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February 22, 2017 / 26 Shevat, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘true’

The True Cause Of Resolution 2334?

21 Tevet 5777 – January 19, 2017

Listen to children playing and within moments you will likely hear an argument of this nature: “It’s mine.” “No, it’s mine, I found it first!”

These same words are used in the famous Talmudic chapter dealing with two people simultaneously grabbing an article and claiming sole ownership. This discussion is in the middle of the Talmud and hints to the centrality of the argument in the human experience. The resolution given in the Talmud is that the litigants compromise and receive half the article’s worth.

Two parties laying claim to one article is hardwired into physical human existence. No two people can occupy the exact physical location simultaneously. It seems that God, who placed humans in this world, wants us to learn to peaceably resolve these arguments wherever and whenever they occur.

We have all felt the sting of the latest UN resolution against Israel, which basically delegitimizes Jewish historical claims to Eretz Yisrael. We blame specific countries, officials, and their underlings for setting Israel up. Fingerprints have been found – and even the gun, which some say is still smoking. But maybe we are like the dog biting the stick that hit it. Perhaps we are not seeing what is truly going on and who is really at fault.

A recent photo of two Jewish women fighting is deeply disheartening. The aggressor is an older woman with her hair modestly covered and the aggressed is a young woman with tefillin on her head and they are tussling in front of the Kotel. The agitation between the two women (and the two groups) is an argument over who owns the Kotel, who owns the right to how Judaism is practiced. Essentially it is an argument over who owns the truth.

The challenge many observant Jews fail to undertake is to ask themselves why they live the way they do.

Why do I keep Shabbat? Why do I dress in a certain manner? Why do I keep kosher? Why do I follow the laws of the Torah?

To answer these questions one must look straight into the mirror and be extremely honest. The exercise can be challenging and frightening but it is necessary to determine if we are following God’s law because we truly believe in it. Or do we pretend to believe in the Torah but in reality cave in to peer pressures or act this way for other self-serving reasons?

My 99-year-old aunt used to say, “Not using God’s name in vain means not signing your checks with His name.” In other words, don’t espouse your own philosophy and call it God’s.

People who are insecure about their way of life argue with others in order to convince themselves that they are correct and maintain a position that Truth is exclusively theirs.

When we are confident in our position and our way of life, there is no need to convince others or get into emotionally charged arguments. When we interact with less observant Jews our intention is to help and contribute goodness to them. Why would anyone scream at another Jew for not following Torah unless there is something deeply unsettled within the screamer’s heart?

In Malcom Gladwell’s book Blink, the author considers the famous study by John Gottman in Baltimore. Hundreds of new couples were videotaped as they discussed the most contentious issue between them. Gottman was able to predict with 95 percent accuracy who would be together in five years and who would not. Gottman found that if contempt was present in the argument between the couple, it spelled a definitive end for the relationship.

Contempt is present when an argument gets personal and mean. It is when we find the other person to be the problem, not the problem itself.

How we deal with conflict is as important – if not more so – as the way in which we deal with friends and loved ones. Pirkei Avot urges us to remove anger from our hearts. Sinat chinam is hatred and anger based upon nothing of substance and is the reason we lost the Temple 2,000 years ago. Genuine concern was not at the center of debate, arguments became personal and toxic, and poisonous contempt was everywhere.

Contempt sickens society, destroys relationships, and brings all sorts of evil upon society. Contempt for one another is what led God to take the Temple Mount away from us two millennia ago.

After suffering through a long and brutal history we have finally come home and regained our Kotel. But now Hashem looks down and sees us not respecting one another, arguing and disagreeing with anger and contempt – and like a parent He shakes His head in disbelief that His children have not learned from the stern punishments He has meted out.

“Do you need Me to take it away from you again?” He asks His contentious children.

Could it be that we have brought upon ourselves UN Resolution 2334? Is this another warning from God? Contempt for one another will rip us apart and accomplish no good. After 2,000 years, are we not ready to finally give up the sinat chinam?

Netanyahu Congratulates President Elect Trump, ‘True Friend of the State of Israel’

8 Heshvan 5777 – November 9, 2016

Donald Trump with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York, September 25, 2016. / Photo credit: Kobi Gideon / GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday morning issued a statement saying, “I congratulate Donald Trump on being elected the 45th President of the United States of America. President-elect Trump is a true friend of the State of Israel, and I look forward to working with him to advance security, stability and peace in our region.”

Netanyahu added that “the ironclad bond between the United States and Israel is rooted in shared values, buttressed by shared interests and driven by a shared destiny. I am confident that President-elect Trump and I will continue to strengthen the unique alliance between our two countries and bring it to ever greater heights.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Donald Trump on his victory in a telegram, according to the Kremlin, which said in a statement: “Putin expressed hope for joint work to restore Russian-American relations from their state of crisis, and also to address pressing international issues and search for effective responses to challenges concerning global security.”

Putin said he is sure a constructive dialogue between Moscow and Washington would serve the interests of both countries, the Kremlin statement added.

British Prime Minister Theresa May congratulated Trump and said the UK and the US would remain “strong and close partners on trade, security and defense.” Former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage also congratulated Trump.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier noted that “In the course of the election campaign Donald Trump has found critical words about Europe and Germany,” and admitted that “we must adjust to the fact that American foreign policy will get less predictable in the near future.”

In a similar spirit, French President Francois Hollande said about Trump’s victory, “I congratulate him as is natural between two democratic heads of state,” adding, “This American election opens a period of uncertainty.”

The True Measure of a Man

2 Heshvan 5777 – November 3, 2016

{Originally posted to Rabbi Weinberg’s website, The Foundation Stone}

A span, a palm, a hand, an ohm, a knot, a stadion. How beautiful the language of measurement is and we’re not even talking iambs yet.

We probably couldn’t fit the 6,000 animals that live in the Bronx Zoo into the Intrepid, let alone into Noah’s ark that measured three hundred, by fifty, by thirty, cubits. It is as if the Torah goes out of its way to tell us that although Noah spent so many years building his massive ark, ultimately, he needed some Divine pixie dust for it to serve its purpose. The animals would gather. The lions, tigers, and bears would behave. They would all fit inside. The food would last. The roof wouldn’t leak.

The true measure of Noah was that he did not stop to ask, “Why don’t You just make the whole thing?” He worked all those years knowing that God would partner with him and make Noah’s ark far greater than his efforts; his structure, of small physical measure, would expand into a self-contained, fully functioning world.

God doesn’t need a slave to order and say: Build an ark! He could have made it in a second.  God desires a partner.  It is up to us to rise to that role. Noah’s greatness can be measured by the fact that he figured it out. He “walked with God”. Learning that we can accomplish a partnership with God is probably the biggest legacy he left, an immeasurable bequest.

Noah’s accomplishment was the stepping stone to Abraham, who takes humanity to the next stage; walking before God. This was the original intention of creation: To walk, on our own, for our own benefit.  But thank you Noah, as without knowing that we can be partners, there is little hope for us that we can be creators as well!

Thus is the true measure of every human being; his or her ability to construct a life with awareness and willingness for God to imbue the effort with His Infinite power. We are measured by our determination to build something much greater than the sum of all the effort; an eternal partnership, an eternal life.

Wishing you a 25 hour, 1,500 minute, 90,00 second, Shabbat that will become eternal and immeasurable.

Shabbat Shalom

Will Detroit’s Historic Holocaust Museum Stay True To Its Mission?

21 Tishri 5777 – October 23, 2016

Of the many local and regional Holocaust memorials and museums scattered across America, one stands out among the best: The Holocaust Memorial Center in suburban Detroit.

For me, the legacy and future of the institution is personal.

Correctly billed as America’s “first Holocaust museum,” the Detroit enterprise was conceived fourteen years before the dominant United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. was even commissioned by President Jimmy Carter in 1978. The Detroit museum opened its original doors at its first location in suburban West Bloomfield, Michigan in 1984. The Washington museum opened its doors in 1993.

Although there are currently scores of Holocaust museums and memorials throughout America, the museum in suburban Detroit, when it debuted, was nothing short of historic. It stood as the first freestanding museum in the country devoted to the subject.

This extraordinary project was the dream of Rabbi Charles H. Rosenzveig, a Polish Holocaust survivor, in tandem with a local congregation of fellow survivors possessing visionary and fiery determination to not only document the heartless brutality of the twelve-year Reich war against the Jews but to understand the underlying socio-economic and political causes powering the Nazi genocides.

