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June 27, 2016 / 21 Sivan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘point’

The Making of a President and the Making of a Gadol

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

I must say that I was a little bit amused by the video featured on Aish.com. In about 3 minutes Mrs. Lori Palatnik proudly explains the difference between how Americans choose their leaders and how Orthodox Jews chose their leaders. Choosing a President in this great country of ours is a democratic process, but it is heavily influenced by money and power; ads and sloganeering; and smearing the opponent. Politics at its worst one might say. Certainly the best man available for the job may not be elected, or even running.

Contrast that with how Jewish leaders in Orthodoxy are chosen. Gedolim are chosen by rabbinic peers she said with pride. Those peers recognize that the greatest man of the generation is one whose Torah knowledge supersedes all others.

The example she gave is Rav Moshe Feinstein. He did not run for anything. He was not elected by the people. Rabbinic peers saw his responsa on Jewish Law and realized that the breadth and depth of his Torah knowledge superseded theirs. Hence he was chosen as the rabbinic leader of the generation – the Gadol HaDor.

I had to smile when I saw that. I’m sure Mrs. Palatnik is a very nice woman – sincere in her pride about how Jewish leadership is chosen. But despite the fact that in theory, the Gadol HaDor is supposedly chosen based on his level of Torah knowledge by people qualified to do so, it doesn’t always work out that way. Nor is Judaism unique in this regard. If I am not mistaken the Pope is chosen by peers qualified to do so too.

And is the process really as objective as Mrs. Palatnik indicates? Hardly. There are very often politics involved. The criteria considered for rabbinic leadership is not universal. A truly great leader whose Torah knowledge may supersede all others might never be considered for that position.

Rav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik is a case in point. There is almost universal agreement that his Torah knowledge was incomparable. I have been told more than once by Lakewood type Avreichim that if not for his connection with YU (or with Mizrachi; or his dissent on certain public policy issues with Rav Aharon Kotler; or the fact that he had a PhD in Philosophy- pick one!) he would have possibly become the Gadol HaDor. Again – politics!

When most Charedim think about who the Gedolim are, they think about who is on the Agudah Moetzes. That is after all where Rav Moshe Feinstein – the man she uses to illustrate her point – was chosen to belong as a Gadol. Of course R’ Moshe was a Gadol of that stature without the Agudah Moetzes. One could say that he graced the Agudah Moetzes by joining them and allowing them to call him their leader. He obviously supported the ideals and goals of Agudah. They did in fact choose him for the right reasons. But that is certainly not always the case.

How are people chosen by this group to become members? First of all they choose only Charedim. And their choices are not always based on Torah knowledge. Their choices are often based on religio-political affiliation. For example they will ask a rabbinic leader in the Yekke (German-Jewish) community to join because of they want to appeal to that demographic. The same is true for choosing a Sephardi Rav for membership. Or a Chasdic Rebbe. But are these people the greatest, most knowledgeable men of the generation?

Let us indeed look specifically at how a Chasidic Rebbe is chosen among Chasidim. The fact is they are not chosen by peers at all. It is Yichus that gets them there. They inherit their positions from their fathers or their fathers in law. They may be brilliant people, well trained for leadership by their fathers. But are they chosen by peers based on their highest level of Torah knowledge? Hardly.

It may be coincidentally the case that a Chasidic Rebbe who inherited his position is a truly brilliant and Torah knowledgeable person in his generation. That was certainly true of the Lubavitcher Rebbe who inherited his position from his father in law, the previous Rebbe. But the fact is that he was not chosen for his genius. He was chosen because of his relationship to his father in law.

There are people today who are great Torah scholars, geniuses without peer who lead generations of Orthodox Jews and yet would never be chosen as a Gadol on the Agudah Moetzes. Rav Aharon Lichtenstein is a case in point. There is little doubt in my mind about his greatness in Torah.

But he is virtually ignored, if not disparaged by his Charedi rabbinic peers. He has about as much chance of being invited onto the Agudah Moetzes as I do. The same is true about Rav Hershel Shachter. He too is one of the brightest rabbinic minds of the 21st century. And yet he too would never be chosen by his Charedi peers as the Gadol Hador – or a Gadol at any level.

