Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Re'eih: There are only Jews

By Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

The use of the verb re’eih by the Torah to begin this week's Torah reading indicates that the seemingly complicated and abstract choices in life regarding faith and doubt, good and evil, right and wrong and life and death are really simple ones. The word re’eih denotes something that can be seen with the naked eye and needs no great thought or judgment to identify it. The Torah implies here that life can indeed be a matter of simple correct choices that in reality are not difficult to make. But how can these simple choices truly be seen and discerned? We are witness to the fact that a great deal of humanity, if not even the majority, makes very wrong choices in personal and national life. War, strife, angst and disputes govern human life and have done so for millennia. All of these are undoubtedly wrong choices but if it is so simple and clear as to what the correct choice should be, then why do humans continue to make wrong and harmful choices? So it is difficult for us to completely understand why the Torah should, almost cavalierly, say that if one but sees with one's own vision, one will unerringly make a correct choice in life. The Torah seems to indicate that the choices in life are stark and clear and that there is very little if any grey area surrounding or encompassing these issues. Would that this would be true. But all of us are aware that there are great complications in life and that easy choices are rare and not very forthcoming.

I think that the "seeing" part of decision-making that the Torah envisions here extends to a knowledge and view of past events and of history generally. The Torah in essence tells us to look at what has gone before us, to see what decisions were made then and what the results of those decisions were, before making any current choices or decisions. Not knowing the past always blinds the present and dims the future. Look at what happened to millions of Jews who abandoned their faith and observances, see their absence of generations and the misfortune that they brought upon themselves and the Jewish people generally. Be aware of those who placed their faith in Western civilization and not in the God of Israel or the destiny of the Jewish people. See how unforgiving history is of wrong decisions and of the pursuit of vanity, the lure of passing political correctness and of the faddish culture of the time. See and understand the fate of those Jews who no longer considered themselves Jewish but were destined to nevertheless be Jewish by the definition of a hateful anti-Semitic society. In the eyes of history and of non-Jewish society there are no liberal or conservative, wealthy or poor, observant or less observant Jews. There are only Jews. This is a clear lesson of history that literally shouts at us and waves itself in front of our eyes. The Torah is therefore completely correct in using the verb re’eih in dealing with the pivotal decisions of life that Jews and Jewish society are always faced with. Good vision and knowledge of the past will always help us find the right path for us and for all of Israel.

Listening for Listening’s Sake

By HaRav Shaul Yisraeli, zt"l

"The blessing – that you shall listen to the commandments …" (Devarim 11:27). The main blessing is not the external reward that one receives from Hashem but is the listening itself. Fortunate is the person who knows how to feel this, for then his life is like the Garden of Eden. When we make an appraisal of our lives, we will find that most people are not satisfied. Sometimes people think that it is because they are missing this or that, and they aim to obtain it so that they will finally be satisfied. Wonder of wonders – we always find ourselves lacking something, and we always have to toil to obtain it. It is like the edge of the sky in the eyes of a baby. The closer you get to it, the more it seems to be escaping us.

The blessing is to identify the source of blessing, and to realize that we are not at all looking in the right direction. It is easier than we realize to find satisfaction. It is actually in our hands, in what we possess – it is, "that you shall listen."

It is reminiscent of the sorcerer in the story of Ashmedai (Gittin 68a). He searches for his treasure at the edge of the universe and does not realize that he is standing on it. That is what all of us do. We work so hard looking for our treasure, turn our hair white, and ruin our posture so that maybe we will find some satisfaction and happiness. Much of that work is for nothing. You already have the blessing – a daf of gemara, a perek of mishna, Chumash with Rashi. It is not that hard and does not require great exertion.

"The spirit will not be filled" – there is a parable of a simple city dweller who married a princess. If he brings her everything he can find, it will not be important to her, for she is a princess (Kohelet Rabba 6:1). The soul demands its nourishment. Instead, we give it food that it cannot digest because our soul is from above.

The job of the month of Elul is to fulfill the pasuk: "If a shofar will be sounded in the city, will the people not tremble?" (Amos 3:6). In other words, we need to shake the heart out of its complacency. Sometimes one is so sure of himself that he has no doubts about his decisions. Elul is there to loosen the nails we have placed around our path, which convinces us that we are always right and our motivations are always complete. Elul awakens doubt. In that way it is an introduction to the Ten Days of Repentance. It is interesting that the introduction is three times as long as the period of repentance itself. If a person does not realize he can be wrong, he does not realize he can sin, and then there can be no repentance. If we remove the wall of self-reliance, we will see the ugly truth … and we will realize for what we need to repent.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Is China Intervening in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?

By Roie Yellinek

Chinese President Xi Jinping, photo by Michel Temer via Flickr CC
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 558
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: On July 18, 2017, PA President Mahmoud Abbas met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. According to the media, the meeting was productive. “Beijing will create a dialogue mechanism between Israel and the Palestinians, with China being the mediator, and later this year China will hold a peace conference and try to resolve the conflict”, according to Xi. This sounds good, but Beijing has more pressing priorities. It is not interested in forging deals with little chance of success.

Reality vs. political correctness

By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

1. An historical divide exists between short-term convenience and long-term national security. The former adds fuel to the Arab-Israeli fire, as evidenced by the litany of genuine Western (mostly US) peace initiatives – all of them failed, attempting to subordinate reality to oversimplification, frustrating expectations, and therefore intensifying terrorism and injuring Western stature. The only two successful attempts, so far, were Israeli initiatives of direct negotiation with Egypt and Jordan.

2. The appeasement of rogue regimes - Arab, Iranian or North Korean - wets their appetite and radicalizes their policies. While the defiance of rogue regimes entails short terms inconvenience, it serves long term values, principles, and national and homeland security interests.

3. In December, 1988, the US recognized/appeased the PLO, when it was the number one Arab terrorist organization, training terrorists from Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia, providing a tailwind to international terrorism. In September, 1993, the Oslo Accords snatched the PLO from the jaws of oblivion, when the PLO was losing ground in its own terrorist camps in Tunisia, Yemen, Libya and Lebanon. The Oslo accords conferred upon the PLO the misleading appearance of legitimacy. The pro-PLO gestures signaled submission, by the US and Israel, to wishful-thinking, rendering a victory of short-term convenience over long-term and complex reality; thus, dealing a blow to the medium and long-term homeland and national security of both countries. However, the primary victims of the enhanced stature of the PLO have been the Arabs of Judea & Samaria, who have been subjected, since 1993, to the wrath of PLO repression, corruption (e.g., Mahmoud Abbas' nickname is "Mr. 20%…"), subversion and terrorism.