Hence, Rabbi Rosenzveig and I always enjoyed a special rapport. We shared the same fire and felt the same burn. In my case, it propelled me to write books on these topics, documenting corporate collusion and ethnic collaboration that made a life-and-death difference to so many.

Rabbi Rosenzveig invited me several times to lecture at the museum on American corporate involvement with the Third Reich and the ethnic factors that facilitated the destruction of six million Jews. This included documenting how IBM co-planned and co-organized the Holocaust with its punch card processes, as well as the involvement of General Motors and Henry Ford.

That the museum allowed me to speak freely on the latter was a courageous act in a city where those two automobile companies were headquartered and maintained powerful influences in the community.

The museum became known for more than just lectures; its extraordinary exhibits delved into the heartless economics that fueled Hitler’s Germany. Rabbi Rosenzveig and I shared an uncanny realization of what was at stake. More than just stimulating memory and sorrow, the challenge was to prod deeper thought about the consequences of corporate connectivity with death machines.

We also shared a common heritage. Rabbi Rosenzveig was from Poland, lost nearly all his family, and told me he was not even sure how old he was. My parents were from Poland. We lost nearly all our relatives, and my parents were likewise unsure of how old they were.

When Rabbi Rosenzveig and I sat together in the museum, the conversation was often just silence and the unspoken certitude that passes noiselessly between two people who understand the agony of a common mission. No need for convincing, but plenty of commiserating. Our job was to inform about the worst and inspire the best for those confronting the Holocaust – the rabbi devoted to his work in Detroit and me speaking around the world on my works and my research.

When the new, larger, dramatically more architectonic museum opened in nearby Farmington Hills, it set the standard for such edifices. Many said the structure resembled a death camp, and drivers passing by complained that its very appearance made them uncomfortable. In 2003 the Wall Street Journal published an article titled “Should a Museum Look as Disturbing as What It Portrays?” The article asserted that the center “may be the most provocative Holocaust memorial of them all,” with its stark exterior suggesting electrified wire and the bleak walls at Auschwitz.

Rabbi Rosenzveig was actually fond of the impact his structure made. He did not believe in making an uncomfortable topic more palatable.

We both shared a fear that the Holocaust could happen again. In 2006, years before the Iran nuclear threat leapt onto front pages everywhere, Rabbi Rosenzveig invited me to speak at the museum’s annual gala. That night, I used the term “Second Holocaust” and warned it could be enabled by petrodollars fueling the Iranian nuclear program.

The idea was to enunciate this warning in Detroit, where gas-guzzling vehicles were still being manufactured. I felt it was ever more appropriate given Detroit’s unique status as the one U.S. city most pivotal to buttressing Nazism – thanks to Henry Ford’s gift to Hitler of an “international Jewish conspiracy” that rationalized his quest to expunge Jewish existence across Europe, and GM leaping to its role as “the arsenal of Nazism” with its manufacture of Blitz trucks, JU-88 airplane engines, Panzer tank motor parts, torpedo heads, and land mine components.

The 2006 gala evening competed with a major sporting event, and my comments were cut short due to the abundance of speakers and the truncated schedule. But the rabbi whispered in my ear that the museum wished to have me back to deliver the fuller message about Iran and a potential Second Holocaust.

Two years later, in July 2008, presidential candidate John McCain echoed the same fear I expressed that night. Referring to Iran’s nuclear program, McCain declared, “The United States of America can never allow a second Holocaust.”

Rabbi Rosenzveig died later that year. A Congressional resolution lauded him as one who “endured and bore witness to the horrific atrocities of the Holocaust.”

During his tenure he elevated the Detroit museum to one of international stature and helped many scholars. For example, he worked with renowned Paper Walls author David Wyman on a special volume, The World Reacts to the Holocaust, a massive tome published in 1996 by Johns Hopkins Press. Rabbi Rosenzveig was listed as co-author, and Wyman paid tribute to him in the foreword as the man who “originated the concept of the book.” Wyman also saluted the Detroit center for being the first freestanding Holocaust museum in America.

After Rabbi Rosenzveig departed, he was succeeded by the Holocaust scholar Guy Stern, who had also worked on the Wyman book. He is still with the museum and now heads up its Harry and Wanda Zekelman International Institute of the Righteous.

Stern is hardly the only longtime devoted staffer at the museum. The center maintains a valuable library archive under the baton of Feiga Weiss.

In 2012 I returned to Detroit for a museum co-sponsored two-event visit. I updated my 2006 warning about the Iranian nuclear program in a presentation at a nearby synagogue. In the museum auditorium we helped set the stage for a global recognition of the Farhud, the 1941 Arab-Nazi pogrom in Baghdad. This was referred to by some as the long-overlooked Sephardic Kristallnacht.

While the idea was bold and new when explored within the walls of the museum in 2012, it eventually caught traction worldwide. Last year, together with Jewish leaders in a live-streamed global event at the United Nations, we proclaimed International Farhud Day. This year, on the 75th anniversary of the pogrom, special commemorations were held in the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.; in New York in a Manhattan synagogue; in a London synagogue attended by diplomats and dignitaries; and in the Knesset in Jerusalem.

With its special place in American Holocaust commemoration and documentation, the Detroit center must be preserved as it was intended to be and as it has been from its first day – a torch of Holocaust enlightenment that flickers the reminder “Never Again.”

Too many Holocaust memorials have lost their original identity and now are devoted to both the Holocaust and genocide in general, or simply to global genocide.

Don’t get me wrong; as one who plumbs the dark recesses of the genocide of many groups throughout history, I know that all those shameful chapters must be thoroughly illuminated to reduce the chance of their repetition. Holocaust research and memorial centers need to bring those chapters within their walls; otherwise, “Never Again” is just a slogan rather than a fateful warning to the world.

But we in the Holocaust community do this best when we conserve Holocaust remembrance and the uniqueness of the Holocaust as an unparalleled and unique twelve-year onslaught perpetrated worldwide in broad daylight with headlines blaring.

Recently it emerged that Detroit’s Holocaust Memorial Center is contemplating changes. The institution is now being directed by Cheryl Guyer, who holds the unusual title of both “interim director” and “director of development.” This means her two hats cover both the soul of the museum and fund-raising – two spheres that aren’t always in sync. (Rabbi Rosenzveig went against conventional economic wisdom when he created the museum.)

Guyer confirmed to me that the museum and its board are undergoing a period of what she called “new strategic thinking and transition.” She refused to elaborate. Asked again, she steadfastly refused to comment, saying, “We are not ready to talk about it.” In the ensuing days, Guyer declined to respond to several e-mail and voice requests for further information.

The museum’s official media spokesman, Glenn Oswald, one of the most affable and responsive publicists in the field, who promoted my earlier events at the museum, was contacted. He too declined all comment and failed to respond to several voice mails and e-mails attempting to gather ordinary background information about the museum. So no one knows just what changes or transitions are in store.

Despite the wall of silence, it has been learned that a new director is being considered to assume the museum’s top leadership slot next year as part of the transition. According to museum sources, a local rabbi with a distinguished record is under consideration. That process is now in full swing. Until a decision is made, the museum continues to remain mum about its plans.

Holocaust remembrance and Holocaust museums, built with community money, belong to the survivors and their succeeding generations. The boards of directors of such museums are mere trustees of the legacy. They don’t own it. They don’t even rent it. They are custodians.

Guyer should therefore check with the community before any “strategic thinking and transition” is announced or implemented, and shine the light of openness upon what is in store. Survivors and their descendants hold the trademark on Holocaust memory. For many, the mark is tattooed on their forearms; for many others, it is permanently written in their hearts.

True Holiday Thoughts

17 Tishri 5777 – October 18, 2016

[In Hebrew]

Gam Zu L’tovah – True Trust In God

6 Elul 5776 – September 9, 2016

Bitachon is trust in God – a trust that He will make things end up all right. The word bitachon is connected to the Hebrew root of tach (Vayikra 14:42), which means to plaster, to cling, and to cause to cling closely.

Bitachon thus is more than faith and belief that God is able to extricate an individual or a community from a difficult situation.

Belief and faith are called emunah – which is inherent in every Jew’s nature, even though it is not always internalized and part of his or her consciousness.

