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July 30, 2014 / 3 Av, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘sacrifice’

Restoring Order and Maintaining Peace

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Leaders can fail for two kinds of reasons. The first is external; the time may not be right and the conditions may be unfavorable. There may be no one on the other side to talk to.

When British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was asked what was the most difficult thing he had to deal with in government, he replied, “Events, dear boy, events.” Machiavelli called this Fortuna: the power of bad luck that can defeat even the greatest. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you fail. Such is life.

The second kind of failure is internal. A leader can simply lack the courage to lead. Sometimes leaders must oppose the crowd. They have to say “No” when everyone else is crying “Yes.” That can be terrifying. Crowds have a will and momentum of their own. To say “No” may be to put your career, even your life, at risk. That is when courage is needed, and not showing it can constitute a moral failure of the worst kind.

The classic example is King Saul, who failed to carry out Samuel’s instructions in his battle against the Amalekites. Saul was told to spare no one and nothing. This is what happened, as told in 1 Samuel 15:

When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “May the Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.”

But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”

Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God. But we totally destroyed the rest.”

“Enough!” Samuel said to Saul. “Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” “Tell me,” Saul replied.

Samuel said, “Although you may be small in your own eyes, are you not head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”

“But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”

Saul makes excuses. The failure was not his; it was his soldiers’. Besides, he and they had the best intentions. The sheep and cattle were spared to offer as sacrifices. Saul did not kill King Agag but brought him back as a prisoner. Samuel is unmoved. He says, “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has rejected you as king.” Only then does Saul admit, “I have sinned.” But by then it was too late. His career as a leader was at an end.

There is an apocryphal quote attributed to several politicians: “Of course I follow the party. After all, I am their leader.” There are leaders who follow instead of leading. Rabbi Yisroel Salanter compared them to a dog taken by its master for a walk. The dog runs on ahead, but keeps turning around to see whether it is going in the direction the master wants it to go. The dog may think it is leading – but actually it is following.

That, on a plain reading of the text, was the fate of Aaron in this week’s parshah. Moses had been up the mountain for forty days. The people were afraid. Had he died? Where was he? Without Moses they felt bereft. He was their point of contact with God. He performed the miracles, divided the sea, and gave them water to drink and food to eat. This is how the Torah describes what happened next:

“When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered round Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us a god who will go before us. As for this man Moses, who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ Aaron answered them: ‘Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.’ So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and he fashioned it with a tool and made it into a molten calf. Then they said, ‘This is your god, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt’ ” (Exodus 32:1-4).

God became angry. Moses pleaded with Him to spare the people. He then descended the mountain, saw what had happened, smashed the tablets of the law he had brought down with him, burned the idol, ground it to powder, mixed it with water and made the Israelites drink it. Then he turned to Aaron, his brother, and said, “What have you done?”

“Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. They said to me, ‘Make us a god who will go before us. As for this man Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” (Exodus 32:22-24).

Aaron blamed the people. It was they who made the illegitimate request. He denied responsibility for making the calf. It just happened. “I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” This is the same kind of denial of responsibility we recall from the story of Adam and Eve. The man says, “It was the woman.” The woman says, “It was the serpent.” It happened. It wasn’t me. I was the victim, not the perpetrator. In anyone, such evasion is a moral failure; in a leader, all the more so.

The odd fact is that Aaron was not immediately punished. According to the Torah he was condemned for another sin altogether, when years later he and Moses spoke angrily against the people who complained about lack of water: “Aaron will be gathered to his people. He will not enter the land I give the Israelites, because both of you rebelled against my command at the waters of Merivah” (Numbers 20:24).

It was only later still, in the last month of Moses’s life, that Moses told the people a fact that he had kept from them until then:

“I feared the anger and wrath of the Lord, for He was angry enough with you to destroy you. But again the Lord listened to me. And the Lord was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him, but at that time I prayed for Aaron too (Deuteronomy 9:19-20).

