Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Yishai Fleisher Show: Samsonite

Rabbi Ari Kahn: Parashat Naso - Authentic Holiness

Palestinians: Americans Now Legitimate Targets

by Bassam Tawil
  • Ultimately, it is all about money. The Palestinian Authority is desperate for US financial aid; without it the Palestinian leadership would not be able to survive. So the Palestinians are hoping to extort protection money from the Americans. It is like saying, "You see what will happen to you if you stop funding me? It could always get worse for you. I suggest that you restore my accountability-free funding, and perhaps I will see to it that you do not get hurt."
  • The Americans should call the Palestinian bluff and send a warning to the Palestinian leadership that there will be consequences for their rhetoric and actions if they do not cease the incitement and brainwashing. The US should use the money as leverage to demand this from the Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority needs your money and you have the right to demand something good in return for it. There is no reason why any American should be funding the same Palestinian propaganda machine that is inciting not only against Israel, but also against the US and its citizens.

Now it is official: Palestinians view the US as an enemy. Anti-US rhetoric comes from Palestinians representing all walks of life -- from President Mahmoud Abbas to ordinary citizens in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Some Palestinians even see US citizens and officials as "legitimate targets" for violent assaults. Pictured: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (Photo by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)

There is a new development in Palestinian hatred of the Trump administration: the Palestinian leaders' verbal attacks on the US are now being translated into acts of violence against US delegations visiting Palestinian communities in the West Bank.

The Palestinian campaign against the US began in December 2017, when President Donald Trump made his announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and escalated after he announced that the US embassy in Tel Aviv would be moved to Jerusalem.

The anti-US rhetoric has come from Palestinians representing all walks of life -- from the most senior, including President Mahmoud Abbas, to ordinary citizens in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and from secular groups such as the ruling Fatah faction to extremist Islamist organizations such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Continue Reading Article

Immortal Bulls

by Rabbi Ben Tzion Spitz

Higher than the question of our duration is the question of our deserving. Immortality will come to such as are fit for it, and he would be a great soul in future must be a great soul now. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

As part of the consecration ceremonies and rituals that surrounded the establishment of the Tabernacle in the desert, the princes of the tribes of Israel donated to the Levites twelve bulls along with six wagons to be pulled by them. These wagons, pulled by a pair of oxen each, enabled the transport and delivery of the materials required for the service to be done in the Tabernacle.

Rabbeinu Bechaye on Numbers 7:3 (Naso) quotes a Midrash showing Moses, the ultimate negotiator vis-à-vis God, exhibiting some concern about these animals. Moses is quoted as basically saying, “God, what if one of these bulls die? One of the wheels of the wagons would break, then the sacrifice of the princes would be nullified, and the service of the Tabernacle would become void!”

God responds to Moses: “Moses, you’re right! Therefore, these bulls will live forever.”

The Midrash doesn’t leave well enough alone with that. In typical Talmudic fashion, the Rabbis have a debate as to how long the bulls of the Tabernacle lived. The Sages state that the bulls lived until the construction of the first Temple in Jerusalem (over 480 years later), when King Solomon offered them as sacrifices in that consecration ritual. Rabbi Meir, however, disagrees, and states that the Tabernacle bulls continue to live to this day, that they never aged, never got any blemish and never got ill.

Rabbeinu Bechaye draws out an additional lesson from the above Midrash. He states that if these bulls, these simple creatures, gained eternal life by merely being beasts of burden around the holy work of the Tabernacle, then how much more so are we assured of eternal life by attaching ourselves to God, the Eternal, the Creator of the universe.

May we always be attached to God and to holy work, as simple or as menial as it might be.

Shabbat Shalom.

To Bless His People Israel with Love

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

G-d introduces the priestly blessing by saying, “This is how you must bless the Israelites” (Numbers 6:23). Rashi comments, “Bless them in such a way that everyone hears it -- Not hurriedly or hastily, but devoutly, with a full heart.”

The relationship between two people can be discerned not just by what they say to each other, but by how they say it, by the style and spirit in which the words are spoken. Such factors reveal a speaker’s attitude, as in our morning prayers: “All accept the rule of the kingdom of heaven, one from the other... in serene spirit.” Indeed, the kohen who is commanded to bless the Jewish People must do so lovingly, for the kohen’s role is to show Israel benevolence, to shower them with bounty and goodness, and to strengthen their spirit. All this is possible only through love. Just as in education, the secret of success is abundant love between parent and child and between child and teacher, so too, abundance and goodness grace the Jewish People through the kohanim blessing them with love. G-d responds to them in accordance with their love, as Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato explains: “The greater one’s love for Israel, the greater love G-d shows one” (Mesilat Yesharim).

Today, Israel are in great need of the priestly blessing. We also greatly need to follow in the path of Aaron the Kohen Gadol [high priest], who “loved peace and pursued it, loved his fellow man and brought him near to the Torah” (Pirkei Avot Ch. 1:12). Through increasing our love and faith, may we merit salvation and complete redemption, speedily in our day. Amen!

Looking forward to complete salvation,
Shabbat Shalom.

Modesty Leads to Torah

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

Sefer Bamidbar opens: "Hashem spoke to Moshe in the Wilderness of Sinai." (Bamidbar 1:1) What is the previous verse? "These are the commandments that Hashem commanded Moshe to Bnei Yisrael on Mt. Sinai." (Vayikra 27:34) Chazal comment in Yalkut Shimoni (I:684):

At the time that Bnei Yisrael received the Torah, the nations of the world were jealous of them. They said: Why are these worthy of drawing closer [to G-d] than all the [other] nations?G-d said to them: Bring your genealogical books just as Bnei Yisrael bring, as it says, "They established their genealogy according to their families." This is what it says, "These are the commandments," and adjacent to it, "Count the heads" – they merited to take the Torah only on account of the genealogy.

Why were the nations jealous; who stood in their way? After all, G-d went around to all the nations and they refused the accept the Torah?!

The sefer G'lilei Zahav explains this issue based on a Midrash in Parshat Naso (Rabbah 13:3):

"A man's pride will bring him down low" (Mishlei 29:23) – this is [Mt.] Tavor and Carmel, who came from the end of the world, proud to say, "We are high and G-d will give the Torah on us.""But a lowly spirit will support his honor" – this is Sinai that lowered itself to say, "I am low." Therefore, G-d placed His honor on it, and gave the Torah upon it, and it merited all this honor, as it says, "G-d descended upon Mt. Sinai."

Chazal taught us that one who is haughty cannot receive the Torah. Only one who has the traits of his Master, to despise haughtiness and choose the trait of humility and low-spiritedness can receive the Torah. Thus, it says in Masechet Megillah (29a): "Why do you prance, O you mountains of majestic peaks" - Why do you want to adjudicate with Sinai? All of you are blemished relative to Sinai ... Rav Ashi said: This teaches that one is haughty is blemished." A haughty person who learns Torah – it does not remain with him. Chazal also say (Ta'anit 7b): Why is the Torah compared to water? Just as water leaves a high place and goes to a low place, so, too, words of Torah are not upheld other than in one whose mind is low-spirited.

This is the nature of Israel that they inherited from their forefathers: "Not because you are more numerous than all the peoples did Hashem desire you and choose you, for you are the fewest of all the peoples." (Devarim 7:7) Chazal taught: I desire you – because even when I give you greatness you minimize yourselves.

The Holy and the Mundane

by HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Beit El

Dedicated to the memory of R. Avraham ben-tziyon ben shabtai

Our sages of Blessed Memory compared the Sin of the Golden Calf with the plight of the unfaithful wife, the "Sotah", that appears in this week’s Torah portion. Immediately following the Giving of the Torah - Matan Torah - after the wedding of the Community of Israel with the Holy One Blessed be He, we, the nation of Israel, "went astray." Just as the Torah mandates that the Sotah be made to drink a special liquid as part of the process of determining her guilt, Moshe Rabeinu obligated the Jews - in the wake of the sin of the Golden Calf - to drink a special liquid mixture. Whomever had participated in the sin of the Calf was smitten as a result.