Emunah in God’s omnipotence does not necessarily comfort or remove anxiety and worry from someone confronted by a threatening situation. Bitachon, though, is a state of mind that can be likened to the firm reliance one has in a good friend or relative, someone to whom we are closely attached and who we know for sure will rally to our aid.

The person who possesses bitachon implicitly trusts that God’s help will be forthcoming if and when he needs it. He will not worry about his predicament but act to the best of his ability to resolve it, confident that God will add His help to pull him through. Such trust generates peace of mind. But how is it possible to have such implicit expectation of God’s help?

There is a well known saying of the great chassidic master Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (1789–1866) which, translated from the Yiddish, goes as follows: “Think well, and it will be well.”

The implication of this statement is that a positive outlook not only is good for one’s frame of mind, it enhances one’s ability to function more efficiently and the very thought itself can generate a positive power that will improve the situation so that “it will be well.”

How does this work?

Bitachon and the positive outlook and thoughts constitute an avodah, a form of service of God, a rigorous mental exercise. Spiritual stamina has to be mustered in order to combat the bleakness and seeming hopelessness of a given difficult situation. One must work arduously at maintaining the “think positive” process. It often involves shifting from an ingrained negative attitude in which a person may sometimes wallow to a totally different, positive, trusting one. This can be accomplished by constantly habituating oneself to thinking well.

One’s intellect can be trained to learn, understand, and interpret data the same way the hand can be trained in all kinds of precise, coordinated movements. One’s attitude can thus be rehabilitated by a conscious effort to constantly think well – i.e., good and positively. Through the repetition of habit, this will eventually become second nature.

Once the mental attitude or thought process has become a positive one, it then becomes the proper instrument to elicit God’s Goodness so that things become “good” in the real material sense. Why is that? Because this mental service – avodah – serves as an “arousal from below” which has the ability to generate a reciprocal “arousal from above.”

This process is described at length in the Zohar and chassidus. God decreed at the beginning of Creation that for every good action, word, and thought of man, there would be a reciprocal reaction from on High, resulting in many Divine blessings.

As if measure for measure, God says: “If you rely on Me against all odds and beyond all calculations, I too, will relate to you beyond the calculation as to whether you deserve My help or not.”

What about the phenomenon of “bad things happening to good people”? These individuals may have strong bitachon and yet things don’t end up OK. They get sick, or are involved in a bad accident, or are laid off, or a relative dies unexpectedly, etc. As a result, some may lose their bitachon.

In answer, it can be said that in general we do not know the absolute definition of “good” and “bad,” since we view life only within our narrow, finite terms. The true definition is much more encompassing and takes into account the spiritual, otherworldly realms. Hence, what seems to be “bad” to us may ultimately be the greatest good. This is reflected in the statement of Nachum Ish Gam Zu. He used to always say, “gam zu l’tovah – “this also happened for the good.”

Even in the grimmest moments, he ascribed goodness to whatever circumstances confronted him. The Talmud relates wondrous stories about the happy denouement of many of Nachum’s experiences that looked very bleak at the outset. There may have been many situations that did not turn out so well, but he nevertheless would continue to say, in all circumstances, gam zu l’tovah. He did not predicate the goodness of the situation on his human perspective. When he said gam zu l’tovah, he meant it fully and about every event in his life.

He knew – and so should we – that we can only gain by adopting a cheerful, positive, bitachon-filled disposition.

Soul Talk – Forget About Reward and Punishment: The Path of True Empowerment [audio]

2 Elul 5776 – September 5, 2016

There are certain basic life concepts that we think we understand, but in reality need to be updated from time to time. The Torah’s concept of Reward and Punishment can be easily misunderstood if we are still thinking about these concepts as we did when a child.

What does it mean that G-d rewards and punishes us? How does our understanding of these concepts effect our understanding of G-d? How does the proper understanding of these concepts have a practical effect on my day to day life?

Join Rabbi David Aaron and Leora Mandel on Soul Talk where you will get a better understanding of the central concept of reward and punishment.

We would love to hear from you. Please send us your thoughts and questions to soultalk@israelnewstalkradio.com

Soul Talk 04Sept2016 – PODCAST

The Meaning of True Independence

29 Sivan 5776 – July 5, 2016

{Originally posted to Col. Richard Kemp’s eponymous website}

“What kind of talk is this, ‘punishing Israel?’ Are we a vassal state of yours? Are we a banana republic? Are we 14-year-olds who, if we misbehave, get our wrists slapped? Let me tell you whom this Cabinet comprises. It is composed of people whose lives were marked by resistance, fighting and suffering.”

These were the words of Prime Minister Menachem Begin delivered to the U.S. President Ronald Reagan in December 1981. Begin, one of the greatest leaders and fighters of our times, knew the meaning of true independence.

He knew that it was not about firecrackers, dancing in the streets or lighting flames. It was about standing up for yourself and submitting to no man. Declaring to the world, “this is where we stand.”

Israel’s independence was bought at a high price in Jewish blood, fighting first against the might of the British Empire and then against five powerful Arab armies which sought its destruction.

For 68 years Israelis have fought again and again to defend their independence against enemies who would subjugate their country. No other nation has struggled so long and so hard, surrounded by such unyielding hostility.

But in making their stand, Israelis have never had to stand alone. From the beginning, Jews from the U.K., the U.S., Europe, Australia, South Africa and around the world rallied to the fight for independence under the glorious banner of the Mahal. Among them were non-Jews, including a Christian soldier from my own regiment.

In the years since, and even today, the courage of their young successors, the “lone soldiers”’ of the diaspora, travelling thousands of miles from the safety of their homes to stand and fight here to preserve Israel’s independence, inspires awe and humility. As Begin said: “This is the land of their forefathers, and they have a right and a duty to support it.”

Israel’s independence has a strength that cannot be known by those who have not had to struggle for their freedom. What is the meaning of this independence?

It means that Israel’s right to exist is not to be sanctioned by the peoples of the Middle East or by the leaders of the Western world. It is to be determined only by the Jewish people who, down the millennia, have fought, suffered and died for that inalienable right.

It means that Israel is not to have its borders imposed by international bodies or by foreign states, no matter how powerful they might be. It means that Israelis are not to be dictated to about where they can and cannot settle in their land. It means that Israel is not to be told how it may or may not defend the lives of its people under the sovereign independence of the law. It means that Israel is not to be lectured or scolded about human rights by those that have no glimmer of understanding of what human rights truly are.

The civilized world has an obligation to respect this independence just as it respects the independence of other free, democratic nations.

Israel has shown mankind how a besieged nation — against all odds — can survive and flourish, decide its own destiny and unwaveringly retain its honour, its decency, its dignity, its integrity and its compassion. It was not for nothing that British Premier Winston Churchill described the Jewish people as “beyond any question, the most formidable and most remarkable race which has appeared in the world.”

Today not just Israel but the whole of civilization should celebrate the independence of the nation that continues to shine a beacon light onto that world.

 

The Devil is Precise: ‘Breaking the Silence’s’ True Nature

28 Sivan 5776 – July 3, 2016

This week, an anti-Semitic claim was made on an international stage. It was reminiscent of a play from many years ago, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, which was about the Salem witch trials. In the play, one individual tells a lie, blaming innocent people for a crime that never happened.

The latest lie took place on a world stage, rather than in a show yet accused Jews of poisoning wells.  Of course, there were those who believed Jews were baking Passover matzah with the blood of Christian children.  Need a scapegoat because a child went missing? It must have been those Jews. Never mind that it is forbidden by Jewish law to eat blood, let alone that of a human; blood libels were never meant to be rational.

Blood libels have been around for a long time and eventually morphed into water libels. When the Black Death hit Europe in the 14th century, the Jews were blamed. The rationale was that the Jews were affected less, thus they must have been poisoning wells and collecting water elsewhere. 510 Jewish communities were massacred between 1348 and 1350. On February 14, 1349, 900 Jews were burned alive in Strasbourg as a preventive measure; the plague had not even arrived there yet. Yet, the main cause of the Black Death’s sweep of Europe was most likely poor hygiene, assisted by fleas and rats.

Just last week, in front of the European Parliament, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, claimed that Israeli rabbis had instructed Jewish residents to poison Palestinian water supplies.

How did this centuries old anti-Semitic claim emerge now from Abbas at a very public forum? That would be the work of the “human rights organization” Breaking the Silence (BTS), a grantee of the extremist American Jewish organization, the New Israel Fund (NIF).

