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August 29, 2016 / 25 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘religious’

Faith is the Joy of Religious Doubt and Uncertainty-Part II

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

Faith means striving for faith. It is never an arrival. It can only burst forth at singular moments. It does not arise out of logical deduction, but out of uncertainty, which is its natural breeding ground.

To have faith is to live with unresolved doubts, prepared to rise above ourselves and our wisdom. Looking into the Jewish tradition with its many debates, one clearly understands that those who deny themselves the comfort of certainty are much more authentic than those who are sure.

Faith means that we worship and praise God before we affirm His existence; we respond before we question. Man can die for something even as he is unsure of its true existence, because his inner faith tells him it is right to do so. This honest admission of doubt is not only the very reason why it is possible to be religious in modern times; it is the actual stimulus to do so.

We need to understand that faith is “the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises” (1), and “we can be absolutely certain only about things we do not understand” (2).

To believe is not to prove, not to explain, but to yield to a vision.

Of course belief cannot be credo quia absurdum est. It has to make sense and have a lot to say for itself in terms of knowledge and wisdom. Still, just as no building stands on rock-bottom, but on unsure pillars deeply driven into the ground so as to resist an earthquake, so must belief have enough strength to prove its worth without ever reaching absolute certainty.

Faith is like music. It is true because of its beauty not because of its intellectual certainty. Is it not created from impossible paradoxes, as well as a great deal of imagination that surpasses rationality and scientific or historical facts?

The truly great need no synthesis. They absorb whatever experience offers them. Their intensely creative personalities act like a fiery furnace, melting away contradictions. What emerges is either a harmonious whole or a creative parallelism with parts that mutually fructify and supplement each other. The truly great do not need to trim edges, as it were, to make genuine experiences fit with each other. They preserve them intact. And if their experiences appear contradictory, they build an emotional bridge spanning them allowing both the landscape and the water to be seen. Lesser mortals resort to logical means of harmonization (3).

The aim of halacha is to teach us the art of living with uncertainty. Halacha was not meant for those who are sure, because nobody can act out of certainty.

The most challenging question in all of life is what do you do and what do you believe when you are not sure. It is that notion that moves the scientist, the philosopher, and most of all the religious personality. We must destroy the security of all conventional knowledge and undo the normalcy of all that is ordinary. To be religious is to realize that no final conclusions have ever been reached or can ever be reached.

Halacha is the upshot of un-finalized beliefs, a practical way of living while remaining in theological suspense. In that way, Judaism doesn’t turn into a religion that either becomes paralyzed in awe of a rigid tradition, or evaporates into a utopian reverie. This dynamic can only come about when Jewish beliefs consist of fluid matter, which halacha then turns into a solid substance. The purpose of halacha is to chill the heated steel of exalted beliefs and turn them into pragmatic deeds without allowing the inner heat to be cooled off entirely. Jewish beliefs are like arrows, which dart hither and thither, wavering as though shot into the air from a slackened bowstring, while halacha must be straight and unswerving but still adaptable.

Indeed, we should be careful not to make faith into an intellectual issue. It is much more than that. The moment we look down on those who continue to have unshakable faith, considering them primitive in face of the many challenges, we have overlooked an important dimension of real faith. Besides the fact that such an attitude reflects arrogance, it also misses an important point: Faith is always more than just thinking about faith. Yes, those people who have lost their faith yet still hold on to it, honestly attempting by way of discussion and study to give their lost faith a new shape, should be deeply respected. At the same time, we should not forget that they are searching for something that the “simple” believer already has.

When we place the reflection on faith higher than the direct experience of faith, we are involved in a purely intellectual endeavor. The search for faith can only be genuine when it is personal, deep, and emotional, and the intellect only plays a small part. The accompanying qualities must be humility, the notion of inadequacy, and a strong urge to find authentic faith.  Genuine belief is a way of living, not an academic undertaking. It is an experience in which the whole of the human being is engaged.

Doubt only appeals to the intellect. The intellectual approach to faith is always a barer form of existence than faith itself. The reason is obvious. Besides our critical assessment, the other human faculties remain idle. Trust, hope, love and the notion that one is part of something bigger no longer play a role. Instead, life becomes nothing more than only itself. When doubt and skepticism are no longer the most important faculties through which one seeks religious faith, only then is it possible to actually find it. Skepticism, though it has its place, should not be at the center of one’s search. In today’s climate there is a certain gratification in going to the extremes of genius and brilliance until one nearly loses that which one would like to discover.  Intellectual thought and scientific discovery can never cover the sum total of the inner life of man. When one prays, one is involved in something that the intellect can never reach. When one studies Torah and hears its divine voice, it becomes something different than what academic study can ever achieve. It is in a separate category, which is closed to the solely scientific mind.

It is crucial that we see these facts for what they are. Only when we realize that intellectual certainty is not the primary path toward finding religious truth, will we be able to deal with our new awareness that the transitional phase we now experience has great purpose and has to be part of our religious struggle and identity. It won’t be easy. Novelty, as always, carries with it a sense of violation, a kind of sacrilege. Most people are more at home with that which is common than with that which is different. But go it must.

1. Samuel Butler and Francis Hackett, The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (Nabu Press, 2010)

   p. 27.

2. Eric Hoffer, The True Believer (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2010) p. 81.

3. Rabbi Professor David Weiss Halivni, “Professor Saul Lieberman z.l.,” Conservative

   Judaism, vol. 38, (Spring 1986) pp. 6-7.

 

Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo

Haredi Party Spearheading Effort to Protect Israeli Religious Charities from US Tax Authorities

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

The heads of charity organizations in the ultra-Orthodox society, commonly known as Gemachim, received at least a temporary measure of relief from the Knesset Finance Committee, chaired by MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ), ahead of a new amendment of the Income Tax Act that takes effect in September and compels Israeli financial institutions to report through the local tax authorities on the Israeli financial affairs of US citizens. The amendment is the result of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance (FATCA) agreement between Israel and the US, which was a prerequisite for continued cooperation between Israeli and American financial institutions.

It’s not much, but MK Gafni demanded that the Finance Ministry and the Bank of Israel order the banks to give the Gemachim time until the end of June to resolve their status as public institutions, which he hopes would allow them to exclude themselves from the FATCA rules. Gafni envisions a tweaking of the amendment to exclude groups with deposits of less than $50 thousand, or holdings worth less than $50 million.

According to Chairman Gafni, the new regulations could bring the collapse of the Gemachim. “The Israeli government signed an agreement with the US government without considering the disastrous consequences for one of the most important enterprises of the Jewish people that has existed for millennia — the charity and mutual aid societies,” Gafni said, explaining that the Gemachim are “the only means at the disposal of a person under financial duress to receive an interest-free loan to get back on his feet.”

MK Israel Eichler (UTJ), Chairman of the Public Petitions, summoned Dr. Ilan Steiner, Director of the Bank of Israel Currency Department, to his committee hearing, to warn him against another aspect of the US attack on these charity institutions. According to Eichler, banks are being forced under pressure from foreign governments to close the accounts of Gemachim accounts, “in the name of ‘fighting terrorism’ and stopping money laundering, the IRS and the American government have become supervisors of all bank accounts around the world including in Israel. Everyone has to go through their inspection, so the Gemachim have received a letter that they will not be able to keep their bank accounts anymore.”

MK Eichler told Dr. Steiner: “I hope that the Bank of Israel find a way to abide by the agreements with the US while not mixing up the Gemachim with the war on terror. The banks must not become a burden and a restriction on associations and charity organizations who want to help people and do not engage in terrorism. There are limits to the madness of the banking system. We must not allow the charity organizations and Gemachim to be paralyzed by American pressures.”