What was unique about the "Sotah" water? How did it determine whether or not a particular woman - suspected of infidelity - was truly unfaithful to her husband?

To understand the dynamic at work here, we should note that the liquid was composed of water, "Mayim Chayim", dust from the Tabernacle ("Mishkan"), and crushed parchment from a scroll on which several verses and the name of God were written. All of the ingredients were mixed together into a holy drink; if an unfaithful wife partook of it, she would be smitten. A process, described graphically by the Torah, begins - ultimately leading to her tragic death.

The procedure of the Sotah teaches us that holiness and moral turpitude, spiritual impurity, simply cannot live under the same roof. Thus, when they confront one another, there is a clash - a sort of "explosion" - that leads to the death of the sinner. If the woman turns out not to have sinned in the first place, if she has continued to live a holy, moral life, she becomes a beneficiary of additional holiness: Thus, the Torah promises, if she had earlier been barren, she now, after drinking this unique mixture, will be able to conceive and give birth to a child.

We, as Jews devoted to serving God, should be committed yet cautious not to attempt to rise too quickly on the path towards holiness; excessive tension between a newly-found holy lifestyle and the Jew who wishes to absorb this holiness, may well bring about an "explosion." This is what occurred to most of the four rabbis who entered the mystical "orchard" (see Shir Hashirim Rabba 1:1): Three of them were harmed in one way or another as a result of that experience, since they were not sufficiently prepared for their encounter with holiness. Only Rabbi Akiva, who made sure to prepare himself for that event, "entered and exited in peace" - and was, like the "faithful wife", deserving of an extra level of holiness over and above that which he possessed before the mystical encounter.

The Nazirite, or "Nazir", is a holy man. With the laws of the Nazir, the Torah provides an avenue for a Jew to rise to higher levels of kedusha (holiness) should he so choose. A Nazir is nevertheless warned not to permit anything to impinge upon his newly-acquired status. He may not, therefore, allow himself to be defiled through contact with a corpse; he must let his hair grow long, and must not drink wine.

The Jewish approach to wine is two-fold. On the one hand, we are told by King David in the book of Tehilim (Psalms) that "wine gladdens a man’s heart." Simcha, or joy, is an expression of completeness, says the great Maharal of Prague. Wine is used as a libation on the altar and is also the choice drink for saying Kiddush on Shabbat each week. One the other hand, excessive consumption of wine leads to drunkenness, to a dulling of the senses, and to an intensification of man’s animal drives.

Our understanding of the Nazir also reflects this dichotomy: >From one angle, he is considered holy, but from another perspective, he is a sinner. (Talmud, Tractate Ta’anit 11a) There are times when an ascetic approach is appropriate. This was the case during our lengthy exile, when we lived outside of our Land; asceticism, a removal of ourselves from the physical world, was a crucial aspect of service of God. Since we have returned to our Land, however, to the source of our national life, we are bidden to return to an approach that stresses not separation from - but sanctification of - our material reality . In this more holistic view, anchored in our return to Eretz Yisrael, Kedusha is attained chiefly through our elevation of the physical world...

Ascetics and Aesthetics

by Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

physical environment of the world that we live in. As I have already written many times before, Judaism abhors extremism. It seeks a balanced life style in line with the commandments and value system of the Torah. As such, as in the case of the nazir who abstains from wine and other human pleasures during his period of nezirut, the Torah asks him to bring a sin-offering at the end of the nezirut period for having voluntarily foregone the drinking of wine and his abstinence from the pleasures of human society generally during this period of nezirut. The Talmud teaches us that the great High Priest of Israel, Shimon HaTzadik, found only one case of nezirut in his long reign as being High Priest as being truly justified and purely motivated by a desire for greater holiness. The Torah does not preach asceticism as a way of life. It looks for the proper balance in life between wanton hedonism on one hand and hermit-like behavior on the other hand. It is conscious that it is often difficult to find the perfect balance in the middle at all times and that therefore adjustments have to be made according to the circumstances and nature of one’s society and times. In a generation of immorality – sotah – a tilt towards asceticism may be justified. But the Torah makes it clear that this is not ideal norm in Jewish society.

In the high Middle Ages, asceticism became a way of life amongst the Christian clergy and to a certain extent even amongst its masses. Self-flagellation, hair shirts, and other means of pain and privation became the norm of religion then. Though the Talmud ordains days of private fasting as legitimate, there is no reference there to any form of physical self-mortification. One’s body is to be treated with respect and gentility and not to be abused. However, perhaps due to the influence of the times on the Jews as well, we do find that in the Middle Ages, Jewish pietists did prescribe forms of ascetic behavior as being instrumental in obtaining forgiveness for sins committed. Kabbalistic thought oftentimes reinforced this behavior pattern, though it was never widely adopted in the Jewish world. The numerous false messiahs that arose in the Jewish world always tended towards ascetic behavior, sometimes inexplicably mingled with wild hedonism and debauchery. In later times, extreme adherents of the Mussar movement also engaged in a type of asceticism in their personal lives, though again this never became the norm in this movement, let alone in Jewish society generally. The line between restraint in one’s behavior and asceticism was sometimes difficult to find but it was always present in Jewish society. In short, the pursuit of pure asceticism was not felt to be in consonance with Jewish values and a Torah way of life. However, in a generation of unbridled hedonism such as ours, a measured small dose of asceticism would seem to be proper for balanced Torah living.

The Torah encourages aestheticism. Beauty, design, harmony, cleanliness are all part of a Torah way of life. The appreciation of the world that exists around us only reinforces our belief and gratitude towards the Creator of the universe. Beautiful buildings have always been part of Jewish tradition from the times of the Holy Temples through the grand synagogue buildings that exist in our current Jewish world. Art has gained great ground in the Jewish society and environmental issues are on the Jewish horizon. An appreciation of the aesthetic qualities of life can only contribute to the wonder of faith which is the basis of Jewish life. During the long exile of the Jewish people there were many times when aesthetics were neglected simply because of poverty, persecution and the bigotry of the host countries. The non-Jewish world resented greatly any form of special beauty in Jewish society. Jewish clothing was proscribed, synagogues were to be obscure and plain and the poverty of the Jews destroyed any true sense of appreciation of aesthetic norms and creative artistry. In modern times this situation has changed and there is a renewed interest and pursuit of aesthetic values in the Jewish world. Art decorates the walls of many Jewish homes, the infrastructure projects of the State of Israel are in the main very aesthetically pleasing (What do you think of our new bridge of strings at the entrance to Jerusalem?) and there is a growing appreciation of the simple beauty of our country. The pursuit of a pleasing aesthetic environment should definitely be part of our way of life here in Israel and wherever Jews reside in the world.

The Nazir – Yes, No, Sometimes

by HaRav Shaul Yisraeli, zt"l

The matter of nazir, one who vows to abstain from grape products, hair cutting, (and, for regular nezirut) coming in contact with the dead, is one of the noteworthy elements of our parasha, especially because of the diverse approaches to it.

The Torah does not bind one to the restrictions of a nazir automatically and does not instruct a person to accept it upon himself. Yet the Torah has several hints at a very positive outlook on the practice. First, the Torah describes the process of making oneself a nazir as being "for Hashem" (Bamidbar 6:2). He is then described, during his nezirut, as being "holy to Hashem" (ibid. 8). As the Seforno expounds: "He merited having the light of life and being ready to understand and teach, as is fit for the holy people of the generation." This is in line with the Ramban’s explanation of the sin-offering that a nazir brings after his nezirut. The Ramban says that he is a sinner, in that he had experienced the sanctity of the service of Hashem of a nazir and should have continued that state forever. When he returns to the world of physical desires, he needs atonement.