The truth is that even R’ Moshe was not considered by everyone to be the Gadol HaDor. Satmar didn’t. Neither did Lubavitch. Nor did the thousands of students of Rav Solovetchik. Nor did most Israeli Charedim. They all had their own rabbinic leader whom they considered greater. I have been told that in Israel – R’ Moshe’s name was rarely heard. Certainly not in the context of Gadol HaDor.

So the bottom line is that I agree in theory that Torah knowledge is the most important factor in making one a rabbinic leader. And that Torah scholars are best equipped to recognize it and make those decisions. But in reality the best people are not necessarily the ones chosen to lead.

The factors considered by the voting public in choosing a President are not always the important ones. A President can for example be voted into office based almost entirely on his Charisma. I believe that this was very much the case with JFK, for example.

But Orthodox Judaism does not live up to the ideal Mrs. Palatnik says it does either. I’m sorry to say that politics and Yichus (in the case of Chasidic Rebbes and increasingly in the Yeshiva world) may very well be a greater factor in choosing a rabbinic leader than Torah knowledge is.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Harry Maryles

Postcard from Israel: Sussita

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Sussita – or Antiochia-Hippos, to call it by its Greek name – sits on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, towering 350 meters above Kibbutz Ein Gev. Founded around 200 BCE, during Roman times Sussita was one of the Decapolis – the ten cities.

The city was predominantly Christian from the fourth century until its destruction in the massive earthquake of January 749, after which it was never resettled. It boasts many features, including impressive fortifications, several churches and pagan temples, a commercial area, bath houses, a beautiful odeon overlooking the lake and a port on the lake shore below.

In 1951, an IDF outpost was established on the mountain which was until 1967 Israel’s easternmost point, merging with the Golan Heights.

Sussita is still being excavated by Haifa University and, if you happen to be looking for ideas for a summer holiday with a difference, it is possible to apply to join the 2013 season already.

Visit CifWatch.com.

Hadar Sela

Long Island Orthodox Woman a Volunteer Firefighter

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Shoshana Weiner of Long Island, New York, has been a volunteer firefighter for 12 years. In addition to firefighting, Weiner’s day job includes working as a nurse practitioner at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, and as a paramedic instructor at St. John’s University in Queens.

Tazpit News Agency caught up (literally) with Weiner during her vacation in Israel, where she took the time to volunteer with the Petah Tikvah fire department, answering some brush fires and dealing with hazardous material.

“Volunteering as a firefighter in Israel is a little different from Long Island,” Weiner, 39, told Tazpit News Agency. The fire trucks and the equipment are different from what I am used to in Long Island, but that’s all part of the learning experience.”

Weiner was born and raised in New York, where very few Orthodox Jewish women volunteer as firefighters, she says. “I kind of fell into volunteer firefighting by accident,” Weiner explains. “I was looking to volunteer in emergency medical services (EMS) at a local fire station, but in order to get accepted, I also had to train as a firefighter.”

Shabbat evening dinners take on a different routine at Weiner’s home. “Multiple times, I’ve gotten calls right after my husband has said Kiddush, and I’d have to run out and respond to a fire or medical emergency.”

“The perks are probably the barbecues,” Weiner says with a smile. “At least for my husband.”

The difficult point in Weiner’s volunteer firefighting career was September 11. “That was probably the worst day in history for New York firefighters. I was lucky I didn’t go down to the Twin Towers with the firefighters the first night, when the casualties took place. I joined the second night as an EMS responder.”

In Israel, Weiner also had the chance to take part in the Emergency Volunteer Program (EVP), a non-profit international organization that trains volunteers from abroad to assist Israel as emergency first responders.

“It was great to meet other people across the US, from Washington State to Arkansas, who were training to help Israel in an emergency situation,” Weiner said. “Although we come from different states across America, and there are differences in the way things work in Israel, we all share the language of emergency response.”

Weiner explains that one fundamental difference is the manpower at hand. In “Israel, there are generally two firefighters who do everything during a call—including driving to the emergency and putting out the fire, etc. In New York at least, there are five to six people on every fire truck.”

Shoshana believes that the situation in Israel is volatile. “At some point, we all know that Israel will need our help and that’s why we are here training together– to assist in whatever situation that happens in the future.”

Anav Silverman, Tazpit News Agency

Contemplating the Divine Together

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

We live on the first floor of a Netanya apartment building, which means that our living room panorama window overlooking the street below is about 15 feet high.