BTS is best known for spreading false allegations of misdoings within the Israel Defense Forces. It appears that they have moved on to spreading blood libels against Jews.

On June 14, 2016, Yehuda Shaul, a co-founder of BTS, was allegedly filmed telling a group of tourists that Israeli settlers had poisoned the water system of a Palestinian village a few years ago, causing its residents to be displaced. In the business of anti-Semitism, that was all that was needed for the story to spread quickly.

On June 16, the PLO expanded the rumor, claiming that a Rabbi Shlomo Melamed, chairman of the Council of Settlement Rabbis, had given permission to settlers to poison the wells in Palestinian neighborhoods across the West Bank.  The Palestinian Authority (PA) followed on June 20, claiming on television that the Council of Settlement Rabbis was trying to either scare away or kill Palestinians by poisoning their drinking water.  The Arab League condemned the supposed act – and then of course, Abbas took to the international stage with it. What all of these alleged human rights agents forgot to mention is that Rabbi Shlomo Melamed and the Council of Settlement Rabbis do not exist.

Just a few days later,  the New Israel Fund sent out a plea urging donors to support BTS because they are being attacked by the Israeli government and were barred from receiving an award from Ben Gurion University. As John Proctor asks in The Crucible “Is the accuser always holy now?” Breaking The Silence does not deserve awards, let alone any funding.

The New Israel Fund and American Jews – people such as Julianne Heyman, Alisa Doctoroff, and Yaffa and Paul Maritz – provide funding for these heinous organizations. And it must end.

A Tribute to Irving Yitzchak Moskowitz z”l

13 Sivan 5776 – June 19, 2016

נפלה עטרת ראשינו

A crown has fallen from our heads….. these words were said when the great Chassidic leader Menachem Mendl from Vitebsk passed away in Tiveria in 1788. And i say these words today, with the passing to the next world, of Irving Moskowitz.

There are many Jews who know from where they came. They have history, heritage and roots, but they may not have a sense of the now – of the greatness of the hour for the Jewish People. Irving Moskowitz had both. He knew from where he came, and he knew where he was going.

His felt the energy of the returning and emerging Jewish People in her homeland and he felt as one with both the land, and her people.

Although referred to, by many as האיש של ירושלים – the man of Jerusalem, together with his loving and every so-caring wife Cherna, he was involved in Chevron, Beit El, Yesha in general, Gush Katif, Gush Etzion, educating politicians from the USA about Israel, and was even involved in ‘Operation Torah Shield’ at the outset of the Iraq war, bringing hundreds of students to Israel, to show the ultimate solidarity.

כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה – All Jews are guarantors for one another, this wasn’t just a nice concept for Irving. It was real and part of his makeup.

His unique blend of Jewish pride, emunah (faith), passion, drive, dedication, chessed and huge generosity, made him stand alone on the highest Jewish pedestal in both  Israel and abroad. He stood side by side, shoulder to shoulder, and heart to heart with  Am Yisrael at every step, in this unfolding redemption process.

From the time Irving Moskowitz walked the alleyways of the Old City with Mati Dan, nearly 40 years ago, till recently – when his soul-neshama departed to the Heavens, Irving Moskowitz had a “beautiful and pure love affair” with Jerusalem. With Jerusalem flowing thru his veins, Irving was part of the woven fabric of Jerusalem, feeling the pulse of the city, even from afar in both California and Florida. His body may have been generally in the exile, but his essence, his heart and his soul were all in Jerusalem.

Libi BaMizrach (My Heart is in the East) wasn’t just a phrase for Irving. His yearnings and dreams of Jewish life returning to Jerusalem were realized and actualized, by his own drive, committment and finances.

Beyond his own personal Jerusalem home in Yemin Moshe, Irving z”l and Cherna (May she live healthily till 120) really had many homes. Beyond his own 8 wonderful children, Irving z”l and Cherna had many many children.

Those homes and children were and are the families and students living in the heart of Jerusalem.

The hundreds of families of the Old City, the old Yemenite Village of Shiloach, Ir David, Maaleh HaZeitim, Shimon HaTzaddik, Kidmat Zion, Abu Tor, Beit Orot and the future families of Ganei Yitzchak, are all “his families and homes”.

Irving Moskowitz has redeemed and reclaimed Jerusalem for the Jewish People, and has thus ensured that a united Jerusalem stays in Jewish hands, for generations. He has been at the pioneering forefront of the unfolding realization of the redemption process and the Zionist dream in Jerusalem. A modest and humble man of peace, who believed that Jews had the natural, moral and historical right, to buy and live in any neighborhood of Jerusalem, especially in an area, from where they were evicted. He also believed, that the only way to achieve basic peace and coexistence, with our Arab neighbors, was for Jews and Arabs to live together, under Jewish and Israeli sovereignty.

He felt the pain of the Holocaust with members of his own greater family perishing in Nazi Europe, and he knew first-hand, the concept of Judenrein. (Free of Jews).

Irving Moskowitz was not going to allow that to happen in Jerusalem – where Jews should be barred or forbidden to buy and live in peace anywhere in Jerusalem.

‘Judenrein’ would not apply in united Jerusalem for Irving and Cherna Moskowitz.

So, he purchased and purchased more, he built Jewish neighborhoods, he added Jewish life to the Holy Basin and thus easily stepped into the enormous shoes of Rothschild and Montefiore.

From his first “cheque” helping to purchase or redeem Yeshivat Chayei Olam (today Yeshivat Bratslav Shuvu Banim), till the unfolding building project of the Shefer Hotel (Ganei Yitzchak) near Mt Scopus and the Shimon HaTzaddik neighbourhood, Irving z”l and Cherna have been involved in nearly every significant building project in the eastern sectors of Jerusalem. The Moskowitz name is associated with nearly everything, from buildings like Beit Wittenberg, Beit Volero-Dolgin and Beit Knesset Ohel Yitzchak in the Old City…..Yeshivot – Ateret Yerushalayim, Shuvu Banim, Beit Orot and the Mechina in Beit Zion…neighbourhoods like Kidmat Zion and the old Yemenite Village of Shiloach and the “jewel in the crown” neighborhood of Maaleh HaZeitim.

The world would say no to Maaleh HaZeitim. The Arab League, UN, EU and even pressure from both US and Israeli authorities, would all try to stop Moskowitz. (“Stop Moskowitz Now” was their official call).

But Hashem had His own road map, and Moskowitz together with Ateret Cohanim –  was Hashem’s partner.

Maaleh HaZeitim was built and today, over 100 Jewish families live on the slopes of the Mount of Olives.

On a very personal level, it is a tragic and sad day primarily for Cherna, their eight children, many grandchildren and the wider Moskowitz family.

But also on a national level, it is day of mixed emotions. On one hand, we mourn and are greatly saddened by Irving’s passing from this world. Ateret Cohanim has lost a true friend, and a unique partner. Jerusalem has lost its pillar and builder. Am Yisrael has lost a unique idealistic individual who is referred to as Boneh Yerushalayim.

But on the other hand, one can only be inspired, stand in pride and salute a giant, who has changed the face of Jerusalem and whose achievements for the Holy City, are second to none.

We also know, that Cherna (May she live to 120 years) and the Moskowitz family, who have totally supported Irving for all these years, will continue to walk proudly in Irving’s footsteps.

If the stones of Jerusalem could speak, they would say toda raba Dr. Moskowitz. They would speak of being dusty, dirty and lonely for 2000 years, until Irving z”l and Cherna came and walked the alleyways of Jerusalem.

If the stones of Jerusalem could speak, they would say – we mourn for the Master Builder and Craftsman of Jerusalem.

Yes – today, i mourn and cry for the “loss” of Irving, but I also wryly smile to the Heavens, for i’m in awe and admiration, of what Irving z”l achieved for Jerusalem, in his lifetime of 88 years, and i truly believe that G-d, is now welcoming “His Builder of United Jerusalem” with open arms, to help with the building “Jerusalem of the Heavens”, (Yerushalayim Shel Maalah).

Thank you Irving.

Chazak U’Baruch and long life Cherna.

 

In conclusion – it will be said to the mourning Moskowitz  family – throughout the Shiva “המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים

May you be comforted by HaMakom along with the other mourners of Zion and Yerushalayim.