4. Arabs throughout the Middle East are aware of the Palestinian reality. Therefore, they have showered the Palestinians with much talk but no significant walk. While Mahmoud Abbas is welcomed with a red carpet in Western capitals, he is accorded a shabby rug in Arab capitals. Arabs are familiar with the Palestinian record from the 50s', when Arafat and Abbas were involved in subversion and terrorism in Cairo, escaping to Syria. In 1966 and 1970 they fled Syria and Jordan, respectively, because of their subversion and terrorism. In 1975, after plundering South Lebanon, they tried to topple the central regime in Beirut. In August 1990, the Palestinians joined Saddam Hussein's invasion and plunder of Kuwait, which throughout the years had been the most hospitable Arab country to Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas and their Palestinian allies, absorbing 300,000 Palestinians and enabling them to rise to top positions. In retaliation, following the war, and liberation by the USA, Kuwait expelled almost all Palestinians from the country.

5. A Palestinian state west of the Jordan River, on the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria, would undermine regional stability, eroding Western interests. It would provide a decisive tailwind to the current attempts to topple the pro-US Hashemite regime east of the Jordan River. During the Israel-Jordan peace treaty ceremony, Jordanian military leaders pleaded with their Israeli counter-parts to not allow the establishment of a Palestinian state west of the river, lest it would topple the Hashemite regime east of the river. Israel's military intelligence commanders were told by their Jordanian colleagues that Palestinians are known to violate in the evening that which they sign in the morning. The toppling of the Hashemite regime would trigger a tectonic ripple effect into Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arabian Peninsula, advancing the fortunes of Iran's Ayatollahs and Russia, with destructive homeland security repercussions in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America and the USA. A Palestinian state would provide Russia, and possibly China and Iran, with naval, air and land bases, which would dramatically upset the current balance of
power in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, the soft belly of Europe. It would also mean the devastation of the remnants of Christian centers in Judea and Samaria.

6. In order to minimize the volcanic nature of the Middle East, and to remain a net-producer – not a net consumer – of national security, Israel should control the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria, serving as a growing geo-strategic outpost of the US, extending the strategic hand of the US, and enhancing its own posture of strategic deterrence. Ceding the mountain ridges of Judea & Samaria, Israel would be squeezed within a 9-15-mile sliver along the Mediterranean, dominated by the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria, eroding its military power projection, which would deny the US a unique geo-strategic beachhead, demoting Israel to a strategic burden upon the US.

7. In 2017, Jordan is a positive neighbor of Israel. However, in the context of the intolerant, unpredictable, violent, tectonic Middle East, regimes are provisional, as are their policies, alliances and agreements. Therefore, Israel's most critical and longest border (with Jordan) - which is the closest to Jerusalem, the coastal plain and Ben Gurion Airport - could become Israel's most hostile and dangerous border upon a change of regime in Amman. Hence, relinquishing control of the over-towering mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria, would amount to a self-destruct subordination of long-term security to short-terms convenience.

Palestinians: The Honeymoon with the US is Over

By Bassam Tawil

  • The Palestinians have a condition for the US to be accepted by them as a mediator in the conflict with Israel: bias in favor of the Palestinians. This is the Palestinian state of mind: If you are not with us, you are against us.
  • The Palestinian leadership does not wish to talk about improving the Palestinian economy because Palestinians do not perceive themselves as engaged in an economic conflict with Israel: they perceive themselves as engaged in an existential, struggle-to-the-death conflict with Israel. In their view, for Palestinians to thrive, the State of Israel must go.
  • Notably, the Palestinians reject the idea of Israel making peace with its Arab neighbors. They fear that such peace would come at the expense of them achieving political supremacy over Israel.
In his recent meeting with US presidential envoys Jason Greenblatt (left) and Jared Kushner (center) in Ramallah, an enraged Mahmoud Abbas (right) rejected their demand that he halt payments to terrorists and their families. (Photo by Thaer Ghanaim/PPO via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump's envoys, Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner, are planning to return to the Middle East soon to discuss ways of reviving the stalled "peace process" between Israel and the Palestinians. Greenblatt tweeted last week that he was looking forward to returning to the Middle East "as we pursue peace." He added that Trump was "optimistic," but did not elaborate.
Pursuing peace sounds wonderful. Less wonderful, however, are the facts on the ground of "pursuing peace" with the Palestinians.
Not surprisingly, the Palestinians have returned to their old habit of accusing the US of being "biased" in favor of Israel.
As the US envoys prepare to head to the Middle East, Palestinians are saying that they have lost confidence in the Trump administration, as they have done with all previous administrations.

The Shamrak Report: True Meaning of Jewish Self-Determination and more......