God, according to Moses, was so angry with Aaron for the sin of the golden calf that He was about to kill him, and would have done so had it not been for Moses’s prayer.

It is easy to be critical of people who fail the leadership test when it involves opposing the crowd, defying the consensus, blocking the path the majority is intent on taking. The truth is that it is hard to oppose the mob. They can ignore you, remove you, even assassinate you. When a crowd gets out of control there is no elegant solution. Even Moses was helpless in the face of the people at the later episode of the spies (Numbers 14:5).

Nor was it easy for Moses to restore order now. He did so only by the most dramatic action: smashing the tablets and grinding the calf to dust. He then asked for support and was given it by his fellow Levites. They took reprisals against the crowd, killing three thousand people that day. History judges Moses a hero – but he might well have been seen by his contemporaries as a brutal autocrat. We, thanks to the Torah, know what passed between God and Moses at the time. The Israelites at the foot of the mountain knew nothing of how close they had come to being utterly destroyed.

Tradition dealt kindly with Aaron. He is portrayed as a man of peace. Perhaps that is why he was made high priest. There is more than one kind of leadership, and priesthood involves following rules – not taking stands and swaying crowds. The fact that Aaron was not a leader in the same mold as Moses does not mean that he was a failure. It means that he was made for a different kind of role. There are times when you need someone with the courage to stand against the crowd, others when you need a peacemaker. Moses and Aaron were different types. Aaron failed when he was called on to be a Moses, but he became a great leader in his own right in a different capacity. Aaron and Moses complemented one another. No one person can do everything.

When a crowd runs out of control, there is no easy answer. That is why the whole of Judaism is an extended seminar in individual and collective responsibility. Jews don’t, or shouldn’t, form crowds. When they do, it may take a Moses to restore order. But it may take an Aaron, at other times, to maintain the peace.

Sacrifices of Peace

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

In one of the most famous events in the Bible, G-d commanded Abraham to sacrifice his only son. So Abraham took his son Isaac, bound him on an altar and prepared to bring him up as a burnt offering. And then the voice of the angel called to him and told him not to harm his son.

G-d did not want human sacrifices. The peace process does. After the handshake with Arafat in the Rose Garden led to a wave of terrorist attacks, Prime Minister Rabin invented a new sacrifice to describe the dead Israelis murdered by the Muslim terrorists who had been permitted to enter Israel, to form armies, to train openly and to kill openly. Korbanot Shalom. Sacrifices of peace.

In Ancient Israel, in the Tabernacle and the Temple, the Korban Shelamim, the Peace Offering, was brought as a celebratory offering to be eaten by all. In the modern State of Israel, the Korbanot Shalom were brought by the families of the dead who often had little more than a few scraps of skin tissue, a finger or a hand caught in a crack in the sidewalk to remember their children by.

In the old Israel, only the pagan worshipers of Moloch, the abominable cult that placed its own sons and daughters into the idol’s flames, practiced human sacrifice. In the new Israel that was ushered in on that glorious day in the Rose Garden under the beaming gaze of Bill Clinton, everyone in the land was expected to be prepared to offer up their children to the Moloch of peace, the idol of the Palestinian Authority, its altar engraved with Nobel Peace Prizes, its service overseen by the international diplomats and domestic pacifists who had appointed themselves its Priests of Peace.

Peace made the service of death into a national duty. There was no telling where or when one might be called upon by Israel’s peace partners in Ramallah to become a sacrifice for peace. It might be at a mall or at a pizzeria or while riding the bus. An Israeli could become a sacrifice for peace at any time. And the Labor Party leaders would bow their heads solemnly over his grave, like the biblical elders were obligated to do over every murder victim in their vicinity. But unlike the elders, they could not recite the ceremonial verse, “Our hands did not shed this blood.”

Eventually Prime Minister Rabin, who had offered up so many Israelis as sacrifices of peace, was privileged to himself became a sacrifice of peace. His ascension is commemorated annually and has long since made its way into the Israeli curriculum as an example of the dedication to peacemaking that is expected of the true visionary of peace.

