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August 29, 2016 / 25 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘nation’

Looking For God In Our Skyscrapers

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Over the last decade, Tisha B’Av, the day that we traditionally mourn the destruction of our Holy Temple in Jerusalem, has been admitted to the pantheon of Jewish holy days that are not for the observant only: holy days that speak to everyone.

Yom Kippur has always been there. It is the private holy day, special to us all. A solid majority of the Jews in Israel fast on that day. Even those who do not fast feel something special: they respect the day and search for its meaning. Yom Kippur does not just pass us by like the holiday of Shavuot, for example.

Pesach is another holy day that has always been a holiday for all the Jews. It is the family holiday. The Seder night – kosher-for-Passover or not – is celebrated by Jewish families everywhere. It is a holiday that has not been separated from the nation by the walls of religion.

What we still lack is the national dimension, the dimension that retains a void not filled by banging on plastic hammers on Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. Yom Ha’atzmaut always leaves us with a vague sense of emptiness.

The collective subconscious that pulls the young people of Tel Aviv’s trendy Shenkin Street to alternative lamentations on the city rooftops discovers something in Tisha B’Av. It longs for the spiritual national dimension. It searches for meaning and warmth.

Real Israeli culture, the authentic national creation that we are all looking for, the point that affords meaning and validity to our national existence, is there – in our Father’s house, from which we were exiled and to where we will return.

Return to religion enriches the returnee. But usually it is at the expense of the real achievement of the return to Zion, Israel’s rising and return from the dimension of community to the dimension of nation – at the expense of the return to reality and history.

Generally speaking (and yes, there are certainly exceptions), the returnee to religion is no longer interested in the news, politics or the state. He has found his personal happiness and leaves the rest to the Messiah. His God is not so relevant outside his home, study hall or synagogue.

The new generation, however, wants God to be relevant in all dimensions. It doesn’t want to escape into religion. It wants a grand message, rectification of the world; neither to go backward into pre-Zionism nor to be stuck in the place bereft of identity and meaning in which Zionism – which shed all regard for religion – finds itself today.

The new generation wants it all. It wants to go forward into religion, to a Torah that is also a relevant culture and to a God who is with us here, in our modernity. It wants to proceed in our multilevel interchanges, in our skyscrapers, and in our hi-tech. It is looking for a God who is with us in our most private moments, in our most national triumphs, and in our most universal aspirations. The new generation wants warmth, a sense of belonging and meaning. It wants to herald a great message. It wants a home: it’s Father’s home, the home to which we all belong.

It wants the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

Moshe Feiglin

The Merit Of Eretz Yisrael

Friday, November 30th, 2012

“And Yaakov became very frightened, and it caused him much pain, and he split the nation that was with him, as well as the sheep, the cattle and the camels, into two camps.” – Bereishis 32:7

Yaakov Avinu received word that his brother Eisav was coming to greet him. He understood fully well that this was not to be a warm family reunion. Eisav came accompanied by a band of four hundred armed men, bent on revenge. The Torah describes Yaakov as “very frightened,” so he prepared for war.

The Rishonim are bothered by why Yaakov would fear Eisav. After all, Hashem had promised to return him to his father’s house in peace. Throughout the many years, Hashem was right there protecting him, guarding him, keeping the promise. Why should he now fear a mere mortal?

The Dos Zakainim answers that Yaakov was afraid of the “zechus of Eretz Yisrael.” For the previous twenty years, Eisav had been living in Eretz Yisrael while Yaakov had not. Therefore, Yaakov was afraid that if he engaged in mortal combat with Eisav, that merit might win the day for him, and Yaakov might die in battle.

This Dos Zakainim is difficult to understand on a number of levels. First, the reason Yaakov wasn’t in Eretz Yisrael was not that he had abandoned the land, but that he fled from Eisav. He spent the first fourteen years in the yeshiva of Shem, and then he worked for Lavan.

But even more pointedly, what possible merit could Eisav have from living in Eretz Yisrael? He wasn’t practicing Torah and mitzvos. Quite the opposite, he was a rasha. His entire existence was focused against holiness. Eretz Yisrael is a land that has an enormous amount of kedushah and cannot tolerate wickedness; it is highly sensitive to tumah. Eisav’s very presence in the land should have been intolerable. So what type of merit would he have from being in that land? It would seem the opposite. His many years of defiling that holy land should work against him, not for him.

The answer to this question can best be understood with a perspective on capitalism.