The issues of compliance regarding money laundering and the war on terror stem from the side benefits of an IRS act that was intended to make sure US citizens who make money abroad share some of it with Uncle Sam. According to the IRS, FATCA targets tax non-compliance by US taxpayers with foreign accounts, focusing on individuals’ reporting about foreign financial accounts and offshore assets, as well as by foreign financial institutions about financial accounts held by US taxpayers or foreign entities in which US taxpayers hold a substantial ownership interest.

Using the US’ enormous economic clout, FATCA bullies the world’s financial institutions into reporting on their American clients to Uncle Sam. Under FATCA, to avoid being withheld upon, foreign financial institutions must register with the IRS and agree to report to the IRS about their US accounts, including accounts of foreign entities with a substantial US ownership. Foreign institutions that enter into an agreement with the IRS to report on their account holders may be required to withhold 30% on certain payments to foreign payees if such payees do not comply with FATCA.

Talk about working for the Yankee dollar.

According to The Marker, Gemachim stand to suffer three different ways from the new law: instead of permitting a Gemach to transfer money into their accounts, they could now be questioned regarding the source of the funds and whether or not tax was paid on them in the US; each deposit could be subject to harassment by the bank, in order to verify that it is not part of a money laundering scheme; and the Gemach could be saddled with a new definition as a financial institution, and as such would be compelled to report on its fund sources to the IRS or face criminal sanctions.

JNi.Media

National Religious Rabbi Appointed Supreme Rabbinical Court Judge While Court Facing Shutdown

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Following a six-hour debate, the nine-member committee to appoint religious court judges on Monday agreed on only one judge out of the seven who must yet be appointed, by order of the State Supreme Court. Over the objection of Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, Rabbi Eliezer Igra, a national religious scholar, was elected by a vote of seven in favor and two Haredi members abstaining, to be a Supreme Rabbinical Court Judge, and serve on the very committee that had just elected him.

But the singular appointment of Rabbi Igra will not fulfill the ultimatum issued by Israel’s State Supreme Court, which back in January ordered all the missing positions on the Supreme Rabbinical Court to be filled by Thursday this week, or else all the temporary appointments on the court would be revoked and the court would cease to operate.

Nevertheless, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) called the vote “a tremendous achievement for Habayit Hayehudi,” adding, “I’m very pleased.” She said that the non-Haredi bloc on the committee, which holds a majority of five members, have been suggesting several candidates for the Supreme Rabbinical Court, and they had all been rejected by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas).

Rabbi Igra studied for ten years at the hesder yeshiva Kerem B’Yavneh, served in the IDF Armored Corps and fought in the Yom Kippur War. He was the Talmud study partner of Yoni Netanyahu, the prime minister’s late brother.

The committee ran into several stalemates on Monday, leaving the Supreme Rabbinical Court short-handed, after several of its members have retired. The Haredi committee members were able to torpedo the proposed appointments of Rabbis David Bass and Uriel Lavi to the supreme religious court, and the National Religious members, for their part, were able to block new appointments the Haredim desired to several local rabbinic courts.

The only reason Rabbi Igra received his appointment had to do with the bad blood between the Sephardi and Ashkenazi chief rabbis, according to the website Haredim 10. Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau joined the National Religious to usher in Rabbi Igra as revenge against Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef for appointing Shas member Moshe Dagan as the Chief Rabbinate CEO over Rabbi Lau’s fierce objection.

David Israel

3 Jews Removed from Temple Mount Wednesday for Religious Crimes

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Jerusalem police released a statement Wednesday morning saying three Jewish visitors have been removed from the Temple Mount compound because they “disobeyed the rules.” Jews are not allowed to express any kind of religious sentiment on the Temple Mount, from making a blessing on an apple they’re about to eat to shutting their eyes for longer than a prescribed period of time that would enable them to forge contact with the Deity whose emanation resides on the flat mountaintop. The Jordanian Waqf agency officials instruct Israeli police as to which Jews have violated the rules and those are removed in an orderly fashion.