The standard understanding is that HaMakom – G-d, who is in every place, will give you comfort. Or, as was told to me when my father z”l sadly passed away last year – the knowledge of his soul-neshama going to Gan Eden-HaMakom, that will give comfort.

I think that in Irving’s case – we all have a third meaning of this comfort. HaMakom- as referred to in the Torah – is also Jerusalem. And so – when we look around anywhere in Jerusalem, we will see Irving Moskowitz. The knowledge and sight of Irvings contributions and achievements in Jerusalem. His redeeming and building the eternal united city – that too will give all of us, and hopefully the Moskowitz Family a lot of comfort.

יהי זכרו ברוך

Daniel


LIBI BAMIZRACH was the phrase of Rav Yehuda HaLevi zt’l, regarding our yearnings for Jerusalem, from the exile, throughout the centuries.

Dr Irving Moskowitz’s heart was always facing “east” towards Jerusalem, and he too had yearnings and dreams.

But Irving was able to actualize those yearnings and dreams, for his body, soul and essence was in Jerusalem.

G-d had a partner in building Jerusalem in this world. Dr Irving Moskowitz was that blessed partner, who built the walls, homes, centres of Torah learning, communities and ‘palaces’ of Jerusalem.

Now G-d has a beautiful, graceful, humble, experienced and fully committed partner to build Yerushalayim Shel Maaleh. (Jerusalem of the Heavens)

Thank you Irving.

From the “stones” of Jerusalem, who wish to cry, mourn and also speak on this sad day.

True Jewish Independence

4 Iyyar 5776 – May 12, 2016

Several years back, I spent Yom Ha’Atzma’ut with my relatives from a charming moshav in the Negev. They live a stone’s throw from Gaza. Translated in concrete terms relating to life and limb, these are the kinds of people who have approximately 15 seconds-or less-to find cover before rockets rain down upon them. During Round 1 of the unfinished debacle of “Operation Cast Lead,” one side of the family sustained a direct hit to their house from a Grad rocket. Thank G-d, no one was harmed.

As I held the remains of two Kassam rockets, (the Grad was quickly confiscated by the IDF, and probably given to some leftist who went on to create metal peace doves out of the remains) I considered what the modern day Amalek is getting away with in our times. I was standing in the sovereign State of Israel, and yet I might as well have been standing in blood-soaked Europe. It doesn’t matter what Israel could theoretically do to these sub-humans. The unwillingness of our leadership to destroy our enemies, and their willingness to tolerate murdered Jews is unforgivable. This is the “shtetl syndrome” personified. But there is a critical difference. There were few choices in the shtetl. In Eretz Yisrael, G-d gifted us a country and a powerful army.

It is unwillingness, rather than inability to fight, which prevents our timid leaders from destroying these savages. This is not independence. This is a denial of our ability to be free from Arabs in our own country. This is Jewish weakness. This is a modern re-enactment of the sin of the spies. Our own leadership views us as grasshoppers, and often treat our lives with similar regard.

My relative’s house has long been repaired, yet the tool shed remains a testament to Arab destruction. Hundreds of holes, large and small, litter the shed, in addition to an adjoining stone wall, courtesy of shrapnel shards that pierced their walls. Some holes are at neck, skull, and torso level, and if a person was in the vicinity, they would be dead or wounded unimaginably from the shards alone.

Alone in My Head

I often feel alone on Yom Ha’Atzmaut. Don’t misunderstand me— I don’t grill burgers by myself in the backyard. The better part of Yom Ha’atzmaut is spent in the company of family and friends. We grill together, and even if the hot-dogs leave me wanting some American “Abel & Heyman” dogs, the company and camaraderie are always good. I speak of an ideological loneliness. An inability to relate to the world-view of those around me. The religious in my corner of the desert are overwhelmingly from that camp of religious mamlachtim (loyalists) whose views on Jewish governance are far from my own. My vision is that of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s teachings, a fusion of rational, action based obligations based upon Torah, and so I cannot relate to those well-intended Jews whose fervor for the day is so different from my own. Nor can I abide those who see the question of Hallel with or without a bracha as an expression or barometer of one’s Zionism, such as it is.

Their version of “Religious-Zionism” (As a halachic Jew, I hate the term) is too parve for my liking. Too positive and “pie-in-the sky,” when glaring problems demand rectification. I accept the obligation to recognize and celebrate our victory over the Arabs, yemach sh’mam. But not with blind loyalism, orchestrated ceremony, and compromising on the halachic laws of warfare and gentiles in the land. The religious do not see the problems as I see them. They have magical solutions from Rabbis I respect (some of them) but cannot follow. Many distort Jewish sources to apply the category of B’nai Noach to undeserving Arabs, as many normative yeshiva daati leumi are wont to do. So the Religious-Zionism that is popular leave me wanting a Yom Haatzmaut with more edge. With a spine. With a desire and a resolve to want true torah independence–and a willingness to fight for it.

I cannot dance when killers are freed, and when Jewish innocents are tortured and imprisoned. I cannot truly celebrate when an IDF general compares us to Germany in the 1930’s on Yom Hashoah! Or when elderly women are stabbed by Arabs in Jerusalem. I cannot endure that Har Habayit prohibits Jewish prayer, and that the Arab losers are the victors atop our sacred site. I cannot abide the unfinished work. Perhaps the greatest personal difficulty is the desire to want to fight, and the limited means at my disposal at the moment.

Nor do the secular celebrations have any connection to me, save for the loud Mizrachi music and karaoke which will wake my baby up throughout the night. The contemporary secular celebration of Yom Ha’atzma’ut is a spectacle of fireworks, party favors, and naked nationalism that blinds the eyes.  Sometimes simplicity and nonsense give way to perversion. Several years back our former notorious mayor, had a noted Israeli transsexual musician perform for the town on Yom Haatzmaut. Fortunately, I never attend these things, and so my disgust at this humiliation was second-hand. And fortunately that wicked little mayor is gone, and in her stead, we have a thoroughly decent man.

I don’t blame secular Jews. Secular Jews have a better excuse. They have no reference for a Torah perspective. The religious have much more to explain. And I speak of all different groups. Those who deny the miracles, as well as those who accept and celebrate them, but tolerate corrupt government because they view government per say as a sacred institution. Sacred in its inherent form, and not something which requires sanctification. There are of course other groups of religious Jews throughout the country whose views are equally anathema to me. For example, the religious pluralists who think that Torah and liberal democracy can be fused.

Perhaps so much of my feelings of isolation is that I am geographically far from like-minded Jews, who understand that we have unfinished business. This in a sense is why I always spend the day with certain relatives, whose views on just about everything relating to Israel are foreign to my own. They are the warmest people I know, and they embraced my transplanted family with true ahavat yisroel. If I cannot enjoy ideological commonality, I will substitute it with celebrations with the those I love who don’t even share my perspective. So I celebrate with them, and in my heart I burn for a day when true Jewish happiness fuels all Yom Haatzmaut celebrations. A Yom Haatzmaut free of Arabs murdering Jews because there will be no Arabs in Israel.

As Jews we have an obligation to thank G-d for the many undeserved miracles He performed (and continues to perform) on our behalf when the Arabs rose up to annihilate us. We are required to thank him despite the fact that some Jews spit at the heavens and scorn the gift. But I’ll celebrate Independence Day with a little more fervor when the Jewish people returns to the Torah. I’ll rejoice fully when laws of biblical warfare are resurrected in the war with the Arabs (may we see them destroyed in total). Because there is no authentic independence in Israel. We are still at war with the Arabs.

Nor would mere freedom from man be an ends in itself. Kedoshim Tihiyu. As I noted in a recent article, the only free man is the G-d fearing one concerned with the Torah. May we become free in the near future, so that the next time the chag comes around, we can refer to ourselves as being truly independent of man and men, and as genuine Servants of the Almighty.

One final point. The haunting sirens of this season do indeed resonate with me, and I have no cynicism for the custom, only for the failure of leadership to learn the lessons. It evokes all kinds of emotions. The simplicity of the blaring shriek is somewhat akin to the shofar. It is blaring. It evokes fear, the unknown, introspection, and so many others. It demands that we recall the heroism and sacrifice of sacred martyrs who died Al Kiddush Hashem. It reminds me of our accursed enemies and the mandate to obliterate evil. Thoughts of teshuva, both personal and national come to mind. I hope that our leaders will truly listen to the siren.

