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October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘nation’

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.

Olympic Opening Ceremonies and the Death Throes of a Civilization

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

I don’t think I was the only American weirded out on Friday by the bizarre “dancing nurses” segment at the opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics.  There were lots of children wriggling in hospital beds, and seemingly hundreds of nurses prancing around dressed in the garments of yesteryear.  It wasn’t clear what the artist was trying to say – and then the letters “NHS” burst out in glittering lights on the field.

Oh.  This is about the National Health Service.

[Pause.]

????????????

That realization was paired in my mind with the International Olympic Committee’s refusal to commemorate the 11 Israeli athletes killed by Yasser Arafat’s terrorists in Munich in 1972.  The IOC’s position is that it doesn’t want to “politicize” the games.

That position doesn’t hold up so well considering that 9/11 was commemorated at the opening ceremony of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.  In 1996, at the Summer Games in Atlanta, the IOC had a moment of silence at the closing ceremony for the victims of the Olympic Park bombing.

In 2010, at the Winter Games in Vancouver, there was a moment of silence during the opening ceremony for Georgian athlete Nodar Kumartashvili, who had died in an accident on a practice run just before the games began.

So in recent years, the Olympic authorities have commemorated the death of an Olympic athlete and the deaths of others in terrorist attacks, with a moment of silence each time in an opening or closing ceremony.  And guess what?  Last night, in the Olympic stadium, the victims of the 7/7 terrorist bombings in the London subway in 2005 were commemorated as part of the opening ceremony.  Granted, it was hard to catch; a photo montage was projected into the stadium during a lull in the prancing and acrobatics, but there was little narration to call it out.  I didn’t even notice it, and had to be told about it afterward by others who had seen it.

It is jarring to think of passing references being made to the victims of terrorism, sort of as part of the entertainment, during an event-palooza dedicated to performance and revelry.  The reason we usually have authorities solemnly asking for a moment of silence, at a carefully separated, showcased point in the proceedings, is that that’s what is appropriate for commemorating tragedy and sorrow.

But it was clearly important to the British planners to mention their dead from the 2005 terror attack in the opening ceremony.  So they did it.  For forty years, including this Olympics, no one has incorporated a commemoration of the 11 murdered Israeli athletes into an official Olympic ceremony.  Yet Olympic authorities have been assiduous about commemorating others.  Their relentless, determined failure to commemorate the Israelis in the same way is a failure to acknowledge the common humanity of Israeli Jews.

The opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympic Games couldn’t have been more stuffed with politics if it had been a bell pepper.  The Republic of Taiwan was required to march as “Chinese Taipei,” although of course that is not what the Taiwanese call their nation.  There is no nation of Palestine, yet athletes walked under a “Palestinian” flag and were announced as “Palestine.”  The “quirky” performance segment of the ceremony involved numerous references to political events in the history of Great Britain, including, of course, the paroxysm of pagan worship, complete with cavorting women, for the National Health Service.  It was a really, really political night; if a commemoration for the murdered Israeli athletes might have been “political,” that would only have guaranteed that it would fit right in.

Watching the ceremony last night, I had a profound sense of sadness for the hollow revelry.  There was no dignified memorializing of the greatness, uniqueness, and courage of Britain’s past.  There was “irreverent, idiosyncratic” entertainment, and a very long segment of writhing self-abasement before the shibboleth of socialized medicine.

We seemed to be looking last night at a moment frozen in time before a great upheaval, like the last days of lingering sunlight before World War I.  A civilization based on entertainment and ritual political worship is headed for a fall.  But then, a civilization that singles out some humans, like Israeli Jews, to show less care for – less solidarity with – is a weak and unsustainable one.  Nothing else will go right with it.

Two Versions of American History

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

http://fresnozionism.org/2012/07/two-versions-of-american-history/

Here are two versions of American history:

One is that the nation came into being based on the principles of the Enlightenment, in which liberty was a supreme value. Rights like freedom of speech and religion were enshrined in its Bill of Rights. About 70 years after its founding, it was torn by a remarkably bloody war in which the idea that human slavery was acceptable was soundly defeated, and that abominable institution was ended. Thanks to its commitment to free enterprise, it expanded to both sides of the continent, providing unprecedented opportunities for prosperity and development. Great universities were established, and culture and science thrived.

