web analytics
August 29, 2016 / 25 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘QUESTION’

INTO THE FRAY: The New “Nuts”—Jeffrey Goldberg, the Jerusalem Post & the Question of Sanity

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

Allow me to refer to an article, “Why we can’t dump Gaza,” written in the Jerusalem Post, almost a quarter century ago-by one, Martin Sherman

 

I think I’m getting ready to leave Ha’aretz … [its] cartoonish anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism can be grating. I find the @TimesofIsrael to be very reliable. Ha’aretz has some good reporters. Jpost is nuts.- Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent for The Atlantic, on Twitter, August 1 & 2. 

 

We have supported a territorial compromise in the framework of a peace deal with the Palestinians…The Jerusalem Post editorial board backed the disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005 … -Yaakov Katz, editor of Jerusalem Post, in a rebuttal of Goldberg’s slur, Jerusalem Post August 2.

 

[H]ow can you claim to be objective if the Jerusalem Post editorial board backed the disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005?…Perhaps Goldberg has a point – David Sidman in a Facebook response to Katz’s rebuttal, August 2.

 

Last week, cyberspace was all atwitter, following several rather disparaging tweets from The Atlantic’s scribe, Jeffrey Goldberg, casting grave aspersions on much of the English language press in Israel.

 

Two major papers bore the brunt of Goldberg’s barbs—Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post.  To the surprise of many, the normally decidedly left-leaning Goldberg took Haaretz to task for its “cartoonish anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism,” which he somewhat charitably designated as “grating.”

 

Not nearly as unhinged as Haaretz

 

Apparently the dollops of vitriol that the radical rag has been serving up lately to its readers against the Jewish state were too much even for him—and he announced that he was considering giving up reading it. Of course  it, remains to be seen how resolute Goldberg will be in adhering to his intended abstinence—but at least he deserves some interim credit for taking—and articulating—umbrage at the blatant and baseless bile spewed out in pieces like Gideon Levy’s recent “Stop Living in Denial, Israel is an Evil State” (July 31)

 

The attack on the Jpost—and his denigration of it as “nuts”—was a little more puzzling. To be sure, it is nowhere near as “unhinged” as Haaretz , and is certainly a lot less monolithic and doctrinaire in the range of views it presents.

 

Unsurprisingly, the newly appointed editor, Yaakov Katz, leapt to his paper’s defense, hotly contesting Goldberg’s diagnosis of its journalistic sanity. Katz pointed out—not without justification—that the JPost’s reporting is generally objective and that a wide range of views are represented in its Op-Ed section.   This is largely true, and although I have my disagreements with the  JPost—which are likely to become dramatically more acrimonious, and public, in the not-too-distant future—the paper does have a solid line-up of competent opinion writers, with  the few veritable “nutters” being the exception, rather than the rule.

 

 Distinctly discordant defense

 

However, one element of Katz’s defense hit a distinctly discordant note—and as it is symptomatic of a far wider malaise that extends beyond the Goldberg-JPostHaaretz brouhaha, I should like to dwell on it for a while.

As alleged proof of the JPost’s collective soundness of mind, Katz proudly announced that the paper had endorsed both the “land-for-peace” formula vis-à-vis the Palestinians, and the unilateral evacuation of Gaza.

To be fair to Katz, the allusion to this matter in the introductory excerpts has been somewhat truncated. His full reference to these matters, which included some reservations, omitted in the foregoing excerpts, was as follows:  “We have supported a territorial compromise in the framework of a peace deal with the Palestinians, but only if it is a genuine and lasting peace with a real and complete end to violence and incitement…The Jerusalem Post editorial board backed the disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005 but fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself with force against attacks from Gaza or the West Bank.[a.k.a. Judea & Samaria-MS]”

 

This, of course, immediately raises a perverse—but unavoidable—question: In the political discourse in Israel, just how misguided do you have to admit you are to prove, somehow, that…well, you are not??

 

Flaunting failure?

 

After all, both the belief in territorial compromise and the unilateral evacuation of Gaza have proven colossal failures—wreaking tragedy and trauma on Jew and Arab alike.