The leaders of Israel since 1948 have become so hooked on world opinion and approval of the anti-Semitic world. They ask countries to recognize our existence... even the states that are at war with Israel, as well as terrorist groups and organizations! 
Our existence is a FACT - Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel has been established for 3,000 years as a people living in Israel and practicing the Holy Book, the Torah, in the same land of our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Our existence in the Land of Israel is a blessed decree from G-d!
The reality in all of this folly, the need to have others recognize our existence, is that we have to first and foremost recognize our own existence as a Sovereign People Living with G-d's Blessings and Commandments in our own Land. 
When Jews do this then there is no need to curry favour for others and beg them to recognize us as a People in Our Land. It does not matter if they do or don't! 
It is not important whether they have an embassy in Jerusalem or no embassy at all. What matters is that we do recognize who we are and this sets the example for others to RESPECT us, even if they not necessarily LOVE us. Love is not important. LOVE is for us to practice respect and self-respect among our own People following the Mitzvah, (Commandment) Ahavot Yisrael (love of our fellow Jews). This is the meaning of SELF DETERMINATION and we should not let OTHERS DETERMINE OUR life and existence!
The world will come to us when they need our superior technological products and systems to better their health and living standards. And we will sell these to them if it does not compromise our security. This trade is the recognition that we have earned from the world as a "light unto the Nations" and anything else is just superfluous. Normal states, companies and individuals will give Israel and Jews respect - others will limit relation to trade only, as a necessity. (I always say “nobody respect those who have no self-respect”!)
FOOD for THOUGHT by Steven Shamrak
Does it really matter who provides a terror-funding scheme? It is just another distraction from the real issue – how to end the Arab-Israel conflict and reunite Jewish land! Not long ago Saddam of Iraq and Saudis did it. Now the PA uses international funds. It can ask for direct payments from Iran, Malaysia, Qatar etc ...and they will oblige! Only by the removal of the enemy population from Jewish land will Israel be able to end internal Islamic terrorism!
A trio of top Trump administration officials - including the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner - will soon travel to the Middle East as part of an ongoing effort to revive the long-dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process. A White House official said that President “believes that the restoration of calm and the stabilized situation in Jerusalem after the recent crisis on the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif has created an opportunity to continue discussions and the pursuit of peace that began early in his administration.” (Has the PA ceased already all payments to terrorists and their families? So, what the stupid talks about! If they have no new ideas, why bother coming? The only reason is to restrain Israel from dealing with enemies the way any country would have long time ago!)
Israel Police publicized a security video showing footage of the 60-year-old Israeli Arab female terrorist who carried out a terror attack near Jerusalem's Old City. She was walking near the Damascus Gate light rail station when she suddenly draws her knife and attempts to stab a haredi man walking opposite her. After he manages to escape she attacked a 31-year-old Arab man - stabbing him in the shoulder. She was arrested and taken her for questioning. (Will she be qualified for payments from the PA for this terror attack?)
Greek Orthodox church aims to block property sale in Israel. The Greek Orthodox patriarch in the Holy Land announced Saturday that his church will appeal an Israeli court decision that approved the sale of prime church property to companies representing Jews seeking to expand their presence in Jerusalem's Old City. (The same church has been refusing to sell Israel the land where the Knesset is standing! For centuries the Church had been confiscating Jewish properties in Europe. It is time for Israel to re-claim Jewish land in Eretz-Israel!)
It is Safe to Walk in Jewish Neighbourhoods
A vast majority of Israelis - around 85% (93% of men and 77% of women) - feel safe walking alone at night. Jewish neighbourhoods are safe! While Muslim neighbourhoods, have become dangerous no-go zones. It is expected that any Jew entering a Muslim neighbourhood of Israel will be brutally attacked by the Muslims. Instead of condemning Muslims, the Jewish victims are condemned, as being "so stupid"!
For the ninth consecutive year, Saudi Arabia has announced that it will host 1,000 family members of Palestinian “martyrs” for Hajj. The offer comes from the king, because the Palestinian people deserve respect and appreciation due to their great sacrifices to preserve Jerusalem and the land of Palestine, which is an “Arab Islamic land.” This make the much-heralded, Saudi-backed so-called “Arab Peace Plan” look more like a step toward the destruction of Israel, rather than a permanent peace. 
Former IDF soldier Elor Azaria entered prison on Wednesday to begin serving an 18-month sentence for manslaughter. The IDF military court decided Tuesdayto reject Azaria’s request to postpone his entrance to prison, pending a decision on his application for a pardon. There have been numerous such cases in the past - including recently at the Temple Mount, where a terrorist who was shot and assumed to be “neutralized,” lying prone on the ground, and who suddenly rose and resumed firing his weapon at Israeli Police officers who then paid the ultimate price.
Israeli jets struck two Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip hours after a rocket fired from Gaza landed near Ashkelon, in southern Israel. Israel holds Hamas responsible for all fire out of the strip - even rockets launched by other terrorist groups. Hamas and Israel have fought three wars since the Islamic terror group took control of Gaza a decade ago, most recently in 2014, after 10,000 rockets were fired at Israel. (Isn't it time to remove the enemy population from Gaza and end the perpetual stupidity?)
The Haifa Magistrate’s Court on Sunday revoked the citizenship of an Arab Israeli man convicted of carrying out a combined stabbing and car-ramming attack that seriously injured an IDF soldier as well as three others last year. (Next step: removal of the enemies from Jewish land!)
UN Secretary-General Guterres says Israel must withdraw its forces from Lebanese territory and stop violations of its airspace, angering US Ambassador Haley who responds Israel wouldn’t be forced to act this way if UN peacekeepers prevented the spread of illegal arms to Hezbollah.
S&P held Israel’s debt rating stable at A+, it improved the outlook to “positive” from “stable”. The agency praised the government for “measures that restrain future expenditure growth” which in turn “could enable the government to resist ongoing spending pressures,” even amid recent tax cuts. (Netanyahu should be a financial minister of Israel only – too much personal ambition leads to many problems!)
Quote of the Week:
Thus we conclude that we cannot promise anything to the Arabs of the Land of Israel or the Arab countries. Their voluntary agreement is out of the question...” - Vladimir Jabotinsky, "The Iron Wall" – He came to this conclusion in spite of his deep desire to live in peace with Arabs!
Are Enemies Getting Ready for War?
The Hamas organization, which rules Gaza, has accepted a unity deal with the Palestinian Authority's (PA) Fatah party proposed by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. The deal stipulates that the PA would be committed to ending the actions it has taken against Gaza since April. (It didn’t take long - Fatah has denied that Egypt presented the proposal)
Jordan's King Abdullah II met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah for the first time in five years. The meeting lasted approximately two hours. Abdullah returned to Jordan immediately after the meeting – he was not scheduled to see Netanyahu!
3. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with a delegation of officials from the Palestinian terror group Hamas. In May, Iran agreed in principle to renew its funding for Hamas. Palestinian Authority officials claimed Iran provided aid to Palestinian protestersdemonstrating against Israeli security measures at the Temple Mount last month. (Was this meeting about Hamas/Hezbollah anti-Israel co-ordination, facilitated and sponsored by Iran?)
4. Jordan has Never been a Friendly Neighbour Jordan is demanding Israel bring to trial an Israeli embassy guard involved in a deadly shooting in Amman last month before it allows Jerusalem to send its ambassador back to the country. The guard, Ziv Moyal, was stabbed by a Jordanian on July 23, whereupon he shot and killed the attacker along with a bystander. (Enemies of Israel do not care about technicalities such as diplomatic immunity or the fact that it was self-defense against a terror attack!)
5. Kim Yong Nam, chairman of the Supreme Assembly of North Korea, came to Iran for the inauguration ceremony for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and stayed 10 days in Iran. "There could be very problematic cooperation going on because of the past history and because it makes strategic sense, especially for Iran now," said Emily Landau, a Israeli-based senior research fellow.
6. Iran’s parliament voted to adding $609m to the national missile program and the Revolutionary Guards al Qods budgets. Al Qods is the proactive Guards arm for regional subversion and terrorism. (Has North Korea transferred its ICBM technology to Iran?)

North Korea: The Israeli Connection

Why should Jews globally, and Israelis, care about what’s going on, way over there on the Korean peninsula? Because as good world citizens we should? Because the second largest Jewish community, after Israel, is being threatened in America? Because the North Koreans are Weapons of Mass Destruction proliferators? Because of their aiding Iranian, Syrian, and possibly even Hamas and Hezbollah weapons development? Because we now have a chance to judge how the new American administration deals with a crisis, highly impacting on close allies? Because the latest North Korean ICBM test proves North Korea can hit Israel? If you answered, all of the above, you win the grand prize, an escape card from Nuclear Incineration Island…

By the way, North Korea has never recognized the State of Israel. Even after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the opening up of China, North Korea has continued it’s Cold War rhetoric, calling Israel an “imperialist satellite’’.

North Korea has continuously supported the Palestinian cause. Relations with the PLO began in 1966. Kim Il-Sung - the current North Korean leader’s grandfather - and Yasser Arafat, had a very close relationship. North Korea provided arms and aid to the PLO, PFLP, and DFLP throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s. Since Yasser Arafat’s declaration of independence in 1988, North Korea has recognized the “State of Palestine’’. To prove the point, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas recently congratulated North Korea, in honor of the country's Liberation Day. Abbas wished “the Korean people continued stability and prosperity; and that the historical friendly relations between Palestine and North Korea and their two peoples will continue to develop and grow.”