The sacrifices of peace have diminished as the left has fallen out of power. The wooden altars of the Moloch of Peace stand empty and the Priests of Peace pass mournfully through international airports, studying maps, drawing up plans and calling for new sacrifices. And eventually their call is heeded.

In the spring, America’s prince of peace, the man who had thrown thousands of American soldiers with their hands tied behind their backs into the arms of the Taliban, who had sacrificed every other American ally in the region, came to Jerusalem to demand that the altars once again be raised up and the blood of peace flow over the negotiating tables.

“It can be tempting to put aside the frustrations and sacrifices that come with the pursuit of peace,” Obama told a carefully selected audience of Israeli students. Some of them future sacrifices on his bloody altar of peace. “Here on Earth we must bear our responsibilities in an imperfect world. That means accepting our measure of sacrifice and struggle.”

And so the measure of sacrifice comes again. The ceremonial release of terrorists with blood on their hands commenced this festival of negotiations. Some of the freed terrorists had been notoriously talented sacrificers; claiming the lives of women and children. And in reward for their service, the Moloch of Peace smiled upon them and commanded that they be set free.

Archaeologists’ Discovery May Be in Abraham’s Home City of Ur

Friday, April 5th, 2013

British archaeologists have discovered a huge 4,000-year-old building that probably was in use in the ancient city of Ur, where the forefather Abraham lived before leaving with his father Terah for Israel, then known in the Bible as “the land of Canaan.”

The ancient city of Ur was discovered approximately 90 years ago and is thought to be Abraham’s birthplace, but the latest discovery is the first time a building has been unearthed that might be connected with the city or have religious connections to it.

The unearthing of the large structure, approximately 260 feet on each side, includes several rooms around a large courtyard.

“It might be an administrative building, it might have religious connections or controlling goods to the city of Ur,” Manchester University archaeologist Stuart Campbell told the Associated Press.

Among the artifacts discovered were signs of idol worship, which also was prevalent in Canaan until Abraham introduce the concept of one Deity to the world.

Iraq is known to host a wealth of history underground but has not been accessible to Western archaeologists for more than three decades because of the tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein and ensuing wars.

One of the images that was found is that of a ram, the animal that Abraham sacrificed in Canaan after God “tested” him with His order to sacrifice his only son. Yitzchak (Isaac), who was to inherit the land for future generations of Jews, as written in the Bible:

“And Abraham stretched out his arm and took the knife to slaughter his son, and the angel of God called from the heavens and said, Abraham, Abraham…. Do not stretch forth your hand to the lad, nor do the slightest thing to him, for now I know that you are a God fearing man, and you did not withhold your son, your only one, from Me.

“And Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw a ram caught in a thicket by its horns and Abraham went and took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering instead of his son.”

My Pesach Disappointment

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

There was an article in this weekend’s Makor Rishon. It was about fulfilling the mitzvah of Korban Pesach, the Passover sacrifice, in this day and age. The article went through the Halachot and obligations. It is a unique mitzvah in that it terms of Taharot, you don’t need to do more than dip in the Mikvah.

At the end of the article was a telephone number and the cost to participate (NIS 12) to get your piece of the Korban.

I was so excited.

While I already have plans for this Pesach that put me outside of Jerusalem on the first day, I started making plans with my wife and how we’ll be in Jerusalem next year and fulfill this mitzvah.

(Yes, I’m aware that there is an Issur d’Rabanan to not do it, but if the people don’t start this back up, who will? The Rabbis?)

Anyway… a friend and I called up the number (Israel: 1-800-800-455). He was more subdued about it, because he figured it was a gimmick.

We talked to them. It turns out it was Machon HaMikdash. The article was an “As if” article, describing the process and how it will be fulfilled.

But unfortunately, they were not sacrificing a Korban Pesach this year, and no we couldn’t join a group, and there was no piece of the meat we would get to eat in Jerusalem during the Seder.

I am so disappointed.

Visit The Muqata.

Arrested for Trying to Bring a Passover Offering

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Noam Federman and others were arrested on Monday, the eve of the Passover holiday when they tried to reach the Temple Mount to sacrifice a lamb for the Korban Pesach.  They were arrested for “transporting an animal without a permit”, according to Arutz-7.

Turks Praise Israel’s Apology

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

It is unpleasant when two long-friendly countries behave like enemies. Many have been uneasy seeing Israel and Turkey growing distant, even if only in the political arena. Friendship, love, trust and affinity are most valued universally, so I would like my Israeli friends to know that we, the Turkish nation, cherish our friendship with the Israelis and thus appreciate the prime minister’s apology as a virtuous act, and we are excited to leave this regrettable incident behind and to be able to move forward.

Although as a general principle I am against any preconditions for peace and friendship—since true friendship is unconditional—this apology was still important for the Turkish people, we heard an affirmation that Israel cares about Turkey. And we see this move as a dignifying act, a gesture that will glorify Israel in the eyes of many.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did the right thing in the right manner and with the right words. We take this as a direct message to the Turkish nation rather than to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan alone.

However, there will be people who would take this as an opportunity to create ugly propaganda against Israel. I condemn the comments and news trying to devalue this virtuous act by Israel. Loveless people are free to issue their comments, however they only reflect their inner world by expressing their hostility and by looking at everything in a negative manner rather than thinking with wisdom and compassion. If we look at things through the prism of rage and allow ourselves to hold on to grudges, no one could ever be friendly with anyone else. What happened in the past stays in the past; if one does not evaluate things with this mentality, no country could ever be friends with any other.

So let us look at the future rather than getting hung up on the past, because we are both living in an unstable region and we need unity now more than ever. I believe Israel and Turkey’s alliance will definitely help to bring stability to the region because unity and unconditional friendship are a strong deterrent against terrorism and radicalism, and against all those who promote violence and hatred. Let this be a message to all the countries in the region that we are moving forward and we—as Turkey and Israel—will not let any provocation, propaganda or mischief destroy peace and friendship in the region.

On the other hand, I humbly ask from my fellow Turks to be kind and unconditionally compassionate, and to act with dignity, and disallow the negativity of those who seem to follow a policy of promoting tension. The friendship of Israel and Turkey is crucial, and we will spread this friendship to the whole region together. Therefore, let us see things positively and use this opportunity in the best way. Israel made a move that is precious to the Turkish people, and we surely hold it dear.

Additionally, preserving peace for a few days is very easy, but to preserve peace over a lifetime is very hard to do. To preserve peace until the very end, patience and persistence are needed. Upholding peace, brotherhood and love unconditionally may seem hard or progress slowly, but it never comes to a deadlock as long as we continue to make efforts persistently and determinedly.

On this occasion I also would like to share my Passover wishes with my Jewish friends around the world. In these day, we, along with our Jewish friends, remember the exodus of the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) from the oppression of the Pharaoh, and their rescue and their amazing journey with God’s help. We pray for the blessings of God upon all His servants. May God bring the Days of Mashiach (Yemot HaMashiach) soon; the times that we can altogether make Korban (sacrifice) in peace and joy in the Holy Land.

“[God said:] And remember, We delivered you from the people of Pharaoh: They set you hard tasks and punishments, slaughtered your sons and let your women-folk live; therein was a tremendous trial from your Lord. And remember We divided the sea for you and saved you and drowned Pharaoh’s people within your very sight. And remember We appointed forty nights for Moses, and in his absence you took the calf (for worship), and you did grievous wrong. Even then We did forgive you; there was a chance for you to be grateful. And remember We gave Moses the Scripture and the Criterion (Between right and wrong): There was a chance for you to be guided aright.” (Qur’an, 2:49-53)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/turks-praise-israels-apology/2013/03/24/

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