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January 17, 2017 / 19 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Unity’

Zealotry At The Expense Of Unity

Friday, July 29th, 2016

We live in a time not just of paradox but also of extreme impulses that call to mind Yeats: “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

There seems to be no ballast at the core of our experience, nothing to root us and give rational context to the local, national, and international forces pulling us farther and farther apart from one another.

Black Lives Matter. Angry police unions. KKK. Occupy Wall Street. ISIS. Hamas. The tenor of our debate is fierce and violent. We are pulled to extremes. “Are you with us or against us?” And remember – those “against” us have no redeeming views; they are as devils. They are the enemy.

Would that the Jewish community was not also victim of this violent dissension. But it is. The idea that “we are one people, one nation” is mocked each and every day, by our own words and behavior.

Contradiction defines us. Even as Jewish learning exists on a level never before known, the degree of Jewish ignorance and secularization is astounding. The numbers of ba’alei teshuvah grow, even as thousands leave the fold. Greater levels of observance. Greater neglect. More Jews eat shmurah matzah even as greater numbers of Jews eat chametz.

More commitment. More defection. More hope. More crisis. Fifty-plus years ago, news about Orthodoxy focused almost entirely on its decay and “certain” disappearance. However, by 1972 the sociologist Marshall Sklare would write, “In less than three decades Orthodoxy has transformed its image of that of a dying movement to one whose strength and opinions must be reckoned with in any realistic appraisal of the Jewish community.”

The political scientist Charles Liebman concluded his exhaustive study Orthodoxy in American Jewish Life by declaring, “The only remaining vestige of Jewish passion in America resides in the Orthodox community, and it is passion and dedication, not psychoanalytic studies of divorce, which will stem the tide of intermarriage.”

So much hope! And yet at the same time, so much crisis, including the existential threats of intermarriage, assimilation, and disaffection with Israel.

One might suggest that each generation bears its own conflict and paradox. True. But in the past, the threats against our people and existence came from without. Today, we suffer an inner crisis, emanating not from those with whom we may never agree but rather a crisis festering in the core of our greatest hope, the Orthodox movement.

In light of the Pew Report’s findings regarding the Orthodox community’s growing strength and the unfortunate ongoing decline of the non-observant community, it would seem logical that the Orthodox would focus their resources, strengths, and talents l’hagdil Torah ul’ahadira – on unity and strength.

After all, every segment of the Orthodox community – modern, centrist, yeshivish, chassidish, and Litvish – establishes a solid foundation for our children and students. Yet, ironically, the more successful and accomplished we become, the more petty, splintered, and irrational we become. We grow suspicious of one another, intolerant, and worse. A vise of zealousness has gripped so many within the observant community. Our fervor has not lifted us up but has reduced us to smallness.

* * * * *

I ask, for example: Why the approbation in certain circles toward Modern Orthodoxy? Is Modern Orthodoxy a philosophy of compromise, as some would have it, or an authentic version of Judaism, as we know it?

Or take, as another case in point, the Orthodox response and reference, or lack of it, to the state of Israel. For the first time in two thousand years the Jewish people have regained statehood and sovereignty in the land promised by God. The wandering and persecuted Jew has finally arrived home. We witness an ingathering of exiles from Russia to Ethiopia, from the far four corners of the earth.

The city of Jerusalem is rebuilt. The desert has indeed once again begun to bloom. For the first time in millennia, we direct our national destiny, govern our affairs, defend our borders, speak our language, and renew our Torah, culture, and history. That this miracle would follow the greatest churban and tragedy in Jewish history, the Holocaust, is astonishing. The gates of Auschwitz closed and the gates of Haifa opened.

Could there ever be a greater confirmation of the Divine Covenant, of our eternal relationship with God and Torah? With the rebirth of Israel in 1948, not only was our great hope lifted but simultaneously the head of every Jew everywhere “in all their dwelling places.”

Without Israel, the Jewish people remains naked and vulnerable in a harsh and hating world. Israel is fundamental to who we are as Jews living in the twenty-first century.

We are once again a people in possession of the land God promised us. And yet the majority of Orthodox Jews in America acts as though nothing significant occurred on May 14, 1948.

They refuse to acknowledge God’s out­stretched arm. They reject the opportunity to celebrate and rejoice on new Yamim Tovim in thanks to the God of time and history. They rarely, if ever, mention the commandment of aliyah.

In Israel there is much antipathy in large segments of the Orthodox world toward those who love, support, and sacrifice for our homeland. Too many Orthodox Jews who serve in Israel’s military are anything but respected by their communities.

Haredi soldiers are regularly confronted by groups of haredi children and adults screaming the derogatory term “hardak” (a slur that demeans their faithfulness while at the same time evokes the Hebrew word for “germ”) yelling at them to leave the neighborhood or shul.

“One nation, one people”?