There’s never been a military conflict between Israel and North Korea…

Guess again, during the Yom Kippur War of 1973, North Korea sent 20 pilots and 19 non-combat military advisors to Egypt. They deployed a MiG-21 squadron to Bir Arida to protect Egypt’s south, the first aerial engagement on the Egyptian front, took place on October 6th, when Israeli F-4s engaged North Korean-piloted MiG-21s. On October 19th, the NYT reported that the Soviet news agency TASS disclosed that Premier Kim Il-Sung had met with Egyptian and Syrian ambassadors in Pyongyang, promising “to give material assistance, including military aid” to them.

Over the years, North Korea has supplied various weapons, missile technologies, and NBC - Mass-Destruction – technologies, to several of Israel's enemies, including Iran, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Hezbollah and Hamas. For example, Libya had the same designs as North Korea for a 500-kilogram nuclear warhead missile, before Gaddafi shut down the program.

Because of the Syrian Civil War, the Assad regime has lost a lot of equipment. The North Koreans have replenished them with T-55 tanks (North Korean variants), trucks, RPGs and shoulder-fired missiles. According to North Korean expert, Bruce Bechtol, “if you look at the Syrian army, it is much like the North Korean one, based on legacy Soviet systems from the 1950s and 1960s.”

Syrian-North Korean nuclear cooperation can be clearly seen. On September 6, 2007, when the IAF attacked a target in the Deir ez-Zor region of Syria, it was reported that at least 10 North Koreans, who “had been helping with the construction of a nuclear reactor’’ were killed during the airstrike. The Syrian nuclear facility, was nearly identical to that of North Korea’s Yongbyon installation. According to reports, the facility was built by North Koreans and financed by Iran.

North Korea has forged a relationship with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) since 1983. North Korea sends weapons to Hezbollah via the IRGC trafficking network, or transfers them through Syria, or they are shipped directly from North Korea to Hezbollah in Lebanon, paid for by Iran.

Since 2003, North Korean engineers have built underground facilities for Hezbollah, directly into rock, some of which the IDF struggled to target, in the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Hezbollah has an entire underground “city” of command and control bunkers and tunnels in southern Lebanon, all built with the aid of the Iranians, who paid the Korean Mining Development Company to do it. North Korean technicians moved into Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, pretending to be Chinese domestic workers.

After the 2006 war, 100 Hezbollah fighters traveled to North Korea for a year of training in guerrilla warfare tactics, under a body known at the time as the Reconnaissance Bureau. North Korean advisers have also trained Hezbollah fighters in Iran.

North Korea has thousands of 107mm and 122mm rockets sitting around in warehouses, plus rocket-propelled grenades and SKS semiautomatic rifles. Looking for cash, the North Korean regime has sold many of these arms to Hezbollah.

Hamas, like Hezbollah, has close links with North Korea, which is happy to support groups that are opposed to Western interests in the Middle East. The relationship between Hamas and North Korea first became public in 2009 when 35 tons of arms, including surface-to-surface rockets and rocket-propelled grenades, were seized after a cargo plane carrying the equipment was forced to make an emergency landing at Bangkok airport. Investigators later confirmed that the arms had been destined for Iran, who planned to transfer them to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Gaza. In 2014, North Korea and Hamas struck a deal for the sale of 102mm and 107mm multiple rocket launchers. Hamas installed some of these systems on pickup trucks.

North Korea regularly condemns Israeli defensive actions against Hamas, such as during the 2008-2009 and 2014 Israel-Gaza conflicts, and the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid as “crimes against humanity,’’ as well as a threat to the Middle East Peace Process.

The North Koreans have one of the world’s most sophisticated network of tunnels running beneath the demilitarized zone with South Korea. The IDF believes Hamas has used this expertise to improve their own tunnel network in Gaza. For example, the type of cement reinforcement, enabling Hamas fighters to move weapons without detection by Israeli drones, is similar to North Korean tunnels.

And now for Iran; during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, North Korea began selling them Scud B missiles. They also sold Iran artillery, tanks and trucks, Soviet-made equipment from the 1950s and 1960s.

Since then, North Korea has sold Iran Scud B, C, D, extended-range scuds, and played a central role in Iran’s domestic missile development program. They’ve helped Iran build the Safir two-stage missile and the Sejil solid fuel missile. Iran’s Imad and Shihab-3 ballistic missile programs are based on North Korea’s Nodong missile prototype, with an extended range.

North Korea has sent at least two long-range missile parts shipments to Iran in the past two years. Iranian technicians also traveled to North Korea for help in developing an 80-ton rocket booster.

Since the mid-2000s, Iran came up with an ingenious way to avoid US missile nonproliferation enforcement. It built Shihab-3 “factories,” which were actually North Korean-supervised assembly stations, allowing North Korea to smuggle the missiles in pieces. The components are assembled under the supervision of North Korean advisers. The same thing happens with the Scud D missiles in Syria, and with chemical weapons in Syria according to Bechtol.

Iran is still relying on parts coming over from North Korea. The North Koreans split them up into components – they are harder to detect that way. Without North Korea, Iran’s entire liquid fuel ballistic missile industry would grind to a halt, he said. The Assad regime, too, would lose its Scud missile program.

Bechtol claims the North Koreans helped Iran develop a nuclear warhead for the Nodong missile, and assisted with the Iranian plutonium reactor at Arak. “We know that the head of Iran’s highly enriched uranium program was in North Korea in 2013, likely to observe a uranium nuclear test,” he said.

About the latest crisis between America and North Korea, watch closely. America fought a serious war on the Korean Peninsula in the early 1950’s with North Korea, and has been South Korea’s ally and protector since. They also have had a strategic partnership with Japan, since the 1950’s. As the saying goes, “countries don’t have friends, just interests.” There are close parallels between the US, South Korea and Japan, vis-a-vis North Korea, and the US and Israel, vis-a-vis Iran. So Jews and Israel should be watching closely how the Trump administration “protects” its allies. One can get a picture of just how well America would cover Israel under its “security umbrella,” when pushing Israel to take a “chance for peace” as has been suggested, in any future Middle East peace deal, by watching the Korean crisis unfold. And, it will give a clue as to how much Israel can count on the US in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.

Guess what, if you thought the latest ballistic missile tests of North Korea proved they can finally hit Israel, you’re wrong. They’ve been able to hit Israel theoretically, since their 2012 test of the Taepodong-2, or in 2013 with their UnHa-3, which successfully launched a satellite and could have carried a 500-kilogram nuclear warhead. See, satellite launching ability and ICBM nuclear warhead delivery are closely related.

Don’t worry, Israel has its own Jericho-3 ICBM that could hit North Korea, not to mention Iran. Israel’s Jericho-3, is a missile with a multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) warhead, allowing for more flexibility in targeting and better anti-ballistic missile (ABM) survivability. In fact with Israel’s submarines and aircraft loaded with nuclear tipped cruise missiles, Israel has a nuclear triad, of land, sea, and air delivered weapons, guaranteeing a credible second-strike capability.

And if that’s not enough deterrence, don’t forget Israel’s homegrown multi-tiered missile defense system, including Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow-2 and 3, and the Barak-8. The Arrow-3 is not only an anti-ICBM missile, but can be used as an anti-satellite weapon as well. Iron Beam and Drone Dome are laser-interception systems.