During WWII, the US turned its mighty industrial power toward defeating the murderous regimes of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. 417,000 Americans died in that war. Afterwards, the US took the lead in establishing international institutions (like the UN) designed to prevent war and spread freedom and prosperity throughout the world.

After the war, the US opposed the attempts of the Soviet Union to export its totalitarian communism. Ultimately, due to a great extent to US efforts, the USSR collapsed and numerous European countries that had become satellites obtained their freedom.

The Civil Rights movement brought about the end of segregation in the south, as well as other forms of institutionalized racism against African-Americans. Laws were passed guaranteeing voting rights, fair housing, forbidding discrimination in employment, etc. on the basis of race, sex, disability, etc.

The invention of the microprocessor and the development of the computer and communications industry, arguably producing an economic revolution as important as that of the steam engine, began in the US, and innovation continues here.

Another view is that the US was built, from the beginning, on exploitation. Its early economic development was based on slave labor, and since the beginning is has ripped through the natural resources of the continent in the most greedy way possible. Anything that stood in the way of expansion — like indigenous native Americans, who were slaughtered wholesale — was destroyed.

Even after the end of slavery, African Americans were exploited for their labor while being treated abominably. Other industrial workers were paid just enough to keep them alive, and attempts at unionization were met by bullets.

At the beginning of WWII, Japanese citizens were forced into internment camps. The US was the first nation to use atomic weapons, killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians. After the war, the US opposed indigenous liberation movements throughout the world, using military force to defend the colonialist world order in places like Vietnam.

The US continues to exploit and oppress third-world peoples, especially where there are important resources, like oil. Racism is inseparable from our culture.

In recent years, economic inequality has soared, and inflation-adjusted middle-class income has dropped since the 1960′s while a small group of super-rich have become astronomically wealthy. Despite its overall wealth, the US has a worse health care system than most other developed nations. Powerful interests prevent actions from being taken to reduce the emission of pollutants, greenhouse gases, etc., which foul the entire planet.

Neither of these stories is 100% correct and complete (but they are not ‘equally good’, either).

No nation is perfect, and they all have skeletons in their closets (just ask the Belgians about the Congo — and we won’t even bring up the British, upon whose exploitative empire the sun never set). But the US does have a commitment to such things as individual rights (as expressed in the Bill of Rights), equality of opportunity, social mobility, democracy, rule of law, etc. Many other nations — perhaps most of them — don’t even pay lip service to these ideals, much less exemplify them.

Where do you start? Do you accept the idea that the US is based on fundamentally sound principles and is an overall force for good in the world? That our job is to fix the problems, but continue on the same general path laid down by the Founding Fathers?

Or do you start with the second story — I’ll call it the ‘anti-American’ one — and conclude that our country is evil, responsible for most of the misery in the world, and must be destroyed or at least completely turned upside down to save it?

Devarim: Like The Sand Of The Sea

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Moshe’s blessing to the nation of Israel is interesting in that a similar blessing, which Hashem had given Avraham and Yizchak, had already been fulfilled. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, observes that among the greastest blessings is abundant offspring, and therefore this blessing was particularly auspicious – even the third time around.

“Hashem your G-d has caused you to increase, and behold: you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven” (1:10): This very important statement by Moshe declares that the prophetic promise given by Hashem to Avraham (Bereishis 15:5, 22:17) and to Yitzchak (ibid. 26:4), that their seed would be as numerous as the stars, was already actually fulfilled by this time. If we should include in the count all men even over 60, and all women and children, the total would certainly be two million. (The additional blessings given here by Moshe that they increase a thousandfold, has not yet been fulfilled but it is proper to believe that the kindly and pious blessing by Moshe will eventually be fulfilled by Hashem.)