Wednesday’s evictions add the number of religious Jewish criminals to 11, and, judging by past days’ experience, this number will continue to grow, because some Jews continue to harbor illegal faithful sentiments they refuse to repress.

David Israel

Police: Haifa Religious Council Deceived over 100 Couples Seeking Independent Orthodox Wedding

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Employees of the Haifa Religious Council have deceived more than 100 couples who said they wanted to be married through the national-religious rabbinic organization Tzohar, Israel Police announced on Wednesday. A Tzohar initiative has made it possible for couples to register for marriage anywhere, and not strictly in their area of residence as used to be the case in Israel. The idea was to make less stringent Orthodox rabbis available to Israelis who didn’t wish for their wedding to be officiated by a Haredi rabbi. That change was received with great resistance on the part of the Chief Rabbinate, which is concerned for losing its monopoly on Orthodox weddings.

Police launched an investigation following a complaint by Tzohar that elements in the Haifa Religious Council are acting systematically against couples who register to be married by a Tzohar rabbi. Among other things, Tzohar accused the council of entering false information regarding the personal data of registrants. The complaint cites more than 100 such cases.

Police interrogated with a warning two employees of the Haifa Religious Council, one of them senior. Police also collected testimonies, seized documents, and executed a variety of investigative actions. As a result, police are saying they have sufficient evidence showing the alleged violations had indeed taken place because of the council’s objection on principle to Tzohar’s legitimacy. Police believe the senior council employee was aware of and turned a blind eye on the other employee’s mass violations.

Tzohar emailed JNi the following statement in response to the news story:

“Effectively investigating criminal action is critical for our national desire to rid out corruption and restore the public’s faith in those responsible for religious services in our country. It is deeply distressing that the rogue actions of a small group can so negatively tarnish the Jewish spirit in ways that have caused irreparable damage to the people of Israel.”

JNi.Media

No More Lies, Sec. Kerry, There Is No ‘Existential Threat to Israel’

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Is Secretary of State, John Kerry correct, or incorrect, when exhorting “the demographic time bomb” to scare Israel into a retreat from geography (Judea and Samaria), in order to, supposedly, secure demography?  According to Kerry, “There is an existential threat to Israel…. I am referring to the demographic dynamic that makes it impossible for Israel to preserve its future as a democratic, Jewish state without resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a two-state solution.”

Are Jews doomed to become a minority in the combined area of Judea, Samaria and the pre-1967 Israel?

According to the 2013 CIA World Factbook,  Judea and Samaria Arabs  experienced a dramatic decline in fertility rate (the average number of births per woman): from five births in 2000 to 2.91 in 2013.  On the other hand, in 2014, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics documents a 3.04 Jewish fertility rate and 3.42 when both Jewish spouses are Israeli-born.

“A new Palestinian generation opts for fewer children is the title of an article by Rasha Abou Jalal, a Gaza journalist:  While Islam calls for believers to bear many children and prohibits the use of birth control, new Palestinian generations are defying tradition and leaning toward limiting the number of children they have…. The new generation takes into consideration various economic and cultural factors before deciding to have children.  The idea of limiting childbearing has, therefore, garnered more supporters than before…. The more Palestinians become aware and rational, the less they will procreate, as they pursue a level of education and knowledge that suits them and increases their chances of having a better life….

The Westernization of Muslim demographic trends, from Iran (1.8 births per woman), through Saudi Arabia (2.3), Syria and Egypt (2.9) and North Africa (1.8) has also characterized Muslim women in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and pre-1967 Israel. The unprecedented decline in Muslim fertility has been driven by modernity: accelerated women’s rights, urbanization, education, career mentality and family planning (72% of 15-49 year old married Palestinian women prefer to avoid pregnancy).  Thus, contemporary young Muslim women are reluctant to get married at the age of fifteen and start reproducing at the age of sixteen.  They tend to postpone marriage until after the age of 20 and prefer limited reproduction.

On the other hand, in 2014, the Israeli Jewish fertility rate (three births per woman and trending upwards) is higher than in any Arab country, other than Yemen, Iraq and Jordan.  Jewish demography has been enhanced by a high level of optimism, patriotism, communal responsibility and attachment to roots among religious and secular, hawks and doves, conservative and liberal Israelis, bolstered by economic progress. While the annual number of Arab births – west of the Jordan River – has stabilized since 1995, the annual number of Jewish births has surged from 80,000 in 1995 to about 132,000 in 2013 – a 65% increase!  This dramatic leap occurred despite declining fertility among ultra-orthodox Jews, but due to the substantial rise of secular Jewish fertility.  In 1995 there were 2.3 Jewish births per one Arab birth in Israel; in 2014 – 3.3 births.  In 1995, the number of Jewish births constituted 69% of total Israeli births; in 2014 – 77% and rising.

In 2014, there is a robust 66% Jewish majority in the combined area of Judea, Samaria and pre-1967 Israel – compared with a 9% and 39% in 1900 and 1947 – benefitting from a tailwind of fertility and net-immigration.  This contrasts with declining Arab fertility and annual Arab net-emigration (in 2014, 20,000 from Judea and Samaria).  In 2014, Israel’s Jewish population has reached 6.5 million people, next to 1.7 million Israeli Arabs and 1.7 million Judean and Samarian Arabs – one million less than the number claimed by the Palestinian Authority.  The misrepresentation was conceived in the late 1990s, in response to the arrival of one million Soviet Jews to Israel.  It consists of overseas residents, overseas births, by double-counting Jerusalem Arabs as Israeli Arabs (by Israel) and West Bankers (by the Palestinian Authority), etc..

Yoram Ettinger

IDF Creates 2 Haredi Battalions Ahead of New Draft Law

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

The IDF has been taking steps to accommodate the anticipated growth in incoming Haredi recruits following the future draft law, currently in committee. The committee, chaired by Jewish Home MK Ayelet Shaked, is in broad agreement on the principle of “equal burden,” requiring Haredi young men and women to contribute to the state in which they live. There is, however, serious dispute between the two coalition factions most invested in the new legislation over the issue of enforcement.

Jewish Home favors economic sanctions against Haredim who fail to enlist, while Yesh Atid mistrusts the effectiveness of such measures, insisting instead on criminal charges.

Another Yesh Atid argument is that economic sanctions directed only at one part of the population would constitute a violation of their civil rights and could be shot down by the High Court.

Even if the current legislation passes all its hurdles, it is believed that the Haredi draft will not begin in earnest before 2017, when the first full batch of Haredi recruits will be required legally to enlist.

Nevertheless, the IDF is not waiting for 2017, and has already moved to accommodate the new arrivals. According to Haaretz, the army is planning to add a second Haredi infantry battalion in 2014, and a third battalion, designated to serve in the Home Front Command, in 2015.

Some 2,000 Haredim enlisted in 2013, and the army is expecting to enlist 2,300 in 2014 and 2,600 the following year. These figures match the original ones as proposed by the Perry Committee at an earlier legislative phase. They may be adjusted later, according to the ratified version of the law.

In addition to assignments within the infantry and in civilian rescue function, the IDF is also preparing for a wave of older Haredi recruits, mostly married men ages 22-23. They are expected to be integrated into technological and logistical units.

Generally, the IDF prefers its recruits younger, before they get married and have their first few children. Older Haredi recruits will be earning the equivalent salary of entry level professional servicemen, close to $18,000 a year.

The IDF is planning to create a separate recruitment center for Haredim, without female soldiers, as well as a Haredi boot camp, also without women.

That part could also meet legal challenges by various interested parties.

Yori Yanover

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/idf-creates-2-haredi-battalions-ahead-of-new-draft-law/2014/01/02/

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