 

Both have precipitated all the dangers their opponents warned of, and none of the benefits their proponents promised.  Sadly, the tragic loss of life and limb was neither unpredictable nor unpredicted.

 

But all those who warned of the dire consequences of both these ill-conceived  measures, were shunned, marginalized, spurned,  belittled, disparaged—and deemed “nuts”.

 

Yet today, with all the foreseen, and foreseeable, death and devastation that these ideas have brought, past support for them is still—inconceivably—considered a proof of…sanity??  How insane is that??

 

Indeed, one might well ask: Isn’t it nuts to flaunt failure?

 

The reservations stipulated in Katz’s quote constitute no mitigating factor. After all, support for territorial compromise as a framework for peace with the Palestinians “only if it is a genuine and lasting peace with a real and complete end to violence and incitement,” presupposes that such an amiable outcome was in some way plausible.

 

But of course it never was. There was no need for advance degrees in rocket science to comprehend this. All that was required was to set aside one’s feverish dovish prejudices and listen to what the Palestinians—even the allegedly “moderate” ones were saying—and doing—to grasp that “genuine and lasting peace with a real and complete end to violence and incitement” was nothing but a perilous pipe dream. Just like the illusionary visions of a “New Middle East” and the empty promise of a new mirage-like El Dorado arising in the desert sands.

 

Depraved indifference?

 

With chances of success so manifestly slim and the cost of failure so predictably grim, surely there is good cause to deem the pursuit of such a policy tantamount to “depraved indifference”—i.e. conduct, so wanton so lacking in regard for the life or lives of others…as to warrant the same criminal liability as that which the law imposes upon a person who intentionally causes a crime.

 

Surely, anyone wishing to debunk efforts to label them “nuts” should assiduously avoid parading their past support for a clearly disastrously defective (indeed, the less charitable might suggest, “depraved”) policy?

 

Yet for some reason, it would seem that the JPost’s endorsement of precisely such a policy—albeit under manifestly implausible reservations—is somehow considered by Katz as proof of… good judgement?!

 

Of course much the same—perhaps more so—could be said of “the Jerusalem Post editorial board’s back[ing] the disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005”.

 

It is totally beyond my comprehension why anyone would wish to recall their backing of such a manifestly myopic, moronic, and malevolent measure as the “disengagement”—and as credentials of their sober-mindedness, mind you!

 

Why would anyone want to remind the public that they supported the egregious eviction of thousands of hardworking, devoted citizens, from thriving productive communities, providing gainful employment to the neighboring Arab residents—turning them into traumatized and homeless refugees? Why would they want to dredge up from depths of the past, their endorsement of a policy that converted Gaza into an Islamist terror enclave; a fearsome arsenal bristling with long range weapons capable of hitting nearly every urban center in the country; with its borders honeycombed with deadly attack tunnels, potentially menacing every kindergarten in the adjacent Jewish communities; with on-going interaction with the radical Jihadi gangs roaming Sinai, pressing up against Israel’s long Southern border stretching to the approaches of Eilat ??

 

Dr. Martin Sherman

Answering Mark Twain’s Question

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

Mark Twain is famous among the Jewish people for this sagacious quote (Harper’s Magazine, September 1899):

“If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one quarter of one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. . . The Egyptians, the Babylonians and the Persians rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greeks and Romans followed and made a vast noise, and they were gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, and have vanished. The Jew saw them all, survived them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities, of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert but aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jews; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”

Rav Yaakov Emden writes that our survival throughout all the persecutions and exiles is the greatest miracle of them all, a greater miracle than all the miracles in Egypt and the splitting of the Red Sea.

This week’s haftarah is from the 5th and 6th perakim of Sefer Micha. While sometimes the link between parsha and haftarah is not clear, the connection here is easy to understand. Micha mentions the episode of Balak and Bilaam attempting to curse Klal Yisrael and Hashem thwarting their plans. The Navi describes our epic salvations from the clutches of our enemies and compares us to the dew, “the Heavenly gift to mankind which Hashem always provides, even to individuals and societies that are undeserving,” as Rav Dovid Feinstein writes in his sefer on the haftaros. He continues, “Even when there is a shortage of rain, the dew remains. Similarly, Israel will not only survive, but will be a blessing to their host nations, like dew that is always a blessing.”