This declaration is part of the list of kindnesses Hashem bestowed, and it is used as a preface to the rebukes Moshe subsequently voiced. (The stars actually number more than two million, but, “The Torah speaks in the language of men” – Berachos 31b; and when the intention was to express a very large number, the comparison to the stars was employed.) The mention of their numbers is also intended to encourage them to be more bold in the conquest of Canaan.

We read later: “Yehudah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea, in multitude” (I Kings 4:20), but we find the prophecy which was said long afterward: “The number of the sons of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or counted” (Hoshea 2:1). Thus it is evident that the original promise to Avraham (Bereishis 13:16), though fulfilled in the days of Moshe, included even more for some day in the future. This additional increase may perhaps be due to the prayer Moshe now said: “Hashem, the G-d of your fathers, should make you a thousand times so many more as you are, and bless you, as He has promised you” (1:11).

This hoped for increase in the numbers of the holy nation is one of the most desired wishes of Hashem and also of our great fathers. Nothing can equal the blessing of a huge multitude of the holy people. The Presence of Hashem increases in proportion to their numbers. Every ten Jews gain the Shechinah (Sanhedrin 39a), and a greater “Shechinah dwells upon 22,000 Jews” (Yevamos 64a); and when 600,000 assembled, Hashem came down upon Mt. Sinai.

All of the benefits that are enumerated (which Hashem had bestowed) were for the purpose of the great conclusion: “Fortunate are you Israel; who is like you” (33:29) – the very last words of Moshe.

“That Hashem your G-d carried you just as a man carries his son” (1:31): This is a most significant declaration. Israel, and Israel alone, is Hashem’s son, as He had declared, “My son, My firstborn is Israel” (Shemos 4:22); and “Send forth My son” (ibid. 4:23). All the severe castigations and the heavy chastisements were the strongest demonstrations of Hashem’s love: “And you should know with your heart that just as a man chastises his son, does Hashem your G-d chastise you” (8:5).

Though that generation, more than any other, was privileged to see and to be close to Hashem, the principle that Hashem bears Israel in His arms as His son continues to hold good for all their generations. This is an astonishing statement, which we ourselves would never have dared say; yet Hashem declares openly for the entire world to hear that the loyal and observant Jewish nation is held in His arms as a father holds his beloved child. This is repeatedly stated, as in Yeshaiah 49:15-16 and elsewhere.

This Tisha B’Av, be inspired by the thought-provoking words of Rabbi Avigdor Miller. Access free streaming lectures from your computer or smartphone at www.simchashachaim.com/tisha-bav.html or bit.ly/rabbimiller9av.

Monetizing Debt: A Historically Disastrous Policy

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

As European nations seek economic lifelines, the Germans have a financial history lesson for Europe, America and the rest of the world. It’s found in a revealing self-critical painting, “Eclipse of the Sun,” created by a 1920s Berlin artist, George Grosz, which hangs at the Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington.

Few understand better than the Germans how economic self-destruction can bring a nation and the world to the edge of abyss. The crushing debt imposed on them at the end of World War I led to unprecedented hyperinflation as they monetized their obligations, running their printing presses to create millions of worthless marks.

Middle-class Germans became destitute as their life savings could no longer buy so much as a loaf of bread, much less secure their retirement. So corrosive was this monetized debt that the marginal Nazi Party, initially dismissed as a group of anti-Semitic street thugs, was voted into office by 1932. That is why Grosz’s post-World War I painting remains so powerful almost a century later. His contorted caricatures capture the revealing self-loathing of an economic and political landscape that would ultimately lead to the rise of the Third Reich.

“Monetizing debt” may sound like economists’ jargon, but it is an economy’s ultimate poison pill when politicians print money to cover government deficits rather than engage in difficult policy decisions. Argentina, Thailand and Zimbabwe have all used this strategy, and it consistently led to chaos. In the America of 2012, far too few appreciate the perils to our citizenry from a national debt in excess of $15 trillion and more than $60 trillion in unfunded liabilities. Some, such as former presidential hopeful Ron Paul, have suggested we return to the Gold Standard, a proposal that would be a difficult strategy to even consider, given our limited gold reserves. A far more rational idea is for us to get off the Debt Standard, but Washington can’t seem to agree on any course of action.

Economic policy has become a captive of politics, particularly in the House of Representatives, where a two-year term guarantees distraction by a constant campaign for re-election.

There was a time when if you were a Democrat, it was a given that you favored significant deficits for “pump priming” and expanded social programs. If you were a Republican, you advocated for lower taxes and the forces of a free market to create jobs and power the economy. There was room for compromise and negotiation. Our current political environment has become so venomous that an ideological holy war is holding hostage a bipartisan resolution of the debt crisis. We have become incapable of governing through compromise.

There needs to be a dramatic and strategic response to this institutional paralysis. History has repeatedly taught us that otherwise rational people have turned to monetizing debt to achieve a political “quick fix” — an action the Federal Reserve has undertaken since 2008 by printing new currency to buy up bonds. Voters need to alert elected officials on both sides of the aisle that they will judge them on their ability to resolve this emergency.

Meanwhile, though the ongoing European debt crisis seems irrelevant to our own lives, were Europe’s economy to freeze, the results would be immediate and devastating here. Unlike the Germans who now practice budgetary austerity with the pursuit of a converted zealot, there is little in our collective experience that allows us to appreciate the depth of the danger.

History has taught that the collapse of strong nations has traditionally occurred from strategic failures within. It’s a powerful lesson that our founders tried to instill in future generations when Patrick Henry offered, “I know of no way of judging the future but by the past.” Consider it a warning that our nation is in danger from a runaway debt that has the power to eclipse the sun.
Originally published by Newsday and the Gatestone Institute  http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org 

Kosher Hot Dogs and the Dichotomy of Tisha B’Av

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Wailing, fasting and the wearing of ashes, alongside socializing, communing and catching up with old friends in a fun outdoor atmosphere. That is the dichotomy of the 9th of Av in modern day Jerusalem. On the one hand a somber mood, but on the other hand, a paradoxical sense of joviality fills the warm summer night.

It makes sense that some level of happiness is in the air, because after all, we are bewailing the destruction of Jerusalem in a big, beautiful and built Jerusalem. This contrast is highlighted in the Jewish liturgy on the 9th of Av when we say the “Nachem” prayer referring to mournful, destroyed and desolate Jerusalem. However, we say that prayer in one of the hundreds of beautiful Synagogues in the city, or at the courtyard of Jerusalem’s city hall, or at the Western Wall with thousands of our fellow Jewish Israeli citizens who have travelled from other thriving Israeli cities on the paved roads of the Jewish state to pray for the future of Jerusalem.

Indeed, a major change has taken place in Jewish life, and while we keep the same rites as we have kept for 2000 years, our reality is vastly different. To understand the change, here is a parable: Two women are in a room and both are single. One’s husband has just died, while the other is engaged to be married – both are indeed single, but they are in totally different states of mind.

So, too, is the Jewish nation: We have mourned for the last two millennia because we were forcibly dispossessed of our land, our capital was sacked, our Temple destroyed and it was as though our husband was murdered. But now with half the Jewish people in the land of Israel and Jerusalem standing in earthly beauty, we are engaged to be married and await the next stage of fulfillment. Our mourning now is the yearning for a final redemption – like a bride waiting for the wedding canopy, we impatiently await the completion of this great process.

Yet, so many Jews deny the obvious reality. Almost like a mantra, they tell you that nothing has changed, that we are still in exile, that there is no difference between living in Israel and living in the Diaspora. Our own people somehow don’t see the transformation that has opened the doors for our nation to return to lost tradition, speak our national language, fight in a Jewish army, and create a culturally Jewish state on our ancestral land. One gets the impression that some prefer not to see it, lest it break their romance with other dreams, namely, the American Dream.

Recently, I caught an article in the Jewish Journal and it was titled: “They just want kosher Dodger Dogs”. The article went on to say that a consortium of six “accomplished professionals” who are also “season ticket holders” are working to remedy the lack of kosher hot dogs at Dodger Stadium in LA. “We are really just a group of people who feel very strongly that the second-largest Jewish community in the country should have the ability to eat a Jewish hot dog at a ballgame…” said a member of the committee, an attorney.

Seriously? Is this what grown men spend their time on? The Jewish people are engaged in the most exciting project in two thousand years – building a Jewish State. We face enormous challenges to build up, educate, and protect our people, and all this is happening while wealthy season-ticket Kosher-eating Jews are fighting for Kosher hot dogs in Dodger stadium? Are we so comfortable with the status quo that Jewish leaders can spend their time on nonsense?

Even closer to their home, in the great state of California there are serious problems with antisemitism at many colleges, high intermarriage rates, and scores of Jews who are losing all connection with Judaism. Some young Jews don’t stand a chance of getting Jewish schooling, while others are afraid to show their Kippah on campus. Yet a group of wealthy Kosher-eating Jews is not ashamed to go public with their efforts to bring fresh Kosher dogs to their box seats?

Matos-Masei: Virtue Of Men, Virtue Of Nations

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

In the confrontation between Israel and Midian, the Torah reveals the great void of virtue that separated the two nations. While Israel had fallen to great depths in the challenge of the Peor, Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, points out that it had risen again to great heights in the ensuing battle against a nation steeped in immorality.

“And Moshe said to them: have you allowed all the females to live?…Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, by the word of Bileam, to be disloyal to Hashem in the matter of Peor. And now kill every male among the little ones” (31:14-17).

Twelve thousand men participated in the expedition (31:5) against Midian, and not a man was missing when they returned. But a still greater wonder was that no man committed any misdeed (Shabbos 64a) with the captive women.

If among 12,000 men there had not been one instance of such behavior in a time of war, the nation demonstrated thereby its supreme superiority over all the peoples of the world. Certainly, the destruction of the 24,000 (25:9) had exerted an effect; yet the fact remains that this expedition now gained for Israel a great perfection.

This explains why Hashem had sent them against Midian instead of sparing them the effort by His own action to punish the Midianites. The females of Midian had exerted themselves previously to ensnare the Sons of Israel, and it is certain that now when the Midianites were attacked, their women had done their utmost to seduce the Israelites. But not even a single son of Israel yielded. This was indeed an atonement for the sin of Peor and the daughters of Midian.

Opponents of Israel point accusingly to this extremely harsh incident in which all male children and even babies were slain. But they must note that the sons of Israel had no intention of doing this, as is openly stated (31:9). The sole reason the children were killed was because of Hashem’s command (31:2) by the word of Moshe.

It is evident from the Scriptures that the sons of Israel were reluctant to destroy the conquered nations. Hashem found it necessary to admonish them again and again to have no compassion upon the peoples of Canaan (Shemos 23:32-33, 34:12; Bamidbar 33:55; and elsewhere), and the Scriptures blame the Israelites for their tolerance of the nations among them (Shoftim 1:27, 29, 30, 31 ,33, 2:2-3, and elsewhere).

But Hashem judges nations collectively and they are rewarded or punished together, with their posterity included in the national reward or punishment. Just as a murderer is put to death and as result his potential unborn children are also destroyed, so too are entire groups of mankind sentenced together. (In this instance, only part of Midian was sentenced for destruction. A remnant remained and became a full-fledged nation again.)

We are surprised to learn that Bilam laid this plot against Israel after he had spoken such noble words in their praise. There is no question he was certain his praises of Israel were true, for he was willing to forfeit the great reward Balak had offered him to curse Israel. But here we see again the principle enunciated above (16:1) – that even one who has attained excellence in awareness of Hashem must also contend with the even more difficult task of conquering envy and similar flaws of character.

It was because Bilam knew the greatness of the Israelites that he came to be inordinately jealous of them. Inflamed by this jealously, he sought to induce Israel to sin so that they should fall from their greatness and be rejected by Hashem. But this fiery jealousy actually enhances the value of his unsurpassed praise of Israel.

This Tisha B’Av, be inspired by the thought-provoking words of Rabbi Avigdor Miller. Access free streaming lectures from your computer or smartphone at www.simchashachaim.com/tisha-bav.html or bit.ly/rabbimiller9av.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/matos-masei-virtue-of-men-virtue-of-nations/2012/07/18/

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