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Posts Tagged ‘nation’

Major League Judaism

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Browsing through a news website, I noticed that the World Series is just two weeks away. I haven’t followed baseball for 30 years, ever since making aliyah. When I lived in America, and thought I was an American, I loved baseball, like everyone else. But baseball doesn’t interest me anymore. I don’t even know what teams are in the running this year. The World Series has absolutely nothing to do with the Redemption of Am Yisrael, so who cares?

But maybe we can borrow a few metaphors from baseball to help America Jews understand that Judaism in the Diaspora is the Little Leagues. Now that we all can come home to Eretz Yisrael, there’s no reason to remain in the exile, getting all excited about foreign gentile pastimes, cheering gentile center fielders and first basemen who date Hollywood floosies, in a world where one out of a thousand players is a Jew. Let’s face it – Medinat Yisrael is the Yankee Stadium of Jewry and  Jewish life in Israel is the Major Leagues.

For example, everyone knows that the real baseball is the Major League baseball in America. In comparison, baseball in Japan is a laugh. No matter how skilled the players may be, Japanese baseball just doesn’t look real. It’s out of place. Baseball doesn’t belong in Tokyo. At best, it is a poor imitation of the real major leagues, with the unmatchable CRACK of a Louisville Slugger bat pummeling a fastball into the bleachers at Yankee Stadium to the unmatchable ROAR of the crowd and the smell of American hot dogs, spilled beer and roasted peanuts.

Just as Japanese baseball league is a poor imitation of Major League baseball, the Judaism of the Diaspora is a poor imitation of the Judaism of Eretz Yisrael.

As we wrote regarding the holiday of Sukkot, you simply can’t compare Jewish life in Israel versus Jewish life in foreign gentile lands. No matter how much private Yiddishkeit there is in Monsey or Boro Park, it’s the minor leagues compared to the NATIONAL Jewish life of the Land of Israel, which has all of the Yiddishkeit of Boro Park in Bnei Brak and Mea Shearim, plus a thousand things more. This is obvious. No one can argue this. The attention of the entire world is focused on Israel. In comparison, who cares what is going on in Monsey or Melbourne? The real Jewish news is happening here in Israel. When it comes to being a Jew, there is nothing like it at all.

In a letter, Rabbi Kook writes:

The source of the moral baseness which continues to darken the world stems from the lack of recognition regarding the value and wisdom of the Land of Israel. Thus the sin of the Spies, who spoke derogatorily about the pleasant Land, remains uncorrected. To rectify this, the Land’s praise, splendor, holiness, and honor must be declared to all the world (Letters, Vol.1, 112-113).

Our Sages have long ago noted the exalted level of Eretz Yisrael in saying, “There is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael” (Bereshit Rabbah,16:7). There is so, not only because over two-thirds of the Mishna deals specifically with Jewish life in Eretz Yisrael, and because of the many mitzvot which can only be performed here – the Torah of the Land of Israel is immeasurably more elevated because the Jewish people possess true NATIONAL vitality only in the Land of Israel.

Outside of the Land, Jews can excel as individuals in all fields of endeavor; including great Torah scholars, but the light of God cannot appear in its intended NATIONAL format. Only in the Land of Israel can the Jews be a KINGDOM of priests and a holy NATION (Shemot, 19:6). The Zohar emphasizes that the Jews can be a NATION only inIsrael, and not outside of it, where we are minorities in other people’s lands. (Zohar, Vayikra, 93B). Prophecies of Redemption all involve the return of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel and the restoration of Jewish sovereignty over the Land. The Jewish people’s unique prophetic talent is dependent on being in the Land of Israel (Kuzari, 1:95; 2:8-24). The Temple can only be rebuilt on the Temple Mount, and the full revelation of God’s Presence is exclusive to Eretz Yisrael, as the prophet teaches, “For Torah will go forth from Zion, and the word of the L-rd from Jerusalem” (Isaiah, 2:3).

The Pita That Revived Terror

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

“And all the nations will see that the Name of God is called upon you, and they will fear you” (Deuteronomy 28:10).

During the First Lebanon War, the IDF forced the PLO terrorists all the way to the Beirut port and then to Tunisia. The PLO, which had lost its stronghold in Lebanon, was shattered. Salach Taamri, the most senior and admired terrorist captured by the IDF, was imprisoned in the Ansar detention camp. He was a broken man.

Later, Taamri was interviewed by journalist Aharon Barnea for the book he would write about him, To be Captive. In Barnea’s book, Taamri describes the situation of the terror organization prior to Pesach, 28 years ago. “I concluded,” said Taamri, “that we had no chance to overpower Israel’s financial and military prowess, and that we should make do with the crumbs that they would throw us and fold up all our flags.”

Taamri, an intellectual and patriot, willingly cooperated with his captors. The other prisoners understood from their admired commander that the end had come and that the war was lost. And then, Taamri continued, a surprising event took place that turned everything upside down.

“My hands were holding the cold bars and I was looking from inside my dark jail cell toward the hall where an Israeli guard was walking. I saw him from far. He was walking slowly, holding something in his hand that he would constantly bring close to his mouth. He would bring it close and then distance it. When he was close to my cell, I called to him. I saw that he was eating a pita. He would bite, chew, bite and chew.

“You are a Jew,” I said to him. “Why are you eating chametz on Pesach? Don’t you know that it is forbidden for a Jew to eat chametz on this holiday?”

“I am not committed to the things that happened to my people during the exodus from Egypt 2,000 years ago. I have no connection to it,” said the Jewish prison guard.

Taamri continued: “I sat on the mattress in my cell and said to myself, ‘A nation of people who do not have a connection with their past; who are willing to publicly desecrate the laws of their faith, is a nation that has cut off the roots from its land. We will be able to achieve our goals.’ On that night, my approach completely changed. I couldn’t fall asleep. In all those hours of darkness, I replayed that scene with the Jewish prison guard.

“The next morning I gathered the Palestinian leadership in the prison, all those who knew my opinion over the years. I told them about my experience and the conclusions that I reached. I clarified to everyone that from that morning, we were embarking on a new course: a war for everything. Not for a small percentage and not for crumbs that they would throw us. For opposing us was a nation that lacked the connection to its roots, a nation not interested in its past. Thus, its motivation was necessarily void of any will to struggle and fight.”

Since then, Taamri says that he has told his story to tens of thousands of people and has convinced all of them that the approach must be changed to this: the Palestinians must struggle without compromise.

Taamri was elected to the Palestinian parliament and indeed convinced his friends, breathing new spirit into the war against Israel. The damage done by that pita eaten by the Israeli soldier on Pesach cannot be exaggerated.

The question mark hovering over the right of the Jewish state to exist – and as a result, over its right to defend itself in the face of existential threat – is directly connected to our identity as God’s nation.

When the nations of the world see that God’s Name is called upon us, when we know who we are, understand what we represent and are at peace with our destiny, the power of deterrence that the terrorist Taamri initially felt will be established. But when we are not interested in God’s Name being called upon us, the nations can openly plan to destroy us – with nuclear weapons or in any other way. And they will do so without fear.

The World’s Leader: Israel

Monday, September 24th, 2012

We have learned that the force of t’shuva is perpetually at work, propelling all of life toward perfection. While the enlightenment of mankind is a gradually developing process, the day is soon coming when the wonder of t’shuva will capture all imaginations and hearts.

In this saga of universal redemption, where do the Jewish People fit in? What role do they play? Just as one might expect, Am Yisrael is to be the leader, blazing the trail for all other peoples to follow. Rabbi Kook writes:

The Jewish People, because of their enhanced spiritual nature, will be the first nation in the world to do t’shuva. The special spirit of t’shuva will initially be revealed in this portion of humanity.Israelis propelled from within to be united with God’s light in the world, which is free of transgression and wrongdoing. Every falling away (from its connection to God) blemishes the wholeness of its inner perfection, yet in the end, its powerful life-force will triumph over the deviation, and it will return to complete health. This complete health will start to invigorate (the nation) with great strength and the light of t’shuva will shine within her first. Afterward, Israel will be the special channel to spread life’s inner yearning for t’shuva to all of the world, to lighten the world’s darkness and elevate its stature (Orot HaT’shuva, 5:8.  See also The Art of T’shuva, Ch. 16).

As we mentioned in a previous blog, Israel’s enhanced spiritual nature lies in its unique holiness and connection to God. “For thou art a holy people to the Lord thy God; the Lord thy God has chosen thee to be a special people to Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth” (Devarim, 7:6).

The Nation of Israel has an exalted inner content which radiates God’s blessing to the world. This segula, or unique Divine connection, encompasses all of the Jewish People. It is our national soul. Blemishes caused by sin are always external to the soul of the nation, leaving no permanent scar.