However, the Talmud does prominently cite the very different approach of Rabbi Elazar Hakapar, who says that the nazir’s sin is causing himself pain by preventing himself from drinking wine (Ta’anit 11a). The Yerushalmi (Nedarim 9:1) says: "It is not enough for you what the Torah prohibited that you forbid yourself in other things?" The Rambam writes that he had not heard a more wonderful idea than this.

There is somewhat of a compromise approach in Chazal, which Rashi cites in our parasha. The discussion of the nazir follows the discussion of the woman who is suspected of infidelity to her husband. The gemara (Nedarim 9b) says that when a person is exposed to such a negative influence that pushes him in the direction of illicit relations, it is the correct time to make an oath of nezirut. It then tells an interesting story of one whose evil inclination independently was starting to get aroused, and he decided to become a nazir in order to temper it. Rabbi Shimon Hatzaddik, who was generally critical of nezirut, was highly impressed and said: "My son, may there be many nezirim like you in Israel."

The lesson from that gemara is that nezirut is not appropriate for all, and it is not only unnecessary but harmful under normal circumstances. It is sinful to deprive oneself when there is no need. However, it is necessary and effective as a measure for emergencies, whether the evil inclination is aroused by what it sees within society or individually. We learn this concept from Shimshon (discussed in the haftara) as well. He had a stormy life of ups and downs and was endowed with great bravery but strong desires. That background helps us understand the Divine guidance that decreed that he should be a nazir, with the hope that it would help him survive spiritually as a non-traditional Jewish savior at one of the most difficult times of the period of the Judges.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Gaza Riots: Really About the Embassy?

by Bassam Tawil
  • Throughout history, the excuses to attack Israel keep changing.
  • For 8 years under the Obama administration, the Palestinians had portrayed themselves, and been treated as, the deserving underdog -- the "good guys." Now, a foreign government is actually holding the Palestinians accountable and calling them out for activities they had taken for granted, such as incitement to riot and murder, or funding terrorists and their families. The Palestinians do not like it one bit.
  • The Palestinians hate the Trump administration not because of the decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, but because it speaks truth to them and exposes their perfidy and malice. They hate the Trump administration because they see it as an obstacle on their way to eliminating Israel.
  • What happened at the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip was an act of aggression by Hamas on Israeli sovereignty. It was an act of war. Even the terrorists did not say that they were protesting the embassy relocation. The terrorists and the rest of the Palestinian demonstrators were chanting "Death to Israel" and "Death to America." They were chanting that their goal is to replace Israel with an Islamic state.
  • The idea that Hamas is concerned about the US embassy move is a sick joke. All one needs to do is to listen carefully to what Hamas is saying, namely that its struggle is to "liberate all of Palestine, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River." Hamas is saying that the protests it has been orchestrating are aimed at enabling millions of Palestinians to flood Israel and turn it into an Islamic state.

Pictured: A group of young Gazan men drag away of section of razor wire that was cut away from Israel's security fence, as part of Hamas' attempt to breach the border and cross into Israel, May 14, 2018. (Image source: VOA News)
Much of the world is convinced that the Palestinian protests that took place on May 14 and 15 were directly connected to the inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

This misapprehension can be traced directly to the international media, which helped create the impression that the clashes that took place between Palestinians and the Israel Defense Forces along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel came in response to US President Donald Trump's decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Instead, what we have witnessed in the past few days is part of the ongoing Palestinian struggle against Israel. This is a struggle that began with the establishment of Israel 70 years ago and is continuing to this day. It is a struggle that every now and then finds a new excuse to launch terror attacks against Israel and kill as many Jews as possible.

Most notably, throughout history, the excuses to attack Israel keep changing.

Continue Reading Article

Prof. Bernard Lewis – unique realism on the Islamic threat

by Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

The litany of books and essays on Islam and the Middle East by Prof. Bernard Lewis - who passed away on May 19, 2018 - have been vindicated throughout the recent global and Middle East turbulence and unpredictability. They have exposed the self-defeating policies by most Western policy-makers, who have sacrificed realism on the altar of well-intentioned wishful-thinking and oversimplification, especially when it comes to facing the clear, present and lethal Islamic threat to Western democracies.

Prof. Bernard Lewis’ January 1976 essay in Commentary Magazine highlighted the fundamentals of the Islamic threat well before the current intensification of Islamic terrorism in Europe, the proliferation of Islamic cells in the USA and Latin America, the 2010 eruption of the Arab/Islamic Tsunami, the 2001 assault on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, the 1998 bombing of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the 1995-96 bombings of US targets in Saudi Arabia, the 1983 bombing of the US Embassy and the US Marines headquarters in Lebanon, the 1980s rise of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, and the 1979 Ayatollahs’ rise to power in Iran:

“…. Is a resurgent Islam prepared to tolerate a non-Islamic enclave, whether Jewish or Christian, in the heart of the Islamic world….? Islam from its inception is a religion of power, and in the Muslim worldview it is right and proper that power should be wielded by Muslims alone. Others may receive the tolerance, even the benevolence, of the Muslim state, provided that they clearly recognize Muslim supremacy. That Muslim should rule over non-Muslims is right and normal. That non-Muslims should rule over Muslims is an offense against the laws of God and nature, and this is true whether in Kashmir, Palestine, Lebanon or Cyprus…. Islam is not conceived as a religion in the limited Western sense, but as a community, a loyalty and a way of life…. The Islamic community is still recovering from the traumatic era when Muslim governments and empires were overthrown and Muslim peoples were forcibly subjected to alien, infidel rule. Both the ‘Saturday people’ and the ‘Sunday people’ are now suffering the consequences.”

“….To the modern Western mind, it is not conceivable that men would fight and die [in intra-Islamic conflicts] in such numbers over mere differences of religion…. To admit that an entire [Islamic] civilization can have religion as its primary loyalty is too much…. This is reflected in the present inability to recognize the importance of religion in the current affairs of the Muslim world….

“There are two essential points which need to be grasped: the universality of religion as a factor in the lives of the Muslim peoples and its centrality….

“The three major Middle Eastern religions are significantly different in their relations with the state and their attitudes to political power. Judaism was associated with the state and was then disentangled from it…. Christianity, during the first formative centuries was separate from, and indeed antagonistic to, the state…. Islam, from the lifetime of its founder was the state. The identity of religion and government is indelibly stamped on the memories and awareness of the faithful from their own sacred writings, history and experience….

“Muhammad did not die on the cross. As well as a Prophet, he was a soldier and a statesman, the head of a state and the founder of an empire, and his followers were sustained by a belief in the manifestation of divine approval through success and victory. Islam was associated with power from the very beginning…. This association between religion and power, community and polity, can already be seen in the Qur’an itself and in the other early religious texts on which Muslims base their beliefs. One consequence is that in Islam religion is not, as it is in Christendom, one sector or segment of life; it is concerned with the whole of life…. In such a society the very idea of the separation of church and state is meaningless…. Church and state, religious and political authority, are one and the same….

“The imagery and symbolism of the [Palestinian] Fatah is strikingly Islamic. Yasir Arafat’s nom de guerre, Abu Ammar (the father of Ammar) is an allusion to the historic figure of Ammar ibn Yasir, the son of Yasir, a companion of the Prophet [Muhammad] and a valiant fighter in all his battles. The name Fatah [Fatih, the Conqueror] is a term meaning a conquest for Islam gained in the Holy War…. The Palestinian Liberation Army brigades are names after great victories won by Muslims… in holy wars against non-Muslims – Qadisiyya against the Zoroastrian Persians, Hattin against the Crusaders, Ayn Jalut against the Mongols….