I am thankful to Hashem for the tremendous miracles He performed from us, and the salvation from modern day Amalekites. I acknowledge and appreciate that despite the myriad problems with our clueless and G-dless leaders, we are back in Eretz Yisrael, and we could bring Moshiach tomorrow if the Nation had the inclination to do so. Even in the muck of the negative, of the indifference, and the frustrating manifestations of Jewish weakness which stains the Nation, there are historically unprecedented positives. We are one step closer.

And so I await the day when we see true Jewish fireworks, and merit the authentic Jewish independence of the Messiah, may we see him in our times. Perhaps someday soon, the IDF will have a real man of Torah at the helm who will unshackle our soldiers and allow them to fight the enemy, in the manner that the Torah demands we fight wars. Tikkun Olam with an M-16, if you will. And on that day, perhaps there won’t be any question at all about the Halachic requirement of reciting Hallel with a brachah.

*I refrained from addressing the perverse ideology of Neturei Karta, and various off-shoots (some of them trying to be a more palpable Neturei Karta lite) who are as far from Judaism as man is from the moon. Any doctrine which permits alliances with people committed to murdering Jews, is contrary to everything Jewish, and the adherents of such a diseased way of thinking are wicked. The sins of Israeli governments (both real and imagined) do not justify their own vile actions which endanger the Am and constitute a chillul Hashem on the world’s stage. They must not be lumped with more normative chareidi approaches which reject Zionism based on their interpretation (wrong as I may see them) of Jewish sources. Those religious post-Zionist types who apologize for the NK by calling them “misguided” betray their ignorance of Torah, and speak little of themselves. The same can be said for those vulgarians who reject the moniker of “Neturei Karta” but have adopted their grotesque language with terms such as lsraHELL, Zionazis, etc., and equally un-Jewish worldviews. May Hashem open the eyes of all decent Jews to find Torah expressions to sanctify the Nation and bring Moshiach.

 

The Meaning of True Independence

4 Iyyar 5776 – May 12, 2016

{Originally posted to the Colonel’s website, Colonel Richard Kemp}

“What kind of talk is this, ‘punishing Israel?’ Are we a vassal state of yours? Are we a banana republic? Are we 14-year-olds who, if we misbehave, get our wrists slapped? Let me tell you whom this Cabinet comprises. It is composed of people whose lives were marked by resistance, fighting and suffering.”

These were the words of Prime Minister Menachem Begin delivered to the U.S. President Ronald Reagan in December 1981. Begin, one of the greatest leaders and fighters of our times, knew the meaning of true independence.

He knew that it was not about firecrackers, dancing in the streets or lighting flames. It was about standing up for yourself and submitting to no man. Declaring to the world, “this is where we stand.”

Israel’s independence was bought at a high price in Jewish blood, fighting first against the might of the British Empire and then against five powerful Arab armies which sought its destruction.

For 68 years Israelis have fought again and again to defend their independence against enemies who would subjugate their country. No other nation has struggled so long and so hard, surrounded by such unyielding hostility.

But in making their stand, Israelis have never had to stand alone. From the beginning, Jews from the U.K., the U.S., Europe, Australia, South Africa and around the world rallied to the fight for independence under the glorious banner of the Mahal. Among them were non-Jews, including a Christian soldier from my own regiment.

In the years since, and even today, the courage of their young successors, the “lone soldiers”’ of the diaspora, travelling thousands of miles from the safety of their homes to stand and fight here to preserve Israel’s independence, inspires awe and humility. As Begin said: “This is the land of their forefathers, and they have a right and a duty to support it.”

Israel’s independence has a strength that cannot be known by those who have not had to struggle for their freedom. What is the meaning of this independence?

It means that Israel’s right to exist is not to be sanctioned by the peoples of the Middle East or by the leaders of the Western world. It is to be determined only by the Jewish people who, down the millennia, have fought, suffered and died for that inalienable right.

It means that Israel is not to have its borders imposed by international bodies or by foreign states, no matter how powerful they might be. It means that Israelis are not to be dictated to about where they can and cannot settle in their land. It means that Israel is not to be told how it may or may not defend the lives of its people under the sovereign independence of the law. It means that Israel is not to be lectured or scolded about human rights by those that have no glimmer of understanding of what human rights truly are.

The civilized world has an obligation to respect this independence just as it respects the independence of other free, democratic nations.

Israel has shown mankind how a besieged nation — against all odds — can survive and flourish, decide its own destiny and unwaveringly retain its honour, its decency, its dignity, its integrity and its compassion. It was not for nothing that British Premier Winston Churchill described the Jewish people as “beyond any question, the most formidable and most remarkable race which has appeared in the world.”

Today not just Israel but the whole of civilization should celebrate the independence of the nation that continues to shine a beacon light onto that world.

The Execution of a True Palestinian Hero

2 Iyyar 5776 – May 10, 2016

Shuafat is one of the tragedies of Jerusalem. Jerusalem ambulances, garbage trucks and fire trucks cannot enter the neighborhood without being stoned. Much of it is officially an UNRWA camp where services are supposed to be provided by that organization, but UNRWA all but ignores it as well. As a result, Shuafat is a crime-ridden, drug-infested, dangerous place with open sewers, huge piles of trash and little hope. While most of it is in the Jerusalem municipal boundary, it lies outside the separation barrier – it is a failure of Zionism as well that the Israeli authorities, after many years, simply gave up on trying to control this part of Jerusalem.

Into this vacuum stepped a young man, Baha Nababta.

By all accounts, Nababta worked tirelessly to help the residents of his neighborhood. He founded a number of social institutions in Shuafat to help troubled youth. Nababta was also the head of a local, volunteer fire department that worked with tools as crude as hammers to rescue people from burning houses. He created an emergency response team with over 50 volunteers to respond to all kinds of local emergencies from snowstorms to a team of motorcyclists who could protect Israeli emergency teams who must enter the camp. He helped pave roads, get rid of garbage – essentially every service taken for granted by residents of every other urban area

Nababta was not shy about asking for help from Jerusalem authorities or from liberal Israeli organizations, asking for basic medical and firefighting equipment. His local groups received training from Jerusalem municipal firefighters and from Jerusalem medics, and from all accounts they were happy to help. His main contact on the Israeli side was Dr. Meir Margalit, a Jewish member of the far left Meretz party.

This is probably the reason he is no longer alive.

Haaretz reported last week:

Baha Nababta, a well-known social activist in the Shoafat refugee camp in northern Jerusalem, was shot to death on Monday by an unknown assailant.

The murder occurred at about 11:30 P.M. on Monday, while Nababta stood with a large group of local residents near the paving work they had initiated. Witnesses said an unknown person riding a motorbike was looking for Nababta, and when he found him he shot 10 bullets at Nababta, seven of which hit him. Nababta was rushed to hospital but died a short time later.

Camp residents said on Tuesday that they did not know who the murderer was, but thought the murder was connected to his social activism.

We don’t know who executed Baha Nababta but it seems likely that Palestinians who are against “normalization” were behind the murder.

This is the one week anniversary of the murder. The story was covered, barely, in Israeli newspapers (Jerusalem Post buried it on page 10, for example.)

Palestinian media ignored the story completely. Outside of social media I couldn’t find one news story about this murder of a prominent social worker.

His death did not receive the headlines of those who are killed while trying to murder Jews. Nababta did not have a huge funeral. His Facebook page – which was quite active – does not have one person expressing condolences after his death.

I’m sure I wouldn’t have agreed with Baha Nababta’s politics, but he deserved a huge amount of respect for actually working to help his people instead of choosing to spend his life complaining and protesting. His work was heroic and his death is a tragedy by any measure for Arabs and Jews alike.

But perhaps the bigger tragedy is that his murder has been so roundly ignored by his own people.

The Palestinian leadership and media do not want to publicize anything that cannot be blamed on Israel, because their entire existence is based on “resistance,” not on doing anything positive for their people. Nababta was guilty of the cardinal crime of “normalization” with Jews who wanted to help him and his fellow Arabs, and to Palestinians, that is unforgivable – and his murder is understandable if embarrassing to mention.

The execution of Baha Nababta, and the silence about his murder from not only Palestinians but from so-called pro-Palestinian activists, sends a message to all Arabs that working even with left-wing Jews is an unforgivable crime.

A person who should be hailed as an example to all Palestinians has been relegated to one of the many piles of garbage that he worked hard to eradicate.

Peace is impossible with a society that treats a true hero like Baha Nababta as a villain.

The Walter Bingham File – What is the True Status of Jerusalem? [audio]

2 Iyyar 5776 – May 9, 2016

Walter talks about the status of Jerusalem and you will want to hear this show!

The Walter Bingham File 08May2016 – PODCAST

The True Definition Of Freedom

20 Nisan 5776 – April 28, 2016

And I came down to save them from the hand of Egypt and to bring them forth from that land unto a good and wide land, a land flowing with milk an honey” – Exodus 3:8

 

This is how God addressed Himself to Moshe when promising to redeem the Jews from Egyptian bondage. This promise heralded their soon-to-be-achieved freedom.

Freedom is the most lauded ideal of a democratic society. We march for it, fight for it, and often die for it. Unfortunately, in seeking liberty, many try to throw off the “yoke” of a spiritually guided life. To them, religion, with all its rules and regulations, is an uncomfortable burden, incongruous with modern society. So freedom is defined as “doing as we please,” in tandem with liberty from the demands of a religious life.

The Torah’s definition of freedom affects the three realms that constitute human life: the realm of the soul, the realm of the body, and the realm of the surrounding world in which the individual lives.

The enslavement of the Jews in Egypt and their subsequent liberation operated in these three realms. First, there was spiritual enslavement in and to a country with the lowest level of moral depravity. Egyptian civilization was based of the forces of nature and natural phenomena, especially the Nile River. It hardly ever rains in Egypt, but human ingenuity developed an elaborate irrigation system that turned Egypt into a flourishing garden surrounded by deserts. This brought about a profusely idolatrous culture, characterized by the deification of the forces of nature and the powers of man, who was able to utilize these forces.

Second, there was the extreme physical slavery of hard labor. And third, there was the complete deprivation of the share of material possessions to which humans are entitled.

Likewise the liberation involves all three realms, and in the fullest measure.

First and foremost, spiritual liberation. The Jews were commanded to take lambs held sacred by the Egyptians and sacrifice them – a public demonstration of the utter worthlessness of the Egyptian cult. It was not enough to deny Egyptian idolatry in the recesses of one’s heart; one was called on to do so openly and without fear.

Second, complete physical liberation by marching out of Egypt with a “raised hand” amidst song and jubilation.

Third, regarding material possessions, the Torah relates that the Jews went forth “with great wealth.”

Harmonious and total freedom cannot be achieved through a way of life whereby the soul is subordinated to the body and both body and soul are subjugated to the material world. The superior cannot serve the inferior and be content doing so. The highest aspect of human life, the soul, will never acquiesce in subservience to the body.

True freedom can be achieved only by freeing the body from its animalistic tendencies and liberating it to serve its Creator.

As was true in ancient Egypt, many today worship the supremacy of man and his astounding accomplishments and find no place for God in this age of science. The Torah reminds us that we must “withdraw” and reject the idolatry of the land – in whatever form it expresses itself. We must recognize God’s control of the universe and human

Go East

20 Tishri 5774 – September 24, 2013

The anniversary of the Yom Kipur War always reminds one of Israeli fallibility, arrogance, and overconfidence, yet at the same time of its capacity to defy the odds and come back from the brink. It was another example of our bringing disaster upon ourselves and then fighting back to survive. After all, that is what the name “Israel” means in the Bible: “to struggle with man and God and survive”.

If I were to listen to the voices, Jewish and non-Jewish, that I hear in such examples as The New York Times, in The New York Review of Books, the intellectual and leftwing talking heads of Europe and the USA, or indeed popular left wing opinion, I would have a depressing sense of impending catastrophe. This week Peter Beinart, in The New York Review of Books, tells us that we Jews neither know, nor understand, nor feel the suffering of the Palestinians, whether under Hamas or the PLO. Ian S. Lustick goes on at length in a one-sided peroration typical of The New York Times that the lays the blame on Israel for making the Two State Solution irrelevant. They are not entirely wrong. But I tell you I am bloody fed up with people lumping all Israelis, all Jews together in their simplistic apportioning of blame, seeing things in black and white rather than in greys. Palestinians are good victims. Israelis are bad oppressors. In fact, both are both. That’s what humans are, a mixture of good and bad.

Some Israelis, some Jews are indeed intolerable racists. It is as true as is the fact that in South Africa under Apartheid there were Jews who acquiesced, who remained silent and failed their moral duty. But it is equally true that many Jews fought long and hard and at great cost to themselves, to oppose Apartheid and to promote freedom for the black population. That the ANC finally triumphed has not replaced immorality with morality, discrimination with equality. Sadly, too often those who suffer respond not by continuing the drive towards greater freedom but by grabbing all they can for themselves. This is the usual consequence of most struggles for freedom. Similarly, in Zimbabwe the relatively benign but overtly racial regime of Ian Smith was replaced by the much more evil and murderous regime of black Mugabe. Good fighters for freedom turn into very bad governors of countries. But that is the price of the struggle. And politics is dirty and messy everywhere.

The role of government is to protect its citizens and the vision of its founders. Israel was created as a state with a Jewish heritage, just as much as Muslim states were established to preserve and propagate Muslim heritage. Most of us would like to see both as tolerant and democratic societies. Israel is imperfect indeed, but it is our homeland. If we care for it we should fight to protect it and to improve it, not to undermine it. We should focus just as much on those who are working hard on reconciliation, on doing good, not just on the bad, on Syrians treated in Israeli hospitals, on Israel providing for Gaza what Egypt is not. But don’t expect this from the anti-Israel amen chorus.

So how are we expected to relate to a dysfunctional Middle East that is constantly stirred up against us by a distorted Western mentality? Surely not by capitulating to its mental diseases. I suggest we try to ignore its pathologies as best we can. But I must stress, I do not advocate cutting ourselves off from the Muslim world. The Middle East is not the only Muslim location. I do not think the divide between Judaism and Islam is either inevitable or healthy. We have far more in common with each other than we do with Western religions. To both of us, religion is not a series of theological propositions but a way of life. However if we want to heal the breach we must look further east.

It always surprises Jews to learn that the Muslims of the Far East, from India to Indonesia, from Cambodia to China, see the Arab jihadis of the Middle East in much the same way that non-Orthodox Jews view Charedim. They regard the Salafists and the Wahhabis as over the top extremists. It’s true in both cases that guilt often leads them to support the pious at arm’s length. The Far East also has its extreme and violent Islamic movements and terrorists, but the general mood of Islam is far more benign the further you get from the Middle East. It is more tolerant, less anti-West, and less fixated on blaming everyone else, especially the Jews, for their own ills. Yes, you can quote me that nasty former Malayan premier Mahathir bin Mohamad, who blamed the Jews for everything. But, thank goodness, he was not typical. I believe Israel should reduce its links with Europe with is ghastly legacy and history. It should be cultivating relations and economic involvements with India, China, Korea, and other emerging powers out in the Far East.

Daniel Goldhagen, the controversial and outspoken American historian who wrote Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, has stirred things up with his latest book about Western anti-Semitism, The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism. Anthony Julius wrote a dismissive review in the Wall Street Journal accusing Goldhagen of sloppy research and unreliable statistics, even if he agrees with the core of his thesis. But even if Goldhagen exaggerates when he says 200 million Europeans compare Israelis to Nazis, let us reduce it by half. The fact is that huge swathes of opinion in Europe and the USA are venomously opposed to Israel’s existence on principle. So who is Israel to rely on? We knew Europe would never go to war to defend the Jews. Now we have seen all too clearly that the USA cannot be relied upon to fight. It is war weary. Israel must defend it itself as best it can, both socially and militarily. It is time to look for friends elsewhere.

In addition, I believe Judaism has more in common with and is more appreciated by the religion and mysticism of the East than of the West. The West is fixated on pain, suffering, guilt, and negativity. The East has much more positive religious energy. We have been identified with the Western religious tradition for too long. We have adopted too much of this guilt and pain. We could well redress the balance. It is time to think about a new alliance, a new love affair, with the Far East for Israel and Jews in general. I only hope our present leaders, secular and religious, will not be as myopic as those of the past.

Testing And Prophecy

2 Elul 5773 – August 7, 2013

How did our ancestors distinguish a true prophet from a false one?

