Friday, November 24, 2017

The Place: A Torah Thought for Parashat Vayeitzei

by Moshe Feiglin

In this week’s Torah portion, Veyeitzei, Jacob is forced to flee the wrath of his brother Esau. Big brother Esau had sold the birthright to Jacob, but that fact didn’t calm him down when he realized that he had lost eternal blessing. Jacob had to run for his life.

Why couldn’t Jacob have been born first? Why couldn’t Esau accept the sale of the birthright with grace? Why does the truth have to be revealed in such a complicated way? Why does the Divine message to mankind always appear from amidst hardship? The complexity of life, structured to connect body and soul, the material and the spiritual has fascinated humanity from time immemorial. Christianity and Islam chose to solve the paradox by granting exclusivity to the spiritual or to the material, respectively. But it is Jacob who knows how to synthesize the two.

“And he (Jacob) reached the place.” Our Sages explain that the place is the Temple Mount, the physical place on earth touched by G-d, the place from where His Divine Presence emanates to permeate the world. This meeting point between the physical and the metaphysical conceals the key to the secret of life.

Our Sages say that from the day that the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, the vivid experience of life has been taken from us. Food has become tasteless, colors have lost their brilliance and we can no longer truly enjoy the pleasures of life. We are oscillating violently on a pendulum between the physical and the metaphysical, incapable of achieving equilibrium.

Jacob, Israel, has the tools to restore the flavor and balance to life. He will build the Temple; the palace of the Creator in this world and he will enliven the human experience. When Jacob shoulders the responsibility for this destiny, he merits the Place: “The Land upon which you (Jacob) lie – I will give it to you.”

Deep down, humanity knows and anticipates this.

Shabbat Shalom.

Does Zehut Endanger the Rule of the Right in Israel?

by Moshe Feiglin

Does Zehut endanger the rule of the Right in Israel? Our Sages say, “It is not the mouse who steals, but rather the hole that steals”. In other words, if a mouse enters your home, it is not his fault. Mice enter holes. Who is at fault? The hole, or rather, whoever created the hole.

If we apply this concept to Israeli politics, the mice are the Left (my apologies to all the leftists). They have a very dangerous and destructive ideology. It is an ideology that strives to disassemble all the identities and senses of purpose in the world. It is not just about territorial identity, but also personal, sexual, family and national identity. Even human identity is on their agenda. All identity and essence are under attack by the Left. This is extremely dangerous, and we certainly do not want it to rule in Israel.

Who is the hole? The Right. Why is the Right the hole? Because the Right says nothing. The Left has dangerous goals. But the Right does not establish any alternative.

In 1996 Netanyahu won the elections on the heels of a very broad public protest against Oslo. Did he nullify Oslo? Did he seal the hole? Did he prevent the mouse from re-entering? Oslo continues to rule in Israel ever since. Netanyahu also hugged Arafat and all the Oslo concepts of dividing the Land - Area A and Area B and Area C -have been adopted as the accepted terms for defining our existence in the Land of Israel.

How does Chairman of the Jewish Home party Bennett talk? We will apply sovereignty in Area B, we will not apply sovereignty in Area C…Autonomy plus for the Arabs? A state minus? It’s all Oslo. And if Bennett would become prime minister instead of Netanyahu, would anything really change? No. The Left’s concepts are still in the hole and the hole has remained the same hole. Bennett has no ideology of his own with which to close it.

It didn’t start with Netanyahu. In 1977 Menachem Begin became the first rightist prime minister to be elected to office. On the surface, it was an amazing turnabout. What was the first thing he did? He took two leftists, Moshe Dayan and Ezer Weitzman, as his main ministers. He had no alternative language. All that the Right knows how to do is to say that it is not Left. But what are you? The problem is not the Left. The Left really believes in what it professes. The thief is the hole. The thief is the Right.

Two years ago, “lone terror” raged in Israel. Every day or two, a Jew would be stabbed by an Arab. One day the media announced that PM Netanyahu had turned to Attorney General Mandelblit and requested his opinion on the legality of expelling families of terrorists to Gaza. In his letter, Netanyahu stated that according to the security apparatus, the expulsion of the families of terrorists to Gaza would significantly reduce the terror and murder perpetrated by lone terrorists.

I heard the announcement and was astounded. The PM was saying that he knows how to eradicate the terror, but he has to request authorization from the Attorney General? What is the most important job of the Prime Minister? Why do we have a state at all? Why do we need a leader for our state? Maimonides and all the experts on statecraft agree that the role of the state is to protect its citizens. It must provide security from foreign invaders and provide internal security, as well. The Prime Minister’s most essential role is to protect us.

And what is the role of the Attorney General? To protect the Prime Minister. His role is to find the legal path to implement the Prime Minister’s policies. To say that now we are in a state of war, innocent lives are at stake, there are legal precedents – and if that is not applicable, he must propose legislation in order to protect the prime minister so that he can fulfill his role to protect his citizens.

Do you really think that Netanyahu didn’t know what Mandelblit would answer? And why was his letter sent via the media so that we would all hear about it? Immediately, leftist commentator Moshe Negbi explained on his radio show why the proposal is impossible to implement. All the commentators and broadcasters jumped on the bandwagon, making it clear that the High Court would never allow it and the Prime Minister retracted. The stabbings continued.

So what was gained by this entire episode? After all, Netanyahu knew that if he would publicize his letter in the media, it would arouse major protest on the part of the Left. He gained something very simple. The public, the majority of which is on the gullible Right, thinks that Netanyahu wants to expel the terror families, but cannot do it, because the Left will not allow it. They will continue to stream to the polling booths to re-elect our embattled prime minister.

And everybody is happy. The Right retains its rule (because the majority of Israelis are on the Right). The Left retains its hegemony and true power. And the terrorist retains his knife.

Does Zehut endanger the rule of the Right? Absolutely not. Zehut endangers the rule of the Left by means of the Right.

Zehut is introducing new ideas into the political arena. Our detailed platform thoroughly closes the hole with positive values and alternatives to Oslo and the Left.

We are not on the futile plane between Left and Right. It really makes no difference if the mouse wins the elections or the hole wins. They both lead to the same result.

Moshe Feiglin: Israel Must be an Ethical Beacon to the World (Eng. Subs)

The Fulfillment of Jacob’s Dream

By HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

Jacob was facing difficult times. Relentlessly pursued by Esau, who wished to kill him, he left his parents’ home in Be’er Sheva for the exile of Charan, alone and bereft of possessions. Along the way he had a good dream. In his dream, he saw “G-d standing over him” (Genesis 28:13), “to protect him” (Rashi). G-d promised him, “I will give to you and your descendants the land upon which you are lying” (Genesis 28:13). G-d folded the whole Land of Israel under him thereby hinting to him that it would be as easy to conquer as four cubits. (Rashi, Ibid.). And G-d further promised, “Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth. You shall spread out to the west, to the east, to the north and to the south. All the families on earth will be blessed through you and your descendants” (v. 14).

Regarding Jacob’s bleak situation just then, G-d said, “I am with you. I will protect you wherever you go and bring you back to this soil” (v. 15).

Jacob’s remarkable dream is the dream of the Jewish People which has accompanied us throughout all the generations, even in the most dark and difficult periods of our bitter and gloomy exile. In times of destruction, pogroms and the Holocaust, Jews never ceased to believe in the fulfillment of Jacob’s dream.

It is true that there were, and continue to be, some who try to blot out the dream. They think that as long as the Jews dream and believe in Jacob’s dream, they will continue on to their goal of returning to their land and fulfilling their destiny -- which is to bring light and goodness to the world. All the same, “many are the thoughts in man’s heart, but it is the council of G-d that will come to pass” (Proverbs 19:21).

Right now, “with G-d bringing back the return of Zion, we are like dreamers” (Psalms 126:1). Our generation is privileged to see the ingathering of the exiles. We are already living Jacob’s dream in a wakeful state, as in G-d’s promise, “I will bring you back to this soil” (Genesis 28:15). It is no dream. It is already a reality. The day is not far off when we will see as well the promise made to both Abraham and Jacob: “All the families on earth will be blessed through you and your descendants” (v. 14).

Looking forward to complete salvation,
Shabbat Shalom.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Chaotic Arab World Has Nothing to Offer Israel Today in Any Deal

by Dr. Mordechai Kedar

Behavioral science recognizes two types of responses to tense or threatening situations facing loosely-connected groups. The first is characterized by the group uniting under a charismatic leader who radiates power, wisdom, organizational acumen and the ability to protect his followers, after which the group forms a united front and prepares for a struggle against the looming threat. The opposite occurs when there is no leader to be found. In the resulting mayhem, members betray one another, and attempt to escape and go over to the other side in order to save themselves. In that case, they could not care less if the rest of the group goes to hell.

The second of the two possible scenarios is an exact description of the current situation in the Arab world where Iran has become a major threat. After years of trying to extend the scope of its control over the Arab nations, it is moving towards exerting hegemony over the entire Islamic world. This entails reestablishing Shiite rule over Islam’s holy sites – starting with Mecca and Medina – eliminating the opposition – starting with the Saudi royal family – destroying Israel and becoming a permanent threat to the Christian West, the latter seen by the Ayatollahs as merely the servant of Shiite believers.

When the two major world powers joined forces to empower the Ayatollah’s regime, the Iranian threat grew by leaps and bounds. Under Obama, US actions strengthened Iran, allowed it to develop nuclear weapons (that is the real meaning of the 2015 Agreement), ignored its ballistic rocket development program, handed it money and allowed it to sign lucrative contracts – all the while ignoring Iran’s involvement in local wars and its support for world terror.

Russia has been a partner of the Iranians for years through a complex array of agreements and joint initiatives: it supplied nuclear power stations for electricity production, thereby granting the Iranians the ability to acquire knowledge and experience in nuclear science, handed over its rocket technology, worked with Iran to regulate the world natural gas market (Russia, Iran and Qatar are the three largest gas suppliers in the world) and joined forces with Iran in the horrific war taking place on Syrian land in an attempt to save the Butcher of Damascus’ regime.

The European Union joined the US and Russia, encouraging its members to enter the lucrative Iranian contract-signing queue. Truthfully, a good number of European countries already had a history of ignoring the economic sanctions imposed on Iran by the West, so that the change was not that discernable. US Intelligence knew exactly what was going on, but said nothing – or to be more accurate, was silenced by the Obama government.

Other economic giants took part in the Iran festival: China never quite understood why it should limit is economic ties to Iran, nor did India find it a problem to maintain wide ranging business interests in the country.

The Arab world, from Iraq in the East to Morocco in the West, Syria in the north and Yemen in the south, has been noting the growing Shiite advance with undisguised apprehension. Sunni Muslim nations such as Turkey and Pakistan – and in fact, all the Sunni Muslims– are just as anxious, but are reacting to the situation by collapsing and falling apart instead of unifying and working together.

This collapse is internal and external, in each and every country, resulting in endless arguments about how each nation must react to the current state of emergency. The question is whether it is better to act against Iran in some way – economically, politically, militarily- or put an end to the problem by yielding to Iran and saving lives.

Qatar threw in the towel years ago. Iran and Qatar share a gigantic gas field where they produce the gas in partnership and share the similarly gigantic profits. Qatar’s behavior infuriates the Saudis beyond description, because Qatar is Arab, Sunni and Wahabee, as is the Saudi royal family, but it has stabbed the Saudis in the back. Saudi furor at Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and for the shenanigans of al Jazeera are nothing compared to its anger over Qatari cooperation with Iran.

Iraq, once it was freed in 2003 by the US and the West from the dictatorship of its Sunni minority under Saddam Hussein, saw its government handed over to the Shiite majority on a silver platter (made in the West and covered with the blood of US and Western soldiers). It was then caught in the Iranian net, betraying the Sunni Arab world. Iran controls politicians, parties, army officers, militias and industries in Iraq. It thus reestablished the hegemony it had in eastern Mesopotamia before the Arabs defeated the Sassanian Persian Empire’s forces at Alkadasia, a city in southern Iraq in 636, between November 13th and 16th, exactly 1381 years ago.

The Persians never forgave the Arabs for this defeat and the Ayatollahs see Iran’s takeover of Iraq as an act of historic justice and long-awaited revenge on the Arabs, whom they continue to consider primitive illiterates.

Syria, another Arab state, became an Iranian stooge after being totally destroyed by a blood-soaked civil war that led to the deaths of over half a million mainly Sunni men, women and children, who killed each other so that Shia Islam could annex their land as well. The Iranians owe a debt of gratitude to the Russian and Christian unbelievers who did the dirty work of eliminating the opposition, down to its women and children.

Lebanon, another Arab country with a large Shiite population, possibly the majority by now, due to its own demographics and the flight of Sunni Muslim, Christians, Druze and Allawites from its borders, has an armed-to-the-teeth militia – Hezbollah – whose fighting strength is greater than that of the Lebanese army. Iran has controlled Lebanon for thirty five years, while the world knew, watched and remained silent.

Yemen, another Arab state with a large Shiite population, was never really united. It was always divided by the different tribal, ethnic and ideological loyalties of its population. That allowed Iran to establish a state within a state with a well-equipped army that took over the capital, exiling the country’s president and his government to Saudi Arabia. Iran now threatens international navigation in the Red Sea and the Al Mandeb Straits, essential passages connecting Europe, the Persian Gulf – with its oil and gas – and Eastern Asia, with its merchandise and raw products.

Iran has even infiltrated the Palestinian Authority by supporting the Islamic Jihad and Hamas terror organizations. Erdogan’s Turkey, too, has joined the list of countries that do Iran’s bidding and try to find favor in its eyes.

Iran has managed to gain control over the entire Muslim east, country by country, this despite the period of tough sanctions imposed by the West, and causing much tension in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the Emirates, Israel and other Mediterranean countries. This tension has a negative effect on the internal workings of these countries, and what we saw happening in Saudi Arabia over the past two weeks is one of the outcomes of that tension.

An acrimonious debate is raging within the Saudi royal family on the way in which the monarchy responded to the Iranian threat in general and on the Iranian takeover of Yemen, a development which poses an immediate threat to the Saudis who have had rockets launched at them before the recent ones. The war in Yemen, like the support for the defeated Syrian rebels, cost the Saudi treasury billions of dollars which if continued, would have left the country on the verge of bankruptcy. The controversy over succession is going on at the same time. Crown prince, Muhammad, son of the reigning monarch Salman, born in 1985, is 32 years old and has no administrative, political or military expertise. There is a slew of much older cousins who have much more experience than he does in the economic, administrative and political spheres. In a traditional tribal society, age, experience, maturity and a suitable personality are what turn someone into an accepted and legitimate leader. Muhammad ibn Salman is not acceptable or legitimate in the eyes of many of his cousins. It is quite possible that a putsch is in the making. He, however, won the first round before it began by arresting some and eliminating several others.