If a man owns a successful small business, he might do a million dollars a year in sales. But that is the gross revenue, not the amount he takes home. As a rule in business, 15 percent of revenues is a reasonable profit margin. So if his mark-ups are strong and his expenses are in line, he might bring in a net profit of $150,000. Eighty-five percent of the money he earns goes to expenses. And this illustrates an interesting phenomenon. While his only motivation may have been to earn a living for himself, he is providing a substantial gain to those he does business with. In this scenario, $850,000 of his efforts are going to vendors, suppliers, and employees. And while it may not be his intention, he is making a substantial contribution to the economy as a whole.

In the same sense, Eisav was engaged in the building of Eretz Yisrael. While his interests may have been strictly his own, he maintained sheep, owned fields, hired workmen and built fences. His efforts directly benefited the land. It was cultivated and improved because of him. And this was Eretz Yisrael, the land that Hashem chose as the site for the Jewish people to settle, the home of the eventual Beis HaMikdash. Its very ground is holy. While he may not have been a credit to the land, and may not even have felt an attachment to it, because of him the land was built up – and that is a great merit.

Yaakov did not in any sense think that Eisav had more merit than he did as a person. He was well aware of the different lives they led. But Yaakov understood that Eisav had a tremendous zechus: he was responsible for building the land, and because of this Yaakov was afraid. In times of danger a particular merit can stand up for a person, and that can change the outcome of a confrontation.

We Don’t Belong Here

This concept is very relevant to our lives. While we patiently await imminent coming of Mashiach, one of the concepts that must be in the forefront of our minds is that we are in a foreign country. We don’t belong in chutz l’aaretz. It isn’t our home. While the United States is one of the most benevolent lands that has ever offered us residence, a Jew doesn’t belong in Brooklyn. When we build up this land, whether with palaces or impressive businesses, we are building other people’s land.

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier

From Jerusalem – Not From New York

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Israel has a simple option in response to the UN upgrade of a “nation” bereft of history that is intent on stealing our Land to non-member state status: Immediate withdrawal from the United Nations. If the UN would know in advance that Israel would respond by withdrawal, this preposterous idea would never have gotten off the ground.

The interaction between the United Nations and the State of the Jews has become the central axis of the UN’s activity. Without Israel, the UN loses its raison d’etre. From our tiny little corner of the world, from our grasshopper view of all those giants, this seems patently absurd. But a check of the subjects of the majority of Security Council deliberations and decisions makes it impossible to ignore this logic-defying phenomenon: The entire world is obsessed with a tiny state that conducts itself more honorably, democratically and morally than most of the other UN members – and contributes to the world in a vast array of spheres, more than any other country.

The UN obsession with Israel is not based on Israel’s ethics or actions. It is on an entirely different plane. This is how British intellectuals described their anger at Israel to the dean of the Sapir College, Dr. Ze’ev Tzachor: “We dreamed of a place in which the Book of Books would be written anew in anticipation of the redemption of the world. For you are a treasured nation. The world had great expectations, and look what you have done.” (From a Makor Rishon interview written by Meir Uziel).

The world anticipates the declaration of liberty that will emerge from Zion. When this anticipation comes up empty-handed, it becomes disappointment and is translated into loss of legitimacy for the existence of a Jewish State on the face of the earth. The other side of the coin is traditional anti-Semitism of all sorts. All the anticipation and hopes from the universal humanistic message of Abraham on the one hand, and all the hatred for and opposition to that message on the other, are now directed at the State of Israel. Whether it likes it or not, Israel will always represent the Jewish message in the eyes of the world.

The incessant condemnations, the hypocrisy and the never-ending battles in the various UN committees express more than anything else the dichotomy of the world’s deep need for Israel and its fear of its light. After all, the UN cares about Arab human rights as much as it cares about last year’s snowflakes, as it has demonstrated with the ongoing catastrophe in Syria. When someone shouts at you, he clearly needs you. Without Israel, the UN loses its meaning and returns to the moral Stone Age, the pre-Abraham world.

But Israel is afraid of its own message. So it begs for recognition instead of understanding that if it would proudly bear its message to the world, the nations would vie to be recognized by the Jewish State . Post-Oslo Israel, which with its very own hands gave the keys of connection to the Promised Land to a non-nation, has no case against the world that recognizes this invented entity as a state.

The problem is not the UN. We are the problem. The solution is to immediately nullify the Oslo Accords; to prove our complete loyalty to all parts of the Land of Israel and first and foremost: to restore full and exclusive Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount. We must declare Israeli sovereignty over all parts of the Land of Israel that are in our hands, as stated in the Likud constitution. And then, we must withdraw from the United Nations. Switzerland managed just fine without being a member of the UN and we will also “survive” at least as well – and probably better – without it.

“And many nations will go and say, ‘Let us go up to the mountain of G-d and to the house of the G-d of Jacob, and he will teach us his way and we will go on his paths.’ For from Zion shall the Torah emanate and the word of G-d from Jerusalem.” (Micha 4)

From Jerusalem – not from New York.

Moshe Feiglin

I Am a Loser Today

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

First we must admit we lost the war with Hamas.

It will allow us to begin healing from our wounds. For until we make the admission that we are on the losing side in the war and remain in a state of denial about it, no recovery is possible. We are thankful to be alive, of course, there is that to be grateful for – we can write letters like these and feel some satisfaction in the small pleasures of daily life, but we lost the war, yes, we did.

If we all make the admission simultaneously it will be an even stronger spur to our recovery, for we will be able to move on and examine our options. But until we as a nation, say it out loud, we’re trapped in fear, despair and disappointment.

We lost the war with Hamas. Please, don’t be afraid to say it out loudly and clearly. Say it to yourself. Say it to your family and friends. Say it at work and in the streets. Let’s own our defeat and see how it feels before condemning it as defeatist or negative. I think it will do us a world of good, actually. Today, this Thursday morning, this week of Parshat Vayetze, we were defeated by Hamas.

We’re alive, unapologetic and eager to find the positive in the situation, but we are defeated. We lost the war with Hamas this week, you know. It hurts a lot. We were sure it was going to be a resounding win, a victory and a new beginning for Israeli citizens everywhere but especially in the south. Unfortunately, we lost the war with Hamas.

They won, you see, because they have two advantages over us, superior tactics and a superior strategy. I’m not writing an analysis; that’s for the historians and the war-college professors to do. I’m merely stating what needs to be said out loud for our health’s sake, today. We lost the war with Hamas.

I cry for us, for those who survive unscathed and for those who mourn their losses, all our collective losses. Their children are our children, their parents, our parents. We are all living in Sderot, we are all about five seconds from a devastating trauma – we all have the scars this morning from the war with Hamas which we lost.

We are a noble people, for the most part. God knows we seek no one any great harm, and rarely dream, as a nation, of committing genocide, rapine or plunder. But we must, for our health’s sake, admit that we are locked in a deathly embrace with Hamas who have beaten us this week, who have reduced us to the role of the vanquished, to the point where we were forced to sue for peace on their terms, on any terms. We need to internalize the simple fact that Islamists have forced us to settle, not for peace on any terms, but with a lull, a not-even-truce. They have graciously, as the victors, agreed to allow us a short respite, for as long as it takes them to rearm, regroup and reposition for the next battle in the war we have lost.

I am not ashamed to say I am an Israeli Jew, I am a loser today in the war with Hamas.

I’m ashamed of the men and women we voted into political power, whose duty it is to protect us, let us not sully our lips with their names, they know who they are. I will look for more savage politicians to vote into power next time, lesser practitioners of the reasonable arts – with frothier spittle and madder eyes.

I am ashamed for us, I’m crying for us. We seem to have lost our vision and our insight. We are lost in broad daylight, blinded by the truth and crippled by common sense.

Because it’s true, I admit it. We lost the war with Hamas.

Join with me, friends and family. Let us make the admission with contrition in our our hearts and all the earnestness at our command; We lost the war with Hamas.

Sheni Leumi

It’s My Opinion: Time To Talk Turkey

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

It’s that time of year again. Turkey, cranberry sauce and a harsh lesson in the reality of “land for peace” deals.

America will celebrate Thanksgiving on November 22. Tremendous effort has always been focused on portraying this time in a lovely, romanticized light, in which pilgrims and Native Americans worked together in harmony. The reality, however, is quite grim.

The Indians were the original “land for peace” advocates. They believed a nation has to negotiate with its enemies, not with its friends. They wanted to give peace a chance.

The Native Americans gave away their land for worthless peace treaties. They did not want to be viewed as “intransigent.” For the most part, they acquiesced. They thought that two peoples could share one land.

There were some who took the white man’s desire for their land as a declaration of war. These tribes fought fiercely to protect their domain. Perhaps they were viewed as misguided right-wing zealots.

The “peace now” contingent believed it could give the interlopers their own state within America’s borders and they would be satisfied. They thought wrong.

Their “peace partners” wanted it all. Their “road map” was called “Manifest Destiny.” The once proud Indian nation was crushed. They are now an insignificant minority in what once was their exclusive homeland.

The misguided attempt to be compliant ultimately led to the decline of the entire nation. For the most part they live in ghetto-like areas called reservations. The recent acquisition of Indian reservation casinos is a poor exchange for the pride of a viable nation.

We are taught, “Who is wise? He who learns from everyone.” Israel could learn a lesson from the Native Americans, who gave “land for peace” and lived to regret their naivety.

The giveaway of Gaza is a prime example. Israel again acted in the mistaken belief that surrender of land would lead to peace. Instead a terrorist state now looms alongside its border.

Rockets fire down on innocent citizens. The dream turns into a nightmare. Israel now faces the threat of war.

Israel needs to stop the cycle of unilateral concessions and ceding of its land. Doing the same thing in the same way and expecting different results is insanity. It’s time to talk Turkey.

Shelley Benveniste

Petraeus: Did a Great Man Have to Fall?

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Did General Petraeus have to resign? He opened himself as head of the CIA to blackmail, which is a major security breach. So the argument goes. But surely once he admitted the affair, he presumably couldn’t be blackmailed any more. And yes I know there are many facts as yet unknown, like this mystery second woman who complained about email harassment. But for now, Petraeus seems to have resigned over marital infidelity. And if so, did he have to leave his position? Why, because he displayed personal weakness? But this was a public, as opposed to a private, position. And years of counseling unfaithful husbands and wives has taught me that private failings do not necessarily indicate public faithlessness.

Those who say that a man who cheats on his wife will cheat on the country forget how many privately moral men have been publicly immoral, and vice versa. As an example, there was never a suggestion that Richard Nixon even looked at a woman that wasn’t his wife. Neither did Jimmy Carter, and he was the worst president in memory. Conversely, my issue with Bill Clinton’s presidency was not Monica Lewinsky, which does not interest me in the slightest, but rather his moral failure to stop the Rwandan Genocide, which is utterly unconnected with his marriage. Thomas Jefferson was one of the great public men of the past thousand years, but he was replete with private moral failings, as was FDR, JFK, and LBJ.

It is my own opinion that an American hero like David Petraeus who served his country with distinction and honor deserved better than to leave his post in humiliation and ignominy, even if his own immoral actions brought it upon himself.

A few weeks ago, at the height of my campaign for Congress, a fellow Republican candidate got into hot water locally for comments she made about Martin Luther King whom she criticized a few years back as a womanizer. Two days later I gave a speech in which I explained that Christian morality demands perfection because Jesus is perfect. But Jewish morality is based on the idea of struggle, that people are human, have many failings, and their righteousness rests in the courage they show in wrestling with their nature to choose the good amid a predilection to do otherwise. Not one person in the Hebrew Bible is perfect. That and the Jewish emphasis of communal redemption over personal salvation – that what we do for others matters more than how personally virtuous we are – would have us acknowledge Martin Luther King as the greatest American of the twentieth century despite his personal failings. No other American did more to restore this great nation to its founding ideals of the equality of all of G-d’s children than King.

Similarly, few men have done more to combat terrorism and save human life in our generation than Petraeus. As the author of America’s counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq and commander of the surge, he took a war being waged by terrorists that was claiming the lives of thousands of civilians, and humiliating the world’s foremost force for good in the world, the American military, and reversed the situation. As someone who proved that terrorism could be defeated when so many Americans had given up, he is owed a debt of gratitude by this and every other civilized nation.

Still, there are important lessons from the Petraeus tragedy.

The first is the admonition of the ancient Rabbis’ on the need for a certain alertness in even the everyday interactions between men and women, a notion that is scoffed at in modern society that wants to pretend men and women have melded into some sort of unisex gender. In an interview with Jon Stewart of The Daily Show this past January, Petraeus’s biographer and the woman he is alleged to have had the affair with, Paula Broadwell, said that the general had helped her in what she described as a mentoring relationship and that, given their shared passion for fitness, he took her running from time to time in Kabul. “That was the foundation of our relationship. For him, I think it was a good distraction from the war.”