We actually know the answer to Mark Twain’s question and the secret of our survival. It is only G-d’s Hand in guarding our continued existence and our dedication to Torah that has allowed us to endure.

Faced with a history of suffering, sorrow, and persecution, Jews have met adversity with strong resilience and fortitude. How have we maintained our distinctness and unique traditions? What has been the key to thwarting our assimilation into the cultures of the nations?

Rav Saadia Gaon explaines that the Jewish nation exists not because of land, language or culture; rather it’s because of Torah. If ever there would be a time when Jews would stop caring about the wisdom in the Torah, they would quickly disappear as a result of assimilation.

Rav Yaakov Weinberg points out that the Torah itself provides for its own continuity. The world at large began to value education and literacy for the masses relatively recently, around 200 years ago, with the advent of free public education. Until then, education was viewed solely as a pursuit for the elite of society. Many religions had a special interest in keeping the masses uneducated so as to avoid questioning in their faiths. Jewish education for the masses, however, goes back to the Revelation at Sinai. Three thousand years ago, G-d commanded us to study Torah every day of our lives. Of course, in order to study, every single Jew had to know how to read and write. So, basic mass education was guaranteed. Torah study and intellectual pursuit was and remains our lifeblood.

Rabbi Boruch Leff

The Almighty’s Supreme Call to Man

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

It is the most famous, majestic and influential opening of any book in literature: “In the beginning, G-d created the heavens and the earth.” What is surpassingly strange is the way Rashi – most beloved of all Jewish commentators – begins his commentary:

Rabbi Isaac said: The Torah should have begun with the verse (Exodus 12:1), “This month shall be to you the first of the months,” which was the first commandment given to Israel.

Can we really take this at face value? Did Rabbi Isaac, or for that matter Rashi, seriously suggest that the Book of books might have begun in the middle – a third of the way into Exodus? That it might have passed by in silence the creation of the universe – which is, after all, one of the fundamentals of Jewish faith?

Could we understand the history of Israel without its prehistory, the stories of Abraham and Sarah and their children? Could we have understood those narratives without knowing what preceded them: G-d’s repeated disappointment with Adam and Eve, Cain, the generation of the Flood, and the builders of the Tower of Babel?

The 50 chapters of Genesis, together with the opening of Exodus, are the source book of biblical faith. They are as near as we get to an exposition of the philosophy of Judaism. What then did Rabbi Isaac mean?

He meant something profound, which we often forget. To understand a book, we need to know to what genre it belongs. Is it history or legend, chronicle or myth? To what question is it an answer? A history book answers the question: what happened? A book of cosmology – be it science or myth – answers the question: how did it happen?

What Rabbi Isaac is telling us is that if we seek to understand the Torah, we must read it as Torah, which is to say: law, instruction, teaching, and guidance. Torah is an answer to the question: how shall we live? That is why he raises the question as to why it does not begin with the first command given to Israel.

Torah is not a book of history, even though it includes history. It is not a book of science, even though the first chapter of Genesis – as the 19th-century sociologist Max Weber pointed out – is the necessary prelude to science, because it represents the first time people saw the universe as the product of a single creative will – and therefore as intelligible rather than capricious and mysterious. It is, first and last, a book about how to live. Everything it contains – not only commandments but also narratives, including the narrative of creation itself – is there solely for the sake of ethical and spiritual instruction.

Jewish ethics is not confined to law. It includes virtues of character, general principles and role models. It is conveyed not only by commandments but also by narratives, telling us how particular individuals responded to specific situations.

It moves from the minutest details to the most majestic visions of the universe and our place within it. But it never deviates from its intense focus on these questions: What shall I do? How shall I live? What kind of person should I strive to become? It begins, in Genesis 1, with the most fundamental question of all. As the Psalm (8:4) puts it: “What is man that You are mindful of him?”