Our girl cat, Lightening, sits in the window much of the day, basking in our Mediterranean sun. She wasn’t for the move to Israel initially, but by now she’s very happy, grooms regularly and even put on some weight.

When I come home from shul Shabbat morning, around 10:30-11:00, I walk up the paved path from the street and whistle at Lightening and she recognizes me. She stiffens up, shocked at the notion that someone who is usually inside the house is now, by some unexplained miracle of science, on the other side of things.

Then she calls back, arches her back and rushes to the door to greet me. When I open the door, she’s there, demanding a thorough back scratch (and tummy).

She’s a lot like a dog that way.

But while dogs worship their masters, I believe Lightening sees me as an equal, who is sometimes frustrating when he doesn’t get what she’s asking for.

And I believe that this picture, of a cat davening alongside his co-equal, proves my point.

Yori Yanover

Israel ‘Accused’ of Ensuring Gazan’s Had Proper Nutrition

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

The most interesting aspect of the Guardian/AP report on Oct. 17, ‘Israel used calorie count to limit Gaza food during the blockade,’ in addition to the extremely misleading headline, is that there is little if anything in the story which demonstrates that Israel did anything improper whatsoever.

However, as we’ve seen time and again, the mere absence of information pointing to Israeli villainy is often no obstacle for Guardian editors.

Though Israel maintains a legal blockade on Gaza to prevent deadly weapons from entering the strip,  thousands of tons of supplies for Palestinians in Gaza arrive weekly from Israel, aid which includes medical supplies, food, and consumer goods, and there is simply no humanitarian crisis to speak of in the strip.

However, the Guardian, in classic propagandistic style, begins by employing the requisite photo of a Palestinian boy crying,

Yet, the strap line begins to provide a clue that there is, in fact, no real story here:

Unpacking this strap line, it seems to acknowledge that Israel was careful to “avoid” civilian malnutrition in Gaza.

So, what exactly is Israel’s crime?

The report begins, thus.

“The Israeli military made precise calculations of Gaza’s daily calorie needs to avoid malnutrition during a blockade imposed on the Palestinian territory between 2007 and mid-2010..” [emphasis added]

So far, we have a story corroborating Israeli claims that, since the blockade was launched, Israeli officials were careful to allow in enough food to avoid malnutrition.

Again, what is Israel’s crime? 

Here’s where it gets strange:

Israel says it never limited how many calories were available to Gaza, but critics claimed the document was proof the government limited food supplies to put pressure on Hamas.

Major Guy Inbar, an Israeli military spokesman, said the calculation, based on a person’s average requirement of 2,300 calories a day, was meant to identify warning signs to help avoid a humanitarian crisis…” [emphasis added]

The average recommended calorie intake according to the UK National Health System is 2500 for men and 2000 for women, indicating that Israel was making sure they supplied Gaza with enough food for Palestinians to consume the the calories necessary for proper nutrition.

So, what’s Israel’s crime?

Indeed, further in the report, Israel is again vindicated.

“The food calculation, made in January 2008, applied the average daily requirement of 2,279 calories per person, in line with World Health Organisation’s guidelines, according to the document.

“The stability of the humanitarian effort is critical to prevent the development of malnutrition,” the document said.

Further in the report, we learn the following:

“…at no point did observers identify a food crisis developing in the territory, whose residents rely heavily on international food aid.” [emphasis added]

Ok, in summary:

Israel maintained a blockade of deadly weapons sent to the Hamas run territory to protect their citizens from harm, but carefully avoided a humanitarian crisis from developing in the enemy territory by ensuring the availability of the recommended number calories as determined by international health organizations.

Again, I ask, what’s Israel’s crime?

Visit CifWatch.com.

Adam Levick

Romney’s Structural Handicaps and Third Debate Strategy

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Visit Rubin Reports.

This article’s purpose is to give a full analysis on the foreign policy aspects of the third debate between President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Remember that the idea that someone “won” the debate in terms of an outside observer’s standpoint or even based on a poll is misleading. The only important thing is whether either candidate swayed additional voters to his side.

Since I’m writing this to provide a detailed assessment, I’m not going to try to be short. So for your convenience let me begin by briefly explaining how Romney is so handicapped in dealing with foreign policy:

–He either cannot (or has decided for strategic reasons not to) name the enemy, revolutionary Islamism.

–He either cannot (or has decided for strategic reasons not to) discuss in sharp terms how Obama has objectively helped this enemy become stronger while weakening America’s allies.