Unlike kings or priests, prophets did not derive authority from formal office. Their authority lay in their personality, their ability to give voice to the word of God, their self-evident inspiration. But precisely because a prophet has privileged access to the word others cannot hear, the visions others cannot see, the real possibility existed of false prophets – like those of Baal in the days of King Ahab.

What was there to prevent a fraudulent, or even a sincere but mistaken, figure, able to perform signs and wonders and move the people by the power of his words, from taking the nation in a wrong direction, misleading others and perhaps even himself?

Moses addresses this concern in our sedra:

“You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?’ If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.”

On the face of it, the test is simple: if what the prophet predicts comes to pass, he is a true prophet; if not, not. Clearly, though, it was not that simple.

The classic case is the Book of Jonah. Jonah is commanded by God to warn the people of Nineveh that their wickedness is about to bring disaster on them. Jonah attempts to flee, but fails – the famous story of the sea, the storm, and the “great fish.” Eventually he goes to Nineveh and utters the words God has commanded him to say – “Forty more days and Nineveh will be destroyed” – the people repent and the city is spared. Jonah, however, is deeply dissatisfied:

But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:1-3).

Jonah’s complaint can be understood in two ways. First, he was distressed that God had forgiven the people. They were, after all, wicked. They deserved to be punished. Why then did a mere change of heart release them from the punishment that was their due?

Second, he had been made to look a fool. He had told them that in 40 days the city would be destroyed. It was not. God’s mercy made nonsense of his prediction.

Jonah is wrong to be displeased: that much is clear. God says, in the rhetorical question with which the book concludes: “Should I not be concerned about that great city?” Should I not be merciful? Should I not forgive?

But what then becomes of the criterion Moses lays down for distinguishing between a true and false prophet: “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken”? Jonah had proclaimed that the city would be destroyed in 40 days. It wasn’t; yet the proclamation was true. He really did speak the word of God. How can this be so?

The answer is given in the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah had been prophesying national disaster. The people had drifted from their religious vocation, and the result would be defeat and exile. It was a difficult and demoralizing message for people to hear. A false prophet arose, Hananiah son of Azzur, preaching the opposite. Babylon, Israel’s enemy, would soon be defeated. Within two years the crisis would be over. Jeremiah knew that it was not so, and that Hananiah was telling the people what they wanted to hear, not what they needed to hear. He addressed the assembled people:

He said, “Amen! May the Lord do so! May the Lord fulfill the words you have prophesied by bringing the articles of the Lord’s house and all the exiles back to this place from Babylon. Nevertheless, listen to what I have to say in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people: From early times the prophets who preceded you and me have prophesied war, disaster, and plague against many countries and great kingdoms. But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true.”

Jeremiah makes a fundamental distinction between good news and bad. It is easy to prophesy disaster. If the prophecy comes true, then you have spoken the truth. If it does not, then you can say: God relented and forgave. A negative prophecy cannot be refuted – but a positive one can. If the good foreseen comes to pass, then the prophecy is true. If it does not, then you cannot say, “God changed His mind” because God does not retract from a promise He has made of good, or peace, or return.

It is therefore only when the prophet offers a positive vision that he can be tested. That is why Jonah was wrong to believe he had failed when his negative prophecy – the destruction of Nineveh – failed to come true. This is how Maimonides puts it:

“As to calamities predicted by a prophet, if, for example, he foretells the death of a certain individual or declares that in particular year there will be famine or war and so forth, the non-fulfillment of his forecast does not disprove his prophetic character. We are not to say, ‘See, he spoke and his prediction has not come to pass.’ For God is long-suffering and abounding in kindness and repents of evil. It may also be that those who were threatened repented and were therefore forgiven, as happened to the men of Nineveh. Possibly too, the execution of the sentence is only deferred, as in the case of Hezekiah.

“But if the prophet, in the name of God, assures good fortune, declaring that a particular event would come to pass, and the benefit promised has not been realized, he is unquestionably a false prophet, for no blessing decreed by the Almighty, even if promised conditionally, is ever revoked … Hence we learn that only when he predicts good fortune can the prophet be tested (Yesodei ha-Torah 10:4).

Fundamental conclusions follow from this. A prophet is not an oracle: a prophecy is not a prediction. Precisely because Judaism believes in free will, the human future can never be unfailingly predicted. People are capable of change. God forgives. As we say in our prayers on the High Holy Days: “Prayer, penitence, and charity avert the evil decree.”

There is no decree that cannot be revoked. A prophet does not foretell. He warns. A prophet does not speak to predict future catastrophe but rather to avert it. If a prediction comes true it has succeeded. If a prophecy comes true it has failed.

The second consequence is no less far-reaching. The real test of prophecy is not bad news but good. Calamity, catastrophe, disaster prove nothing. Anyone can foretell these things without risking his reputation or authority. It is only by the realization of a positive vision that prophecy is put to the test.

So it was with Israel’s prophets. They were realists, not optimists. They warned of the dangers that lay ahead. But they were also, without exception, agents of hope. They could see beyond the catastrophe to the consolation. That is the test of a true prophet.

The Advantages of Being in the ‘Israeli Bubble’

30 Av 5773 – August 6, 2013

The Forward has an article claiming that our “Israeli Bubble” is dangerous and shields us from reality.

Ironic, but also predictable. The effectiveness of the barrier is twofold: It has stopped terrorist attacks, and it also has made it possible to live in (West) Jerusalem or in Tel Aviv and pretend that the Occupation doesn’t exist.

Unfortunately, this is a delusion — a bubble — with severe consequences. South Jerusalem, after all, is home not just to the German Colony’s liberals, but also to the neocons at the Shalem Center, now Shalem College, who for decades have peddled the idea that there is no hope for peace with the Palestinians, and (in the words of Daniel Gordis, one of Shalem’s most articulate spokesmen) we should settle in for 100 years of occupation. Regrettable, Rabbi Gordis says, but inevitable.

This is a self-fulfilling prophecy, of course. Claim that there’s no Palestinian partner, undermine those Palestinians who are, and lo and behold, soon there will be no Palestinian partner. If you will it, the 100-year war will be no dream.

But the real delusion is deeper still: that somehow, the rest of the world will sit idly by and allow this situation to worsen, year after year, decade after decade, without finally turning on Israel. In the bubble of southern Jerusalem, Israel is a complex but miraculous place where kids can play in the street, the Jews have a home and bus drivers read Shakespeare. The matzav, the “situation” with the Palestinians, is an unfortunate side-note to an otherwise complicated, fascinating, problematic, multi-faceted, beautiful, tragic enterprise in Jewish self-determination.

Outside the bubble, however, the Palestinian “situation” is not a side-note but the primary tune. It’s everything else about Israel that is merely secondary. To most of the world, Israel is defining itself by the Occupation, and all the rest is commentary.

I disagree.  I think we see things much more clearly from here.  There are no distortions.  When you look into a “bubble” from the outside you won’t get an accurate view.

Over twenty years ago, when one of my daughters was looking for a place to do Sherut Le’umi, National Service, she and a few friends went to a city they considered far from the then intifada and politics of the yishuvim (Jewish communities in YESHA, Judea, Samaria and Gaza) they lived in.  They just wanted what they imagined to be a “normal” place.  Imagine their surprise when the greatest topic of conversation at the Shabbat table was  happening in YESHA.  At home they didn’t hear as much.

Here in Shiloh we go on with our lives.  The parents of young children are worrying about who will be teaching their kids next year and rushing around to buy books, clothes and school supplies, just like everyone else.

In Yafiz, (and Rami Levy,) Sha’ar Binyamin, where I work, Jews and Arabs are jostling around together shopping.  We’re living proof that people like Jay Michaelson who wrote the Forward article haven’t a clue.  They’re letting their ideology distort their vision.

The calm here isn’t a lie.  The Left and all those who claim that the Arabs will explode in violence aren’t objectively predicting.  They are instigating and encouraging Arab violence by making excuses and rationales for the Arabs.

I’m on the inside.  I work with Arabs.  And if the world, including Israeli Leftists, media, politicians, academics and community workers would just leave things alone we would eventually achieve a true peace.  It will take a long, long time, but it can happen.

True peace can’t be negotiated.  True peace comes from the inside and works its way out.  Faux peace, implemented by “treaties” is external and wears off, like the “democracy” of the “Arab Spring,” which has been proven a deadly farce.

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