“As the [Arab] nationalist movement has become genuinely popular, so it has become less national and more religious – less Arab and more Islamic…. In moments of crisis it is the instinctive communal loyalty which outweighs all others…. The world is divided basically into two. One is the community of the Muslims, the other that of the unbelievers. The subdivisions among the latter are of secondary importance….

“The war is a holy war, and the rewards of martyrdom, as specified in scripture, await those who are killed in it….

“Islam is still the most effective form of consensus in Muslim countries, the basic group identity among the masses…. As regimes come closer to the populace, even if their verbiage is left-wing and ideological, they become more Islamic….

“In the period immediately preceding the Six-Day War in 1967, an ominous phrase was sometimes heard: “First the ‘Saturday people,’ then the ‘Sunday people.”’ The ‘Saturdaypeople’ have proved unexpectedly recalcitrant, and recent events in Lebanon indicate that the priorities may have been reversed….”

The Shamrak Report: Gazans are Part of an Ideology of Hatred

by Ben-Dror Yemini
Rioters of Gaza, who are sending flaming kites across the border and vandalizing goods and fuel pipelines aimed at easing the Gazans’ life, couldn’t care less about the distress in the strip. On the contrary, they want to increase it, because that’s Hamas’ ideology - destruction and ruin.
Israelis, all Israelis - apart from a minority of hard-hearted people - are looking at the residents of the Gaza Strip with great sadness. It’s such a pity: An unemployment rate of 60 percent among young Gazans, a serious shortage of clean water and medications, and power supply only several hours a day.
Most Israelis would like to see Gaza blooming and thriving. Once, before the disengagement, there were plans to build the “Singapore of the Middle East.”
...It could have been a wonderful beginning. Without occupation. Without settlements. Without Israel. The crossings to Israel and Egypt were operated under agreements which the European Union was part of. Goods were flowing in. An entire world was watching them with a huge desire to help.
We know what happened next. Instead of Singapore, we got Afghanistan. It happened primarily because the industry of hatred overpowered the industry of prosperity. Hamas took over the strip with shocking violence, which included mass executions. The cancellation of the crossing agreements led to a siege, which Israel never wanted. But that’s exactly what Hamas wanted.
Gaza turned into a mass of oppression, distress and self-victimization. The settlements’ industrial zones turned into ruins or into jihad training camps. The strip was covered with great darkness. Once again, we learned that wherever radical Islam rears its head, the result is destruction, ruin and bloodshed. Gaza suffered the same fate. Not because of Israel, not because of Egypt, but because dark Islam provided the only thing it can provide - destruction...
Food for Thought. by Steven Shamrak
There are many millions of Muslims living in Europe. More than in Israel! It is illegal in Europe for mosques to use loud speakers when calling to pray, but in Israel it is legal. The speakers, all over Israel, start to make big noise from 4 o'clock in the morning, 5 times a day. There was an attempt to make it illegal, but at the first sign of international ‘outrage’ and pressure, Netanyahu backed off – as a weak leader he is, “all talk no action”! He has done it so many times. The last flip-flop of his was when an attempt to deport African illegal migrants was made recently. Israel needs strong Zionist leadership – not wimps!
UN rights chief slams Israel’s ‘wholly disproportionate’ response to Gaza riots. Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein claims Israel may be (but never is) in 'grave breach' of Geneva Convention and said "killing resulting from the unlawful use of force by an occupying power may also constitute willful killings, a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention". (There is no IDF presence in Gaza! UN would Love to see the 'Proportionate' death of Jews, as did the UN predecessor, the League of Nations, which was complicit in extermination of Jews during WW2 in Europe!)
Senior Hamas official Salah Bardawil told Palestinian media that 50 out of 61 rioters killed in the Gaza Strip border riots on Monday last week belonged to the terror group's ranks.(Another three were ISIS terrorists)
The UN has launched an investigation against Turkey for allegedly selling electronic equipment to Iran which is listed as banned, nuclear-related products and technologies.
A video taken of an UNRWA school and refugee camp in the Gaza Strip allegedly shows that UNRWA encourages anti-Semitism and the realization of the 'right of return' through violent means. UNRWA reportedly closed its schools in Gaza last week, allowing students to participate in the riots at the Gaza border. The United States is the largest donor to UNRWA and provides the organization with $360 million a year. In January, the Trump Administration froze $65 million in funding to UNRWA.
Israel has expelled Turkey’s Consul in Jerusalem following the expulsion of Israel’s Ambassador to Turkey in Ankara. Israeli ambassador to Turkey subjected to humiliating checks at Istanbul airport. Turkey’s Erdogan has long been a champion of the Palestinian Authority, Gaza, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood which gave birth to the Hamas. Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel has ordered a halt to agricultural imports to Israel from Turkey in response to the expulsion. (Why is Turkey still in NATOErdogan has turned Turkey into an Islamic state. Kemel Attaturk must be spinning in his grave.)
Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said he sees "no reason morally and historically" not to recognize the Armenian Genocide, adding that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan "is truly an enemy." Erdoğan recalled his ambassador to Tel Aviv and expelled Israel's ambassador. In response, Israel asked Turkey's consul-general in Jerusalem to leave. The initiative for Israel’s official recognition of the Armenian genocide by the Turks in World War I is gaining momentum. The bill, initially submitted by MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Camp), has been endorsed by no fewer than 50 MKs from both coalition and opposition parties.
Guatemala Moves its Embassy Back to Jerusalem
President Jimmy Morales Cabrera of Guatemala ceremonially dedicated his country’s embassy in Jerusalem on Tuesday, alongside Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, cabinet ministers and the mayor of Jerusalem, two days after the US embassy’s dedication in the capital. The Old City walls were illuminated with the flags of Guatemala and Israel. Guatemala was in fact the first nation to recognize the city as Israel’s capital and established its first embassy there in 1959.
Hamas is in complete control everywhere in the Gaza Strip... – spontaneous they’re not! Israel delivered to Hamas through the Egyptian Intelligence, that if the riots persist, Israeli assassination teams will start hunting down the Hamas leadership. Unlike the Hamas promises about taking back Israel, this is not an idle threat. (Hamas leaders are eager to send others to be killed, but not willing to sacrifice themselves!)
Hamas/PA prevented the passage of trucks with goods through the Kerem Shalom border crossing despite Israel reopening it after it was torched 3 times by Hamas. Hundreds of trucks arriving at the crossing were thus forced to turn back.
Only half of the money the PA transfers to terrorists and their families will be automatically deducted from the customs and taxes Israel collects and transfers on behalf of Ramallah. This has been the compromise proposed by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman recently in the bill to “offset the salaries of terrorists.” The original bill determined that any amount found to be transferred by the PA to terrorists and their families would be deducted entirely without the discretion of the Cabinet. (How many flip-flops can Israel make? No wonder the enemies do not take Israel’s threats seriously!)
More than a quarter of a million people have been counted in both Israeli and Palestinian census, bringing into sharp focus need for clarity on already sensitive demographics issue; Israeli statistics bureau counts 332,000 Arabs as Jerusalem residents, while Palestinian bureau counts 265,000 in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, meaning they were counted twice.(Looks like Arabs of East Jerusalem did not inform the PA about their demographic scam!)
After dealing for many weeks with Hamas’ new weapons - the firebomb kites that land in Israeli agricultural land igniting fires and inflicting severe damages on local farmers, the IDF began using a new weapon against the kite threat - radio-controlled model airplanes with knives attached to their wings.
QUOTE of the WEEK:
“This is not peaceful resistance. Has the option (of armed struggle) diminished? No. On the contrary, it is growing and developing. That’s clear! So when we talk about ‘peaceful resistance,’ we are deceiving the public. This is a peaceful resistance bolstered by a military force and by security agencies, and enjoying tremendous popular support.” Mahmoud al-Zahar, the co-founder of Hamas, spoke to Qatar’s Al Jazeera network a day before 60 people were killed in violent protests on the Gaza border – On this point, all of us, Jewish-Zionist patriots, agree with him!Unfortunately, there are many useful idiotic Jew-haters in the West, especially among members of the press, who are so willing and eager to be 'deceived' to carry out their venomous anti-Semitic assaults against Israel!
Fight for what is Right!
by Steve Feldman (a FaceBook essay)
For millennia, the Jew has pleaded with the facts and the law to the powers that be.
From the Romans to the Spanish to the French to the English to the German to the Arab. History has shown it doesn't work. Those Jews who thought they could reason with the vicious Jew-haters ended up dead.
To this day, literally millions of Arabs and Muslims want the Jew dead. The Arab interlopers, who occupy holy Jewish land in Judea and Samaria, not to mention Gaza, openly admit it.(And they are eagerly assisted by traditional international anti-Semites in European governments and by leftist Jew-hating press!)
The Middle East conflict is not a conflict at all.
It's not about land or politics; on the contrary, it's about the Jew. The mere existence of the Jew offends them.
To think that the Jew today, even in Eretz Yisrael, still has to explain or justify defending the Jewish nation against hordes or genocidal Arabs, storming its borders, to kill and maim the Jew, underscores the savage Jew-hatred in the world and the media.
One would think that any rational human being, who looked at facts, would immediately come down on the side of the Jew, but they don't. In fact, they blame the Jew for defending himself.
Israel has, in effect, become the world's Jew. So be it!
But the Jew should not and cannot be rational with the irrational Jew-hater. It's a waste of time and effort.
He just needs to fight. Fight for what's right! Every minute of every day of every week of every year, for the rest of our lives. And our children's lives. And their children. From generation to generation.
Because the Jew did not continue to transmit the moral code by giving up or giving in. The Jew must not surrender!
Many in the world don't like it, but the Jew is an immortal force of nature. Am Yisrael chai!