There is no doubt that the Iranian pressure on the Saudis leads to instability in the monarchy. That is what is happening in Lebanon, where the airing of the government’s internal problems led Al Hariri to resign. The situation in Iraq is also far from tranquil and there are angry arguments raging about continued Iranian interference in the running of the country.

In response to the state of internal and inter-Arab mayhem, the Saudis have called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League foreign ministers, to take place this coming Sunday, November 19th. It is clear to everyone that the Arab League is powerless. This paralytic organization was unable to save a single Syrian, Iraqi, Yemenite, Libyan, Algerian or Sudanese Arab, in all the years of blood soaked civil strife that went on in every one of those countries.

One of the Arab tackbackers wrote sarcastically: “Ho, Persians. Watch out for the flood your enemies, who lay siege on one another and fight constantly among themselves, are going to rain on you. This is the political ignorance that has weakened the Umma.” It seems likely that the writer is a Qatari, disparaging the siege the Saudis declared on Qatar several months ago, an act that symbolizes the division among the Sunni nations.

Many Israelis have been encouraging the government to enter into a “Moderate Sunni Nations” accord, because “Israel is not the problem, it is the solution.” This call is based on a deep lack of understanding of the Arab way of doing things and complete ignorance about what is really going on in the countries surrounding Israel.

The only conclusion Israel must reach from this sad state of affairs is as clear as the sunshine in an arid desert: There is no one to rely on in the fragmented, splintered Sunni Arab world which is incapable of uniting against the Iranian threat. The Arabs betray one another and some are tied to Iran with every fibre of their beings. Are they really going to be loyal to whatever agreement they make with the Jews? They may ask the Israelis to save them from the clutches of the Iranian monster, but after Israel does that at a high cost in its own sons and daughters, citizens, infrastructure and cities, that “Moderate Sunni Axis” will act towards us, exactly – and I mean exactly – as they did to the Iraqi Kurds after they shed the blood of over a thousand male and female fighters in order to rescue t he Arabs from ISIS. Remember – they threw them and their aspirations for independence straight into the dustbin of petty politics, interests, cynicism and treachery.

Israel’s fate will be exactly the same once the Iranian threat has been routed from what is left of the destroyed, bankrupt, lost and divided Arab world. Israel must not pay a plugged nickel in the quest for peace with a world as fragmented as the Arab world. Not one square centimeter of land for a worthless piece of paper containing the word peace. Israel must ask the Arabs one single question: What are you giving us for our agreeing to making peace with you?

The answer is clear: Apart from poverty, hatred, treachery, neglect, cynicism and hypocrisy, the Arab world has nothing to offer Israel, because these are the only commodities it has. Sad, but true. These are Israel’s neighbors, and when we Israelis, from our prime minister down to the last of our citizens, begin to understand this, we will be capable of dealing with our neighbors the way we should.

The Ultra-Orthodox are Right and they are Wrong

by Moshe Feiglin

“Whoever travels on the Shabbat has forgotten what it is to be a Jew,” said Ultra-Orthodox Health Minister Litzman last week. I am very fond of Litzman and clearly, the Torah is the cornerstone of his identity. But the nation of Israel makes up all the other stones in the building, as well. It is no coincidence that Litzman needed an order from Israel’s High Court in order to become a minister (who recognizes the Zionist government) and not just a deputy minister, which is the position that the Ultra-Orthodox politicians usually take in order to sidestep the issue of recognizing the Zionist government.

Ultra-Orthodox ideology does not see the Nation of Israel without Torah as a nation. As they see it, the State of Israel does not really exist. It is a type of illusion. The British flag was exchanged for the Zionist flag and we remain nothing more than a community (and for that reason, for example, there is no need to enlist in the army).

We must admit that in many ways, that is how we look – like a confused and conflict-ridden community, bereft of identity and national pride.Are we nothing more than a community?Is there not a historical process taking place here, greater by far than the sum of its communities, disagreements, beliefs, heresies and ideologies? When the heretical Zionism defeated the Arab armies, liberated Jerusalem, amazed the world in Entebbe – wasn’t that a sanctification of G-d’s Name?

The Ultra-Orthodox touch upon a true problem. But those who have forgotten the intrinsic essence of the Nation of Israel, those who separate themselves from it – have also forgotten what it is to be a Jew.

Seclusion for the Purpose of Inclusion

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

When Yaakov awoke from his famous dream and realized that the place where he had slept was graced with G-d's presence, he took the stone upon which he had slept and erected it as a "matzeiva," a sacrificial pillar. He then vowed his commitment to G-d, concluding with the pledge, "This stone that I have set up as a pillar ("matzeiva") shall become a House of G-d." (Bereisheet 28:22) Rav Kook, zt"l, in his letters, explains this verse based on the definition of the Rambam (Hil. Avoda Zara 6:6) that a "matzeiva" is a stone that serves as an open religious center, around which anyone wishing to serve G-d may gather. In contrast, a house is a center enclosed with walls, open only to those who are allowed entrance.

The manner of our patriarchs' worship varied, and it developed gradually. Chazal express this idea by pointing out the terms used for the Temple mount, "Not like Avraham who called it a mountain, not like Yitzchak who called it a field, but rather like Yaakov who called it a house." (Pesachim 88a) A mountain is a high place, visible to all around it. Avraham called out in the name of G-d to all, and accustomed the nations to the notion of monotheism. This belief, however, was abstract and general, without an accompanying set of practical commandments. Yitzchak had a more detailed religious practice, which required him to begin a process of isolation. This is symbolized by a field, which is still open, but not visible from afar. The process culminated with Yaakov who withdraws with his family into his house, and teaches them a comprehensive and detailed way of life, completely detached from the world at large.

This, then, was the intention of Yaakov: This stone that I now set up as a pillar -- a public center for what is still an abstract belief, fit for all people -- will be in the future a House of G-d. It will be a house surrounded with walls, into which only the family of Yaakov will enter, for only Bnei Yisrael are fit for a religion defined by a detailed practice of Torah and mitzvot.

This detachment, however, is for the ultimate purpose of influencing, seclusion for the purpose of inclusion, as stated in the Zohar, "The demonic forces of evil begin with attachment and end with separation; the Heavenly forces of holiness begin with separation and end with attachment." It is impossible for a person or a nation to influence others without first undergoing a process of seclusion and self-fulfillment. When a cup is not filled, it cannot run over. It is Yaakov, who completely isolated himself in a house surrounded with walls, who will ultimately expand without bounds. "I will give you the lot of your father Yaakov" (Yeshaya 58:14) - a lot without boundaries. (Shabbat 118a)

In the end of days, the nations of the world will recognize the worth of Israel, and the will see the importance of religious practice and its influence on the Jewish nation. They will aspire to join with Israel, and to learn from them, not only religious belief, but also a specific way of life. Yeshaya declares this in his famous prophecy (2:2-4):

In the end of days, the mountain of the House of G-d will stand firm ... And the many peoples shall go and say, "Come let us go up to the Mount of the L-rd, to the House of the G-d of Yaakov, that He may instruct us in His ways, and that we may walk in His paths." The nations will say: We will not suffice this time will merely going up the mountain, with an abstract, undefined belief as it was in the time of Avraham. Rather, we will enter into the house, the House of the G-d of Yaakov, in order to learn specific lessons, because it has become clear to us that belief without religious practice and specific guidelines for living is insufficient to lead an ethical life. "That He may instruct us in His ways, and that we may walk in His paths."

