronger.

The historian Paul Johnson, writing on the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Jewish state, said that over the course of Israel’s life, 100 completely new independent states had come into existence.

“Israel is the only one whose creation can fairly be called a miracle,” Johnson wrote. It is a deeply moving experience to be in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.

Our two nations are separated by more than 5,000 miles. But for an American abroad, you can’t get much closer to the ideals and convictions of my own country than you do in Israel.

We’re part of the great fellowship of democracies. We speak the same language of freedom and justice, and the right of every person to live in peace. We serve the same cause and provoke the same hatreds in the same enemies of civilization.

It is my firm conviction that the security of Israel is in the vital national security interest of the United States. And ours is an alliance based not only on shared interests but also on enduring shared values.

In those shared values, one of the strongest voices is that of your prime minister, my friend Benjamin Netanyahu. I met with him earlier this morning and I look forward to my family joining his this evening as they observe the close of this fast day of Tisha B’Av.

It’s remarkable to consider how much adversity, over so great a span of time, is recalled by just one day on the calendar. This is a day of remembrance and mourning, but like other such occasions, it also calls forth clarity and resolve.

At this time, we also remember the eleven Israeli athletes and coaches who were massacred at the Munich Olympics forty years ago. Ten years ago this week, nine Israeli and American students were murdered in the terrorist attack at Hebrew University.

And tragedies like these are not reserved to the past. They are a constant reminder of the reality of hate, and the will with which it is executed upon the innocent.

It was Menachem Begin who said this about the Ninth of the month of Av:

“We remember that day and now have the responsibility to make sure that never again will our independence be destroyed and never again will the Jew become homeless or defenseless.”

“This,” Prime Minister Begin added, “is the crux of the problems facing us in the future.”

* * * * *

So it is today, as Israel faces enemies who deny past crimes against the Jewish people and seek to commit new ones.

When Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust or speak of wiping this nation off the map, only the naïve – or worse – will dismiss it as an excess of rhetoric. Make no mistake: the ayatollahs in Tehran are testing our moral defenses. They want to know who will object, and who will look the other way.

My message to the people of Israel and the leaders of Iran is one and the same: I will not look away; and neither will my country. As Prime Minister Begin put it, in vivid and haunting words, “if an enemy of [the Jewish] people says he seeks to destroy us, believe him.”

We have seen the horrors of history. We will not stand by. We will not watch them play out again.

It would be foolish not to take Iran’s leaders at their word. They are, after all, the product of a radical theocracy.

Over the years Iran has amassed a bloody and brutal record. It has seized embassies, targeted diplomats, and killed its own people. It supports the ruthless Assad regime in Syria. It has provided weapons that have killed American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. It has plotted to assassinate diplomats on American soil.

Barney Frank Weds Lover in Massachusetts

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

Jewish Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts Barney Frank, 72, wed his male partner of five years, carpenter James Ready, 42, in a private ceremony on Saturday, marking the first same-sex marriage conducted by a sitting US congressman.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick officiated at the ceremony at the Boston Marriortt Newton in suburban Boston.  The grooms vowed to love each other through Democratic and Republican administrations alike, as well as through appearances on Fox News, according to a report by Reuters.

Democratic congressman from Texas Al Green described Frank as “beaming”, and said he cried during the ceremony.  News media were not invited.

Frank has been openly gay since the late 1980s.  He has said he will retire at the end of his current term.  He has been a vocal advocate for legalizing same-sex marriage.

Eight of the 50 states and the District of Columbia currently permit gay marriage. Massachusetts was the first.

Romney to Meet with Jewish Donors

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Mitt Romney is meeting with some 30 major Jewish donors to his presidential campaign as part of a “constituents day.”

The former Massachusetts governor and all-but-certain Republican nominee for president, will meet for about an hour with the donors in Boston on Thursday.

A donor who was invited told JTA that the purpose of the meeting would be an exchange of views.

There would be other meetings the same day with other constituent groups, the donor said, confirming reports of the meeting from a number of Jewish community officials.

Romney and President Obama have intensified outreach to Jewish voters and supporters in this presidential election year.

On Monday, the White House hosted some 70 Jewish leaders in a bid to reassure them that the Obama administration was determined to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb.

Ron Paul Halts Campaign, Keeps Delegates

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul has effectively given up his presidential campaign but will not give up his delegates to Mitt Romney.

Paul, a Texas Republican, said he would no longer compete in his party’s primaries, leaving Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, the only viable candidate for the GOP nod still running.

Romney remains about 200 delegates shy of securing the nomination, but his erstwhile rivals, including Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, have either formally endorsed him or pledged to do so.

The Washington Times reported Tuesday that Paul would retain his delegates in order to leverage influence.

“Our delegates can still make a major impact at the national convention and beyond,” Jesse Benton, a top strategist for Paul, said in a memo obtained by the Times.

Paul’s presence and influence in the race helped veer the other candidates to embrace some of his libertarian ideas, particularly on reducing or eliminating the role of government in the financial system.

His isolationist views, especially on cutting assistance to Israel, have not gained as much traction.

Who’s Watching Anyway? (Me’ilah 2b, 9a)

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Summertime in Massachusetts, one often sees flowers for sale at the side of the road. But there is no salesperson present. Instead, there is a sign requesting $10 for the flowers. You leave the $10 bill on the table and go back to your car with flowers in hand. It is an honors system. There is nobody watching to see if you pay only $5 or if you creep back, retrieve your $10 bill and make off with the money and the flowers. Doing that would be a breach of trust.

The Torah calls breach of trust “me’ilah.” It cites several examples of me’ilah on a social level: One who accepts an item from another on deposit and then denies that she was ever given the deposit in the first place; one who finds lost property but denies she found it and keeps if for herself; one who takes unfair advantage of a fiduciary relationship; one who breaches the trust of a spouse and enters into an extramarital relationship – all such persons are guilty of me’ilah.

There is also a breach of trust toward God. We give God something of value, but when He is not “looking” we take it back or use it for ourselves. The way we give God something is by pronouncing an item “kodesh” or “hekdesh.” That pronouncement, uttered even in solitude with no witnesses present and even before the kohen knows about it, has the power to transfer the property in the item to the Temple.

“Just words!” one might say, “and besides, no-one was watching. Let’s change our mind and take it back.” That would be a breach of trust, a me’ilah against God. The Talmud discusses this type of breach of trust in tractate Me’ilah.

Me’ilah in connection with Temple property can be intentional or it can be inadvertent, such as when one was genuinely unaware the item one was enjoying belonged to the Temple. The sanction for intentional me’ilah is lashes and monetary restitution. The sanction for unintentional me’ilah is threefold. In order to atone for the transgression, the perpetrator must offer up on the altar a guilt offering – asham meilot – in the form of a ram worth two Shekalim (38.2 grams of silver) and must make restitution for the item misappropriated. In addition, the perpetrator must add a fine equal to one quarter the value of the misappropriated item. Thus if the item is worth four quarters, one must pay five.

Me’ilah applies to items that are intrinsically holy – kedushat haguf – such as various types of kornbanot including animal offerings, bird offerings, flour offerings known as menachot, the Show Bread, known as lechem hapanim, the two loaves of bread offered up on Shavuot known as shtei halechem, the libations of water known as nesachim and the incense known as ketoret.

Me’ilah also applies to items dedicated to the Temple to assist in its upkeep. These items, which are either used in the Temple in the form they are given or sold so that their proceeds are given to the Temple, are known as kodshei bedek habayit. Although items donated for bedek habayit are not intrinsically holy, once they are dedicated to the Temple they too, like the korbanot, are subject to the laws of me’ilah.

The underlying principle of me’ilah is that nobody may derive any benefit from an item that is kodesh laHashem – that belongs exclusively to God. It follows that once an item ceases to belong exclusively to God in the sense that the Torah permits humans to derive some benefit from it, it is no longer subject to me’ilah.

Some korbanot always belong exclusively to God in the sense that there is never a time when a human may benefit from them. An example of such an item is the korban olah, no part of which was eaten by the kohanim and which, (apart from its hide, which was given to the kohanim) was entirely consumed by the fires of the altar. Accordingly, any misappropriation of the korban olah, from the time it was dedicated to the Temple to the time its burned ashes were removed from the altar, was subject to the laws and penalties of me’ilah.

Other korbanot belonging to the kodshei kodashim category start out belonging exclusively to God but are subsequently permitted for consumption by the kohanim. Examples of such items are the sin offering, known as the korban chattat, certain types of the guilt offerings, known as korbanot asham, and communal peace offerings such as the lambs sacrificed on Shavuot known as kivsei atzeret.

Once the blood of these animals has been sprinkled on the altar in a procedure known as zerikah, the kohanim are permitted to eat certain parts of the animal, (the breast and part of the right thigh). Accordingly, from that point on the animal no longer belongs exclusively to God and (except for the fat, kidneys and liver of these animals, which are always consumed by the fires of the altar) these animals are no longer subject to the laws of me’ilah.

Romney Leads, Republicans Pick Jewish Senate Candidate, and Kucinich Loses

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Super Tuesday Republican primaries were a race between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, Republicans selected a Jewish veteran for Ohio’s Senate run, and Dennis Kucinich lost his bid for reelection.

Ten states went to the polls Tuesday in what is the biggest election day of primary season.

“Super Tuesday” usually helps determine a frontrunner, but Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, won decisively in important southern states Oklahoma and Tennessee and appeared headed for a tie with Romney in Ohio. Santorum also picked up North Dakota.

Romney won his home state of Massachusetts and its neighbor, Vermont and as well as Idaho and Virginia.

The former Massachusetts governor faced only Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) on the Virgina ballot; Santorum and Newt Gingrich failed to place on the ballot.

Head to head with Romney in the state, Paul, a libertarian who rejects foreign assistance including for Israel, scored one of his most impressive outcomes this season: 40 percent to 60 Romney’s percent.

Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, won Georgia, the state he represented in Congress, keeping him in the race for now, although Santorum’s decisive wins in southern states Tennessee and Oklahoma seemed to dampen Gingrich’s prospect of a rally. I

It was too early to call Wyoming and Alaska, the ninth and tenth states voting on Tuesday.

The next primaries are in Alabama and Mississippi on March 13.

Tsunami In Massachusetts?

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

With the outgoing and endlessly embattled Bush administration showing signs of exhaustion in 2008 and the onslaught of an unforeseen financial crisis, Democrats won the U.S. presidency while gaining an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives and 60 veto-proof seats in the U.S. Senate (thanks, in part, to a disputed Minnesota election putting TV comic Al Franken over the top in his state and the inclusion of Vermont Socialist Bernie Sanders and Connecticut Independent Joe Lieberman).

The new Democratic majority quickly began to make up for lost time by ramming through a number of big spending bills culminating in a push for a massive overhaul of the American health care system. But a funny thing happened on the way to nationalized health care: Americans, who had voted for total political overhaul in Washington a little more than a year ago, were overtaken by buyer’s remorse.

After the Reagan years the lines had blurred between the two major parties when Democratic President Bill Clinton tacked right (under pressure from a Republican-led Congress demanding fiscal restraint) and his successor, Republican George W. Bush, tacked left with increased spending in hopes of broadening his political appeal.

But Democrats in Congress, embittered over their narrow presidential loss to Bush in 2000, were having none of that and Bush’s moves fizzled – except for encouraging Congressional Republicans to forget they were supposed to be the party of fiscal responsibility. But Americans didn’t forget, roundly turning Republicans out of power in all three branches of government in ’08.

Now, though, Democrats are suddenly the ones on the receiving end as Republicans scored two upset wins for off-year gubernatorial races (New Jersey and Virginia) and then a surprising come-from-behind success in the truest of blue states, Massachusetts, snatching the Senate seat long held by Edward M. Kennedy from the hands of the Democratic Party’s anointed, Martha Coakley, in a special election on January 9.

Billed as many things, including a referendum on the presidency of Barack Obama, on the leadership of a tone-deaf Democratic Congressional majority, and as a clear rejection of current Democratic policies, that election’s outcome has shaken the political firmament.

But surprisingly, and in spite of evidence that Scott Brown’s win against the Democratic State Attorney General of Massachusetts, Martha Coakley, reflected a shift by independent voters (more than 50 percent of the Massachusetts electorate) away from Democrats’ commitments to massive deficit spending and tax increases, pundits on the political left played this reversal differently. It was, said many, really a rejection of President Obama’s failure to grow the federal government even more.

If only Democrats had simply ignored Republicans in Congress from the start in pushing health care, said MSNBC television election eve commentators, Coakley would surely have won. According to Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow, Obama’s problem wasn’t that he had ceded policy on things like health care to geniuses like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid who seemed intent on throwing fiscal restraint to the winds, it was that Pelosi and Reid, in combination with Obama, hadn’t been ruthless enough. Matthews added that the solution now must lie in parliamentary maneuvers to erase the role of super majorities in the Senate and thereby make Scott Brown’s win irrelevant. Talk about hubris.

During the Bush administration, when Democrats were using the filibuster threat to block Bush’s judicial appointees, Republicans who even broached the same idea were roundly excoriated. The Republicans actually had a case, though, since filibusters had not historically been applied to judicial confirmations until Democrats introduced them during the Reagan years to block conservative judicial appointments. And today’s Democratic case? According to Matthews, filibusters should just be disallowed on “really important issues” – decided, of course, by the current Democratic majority in the Senate!

It’s passing strange when Democrats and their sympathizers make the argument that moderates in Massachusetts really wanted more, not less, big spending and government expansion given that Massachusetts Senator-Elect Scott Brown pitched his whole case on explicit opposition to the Democrats’ health care reform package, a package set to increase costs and taxes for middle class Americans while jeopardizing benefits to seniors and the quality of care for all.

While the Bush administration pushed through an unpopular bailout to save major financial institutions in the wake of a collapsing economy in ’08, Democrats have tripled down since coming to power, blowing the nation’s budget sky-high with auto industry takeovers, ineffective stimulus spending, and health care legislation that requires a thousand pages of description to contain it. Democrats, during their years in the political wilderness, used to tell us how much they cared about the deficit. But that was then. This is now.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/tsunami-in-massachusetts/2010/01/27/

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