Lt. Gen. Patrick J. O'Reilly, Director of the Missile Defense Agency in the American Dept. of Defense, said in 2009: The design of Arrow-3 promises to be an extremely capable system, more advanced than what we have ever attempted in the US with our programs...This has to do with the seekers that have greater flexibility and other aspects, such as propulsion systems – it will be an extremely capable system. Maybe America can get some Israeli Arrow-3 batteries, to protect themselves against incoming North Korean ICBMs.

The Arrow-3 system was just declared fully operational in January of 2017, but believe it or not, Israel is already developing a concept for a sort of Arrow-4 system, to keep one step ahead of its enemies. Israel’s MAFAT Defense Research and Development Authority of the Ministry of Defense, along with state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries and other defense firms, are working to evaluate technologies needed to improve the ability to track, target and ultimately destroy future threats, such as massive salvo strikes, sub-munition warheads and multiple reentry vehicles, or MRVs.

About the vulnerable Jews in America, who have used the excuse for years, that “it’s to dangerous to live in Israel;” well, it’s about time for Aliya – to come home to Israel - before it’s too late, no more excuses!

Do you have your Escape Card yet?

Ariel Natan Pasko, an independent analyst and consultant, has a Master's Degree specializing in International Relations, Political Economy & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites and in newspapers. His latest articles can also be read on his archive: The Think Tank by Ariel Natan Pasko.

(c) 2017/5777 Pasko

Friday, August 11, 2017

Parashat Ekev - In God We Trust

By Rabbi Ari Kahn

Everyone has a price, or so we are told. Though we would love to believe that people of integrity do exist, people who cannot be bought, one of the unintended byproducts of capitalism is the subliminal message that everything is subject to negotiation. But is this unfortunate message an unavoidable conclusion of our way of life? Has this cynicism infiltrated our religious life as well? Surely, life within a Jewish community engenders certain real and unavoidable monetary needs: Without resources for building and maintaining Jewish institutions such as schools, synagogues, mikvahs, etc., not to mention the funds necessary to support less-fortunate members of the community, Jewish life as we know it would come to a grinding halt. Yet do these needs become no more than a means for us to cleanse our guilty consciences? Has the Jewish ethic of charity enabled us to simply write a check and consider ourselves fully compliant with Jewish ethics as a whole? Can a donation to the “building fund” cleanse a soul that is otherwise sorely lacking Jewish spiritual and moral vitality? Is our morality - or lack of such - the victim of our cynical use of a checkbook or credit card?

An even more disturbing question is, does God operate by these same rules? Can God be bought? Can He be swayed or manipulated by monetary contributions to the right causes? A verse in this week’s Parasha addresses these questions head-on:

God your Lord is the ultimate Supreme Being and the highest possible Authority. He is the great, mighty and awesome God, who does not give special consideration or take bribes. (Devarim 10:17)

The human mind has a hard time understanding God; the best we can do is extrapolate from human experience. For this reason, it is difficult for us to imagine a God with no needs. One commentary (Bchor Shor) explained this abstract concept in terms much more readily grasped: God “owns” all of existence; therefore, the thought that we can give God something is an absurdity. Similarly, Rashi explains that we cannot give God a monetary bribe: God does not “have a price.” True belief in an infinite God necessarily leads to this conclusion: What can a finite, limited human being possibly give to a God that is beyond space, time and matter? What currency could possibly be used to “pay off” such a deity? Unfortunately, the human mind has trouble processing this paradox; the motto “In God we trust” is meaningful to many people only when it appears on legal tender.

Given the absurdity of “bribing” God, a number of the commentaries (Rambam, Ramban, Seforno) suggest that the bribe mentioned in the verse above refers to a different sort of currency: mitzvot. We may tempted to believe that performing a good deed can cause God to “forget,” or at least to look the other way, when we sin. The reasoning seems to be that because God so values those who follow His ways, a well-timed mitzvah can erase a slew of bad deeds.

To this thinking, the Torah responds: God does not take bribes. The spiritual universe works in a more straightforward manner: We are rewarded for our good deeds, and punished for misdeeds. We cannot “make an arrangement” with God. On the other hand, if we have strayed, teshuva is always possible; regret for past misdeeds, coupled with a commitment to change, is a mitzvah in and of itself. Despite the fact that the Torah’s warning seems stern and somewhat off-putting - “He is a mighty and awesome God who does not give special consideration or take bribes” - the very next verse tempers this foreboding and ominous statement with a clear counter-statement:

He brings justice to the orphan and widow, and loves the foreigner, granting him food and clothing. You must also show love toward the foreigner, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. Remain in awe of God, serve Him, cling to Him, and swear by His name.
(Devarim 10:18-20)

We are encouraged to emulate God, to partner with God - not because this behavior will erase any negative things we have done or will do, but because moral behavior is kind, and just, and good. God cannot be bribed, but He is happy to take on “junior associates and partners” here on earth, people who are willing to behave in a god-like manner and fill the world with godliness. The more we adopt God’s behaviors, the more we are kind, giving, supportive of others, the more godliness will come into the world – and that is surely no trivial goal.

Parashat Ekev: Just Because, or when will the Jews take the Torah seriously?

By Prof Stephen Schecter

Ekev. Because. Because you listen to the Lord your land shall be blessed, Moses tells the children of Israel. And what a blessing, the words scrolling down the page and rolling down the ear, promises of fruit of the body and the earth, an increase of kine and harvest and offspring galore, for there shall be no barren women in the land and no barren cattle in the field. A far cry from the famine struck land when Abraham first appeared on the scene with his barren wife, whose difficulty to conceive sowed so much trouble. But God is great and remembers His promise, and the promise was a land of milk and honey, whose stones are iron and whose hills are brass and where the rains fall in their seasons. A good land, Moses will tell his gathered flock, painting them a picture of a land flowing with lovely brooks, fountains and depths, where water springs forth from the hills and winds its way through the valleys, yielding wheat and barley, fig-trees and pomegranates and the intoxicating fruits of the vine. Indeed, so lovely is the land that when the Jews finally returned there last century and found scrabble and neglect they did not despair, but set to work to redeem God’s promise and turn it once again into a verdant and rain-soaked paradise, though today it is called drip irrigation and desalination. And instead of iron and brass there is WhatsApp and light rail and a state of the art arms industry whose wonders are sought from India to California. But when you go there you still believe you are going to a land of milk and honey, the complaints of the Israelites who left Egypt notwithstanding, even two thousand years of exile notwithstanding, not to mention the high price of milk and honey and the even higher price of living in the only Jewish state in the world because its wicked Muslim neighbours work day and night to destroy it. And because the Jews do not listen to the words Moses told them so long ago.