That modern Israel may not yet be the fulfillment of all Messianic dreams does not – must not – mean that we are to deny it, disdain it, or reject it.

* * * * *

So how should the Orthodox Jew who lives and loves Torah and who must walk modern streets conduct his life? I always refer to the precious words of Rabbi Jacob Rabinowitz, zt”l, who addressed this question clearly:

“We can expect a feeling of love for all Jews, whatever their background, whatever their status. There will be those whom we will applaud, those whom we will oppose, those who will give us pain, even make us cry. But we will try never to forget that we are one and that the inner door should never be closed. And we will keep an outer door, to the outside world, open as well. To be sure, it will have a screen. Not everything is needed or wanted. But it is, after all, God’s world and we live in it, not despite it.”

But we see too many in the Orthodox community using their fervor to build walls rather than open gateways. They are indeed zealous, but what is the nature of their zealotry? And what must be our response to this zealousness and extremism?

In Parshat Pinchas we learn of Pinchas’s zealotry. When he killed Zimri and Kosbi, a great controversy was unleashed among the people. Were his actions correct? Were they murderous? Ultimately, we learn that his zealotry was correct, as God rewarded him with “the covenant of eternal kahuna” and the “covenant of peace.”

Much about what he did is anathema to us, as it was to his contemporaries. He killed a man without trial or warning, without testimony, and in defiance of all judicial procedure as prescribed by Torah. In short, he took the law into his own hands.

The Jerusalem Talmud states that Pinchas earned the approbation of Moshe and the elders. One of the Talmudic sages goes so far as to say that Pinchas would have been excommunicated had not the Holy Spirit come forth and declared, V’hayta to brit k’hunat olam.

So how do we, citizens in a modern world seemingly defined by zealotry and extremism, distinguish zeal from the “pious” face of hate?

The only measure we have that differentiates zealousness from extremism is that zealousness is rooted in the authentic and genuine interests of God’s glory. Extremism, though it might appear to be the same as zealousness, is always weighted with baser motives.

Rabbi Baruch Epstein speaks of the distinction this way: “Such a deed must be animated by a genuine, unadulterated spirit of zeal to advance the glory of God. In this case, who can tell whether the perpetrator is not really prompted by some selfish motive, maintaining that he is doing it for the sake of God, when he has actually committed murder? That was why the sages wished to excommunicate Pinchas, had not the Holy Spirit testified that his zeal for God was genuine.”

What are the motives of the zealot? How can we interpret a man’s motives? After all, it is only God who can see into a man’s heart. For Jews – among whom oneness is paramount and the community is holy – there is a way. Does the zealot seek to separate himself from the community or does he remain b’tocham – “among them”? Pinchas, even in his anger, zeal, and defiance continued to place himself within the total community.

Another zealous man who acted for the community was Eliyahu. Ultimately, he is called upon to guarantee his unswerving commitment and uncompromising love for the Jewish nation by being an agent for its ultimate redemption.

Until that final redemption, we Jews must cultivate, to reiterate the words of Rabbi Rabinowitz, a “feeling of love for all Jews, whatever their background, whatever their status…. We will try never to forget that we are one and that the inner door should never be closed.”

Those in the Orthodox community who build walls, who condemn rather than teach and redeem, who dare demean the crowning event of the modern Jewish world – the reestablishment of Israel as a Jewish homeland – must look into their hearts and ask themselves: Are we like Pinchas? Is our zealousness true?

Do they seek to protect and reward the oneness of the Jewish community? Do they seek to open doors or do they wish to build walls?

Let their answer be their judge.

Rabbi Eliyahu Safran

A Rainbow of Fun And Unity

Monday, July 11th, 2016

What could possess 500 normally sane women and girls to lace up their running shoes and show up at a Monsey area park for a 5K run at 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning ready to be splattered with rainbows of color by a bunch of trigger-happy individuals armed with fully-loaded paint guns? Chesed 24/7, an organization that has been providing a boatload of services to the Jewish community, including programming for the developmentally-disabled for more than 20 years.

Originally founded to serve residents of New Square, Chesed 24/7 has grown over the years to serve the broader Jewish community and currently stocks hospitality rooms at over a dozen area hospitals with freshly-prepared foods, prepackaged meals, snacks, Jewish reading materials, a refrigerator, meat and dairy microwaves and Shabbos warmers. Other services include hospital shuttles, community medicine chests, a 24-hour hotline, a lending library, a mother’s milk bank, a medical equipment gemach, meals for the sick, elderly or homebound and senior outreach services, with an army of volunteers cheerfully donating their time to help others. Share 24/7, a dedicated division serving the developmentally-disabled, provides residential and respite programs, retreats and habilitation as well vocational and case management services.

All of those programs have to get funded somehow and, after its successful debut last year, Chesed 24/7’s Color Run has fast become a much-anticipated annual event. Having missed last year’s race, I vowed to join in the fun this time around, and while I am sure there were those who trained daily, I confess that my pre-race prep skewed more towards sartorial concerns given that I planned on walking, not running. Should I sacrifice my wear-everywhere black skirt to the cause? And which sheitel was I going to risk?Sandy-070816-Blond

Sunday June 26th was one of those picture-perfect summer days and it was a spectacular 75 degrees when I got to Eugene Levy Memorial Park bright and early, the number 364 pinned to my official Color Run t-shirt and my camera (hopefully) safely ensconced in a Ziploc bag. I was ready to face the music, or, in this case, the paint.

With the race countdown clock at 45 minutes, the atmosphere was already electric with excited participants pinning numbers to their shirts, scooping up their Chesed 24/7 water bottles, having their faces painted and chatting with friends. It was heartwarming to see the wide variety of people who showed up to show their support from all over Monsey, Passaic and Queens. The littlest walkers looked to be not more than eight years old, with participants ranging upward to sneaker-clad bubbies, and one mother pushing a double stroller – no small feat on some of the steeper hills. Dressed in long sleeves, short sleeves and everything in between and in skirts of varying lengths, participants reflected Monsey’s diverse landscape, with everyone coming together to raise money for a very worthy cause, sponsored by Junk Boyz Preservation and two dozen other local businesses.

Sandy-070816-BrunetteBy 9:45 the (of course) female DJ was already cranking up the music and the pre-race prep was in full swing, with lots of enthusiastic singing and dancing and sunglasses for all, courtesy of sponsor Wesley Eye Care. Suffice it to say, those shades did not stay white for long, because the minute the first runners burst through the colorful crepe paper starting gate, the paint was flying fast and furious – cheerful volunteers squirted away, dousing everyone in sight with ammunition from their guns, which were loaded with paint-filled soda bottles.

While there were those who chose to avoid the paint, I wasn’t one of them. I mean, half the fun of the color run is getting shpritzed and I did, from head to toe. Along the way, there were plenty to cheer us on throughout the course: decorative drawings in sidewalk chalk on the path and signs that read “Dance for Chesed 24/7,” “We don’t sweat, we sparkle” and my favorite, the confrontational yet motivational “My mascara runs faster than you!” Also dotting the course, in addition to the trigger-happy paint maniacs, were kiddie pools filled with water bottles, volunteers handing out ice pops and plenty of fun music to help keep the pace.

Sandy Eller

MK Glick Gets 93,000 Signatures Supporting Jerusalem’s Unity

Monday, June 6th, 2016

MK Rabbi Yehuda Glick (Likud) on Sunday received more than 93,000 signatures from supporters of Israel worldwide affirming the Jerusalem Covenant, in honor of Jerusalem Liberation Day. The covenant, proclaiming the eternal unity of Jerusalem and its status as the Biblical and political capital of Israel, was presented to the Knesset’s newest member by NGO Israel365 founder Rabbi Tuly Weisz.

“This is so exciting, holding a book with almost 100,000 signatures of people from all over the world who signed their name on the Jerusalem Covenant,” Glick said, adding, “Jerusalem is the city of peace, and here we see the words of the prophets materializing and becoming a reality, all nations coming together and signing the Jerusalem Covenant between God and Jerusalem and the world.”

The printed Jerusalem Covenant / Courtesy

The printed Jerusalem Covenant / Courtesy

The Jerusalem Covenant was originally written in 1992 by Israeli Supreme Court Deputy Chief Justice Rabbi Menachem Elon to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification. It was intended as a renewal of the original Biblical covenant between God and the people of Israel. In 2013, Israel365 launched a project to bring the Jerusalem Covenant to the hearts of Israel supporters worldwide. In its first year, the initiative garnered 10,000 signatures; the number has doubled annually ever since, reaching more than 93,000 this year. Signatories hail from more than 100 countries, from Albania to Zimbabwe.

Each year, the printed collection of signatures, bound together in a book, is presented to a different MK: last year it was Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud). The Covenant was given to MK Glick this year in recognition of his work to reconnect the Jewish people with the Temple Mount. Glick blessed the endeavor, saying he hopes to see a million signatures when the next issue comes out, by the end of the jubilee year. “That would be the opening of a new era,” he surmised.

Rabbi Weisz noted that “signing the Jerusalem Covenant gives Israel’s supporters a chance to make their voices heard, and to tell the world that Jerusalem is, and always will be, the Biblical heritage of the Jewish people.”

Click here to sign the Jerusalem Covenant.


Netanyahu Invites Liberman to Meet on Unity Government

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu party chairman and MK Avigdor Liberman were scheduled to meet at 4 pm Wednesday to discuss a return to a Likud government.

Liberman denied reports that he met last week with the prime minister to discuss support for Yisrael Beytenu sponsored legislation.

Media reports also alleged Liberman was offered the defense portfolio – which might account for the tensions between Netanyahu and current Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon – but Liberman said Netanyahu made no offers.

Liberman set three conditions for entering the coalition, which he shared with journalists at a news conference Wednesday morning. The former minister of foreign affairs said his party would demand the defense portfolio, imposition of the death penalty for terrorist murderers, and pension reforms.

“I heard many times in the media that they offered us defense and the death penalty… we never heard any such offer,” Liberman told reporters.

“If it is true that they are offering [the] defense [ministry], the death penalty and pension reform, that is indeed a respectable offer, and there is something to talk about. But we won’t conduct negotiations in the dead of night, or via secret deals.

“The prime minister has my phone number… we haven’t ruled out anything, but it needs to be serious.”

Hana Levi Julian

Netanyahu and Herzog Meet to Discuss ‘Unity’ Coalition Amid Labor Party Backlash

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

By Jonathan Benedek/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Opposition leader and Zionist Union faction Chairman Isaac Herzog met on Sunday night to discuss the prospects of establishing a national unity government, according to a report by Israel’s Channel 2.

The meeting took place despite fierce backlash from members of Herzog’s Labor party and his political allies, who consider joining Netanyahu a betrayal, and recent polls showing Herzog’s support plummeting.

“I am not deterred by polls like these, which are about momentary fads,” said Herzog in comments to a closed conference aired on Tuesday by Israel Army Radio. “When checking them thoroughly, we can see that most of the public does not know what they mean, and still gives 30% support to the move, most of whom are from the bloc that I lead rather than the bloc on the right.”

Herzog explained last week that he will join Netanyahu’s coalition if he is given the “mandate” to deal with serious issues facing the country, including “to separate from the Palestinians” and “to make the United States and Europe our allies again.”

MK Shelly Yachimovich, a former Labor party head, is one of several of party members to strenuously object to a national unity government.

“This was an offer that should have been rejected with contempt long ago,” Yachimovich wrote last week in her weekly newsletter.

“It wouldn’t be a unity government,” she added. “It would be a right-wing government in every way, with Labor creeping in without conditions to get portfolios and positions.”

Opposition to a national unity government has also been pushed by members of the Coalition, including Likud MK Yoav Kisch.

“A narrow government that is faithful to settlements is better than a broad government lacking in values,” said Kisch last Thursday, implicitly claiming that a unity government with the Zionist Union would undermine the government’s ability to continue construction in Judea and Samaria.

“The very act of negotiating with Netanyahu is political profiteering and job trading. It’s disgraceful and constitutes a betrayal of the public trust,” Labor party MK Stav Shafir commented on Sunday.

Herzog dismissed such objections during a private meeting with Labor party activists in a recording aired Sunday on Israel’s Channel 10 news.

“If we can speak with Mahmoud Abbas, we can speak with Netanyahu,” Herzog said, referring to the president of the Palestinian Authority.

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Shiloh Musings: National Unity Government? UGH!

Monday, May 16th, 2016

I think we all know that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has really wanted a national unity government for a long, long time. I can see his point, but I’m happier with the status quo, and that’s the same reason why he wants an expanded government coalition.

Bibi wants a national unity government, because his narrow, bare minimum 61 out of 120 MK coalition is too tight to allow him to make any policy changes. That’s, davka, why I like it. I hate to think what he and Leftist Herzog have up their sleeves when putting them together.

Arutz 7 claims they’re negotiating…

Report: Netanyahu offers Zionist Union nine gov’t ministries
Unity gov’t talks continue apace, as sources close to the prime minister say he’s made a very generous offer to opposition leader Herzog.

Lately, Isaac Buji Herzog has been making statements that give the impression he has moved towards the Right, meaning Center. And since Bibi has been doing the same from the Right, their positions are meeting/similar in some cases. I guess they are now following the same game plan…

It means that next elections there will be nothing to choose between; both large parties will be pretty much the same. Granted that the MKs aren’t, but they don’t run the show.

If Herzog bites, then will Tsipi come along? And will Bennett remain in the coalition?

What do you think?

Batya Medad

Israeli Envoy Tells European Union, NATO, ‘Together We Are Stronger’

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

Israeli envoy to the European Union and NATO, David Walzer, said in a statement on Friday that the strength to fight terrorism and to find the cures to deadly diseases can be found in unity.

“Fighting against terrorism is not enough,” said Walzer in a statement quoted by the European Jewish Press. “We need to cooperate in all areas, in showing up together in combating cancer, in research, space, desalination of water in Africa…

“Together we will be stronger to cope with other problems,” he said.

“I want the Europeans to think of their future together with our future,” he added. “We are one family.”

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israeli-envoy-tells-european-union-nato-together-we-are-stronger/2016/05/08/

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