The Gemara states (Shabbat 21b): "The Chanukah lamp should be placed, ideally, at the opening of one's house outside, but in a time of danger it is sufficient to place it on one's table." The idea of the light of Israel is to brighten the outside, so that the entire world will be able to benefit from and enjoy its light. However, in a time of danger, when it is impossible for us to influence others, we seclude ourselves in the house, and brighten our table alone. We continue to hope, nonetheless, that ultimately we will have more than enough light, in order to once again take the candles outside to brighten the land with them.

Ya'akov's Home

Parashat Vayetze
by HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Beit El

(Adapted from the dvar Torah delivered by the rabbi to a gathering of residents and guests at "Shabbat Bet El")

"How awesome is this place. This is surely the House of God, and the Gate to Heaven."

Welcome to Bet El. This holy, awesome place perhaps best epitomizes Ya'akov Avinu, the prime figure among the Avot, our forefathers. Ya'akov reaches the highest level of holiness of all of the patriarchs, and his place is here - in Bet El. This spot is the top of Ya'akov's "ladder," - which, according to some opinions, is spiritually "parallel" to the geographical location of Bet El.

From here, one is able to view the greatest "heights," get a glimpse of the "Gate to Heaven." It's crucial to know where the Gate to Heaven is, since the entry to Heaven is only by way of that gate.

This concept - that there is a specific path to come closer to God - is apparent in the verse in Tehilim (Psalms 118:19) that reads: "Open for me the Gates of Righteousness, I will enter them, and give thanks to God. This is the gate to God, Righteous people are permitted to enter it." The Torah is a spiritual passageway, and Bet El is its material, earthly, point of entry. It is here, in Bet El, that, with the help of Hashem, Ya'akov discovers the Gate to Heaven.

Rabbi Yossi once said: "Anyone who makes his Shabbat pleasurable is rewarded with a boundless inheritance, as it says in the book of Yeshaya (Isaiah): 'Then you shall derive pleasure from Hashem; He will, in response, lift you up to the highest places in the land, and feed you the inheritance of your father Ya'akov.'" The rabbis elaborate: "Not like Avraham, with regards to whom it was said: 'Rise up, and tour the land, its length and breadth.' [The Torah here describes Avraham's relationship to the land as being limited to certain boundaries] Not like Yitzchak, with regards to whom it was said: 'To you and your seed I am giving all of these lands...' But like Ya'akov, with regards to whom it was said: 'And you shall spread out to the west, east, north and south...'"

"You shall spread out to the west" is a modern-day reference to our very own Arutz Sheva radio station, whose ship is still at sea; it is anchored some 20 kilometers off the coast of Israel, and 67 kilometers from where we are now, Bet El. God-willing, we will eventually move eastwards, and then further north and south...

In the Tractate of Pesachim, our sages quote Rabbi Elazar, who asks "What does the verse in Yeshaya (Isaiah) refer to, when it says: 'Many nations will (in Messianic times)say, Let us go up to Hashem's mountain, to the home of the God of Ya’akov.' Is Hashem the God of Ya'akov and not the God of Avraham and Yitzchak? No! Rather, the verse seeks to distinguish between Avraham, who is identified with a mountain: 'As it will be said, on the Mountain of God he will appear,' and not like Yitzchak, who is associated with a field, as it says: 'Yitzchak went out to pray in the field.' Rather, like Ya'akov, who is associated with a home, as it says, 'And Ya'akov called the name of that place Bet (House of) El (God)...'"

Earlier, we cited a verse that predicted that many of the world's nations will ultimately declare, "Let us go up to the Hashem's mountain." In the future, the world's nations will not simply be drawn towards God, (Who dwells on this mountain) - they will seek out the House of the God of Ya'akov. The non-Jewish nations will not be drawn by Yitzchak, who is identified with a field, a wide-open field that could potentially accomodate host thousands...They will be attracted - by the home symbolized by Ya’akov. A home is a framework, a place that serves as a dwelling, gives a structure to, contains within it, the infinite Divine bounty present within a Jewish family. When the Jewish people reaches its potential, returns to itself, ties into its unique internal essence, then the nations of the world will be attracted, will be driven to ascend the Mountain of God, to reach the house of the God of Ya'akov.

There are times when we must look inward, and by way of an insular approach, later influence others... This is reflected in the commandment to Ya'akov: "And you should spread out to the west, east, north and south." The approach of Ya’akov Avinu is dual: He first turns inward, builds his private home; he then reaches out, moving in all directions - with an eye to positively influencing even distant corners of the land and of the globe...

I would like to say a few things about the situation in which we find ourselves at present. We are all busy struggling with how to respond to the events that have befallen us, how to perceive them. What does God want from us?

I think that what is happening now is akin to that which our teacher and master, Rav Kook, said during that awful period known as the Holocaust, although obviously not on the same scale as the Shoah. He said that the Holocaust marked the destruction of the "Galut," of the exile... In other words, the Shoah was a painful, awful period, but it was like a surgical procedure - a type of surgery of transition, in which God transplanted us from the diaspora to the Land of Israel. He uprooted us in a very painful fashion but - did so, so that he could bring us here.

I think that we can even look in the same way at our present crisis, our current suffering, at the weakness of spirit that has overtaken the country, its leaders and decision-makers. We are witnessing the crisis of secular Zionism. It is disintegrating. True, it is a very painful, even overwhelming proces - a literal "Hurban," or destruction; the process is bringing about many serious rifts both in the Land and in the nation. What is happening here, however, is not an overall, wholesale destruction of Jewish life, but the destruction of the particular, superficial secular path that has guided modern Israel until now. This is destruction for the sake of rebuilding. It is bound to bring about the crystallizing of the inner, spiritual, essence of our nation.

Of late, several new concepts have been broached in response to the crisis, like "a leadership of faith," "Jewish leadership," and the like. These are positive developments, but any such movement must be careful to view the Jewish experience broadly, not narrowly. A religious leader is not simply someone who dons a kippa (skullcap) on his head. True Jewish leadership means leadership built upon the solid foundation of Torah. An internal, spiritual strength must be its message; it must reflect the deeply-rooted beliefs of Jewish sources; it must be moved by a desire and ability to elevate the nation.

Our country's present political actors - a leadership not guided by the great ideals of Torah - is crumbling, and this disintegration is surely affecting us, too...

Nevertheless, we must see in the latest events - the peeling away of an external, superficial approach that has fulfilled its previous mission. The time has now come for a great spiritual revolution. We have to already see in this crisis the groundwork for the next phase of our growth, of the blazing of a new, spiritual trail within our nation. A revitalized nation will be led by a true Torah-true leadership, a leadership of people of faith, a leadership that actualizes all of those God-given powers within us...

On behalf of the entire community, I wish to thank all the guests who have come here for "Shabbat Bet El." All of you are flesh of our flesh, our brothers. Many of you have relatives who live here. Yet it is not only the people who live here in Bet El, but many many people all over the land who are connected to us here, and who hear, from here, the resounding voice of Ya'akov Avinu. Today, we saw the ladder standing firm on the ground, with its head reaching heaven. Let us all jointly climb that ladder and ascend to even greater heights. If we do so, we will surely soon merit the building of our Bet Elohim - God's Home - the Bet Hamikdash - in all of its splendor and glory, in our Holy City of Jerusalem, speedily in our days...

Lavan's devious selfishness

by Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

Dedicated to the memory of Yossef ben Simcha

The main character in this week’s parsha, aside from our father Yaakov, is Lavan of Aram, who becomes the father-in-law of Yaakov and the grandfather of the twelve tribes of Israel. Lavan is portrayed as a devious, scheming and duplicitous person. He is narcisstic in the extreme, only interested in his own selfish wants, even sacrificing his daughters to fulfill his scheming goals. In the famous statement of the rabbis, the Hagada of Pesach teaches us that Lavan was a greater and even more dangerous enemy of Jewish survival than was the Pharaoh that enslaved Israel in Egyptian bondage! Lavan is portrayed as wishing to uproot all Jewish existence for all time. Pharaoh threatened Jewish physical existence by drowning the Jewish male infants in the Nile. But even then the Jewish people could have survived and limped along through the female line of Israel (which is often even a stronger bond than the male line.) However Lavan intended to destroy Yaakov and his descendants spiritually. He tells Yaakov that the "sons of Yaakov are my sons and the daughters of Yaakov are my daughters and all that Yaakov possesses, physically and spiritually all belong to me." In Lavan’s eyes the Jewish people and their faith and vision and goals are to be non-existent. Only Lavan is entitled to life and success. Everyone else, especially a conscience laden family such as that of Yaakov, are only entitled to become part of Lavan’s world or they are to be eliminated. The selfishness of Lavan knows no bounds. The rule of the rabbis that one is jealous of the success of all others except that one is never jealous of one’s own children and students ironically finds its own exception in the case of Lavan who remains jealous and inimical even of the success of his own children and grandchildren.

It is interesting to note that after his role as it appears in this week’s parsha, Lavan disappears from the biblical scene. In attempting to destroy Yaakov and the Jewish people Lavan in essence destroys himself and is not granted in the Torah any positive mention of eternity. Such is always the fate of the attempted destroyers of Israel. History is littered with the bones of those who came to eradicate Jews and Judaism from the world. Some used the devious tactics of Lavan (such as Napoleon and his sham Sanhedrin which was intended to "modernize" and assimilate the Jews of Europe and the attempt of the Marxists to create a Marxist Jew who no longer would be a Jew or a believer, among other such examples) while others used the more direct methods of Pharaoh to physically enslave, terrorize and eliminate the Jewish people. All have failed in these nefarious endeavors. Lavan’s selfishness is his own undoing. Much of the hatred directed towards the Jewish people and the State of Israel is still based on jealousy and selfishness. It therefore dooms the hater to eventual extinction and disappearance. Thus the lesson of Lavan’s eventual fate, of his being erased from the eternal book, is part of the great morality play which is the narrative of this week’s parsha.

Learning and Dreaming

by HaRav Shaul Yisraeli zt"l

Yaakov had two preparations for his life with Lavan – 14 years of study in the yeshiva of Shem and Ever, and the dream of the ladder. These helped him survive the period successfully.

Although Yaakov already obtained the berachot that ensured his ultimate success, including financially, he was not satisfied. After all, fortune can cause its owner’s downfall (Kohelet 5:12). For a meaningful life of activity, he needed to be a talmid chacham, who could study in his free time in a significant way. He entered a life of intensive study in the ancient yeshiva. The beracha Yaakov received from his father was literally, "from the dew of the heaven and the fats of the land, and a multitude of grain and wine." However, he understood it like the midrash – referring, respectively, to Tanach, Mishna, Talmud, and aggada (Bereisheet Rabba 66:3). When Yaakov put in long hours on Lavan’s flock (see Bereisheet 31:40), he contemplated Torah ideas while at work.

Even this was not enough to deal with such a long stay in a struggle with deception that his father-in-law forced him to enter (see Rashi, Bereisheet 29:12). Although everything Yaakov did was after determining it was morally proper, thinking in terms of "outsmarting the rival" can corrupt. That is why Yaakov prayed that he would "return in peace – free of sin" (ibid. 28:21). Should he turn into a conniver, all the Torah he learned could be wasted and even turned into a source of chillul Hashem. 

To help in this regard, Hashem sent him a special dream – a ladder upon which angels travelled to and from the heaven. Yaakov saw himself as one who was kav’yachol to support the Divine Presence (Bereisheet Rabba 69:3). Yaakov realized the greatness of his role in the world, to coronate Hashem through his actions. This helped him succeed in keeping 613 mitzvot while in Lavan’s home (Rashi, Bereisheet 32:5). His involvement with Lavan and his tricks turned into a side point that did not overly impact him. Yaakov knew his purpose and saw the light that guided him, as the material world is just a guise that allows Hashem’s blessing to take hold.

Our patriarch Yaakov set the example for his descendants. We, like him, went through three stages in our history. This started with a yeshiva-learning stage before exile, with the development of Talmud Bavli, which stays with us wherever our nation travels.

Yaakov was in an open isolated place, exposed to wild animals, just as our nation has been exposed to dangerous nations. While possessing just a stick, he went to sleep protected by some stones, and merited his dream. Instead of focusing on dangers, he focused on the beauty of the spiritual world, and the dream gave him long-lasting strength.

Then he came to Lavan, who was so warm, but also demanded that Yaakov enter his world. We have found such treatment in our exiles as well. And we have to remember that the most rewarding approach is that of truth. We had to draw strength from the years of yeshiva learning and the dream that shows us that the world is a stage upon which the spiritual ministers of the world go up and down. We have always awaited the great day "when Hashem returns the returners to Zion" (Tehillim 126:1) We remain, due to the power of the dream, and because we prepared ourselves in the "the study halls of Shem and Ever."

Jewish Pride

Parashat Vayaitzai 5778
HaRav Nachman Kahana

Ya’akov sets out for Lavan’s home to find a wife. Yet unlike Avraham’s servant Eliezer, who dozens of years before had arrived at that same well, with a caravan laden with wealth, Ya’akov arrives empty-handed.

Rashi (Bereishiet 29:11) explains that Ya’akov left home with great wealth. When it became known to Esav, he dispatched his son Eliphaz (Amalek’s father) to murder him. Eliphaz caught up with Ya’akov and was about to fulfill his father’s demand when Ya’akov suggested that instead, he take all of Ya’akov’s possessions. Then, in accordance with the principle that “a destitute person is considered as dead,” Eliphaz would be credited with murdering Ya’akov. Eliphaz accepted Ya’akov’s offer.

One can only imagine what transpired when Eliphaz informed his father how he had fulfilled his mission, Esav was livid over the fact that Ya’akov was still alive. Then Eliphaz explained the logic in what he had done: “Had I killed Ya’akov, your joy would have known no bounds. Yet for how long? A month? A year? Surely your euphoria would end, and your life would return to normal. But now Ya’akov is destitute, and will suffer every moment of his life. Whenever you sit down to eat, think about Ya’akov scrounging through the garbage dumps for a scrap of potato. And during the frozen nights, when you sit by the warm hearth, your brother Ya’akov will be freezing to death”.

At that moment Esav understood that he had succeeded in educating his son Eliphaz to hate Ya’akov, and he felt satisfaction from knowing that the hatred would pass on to Amalek, his grandson and onward to the end of time.

That sense of joy at having trampled every ounce of Ya’akov’s dignity explains Esav’s behavior in the following Parashat Vayishlach. The Torah says (Bereishiet 33:4), “Esau ran towards Ya’akov and he hugged him. Throwing himself on his (Ya’akov’s) shoulders, he kissed him”. Above the Hebrew word for “he kissed him,” vayishakehu, there are dots in a Torah scroll, alluding that there is something here worthy of examination.

Our sages say that Esav had intended to bite Ya’akov to death, but at the last moment he kissed him. What caused Esav to turn the bite into a kiss?

Our sages answer that all of Ya’akov’s family bowed down to Esav. At that moment, Esav felt euphoric over the appearance of Ya’akov and his entire entourage pressing their faces into the dust in total submission.

The precedent was etched into the psyche of Esav’s descendants. The pleasure from trampling Jewish dignity drove the death machines of Christianity, and passed along quickly to Yishmael’s descendants. The Germans could have liquidated the Jews of Europe more efficiently right where they lived, in Berlin, Paris, and Warsaw. Yet they preferred to close them off in ghettos, then to transport them in cattle cars to the death camps after days of hunger, thirst, and disease. To force them out of the cars with whips and ferocious dogs, carry out “scientific” experiments on their bodies, and in the end to throw them into the gas chambers and the crematoria. The trampling to death, initially of Jewish dignity followed by murder of their bodies!

It is impossible to assess the significance the State of Israel has in the thought processes of the descendants of Esav and Yishmael. The non-Jews can “forgive” the Jews for everything, but not for a descendant of Ya’akov flying an F-16 more effective than most other pilots on earth.

Today’s descendants of Esav and Yishmael are planning to destroy the State of Israel, whose very existence constitutes a dire threat to their religions.

We are singled out in the U.N. with an accusing finger, when we defend ourselves. They say, “Don’t build security walls! Don’t use helicopters! Don’t hurt innocents in Jenin!” Their goal is that the Arabs should be able to continue laying bombs in the marketplaces of Yerushalayim and Netanya.

Our answer to all the “Esav”s in the world is Jewish pride.

HaShem has opened the graves of the Jewish People and brought to life the “dry bones” after two thousand years of suffering, not so that we can be the nations’ equals, but so that we can pave mankind’s way back to recognizing the Creator of the Universe.

Jewish pride means creating an ideal society under Torah rule. A nation of holiness in which all abide by the Torah, and fight to defend the people and the Land. A country in which every Jew walks with head held high, and where we never again will stoop to any human being.

Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5778/2017 Nachman Kahana

Rav Kook on Parashat VaYeitzei: The Prayers of the Avot

According to the Talmud (Berachot 26b), the Avot (forefathers) instituted the three daily prayers:

Abraham - Shacharit, the morning prayer.
Isaac - Minchah, the afternoon prayer.
Jacob - Ma’ariv, the evening prayer.

Is there an inner connection between these prayers and their founders?

Rav Kook wrote that each of these three prayers has its own special nature. This nature is a function of both the character of that time of day, and the pervading spirit of the righteous tzaddik who would pray at that time.

The Morning Stand

Abraham, the first Jew, established the first prayer of the day. He would pray at daybreak, standing before God:
“Abraham rose early in the morning, [returning] to the place where he had stood before God.” (Gen. 19:27)

Why does the Torah call attention to the fact that Abraham would stand as he prayed? This position indicates that the function of this morning prayer is to make a spiritual stand. We need inner fortitude to maintain the ethical level that we have struggled to attain. The constant pressures and conflicts of day-to-day life can chip away at our spiritual foundation. To counter these negative influences, the medium of prayer can help us, by etching holy thoughts and sublime images deeply into the heart. Such a prayer at the start of the day helps protect us from the pitfalls of worldly temptations throughout the day.

This function of prayer - securing a solid ethical foothold in the soul - is reflected in the name Amidah (the “standing prayer”). It is particularly appropriate that Abraham, who successfully withstood ten trials and tenaciously overcame all who fought against his path of truth, established the “standing prayer” of the morning.

Flowering of the Soul in the Afternoon

The second prayer, initiated by Isaac, is recited in the afternoon. This is the hour when the temporal activities of the day are finished, and we are able to clear our minds from the distractions of the world. The soul is free to express its true essence, unleashing innate feelings of holiness, pure love and awe of God.

The Torah characterizes Isaac’s afternoon prayer as sichah (meditation): “Isaac went out to meditate in the field towards evening” (Gen. 24:64). The word sichah also refers to plants and bushes (sichim), for it expresses the spontaneous flowering of life force. This is a fitting metaphor for the afternoon prayer, when the soul is able to naturally grow and flourish.

Why was it Isaac who established this prayer? Isaac exemplified the attribute of Justice (midat ha-din), so he founded the soul’s natural prayer of the afternoon. The exacting measure of law is applied to situations where one has deviated from the normal and accepted path.

Spontaneous Evening Revelation

And what distinguishes Ma’ariv, the evening prayer?

Leaving his parents’ home, Jacob stopped for the night in Beth-El. There he dreamed of ascending and descending angels and divine promises. Jacob awoke the following morning awestruck; he had not been aware of holiness of his encampment.

“He chanced upon the place and stayed overnight, for it became suddenly night.” (Gen. 28:11)

The “chance meeting” - a spiritual experience beyond the level to which the soul is accustomed - that is the special quality of the evening prayer. The night is a time of quiet solitude. It is a time especially receptive to extraordinary elevations of the soul, including prophecy and levels close to it.

Unlike the other two prayers, the evening prayer is not obligatory. But this does not reflect a lack of importance; on the contrary, the essence of the evening prayer is an exceptionally uplifting experience. Precisely because of its sublime nature, this prayer must not be encumbered by any aspect of rote obligation. It needs to flow spontaneously from the heart. The voluntary nature of the evening prayer is a continuation of Jacob’s unexpected spiritual revelation that night in Beth-El.

(Gold from the Land of Israel (now available in paperback), pp. 65-67. Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. I, p. 109, Olat Re’iyah vol. I, p. 409)

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Palestinians: If You Do Not Give Us Everything, We Cannot Trust You

by Bassam Tawil

  • The Palestinians have made up their mind: The Trump peace plan is bad for us and we will not accept it. The plan is bad because it does not force Israel to give the Palestinians everything.
  • If and when the Trump administration makes public its peace plan, the Palestinians will be the first to reject it, simply because it does not meet all their demands.
  • Trump will soon learn that for Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinians, 99% is just not enough.
US President Donald Trump talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on May 23, 2017 in Bethlehem. (Photo by PPO via Getty Images)
The Palestinians are once again angry -- this time because the Trump administration does not seem to have endorsed their position regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians are also angry because they believe that the Trump administration does not want to force Israel to comply with all their demands.
Here is how the Palestinians see it: If you are not with us, then you must be against us. If you do not accept all our demands, then you must be our enemy and we cannot trust you to play the role of an "honest" broker in the conflict with Israel.
Last week, unconfirmed reports once again suggested that the Trump administration has been working on a comprehensive plan for peace in the Middle East. The full details of the plan remain unknown at this time.

When Was the "Palestinian People" Created? Google Has the Answer.

by Jean Patrick Grumberg

  • All people born in British Mandatory Palestine between 1923-1948 (today's Israel) had "Palestine" stamped on their passports at the time. But when they were called Palestinians, the Arabs were offended. They complained: "We are not Palestinians, we are Arabs. The Palestinians are the Jews".
  • After invading Arab armies were routed and the Arabs who had fled the war wanted to return, they were considered a fifth column and not invited back. The Arabs who had loyally remained in Israel during the war, however, and their descendants, are still there and make up one fifth of the population. They are known as Israeli Arabs; they have the same rights as Christians and Jews, except they are not required to serve in the army unless they wish to.
  • "The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality, today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese." – PLO leader Zuheir Mohsen, interview in the Dutch newspaper Trouw, March 1977.
(Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
In an op-ed in the Guardian on November 1, 2017, ahead of the 100thanniversary of the Balfour Declaration, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas called on the UK to "atone" for the century of "suffering" that the document allegedly wrought on the "Palestinian people." Abbas reiterated the claims he has been making since 2016, to justify a surreal lawsuit he has threatened to bring against Britain for supporting the "creation of a homeland for one people [Jews], which, he asserted, "resulted in the dispossession and continuing persecution of another."
"Palestinians" were the Jews who lived, along with Muslims and Christians on land called Palestine, which was under British administration from 1917 to 1948.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Life With a Smear

by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

The world is awash in gossip, slander, endless accusations, the intentional dissemination of rumors and innuendo, and reckless disregard for propriety, the norms of justice and the proper redress for wrongs, imagined or otherwise. Trial by media is the new normal. Trial by judges or juries that require the adduction of evidence and witnesses and proof beyond a reasonable doubt or even by the preponderance of evidence is passé, old-fashioned and behind the times. They are certainly less effective in destroying the lives and reputations of the targets whose guilt might not be proven in a conventional manner. For all the sanctimonious talk about progress and modernity, one might wonder whether or not duels were a more civilized form of resolving disputes than this is. Note: I am not calling for the re-institution of duels.

Jewish law is quite clear and in marked contrast to the perverse culture that surrounds us. One is not only prohibited from believing lashon hara (defined as any statement, even true, that tends to disparage the reputation of the subject) but one is also obligated to justify or interpret favorably even criminal or unseemly actions that we view with our own eyes – much less those we hear about from others. Jewish leaders, from the time of Moshe until today, have often been subject to cruel and despicable slander. All, obviously, were baseless, and all were intended to denigrate and marginalize them and reduce their influence in Jewish life.

The smear has become routine in public discourse and the saga of Judge Roy Moore is just the latest example. I have no truck with Judge Moore and no idea whether or not the accusations of vile misconduct against him are true. I will make two predictions (always risky but nonetheless): he will not become the Senator from Alabama and the day after he drops out or loses the election his accusers will disappear from the public eye never to be heard from again. For even his most vociferous (and even sincere) opponents must concede that the sole purpose of these accusations is not to find justice for the alleged victims but rather to achieve some petty, partisan political goal. But this is nothing new.

Recently, the acclaimed investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson wrote a book entitled “The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think and How You Vote.” It is an enlightening and frightening tale of the extent to which modern politics has become a game of money and power but a game that is fueled by lies, falsehoods, accusations, allegations, rumors, innuendo, and anything that can manipulate the gullible public in providing money or votes for a particular candidate or leave them disgruntled enough that they simply do not vote for the candidate to whom they would naturally incline. (After all, despite the protests to the contrary about the importance of voting, any candidate would rather have you stay home and not vote than go out and vote for the opponent.) Hence, politics has become a bi-partisan sport of character assassination and simply….lies.

This has always existed to some extent but it has reached new levels with the capacity to reach massive numbers of people in mere seconds and the rigorous scientific study of words, phrases, images and particular charges that sway particular voters. Campaigns have become nothing more than the steady drip of innuendo that, like the kikayon of the prophet Yonah, make a brief splash and then disappear overnight. Her book is filled with numerous examples, and even admissions of the players that this is the game they play. Remember last summer when the news blared that Melania Trump came here as an illegal immigrant and worked without a visa, and candidate Donald Trump was lambasted for his hypocrisy in marrying such a person? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t – but it was all fabricated, simply made up, all her papers were in order. It’s the exposure of this “breaking news!” that mattered to the disseminators – the instinctive impression on the listeners – and not whether the charge was false or FALSE. It was actually TOTALLY FALSE. That is just one of dozens of examples she cites.

So too – in my lame attempt to be bi-partisan – the persistent allegation that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and not in the United States. Very interesting, but few noted that such (even if true) would not have disqualified him to run for the presidency as long as his mother was an American citizen. This was born out by the 2016 election when a handful of diehards pointed out that Ted Cruz was, in fact, born in Canada. Indeed, but he remained eligible because his mother was an American citizen. From a Constitutional perspective, it matters not whether you were born in Canada or Kenya. But that too was fake news, designed to tarnish the candidate rather than educate the public.

Attkisson traces the birth of the modern smear movement to the “borking” (yes, it became a verb) of Judge Robert Bork whose nomination to the Supreme Court was rejected by Congress because of tendentious and repugnant accusations raised against him. But it has risen to a whole new level. Do not think for a moment that modern journalists pound the pavement and wear out their shoes trying to uncover dirt on candidates; that might have happened long ago. Today, most journalists are partisans (many reporters and columnists coordinate their writings with the campaigns they support!) and they are fed opposition research by those campaigns and do little background investigation about them. The slightly ethical will at least try to interview the accusers; the less ethical will just publish accusations that have already been disseminated on the internet, on the grounds that if it is on the internet it is already newsworthy. As consumers of news, we are fed narratives that have no connection to truth and myths that shape or reinforce our voting patterns. The examples are legion and I recommend the book. She quotes the Nazi propagandist Goebbels: “It would be possible to prove, with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned, that a square is in fact a circle.” And, as Jews learned all too well, “A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.”

Donald Trump was a master at deflecting the dirt thrown at him by flinging dirt at his accusers and his opponents. He did this during the campaign, and now as well. Allegations against him of Russian “collusion” are simply turned against Hillary Clinton and her Russian “collusion.” (Full disclosure: I have met and spoken with Russians more than 100 times in the last year, almost all in shul. Nevertheless…) Obviously, Trump was successful in navigating this swamp, but the swamp has only deepened.

How does it work? Attkisson defines a smear in this way: “In simple terms, it’s an effort to manipulate opinion by promulgating an overblown, scandalous, and damaging narrative. The goal is often to destroy ideas by ruining the people who are most effective at communicating them…The smear business is interminable and eminently profitable…Imagine trying to focus on your job or family while professional smear artists engage in a 24/7 operation to discredit and controversialize you. To them, it’s second nature. They’ve perfected their techniques. They maintain a constant pressure. Their slander alienates your bosses, clients, colleagues, and the general public. They isolate you from your support system. Eventually, your own family and friends start to wonder about you. You feel the icy chill of distancing from those you consider closest.”

And right from Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” For sure, such tactics have seeped into the Jewish world as well, and the agendas that are hostile to Torah do not hesitate to “controversialize” their adversaries or to lie, distort and malign in order to achieve their goals.

For the world, Sharyl Attkisson concludes with this synopsis: “For now, one thing you can count on is that most every image that crosses your path has been put there for a reason. Nothing happens by accident. What you need to ask yourself isn’t so much 'Is it true, but Who wants me to believe it—and why?'”

But Jews have to ask even more potent questions: how seriously do we take the Torah and its admonitions against lashon hara? How do we ostracize purveyors of lashon harain our community and in the media? How do we erase from our minds the negative images that lashon hara imprints? How do we protect the innocent and potential victims against possible abusers without drenching ourselves in lashon hara? And how do we inculcate in the religious public that civil disputes are the province of Bet Din and criminal accusations are the province of the secular court system – and not the media, in either case?

Life with smears is the inevitable consequence of trial by media and the inundation of our world with lashon hara. We should rise above both and set an admirable example for the rest of society.

Palestinian state – enhancing or eroding US national security?

by Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

The choice of business and social partners should be based – objectively – on a proven track record, not – subjectively – on unproven hopes and speculation.

Similarly, the assessment of the potential impact of the proposed Palestinian state on US national security should be based – objectively - on documented, systematic, consistent Palestinian walk (track record) since the 1930s, not – subjectively - on Palestinian talk and speculative scenarios.

Furthermore, an appraisal of the Arab attitude toward a proposed Palestinian state should be based – objectively - on the documented, systematic and consistent Arab walk since the mid-1950s, not - subjectively – on the Arab talk.

Since the 1993 Oslo Accord, the documented track record of the Palestinian political, religious and media establishment has featured K-12 hate-education and religious incitement. This constitutes the most authoritative reflection of the worldview, state-of-mind and strategic goals of the proposed Palestinian state.

Moreover, since the 1930s, the Palestinian track record has highlighted close ties with the enemies and adversaries of the US and the Free World.

For example, the Palestinian Grand Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, whose memory and legacy are revered by the Palestinian Authority, embraced Nazi Germany, urging Muslims to join the Nazi military during World War II. Moreover, in 2017, Hitler is still glorified by Palestinian officials and media, and Hitler’s Mein Kampf is a best-seller in the Palestinian Authority.

During and following the end of WW2, the Palestinian leadership collaborated with the Muslim Brotherhood – the largest intra-Muslim terror organization - which also aligned itself with Nazi Germany. In fact, Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas were key leaders of the Palestinian cell of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo.

Throughout the Cold War, Palestinian leaders aligned themselves with the USSR and the rogue East European regimes. Thus, Mahmoud Abbas acquired fluent Russian and his Ph.D. at Moscow’s Patrice Lumumba University, publishing a thesis on “the myth of the Jewish Holocaust.” Mahmoud Abbas’ PLO, and other Palestinian organizations, were trained by top Soviet Bloc experts on terrorism, subversion, intelligence, staff and command. It resulted - during the 1970s and early 1980s – in a series of PLO camps in Lebanon, training anti-US Asian, African, European, South American and Muslim terrorists and hijackers.

The PLO – which is legally superior to the Palestinian Authority – was an early supporter of the Ayatollahs, following their toppling of the pro-US Shah of Iran. At the same time, three PLO battalions participated in Saddam Hussein’s invasion and plunder of Kuwait, which triggered the First Gulf War.

Since 1966, the Palestinian leadership has maintained close ties with North Korea, benefiting from military, economic and diplomatic support, and maintaining one – of only 25 – embassies in Pyongyang. The Palestinian Authority also sustains close ties with Cuba, Venezuela, China, Russia and Iran.

While the Palestinian issue is pivotal in the Arab-Western talk, it is marginal in the intra-Arab walk. Pro-US Arab leaders are preoccupied with their primary, survival concerns - the lethal Arab Tsunami and the Ayatollahs’ machete at their throats - which are not related directly, or indirectly, to the Palestinian issue.

While Western leaders are impressed with the generous pro-Palestinian Arab talk, they have ignored the harsh Arab walk, and the meager Arab financial assistance to the Palestinians (10% of the Saudi aid to the anti-Soviet Mujahidin in Afghanistan). Pro-US Arab leaders do not forget, nor forgive, the persistent Palestinian subversion and terrorism in Egypt (1950s), Syria (1960s), Jordan (1970), Lebanon (1970-1983) and Kuwait (1990).

A thundering Arab walk was demonstrated by Kuwait’s retaliation to the PLO’s repugnant betrayal (the collaboration with Saddam’s invasion): expelling almost all 300,000 Palestinians (relatives, supporters and associates of Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas) in the aftermath of Kuwait’s liberation by the US military in January, 1991.

The aforementioned, Palestinian systematic rogue track record – against the backdrop of the rocky Hashemite-Palestinian relations – suggests that a Palestinian state could be the straw, which could break the Hashemite back. A Palestinian state west of the Jordan River and the Hashemite regime constitutes a classic oxymoron. It could transform Jordan into another platform of intra-Islamic terrorist warfare, establishing another anti-US Arab regime, which could be subservient to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Ayatollahs (in neighboring Iraq) or ISIS, with lethal ripple effects into neighboring Saudi Arabia, all other pro-US Arab entities and the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea - a dramatic financial, national security and homeland security threat to the US and the globe.

A Palestinian state could provide docking and landing rights, and possibly a land-base, to Russia, and possibly China and/or Iran, which would destabilize the region, challenging the US military presence in the Mediterranean and Middle East.

The aforementioned track record would result in an additional anti-US vote in the UN, and in the flight of the dwindling Christian community, which was a majority in Bethlehem before the 1993 Oslo Accord; now, reduced to a 15% minority and still declining in 2017.

While Western conventional wisdom assumes that the Palestinian issue is a core-cause of Middle East turbulence, a crown-jewel of Arab policy-makers and the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the increasingly volatile Middle East reality pulls the rug from under such assumptions, documenting the Palestinian issue as a red herring, which diverts attention away from the clear and present, lethal threats to all pro-US Arab regimes.

Attesting to the huge Arab talk-walk gap is the currently-unprecedented security collaboration between Israel and all pro-US Arab countries, irrespective of the unresolved Palestinian issue (as are the vast majority of the multitude of intra-Arab disputes) and the growing Jewish population in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. The pro-US Arabs consider Israel to be the most effective “life insurance agent” in the region, due to its robust posture of deterrence, which would dissipate if Israel were to retreat from the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria to the 9-15 mile defenseless sliver along the Mediterranean.

Israel would be relegated from the most effective US geo-strategic beachhead, which extends the US strategic arm, to a geo-strategic burden requiring the aid of the US strategic arm.

For the US to promote the establishment of a Palestinian state – in defiance of its well-documented track record – would resemble the fire department recruiting a notorious pyromaniac to extinguish fires.

Friday, November 17, 2017

If Israel has it, then I demand it: a Torah Thought for Parashat Toldot

by Moshe Feiglin

“And Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil soup and he ate and he drank and he rose and he went and Esau despised the birthright.” (From this week’s Torah portion, Toldot, Genesis 25:34)

Esau is a practical guy. Modern. He isn’t interested in “birthrights,” titles and mysticism. He builds the world with his own two hands. Jacob’s soup smells good and if his primitive dreamer of a brother wants some intangible entity in exchange for the red stew, he is more than happy to sell it to him. After all, everybody dies in the end anyway, so what good is a birthright?

“When Esau heard the words of his father, and he shouted a great and exceedingly bitter cry and he said to his father, “Bless me as well, my father.”

Just a minute. Is this the same Esau who scorned the birthright? And even if now he has changed his mind and wants the blessing of the firstborn, he already sold it to Jacob. So what can he possibly claim? And why the change from one extreme to the other – from scorning the birthright to crying and shouting when he loses it?

To understand the mentality of the nations of the world regarding Israel, it is a good idea to join one of the groups that ascends the Temple Mount in purity. Although Ishmael prevails on the Mount, Esau also has his hands in the pot, albeit in a more subtle manner. As long as the Temple Mount was not in the hands of the Jews and abandoned, it interested no one. Even today, Arab children still play soccer on the Mount. And when the Arabs gather to pray, they face Mecca, with their hindquarters facing the site of the Holy Temple on the Temple Mount. Just one thing is important to them: that the Jews should not pray there. In other words, as long as the birthright and blessing is in their hands, it is meaningless to them. But from the moment that Israel has the birthright, it becomes very desirable and its loss evokes an exceedingly bitter cry.

Shabbat Shalom.

The Yishai Fleisher Show: Collision (Dis)Course

Video: Moshe Feiglin on the Investigations Against Netanyahu

In Hebrew with English subtitles.

Thursday, November 16, 2017