For the conflict between Israel and her neighbours is biblical in stature and kind, and its resolution calls for exactly what Moses prescribes in this week’s parasha. Do not be faint of heart, Moses tells his band of would be warriors, for God shall go with you. He shall send the hornet among your enemies and discomfit them and they shall not be able to hide from you, but shall perish. And when that happens you shall obliterate all trace of them. Take naught of their gold and silver, burn all vestiges of their graven imaged gods, lest you bring abomination into your hearths and a curse into your land. Do not, moreover, think the Lord is doing all this because of your good looks and your righteousness. No, He does this because the people who inhabit the land are wicked to the enth degree, their evil so great the land in which God has chosen to start His Creation anew cannot abide them. Therefore, if you love the Lord with all your heart and all your might and all your soul, you will do His bidding and follow in His ways and harken unto His advice. You will rid the land of these evil-doers that you may establish therein the laws He has given to you in Horeb. Twice given you, in fact, for I had to ascend the mountain a second time after you had sinned so grievously when I first received the hewn stone tablets of the Law. And if Moses were alive today, as alive as his words still are, he would tell the Israelites exactly the same thing.

For what are the Palestinians and the Arabs and the Muslims who burn Jewish greenhouses and murder Jewish citizens and stone Jewish rail cars and uproot Jewish train tracks and swarm Jewish worshippers but people wicked beyond belief? An what do such people, who have for a century now falsely accused Jews of wanting to destroy their holy places and whipped up their countrymen to a frenzy of hatred and vituperation against these same Jews who have sought to accommodate them time and time again, what do they deserve but conquest and expulsion, as did their forerunners from whom they sometimes claim descent? But the Jews today, like the Jews of old, do not take the Torah seriously. Not the rabbis, not their political leaders, not their countrymen at home and abroad. They seek accommodation with evil and receive contamination in return. They are ashamed of the good that they have brought with their return to the Promised Land, ashamed of their rule of law, their liberty and democracy, their morality and ingenuity, their increase of kine and harvest and offspring galore, whose beautiful lives are offered as sacrifice on the silver platter of political correctness and fear of offending the nations they mistakenly think are more powerful than they are. In short, they have forgotten, abandoned and betrayed the Lord, and so have betrayed His promise and the Promised Land which He had promised them via their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

And because they do not listen to the ordinances which Moses handed down to their forefathers yet again on the eastern bank of the Jordan, they must needs read them again. Over and over do we therefore read the Torah, which over and over Moses taught our forefathers. But when people learn nothing from history, all that is left is poetry, a string of words more powerful than all the betrayals and blunderings of a wayward and stiff-necked people. As: this Promised Land flowing with milk and honey, whose stones are iron and whose hills are brass and whose rains fall in their seasons. And sometimes even one word is enough for us to hope this chosen people who refuse to be chosen will finally choose. Ekev. Because.

Shabbat shalom!

Size is Deceptive

By Rabbi Ben-Tzion Spitz

What we call little things are merely the causes of great things; they are the beginning, the embryo, and it is the point of departure which, generally speaking, decides the whole future of an existence. One single black speck may be the beginning of a gangrene, of a storm, of a revolution. -Henri Frederic Amiel

In Judaism’s vast array of commandments, there are many that we may consider “minor” relative to others that we may think of as more “important.”

It is curious that those definitions are often highly personal ones and invariably accurately reflect the commandments that people either feel more attached to or those they are more dismissive of. The Torah itself does categorize some prohibitions as more severe than others in terms of the punishment for violating them. However, when it comes to the performance of commandments, Rabbi Hirsch on Deuteronomy 7:12 explains the problem with underestimating the value of any commandment we consider minor:

“We are not to weigh each commandment separately in our minds, to consider which one might yield a greater reward than the others and should therefore be given particular priority and attention. The paths of the Law form ever-widening spheres that merge into one another. We cannot, at one glance, predict the results of the observance of any one commandment. The results mesh with one another, as it were, and the very commandment that would seem to us most insignificant and least important may have the most far-reaching effects.”

There are multiple stories as to how the observance of just one “minor” commandment led to life-altering benefits. Likewise, the converse is true. People who have been dismissive of even the “lightest” commandments have had cause to regret it. The commandments are part of an entire tapestry that weaves our lives into a whole spiritual reality. Each thread is important; each commandment that we can observe is part of the entire picture.

May we strengthen our commitment to even one “small” commandment.

Shabbat Shalom.

Simply Because it Can

By Moshe Feiglin

How is it that one million citizens of Israel have a police file?

Is every eighth citizen here a criminal?

The answer is simple.

Every state and governing authority will take liberties for itself at the expense of its citizens, if they will allow it. And in Israel, the citizens allow it.

The police have filed every eighth citizen in Israel as a criminal.

Simply because it can.

In the absence of a culture of liberty, enslavement filters slowly down. It is almost always accompanied by the claim that liberty must be taken from you for your own good, for your security. It will convince you with claims that nothing bad could ever happen to you. After all, you are not a criminal. So why should you be listed as such with the police?

Criminal registration, biometric registration, criminalization of smokers, criminalization of customers of prostitution, administrative detention – there are a plethora of ways. But the goal is plain and simple:

More liberty for the state,
Less liberty for the individual.

More state,
Less individual.

More enslavement,
Less identity.

Rav Kook on Parashat Eikev: Four Blessings After Eating

“When you eat and are sated, you must bless the Lord your God for the good land that He has given you.”
(Deut. 8:10)

The Torah does not specify the exact text of Birkat Hamazon, the blessing recited after eating a meal. The Talmud, however, informs us that it comprises four blessings, authored over a period of a thousand years:

Moses composed the first blessing, Ha-Zahn (“the One Who provides sustenance for the entire world”), when the manna fell in the desert.

Joshua composed the second blessing, Al Ha'Aretz (“For the Land”), when the Jewish people entered the Land of Israel.

David and Solomon composed the third blessing, Boneih Yerushalayim (“the One Who rebuilds Jerusalem”). David, who established Jerusalem as his capital, wrote, “Your people Israel and Your city Jerusalem.” And Solomon, who built the Temple, added, “The great and holy Temple.”

The Sages of Yavneh1 composed the final blessing, HaTov ve-haMeitiv (“The good King and Benefactor”), to commemorate the miracle that occurred with the dead of the city of Beitar. These Jews were killed by the Romans during the failed Bar Kochba revolt of 135 C.E. For months, the Roman authorities refused to let them be buried, but miraculously, their bodies did not rot.

The Order of the Blessings

Is there a pattern to the order of these four blessings? Rav Kook explained that the blessings follow a clear progression: from the needs of the individual to those of the nation; and from our physical needs to our spiritual aspirations.2

The very acting of eating contains a certain spiritual danger. Over-indulgence in gastronomic pleasures can lower one’s goals to the pursuit of sensual gratification and physical enjoyment. The Torah therefore provided a remedy - a special prayer to be recited after the meal. Birkat Hamazon is “a ladder resting on the ground yet reaching the Heavens,” a spiritual act that enables us to raise ourselves from petty, self-absorbed materialism to lofty spiritual aspirations.