Pico della Mirandola’s 15th century Oration on the Dignity of Man was one of the turning points of Western civilization, the “manifesto” of the Italian Renaissance. In it he attributed the following declaration to G-d, addressing the first man:

 

We have given you, O Adam, no visage proper to yourself, nor endowment properly your own, in order that whatever place, whatever form, whatever gifts you may, with premeditation, select, these same you may have and possess through your own judgement and decision. The nature of all other creatures is defined and restricted within laws which We have laid down; you, by contrast, impeded by no such restrictions, may, by your own free will, to whose custody We have assigned you, trace for yourself the lineaments of your own nature. I have placed you at the very center of the world, so that from that vantage point you may with greater ease glance round about you on all that the world contains. We have made you a creature neither of heaven nor of earth, neither mortal nor immortal, in order that you may, as the free and proud shaper of your own being, fashion yourself in the form you may prefer. It will be in your power to descend to the lower, brutish forms of life; you will be able, through your own decision, to rise again to the superior orders whose life is divine.

 

Homo sapiens, that unique synthesis of “dust of the earth” and breath of G-d, is unique among created beings in having no fixed essence – in being free to be what he or she chooses. Mirandola’s Oration was a break with the two dominant traditions of the Middle Ages: the Christian doctrine that human beings are irretrievably corrupt, tainted by original sin, and the Platonic idea that humanity is bounded by fixed forms.

It is also a strikingly Jewish account – almost identical with the one given by Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik in Halakhic Man: “The most fundamental principle of all is that man must create himself. It is this idea that Judaism introduced into the world.” It is therefore with a frisson of recognition that we discover that Mirandola had a Jewish teacher, Rabbi Elijah ben Moses Delmedigo (1460-1497).

Born in Crete, Delmedigo was a Talmudic prodigy, appointed at a young age to be head of the yeshiva in Padua. At the same time he studied philosophy, in particular the work of Aristotle, Maimonides and Averroes. At 23, he was appointed professor of philosophy at the University of Padua. It was through this that he came to know Count Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, who became both his student and his patron. Eventually, however, Delmedigo’s philosophical writings – especially his work Bechinat ha-Dat – became controversial. Other rabbis accused him of heresy. He had to leave Italy and return to Crete. He was much admired by Jews and Christians alike and, when he died young, many Christians as well as Jews attended his funeral.

This emphasis on choice, freedom and responsibility is one of the most distinctive features of Jewish thought. It is proclaimed in the first chapter of Genesis in the most subtle way. We are all familiar with its statement that G-d created man “in His image, after His likeness.” Seldom do we pause to reflect on the paradox. If there is one thing emphasized time and again in the Torah, it is that G-d has no image. “I will be what I will be,” He says to Moses when he asks Him His name.

Since G-d transcends nature – the fundamental point of Genesis 1 – then He is free, unbounded by nature’s laws. By creating human beings in His image, He gave us a similar freedom, thus creating the one being capable itself of being creative. The unprecedented account of G-d in the Torah’s opening chapter leads to an equally unprecedented view of the human person and our capacity for self-transformation.

The Renaissance, one of the high points of European civilization, eventually collapsed. A series of corrupt rulers and popes led to the Reformation, and to the quite different views of Luther and Calvin. It is fascinating to speculate what might have happened had it continued along the lines signalled by Mirandola. His late 15th century humanism was not secular but deeply religious.

As it is, the great truth of Genesis 1 remains. As the rabbis put it (Bereishit Rabbah 8:1; Sanhedrin 38a): “Why was man created last? In order to say, if he is worthy, all creation was made for you; but if he is unworthy, he is told, even a gnat preceded you.” The Torah remains G-d’s supreme call to humankind to freedom and creativity on the one hand and, on the other, to responsibility and restraint – becoming G-d’s partner in the work of creation.

Adapted from “Covenant & Conversation,” a collection of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’s parshiyot hashavua essays, published by Maggid Books, an imprint of Koren Publishers Jerusalem (www.korenpub.com), in conjunction with the Orthodox Union.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Krugman’s Lament

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Originally published at The American Thinker.

Paul Krugman laments but does not condemn the voting public for getting it wrong. We are, after all,  “… often misinformed, and politicians aren’t reliably truthful.” So it is at least not our fault when we get it all wrong. Get what wrong?