–It is not politically profitable for him to explain that America faces a long struggle, since this would make voters unhappy and prefer Obama’s promise that he has brought peace.

–It is not politically profitable for him to explain that democracy and economic development are not panaceas for the Middle East.

Given either the terms of the larger debate or the strategic decisions of the Romney campaign (based on an arguably realistic assessment of American voters, or at least the additional votes he needs to win), Romney starts out at a huge disadvantage. He did not overcome this handicap in the presidential debate.

Now to the debate itself.

Romney began with an assessment of the “Arab Spring” as having gone wrong. It brought hope “that there would be a change towards more moderation” but instead there was the bloody Syrian civil war, the terror attack on American personnel in Libya, the takeover of northern Mali by “al-Qaida type individuals”; and a Muslim Brotherhood president in Egypt, alongside Iran’s continuing drive for nuclear weapons. What is to be done? Romney continued:

“But we can’t kill our way out of this mess. We’re going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the — the world of Islam and other parts of the world, reject this radical violent extremism, which is — it’s certainly not on the run.”

The threat is “a group that is now involved in 10 or 12 countries” that “presents an enormous threat to our friends, to the world, to America, long term, and we must have a comprehensive strategy to help reject this kind of extremism.”

But what is that group? Al-Qaida? And this is a genuine problem that Romney has faced, either because a presidential candidate cannot name the enemy more explicitly or because he’s making a mistake in choosing that strategy. For is the problem al-Qaida—a tiny terrorist organization—or massive revolutionary Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood?

Obama prefers the focus to be on al-Qaida. He ignored all the points Romney had made and focused on what he could claim as accomplishments: that there had been no new September 11; that the war in Iraq was ended; that “al-Qaida’s core leadership has been decimated;” that the U.S. forces are pulling out of Afghanistan; and that he has rebuilt alliances and united friends against threats.

On Libya he merely repeated his previous statement that once he received news of the killings he directed that Americans there be kept safe, the matter be investigated, and that those responsible be punished. He added that he had provided leadership in overthrowing the Muammar Qadhafi dictatorship without putting in troops and at low cost, making Libyans like Americans.

This certainly would seem to voters to be a record of success, presented in part by not mentioning any of the current problems to which Romney referred. Implicitly, Obama was speaking as if an end of history had been achieved in the region: as if Libya would not be the source of further trouble; the Taliban might take over in Afghanistan; Iran might not gain influence over Iraq; al-Qaida was not still very much alive; and crises in Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere continued.

For electoral reasons, Romney does not want to tell the American people that there is a long, hard struggle ahead. So he puts forth a relatively low-cost, pain-free strategy of getting “the Muslim world to be able to reject extremism on its own.” Instead of another Iraq or Afghanistan—that is, American military intervention—U.S. strategy should be to go after extremist leaders while helping the “Muslim world.”

Barry Rubin

Judea as ‘Cradle of Jewish Civilization’ in The Financial Times

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

“Hebron and Shiloh, that are widely regarded as the cradle of Jewish civilisation” This comes from this article: Middle East: A hold on the high ground by Tobias Buck of the UK Financial Times.

The message: “Fears are rising that any eviction of West Bank settlers would trigger a national crisis.”

Buck writes:

…In Israel, the real debate today is not so much whether the settlers are winning but whether they have already won. That, in essence, is the boast made by settler leaders. They argue that the West Bank settlements – despite their illegality under international law and the condemnation they attract – have become an “irreversible fact”. The settlers, they say, are now so numerous, and so deeply entrenched that Israel will never be able to remove them.

“I think these days we are seeing a turning point,” says Danny Dayan, the head of the Yesha Council, the main settler organisation. “Everyone knows that at some point it will become irreversible. I think we are already there.”

There are still many – both inside Israel and abroad – who dispute Mr Dayan’s claim with vehemence…the triumphalism expressed by the settlers finds an echo in the despair and frustration voiced by members of Israel’s dwindling peace camp. The number of activists who believe that it is too late to save the two-state solution is growing steadily: some have started the search for alternative solutions to the conflict, such as a binational state for both Israelis and Palestinians, or a Palestinian state that would incorporate at least some of the Jewish settlements. Others simply sound a note of despair…

Yisrael Medad

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/my-right-word/judea-as-cradle-of-jewish-civilization-in-the-financial-times/2012/10/21/

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