In order to attain this higher awareness, we must climb the ‘ladder’ step by step:
  • The first rung of the ladder relates to our own personal physical welfare.
  • On the next rung, we express our concern for the physical welfare of the nation.
  • On the third rung, we focus on the spiritual well-being of the nation.
  • Lastly, we aspire to be a “light unto the nations,” a holy people who influence and uplift all who were created in God’s image.
This progression is accurately reflected in the blessings of Birkat Hamazon. First, we recite the blessing of “Who sustains the world,” composed when the manna fell. This prayer corresponds to the physical needs of each individual, just as the manna-bread sustained each Israelite in the barren desert. The manna also provided loftier benefits, as it spiritually uplifted all who witnessed this miracle. But its primary function was to provide for each individual’s physical needs.

The second level - concern for the physical welfare of the entire nation - is the subject of the second blessing, “For the Land.” When Joshua led the people into their own land, the Land of Israel, he set the stage for the establishment of a nation with all of the usual national assets: security and defense, self-government, agriculture, economy, natural resources, and so on.

Concern for the spiritual well-being of the Jewish people is the theme of the third blessing, which deals with the spiritual center of the Jewish people: Jerusalem. King David composed the first part, “For Your people Israel and Your city Jerusalem,” expressing our prayers for the spiritual state and unity of the Jewish people.

King Solomon added, “For the great holy Temple.” This reflects the highest goal: the spiritual elevation of all humanity. When dedicating the Temple, Solomon prayed that this holy building - “a house of prayer for all nations” - would ensure “that all the peoples of the world will know that God is the Lord, there is no other” (I Kings 8:60).

In this way, Birkat Hamazon bestows profound spiritual value to our private meals - a prayer that guides us, step by step, to a holier world.

The Promise of Beitar

One might become discouraged, however, when faced with the bitter reality of the exile and the current state of the Jewish people. Therefore, the rabbis of Yavneh, following the destruction of the Temple and the failed Bar Kochba revolt, composed the final blessing, “The good King and Benefactor.”

With the fall of the great city of Beitar, the last hopes for Jewish independence were crushed for thousands of years. Nonetheless, the Sages saw tremendous significance in the fact that the dead did not decompose, and were eventually given a proper burial. This was a Heavenly sign that even if the nation of Israel appears to be lifeless, struck down by the sword of our enemies, we nonetheless retain our spiritual essence, like an inner fire smoldering imperceptibly inside a black piece of coal, cool to the touch. We are confident that we will yet attain our highest aspirations, despite the many years we may have to wait. Just as those who sleep in the dust will return to life in the appointed hour, so too, the Jewish people will rise to national greatness in the end of days.

(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. II, p. 218)

1 Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai transferred the Sanhedrin from Jerusalem to Yavneh after Jerusalem’s destruction at the hand of the Romans in 70 C.E.

2 A similar progression may be seen in the Amidah prayer.

See also: Eikev: Blessings Over Bread and Torah

The Yishai Fleisher Show: True Blue Jews

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sound Advice for Singles

By HaRav Eliezer Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Yeshivat Har Bracha

Israel never knew such wonderful holidays as ‘Tu B’Av’ (the 15th of the Jewish month of Av) and Yom Kippur. On these days the daughters of Israel would go out and dance in the vineyards and offer themselves joyfully for the purpose of establishing Jewish families. And despite the fact that people are different – some are rich, others poor; some are beautiful, and others less; some are of noble birth, and some are not – nevertheless, on these days, special effort was made to try and bridge the gap, at least as far as wealth was concerned. Young women would therefore go out wearing white, borrowed outfits in order not to embarrass those who did not own such garments.

Seemingly, the young men were already acquainted to some extent with the families of the girls in the area, and had consulted their parents regarding an appropriate match. The final decision, however, would occur on these days. Perhaps these days were intended for those young men or women who were unsuccessful in finding a mate in the conventional way.
The Attractive and the Noble

The Talmud (Ta’anit 31a) informs us how these daughters of Israel would try to make themselves desirable: “The attractive ones would exclaim: ‘Search out beauty, for this is the purpose of a wife’; the ones of noble birth would say: ‘Search out family, for family is the purpose of a wife’; the unattractive ones would say: ‘Choose your mate for the sake of Heaven, so long as you adorn her with gold.'”

The fact that the attractive women would draw attention to their beauty is understandable. Many men choose their wives based upon beauty. Beauty presents itself as somewhat of a guarantee to a good and happy marriage, filled with life. Reality, though, does not confirm this. There is no indication whatsoever that men who married so-called “attractive” women ended up more content than those who married “less attractive” women. When beauty comes in addition to good character, it can indeed add to life. However, often it can be misleading.

Those of noble birth simply say the primary feature is character. A good family is one in which children successfully obtain a proper education, and a good livelihood. One can safely assume that a woman who comes from such a family will possess a pleasant and kind character, and proper manners. In addition, it is highly likely that the children born to such parents will also possess similar character traits. We indeed find that the Sages (Baba Batra 110a) advise examining the brothers of the prospective bride, for often, the children turn out like the brothers of the bride. The Sages also advise marrying the daughter of a Torah scholar (Pesachim 49a). This is the reason that the Mishna (Ta’anit 26b) only quotes the women from good families; in the eyes of the Sages, their words were most accurate.

The Unattractive

The most surprising of the three groups is the unattractive women: “Choose your mate for the sake of Heaven, so long as you adorn her with gold.” A simple interpretation of these words tells us that these young women are appealing to the unattractive, untalented men who would run after the beautiful and distinguished girls, only to be turned down. To these men they would say: “If you keep running after the attractive and distinguished girls, you will remain single and frustrated forever. Be realistic, and marry one of us, who are ready to marry you. After all, the Torah commands you to get married – come, marry for the sake of fulfilling God’s will.” Nevertheless, since marriage must possess an element of affection, they added: “So long as you adorn us with gold,” for by doing so, you show your love for us.

All the same, there is a more profound way of understanding the words of the unattractive girls. Sometimes a person who has merited neither beauty nor desirable lineage is successful, through the virtue of exceptional faith in God, to perfect his or her character traits, and attain great personal achievement. The level such a person reaches is even higher than that of the attractive and distinguished. A shared life with such a person is certain to be full of beauty and happiness. This is the meaning of the unattractive women’s words: “Choose your mate for the sake of Heaven, and consequently, we will ascend together and surpass the level of all the attractive and distinguished couples – and our children will be distinguished by our virtue.” And they added, “So long as you adorn us with gold.” This last statement can best be understood in light of the words of Rabbi Yishmael (Nedarim 9:10): “The daughters of Israel are all beautiful, only that poverty makes them unbecoming.” If you decorate us with gold, you will uncover our true, unique beauty. Consequently, although in practice the most desired girls are generally those who are attractive, followed by those who are distinguished, in truth, the distinguished are preferable to the attractive, and sometimes, the unattractive are the most desirable of all.