Well, Krugman wondered whether the public was clueless about whether “the deficit has gone up or down since January 2010.” He got one of his pals, Hal Varian, to run a Google Consumer Survey on the question. And guess what? We got it wrong, “A majority of those who replied said the deficit has gone up, with more than 40 percent saying that it has gone up a lot. Only 12 percent answered correctly that it has gone down a lot.” So, according to Krugman, under [in spite of?] Obama the deficit has gone down a lot since 2010.

The amount of the deficit in 2010 was 1.3 trillion. The amount of the deficit in 2011 was 1.3 trillion.

Obama’s 2011 deficit same as 2010: $1.3 trillion

That means big things must have happened in  2012, right?

For fiscal year 2012 the federal budget deficit will total $1.1 trillion

Wow. Did we get that wrong. For Krugman the move from 1.3 trillion to 1.1 trillion is “down a lot.”

Now maybe Krugman had the projected government deficit for 2013 in mind. That is projected to be .7 trillion.  But he didn’t ask that did he? He didn’t even ask if the deficit for 2012 is lower than the deficit in 2011. He just asked if the deficit has gone up or down.

But which is it Mr. Krugman? You’ve been telling us that deficits don’t matter. If they don’t matter why should we, the clueless misinformed, pay attention? But now you seem to be suggesting that a reduced deficit is a good thing and that you and the Obama administration should take credit for the reduced deficit in 2013 – forced sequestration, condemned by you and the Obama administration, had nothing to do with the 2013 drop in the deficit?

So if deficits go up it doesn’t matter but if they go down it’s a good thing? Well, count me among the clueless.

Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2013/08/krugmans_lament.html#ixzz2cRV1ZhGB
Follow us: @AmericanThinker on Twitter | AmericanThinker on Facebook
Richard Butrick

Man-Made Meat? A fence for Wisdom is Silence

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

After years of research and development, a man-made hamburger was publicly tasted for the first time last week. The burger was not animal flesh, instead it was grown in a laboratory. However, it was grown in a way that mimics the way animals grow their own flesh. Thus, it was pretty close to dead animal meat in flavor and texture.

This incredible scientific breakthrough prompted a plethora of questions. For the religious community with rituals and laws attached to the eating of meat even more questions were asked.

It seemed that one could hardly browse the Internet for five seconds without seeing a juicy soundbite (sorry, couldn’t resist) about whether the meat was kosher or whether is was meat at all. Chabad’s website had one approach. OU had another approach. Reuters had a third opinion in their article. NBC added another view.

I must have been asked by a dozen people what to make of the man-made meat mystery.

This is what I think. No one has any idea what they are talking about. Non-scientists have no chance of understanding the precise manner in which this meat was manufactured. I have tried to understand how it all works and it is almost impossible to find the full technical explanation with all the requisite background information. A very smart scientists tried explaining it to me, but even after I got the gist of the process I had more questions about stem cells and other background than I had before he explained it to me. I am pretty confident that Chabad, OU, the Reuters people, and even NBC News reporters don’t have a clue how this meat is made.

Sure, they  say “don’t rely on this for halacha” or something to that effect, but that makes things even worse. Why offer a meaningless opinion that is based on ignorance? It seems to make a mockery of Jewish law. But Jewish law is very serious and serious people will offer serious opinions on this matter. The proper response for almost the entire population of planet Earth to these eternal questions about man-made meat is “I am not qualified to render an opinion on this matter.”

Without a thorough understanding of how the meat is made, any discussion of the halachic ramifications of the meat is not even conjecture. It is pure fantasy. Further, deciding the halachic status of this issue will require a breadth of Torah knowledge that is possessed by a mere handful of people on the planet. You can’t pasken this shyla with Yad Moshe, Google, or the Otzar. This is a brand new question of Jewish law and will need serious investigation into the science and the various tenuously analogous precedents in Jewish law. The Torah does not discuss synthetic meat. And even if it did, who says this meat would be the same as the synthetic meat found in Jewish law?

