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October 1, 2016 / 28 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘QUESTION’

Biometric Passports: A Question of Liberty

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

Israeli citizens returning home after a tiring flight are allotted one passport check counter as they enter the country. Visitors to Israel are allotted five.

“Register for a biometric passport,” explain the airport workers.

In other words, either let us mark you like animals and store your personal information in a database that will necessarily leak or we will keep you in line until you despair.

The biometric issue is really part of the much larger issue of liberty. Liberty is like the air we breathe. When it first becomes polluted, you don’t feel anything. When it is completely polluted, you simply die and nobody really cares. (In truth, more people die in Israel of pollution than from accidents or wars).

Our unspoken agreement with the state is that we deposit a bit of our liberty into its hands and receive security in exchange. A state will always be interested in convincing its citizens to surrender more and more of their liberty. Security will always – always – be the excuse.

The state of Israel was established on deep socialist foundations. It does not have the values that balance its gravitation toward dictatorship. Liberty in Israel is slowly but surely evaporating.

True, our pictures already exist in government databases. We have been photographed for our army service and in the U.S. we are photographed every time we enter the country (they don’t dare photograph their citizens). But I have no choice in the army and I can choose not to visit the U.S.

Here in Israel, it is different. My country has decided to do what it pleases with my identity. But it is my picture – not yours. Many readers may think there is no reason to make an issue of this. But this is precisely the stage at which we can still fight the air pollution.

If the state will offer you a small and fashionable bracelet that tracks your buying habits in exchange for a 20 percent discount on every purchase – will you go for it?

Most probably will.

And if they offer you a subcutaneous chip (yes, like dogs) in exchange for a 40 percent discount? Or an invisible electronic mark on your forehead for 60 percent off?

Or a blue number on your arm for 100 percent?

The Zehut party will work long and hard to immediately nullify the biometric database (for which there is no real need) and replace it with smart IDs, which contain only basic information and cannot be forged.

Moshe Feiglin

The Immigration Question

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

According to the State Department, the U.S. has reached President Obama’s stated goal of taking in 10,000 Syrian refugees on an emergency basis. Under current immigration rules, the president could allow up to 10,000 into the United States in the fiscal year ending August 31.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has argued for the cessation or severe restriction of immigration from areas where terrorists are known to have established a presence until there is a more effective means available to prevent terrorists from slipping in with other refugees. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has said that she favors a quota of 65,000 but does not specify over what period of time.

We expect this issue will get a full pubic hearing once the presidential campaign picks up steam, as it traditionally does, after Labor Day. But the starkly divergent views of Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton have tended so far to draw attention away from a particularly salient factor. It is true as many have said that immigrants in past eras have, for the most part, melted into American society – think the Jews, the Italians, the Irish. Yet it also seems beyond dispute that the current wave of immigrants from Syria may well include a potentially toxic element unknown in our history.

Thus, while the aforementioned groups contained some individuals with violent tendencies, that violence was directed toward achieving financial or social gain without a motivating religious or political dimension. However, we don’t know how many Syrian refugees coming in now harbor a desire to challenge and undermine the American political system by violent means in the name of jihadist Islam.

The scourge of Islamist extremism has already altered for the worse the way citizens of England, France, and Germany go about their daily lives. And according to surveys and studies, even a significant number of non-violent Muslim refugees in Europe entertain notions of transforming their host countries into something unrecognizable.

To assert, as some do, that such concerns are not consistent with “American values” is beside the point. The Constitution, as many have famously said, is not a suicide pact. The risk is all too real, and it must be the goal of our elected leaders to somehow keep that risk from becoming a reality.

Editorial Board

Sport And The Jewish Question

Friday, August 26th, 2016

Recently, an Israeli football team (soccer to you colonials), Hapoel Be’er Sheva, flew to Scotland to play Glasgow Celtic. The famous Scottish greeting “ceud mile failte” – a hundred thousand welcomes – was conspicuously absent. Instead, as the team ran onto the field it was greeted by hundreds of Celtic fans waving Palestinian flags.

The two major football clubs in Glasgow are Rangers and Celtic. Both are products of the religious divide within the city between “indigenous” Scots who were Protestant and the Irish immigrants who came looking for work throughout the nineteenth century and were mostly Catholic.

The 20th century civil war in Northern Ireland was – and to certain degree still is – echoed in the culture of my hometown of Glasgow.

Throughout the bloody years of bombings and shootings, the Irish Catholics of Northern Ireland, and to some extent Glasgow, supported or were often sympathetic to the IRA, a Marxist terrorist group. They sought to have the territory of the North of Ireland, Ulster, join the independent Republic of Ireland. The majority of Northern Ireland’s six counties had voted to remain part of the UK after Ireland gained its independence from British rule in 1922.

The Protestants of Northern Ireland and Glasgow likewise wanted the territory to remain in the UK and were usually sympathetic to the British army that fought the IRA and occasionally sympathetic to or supportive of their own terrorist groups.

The IRA trained with the PLO and other Palestinian terrorists in bases in Libya. Unsurprisingly, given their shared political worldview, the IRA supported the Palestinians. The Protestants of Northern Ireland and Glasgow were far more likely to sympathize with Israel and its struggle. Glasgow Rangers supporters have in the past waved the Israeli flag as a counter to Celtic fans’ anti-Israel chants.

Scotland’s pronounced left-leaning political landscape is fertile breeding ground for anti-Israel recruitment as well as classic anti-Semitism. Left-wing activists see Celtic fans as wide open to recruitment and exploitation vis-a-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, just as far-right groups tried to manipulate Rangers supporters in the 1970s.

It was truly pathetic to see how many U.S. Jews, abysmally ignorant of British-Irish history and politics, were sympathetic to the mythology of the IRA. They swallowed without chewing an anti-British propaganda concoction that portrayed the terrorists as “freedom fighters” rather than what they were – ruthless Marxist butchers (the Protestant terrorists were often ruthless Fascist butchers).

We’ve just experienced the 2016 Olympic games in Brazil. Once more, Israel’s athletes had to endure much abuse and insult both on and off the field despite being part of the “Olympic family.”

The images of Israeli judoka Or Sasson offering to shake hands with Egypt’s Islam El Shehaby only to be rebuffed, resulted in El Shehaby’s being sent home from the games. Sasson went on to win the Bronze. El Shehaby reportedly had been pressured by fans on social media not to show up for the match with his Israeli opponent because it would “shame Islam.”

Several other Muslims at the games seemed to agree and disqualified themselves from other competitions rather than face an Israeli.

Joud Fahmy of Saudi Arabia forfeited a first-round judo match in what the Israeli press described as a tactic to avoid facing Israeli Gili Cohen in the second round.

In June, Syrian boxer Ala Ghasoun refused to participate in an Olympic-qualifying match against an Israeli, saying that to do so “would mean that I, as an athlete, and Syria, as a state, recognize the state of Israel.”

The International Olympic Committee issued a reprimand to the Lebanese delegation for its treatment of Israeli athletes who were attempting to board a bus in the Olympic Village bound for the opening ceremonies. A Lebanese coach blocked the entrance to the bus, forcing the Israeli athletes to ride in a “special vehicle.”

At the same time, though, something remarkable occurred at the Olympic games this year, and it signaled that a small spark of hope may exist for Jews passionate about sport and sportsmanship.

Ankie Spitzer had been married for a year and a half to Israeli fencing coach Andre Spitzer when her husband was killed with ten other Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972. He left Ankie with a two-month-old baby girl.

Ankie has been conducting a campaign for 44 years to have the Olympic Committee mark the massacre with a moment of silence at the start of the Games. Her campaign was not successful. The IOC mustered an impressive list of the weakest justifications for refusing her, including a statement in a letter sent in 2004 explaining that it is not “in the protocol of the opening ceremony” to have a moment of silence. Ankie wrote back with the arch observation that “The murder of our loved ones was never in the protocol either.”

This year, IOC head Thomas Bach, himself a former fencing star, held a ceremony in the Olympic Village to commemorate the massacre of the Israelis. It was not exactly what Ankie Spitzer wanted, but it was enough to give her closure and allow the IOC to at last redeem itself from its previous indifference.

The opportunity to hijack and use the extensive media coverage accorded to the Olympics is simply too obvious an opportunity for our enemies to ignore. In 1972, the siege of the Israeli athletes’ living quarters and the ongoing negotiations with the terrorists played out to a worldwide audience for hours on live television.

Margaret Thatcher, at the height of her battle with the IRA, forbade the British media from broadcasting interviews with IRA spokesmen. Instead, their statements were read by broadcasters. Thatcher famously said she was “Denying the terrorists the ‘oxygen’ of publicity.”

An old friend of mine in Glasgow is a passionate fan of Glasgow Celtic. Prior to the aforementioned match between Hapoel Be’er Sheva and Celtic, he told me that only a handful of troublemakers would try to exploit the game for political ends.

He further assured me that the Scottish Police had threatened to arrest anyone who waved Palestinian flags during the match. In the end there were not a few flags – there were hundreds. And the police did nothing.

I asked him if this would make him, as a Jew, re-think his allegiance to Celtic. He assured me it would not, repeating it was only a “small minority” of troublemakers.

Well, the pictures from the match show that the adjective “small” cannot be used to describe what happened.

Besides, Jews have long known that when a small number attack us and the majority looks away, the poison and evil of anti-Semitism spreads.

The treatment of Jews in sport is a microcosm of the treatment of Jews throughout the world. Some, like the IOC’s Thomas Bach, will take a stand and reject it. Others will pretend it’s not a problem.

I hugely admire stalwart Jews like Ankie Spitzer, who forced the world to acknowledge evil, and I shake my head in sadness at an old friend who, despite being a Jew, turns his face and looks away.

Rabbi YY Rubinstein

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
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Richard Butrick

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