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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Time Magazine on Attachment Parenting

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Time magazine’s cover story about attachment parenting has garnered a great deal of attention. Clearly, the shock value of showing an attractive young mother breast-feeding a child nearly four years of age was enough to excite worldwide conversation. No doubt this was their intention, and in that sense, it worked. The story inside focused on a controversial theory put forward by Dr. William Sears about attachment parenting. In a nutshell, attachment parenting argues that modern Western parents have forgotten how to parent naturally. His theory includes the hypothesis that nature dictates that we can never be too close to our children: we ought to carry them in a sling attached to our body as much as possible; they ought to sleep in our bed almost constantly; we should never allow them to cry for fear of damaging them psychologically with abandonment issues; we ought to breast-feed them until they are at least toddlers and generally remove any kind of division or separation between us and our babies. Dr. Sears’s theories were put forward in a mega best-selling book called The Baby Book.

But, respectfully, I have significant questions about the theory. First, there is the issue of the marriage itself. I have counseled countless married couples, and I have frequently seen how, when a child is born, the marriage can potentially be disrupted. A child is supposed to enrich and further develop a family. We parents dare not raise children in a manner that undermines our own marriages. That is not good for husbands and wives and it’s also not good for children. A husband should not feel that he has lost his wife to their baby. A husband should not find reason to become jealous of his own child. But just imagine the feeling of any husband who has become a new father, seeing his wife now breast-feeding the baby for most of the day, his marital bed – previously the domain of only him and his wife – now shared with the child, and his wife responding to each and every cry of their new baby with comforting cuddles and loving embraces. That husband might just feel that the child has usurped his place.

To be sure, many will say that a husband who has this feeling is being selfish and immature. He should get over it, as the interests of the child come first. And yes, we can criticize this husband as being infantile. How could any father be jealous of their children?

But I counsel couples, and it happens. And while a man must be mature enough to resist this feeling, it’s also true that even after having children our marriages should flourish and not falter.

I would appreciate if the advocates of attachment parenting please address my concern which I raise for the benefit of marriage.

And then there is the issue of intimacy. How is it possible for married couples to have a passionate love life with children in the marital bed? Don’t parents need to have their own private space where they are husband-and-wife and not just mom and dad? A Harvard University study shows that the sex life of a couple often diminishes by 74% in the first year after a baby is born. I can imagine that for those parents practicing attachment parenting and allowing their children to sleep in the marital bed on a nightly basis, that percentage would probably be even higher. While I may be wrong, I can imagine that their intimate life might disappear almost entirely. In the Jewish religion it is regarded as inappropriate for a couple to be intimate when a child is with his or her parents in the marital bed. How could it possibly be positive for a marriage or for a child to have parents growing less intimate as a result of the birth of baby?

There are, of course, responses to each of these challenges offered by the proponents of attachment parenting, which has been brought to my attention by my friend Donna Tabas. Regarding nutrition, they remind us that infants under the age of six months who are exclusively breastfed need unlimited access to the breast to optimize the mother/infant breastfeeding diad to provide optimal milk supplies, especially during growth spurts. They point out that prolonged nursing and child-led weaning which extends nursing into and even through toddlerhood is, they argue, biologically normal, as evidenced by the average weaning ages worldwide, and that it is only Western modern society that has redefined weaning in the first year as socially normal.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: What If Government Recognized Civil Unions, Left Marriage to Religion?

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Could a governmental retreat from “marriage” finally heal the deep schism that has divided and immobilized this country by an intractable values volley over gay relationships?

As many of you have read, since running for Congress I have emphasized that I want to move away from the great social-sexual battles that this country has engaged in over the past forty-odd years, which – in my opinion – has served to distract us from the real values challenges that confront us. The greatest threat to the future of the American family is not gay marriage but rather divorce. However, because we obsess over gay marriage, we rarely ever hear the word divorce being uttered by political leaders. Now, with President Obama coming out to support gay marriage and Mitt Romney continuing to assert his opposition to gay marriage by continuing to define marriage as a union that can only take place between one man and one woman, I propose a truce.