This carries a bit of advice for single men: Often, girls who are actually quite pretty, appear to be unattractive. This, however, is simply the result of the man’s level of maturity. God created humans such that they enter the world as infants, and grow and develop until old age. Each stage in life has its own purpose. At the age of twenty, the desire to marry is very strong: “Twenty is the age for chasing” (Avot 5:18). At that stage in life the heart is full of enthusiasm and courage. A young man sees all that is good in his prospective match, and is ready to leap happily into married life. This period is followed by a more restrained stage of life, whose purpose is to build and prepare the next stage. If an older, single man expects to be swept away by youthful enthusiasm while dating, he is usually disappointed. Yet, instead of attributing this to his age, he finds fault in the woman. He might admit that she is pleasant and smart, however – he disappointedly explains to his close friends – she is not pretty enough, or exciting. Such bachelors should know: If you sense a woman is pleasant and smart and you enjoy her company, but the only problem is the element of excitement is missing, “choose your mate for the sake of Heaven.” Don’t worry. If you invest energy in your relationship, and “decorate her with gold,” you can be sure that you will be blessed with true love. The enthusiasm which accompanies falling in love, is actually meant to help a person take the monumental leap of entering into the covenant of marriage. Such emotion, however, does not guarantee a happy marriage. Good character traits and shared goals are much more important. A genuine, mature, and deep loving relationship, reaching the inner layers of the soul, is dependent upon these features.

The Unique Power of ‘Tu B’Av’

The author of the work “B’nei Yissachar” explains that ‘Tu B’Av’ is a day of deep-rooted significance because it falls forty days before the date of the world’s creation. The sixth day of creation was Rosh Hashana. On that day, God formed man. Six days prior to this is the twenty-fifth of Elul, and forty days prior to this is ‘Tu B’Av’. Our Sages said: “Forty days before the formation of the infant, an announcement is made in heaven: “The daughter of so-and-so is matched-up with so-and-so.” Because ‘Tu B’Av’ falls forty days before the formation of the world, it also is a day of significant importance, possessing a unique capacity to initiate life – especially for a bride and groom who wish to establish a family.

Mount Sinai and the Golden Calf

By HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

In this week's parsha, Moshe warns Bnei Yisrael (Devarim 9:4-7):

Do not say ... "Because of my righteousness did Hashem bring me to possess this Land" ... Not because of your righteousness and the uprightedness of your heart are you coming to possess their Land, but because of the wickedness of these nations does Hashem, your G-d, drive them away from before you, and in order to establish the word that Hashem swore to your forefathers ... You should know that not because of your righteousness ... for you are a stiff-necked people. Remember, do not forget, that you provoked Hashem, your G-d, in the Wilderness.

Why was it necessary for Moshe to degrade Israel, and to reemphasize that their inheritance of the Land is not in their merit, and that they are a stiff-necked people that sinned? After all, the generation of the desert all died, so why mention the sins of the fathers to the sons?

In truth, these verses encapsulate the basic tenet of the choice of Israel and of their eternity. Maharal, in Netzach Yisrael, addresses the Ramban's question: Why does the Torah emphasize the righteousness of Noach, that he was a righteous person and that he found favor in the eyes of G-d, whereas regarding Avraham its says: "Go for yourself from your land ... And I will make you a great nation," while nothing is mentioned of his merits?

The Maharal explains based on the Mishna in Avot, that love which is dependent on something, when the reason is gone – so, too, is the love. The Torah intentionally concealed Avraham's righteousness, so that we should not mistakenly think that the covenant was formed with him because of his many merits. This would lead to the conclusion that if, in one of the generations, the descendents would not remain in their righteousness, the covenant is annulled. Therefore the Torah presented the issue in this manner, that the covenant is not dependent and conditional on Israel's righteousness.

Even when they sin, and even with such grave sins as idolatry, they are not rejected, even though they obviously are punished for this. As the Maharal writes, mitzvot and sins "add or detract closeness [to G-d]. However, the very [issue of] closeness is not dependent of the actions of Israel." Chazal say: "Either way they are called sons." The prophet Yechezkel says (20:22-23): "As for what enters your minds – it shall not be! As for what you say: 'We will be like the nations, like the families of the lands, to worship wood and stone,' as I live – the word of the L-rd, Hashem/Elokim – I swear that I will rule over you with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath."

Therefore Moshe emphasizes that Israel does not inherit the land in their merit, because even without merits they would inherit it, in order to fulfill the Divine masterplan as He swore to the forefathers. The proof is that you are a stiff-necked people and sinners, and even so, you are coming to the Land.

The reason for this unconditional choice can be understood from the Gemara Sanhedrin (34a), which addresses the contradiction between two verses. One pasuk says, "You, who cling (deveikim) to Hashem, your G-d" (Devarim 4:4), whereas another verse states: "Israel became attached (vayitzamed) to Baal Pe'or." (Bamidbar 25:3) The Gemara teaches that there is a difference between the words "clinging" and "becoming attached." "Cling" is an absolute bond, which is the relationship between Israel and G-d. On the other hand, Israel "becomes attached" to idolatry, like a bracelet (tzamid) on a woman's hand. In other words, with G-d – they are connected actually, in nature, inherently. However, when they sin with idolatry, this is something casual and external. Therefore, the sin of idolatry, which is casual, cannot abolish the clinging to G-d, which is natural.

With this, we can understand a fascinating passage of Chazal in this week's Haftorah (Brachot 32b):

"Zion said, 'Hashem has forsaken me; my L-rd has forgotten me.'" (Yeshaya 49:14) ...Knesset Yisrael said before G-d: Master of the Universe, "A man who marries a second wife remembers the actions of his first wife, whereas you have forsaken me and forgotten me."G-d said to her: My daughter, I created twelve constellations in the Heaven ... and they all were created only for you, and you say, "You have forsaken me and forgotten me?!" "Can a woman forget her baby (ulah), or not feel compassion (me'rachem) for the child of her womb?" G-d said, "Will I ever forget the olot (burnt-offerings), the rams and first-born (peter-rechem) that you offered before Me in the Wilderness?She said before Him: Master of the Universe, since you do not forget anything, perhaps you will not forget the act of the [golden] calf?He said to her: Even these (eleh) may forget. (I.e., "These are your gods, Israel.")She said before Him: Since there is forgetting before Your Throne, perhaps you will forget the act of Sinai?He said to her: "But I (anochi) will not forget you." (I.e., "I (anochi) am Hashem, your G-d.")This is what R. Eliezer said: What is written, "Even these (eleh) may forget" – this is the act of the [golden] calf; "But I (anochi) will not forget you" – this is the act of Sinai.

This is difficult to comprehend; is there unfair preference here? Why is the golden calf forgotten, but not the act of Sinai? Based on what we said, the issue is clear. Something intrinsic is not forgotten; only something casual and external is forgotten. The sin of idolatry in Israel is not something intrinsic, and is not clinging, and therefore it is forgotten easily and not remembered. Not so, ma'amad Har Sinai, since the Torah is the soul of Israel, and an eternal life that He planted amongst us. Israel cannot exist without the Torah, and therefore – "I (anochi) will not forget you."