The only way this question can be seriously answered is with a conference of scientists and rabbis who fit the descriptions above. Scientists who can thoroughly explain how the meat is made and Torah scholars who know kol haTorah kula will need to decide this issue. Anyone else jumping into the discussion is wielding a knife in a nuclear war. It’s that useless.

If I can, I will try to attain a scientific understanding of how this meat is produced and then perhaps I will be qualified to even ask the question to my (qualified) posek. But until such time, I wouldn’t dare wade into this very, very deep pool. I think this is the proper policy under the circumstances. We sound more educated and cutting edge when we admit what we don’t know as opposed to when we pretend we know what we are discussing.

Visit Fink or Swim.

Rabbi Eliyahu Fink

What Does It Mean to Be Jewish?

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

The question “What does it mean to be Jewish?” has often been asked. I suppose you could invoke the old joke “Ask two Jews a question and you’ll get three opinions” to better comprehend how different Jews would respond to this question, so when I weigh in here, I hope readers will forgive me if my opinions don’t always accord with theirs.

But the question is legitimate and should be asked. Jewish people share a common heritage and are affected by many of the same issues today. They face a world in which their religion is part of their identity; no matter how far apart they are on the religious and political spectrums (not to mention any others), they share a common bond that unites them in terms of how they relate to each other and to the outside world.

So what does it mean to be Jewish? To me, it means the following:

● To believe in God. Divine affirmation is the foundation of Judaism. Everything else comes after.

● To observe Shabbat and the various yom tovim. What could be more meaningful, spiritual, and fulfilling – more Jewish – than practicing the religious aspects of Judaism?

● To lead an honorable life. Shouldn’t we all aspire to become tzaddikim, righteous people?

● To keep kosher. Certain things just seem to go together, like lox and bagels, gefilte fish and horseradish – and being Jewish and keeping kosher.

● To do mitzvot. There are 613 mitzvot in the Torah, including the above. Carrying out mitzvot is part of our code.

● To carry on Jewish traditions. There’s life after davening, and it’s called Jewish culture. Chanukah gifts, hamantashen, and singing niggunim on Shabbat are just a few of the wonderful customs that have evolved from the religion and its people.

● To be proud of your Jewish heritage. Wear it on your sleeve – you’re a member of a tribe that has nearly 6,000 years of history.

● To feel an immediate bond with fellow Jews. Have you ever felt like you can be anywhere in the world and if you find a fellow Jew, you feel an immediate kinship?

● To involve yourself in a community of Jews. As birds of a feather flock together, it’s only natural for Jews to be immersed in a Jewish world – having Jewish friends, engaging in Jewish activities, living in Jewish neighborhoods.

● To feel a Jewish identity. Even if you’re not as religious as you could or should be, what could possibly make you more Jewish than feeling Judaism is an indelible part of your soul, or that being Jewish is simply who you are?

● To feel a special connection to Jewish history. Who can feel the pain of Jewish persecutions, expulsions, and genocides more than a Jew? Who can feel the catastrophe of the Holocaust more deeply than a Jew?

● To take great pride in Israel. Do you get the chills when you hear “Hatikvah”? After 2,000 years of Jews living in the Diaspora as a weak, defenseless, persecuted people, what greater modern miracle could there be than the resurrection of the Jewish homeland?

● To place an emphasis on education. Jewish parents may be the original “tiger moms and dads.” Perhaps that is why some professions are disproportionately populated by Jews.

● To feel empathy for the poor, oppressed, and downtrodden. You only have to consider how much we’ve suffered as a people to understand how this got into our DNA.

● To have a Jewish funny bone. You can relate to Jewish humor because you’re laughing at yourself and other Jewish people you know – and, nu, do you think there’s any shortage of Jewish foibles?

● To think in “Jewish ways.” How do Jews think? Oy vey iz mir. We think the number 18 brings good luck, so we sometimes give gifts in denominations of 18, like $36 or $180. We try to ward off the evil eye after hearing compliments or wonderful news by saying “kenohora” or mimicking spitting by going “pooh-pooh-pooh.” Oh, and there’s the proverbial Jewish guilt, as well as our inimitable designation of “mishagas” to explain a panoply of crazy behavior with a Jewish edge. Is there such a thing as a Yiddishe kop? Suffice it to say that when you do something stupid, you’re not using it.