Israel’s deep, inner yearning to be connected to God, triumphs in the end, banishing all darkness. We are not speaking about a spiritual awakening of scattered individuals. THE WHOLE NATION RETURNS TO GOD. True to the prophecy of Moses, the whole nation will return to live by the Torah. Politicians and soldiers, artists and farmers, teachers and judges will have one common purpose — to sanctify life’s every endeavor. Israel will return to being itself — “A kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Shemot, 19:6).

The revelation of Israel’s holiness will bring more light to the world than the sun. Mankind will be blinded and stunned. All people will proclaim:

Surely this great Nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is so great that has God so near to them… and what Nation is so great that has statutes and judgments so righteous as all of this Torah? (Devarim, 4:6-8).

This awakened, Holy Nation will demand a new life order, the correction of all wrong, the uprooting of all evil, rescue for the downtrodden, equality for all people, food for all children, salvation from a life of paganism and sin.

Inspired by the Holy Nation of Israel, mankind will abandon its vain and misguided paths, and a mighty spirit of t’shuva will be ignited throughout the world. Nations will flock to Israel to learn the ways of the Jews, as it is written:

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s House shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all the nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the House of the God of Yaacov; and He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths, for out of Zion shall go forth Torah, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Yisheyahu, 2:2-4).

An example of Israel’s future influence on the nations will help make this utopian scenario more clear. Rabbi Kook writes that t’shuva is ever-present in the inner fabric of existence because it was brought into being before the creation of the world. Before sin had occurred, a remedy for it had already been prepared.

Markets, Politics, And The True Legacy Of Adam Smith

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

We wonder about the endlessly volatile markets and also (not often enough) about plainly unequal distributions of national wealth, but are the nation’s official policy responses based on correct views of classical economic theory? In particular, what about Adam Smith and his oft-quoted arguments for “free market capitalism”? More than any other classical theorist, Smith has been embraced by conservatives.

In brief, Smith reasoned, always capably and persuasively, that a system of private property, though naturally unequal, could still permit the poor to live tolerably. Rejecting Jean Jacques Rousseau’s contrary position that in commerce, “the privileged few…gorge themselves with superfluities, while the starving multitude are in want of the bare necessities of life,” Smith saw in capitalism not only an enviably rising productivity, but also the ultimate prerequisite for political liberty.

Adam Smith published his Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations in 1776. A revolutionary book, Wealth did not aim to support the interests of any one class over another, but rather the overall well being of an entire nation. He discovered, as we all know, “an invisible hand,” an unsought convergence whereby “the private interests and passions of men” will lead to “that which is most agreeable to the interest of a whole society.”

Through capitalistic modes of production and exchange, reasoned Smith, an inextinguishable social inequality might still be reconciled with broad human progress.

Significantly, however, today’s conservative defenders of Smith usually ignore, either deliberately or unwittingly, the full depth of his relentlessly complex thought. A system of “perfect liberty,” as Smith called it, could never be based upon any encouragements of needless consumption. Instead, he argued, the laws of the market, driven by competition and a consequent “self-regulation,” strongly demanded a principled disdain for all vanity-driven consumption. “Conspicuous consumption,” a phrase that would be used far more effectively later on by Thorsten Veblen, could therefore never become the proper motor of economic or social improvement.

Adam Smith understood the dynamics of conspicuous consumption, but he disliked them altogether. For him, it was only reasonable that the market regulate both the price and quantity of goods according to the final arbiter of public demand. Yet, he continued, this market ought never to be manipulated by any avaricious interferers. More precisely, Smith excoriated all who would artificially create or encourage contrived demand as mischievously vain meddlers of a “mean rapacity.”

Today, of course, with engineered demand and hyper-Consumption as both permanent and allegedly desirable market features, we have lost all sight of Smith’s “natural liberty.” As a result, we try, foolishly and interminably, to construct our economic recovery and vitality on sand. Below the surface, we still fail to recognize, lurks a truly fundamental problem that is not political, economic, fiscal or financial. Instead, as Adam Smith would have us understand, it is a plainly psychological or human dilemma, one we should acknowledge can never be resolved by either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.

Wall Street’s persisting fragility is largely a mirror image of Main Street’s insatiable drive toward hyper-consumption. This manipulated drive, so execrable to Adam Smith, has already prompted certain learned economists to warn repeatedly against saving too much. Could any advice be more ironic?

Whether Democrats or Republicans, all voters believe our national economic effort must always be oriented toward buying more. No one seems to ask, Exactly what sort of society can we expect from an economic system based on imitation and conformance?

Contrived demand has not always been a basic driver of our economy. Before television, and before our latest social networking gadgets, such demand could not have had any such overwhelming power and effect.

Writing in the middle of the nineteenth century, the American Transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke presciently of “self-reliance.” Foolish “reliance upon property,” Emerson had understood, is the unwanted result of “a want of self‑reliance.”

Now, living apprehensively amid a literally delirious collectivism, the ever-fearful American wants, more or less desperately, to project a “successful” image. This projection, in turn, remains founded upon material acquisition of “all the right things.”

In the final analysis, as Adam Smith himself would have understood, it will be the relentlessly conformist call of American mass society that critically undermines our core economy.

Are the American voters idiots?

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Are the American voters idiots? What do you think, readers?

I still say no, even after 2008, when it took very little effort to find out everything you needed to know about Barack Obama. Steeped in ‘60s-era radicalism, a “community organizer,” and a close associate of everyone in the political-guilt shakedown industry in Chicago. This guy was everything my leftist college professors thought of as a hero.

His associates, political thugs, pried open sealed divorce and child-custody records to embarrass his opponents in the 2006 Senate race. Yet his own records – e.g., college transcripts – have remained firmly sealed. His political record, other than his years in community organizing, was of a hard-left voting pattern (coupled with a lot of “present” votes), and a recorded interview in which he decried the U.S. Constitution’s marvelous provisions to keep government from doing things to the people.

There were so many reasons to know in advance that Obama would be a poor president. Yet many of the voters were taken in by the media hype surrounding Obama. The president’s associations and recorded statements were played down. The record was there for a number of investigative authors to find, from Michelle Malkin to Stanley Kurtz and Aaron Klein. But the mainstream media presented a very selective picture of the Democratic candidate.

The MSM, in fact, has embarrassed itself to a near-fatal degree with its remarkable coverage of the Obama administration, whether it is amplifying the cries of “racism!” that erupt whenever there is criticism of the president, or credulously reporting whatever the administration puts out, word for word, as if there is no previous record or any set of facts to be counter-checked. (The latter pattern is especially strong when it comes to reporting about defense and national security. Reporters have regularly retailed administration talking points about the unprecedented “shows of strength” the Obama administration is making, when a little research would reveal that the US had already been doing whatever the “unprecedented” thing is, for 5, 20, or even – in the case of North and South Korea – 60 years.)

There has been a tremendous growth in vague, elliptical, and/or tendentious narration of what’s going on in the nation and the world. The people can be pardoned for being tired and confused.

But the inability to distinguish fantasy-news and talking points from reality is a product of the American education system. That system has taken millions of people with plenty of native smarts and indoctrinated them with a set of ideological trigger-concepts, all while declining to teach them to think critically. Developing judgment through critical thinking is one of the hallmarks of adulthood, and the U.S. education system has been making that harder for Americans, rather than fostering their abilities.

But has this actually made Americans stupid? I don’t think so. One reason is that my experience with sailors in the last 10 years of my active-duty time was that an awful lot of them were coming in “stupid” – a noticeable difference from previous years – but most of them quickly learned discipline, responsibility, and the acquisition of knowledge, once they were challenged to. Lazy, whining kids who had never before been required to actually meet a challenge found it invigorating and rewarding to do so. (New sailors who came in from disciplined backgrounds like sports or music had an advantage, even though their store of knowledge was lacking, because they had already been challenged to perform to a standard along the way.)

Indeed, throughout my life, people’s hunger for challenge, and their adaptability when they are given opportunities to learn and improve themselves, have been in strong evidence. People aren’t happy as dependent creatures, supervised and fed but never rising to challenge or opportunity. People aren’t happy in any of the pathologies so prevalent today, whether in welfare dependency, “job” dependency – having to wait for someone else to create a job, with the government’s say-so, so you can have rewarding work – or drug use or sexual excess, or constant obsession with ideas of victimization and despair.

Only the most foolish of the young can think that these things make you happy and fulfilled. Americans used to know better, and I believe we want to again. It doesn’t make anyone happy to live in a network of these pathologies – not even the politicians and advocacy professionals who make their living from exploiting them

Rabbi Lior: No Need to Worry about Iran Threat

Friday, August 24th, 2012

The Iran threat does not scare Rabbi Dov Lior. The rabbi of Kiryat Arba/Hebron believes that it is forbidden, and there is actually no reason to leave Israel because of a life-threatening situation.