What if government withdrew from the marriage business altogether, and provided only Civil Unions to two consenting adults wishing to unify their lives, leaving the spirituality of the union to other entities to recognize, name, sanctify, and define? These Civil Unions would equally assure that all couples receive all the legal entitlements that have previously been enjoyed by those who have been “married,” such as hospital visitation rights and end-of life decisions, insurance benefits,  and tax benefits. After all, what business does the government have entering a church, synagogue or mosque to legitimize or define the spiritual nature of a person’s marriage? We are supposed to have separation of church and state in America.

If the couple wishes to have their marriage consecrated to a more spiritual purpose, (e.g. “’til death do us part”, “for all eternity,”  “in the name of Jesus Christ,” “according to the laws of Moses and Israel,”  “in sickness and in health,” fidelity, loyalty etc.) they will choose to have a religious ceremony in addition to the civil ceremony. This additional ceremony would extend beyond just having legal rights conferred by Civil Unions, and would reflect the couple’s individual spiritual or religious convictions. They would go before a rabbi, a priest, a minister, or any other spiritual leader of their choice for a religious ceremony. The ceremony, and in fact the semantic definition of their union, would be defined by and consistent with that religious groups’ values.

This proposal might just allow nearly everyone to win, a ”One Size Fits All”  solution to the gay marriage narrative that has hijacked the political landscape, created ever deepening divides in the nation, and has served to be only destructive and distracting from far greater social values issues facing this country. The benefits to this proposal are, first and foremost, that no one would receive either preferential treatment or any discrimination when it comes to the government’s recognition of the legal rights of the union of any couple. Furthermore, there would be no need to redefine marriage, as each group would have the authority to define or expand the meaning of their union according to their particular religious tradition. This solution would reduce the role of government, which should not be involved in religious choices. People who want to have a spiritual component to their civil union can have whatever ceremony they desire within whatever religious context they choose, and name the union in spiritual terminology that best speaks to their religious convictions.

Far from harming religion, I believe that this change would even promote non-involved, non-religious people to entertain the concept of how religion can enhance and enrich one’s life, and be an invitation to engage in further religious learning, traditions, communities, and beliefs. I think that when people are forced to confront the choice of wanting merely a government-recognized civil union before a Justice of the Peace which addresses only  legal status issues, or the opportunity to imbue their union with a deeper, more eternal, spiritual dimension,  they would see the benefit of having something with greater holiness impact their union. And they would be forced to confront the difference between a mere legal synthesis versus the a spiritual orchestration of two haves into one whole. In other words, once they are forced to start thinking about their “vows” they might just drift further into faith and religion.

The bottom line with this proposal is that we would remove the offense of those who can marry and those who cannot, the government would retreat further from our lives, and one of the great battles that have raged in America could be put behind us so that we can focus, finally, on curbing divorce, keeping husbands and wives together, and keeping kids out of custody battles rather than just always fighting about gay marriage.

I recognize that for those who oppose gay civil unions this would still not be a solution. However, I vehemently disagree with their opposition.  Whom does it bother to have gay couples granted the decency to visit each other in hospital during serious illness, making end-of-life decisions, and receiving tax benefits as a couple? Is it not worthwhile to put behind us the questions of dual insurance coverage in order to have this terribly divisive issue finally settled? By putting the gay marriage debate behind us we can finally focus on the real problem: straight people do not seem to either want to marry, and once they get married they find it difficult to remain married.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: The Revolting Lie that Michael Jackson was a Nazi Sympathizer

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

All a man has in this world is his good name. The book of Ecclesiastes says that a good name is better than fine oil. Our reputations determine what others think of our character. We have a right, therefore, to defend our name against scurrilous and slanderous attack. When those we know cannot defend themselves, we must stand up and speak out on their behalf.

I generally try to avoid the gossip that is so often said and writing about Michael Jackson. Libraries of nonsense have been written about him, and now that he is tragically no longer alive, he cannot defend himself. In general I see no point in highlighting slanderous material about him by responding to it.

But several headlines recently caught my attention when I heard that a man who claims to have worked as Michael’s bodyguard made the incredulous charge that Michael was a Nazi sympathizer. This kind of viciousness should usually not be indulged because it just gives it more credibility for the retelling. But the slander against Michael’s name in this instance is so great that it deserves to be rebutted.

As is well known, I was Michael’s Rabbi for two years. During that time, we discussed every subject under the sun. A great deal of it was captured in the conversations we recorded specifically for publication in the books that became The Michael Jackson Tapes and its follow up, Honoring the Child Spirit. In one of those conversations, Michael spoke of Hitler’s mesmerizing oratorical skills. He said that oratory is in many ways one of the most effective tools that evil uses to manipulate others and thereby gain power. Michael argued that Hitler used many of the same techniques that showbiz performers use today in order to manipulate audiences and steer them toward evil deed. I was disheartened when the book was first published to see some newspapers highlight these comments of Michael completely out of context and misrepresent him as someone who could have admired Hitler. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Michael detested and despised anyone who would do harm to another human being, especially the Nazis who gassed 6 million Jews, one and a half million of whom were children. Michael loathed everything Hitler stood for. As I have consistently stated, Michael was a great friend of the Jewish people. He celebrated his relationship with the Jewish community and never shied from demonstrating how much he learned from Judaism through our conversations and friendship.

In one of our first meetings I gave him a mezuzah as a gift, which consists of a small scroll from the Torah that is affixed to the doorpost. I did not give it to him with the intention that he put it on his door as his was not a Jewish home. Nevertheless, Michael insisted that we put it on the front door of his rented home in Manhattan. A few weeks later he came with me to the Carlebach Synagogue in Manhattan one of the happiest days of the Jewish calendar, Shemini Atzeret, and told me later, as part of The Michael Jackson Tapes, that it was the happiest night of his life.

As the boy superstar of the Jackson 5, Michael had a Jewish tutor who traveled with him and helped to raise him whose name was Rose Fine. Michael spoke of her in The Michael Jackson Tapes with great affection and revealed to me that he and Janet covered many of his former tutor’s expenses as she aged. In one of the conversations he says that as the group’s plane landed in Germany, Mrs. Fine became agitated. Michael asked her why and she shared with him the horrors of the holocaust. He was just a boy and it was the first time he had heard of the wholesale slaughter or Europe’s Jews.

Later, I would take Michael to meet and converse with my dear friend, Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel – arguably the greatest living Jewish personality – who further shared with him the horrors of the holocaust and the importance of reconciliation and love. Prof. Wiesel showed Michael boundless acceptance and affection, which Michael warmly reciprocated.

Michael’s strong feelings for the Jewish community meant he was even prepared to suffer professionally for his love of Israel and the Jewish people. It is well-known that in 1993 Michael went to Israel on his Dangerous Tour where he performed for 160,000 fans in Tel Aviv. My dear friend Frank Cascio, later to become Michael’s manager, accompanied him and he told me how much Michael loved being in the holy land. Less well known, however, is the following story.

In late 2000, a Jewish philanthropist called me and told me that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was coming to his home that night for a reception. He said it would be good for Israel if Michael would come there and meet with the Prime Minister. I turned to Michael, in the presence of some of his professional staff, and asked him if he would like to meet the Israeli Prime Minister. Michael immediately jumped at the opportunity and told me he would love to do so. However, the people who surrounded him at the time mentioned that it might not be a good idea. They said that Sharon was hated in many parts of world, especially in Arab nations. A photograph of Michael with Ariel Sharon could spark a significant backlash including a boycott of Michael’s albums and music. Michael immediately dismissed their concerns and said that he felt very excited to meet the Prime Minister. A few minutes later we embarked in Michael’s van and crossed town to the meeting. The pictures of Michael greeting Prime Minister Sharon, along with me and our dear mutual friend Uri Geller, appeared throughout the world. Michael’s professional staff were correct. The very next day websites called for a boycott of Michael’s music saying that he supported Israel’s “hated” leader. However, Michael did not care. Michael loved Israel and the Jewish people and he was thrilled to meet someone of Prime Minister Sharon’s stature.

Obama’s Unseemly End-Zone Dance

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

What a difference a year makes. Last year I praised President Obama for not wanting to “spike the football” by releasing gruesome death photos of Osama bin Laden. But this year, forget spiking the football – the president is doing an end-zone dance.

The Bible says that when someone incurs the death penalty and his body is hanged on a tree as an example to others, he still must be buried the same day. We’re not to desecrate the body of even the most vicious killer because God created humans in His image. So America had no need to put out pictures of bin Laden missing a part of his cranium. The president last year stood by this and it was impressive.

And Proverbs 24 expressly forbids celebrating the death of our enemies. “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles.” We fight bad guys like bin Laden because we have an obligation to protect the innocent by resisting the wicked. But we don’t gloat in it. War should never be about winning glory but protecting innocent life.

The obligation to protect the weak and punish their butchers is famously conveyed in Leviticus 19: “Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor,” and again in Psalm 82, “Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.”

Osama bin Laden was evil personified. We had a moral obligation to abhor him, as the Bible makes clear in Amos: “Hate the evil and love the good.” But while feelings of revulsion were justified, feelings of elation at his demise were not. This too President Obama understood last year and I praised him for it.

But all that has changed with his current victory dance.

We’re in an election year. I get it. But that doesn’t mean our morals should change. What was particularly strange was the president’s inviting NBC TV into the Situation Room, which had never before been penetrated by network cameras. There he spoke about how tough his decision had been to send in the SEALs to get bin Laden.

I am a huge fan of the mostly moral foreign policy of George W. Bush which largely held tyrants accountable for slaughtering their people. I contrast this with Obama’s lack of response after Ahmadinejad killed his own people; his leading from behind on Libya (even though in the end he did the right thing); his lack of leadership in the Arab Spring; and his failure to do much of anything in Syria.

But even Bush stumbled when he prematurely plastered “Mission Accomplished” on an aircraft carrier in May 2003. The same was true when Bush used words like “dead or alive” about bin Laden. The pursuit of glory in battle nearly always ends badly.

The American way is not to gloat in war. It was summed up by Colin Powell in a brilliant speech at the MTV Global Discussion in February 2002: “Far from being the Great Satan, I would say that we are the Great Protector. We have sent men and women from the armed forces of the United States to other parts of the world throughout the past century to put down oppression. We defeated Fascism. We defeated Communism. We saved Europe in World War I and World War II…. And when all those conflicts were over, what did we do? Did we stay and conquer? No…. We built them up. We gave them democratic systems which they have embraced totally to their soul. And did we ask for any land? No, the only land we ever asked for was enough land to bury our dead. And that is the kind of nation we are.”

This uniquely humble American ethos stems largely from Judeo-Christian ethics. We Jews have suffered more than most. But we stubbornly refuse to celebrate the demise of our enemies or any military triumph. King David is Judaism’s most famous warrior. Yet David’s request to build the Holy Temple was expressly denied by God because he had taken life, even in the defense of life: “But God said to me, ‘You shall not build a house for My name, because you have been a man of war and have shed blood’ ” (1 Chronicles 28).

Indeed, the great king was celebrated by generations of Jews not for dispatching enemy combatants but for his beautiful Psalms accompanied by harp and lyre.

Chanukah celebrates the miraculous military victory of the Maccabees over the Assyrian Greeks in the second century BCE. But it was the miracle of the lights of the menorah the Jews chose to emphasize rather than the necessary slaughter of enemy soldiers in self-defense.

Even on Passover, as we recite the Ten Plagues that culminated in the killing of the Egyptian firstborn, we pour wine out of our glasses so as not to revel in the demise of our enemies.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: President Obama Does a Bin Laden End Zone Dance

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

What a difference one year makes. Last year I praised President Obama for not wanting to ‘spike the football’ by releasing gruesome death photos of Osama bin Laden. But this year, forget spiking the football. The President is doing an end-zone dance.

The Bible says that when someone incurs the death penalty, and his body is hung on a tree as an example to others, he still must be buried the same day. We’re not to desecrate the body of even the most vicious killer because God created humans in His image. So America had no need to put out pictures with Osama missing a part of his cranium. The President last year stood by this and it was impressive.

And as far as gloating in the demise of our foes is concerned, Proverbs 24 expressly forbids celebrating the death of our enemies. “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles.” We fight bad guys like bin Laden because we have an obligation to protect the innocent by resisting the wicked. But we don’t gloat in it. War should never be about winning glory but protecting innocent life.

The obligation to protect the weak and punish their butchers is famously conveyed in Leviticus 19: “Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor,” and again in Psalm 82, “Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.”

Osama bin Laden was evil personified. We had a moral obligation to abhor him, as the Bible makes clear in Amos, “Hate the evil and love the good.” But while feelings of revulsion were justified, feelings of elation at his demise were not. This too President Obama understood last year and I praised him for it.

But all that has changed with his current victory dance.

Well, we’re in an election year. I get it. But that doesn’t mean our morals should change. What was particularly strange was the President inviting NBC TV into the Situation Room, which had never before been penetrated by network cameras because it’s supposed to be the most classified and off-limits place in the country. There he spoke about how tough his decision had been to send in the SEALs to get the Al Qaida head.

Much has been made of the difference in the speeches given by President Bush when the US captured Saddam Hussein versus President Obama’s speech about Bin Laden, with the former focusing on the bravery of the troops and the latter seemingly focusing on his own role in Bin Laden’s killing. But I’m not here to be petty and parse words, and in any event actions are much more important than speeches. The President last year did not gloat about killing Bin Laden and he deserved praise, just as his complete about face this year, in order to win votes, deserves to be criticized.

I am a huge fan of the mostly moral foreign policy of George W. Bush which largely held tyrants accountable for slaughtering their people. I contrast this with President Obama’s lack of response in Iran after Ahmadinejad killed his people, leading from behind on Libya (even though in the end he did the right thing), lack of leadership in the Arab spring, and failure to do much of anything in Syria.

But even President Bush stumbled when he plastered ‘Mission Accomplished’ on an aircraft carrier and flew in to do a tailhook landing in May, 2003. At the time I honestly said to myself that this would work out poorly. The same was true in Bush using words like ‘Dead or Alive’ about Bin Laden. Glory in battle nearly always ends badly.

The American way is not to gloat in war. It was summed up by Colin Powell in a brilliant speech at the MTV Global Discussion on 14 February 2002: “Far from being the Great Satan, I would say that we are the Great Protector. We have sent men and women from the armed forces of the United States to other parts of the world throughout the past century to put down oppression. We defeated Fascism. We defeated Communism. We saved Europe in World War I and World War II… All in the interest of preserving the rights of people. 
And when all those conflicts were over, what did we do? Did we stay and conquer? We defeated Japan, so Japan belongs to us? No…. We built them up. We gave them democratic systems which they have embraced totally to their soul. And did we ask for any land? No, the only land we ever asked for was enough land to bury our dead. And that is the kind of nation we are.”

This uniquely humble American ethos stems largely from Judeo-Christian ethics. We Jews have suffered more than most. But we stubbornly refuse to celebrate the demise of our enemies or any military triumph. King David is Judaism’s most famous warrior. Yet, rather than praising his slaying of Jewish foes, David’s request to build the Holy Temple was expressly denied by God because he had taken life, even in the defense of life. “But God said to me, ‘You shall not build a house for My name, because you have been a man of war and have shed blood.” (1 Chronicles 28) Indeed, the great king was celebrated by generations of Jews not for dispatching enemy combatants but for beautiful Psalms accompanied by harp and lyre.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Savaging the Bible Over Homosexuality

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

I am saddened that Richard Grennell, Mitt Romney’s foreign policy spokesman, resigned over what the press is saying was pressure from the far right because he is openly gay. Who cares? He had a distinguished career as a spokesman for four United Nations Ambassadors and was widely respected. It is particularly disconcerting to learn that religious groups criticized Romney for appointing him due to his homosexuality.

As an orthodox Rabbi with a gay orthodox Jewish brother, I have endeavored mightily to reconcile the dictates of my faith with the most human, loving, and respectful approach to homosexuality. I have counseled hundreds of gay men and women of faith who seek to find their place in God’s love amid a gay lifestyle.

But such efforts at reconciliation are undone by the gratuitous hate-filled bigotry of people like Dan Savage whose response to prejudice against gays is to offer insulting and degrading prejudices against religion. Just what Savage felt he was accomplishing by irresponsibly using obscenities about the Bible at a journalism conference for High School students is beyond me. But what I do know is that the answers to homosexuality and faith do not lie either with religious haters like Fred Phelps who insult God by hating gays, nor with secular fanatics like Dan Savage who insult homosexuals by falsely portraying them as angry bigots.

Everywhere we look today we find fanatics. So often we blame religion for all the extremists. But there are plenty of secular fanatics as well. From Savage’s offensive attack against the Bible and religion in front of High School students, he appears to be one of them. I am prepared to accept that he has been misportrayed. But then let him retract and apologize for his remarks.

The Bible he assails is responsible for Western society’s most cherished values. It has given us the Ten Commandments, and thus morality. The belief that every human being is created in the image of God, and thus the infinite worth of the individual person. The crushing of Egyptian tyranny and thus the insistence that despots must be deposed. The Messianic idea of directional history and thus the ideal of human progress.

That does not mean that there aren’t aspects of the Bible that people will find unacceptable or objectionable. They have every right to disagree. But doing so while respecting people of faith is the way of the gentleman.

Once, I was sitting with my brother at a kosher restaurant in Manhattan when a religious man walked over and told me I was a dog. I asked him why the insult? He said because he read about how I defend homosexuals in the Jewish community. Ironically, he had no idea that my brother was sitting at the table with me. I thought to myself, “If I’m one step removed and I get attacked like this, how much hatred has my brother endured? How many times has he heard things like this?”

Do we gain anything by having the Dan Savages of this world demonstrate that they can give as good as they get? If Savage savages the Bible, has he struck a blow for his gay brethren, or has he just inflamed the discourse?

I receive a steady stream of sad and tragic emails from gay orthodox Jewish men and women who speak of their desire to be dead, or worse, to take their own lives. They have few to whom they can turn. They wonder how they can accept their natural sexual feelings amid their commitment to their faith. But they are committed to faith. They’re not looking to detach but rather to fit in. They do not identify with religion haters like Dan Savage because they love their religion. They are simply looking for their place within their faith and they are devastated to feel condemned by their own communities.

There is no question that we need a new religious approach to Biblical approach to homosexuality. I suggest this.

The Bible consists of 613 commandments, one of which is for a man to marry and have children, and the other is for a man to avoid gay sex with another man. That leaves 611 commandments for gay men to observe. That should keep them pretty busy. Homosexuality should be treated like lighting fire on the Sabbath or eating non-kosher foods, both Biblical prohibitions. Eating shellfish carries the same appellation of ‘abomination’ as homosexuality.’ Moreover, as I have written at length elsewhere the prohibition of homosexuality is not a moral sin but a religious sin, akin to, say, eating on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, as there is no injured innocent party.

Why we have all chosen homosexuality as the worst sin in the Bible, going so far as to distance homosexuals from their own faith, is beyond me. Some say the reason is because of the word ‘abomination.’ Little do they realize the word appears 104 times in the Bible, as I wrote in a recent column analyzing the word and its usage in the Bible. So there are human approaches to homosexuality that seek to reconcile gay men and women of faith and the Bible. Savage’s attacks on the Bible are utterly unhelpful.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: A Warrior-Scholar Falls in Israel – The Death of Benzion Netanyahu

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

I had already twice hosted Benjamin Netanyahu – at the time Israel’s deputy Foreign Minister – at the University of Oxford before I extended my first invitation to his scholarly father to lecture in turn. The elderly Netanyahu had recently published his internationally-celebrated opus Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain, and I was fascinated by his theory of anti-Semitism extending not to the beginnings of Christianity but five hundred years before the birth of Jesus. I was likewise taken by the monumental sweep of his Spanish Inquisition narrative, a subject that had long fascinated me, and wanted him to address the subject with our students. Finally, I wanted to meet the man whose fierce Jewish patriotism had raised two of Israel’s greatest sons, Yoni Netanyahu, the brave commando who fell leading Israel’s Entebbe rescue operation, and Benjamin, who, by the time we hosted his father was serving as Israel’s Prime Minister.

Professor Netanyahu, accompanied by his son Ido – whose caring for, and patience with, his father I shall never forget – would eventually lecture for all three of our L’Chaim Society branches, in Oxford, Cambridge, and London, with large student groups attending each. The lectures demonstrated the encyclopaedic scope of his scholarship and, at about 90 minutes each, his ferocious mental stamina and laser-like focus, though he was greatly advanced in years.

What I enjoyed the most was the down time we spent together, with long drives between the cities he was to speak at and then sitting at his London hotel together. Here was a Jewish nationalist of phenomenal determination. Zionism was in his DNA and I have rarely met a more passionate Jewish patriot or a prouder Jew. He had a sweeping view of history and could clearly argue the precarious state of the Jewish people throughout time. He believed in the totality of the Land of Israel and that the Jewish State dare not make territorial concessions that would undermine its security and history.

As providence would have it, I was actually with him Friday afternoon, October 23, 1998, at his London hotel when his son, the Prime Minister of Israel, signed the Wye River Memorandum that committed Israel to withdraw from territory it was required to transfer to the Palestinian Authority. The agreement was all over the news and we watched part of it on TV. Professor Netanyahu seemed deeply agitated, severely criticizing the Herculean and unfair pressure being brought to bear by the international community on Israel, in general, and on his son in particular, to relinquish land. One could see a deep connection between father and son and he spoke lovingly of the unimaginable responsibilities his son faced.

After his visit to Oxford, I began visiting him at his modest home in Jerusalem on my trips to Israel a few times a year. He welcomed me warmly and humbly each and every time. Although greatly advanced in years, he would give me hours of his time. We spoke of history, Jewish identity, modern politics, and human relationships. He asked detailed questions about the welfare of our students back in the United Kingdom and the state of my activities.

I remember once summoning the courage to ask him about the loss of his son Yoni, arguably Israel’s greatest war hero. He responded quietly about the sacrifices all Israeli families had to make for the country to endure. He never boasted about his son’s military glory and spoke of him as he were a common soldier. It goes without saying that he rarely discussed his middle son’s achievement as Premiere of his country and on the occasions when the Prime Minister interrupted our conversations by calling his father, he never told me it was Bibi on the line. I only knew because he mentioned his son’s name while speaking to him. Indeed, at his UK lectures some in the audience praised him as the father of the Israel’s Prime Minister. He quietly thanked them and changed the subject. He was there to discuss the Spanish Inquisition and scholarship.

Professor Benzion Netanyahu was a man of rare humility, scholarship, patriotism, and sacrifice. His commitment to the State of Israel and the Jewish community will long serve as an inspiration and blessing to people everywhere. And there can be no question that the iron-clad commitment toward the Jewish people’s security shown by Bibi, especially with regard to the current nuclear threat posed by Iran, was inculcated in a son who deeply loved, admired, and respected his learned father.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rabbi-shmuley-boteach-a-warrior-scholar-falls-in-israel-the-death-of-benzion-netanyahu/2012/05/01/

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