Now, take a soldier who is away from his wife for lengthy periods of time, put him around an adoring female fellow member of the military for long stretches, and you have a potential problem. The same seems to have allegedly been the case with Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower and his British driver Kate Summersby during the Second World War. Men and women can, of course, be friends. But that presupposes they respect the natural attraction that adheres in most situations and safeguard against conditions that foster inappropriate intimacy. As the sage Hillel said, “Do not believe in yourself until the day you die.”

Then there is this: having counseled many men who were unfaithful to their wives, I discovered that the principal reason men cheat is the desire to be desired, to feel special and extraordinary, to counter the effects of a broken ego and low self-esteem by feeling wanted, especially by an admiring woman. How would this apply in the case of someone like Petraeus who was so universally admired? I’m not sure and it might not.

But all the biography now appearing about the General says he has always been driven, always been highly ambitious, and more often than not, ambition is fueled by the need and desire to prove oneself. The New York Times reported that Petraeus wanted to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff but the Obama Administration, afraid of a high profile rival, pushed him in the direction of the CIA posting, with the concomitant lower, more secretive profile that was out of the press limelight. The same New York Times says that the affair began in earnest after he had taken his new posting. Did he miss the public acclaim? Did he begin to feel somewhat overlooked amid the immense power of his lower-profile role? Again, this is all mere speculation.

But the lesson for the rest of us mere mortals is that if someone of such iron discipline as General Petraeus can err this big, we all need to be on our guard – men and women alike – to get ego boosts from those things which are wholesome, holy, and healthy, rather than what is harmful, however hot.

Originally published on Rabbi Pruzansky’s blog, Rabbipruzansky.com.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Text of Romney Concession Speech

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

This text was taken from a report by The Washington Post:

ROMNEY: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, my friends. Thank you so very much.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I have just called President Obama to congratulate him on his victory. His supporters and his campaign also deserve congratulations.

ROMNEY: His supporters and his campaign also deserve congratulations. I wish all of them well, but particularly the president, the first lady and their daughters.

(APPLAUSE)

This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation.

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: I want to thank Paul Ryan for all that he has done for our campaign.

(APPLAUSE)

And for our country. Besides my wife, Ann, Paul is the best choice I’ve ever made.

(APPLAUSE)

And I trust that his intellect and his hard work and his commitment to principle will continue to contribute to the good of our nation.

(APPLAUSE)

I also want to thank Ann, the love of my life.

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: She would have been a wonderful first lady. She’s — she has been that and more to me and to our family and to the many people that she has touched with her compassion and her care.

I thank my sons for their tireless work on behalf of the campaign, and thank their wives and children for taking up the slack as their husbands and dads have spent so many weeks away from home.

(APPLAUSE)

I want to thank Matt Rhoades and the dedicated campaign team he led.

(APPLAUSE)

They have made an extraordinary effort not just for me, but also for the country that we love.

And to you here tonight, and to the team across the country — the volunteers, the fundraisers, the donors, the surrogates — I don’t believe that there’s ever been an effort in our party that can compare with what you have done over these past years. Thank you so very much.

Thanks for all the hours of work, for the calls, for the speeches and appearances, for the resources and for the prayers. You gave deeply from yourselves and performed magnificently. And you inspired us and you humbled us. You’ve been the very best we could have imagined.

ROMNEY: The nation, as you know, is at a critical point. At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work.

And we citizens also have to rise to the occasion. We look to our teachers and professors, we count on you not just to teach, but to inspire our children with a passion for learning and discovery.

We look to our pastors and priests and rabbis and counselors of all kinds to testify of the enduring principles upon which our society is built: honesty, charity, integrity and family.

We look to our parents, for in the final analysis everything depends on the success of our homes.

ROMNEY: We look to job creators of all kinds. We’re counting on you to invest, to hire, to step forward.

And we look to Democrats and Republicans in government at all levels to put the people before the politics.

I believe in America. I believe in the people of America.

(APPLAUSE)

And I ran for office because I’m concerned about America. This election is over, but our principles endure. I believe that the principles upon which this nation was founded are the only sure guide to a resurgent economy and to renewed greatness.

Like so many of you, Paul and I have left everything on the field. We have given our all to this campaign.

(APPLAUSE)

I so wish — I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction, but the nation chose another leader. And so Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation.

Thank you, and God bless America. You guys are the best. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thanks, guys.

(APPLAUSE)

Malkah Fleisher

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/text-of-romney-concession-speech/2012/11/07/

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