In a halachic response made public in the B’sheva newspaper, Rabbi Lior wrote that “it is clear that the goyim are always plotting and have always been plotting . . . You can go by Auschwitz and see that in the diaspora it’s not safer.”

According to Rabbi Lior, “There’s no justification in running away from Eretz Yisrael because of something like this. We firmly believe that “Hashem will not forsake His nation or abandon His heritage.”

“We believe that the Jewish nation . . . will be saved in any case,” Rabbi Lior stated. “We have a Divine promise about our nation’s existence and, therefore, we don’t have to be concerned about such things.”

Monologue: Aryeh Deri Remembers his Friend Zev Wolfson

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Former Interior Minister Aryeh Deri: I met Mr. Wolfson some 25 years ago, when I was Minister of the Interior. I used to see him hanging around the Prime Minister’s chambers, both Rabin’s and Peres’, and when I inquired with Rabin and Peres what’s the story with this Jewish guy, they told me they couldn’t reveal too much, but they didn’t know one other Jew in the world who as an individual had done more for the State of Israel.

When I pressed a little, they each told me that he had been a tremendous asset to Israel in the Senate and in the House, where he wielded a lot of power. This is before there was AIPAC and other strong Jewish organizations. He helped a lot with debt forgiveness and lowering interest rates on loans Israel was receiving from the U.S. This was in the late 1960s, early ’70s.

During the Yom Kippur War, when the IDF was running out of ammunition in the middle of the fighting, and there was a need for an airlift but Nixon and Kissinger where not quick to respond at first, Wolfson employed every resource he had in the House and in the Senate, enormous resources. He later told me that he even desecrated Shabbat for the sake of his effort, anything to save the nation of Israel.

That’s why Rabin’s and Peres’ door was always open to him. Aaron Fogel, former Director of the Ministry of Finance, told me amazing things about things Wolfson did for Israel. You know, when he was able to reduce the interest on a loan by a quarter or by half a percent, it translates into hundreds of millions of dollars for the state.

He did all this humbly, you never saw his names in the papers. He lived in terrible austerity. It took us years to persuade him to travel in business class, he always traveled in coach, even though he was a very wealthy man.

The only thing on his mind other than the state of Israel was the nation of Israel. Jewish education. Not Haredi or religious education, necessarily, but Jewish education, to stop the assimilation. And for that he turned worlds upside down. Ask anyone who knows what he has done in France, in Iran, in Morocco, with the Ozar HaTorah schools, Jewish schools which teach all the secular studies but emphasize Jewish studies. He used the power he wielded in America to help the governments of France, Iran and Morocco and get from them buildings and budgets for Jewish schools.

His flagship project in the last twenty, twenty-five years, has been Jewish and Israeli students in the U.S., France, Russia, some 40 thousand Jewish students altogether who receive a weekly stipend from the Wolfson Fund, and in return they attend lectures on Jewish tradition and history. They’re also brought in to Israel on trips–all of it to prevent assimilation. That’s all private money, the Wolfson family and a few others. No government involvement. They do it quietly, humbly. Only those who are familiar with the subject know about their contribution.

I met Zev Wolfson 25 years ago, in a somewhat stressful situation. He was a straight shooter, said whatever was on his mind. When he heard from Rabin and Peres about me, an up and coming young minister – he let me know what he thought about the religious parties… He didn’t like parochial politics… We exchanged some words, but as a result I got to know him better and we became friends. Our families were close, too. Any family celebration that we had, he and his wife and their children would come to Israel especially to be with us. He would arrange for us a grand sheva brachot party, invite the president of Israel, ministers. He honored us a lot.

He told me, Aryeh, we can’t rest. Every night before you go to sleep, think what more can I do for the nation of Israel. After 120 we’ll rest, now it’s a time for working.

Only a month ago I visited him in the U.S. in Lawrence, NY. He was lucid, but already weak. He was very optimistic about Israel. He was a faithful man, not Haredi but very faithful. But he didn’t believe in miracles. He believed in action. And he believed that the assimilation is the biggest enemy of the nation of Israel.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/news-extra/monologue-aryeh-deri-remembers-his-friend-zev-wolfson/2012/08/15/

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