Rav Kook on Parashat Naso: Three Priestly Blessings

Birkat Cohanim

Aaron and his descendants, the kohanim, were commanded to bless the Jewish people with three special blessings:

“Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying: This is how you must bless the Israelites. Say to them:
May God bless you and watch over you.
May God’s Presence enlighten you and bestow grace to you.
May God lift His face toward you and grant you peace.” (Num. 6:23-26)

The third blessing in particular needs clarification. What does it mean when it says: יִשָּׂא ה’ פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ - that God will “lift His face toward you”?

The Need for Divine Favor

While the first blessing refers to God’s assistance in the material realm, the second blessing speaks of enlightenment and spiritual attainments. Greater enlightenment, however, brings with it greater responsibility. As we grow in knowledge and wisdom, we are expected to display a higher level of moral sensitivity. Our thoughts should be purer, our character traits more refined, and our lives more ethical.

If one takes into account the resulting moral demands, one may become apprehensive and even discouraged. In order to assuage this concern, the kohanim bestow a third blessing: “May God lift His face toward you”.

To “lift one’s face” is a Hebrew idiom meaning to give special consideration or leniency. The Torah cautions a judge, for example, not to “lift his face” toward one of the litigants (Lev. 19:15). The judge must be careful to avoid giving the impression of favoring one side. The other litigant may feel that the case is already lost and lose heart.

The kohanim bless us that, despite the expectations which come with a higher spiritual level, we should not lose heart. God will be lenient, taking into account the physical reality in which we live.

One may, however, feel embarrassed or uneasy with this Divine leniency. Therefore, the final blessing closes with the gift of peace - peace of mind. “And may He grant you peace.”

(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Olat Re’iyah vol. I, p. 62)

HaRav Nachman Kahana: The Torah as a Way of Life

Parashat Naso 5778
by HaRav Nachman Kahana

The Torah as a Way of Life

The holiday of Shavuot, when we receive the Torah every year anew with great satisfaction and pride has now passed. However, in the first year when the Torah was given at Mount Sinai there is an apparent contradiction in the attitude of our ancestors’ willingness to receive it.

On the one hand the Torah states (Shemot 24,7):

ויקח ספר הברית ויקרא באזני העם ויאמרו כל אשר דבר ה’ נעשה ונשמע
Then he (Moshe) took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we shall obey.”

Rashi explains that Moshe read the Book of Bereishiet and the three mitzvot that were given at the Mara encampment, to which the nation agreed wholeheartedly to accept.

However, the Gemara (Shabbat 88a) states that HaShem uprooted Mount Sinai and held it above the people saying, “If you accept the Torah now then all is well; however, if you refuse then here will be your burial place”.

So, which is it. Did the Jews readily accept the Torah or did HaShem have to coerce our ancestors to do so?

We will return to this.

How can the Torah be a chok?

The Torah contains two types of mitzvot; mishpatim and chukim. Mishpatim are those laws which are conducive to human understanding and may be found in the law books of other nations. Chukim are beyond logic and are not to be found in any other society. For example, the laws dealing with tuma (ritual impurity) and, of course, the Red Heifer.

Parashat Bechukotai begins, “If you follow My chukim (laws. Vayikra 26:3) you will be blessed.

The use of the word bechukotai (My chukim) describing the Torah as a “Chok” is problematic, because the Torah consists of many laws that we can understand (mishpatim)?

I suggest:

When we, as individuals or as a nation, perform a single mitzvah or a number of mitzvot, such as avoiding usury or fulfilling the laws of interpersonal relations between neighbors, we reap blessings and a good life. Yet living according to the entirety of the Torah presents daunting challenges, as the Torah, itself, recognizes.

Regarding the Sabbatical year we read (Vayikra 25,20):

וכי תאמרו מה נאכל בשנה השביעת הן לא נזרע ולא נאסף את תבואתנו:
“In the seventh year, you might ask, ‘What will we eat [in the seventh year]? We have not planted, nor have we harvested crops.”

In an agricultural society, such as existed in Biblical times, it seems impossible that an entire nation could stop working the fields for a year. In response HaShem says:

וצויתי את ברכתי לכם בשנה הששית ועשת את התבואה לשלש השנים:
“I will direct My blessing to you in the sixth year, and the land will produce enough crops for three years” (verse 21).

HaShem makes clear that He knows that in those days an agricultural society could not survive while following the Sabbatical laws. So, He promises that He will intervene miraculously to make it possible.

The same applies to the thrice-yearly pilgrimages to the Temple in Jerusalem, as the Torah says (Shemot 34, 23-24):

(כג) שלש פעמים בשנה יראה כל זכורך את פני האדן ה’ א-להי ישראל:
Three times each year, all your males shall thus present themselves before HaShem the Master, Lord of Israel.

How can entire cities empty out all their inhabitants, when society contains thieves, and foreign enemies who could easily occupy our country? So, the following verse states:

כד) כי אוריש גוים מפניך והרחבתי את גבלך ולא יחמד איש את ארצך בעלתך לראות את פני ה’ א-להיך שלש פעמים בשנה:
When I expel the other nations before you and extend your boundaries, no one will be envious of your land when you go to be seen in HaShem’s presence three times each year (verse 24).

HaShem promises that He will guard the Jewish homes when everyone is in Jerusalem for the pilgrimages.

From here and other examples we see that the Torah in its entirety, as a political, religious and economic system transcends nature, and cannot succeed if HaShem does not intervene in the functioning of society. Therefore, the Torah in its entirety is indeed a chok; a way of life beyond human understanding.

No turning back

To return to the apparent contradiction regarding our receiving the Torah.

When Moshe read from the book of Bereishiet and the three mitzvot that were given to the Jews at the Mara encampment, as Rashi explains, the nation enthusiastically proclaimed נעשה ונשמע – – We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey”. However, when the full gamut of mitzvoth were presented to them as well as its impossible implementation as a rational, practical national program, there were calls of regret. At that point HaShem uprooted Mount Sinai and held it above the people saying, “if you accept the Torah now then all is well, however if you refuse here will be your burial place”.

The die was cast the moment they said נעשה ונשמע – there was no way of return.

The Ultimate Chok

The Torah is not yet the law of the land in Medinat Yisrael, nevertheless HaShem intervenes in every aspect of our lives. In no natural way could the small population of 650,000 people in 1948 with no tanks, planes or heavy weapons have repelled five standing armies of surrounding Arab states if not for HaShem’s intervention.

In 1967 we fought a coalition of Arab states backed by Russian advisors, including pilots and others, and increased the area of the State threefold in only six days. And without the help of HaShem in the 1973 Yom Kippur war, the Syrian army could have easily walked into Haifa and the Egyptian army into Tel Aviv.

Our precarious security position in the midst of 22 Arab states of the Middle East and North Africa, as determined by HaShem in the Torah, is the very heart of the paternal relationship we have with our Father-in-Heaven.

As absurd as it is for a doctor to deny the godly miracle of the human body, or for an astrophysicist to deny the presence of a master intellect behind the trillions of heavenly bodies; it is ever more absurd and bizarre that a Jew could doubt that HaShem has brought about and sustains the Jewish State.

The ultimate CHOK which is beyond all human understanding is the day to day lives we lead in Eretz Yisrael, with our phenomenal success in all walks of life.

Why would any believing Jew want to live anywhere else except in HaShem’s Holy Land?

Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5778/2018 Nachman Kahana

US-Israel ties: the 400-year-old unique foundations

by Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
US-Israel relations have surged commercially and militarily since Israel’s establishment in 1948, and Israel enjoys a 74% favorability rating according to the 2018 annual Gallup poll of favorability (compared to 21% for the Palestinian Authority). This positive state of relations has been achieved despite the systematic pressure by all US Presidents – from Truman through Obama - and in spite of persistent criticism of Israel by the Department of State, the New York Times and the Washington Post (all three opposed the 1948 establishment of the Jewish State) and other representatives of the “elite” US media.

US-Israel relations have dramatically expanded in defiance of conventional common sense, but consistent with – and nurtured by - the 400 year old ideological, moral, cultural, religious and historical foundations of the United States, which have enriched the US-Israel saga, featuring a unique people-to-people, bottom-up relationship, with elected officials representing the wish of most constituents.

For example, on March 5, 1891 – antedating Theodore Herzl and the 1897 First Zionist Congress – US President, Benjamin Harrison, received the William Blackstone Memorial, which called for the reestablishment of the Jewish State in the Land of the Bible: “Palestine for the Jews.” The Memorial was signed by over 400 distinguished Americans, such as the Chief Justice, additional Supreme Court Justices, future President William McKinley, senators, congressmen (including the Speaker of the House and the Chairmen of the Ways and Means and International Relations Committees), Governors, mayors, university presidents, businessmen, clergy and media editors.

The signatories of the “Blackstone Memorial” were overwhelmingly Christian movers and shakers, who signed the document well before the emergence of the Jewish political lobby, reflecting the Biblical, Judeo-Christian roots of the USA.

The seeds of the “Blackstone Memorial” – and the special affinity of the American people toward the Jewish State - were planted in 1620, when the early Pilgrims, stepped off the Mayflower, referring to themselves as “the people of the modern day Exodus,” who departed from the “modern day Egypt (Britain),” experienced the “modern day Parting of the Red Sea (the Atlantic Ocean),” arriving in “the modern day Promised Land (America).”
Hence, the well-over 1,000 sites in the US (towns, cities, national parks and deserts) bearing Biblical names, such as 18 Jerusalems, 32 Salems (the ancient name of Jerusalem), 34 Beth Els, 24 Shilos, 18 Hebrons, 12 Jerichos, Zions, Bethlehems, Mizpahs, Rehoboths, Carmels, Gileads, Moabs, etc.

The prominent stature of the Bible and the Hebrew language among the early Pilgrims was demonstrated in 1640 by the first book written and printed in the New World, The Bay Psalm Book, which transcribed biblical psalms into metered verses. The seals of three of the first ten universities bear Hebrew inscriptions: Yale (אורים ותומים the power of the Jewish High Priest), Columbia University (יהוה Jehovah and אוריאל Uriel – one of God’s Guardian Angels) and Dartmouth College (אל שדי one of God’s names).

The special sentiments toward the reconstruction of the Jewish Homeland in the Land of Israel, were further cultivated by the 18th century Founding Fathers, who considered themselves to be “the people of the modern day Covenant.” The iconic symbol of independence, the 1752 Liberty Bell highlights a verse from Leviticus, 25:10: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” This verse refers to the Jubilee – the cornerstone of the Biblical concept of liberty, a cardinal value in the history of the 50 States - which is commemorated every 50 years.

In fact, the cement of the American Revolution was Thomas Paine’s Common Sense(January 10, 1776): “For the will of the Almighty as declared by Gideon and the Prophet Samuel expressly disapproves of government by kings….”

The President of Yale University (1778-1795), and a founder of Brown University, Ezra Stiles, taught Hebrew, urging graduating students to be able to recite Psalms in the original language, “because that is what St. Peter will expect of you at the Pearly Gates.” He called for “the reestablishment of the twelve Tribes in Palestine.”

According to Prof. Daniel Elazar – the founder of the “Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs” (JCPA) - the concept of the US Constitution was inspired by the Bible, in general, and the Covenant between God and Abraham and Jacob, in particular. The term “Federal” was a derivative of the Latin word “foedus,” which is the Biblical Covenant. Moreover, Prof. Elazar opined that the first ever continental republic was not ruled by an imperial ruler, but “through a system of dispersed democratic majorities, coupled with nationwide representation of both individuals and constituent states… [similar to] the federation of [the twelve] tribes of ancient Israel.”

According to Alexis de Tocqueville’s 1830 Democracy in America, the US practiced separation of religion and state, not religion and society. While a government-sponsored religion risked discrediting religion, a society devoid of religion risked immorality and oblivion. According to de Tocqueville, religion and liberty are mutually-inclusive. In 1967,Prof. Robert Bellah wrote that the US has a civil religion – a set of ethical principles based on the Bible, mostly Deuteronomy. The US benefits from Bible (not libertarianism) driven liberty, which is responsibility – not rights – driven liberty for the common good.

In 1925, President Coolidge stated: “Hebraic mortar cemented the foundations of American democracy….”

In 1935, President FDR indicated that “it would be difficult to appraise the far-reaching influence of [the translation of the Bible] upon the speech, literature, moral and religious character of our people and their institutions….”

In fact, the Bible had a profound impact on the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, Separation of Powers (Moses, Aharon, the 70 Elders, the tribal Presidents), Checks and Balances, the requirement that the chief executive must be a native, that the capital city should not belong to any tribe/State, the abolitionist movement ("Let My People Go,” “Go Down Moses") and the general public discourse in the USA.

In 1863, President Lincoln stated: “The rebirth of Israel as a nation-state is a noble dream and one shared by many Americans.” On June 30, 1922, the US House and Senate ratified the League of Nation’s “Mandate for Palestine,” which codified the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine, in the entire area west of the Jordan River. President Harding added his signature on September 21, 1922. In 1925, the House, Senate and President Coolidge ratified the 1924 Anglo-American Treaty, which approved the “Mandate for Palestine.” In 1943, a Joint Resolution by the Alabama State Legislature declared: “Urgent need for a Jewish Homeland.”

On May 14, 1948, the US radio icon and world traveler, Lowell Thomas, told his listeners: Today, as the Jewish State is established, Americans read through the Bible as a historical reference book.”

On December 24, 1968, Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon entered the lunar orbit, and the three astronauts recited Genesis 1:1-10, in the most watched TV broadcast at the time: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form….”

In 2001, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) welcomed the newly-elected President G.W. Bush: “Mr. President, we trust that you shall lead us in the best tradition of Joshua and Caleb.” Pastor Nathan Baxter asked President Bush, during the inauguration prayer at the National Cathedral, to unite the American people just like King David united the Jewish People.

In 2008, Senator Byrd (D-WV), the President Pro-Tem and a legislative giant, announced retirement from the chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee, by quotingEcclesiastes 3:1: “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.”

In 2009, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the floor manager of Obamacare, complimented Majority Leader, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) during a press conference: “Senator Reid displayed the patience of Job, the wisdom of Solomon and the endurance of Samson.”
In 2014, President Obama justified his decision to defer deportation of five million illegal immigrants by quoting Exodus 22:21: “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

In 2017 there were about 20 million copies of the Bible sold in the US, which is almost double that of the 1950s.

In 2018, the role played by the Bible in the shaping of the US core values, legal and political systems, public discourse and general state-of-mind is still significant, as demonstrated by the November 17, 2017 opening in Washington, DC (three blocks from Capitol Hill) of the largest Museum of the Bible in the world (430.000 square foot), featuring more than 40,000 artifacts, including 613 Torah Scrolls.

In 2018, the statues of Joshua, King David and Judah the Maccabee stand at West Point Military Academy among “The Nine Worthies,” the nine top warriors in human history. The other “Worthies” are Alexander the Great, Hector, Julius Caesar, Godfrey of Bouillon, King Arthur and Charlemagne. The battle cry of the Maccabees - “Whoever trusts God; join me!” – inspired the official motto of the US: “In God We Trust.” Since 1996, the US postal service has issued, annually, a Chanukah stamp, commemorating an event - the 2ndcentury BCE rebellion of the Maccabees against the Seleucid Empire, the few against the many - which inspired the Founding Fathers’ revolt against the British Empire.

In 2018, the bust of Moses faces the Speaker of the House (surrounded by 22 other busts of historical Law Givers, who stare at Moses), is found at the Rayburn House Office Building’s Subway Station and in the main reading room in the Library of Congress. Statues and engravings of Moses and the Ten Commandments are featured in the Supreme Court. Moses and/or the Ten Commandments feature in the US Federal Courthouses in Cleveland, OH and Indianapolis, IN; the Supreme Courts in Harrisburg, PA, St. Paul, MN, Lansing, MI and Knoxville, TN; the county courthouses in Cleveland, OH, West Chester, PA, Pittsburgh, PA, Ft. Wayne, IN and Jackson, MS; the Appellate Court in Brooklyn, NY; the Boston Public Library and the State Capitol in Lincoln, NE; etc.

Ten Commandments monuments have been erected on the grounds of the state capitols inTexas (1961), Oklahoma (2012), and Arkansas (2017). On June 27, 2005, the US Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the 6-foot-high Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol.

According to Chief Justice Rehnquist: “Religion has been closely identified with our history and government…. Acknowledgements of the role played by the Ten Commandments in our nation’s heritage are common throughout America…. Since 1935, Moses has stood, holding two tablets that reveal portions of the Ten Commandments written in Hebrew,among other lawgivers in the south frieze [of the US Supreme Court….] Representations of the Ten Commandments adorn the metal gates lining the north and south sides of the Courtroom as well as the doors leading into the Courtroom. Moses also sits on the exterior east façade of the [US Supreme Court] holding the tablets of the Ten Commandments…. Since 1897, a large statue of Moses holding the Ten Commandments, alongside a statue of the Apostle Paul, has overlooked the rotunda of the Library of Congress’ Jefferson Building. A medallion with two tablets depicting the Ten Commandments decorates the floor of the National Archives. Inside the Justice Department, a statue entitled ‘The Spirit of Law’ has two tablets representing the Ten Commandments lying at its feet. In front of the Ronald Reagan Building stands another sculpture that includes a depiction of the Ten Commandments. So too, a 24-foot-tall sculpture, outside the Federal Courthouse, depicting, among other things, the Ten Commandments and a cross. Moses is also prominently featured in the Chamber of the United States House of Representatives…. Moses was a lawgiver as well as a religious leader, and the Ten Commandments have undeniable historical meaning…."

In 2018, the official seals of the US, the President, the Supreme Court, the House of Representatives and all the Executive Departments – as well as the US dollar - feature the eagle with thirteen stars for the original thirteen Colonies, arranged in the shape of the Star of David, which is also the shape of the US Sheriff’s Badge.

Since 1949, the US-Israel crises have always been "V"-shaped (quick to deteriorate and quick to rebound), not "U"-shaped (quick to deteriorate and prolonged to rebound), due to the healthy foundations/tissues of the bilateral relationship, transcending the Palestinian issue, the Arab-Israeli conflict, Israel's bombing of Iraq's nuclear reactor, Iran, etc..

The extraordinary enhancement of the US-Israel relationship, irrespective of the White House and State Department pressuring Israel, derives from the unique 400-year-old foundation, laid down by the Bible-inspired Early Pilgrims and nurtured by the Judeo-Christian-driven Founding Fathers and the American people, rather than by policy-makers and public opinion molders.

The unique foundations of the US-Israel saga were forged prior to the evolution of an organized Jewish community, the Holocaust, the establishment of Israel and the appearance of AIPAC on the American scene. These foundations have nurtured a covenant between the American people, their state and federal representatives, on the one hand, and the Jewish State, on the other hand. It accords Israel a unique standing: a foreign, but also a value-driven domestic issue.

The Ethics of the Fathers, a second century compilation of Jewish ethical teachings, sayings and proverbs suggests: "Conditional love is tenuous; unconditional love is eternal." Similarly, Israel is the only unconditional ally of the US, wholeheartedly reciprocating the value-driven unconditional identification, by the American people, with the Jewish State.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Return our Judges to the People's Rule

by HaRav Eliezer Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Har Bracha

The enactment of the ‘override clause’ is only the beginning – a revolutionary change is needed to restrain the power of the legal establishment * Judaism’s values are not supposed to be legislated by religious coercion, but they must be determined as Basic Laws * The composition of the Judicial Selection Committee must be changed so that it will stop strengthening the tyranny of the minority * If Netanyahu had restrained the Attorney General’s Office, he would not be suffering from their actions against him today * As long as the High Court of Justice rules out Knesset laws – it is essential for the Knesset to maintain the possibility of re-enacting them, without a majority of more than sixty-one.

The Importance of Law

The status of law is of the utmost importance, because it is needed to bring the value system which society believes in, into practical actuality in the life of the individual and society. Today in Western countries law expresses a combination of values ​​of utilitarianism with certain values ​​of their cultural heritage and individual human rights. In order to express the values ​​of emunah (faith) and Torah, which are the basis of our national existence, and without which we would have no existence, we are commanded to judge according to the laws of the Torah, as it is written: “And these are the laws you must set before them” (Exodus 21: 1) – and not according to non-Jewish law (Tractate Gittin 88b). The reason for this is that law must express the idea of ​​Divine justice in the life of the people, society, and the individual.

Reform of the Legal Establishment

Over time, more people have come to realize the severe damage the legal establishment causes the vision of the Jewish state, and the actual lives of Jews living in the country. This is because the values ​​that guide it are foreign, and sometimes even contrary, to the values ​​of the Jewish people, its teachings, and its heritage. The recent campaign in the last few weeks – known as ‘hoke ha’hit’ga’brut’, or the ‘override clause’, is based on the ability of the legislative branch to overturn the High Court’s decisions. This is an important, but modest, beginning.

Action is vital in four areas: 1) Completion of Basic Laws that will express the Jewish identity of the state. 2) Changing the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee to reflect the public’s views. 3) Canceling the tyranny of the Legal Advisor’s institution. 4) Regulating the possibility of the Supreme Court or the Constitutional Court in special cases to disqualify laws, and the ability of the Legislative body to re-enact the laws after their disqualification.

In all these areas, it will be necessary to conduct a stubborn struggle against a specific public which possesses status and influence, feels alienated from the Jewish identity of the State of Israel, and to a certain extent, seeks to turn it into a state of all its citizens. This public bases its beliefs and values ​​on the liberal values ​​accepted today in academic circles in the West. In point of fact, however, even within these circles a process of disillusionment exists, and an attempt to understand and redefine the religious and national values, ​​without which the liberal values ​​system remains weak and hollow in face of the challenges and pressures from within and without.

Apparently, the battle will be decided in the next generation in favor of the Jewish vision of the State of Israel. But as always, there lies two paths before us: “If you follow My laws,” the tikkun (improvement) will be done in a positive way; and if not – it will be done through trials and tribulations. The positive way is to delve deeply into the values ​​of truth and goodness according to the guidance of the Torah, until their light shines forth, and many of our adversaries will be persuaded to a great, or to at least a small extent, that these laws are right and proper. The other way is to continue suffering from the heavy-handed judicial system, which repeatedly harms the fabric of life of the Jewish nation returning to its homeland, as exemplified, for example, by the disqualification of the laws for the expulsion of infiltrators, and as a result, due to all the trouble and grief the infiltrators will cause us, we will be forced to get rid of them.

Jewish Values ​​as Basic Laws

The first area that needs to be dealt with is establishing basic laws that will express the Jewish identity of the state. This does not refer to laws of religious coercion which harms the liberty of each and every individual, but rather, laws that express Jewish values ​​in public life, and allow for deep, original, and profound Jewish creativity. It is imperative to emphasize in the most definitive manner that this does not mean religious coercion, because there is nothing more harmful to the realization of the values ​​of the Torah than the assumption that they are intended to suffocate the individual’s freedom and creativity. In the Diaspora, we were primarily concerned with safeguarding Judaism and taking cautionary actions, and therefore the coercive side was more conspicuous. However, when we want to build Jewish life in the State of Israel, we must give each individual’s freedom an extremely respectable place – as a continuation of the freedom of choice God gave to mankind. And it is essential to strive to find a balance between general Jewish identity, and the full rights of the individual.

First off, the ‘Law of Return’ must be set in a Basic Law, and its application should be defined as a person who is indeed a Jew according to halakha, or a descendant of Jews possessing a Jewish identity. Since today it is not a Basic Law, the legal establishment gnaws at it in the name of the values ​​of democracy. Also, a Basic Law determining the value of traditional Torah study as one of the most important values ​​of the spiritual revival of Shivat Tzion (Return to Zion) should also be anchored in law.

In addition, the status of Shabbat must be set in a Basic Law, according to which it must be preserved in all governmental and public frameworks. It is inconceivable that such a central value in the life of our nation can be expressed in temporary agreements, or by municipal by-laws alone. Just as the value of human dignity and liberty is set in a Basic Law and is not based on the good will of any person or community, thus Shabbat should be set in a Basic Law. The preservation of kashrut in state and public institutions must also be set in a Basic Law. The Jewish character of the IDF must also be determined in a Basic Law.

The existing laws relating to personal status in marriage and divorce, according to which family ties or their permissibility are determined by rabbinic law in rabbinical courts as the tradition of Israel, should also receive a high status of Basic Laws. Afterwards, it will be possible to find solutions to individual and personal problems in various regulations, but the personal freedom of various groups of people must not interfere with the State of Israel in anchoring the sanctity of the family in a Basic Law. Without this Basic Law, the legal establishment will continue to erode the values ​​of the Jewish family, and the status of the rabbinic courts.

The Committee Strengthens the Minority

The second area that must be dealt with is changing the composition of the committee for the selection of judges. Currently, the judges of the Supreme Court have a central position in the judges’ selection committee. Any reasonable person knows that the positions of most of the Supreme Court justices fluctuate between the extreme left, and the ordinary left. Through their excess power in the committee they replicate themselves, and thus, against the will of the public, they continue to impose their positions on it. In order to correct the injustice and the resulting legal biases, it is necessary that the Judicial Selection Committee be composed of representatives of elected officials, as is customary in all democratic countries, in varying modes. If the Meretz party receives enough votes to win a representative, it can choose a retired judge, but sitting judges will not be able to participate in the committee in any manner whatsoever – they must concentrate on the judicial profession, and refrain from political pursuits and harmful interference in the work of the legislative branch, which is also responsible for selecting judges.

Super Powers of the Attorney

The third area: the abolition of the tyranny of the Attorney General. Without any legal basis, the Attorney General and his aides exercise supreme authority over decisions, restrictions, and instructions for elected officials, who are the sole representatives of the sovereign – the people themselves. Thus, officials pretend to run the state without being elected to do so, personally fulfilling the verse “a servant who becomes a king.” They were appointed to serve the public and to be loyal to the State of Israel and its laws, and not to impose upon it their will, worldview, and values, contrary to the position of the majority, and its will.

Part of the excessive power of the office of the Attorney General derives from the inferior and corrupt connection between the role of the Attorney General and the role of the Public Prosecutor. Many public figures are confident, or at least fear, that if they dare to challenge the powers that legal advisers usurp for themselves, the legal establishment will find the way to take revenge on them – to bring them to justice, to ruin their public careers, and to harass their private lives in investigations and legal processes lasting for years. This is a method of dictatorial takeover, unparalleled in any democratic country.

Many people are used to quoting Lord Acton who said: “Power – corrupts; absolute power – corrupts absolutely.” Indeed, the legal establishment in general, and the Office of the Attorney General in particular, provide a good example of this.

Netanyahu’s Blame in the Charges against Him

Many people hoped that with the appointment of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit as Attorney General, the status of the Attorney General’s Office would be curtailed, and his position would be separated. Prime Minister Netanyahu was already about to fulfill this hope, but in the end, withdrew. Perhaps because he was afraid of the vengeful arm of the legal establishment that would haunt him by opening countless old investigations, put him and his wife on trial, and eventually throw him in jail for misdemeanors usually settled outside of court.

In practice, however, when every Attorney General knows that his job will come to a conclusion after a few years, and sets his eyes on the next honorable post – a judge in the Supreme Court – he must take into account the position of the justices on the Supreme Court. This is a structured bribe, which is very difficult to ignore. Today, in the public state of affairs that has been created, if the Attorney General still wants to remain part of the legal establishment he almost has to put Netanyahu on trial. This creates a situation in which Netanyahu himself is to blame for the situation he is in – a problem which the whole country suffers from. The only way to get us out of this mess is that his colleagues in the Likud, and coalition partners in other parties, will force him to act against the legal establishment.

It should be added that as long as the legal establishment is immersed in this deep corruption, it would also be appropriate to establish a law that does not allow an incumbent Prime Minister to be prosecuted, except in cases of particularly serious offenses.

The ‘Override Clause’ – Even by a Simple Majority

Concerning the fourth subject: The passing of the ‘Override Clause’. In all the amendments, there is, of course, also a need to determine that if the Supreme Court has the ability to invalidate laws, then the Knesset has the power to re-enact them. Today, when the Supreme Court is slanted in its positions to the left, it is forbidden to enact the ‘Override Clause’ to require more than sixty-one votes. It is possible that after the Judicial Appointments Committee changes, the composition of the judges changes, and the Basic Laws relating to the identity of the State of Israel as a Jewish state are enacted – it will be possible to establish a constitutional court, which in exceptional cases will be entitled to annul laws, and to re-enact them, a majority of seventy Knesset members would be required. Today, however, it is better not to pass any law, than to pass a law that will require more than sixty-one votes to cancel the High Court’s decision.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at: