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October 20, 2014 / 26 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘process’

Mitt Romney For President

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

It should come as no surprise to readers that The Jewish Press endorses Governor Mitt Romney in the November 6 presidential election. We’ve regularly expressed serious concerns about Barack Obama’s views on the Middle East in general and the Arab-Israeli situation in particular from the onset of his 2008 presidential campaign through his four years in the White House.

We recognize that there are those who can and do point to several pro-Israel actions President Obama has taken as being indicative of fundamental support for the Jewish state on his part. Indeed, some of those actions are unprecedented. However, we believe it is clear that Mr. Obama came into office determined to significantly alter downward the decades-long special relationship between the U.S. and Israel – as we discuss below, he indicated as much – but that he was forced to put his intentions on hold following serious pushback from Jewish leaders and Democratic Party allies.

We fear that once he is freed from reelection concerns, the president in a second term will resume the tough talk to Israel and the disturbing policies of his earlier months in office that, if implemented, would result in a truncated and weakened Israel and an empowered Muslim world.

On the other hand, from everything we have heard from Mr. Romney it appears he not only believes in the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel but is intent on enhancing it.

Of course, separate and apart from the issue of Israel there should be a healthy skepticism when it comes to most of President Obama’s claims of accomplishment.

On the domestic front, the economy remains listless, the unemployment rate is a national disgrace, and the national debt is spiraling out of control.

Mr. Obama’s recent dissembling over the Benghazi disaster is only the latest in a series of foreign policy mishaps that taken together only serve to increase our unease. He claims to have referred to the incident as a “terror attack” in a speech the next day. The transcript does indeed show that he used the phrase, but in context he appeared to be making a broad generalization rather than specifically affixing the terror appellation to Benghazi.

Moreover, for days afterward his vice president, UN ambassador and several other administration spokesmen maintained either that they still didn’t know whether the attack was the work of terrorists or that it was a spontaneous, violent reaction to an anti-Muhammad video – the latter a notion that has now been discredited. In running as fast as they could from using the word “terrorism,” they claimed to have been relying on the intelligence information that was available at the time. What intelligence, then, was the president – assuming he really was, as he claims, referring to Benghazi – relying on the day after the attack?

Also contributing to our dismay with the administration were the unprecedented threats to the Supreme Court over Obamacare, the open violation of our immigration laws respecting the deportation of illegal aliens, and the leaking of classified information to burnish the president’s foreign policy credentials.

Getting back to Israel, despite the above-mentioned positive actions taken by Mr. Obama – which have included supporting Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system; backing Israel during the controversies over the Goldstone Report and the Gaza flotilla fiasco; and opposing the Palestinians’ efforts at the UN for a unilateral declaration of statehood – we believe our skepticism is well-founded. Mr. Obama has set forth his fundamental beliefs regarding the Middle East in both word and action and they are decidedly not pro-Israel by any calculation.

During the 2008 campaign we were disturbed by Mr. Obama’s close ties to the virulently anti-Israel and anti-U.S. Reverend Jeremiah Wright, whose church the Obamas attended for years. The claim by the president that he was conveniently absent whenever Rev. Wright gave his notorious sermons is hard to take seriously. After all, Rev. Wright officiated at his wedding and other family events and indeed mentored him.

Mr. Obama’s close association in his formative years with several anti-Israel leftists rang some alarm bells. Also ringing bells was his comment during the 2008 campaign that “There is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you’re anti-Israel.”

Rocket Ship of T’shuva

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

We have learned that t’shuva is the force which makes the world go round. Just as gravity keeps us here on earth, t’shuva keeps us longing for the heavens. For the individual, the source of this force lies in his or her willpower. The will is the battery of t’shuva. For a person to be healthy, happy, and in harmony with the universe, his will must be freed from the bondage of sin and directed toward goodness and God.

We are not accustomed to thinking in terms of the will. In school we learn about many different subjects, we learn about different professions, we learn how to get along in the world. But we don’t learn very much about being good. Rabbi Kook, however, teaches that education should focus not on professional training alone, but on finding ways to direct all of man’s endeavors, both material and spiritual, toward the world’s general aspiration for goodness. He writes:

Pure honesty demands that all of the labor of science should be directed toward the fundamental ideal of enhancing man’s will with the ultimate goodness fitting to it, to refine the will, to strengthen it, to sanctify it, to purify it, to habituate it through educational channels to always strive for what is lofty and noble (Orot HaT’shuva, 15:2).

When, however, mankind strays from the proper course, and instead of striving to elevate the will, leaves it wallowing in its baseness, wanting only to satisfy the will’s lower passions, then humanity plunges into darkness, degeneracy, and idolatry.

Out of its depths, (mankind) will cry out to the God of truth and return to the holy goal of making the foundation of every activity the uplifting of the will…. This is the entire basis of t’shuva, the elevation of the will, transforming it to good, to rise up from darkness to light, from a valley of tribulation to a gateway of hope (Ibid).

Previously, we saw that t’shuva can come about gradually, or in a sudden powerful flash. Gradual t’shuva resembles any developmental, step-by-step process whereby one thing leads to another in a natural fashion like the growth of a tree, which progresses from the seed to the fruit in a slow, predictable process.

Sudden t’shuva is different. It seems to come about all at once with superhuman energy and willpower. Where does this great thrust of life energy come from? If we had spiritual glasses to analyze the process, what catalysts and forces would we see?

The longing for goodness that makes up a person’s willpower has a resiliency like that of a spring. Sin causes the will for goodness to be contracted, like a spring which is being stepped on. The further a person is caught up in sin, the tighter the spring is compressed. When a person frees himself from the shackles of sin, he is freeing his willpower to return to cleaving to God. Since his willpower was in such a constricted state, when it is released, it explodes with a super momentum and force, far greater than the force of gradual t’shuva. The sudden baal t’shuva has a magnificent outburst of will which propels him into a frenzy of spiritual endeavor. From the depth of his darkness, he discovers an incredible light, an incredible good_ ness. All at once, BOOM, he is turned on by God. His prayer, his Torah study, his good deeds are all filled with a fiery intensity and fervor for universal good.

It is this revitalized energy which makes the newly religious seem “born again.” This occurs because his willpower has been rescued and recharged. This accounts for the teaching that a tzaddik cannot reach the level of a baal t’shuva (Berachot 34B), for a tzaddik is motivated by the normal, step-by-step will to do good, and not by the explosive, shot-out-of-a-cannon passion of the baal t’shuva.

Because of its great power, Rabbi Kook warns that t’shuva, if misused, can become a lethal weapon. Like a surgical knife, t’shuva can be the key to new healthy life, or to self-destruction.

blockquote>When one contracts the will, when one represses the life-force through an inner course of abstaining from life’s pleasures out of the desire to avoid all transgression, a contraction of the will for goodness also occurs. The power of the moral side of life is also lessened. A man engaged in purifying his life suffers a weakness like that of a sick person who was cured by electric shock therapy, which wiped out the disease, but also weakened his healthy life-force (Orot HaT’shuva, 9:10).

‘To Be A Bee Or Not To Be, A Bee’

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

“Dip the apple in the honey
Make a bracha loud and clear
Shana Tova Umesuka[1]
Have a happy, sweet new year”

An elderly carpenter was eagerly preparing for retirement. When he informed his employer/contractor of his plans, the employer asked him if he could do him a personal favor and build one more house before he left. After so many years of working together the carpenter felt he could not refuse, and so he begrudgingly agreed. It quickly became apparent that the carpenter’s heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and he used inferior quality materials. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.

When the carpenter finished the house he informed his employer that the job was done. The employer smiled and handed the key to the front door to the carpenter.

“This is your house,” the employer said, “It is my personal gift to you, with gratitude for your dedication and work for so many years.”

The carpenter was crestfallen! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have built it so differently. Now he would be living in a substandard home with no one to blame but himself.

We are the carpenters constructing our own lives. “Life is a do-it-yourself project.” The attitudes and choices we make throughout our lives are the nails, boards, and walls that compose the “house” we live in tomorrow. We would be wise to build carefully and adroitly!

One of the most famous aspects of Rosh Hashanah is the universally accepted custom to eat symbolic foods on the eve of the holiday, and to recite prayers which incorporate a play on words with the Hebrew name of the food, to ask G-d for various blessings during the coming year. Arguably, the most beloved is dipping challah and an apple into honey and petitioning G-d for a sweet new year. In fact, along with the shofar, honey is a symbol of Rosh Hashanah and of our deepest hopes for a happy and healthy new year.

Perhaps there is a deeper connection and meaning in the custom to “dip in honey” on Rosh Hashanah than the mere fact that honey is sweet. The very manner in which bee-honey[2] is produced serves as a powerful lesson for our main objective and focus on Rosh Hashanah.

Honeybees use nectar from flowers to make honey. Nectar is almost 80% water with some complex sugars. In North America, bees get nectar from flowers like clovers, dandelions, berry bushes, and fruit tree blossoms. (Different colors and flavors of honey are primarily based on what kind of flowers the bees use to produce their honey.)

The bees use their long, tube like tongues as straws to suck the nectar out of the flowers. Then they store it in their “honey stomachs.” (Bees actually have two stomachs, their honey stomach which they use like a nectar backpack and their regular stomach.) When the honey stomach is full it weighs almost as much as the bee does. Honeybees must visit between 100 and 1500 flowers in order to fill their honey stomachs.

The honeybees return to the hive and pass the nectar onto other worker bees. These bees suck the nectar from the honeybee’s stomach through their mouths. These “house bees” “chew” the nectar for about half an hour. During this time, enzymes are breaking the complex sugars in the nectar into simple sugars so that it is both more digestible for the bees and less likely to be attacked by bacteria while it is stored within the hive.

The bees then spread the nectar throughout the honeycombs where water evaporates from it, making it into a thicker syrup. The bees help the nectar dry faster by fanning it with their wings. Once the honey is gooey enough, the bees seal off the cell of the honeycomb with a plug of wax. The honey is stored until it is eaten. In one year, a colony of bees eats between 120 and 200 pounds of honey.

Honey is created from a transformation that occurs within the bee. The bee gathers the raw materials and then works intensely to abet the process and ensure that it is completed. The process of teshuva – repentance, which begins on Rosh Hashanah – is not simply about going through the motions. Rather, it is a deeply internal and personal process. It is primarily a transformation that occurs within a person’s heart and mind, and includes a commitment to growth and improvement.

Cheeseburgers and T’shuva

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

In some of our previous blogs about t’shuva, we have mentioned the bitterness and pain that accompanies the early stages of the process. When people begin to enter the realm of t’shuva, they start to experience a fear, an uncertainty, an inner anguish and pain. While this unpleasant aspect of t’shuva is quickly overshadowed and forgotten in the baal t’shuva’s pursuant great joy, it is a necessary step in the process. Recognizing its value and purging effect can help the penitent weather the stormy seas he must travel. The knowledge that the sun is shining just behind the clouds can give him the strength to continue. In the same way that a woman soon forgets the agonies of childbirth in the happiness of being a mother, the baal t’shuva quickly forgets the “labor pains” of t’shuva in the great joy of his rebirth. Rabbi Kook writes:

“T’shuva does not come to embitter life, but rather to make it more pleasant. The joy of life which comes from t’shuva evolves from the waves of bitterness which the soul wrestles with in the beginning of the t’shuva process. However, this marks the higher, creative valor which knows that sweetness stems from bitterness, life from death, eternal delight from infirmity and pain” (Orot HaT’shuva, 16:6).

When you first swallow aspirin tablets, there is a small taste of bitterness in the mouth. So too, in the initial stages of t’shuva, the first explorations of one’s inner world can cause uncomfortable feelings. However, as one continues on the path of inner cleansing, one discovers a great happiness in knowing that he is doing exactly what he was created to do — to get closer to G-d.

The process is not that at first you are sad and then you are happy. Rabbi Kook teaches that you are happy from being sad. It is the bitterness itself that causes the joy. One’s suffering makes one realize that the t’shuva is sincere.

Some people are overwhelmed by the mountain of sin which seems to confront them as they begin to set their lives in order. How can they deal with so many transgressions? How can they ever make the drastic changes needed to live a holy, ethical life? Rabbi Kook reassures us that this feeling of nervousness is a very good sign. It is a sign that the person has already broken free of his previous material perspective and is ready to consider a more spiritual life.

In the same way, Rabbi Kook tells us that if you are hurting inside, that is a sign of spiritual health. It’s a sign that your inner self recognizes that it does not belong to an environment of sin. Feeling pain over the sins of the past is an important part of the t’shuva process. It goes hand-in-hand with a commitment to a life of good deeds in the future.

The pain and anxiety associated with the first thoughts of t’shuva evolve, in part, from the need to separate from former ways. Just as an operation to remove a cancerous tumor from the body is accompanied by pain, so too is t’shuva. However, the pain is a sign that a healing process is underway. An amputation hurts, but sometimes it is needed to save a person’s life. Before the operation, the patient is wary. His leg may be gangrene, but it still is his leg. What will he be like without it? Will he be the same man? How will he function?

These are all natural, legitimate, and very distressing questions. The unknown can be scary. So too, when a person has become used to a part of his psyche, even if it be some negative trait which is detrimental to his inner well-being, it is not easy to escape from its clutches. Already it has become a citizen of his soul. Breaking away from the past and being open to change is not a simple task. Great inner courage is needed. Often, it can only be done with the help of a teacher or guide. In effect, in unveiling the step-by-step process of t’shuva, Rabbi Kook is giving us a map to assist us on the way.

“The pain experienced upon the initial thought of t’shuva derives from the severance from evil dispositions which cannot be corrected while they are organically attached to the person and damaging all of his being. T’shuva uproots the evil aspects of the spirit and returns it to its original essence. Every separation causes pain, like the amputation of a diseased organ for medical purposes. However, it is through these deep inner afflictions that a person is freed from the dark bondage of his sins and base inclinations, and from all of their bitter influences” (Ibid, 8:1).

Don’t Worry! Be Happy!

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Amongst the many eye-opening revelations on t’shuva in Rabbi Kook’s writings, one concept is especially staggering in its profundity. Usually, we think that a process is completed when it reaches its end. We experience a feeling of satisfaction when we finish a project. An underlying tension often accompanies our work until it is accomplished. This is because the final goal is considered more important than the means.

Most people feel the same way about t’shuva. Until the process of t’shuva is complete, they feel unhappy, anxious, overwhelmed with the wrongdoings which they have been unable to redress. Rabbi Kook tells us that this perspective is wrong. When it comes to t’shuva, the goal is not the most important thing. It is the means which counts. What matters the most is the striving for perfection, for the striving for perfection is perfection itself. He writes:

If not for the contemplation of t’shuva, and the comfort and security which come with it, a person would be unable to find rest, and spiritual life could not develop in the world. Man’s moral sense demands justice, goodness, and perfection. Yet how very distant is moral perfection from man’s actualization, and how feeble he is in directing his behavior toward the pure ideal of absolute justice. How can he aspire to that which is beyond his reach? For this, t’shuva comes as a part of man’s nature. It is t’shuva which perfects him. If a man is constantly prone to transgress, and to have difficulties in maintaining just and moral ideals, this does not blemish his perfection, since the principle foundation of his perfection is the constant longing and desire for perfection. This yearning is the foundation of t’shuva, which constantly orchestrates man’s path in life and truly perfects him” (Orot Ha’Tshuva, 5:6. The Art of T’shuva, Ch.5).

Dear reader, please note: if you are not yet a tzaddik, you need not be depressed. Success in t’shuva is not measured by the final score at the end of the game. It is measured by the playing. The striving for good is goodness itself. The striving for atonement is atonement. The striving for perfection is what perfects, in and of itself.

King Solomon teaches that no man is free of sin: “For there is not a just man on earth that does good and never sins” (Kohelet, 7:20). Transgression is part of the fabric of life. Since we are a part of this world, we too are subject to “system failure” or sin.  Even the righteous occasionally succumb to temptation. Thus, until the days of Mashiach, an ideal, sinless existence is out of man’s reach.

An illustration may help make this concept clearer. On Yom Kippur, we are like angels. We don’t eat, we don’t drink. All day long we pray for atonement from all of our sins. At the end of the day, with the final blast of the shofar, we are cleansed. But in the very next moment, as we pray the evening service, we once again ask God to forgive us. Forgive us for what? The whole day we have acted like angels. Our sins were whitened as snow. In the few seconds between the end of Yom Kippur and the evening prayer, what sin did we do? Maybe at the beginning of the evening prayer, exhausted by the fast, we didn’t concentrate on our words. Maybe our prayers on Yom Kippur were half-hearted, as if repeating last year’s cassette. Maybe, we forgot to ask forgiveness for some of our sins.

The point is that the process of t’shuva never ends. Perfection in deeds is out of human reach. Thus, when a goal is unattainable, it is the striving to reach the goal that counts. Regarding t’shuva, it is the constant striving for t’shuva which purifies, enlightens, elevates, and perfects. So relax all you seekers of t’shuva. Even if you haven’t yet atoned for all of your sins, Don’t worry! Be Happy! As long as you are sincerely trying, this is what really counts.

French Ambassador: Oslo Had ‘More Failures than Advantages’

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

JERUSALEM, Israel, Sept. 5th–The Oslo peace process had “more failures than advantages,” French Ambassador to Israel Christophe Bigot told a delegation of pro-Land of Israel rabbis during a meeting at the French Embassy in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

Bigot also joked that the embassy might be moved to Jerusalem, saying that while the space that housed the embassy had its drawbacks, it was only a  “temporary residence because” –switching to Hebrew– “Leshana Haba’ah Biyerusholayim” (next year in Jerusalem).

The statements are not typical of a representative of a European country which views advocates the creation of a Palestinian state or the “land for peace” formula behind the Oslo Accords and the so-called “peace process” which followed them.

France also believes, like the United States, that the status of Jerusalem should be determined in final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

By the time this article was published, Bigot could not be reached for a response, but his comments were confirmed by two members of the delegation who met with Bigot and with whom the Jewish Press spoke separately.

The delegation visiting Bigot represented the Rabbinical Congress for Peace, a group which says it represents 350 leading Israeli rabbis who oppose ceding any kind of territory. They met with Bigot in order to urge France to oppose the creation of a Palestinian state and to ask that France stop European Union funding of anti-Israel groups which operate in Israel.

“These groups operate under the guise of peace and human rights but the money that the EU gives them is used for incitement against Israel, against co-existence and leads to bloodshed,” Rabbi Shlomo Rosenfeld, Rabbi of Shadmot said.

In response to Bigot’s comment about the Oslo process, Rabbi Joseph Gerlitzky, the organization’s Chairman told the Ambassador, “let’s be precise – it was failures without any advantages.”

Rabbi Gerlitzky is the Rabbi of Central Tel Aviv.

Rabbi Avrohom S. Lewin, the organization’s director, told Bigot that “the past 40 years have proven that the ‘land for peace’ formula is a failure and only leads to bloodshed and instability in the region.”

The delegation presented Bigot with a “p’sak din” – a juridical ruling in Jewish law – holding that it was forbidden to cede territory from Israeli control because it would endanger people’s lives.

The ruling has been signed by the 350 rabbis who are said to support the Rabbinical Congress for Peace.

Speaking over the phone with the Jewish Press, Rabbi Lewin said that the ruling was drafted in 1993, marking the beginning of the Rabbinical Congress for Peace.

“What’s unique about the ruling,” Rabbi Lewin said, “is that this ruling is not based on kedushat ha’aretz (the holiness of the land) but pikuach nefesh (saving lives).”

During the conversation Bigot also noted that while French citizens view Israelis as “occupiers who are against Palestinian aspirations” they should not be blamed as “that is exactly how Israelis portrayed in its own paper, Ha’aretz.”

Rabbi Lewin said he believed Bigot was implying that Ha’aretz’s left-wing reporting played a role in the distorted European view of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

While Bigot offered counter arguments on many issues raised by the delegation, he said he would convey their requests as well as the ruling to the French government.

Migron Headache

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

Last night, The Jewish Press was first up with the warning: the destruction of Migron was hours away. Then, Knesset member, Aryeh Eldad called for people to come to Migron to protest the evacuation scheduled for five in the morning. I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and loaded some protest posters I had made into my car – a picture of Ariel Sharon with the caption, “BIBI, THINK TWICE!” In the wee hours of the morning, Netanyahu still had the ability to stop the tragic and senseless act.

My 20-year-old daughter came with me. She’s friendly with the wife of Dror Weinburg, of blessed memory, a brave army commander who was killed in Hevron a few years ago in a terrorist ambush, may Hashem avenge his murder. Many times, my daughter has gone to Migron to help his widowed wife with her young children.

A bright moon lit the way toward the small hilltop settlement, a short drive north of Jerusalem. The roads were empty. For long stretches, there wasn’t a car in sight. No army jeeps, no bulldozers, no helicopters, no riot police. Just the sound of the wind over Biblical mountains.

The newly built Migron Bet stood on a nearby hillside like a ghost-town, waiting for its displaced residents to arrive. On the ascent up to the outpost, we reached a roadblock – two army jeeps and a few soldiers. They told us that only residents of Migron could continue up the road. One of them was a young Ethiopian. I asked if the eviction was scheduled for the morning. He lowered his head in embarrassment and said that he didn’t know – his orders were to close off the road.

Parking my car by the side of the road, we got out and stood waiting for more protestors to arrive, but it didn’t look like any crowds were hurrying to get there. As usual, Moetzet Yesha (the Council of Judea and Samaria) was impotent in mounting a battle. There were no Knesset members, no activists from the Land of Israel faction of the Likud, none of the Ministers from the special Settlement Committee which Netanyahu had formed to make it seem like he really cared.

It was 4:30 in the morning when a few photographers and reporters showed up. A van stopped a little ways down the road, and a group of teenagers climbed out and skirted up the rocky hillside on foot, making a detour around the blockade. Other than shining their searchlight on them, the soldiers did nothing to stop them. Apparently there were other roadblocks along the way closer to the yishuv. When it became clear that there wasn’t going to be any meaningful protest at all, my daughter and I returned to the car and headed back to Jerusalem.

HOW CAN IT BE that in this clear time of Redemption, when millions of Jews have returned to the Land of Israel from the four corners of the world, in the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, and when the reborn State of Israel has been miraculously transformed, through the blessing of God, into a world superpower in a matter of decades, stunning mankind with its achievements in every field of endeavor, and once again becoming the Torah center of world Jewry – how can crises and setbacks like the evacuation of Migron still occur?

I will try to give an answer, based on the teachings of Rabbi Tzvi Tau, Rosh Yeshiva of the Har HaMor Yeshiva in Jerusalem, and one of the foremost Torah scholars on the teachings of Rabbi Kook.

The Talmud teaches that three precious gifts were given to the Jewish People and they all require suffering to obtain: the Torah, the World to Come, and Eretz Yisrael (Berachot 5A). For example, it invariably happens that a person comes on aliyah and finds himself confronted with difficulties. He or she finds it difficult to learn Hebrew, to adjust to the Israeli culture and way of life, or to find work. While they were “somebody” in their former communities, and knew how to get around, their egos often take a bruising when they come to Israel – they don’t know many people; they have to establish their identities from scratch; status symbols that meant something in the past and former positions of honor are meaningless now.

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