Harvey Rachlin

A Ray of Light Behind the Clouds

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Some years ago I was invited to speak at a secular high school for exceptionally bright students. The student body was mostly non-Jewish. Since I am a Holocaust survivor, they asked that I address that subject. After my presentation the principal asked if I would agree to a Q&A session. “By all means,” I answered.

The first student at the microphone asked a question that I sensed was on the minds of many there. “Where was G-d?” he asked. “How can you keep your faith?”

I replied:

“You asked me a question and I will respond with a question of my own. Where was man? And I do not refer only to the satanic Nazis but to all the nations that were complicit in this unspeakable evil.

“As far as faith goes, in what and in whom could I have placed my faith? In twentieth-century enlightenment, education, culture, science? I saw university graduates use their scientific know-how to create gas chambers where millions of lives were snuffed out. I saw doctors maim, torture and kill. I will simply ask once again, ‘Where was man – where was modern Western civilization?’

“Whenever I seek answers I turn to the pages of our Torah, for everything is to be found within it. I invite you to meet the very first family who lived on this planet. Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. They lived in paradise. No one had to go to work. The climate was perfect – not too hot, not too cold. There was no illness and no death. G-d intended for man to live forever but then man debased himself. He became corrupt and evil.

“Cain and Abel made a deal. ‘Let’s divide the world between us,’ they said. And so they did. Livestock was to belong to Abel, real estate to Cain. But no sooner had Cain received his portion than he said to Abel, ‘The land is mine, get off it.’ And with that he killed his brother. G-d asked Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ To which he responded, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’

“To this day Cain’s question echoes in the wind. Man plunders, kills, rapes – but instead of accepting accountability for his heinous deeds he shifts the blame to G-d and asks with audacity, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’

“Thousands of years have passed and man has yet to respond, ‘Yes G-d, I am my brother’s keeper. Forgive me. It was all my fault. I take responsibility. Almighty G-d, give me another chance. Allow me to try again.’

“The question ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ means, in essence, ‘You, G-d, created the world; You, G-d, are in charge. Why did You allow this to happen? Where were You? How can I believe in You if You allowed this monstrous atrocity to occur?’

“Has anything changed in thousands of years? Yes, things have changed. Cain killed his brother with his hands or a primitive instrument but today modern man has harnessed his scientific brilliance to create hell on earth. The way of the first murderer Cain has become the reality by which modern man justifies his abominable deeds.”

* * * * * Recently I shared with readers my experiences when I spoke in South Africa. More than 5,000 people gathered for Torah study at the Sinai Indaba organized by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein. In one of my presentations I spoke about the Holocaust. After the program a distinguished gentleman came over and introduced himself. He was a Christian living in Johannesburg. With tears he spilled out his heart.

“Rebbetzin,” he said, “we need to repent, to make atonement for the sins committed against the Jewish people. And we have to make that real, not just an empty declaration. I would like to convene multitudes of people and have you address them. Tell them about the Holocaust so they might all know and pass it on to future generations.”

This glimmer of light amid the dark clouds of anti-Semitism that once again are engulfing the world reminds us that dormant within the human heart is the spark of G-d. We must only plug into it and the voltage could light up the entire world. Whether or not that convention of Christians in Johannesburg will take place remains to be seen but the words were said, the call was made, and that in itself is significant.

Let’s return to the question that bright young student asked me: Where was G-d? Let us understand once and for all that G-d is not a puppeteer and we are not puppets. We have choices; that is what separates us from the animals. It is all recorded in this week’s parshah. “Behold I give you today blessing and curse.”

That choice is the challenge to every generation. The Torah speaks for all time. When will man choose good over evil, blessing over curse? Is it possible that that day will ever come? Of course it is.

There is a spark in the hearts of all men and I believe that one day that spark will burst forth into glorious light and banish all evil – and the world will know that “G-d is One, His Name is One.”

May that day soon come speedily in our own time.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/a-ray-of-light-behind-the-clouds/2013/07/31/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: