Thursday, April 16, 2015

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

By Michael Fuah

But Ezekiel continues his prophecy: “And I will say, ‘It is not for your sake that I do this, House of Israel, but for the sake of My Holy Name that you have desecrated among the nations. And I will sanctify My great Name that is desecrated among the nations, and the nations will know that I am G-d, says Hashem Elokim. And I will take you from the nations and I will gather you from all the lands and I will bring you to your Land.”
Israel’s Independence Day represents just the opposite of the Holocaust: a sanctification of G-d’s Name. On the ground, however, things seem to have gone awry. Since the establishment of the State of Israel and particularly when most of our Land was liberated in the Six Day War, we did not officially acknowledge and thank G-d for His miracles. The “My might and power of my hand” syndrome has not yet been dispelled. As a nation, Israel has yet to recognize that it was G-d behind the momentous and miraculous events that gave birth to the State of Israel.
G-d’s directing hand, though, does not allow us to deceive ourselves for long. Our attempts to solve the “Jewish problem,” to “normalize” the Jewish Nation and to transform it into a nation like all other nations is shattering before our eyes. The more that we try to be normal and the more that we lose our connection to our Jewish identity – the more that we lose our national legitimacy.
This year we will celebrate Independence Day with thanks to G-d for the wonderful opportunity that He has given us. In addition, we must promise ourselves to work hard to establish Jewish leadership that will give credit where credit is due: to the Holy One, Blessed Be He. We need real Jewish leadership that will help us to be ourselves: the Jewish Nation, the children of the Creator, who are working to perfect the world. Our independence and freedom depend on it. 

Shabbat Shalom

The Wine of our Lives vs. the Matza of this Generation: HaRav Nachman Kahana on Parashat Tazria-Metzora 5775


BS”D 
Parashat Tazria-Metzora 5775 
Rabbi Nachman Kahana

Yom HaShoah Ve’hagvura

On the 27th of Nisan, we commemorate collectively and on the national level the 20th century Shoah in Europe. New investigations have proven that the number 6 million is inaccurate, with the true figure closer to 7.5 million Jews who were murdered or died in the Shoah.
The people of my generation born in the 1920s and 30s bear witness not to one Shoah but to two, both emanating from the two faces of Aisav – the brother of Ya’akov and also his enemy – as appears from Ya’akov’s prayer to HaShem prior to meeting Aisav (Beraishiet 32,11):
הצילני נא מיד אחי מיד עשו כי ירא אנכי אתו פן יבוא והכני אם על בנים:
Save me from the hand of my brother from the hand of Aisav
Aisav the deadly archer (27,3):
ועתה שא נא כליך תליך וקשתך וצא השדה וצודה לי צידה ציד:
Now, take your implements—your quiver and bow—and go out to the open country to hunt wild game for me
And the kiss of death of Aisav the “brother” (33,4):
וירץ עשו לקראתו ויחבקהו ויפל על צוארו וישקהו ויבכו:
But Aisav ran to meet Ya’akov and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him.
Aisav, the hunter, exerted his maximum efforts in filling his lust for his brother Ya’akov’s blood in the thousands of death camps spread over the length and breadth of Europe. And when Ya’akov was defeated, the Jewish people scarred and maimed counted our losses, with the confidence that HaShem would never permit another Shoah to befall His people. But we were wrong.
The Shoah of Aisav the archer lasted for 6 years and ceased with the allied victory in Europe. However, the Shoah of the smiling Aisav continues to this day, gaining momentum in the land of Aisav, the brother. It is the Shoah of assimilation through intermarriage by many, and the rejection of the Torah and our status as HaShem’s chosen people by others.
The Second World War ended with the Jewish population of the United States numbering approximately 6 million Jews. Today, after 70 years, the number has dwindled to under 5 million with a 70% intermarriage rate. According to the normal rate of population increase, the Jews of the USA should be now in the 30 million range. So the Shoah of America, the smiling Aisav, has severed from our nation many more than the Shoah of Hitler.
The way to survival from both Shoahs is similar – to escape the goyim and return to Eretz Yisrael. Those who did so in the 1930s lived; the others perished. Today, those who do so will live to see their Jewish children and grandchildren. Those who remain in the galut will find it difficult to have a child who can say Kaddish over them.

The Wine of our Lives vs. the Matza of this Generation

Chag haPessach has passed. But despite any and all pre-holiday planning, every Jewish home will invariably have to contend with a handsome supply of residual matzot and wine, at least until Shevuot. This is obviously pre-planned from Heaven to teach us that the lessons of matzot and wine do not end with putting the Pessach dishes away.
The major lesson that emanates from the matza and wine began at the early dawn of civilization with the episode of Migdal Bavel – the Tower of Babel – in the book of Beraishiet (11,4-8):
(ד) ויאמרו הבה נבנה לנו עיר ומגדל וראשו בשמים ונעשה לנו שם פן נפוץ על פני כל הארץ:
(ה) וירד ה’ לראת את העיר ואת המגדל אשר בנו בני האדם:
(ו) ויאמר ה’ הן עם אחד ושפה אחת לכלם וזה החלם לעשות ועתה לא יבצר מהם כל אשר יזמו לעשות:
(ז) הבה נרדה ונבלה שם שפתם אשר לא ישמעו איש שפת רעהו:
(ח) ויפץ ה’ אתם משם על פני כל הארץ ויחדלו לבנת העיר:
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; so we will not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building.
6 The Lord said, “They are one people speaking the same language which has initiated this, so nothing they plan will be beyond their ability to perform.
7 Come, let us descend and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
8 And the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.
The ubiquitous automobile can explain what happened there.
A car has an accelerator and brakes by which the driver controls the speed of the car’s advance.
A society united in thought will also be united in deed and will advance very rapidly in the realization of its goals. On the other hand, dissention within society serves as the “brake” to reduce its advance in accordance with the intensity of the dissention.
The people of Babel, who comprised all of humanity at the time, had established a goal to reach heaven and make war on the Creator. This was the accelerator of society, driving it forcefully forward. HaShem decided to suppress and restrain their “ambitious” goal, but with less catastrophic means than the flood of Noach’s time.
HaShem created the “brake’ which would subdue and diminish their aggressive, forward-moving tendencies and eventually terminate their national goal by creating dissention caused by misunderstanding, “so they will not understand each other”.
The two major components of the seder are matza and wine. Wine by its very nature infuses one with robustness and often uncontrolled vigor. Matza is essentially the opposite. It is a “brake” produced by holding back the dough’s natural instinct to expand.
The seder is teaching us a great theological-historic lesson. HaShem vigorously began the process of Jewish physical and spiritual emancipation from human bondage to become HaShem’s chosen nation. The ten plagues. The dividing of the sea and revelation at Mount Sinai. That is the wine.
However, for reasons known only to the Almighty, He applied the historical “brake” on the process to slow it down to a pace which would take another 4000 years to reach its climax. That is the matza.
We see these two energies at work in our time. Although there were always Jews who came to Eretz Yisrael, like the students of the Vilna Gaon and the Chassidic aliya, the rising wave of nationalism in Europe took hold within many of the Jewish people and created the Zionist movement. It was a vigorous idea.
Enthusiasm grew as the idea of a Jewish State began to permeate many segments of our nation. Enter the “brake” of pessimism, denial and constraint.
Not yet. Wait for the Mashiach. The Zionist movement is not observant. Only God who dispersed us into galut has the “right” to bring us home, etc.
In 1948, when the Medina was established, the hopes and prayers of 2000 years exploded into song and dance. A holiday was declared and Hallel was recited – it was the hand of God. Enter the forces of negation. No Hallel. No holiday. Just one more event in the family of Man. Stay put in the galut. Nothing of any spiritual consequence has occurred. And many who said Hallel in the first year did not do so in subsequent ones.
Enter the Six Day War. “Temple Mount is in our hands,” declared General Motta Gur to his troops. Our joy could not be contained. For the first time in 2000 years, we became the sovereigns of Jerusalem.
The Kotel, Hallel, Jewish military heroes. Come the forces of constraint. It is forbidden to enter the Temple Mount. Leave the holiest place in the world in gentile hands. Don’t build the city of Emanuel, because it will only anger the goyim. Army service is an affront to HaShem. No prayers for the Medina nor for the welfare of the soldiers. Don’t bother to create a formidable military. HaShem will save us. Just learn Torah.
Those who press forward to annex Shomron and Yehuda, to build in the area of E1 connecting Maale Adumin with Yerushalayim, to throw away an idea of a state for the Arabs, to encourage people to ascend the Temple Mount, to destroy the thousands of Arab homes built illegally and to apply the death sentence to terrorists – these and more are the “wine” of our lives.
The negation of these advancements of Am Yisrael along our trek towards national rejuvenation is the “matza” of this generation.
Each point of view serves a purpose. Unrestrained vigor can be catastrophic and even suicidal; indolent, slothful restraint leads one to a life of desolation, blankness, destitution, exhaustion, hollowness, waste and depletion. They both have meaning when mutually challenging.
Each of these opposing forces in our national-religious life has the backing of Torah scholars. So, there are no tzadikim and resha’im here. On the contrary, this is HaShem’s way of regulating the advance of Am Yisrael vis-a-vis the threatening gentile world.
However, I offer my thanks to HaShem for allowing me to be inclined towards the “wine” of our nation, having escaped the negativity of my teachers and rabbis who barely recognized that something had occurred to Am Yisrael in 1948.
In conclusion: At the seder, the matza invokes one bracha whereas the wine invokes five. The lesson is clear.
Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5775/2015 Nachman Kahana

The Jewish State and its Citizens: Questions and Answers with Moshe Feiglin

Shalom Moshe,

I don’t know if you remember, but about a year ago you met with a group of people who were working on Kibbutz Yahel. I was fascinated by you; particularly because I define myself as a leftist, a Meretz activist and former Shomer Hatzair member. What interested me most was your approach toward liberty and your solution for the Occupation. Since that talk that you gave, my worldview has destabilized. On my search for truth I have met some very interesting people, who continued to destabilize my entrenched world view. I would like to ask you a number of questions and hope you can answer them.
  1. You have spoken extensively on the topic of privatization of many state-run systems, among them public transportation. Your logical claim is: “Why should I desecrate the Shabbat for those who wish to travel on Shabbat?” Your solution is to privatize public transportation and if a community wishes to fund its own buses on Shabbat, so be it. By the same logic, I would like to ask the following:
  2. Why should the State define who is an acceptable life-partner? Why should it only be a man and a woman? Isn’t this the same reasoning as buses on Shabbat? The State should not decide what constitutes a couple, because if I wed a man under state auspices it would debase your faith system. So shouldn’t every person be able to wed whom and what he pleases in his own community?
  3. Why does the State have to define itself as Jewish? Why shouldn’t every person define himself as he pleases, with the State’s role to protect its citizens from discrimination and terror?
  4. You speak about ending the occupation of Judea and Samaria.
  5. Does that include revoking the citizenship of the Arabs who live within the Green Line?
  6. Why not revoke the citizenship of all those who do not define themselves culturally as Jews, such as atheists, seculars, etc.? That is just the logical conclusion of that approach. In other words, what separates the atheist or secular from those who define themselves as Palestinians and comprise a threat to the State of Israel as a Jewish state?
  7. Where should the State be involved? In education? Health?
  8. Do you think there is an ethical problem with ruling over the Arabs who call themselves Palestinians?
You often say that the problem that the Moslems have here is not the occupation, but the fact that there are Jews in Israel. In other words, the fact that we rule over the Arabs is the result of Arab aggression, such as the 1929 massacres – which predated the State of Israel. Do you not think that the present situation blurs the religious reasons for the conflict and it is now based on the insufferable reality that the Arab children grow up under limitations, witnessing their parents being arrested? In other words, although it may have started as a religious problem, it has metamorphosed into a problem of occupation?
There are people in Israel who define themselves as leftists, secular and Zionists, who do not see much importance in keeping the Land of Israel. Do you not think that there may be those Arabs who live here who may truly be interested in this solution?
Thank you very much,
P.S. I hope that your party will gain momentum, because currently you are the only one challenging the ‘solutions’ of the Left and also the Likud for the Middle East (Land for Peace). I see that slowly but surely, the discourse will change to the question of a sovereign Jewish State in the entire Land of Israel, or a state of all its citizens. I see this as good news. Little by little, we are discovering our true values.

23 Nissan, 5775/April 12, ‘15
Dear…
Thank you for your thoughtful letter. I usually answer letters like yours in a few short sentences. But when I read your words, I realized that you have touched upon very basic questions, so I have made time to write some fundamental answers:
The main axis around which your questions revolve is the proper relationship between the state and the citizen in general – and between the Jewish State and its citizens, in particular.
People always ask me what the sources of my inspiration are. Religious people ask me who my rabbi is; seculars ask me who my philosopher is and many people have decided that I am an Israeli libertarian. The truth is, that just as I do not have one Rabbi (except for the rabbi with whom I consult on issues of Jewish law) there is also no one school of thought to which I belong.
Like the libertarians, I also think that the role of the State – except for security, justice and vital infrastructure – is mostly not to get in the way. But that does not mean that the state is a security company. A state is not a strictly technical organization. It represents both national and ethical essence. A nation – in other words, a group that has developed beyond the personal, family and tribal level and reached a national structure – carries with it certain values. The role of the nation state, in addition to providing individuals with security, is the protection, development and dissemination of those values.
The nation does not create values only as a by-product. On the contrary: the values build and sustain the nation. (This is my major argument with Netanyahu. He talks about existence and uses destiny as a political tool, as he demonstrated with the Nation Bill – while I remain steadfast in my approach: the necessity of a destiny, without which no long-term existence can be sustained).
The nation states are currently disintegrating. This is happening for one of two reasons. Either (mostly in the Mid-East and Africa) they are tribes that have never developed to the required level of national culture, so the structure of a modern nation state (which was generally forced upon them by the West after WWI) never fit them in the first place: Or they are nations with a very developed national culture and tradition (generally Europe) attacked by a deadly virus (which appears under many attractive names, such as multiculturalism) that pulverizes the cultural glue that fostered the development of the modern nation state.
Do you remember the mesmerizing footage of the Twin Towers imploding? That is what we are witnessing right now in Europe; a 2000 years old civilization collapsing into itself.
By the way, when the demonstrations began in Tahrir Square against Egypt’s President Mubarak, many gleefully greeted the ‘Arab Spring’ (the Middle-Eastern version of the ‘Prague Spring’). Similar to the ‘peace festivals’ of Oslo, this time we also see up-close how shortsighted the television analysts and pundits really are. It seems that the faith-based perspective affords us with better tools for understanding reality.
At the onset of the ‘Arab Spring’, I wrote that the masses in the Square did not have the cultural foundations for the construction of a higher national platform. I wrote that the revolution expresses liberation from the West’s arrangement – that had been forced upon them – into the chaos that will eventually end with a return to the natural Arab tribal structure.
What has happened since then in the Middle East completely fits this forecast. I am confident that my forecast for Europe will eventually take place, as well.
At first glance, it looks like the Arab/Moslem civilization is conquering its European/Christian counterpart. But in fact, both towers are collapsing simultaneously and I have no idea what reality will look like when the dust settles. What I do know is that Israel is perhaps the only nation that has the cultural potential to withstand this great upheaval. More than anything else, it is the demographic wonder that points to this. The Jewish Israeli woman – including the secular Tel Avivian – is the only woman in the world today that gives birth to more children than her mother. She is also among the only women in the world who give birth to enough children to sustain and develop civilization. In less than 100 years since Auschwitz, the Jewish Nation in Israel will be producing more 18 year olds than the German nation. (Dying Civilization, David Goldman).
A state is much more than a technical tool. Its role is to guard and nurture the values of the nation that established it. These values are what ultimately guard and preserve the existence of the state.
If this is the situation in any state, it is even more true of the Jewish State. The Jewish State, the state of the People of the Book and the children of the prophets – is a state that heralds a cultural, ethical and spiritual message – more than any other state. This is the conscious and sub-conscious expectation of humanity from us. It is the source of Israel’s power and wondrous survival. But it is also the basis for its terrible weakness. Without vision, Israel’s national collapse is steep and painful – more than that of any other nation.
And so, the perspective that sees the state as a security/insurance company is about as far from my understanding as one can get. I see the state – any state – as a vessel that holds values. I see the State of Israel as the vessel that is supposed to preserve, nurture and realize the values of the nation that has touched eternity. I even see another dimension in the State of Israel: the dimension of holiness. That is why I say the Hallel prayer of thanksgiving (with a broken heart) on Israel’s Independence Day.
I live very well with this dialectic of a holy state on the one hand and the need to treat it with a healthy irreverence, on the other. Really, there is no contradiction. On the contrary, the dialectic reflects the correct approach to its importance and value. But values must have a hierarchy. G-d’s first commandment to the Children of Israel is: ‘I Am G-d’. Not ‘I am the State.’ There are some religious circles that have forgotten this. Without noticing, they have exchanged G-d for the sanctity of the state, even positing that the State of Israel cannot err. According to their reasoning, every dictate of the State must be fulfilled – even if it is foolish. Some secular politicians and religious circles have turned the state into a pagan deity. They have made it an end and not a means. They have pulled the train that was supposed to have towed all of the lofty ideals – off track. As holy as it may be, the train has begun to flatten and destroy everything near it.
Now that my viewpoint on the State is clearer, I will try to answer your specific questions:
  1. As I see it, it is not the State’s role to wed couples or divorce them. That role should be saved for the community. We invite many guests to our weddings – not just to increase the joy, but mainly to receive the community’s endorsement for the new status of the newly-formed family. From the State, we get a piece of paper; that is all. People wed and divorced before the establishment of the State and it would be good if the State would not be involved in this area of our lives. If there would be a community that attaches the same values to both homosexual and heterosexual unions, so be it. But for most of humanity, and certainly the majority of the Jewish Nation, homosexual unions do not have the same status as the values of the classic family. I am not getting into questions like the right of the child to have both a father and mother as opposed to the right of the adults to experience happiness, nor the debate over the essence of love and the quality of the investment in raising children. I am assuming that homosexual couples invest all their energies and love in their children on the same level that normative couples do. I believe that technical rights (such as tax points, etc.) should not be denied to children growing up with such a couple. But from an ethical standpoint, in Jewish culture a homosexual couple is not considered a family. Thus, the attempt to coerce this moral standpoint upon society completely contradicts the entire reason and foundation for the existence of the State of Israel, as I have explained until now.
Thus, when MK Adi Kol (Yesh Atid) proposed a bill that aimed not only to rectify a technical injustice with the tax points (which I would have supported) but to draw moral equivalence between a homosexual couple and the normative family – in other words, when an MK attempted to legislate a fundamental change in the values of the Nation – I opposed it (against the coalition, as well).
This  is a simple example of the minority forcing its values on the large majority. I completely oppose religious coercion (and religious legislation) but by the same measure, I also oppose secular coercion. The liberty that you mentioned  – a Jewish value of the first degree – is the only foundation upon which Jewish culture can develop. The State of Israel must carefully protect it.
By the way, the Jewish Home party voted in favor of the bill. Hmmm…
About the Arabs of Judea and Samaria:
I am not referring to a separate autonomy. Ramallah has to turn into Ramle (in the beginning) and Gaza – to Jaffa. Both Ramle and Jaffa have Arab majorities, but they are under full Israeli sovereignty, with an Israeli flag flying from every school building.
  1. I am not talking about nullifying the citizenship of the Arabs of Israel. But they must recognize that Israel is the Jewish State and be loyal to it as such. I once asked MK Hammad Amar (a Druze), “How do you live with the fact that a relative of mine can come to Israel and receive Israeli citizenship whenever he pleases, while your relatives may not do so.?”  He answered that he has no problem with that situation. He recognizes the fact that he lives in a Jewish State. Like the Druze community, the rest of the non-Jews who wish to live in Israel will have to internalize that fact.
We recently celebrated the Seder Night. We sat around the table with the entire family. I know the wise son, the evil son, the simple son and the son who doesn’t even know how to ask a question. I do not know of a “Palestinian” son. We have all sorts of neighbors, with whom we wish to live in mutual respect and peace. But they are not part of the Jewish “salad”. Our atheist, secular and ‘wicked sons’ all play an important role in challenging our public discourse and developing the Jewish-Israeli culture. None of us has all the pieces of the huge, complex puzzle. Each of the sons has some of the pieces in his pocket. We need them all in order to build the entire picture.
2. According to Maimonides, the king is responsible for his nation’s security and justice apparatus. The state must provide security and national infrastructure. Above and beyond that, the State’s main goal is not to get in the way.
The process of transformation from slavery to the State to liberty for the citizen must be gradual and parallel. Construction of the alternative mechanisms must be simultaneous, affording freedom of choice. This is true for education, health and welfare.
Responsibility must be restored to the citizen; first and foremost, responsibility for the education of one’s children. In my opinion, there is room for an education tax, as education is a primary, undisputed national interest. The tax, however, must return almost intact to the public  (today, a large percentage is swallowed up by the apparatus, itself) in the form of education vouchers, to be redeemed by parents at the school of their choice. Welfare must be transferred to the authority of the community. National Insurance should insure the nation. Today, most of the National Insurance funds are invested in the Arab public, who are (an estranged ) minority of the population and pay just a few percentage points of their share into the National Insurance fund.
The situation in the health arena is catastrophic.  Centralized government has created a swamp of corruption, which for the past twenty years, has transferred a portion of the money allocated to the government-run hospitals into the pockets of the well-connected. The reform and competition in the cell-phone field has transformed the telephone owner from a hostage into a king. The same should be done for the ill: true competition in health services. The State must create a safety net – and like mandatory car insurance, every citizen should insure himself with basic health insurance so as not to become a burden on the public.
3. Yes, there is an ethical problem with ruling over the “Palestinians”. It is not ethical to rule in somebody else’s Land. But in truth, there is no such thing as a “Palestinian” nation and the Land of Israel was never the land of this non-nation.
4. Because we refused to declare Israeli sovereignty in Israel’s heartland immediately after it was liberated, and because we recognized the existence of the invented nation, a second and third generation have been born into the ‘occupation’ that we created with our very own hands. Thus, the hatred of the occupied toward his occupier was added to the religious and national hatred that you described. Israel must end the occupation and reflect absolute certainty and self confidence about our connection to our Land – and the coming generations will be able to get on with their lives.
5. Like any society, Arab society also includes many  fine people. Their human rights and honor must be safeguarded. But from a national standpoint, they never wanted the partition option and a ‘Palestinian State’ is their nightmare. The reason for that is simple: Their national self-determination is not a Palestinian state, but rather, the destruction of the Zionist state. They never demanded a state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza for themselves when those areas were under Arab occupation – Egyptian and Jordanian (as a result of the Arab invasion on the eve of the 1948 War of Independence).
They never accepted the generous proposals of Israel’s leaders (Peres, Barak and Olmert) and always started a war when the powers that be attempted to force them to finally establish their own state. They even rejected the proposal of the Egyptian president to receive land in Sinai upon which to establish a state.
“Palestinian” “nationalism” exists strictly in the areas held by the Zionist (They would do fine with the Jews, but that is the topic of a different article.) At the second that the State of Israel would G-d forbid disappear from the map, the “Palestinian” entity would immediately disappear as well – and there is not one Arab to whom I said that who did not agree with me.
Amen, may you be blessed.
Moshe Feiglin

Holocaust Memorial






The advent of Yom HaShoah always engenders within me an inner turbulence and discomfort. It is not only the fact that the Holocaust destroyed six million innocent people simply because they were Jews - a third of our nation and co-religionists - though that alone causes me to have this great angst in my soul. Human beings are somehow built to withstand tragedy - even enormous indescribable tragedy - and continue with life. Rather, part of my discomfort is that I, and I think the Jewish people generally, have not found a truly meaningful way of commemorating this historic tragedy.

All of the Holocaust museums world wide and especially Yad Vashem here in Jerusalem are magnificent in their historic presentation of the awful facts of the Holocaust. But one never leaves the museums with a sense of comfort or even consolation let alone closure.

There is no museum that can speak to the soul of the Jew. It speaks to our senses, even to our intellect, to our hearts, but somehow never to our soul. And it is that emptiness deep within our soul that gnaws at us and leaves us unfulfilled no matter how magnificent the museum or meaningful the memorial ceremony may be.

There are numerous groups within the Jewish society that somehow do not participate in Holocaust memorial days or events. There are many reasons advanced for this seemingly insensitive behavior, none of which are satisfactory to my mind or soul. Yet I feel deep down in my being that the spiritual and soulful emptiness that somehow always accompanies these commemorations reflects the absence of so many Jews.

I say this not in criticism of any of the commemorations. They have an impossible task and therefore one should almost expect them to fall short of the mark. But the intellectual acceptance of this fact still does little to quiet the turmoil in my soul.

I have always identified myself and our post-Holocaust generations with the great imagery of the scene described by the prophet Yechezkel. The prophet views a large valley covered by bleached scattered human bones. The Midrash teaches us that these were the remains of the tens of thousands of the tribe of Joseph who attempted to escape Egyptian bondage before the actual redemption from Egypt by Moses took place.

They had fallen victim to the ravages of the desert and the enmity of the pagan tribes that persecuted them. The prophet sees no hope for their revival. After all, by his time they have already been dead for millennia. And the prophet also senses that they have never properly been mourned and commemorated.

The Lord informs the prophet that these bones are symbolic of "the entire household of Israel." The household of Israel is itself overwhelmed with its anonymous dead who have no graves or monuments to somehow mark the fact that they once lived on this earth. The prophet despairs of their revival or continuity.

But the Lord tells him to prophesy over the dry bones and restore them to their physical human form. Then the spirit of the Lord enters them and they come back life and arise on the valley floor as a mighty host.

The prophet does not tell us what the end of this story was. What happened to this mighty host of newly and miraculously revived Jews? The Talmud offers two different insights on this matter. One is that the revival was only a temporary phenomenon and that they all reverted immediately to being dry dead bones.

This opinion was contradicted by the sage Rabbi Yehuada ben Beteira. He rose in the study hall and stated: "God forbid that we should advance such a pessimistic opinion. Rather, they married, raised children and lived a full life thereafter. And I am a descendant of theirs and as a proof of the matter I hold in my hand the tefilin of my ancestors [that they themselves wore.]"

I feel that the only closure that can reach our soul regarding Jewish tragedy is the recognition of the continuity of generations and tradition that binds the Jewish people together. Our past, those that are gone and even those who are unknown to us whose ashes and bones litter the landscape of a cursed continent, live on through us - through our achievements and struggles on behalf of Torah and Israel.

We wear their tefilin, many of us literally, all of us figuratively. This realization regarding the tefilin will always speak to our souls and help us to truly commemorate the Holocaust and the resilience of the Jewish people in overcoming a tragedy of even such incalculable dimensions.

A Letter Read in Auschwitz

By Shmuel Sackett

In commemoration of Yom Ha’Shoah, I thought it best to let you read the letter I wrote to my 16 year old who recently visited Poland with her entire 11th grade class. They had been preparing the entire year for this trip, with speakers, discussions and many hours of classes dealing with the Holocaust. As a final preparation, they spent close to 10 hours at Yad Vashem studying what had happened. My daughter told me that while she appreciated all these preparations, nothing would ever match the experience they had by witnessing – first hand – the horrific atrocities up close. They walked into the gas chambers. They saw the mountains of hair. They smelled the ovens and they felt the chill in the air by the Forest of the Children. This will never be forgotten by anyone.
An interesting thing done by the school was that they asked each parent to write a letter to their daughter, which would be given to the girls as they were leaving Auschwitz. Here is the letter I wrote:
“On this very important trip you are witnessing horrible things that were done to our nation. We want to tell you two things: First of all, it is ok to cry. Crying means you feel their pain and you identify with your brothers and sisters who were killed only because they were Jewish. Never before was such terrible things done to our people and every day of your trip is like Tisha B’av. Therefore, here is what we want you do: Cry…cry LOTS of tears. Make the disgusting ground of Poland wet with your tears so that your tears will mix with the blood of the 6,000,000. And then, when you want to just keep crying, here is the second thing we want you to do: STOP crying and start BUILDING!! A Jew doesn’t cry forever – he/she builds, grows, settles and fights back! A Jew stops crying and starts taking revenge by having LOTS of babies and building LOTS of houses in a strong and proud State of Israel.
Therefore, our sweetest daughter, turn those tears into positive action. Come back from this incredible experience and make every Jew-hater pay for the pain they inflicted on us. Make every one of them burn in hell by looking at you and how connected you are to our Father in Heaven. Make sure that all the children of these beasts see how happy you are in Israel and how dedicated you are to our land and our Torah and to a life of holiness!!
Our nation needs wonderful, good, holy Jews like you and your friends. We need your strength, your spirit and your motivation. May you never forget what you saw and may you turn those sad memories into positive actions – now and forever!!
We love you and are so proud of you!!
May we all dance together in the Bet Ha’Mikdash!!
Love,
Mommy and Abba”

Lessons of the Holocaust

By Moshe Feiglin

I am very ashamed of the Holocaust.  How my people were taken, stripped, humiliated, tortured and led to their deaths – before the eyes of the joyous Poles, Ukrainians, French and other offspring of Christian enlightenment; how newborn babies were impaled on pitchforks on the way to the death pits; how millions were led to the factories of death, and suffocated and burned, fertilizing the fields of Poland and Europe with our people’s ashes – and all with almost no resistance.
I am very proud of the Holocaust.  If the German Asmodeus – the most explicit essence of absolute evil ever revealed in history – sees me, the Jew, as its ultimate enemy, then that means that I am on the other end of the scale. In other words, there is something very good about my people.  If the German Asmodeus represents absolute evil, then it is very afraid of the absolute good – G-d – which I represent.
There is no way to explain the Holocaust.  I know survivors who are not on speaking terms with G-d.  I know many who are the opposite.  I have no right to go there – and I have neither the ability nor the desire to do so.  But irrespective of the theological questions surrounding the Holocaust, one thing clearly occurred in its wake: Jewish history stopped being written in exile and started to be written in the Land of Israel.
Now, for the first time since the First Temple period (!), the majority of the Jewish People will be living in the Holy Land.  This fact constitutes a spiritual critical mass.  Jewish law changes in several realms by virtue of the demographic fact that “most of its sons are on [the land].”  The absolute number that we are approaching in the Land of Israel is chilling.  Six million.
G-d, Who chose us to be His eternal people and to attest to His existence, has made us a target for extermination by every evil in the world.  It is certainly understandable why there are Jews who constantly try to escape this fate.  As individuals, this may be possible – an individual may be able to assimilate and rid him/herself of this trouble.  But as a people, we cannot escape our destiny.  We cannot exist without it.
When the time of national awakening comes, when the gates of the Land open before us but we insist on remaining merely the bearers of religion in exile – the ground burns under our feet.  And when we flee to the other extreme, create an alternative Israeli nationalism and shun Judaism and the Torah, then even if we have decided that we are no longer Jews, but only normal Israelis, even if we have established a modern state and hold 200 atom bombs in our nuclear arsenal   – we are still six million Jews under the mounting danger of annihilation.
Our obsessive need to maintain international recognition of our normalcy forces us to pay in the hard currency of homeland and security in exchange for the peace process – or in other words, the process of our “acceptance” as a normal people among the nations.
There are two historical lessons that we should remember well from the Holocaust:
One is that the armies of Czechoslovakia and France – both much stronger before the war than the German army – went down like dominoes, because their leaderships failed to understand the nature of the conflict and based their policies on peace processes.
The second lesson, which pertains directly to us as Jews, is that before physical destruction there is spiritual destruction.  Before we are murdered, our dignity is murdered, and we are rendered illegitimate.  Der Stuermer always precedes Auschwitz.  When you agree to be humiliated, you have not forestalled your end; you have brought it closer.  Jewish history is being written today in the State of Israel.  The desire to destroy the state is the same desire to destroy the Jews – to fight against good.
When the state’s leadership lets Biden or Erdogan humiliate us, it sows hope and uncontrollable desire to destroy us.  When Ahmadinejad started to talk about Israel’s destruction   – it should have been clear that from Israel’s standpoint, he had lost his right to breathe in this world.  Since we did not eliminate him, he has been gaining strength. He and his ministers roam freely around the world, while Israel has become a pirate ship that has lost the legitimacy for its existence, its ministers fugitives in European capitals.  We have returned to the days of the “Jewish Question.” We are no longer in 2010. It is now nineteen thirty-something.
Whoever warns against a preemptive strike in Iran and prefers to let the world do its work, is behaving just like the Jewish community leaders who denounced anyone who tried to resist the German annihilation machine.  It is clear that resistance had a terrible price.  But the price of appeasement and cooperation was a thousand times more horrific.

The Pita that Revived Terror

By Moshe Feiglin

Later, he was interviewed by Aharon Barnea, who also wrote a book about him, called “To be Captive.”
In Barnea’s book, Taamri describes the situation of the terror organization prior to Pesach, 28 years ago. “I concluded,” said Taamri, “that we had no chance to overpower Israel’s financial and military prowess, and that we should make do with the crumbs that they would throw us and fold up all our flags.” Taamri, an intellectual and patriot, willingly cooperated with his captors. The other prisoners understood from their admired commander that the end had come and the war was lost. And then, Taamri continued, a surprising event took place that turned everything upside down.
“My hands were holding the cold bars and I was looking from inside my dark jail cell toward the hall, where an Israeli guard was walking. I saw him from far. He was walking slowly, holding something in his hand that he would constantly bring close to his mouth. He would bring it close and then distance it. When he was close to my cell, I called to him. I saw that he was eating a pita. He would bite, chew, bite and chew.
‘You are a Jew,’ I said to him. ‘Why are you eating chametz on Pesach? Don’t you know that it is forbidden for a Jew to eat chametz on this holiday?
‘I am not committed to the things that happened to my People during the exodus from Egypt 2000 years ago. I have no connection to it,’ said the Jewish prison guard.
I sat on the mattress in my cell and said to myself: A nation of people who do not have a connection with their past; who are willing to publicly desecrate the laws of their faith, is a nation that has cut off the roots from its land. We will be able to achieve our goals. On that night, my approach completely changed. I couldn’t fall asleep. In all those hours of darkness, I replayed that scene with the Jewish prison guard.
The next morning I gathered the Palestinian leadership in the prison; all those who knew my opinion over the years. I told them about my experience and the conclusions that I reached. I clarified to everyone that from that morning, we were embarking on a new course: a war for everything. Not for a small percentage and not for crumbs that they would throw us. For opposing us was a nation that lacked the connection to its roots; a nation not interested in its past. Thus, its motivation was necessarily void of any will to struggle and fight.
Since then, I have told my story to tens of thousands. I convinced all of them that the approach must be changed and that we must struggle without compromise.”
Taamri was elected to the Palestinian parliament and indeed convinced his friends, breathing new spirit into the war against Israel. The damage done by that pita eaten by the Israeli soldier on the holiday of Pesach cannot be exaggerated.
The question mark hovering over the right of the Jewish state to exist – and as a result, over its right to defend itself in the face of existential threat – is directly connected to our identity as G-d’s nation.
When the nations of the world see that G-d’s Name is called upon us, when we know who we are, understand what we represent and are at peace with our destiny, the power of deterrence that the terrorist Taamri initially felt will be established. But when it turns out that we are not interested in G-d’s Name being called upon us, the nations can openly plan to destroy us, with nuclear weapons or in any other way – with no fear.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Israel’s Message of Liberty

By Moshe Feiglin

The truly free person is he who is committed only to G-d. It is not easy for us to know what G-d wants from us. Each of us has the privilege and the obligation to try to reach that understanding and to draw his conclusions without coercion. But the principle remains: The truly free person is he who believes in G-d.
The greatest slavery mechanisms in human history were created by radical leftist ideologies that negated the existence of G-d and thus denied the sanctity of life. Stalin’s Communism murdered more people than Hitler’s National Socialism. Mao’s Communism murdered more people than the sum of all the victims of both World Wars combined. The murderousness of the Communist party in some countries continues until this very day. In fact, most of humanity, including those people who live in democratic countries – are still enslaved. Some live in iron cages while others live in golden cages, but the lesson learned from the redemption from Egypt is still waiting to be actualized.
 Does the Nation of Israel, the nation that suffered slavery to humans in Egypt and made the difficult transition to exclusive service of G-d have a message of liberty for the billions of modern day slaves? Israel has the key to true liberty – the service of no one or nothing but G-d. That message though, is currently buried under layers of self-deception. To illuminate the world with its message of liberty, Israel must transform itself into a free country.
 What is a free country? According to the definition of liberty above, a free country is a country in which most of the authority is in the hands of the citizens, who have true freedom of choice. In today’s Israel, the citizen has no influence over any of the country’s power hubs. Yes, he can vote for the parliament, but his vote has no significance. The fate of the country is not determined in the parliament, but by the media, the State Prosecution and other power hubs that all work together. None of these mechanisms are elected by the public or profoundly affected by its criticism.
 In the authentic Jewish liberty state, the citizen is responsible for his fate. He elects his leaders and representatives to the parliament in direct district elections. In the district-election method, every citizen becomes a party “central committee member,” whose opinion is important to his elected representative.
 In the Jewish liberty state, the citizen has a wide range of media options. Today, he can only choose between leftist broadcasts, because any non-leftist broadcasting stations are immediately made illegal.
 In the Jewish liberty state, the nation chooses its judges. Candidates for judicial positions must first have a public hearing. Their stand on the Jewish identity of the state, the definition of family, the release of terrorists, the expulsion of Jews from their homes and more will be public knowledge before the voting begins.
 In the Jewish liberty state, parents decide how their children will be educated and will be able to choose from various educational approaches.
 In the Jewish liberty state, national land belongs to the Nation of Israel – to all the Jews. Every new Jewish family will be entitled to a lot of land somewhere in the entire Land of Israel. Those who claim that this is impossible can just look to see what is happening in Wadi Ara, where the State of Israel is effectively giving its land to every new Arab family.
 In the Jewish liberty state, loyalty is the national behavioral code. Captives are not abandoned, Pollard is not abandoned and allies such as the Southern Lebanese Army are not abandoned.
 In the Jewish liberty state, there is no compromise with evil. Evil is fought, giving the citizens the security they deserve and liberating them from “protective” walls and fences.
 When the State of Israel is freed of its built-in bondage, when we return to ourselves and establish the authentically free Jewish state, the Jewish message of liberty born of exclusive service of G-d will illuminate the world.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

US-Israel cooperation defies Obama-Netanyahu confrontation

By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

Defense, scientific and commercial cooperation between the US and Israel is surging unprecedentedly, in defiance of the unbridgeable gap between the worldviews of President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
For example, 250 major US high-tech companies maintain research and development centers in Israel, which has become a major source of cutting-edge innovative technologies, improving US competitiveness, increasing US exports and expanding US employment. In 2014, Israeli startups raised an all-time record of $3.4bn, mostly from US investors. Israel operates hundreds of US military and homeland security systems, providing the US defense industries with critical lessons of operation, maintenance and repairs, which dramatically upgrade the quality of these systems and their global competitiveness, improving US research and development, exports and employment. US-Israel cooperation in the areas of cyber, nano and space technologies is rising sharply. Israel provides the US with intelligence, exceeding the intelligence provided to the US by all NATO countries combined. The formulation of US battle tactics, in general – and urban warfare. in particular - is based largely on Israel's battle experience. Joint US-Israel air force exercises are conducted regularly.  US Army units on their way to Afghanistan are trained by Israeli experts in urban warfare, car bombs, suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). 
Contrary to the one-way-street type of relationship of 40 years ago (the US gave and Israel received), current US-Israel ties have been transformed into a mutually-beneficial two-way-streetexpanding cooperation – especially at a time of drastic cuts in the US defense budget and the US withdrawal from Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen - irrespective of the intensified tension between Obama and Netanyahu. 
While President Obama harshly criticizes Prime Minister Netanyahu's attitude toward the Palestinian issue, US national security and commercial interests, as well as US-Israel relations and Obama's legacy transcend, by far, the Palestinian issue.  
Moreover, President Obama's assumption that an unresolved Palestinian issue is a core cause of Middle East turbulence overlooks the last four years of the Arab Tsunami, which have exposed the marginal role of the Palestinian issue in shaping the Middle East.  Thus, the tectonic outbursts in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and Iraq – as well as the lethal Iranian threat to every pro-American Arab country in the region – are independent of the Palestinian issue. Also, the Arab countries shower the Palestinians with rhetoric, but not with tangible resources. They do not consider the Palestinians their crown jewel, but rather a source of further corruption, subversion and terrorism.
While Obama and Netanyahu are on a collision course, the US Congress – the most authentic representative of the American constituent and a co-equal, co-determining branch of government in all areas – has been a systematic supporter of enhanced US-Israel cooperation.  It was Congress which stopped the US military involvement in Vietnam, Angola and Nicaragua (in defiance of Presidents Nixon and Reagan); triggered the collapse of the white regime in South Africa (overriding Reagan's veto); forced Moscow to allow free emigration; clipped the wings of the US intelligence community (in defiance of President Ford); has refrained from ratifying the 1999 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (signed by President Clinton); significantly expanded strategic cooperation with Israel (in defiance of President Bush and Secretary Baker); forced President Obama to veto the 2011 UN Security Council anti-settlement resolution and to sign the August 1, 2014 $225mn appropriation for the acquisition of additional Iron Dome batteries; etc.  The US political system provides Congress with the muscle to initiate policy and change, suspend, defund, rollback and abort presidential domestic, foreign policy and national security initiatives.
Unlike US ties with most other countries, US special ties with the Jewish State reflect the sentiments of most constituentsindependent and irrespective of presidential policies.  They are based on Judeo-Christian values, dating back to the 17th century Pilgrims of the "Mayflower" and the "Arabella," which departed from "modern day Egypt," crossed the "modern day sea" and landed in the "modern day Promised Land." Today, there are statues of Moses in the US House of Representatives (facing the Speaker) and the US Supreme Court (above the desk of the Justices), and Ten Commandments monuments stand on the grounds of the Texas and Oklahoma  state capitols.
For Netanyahu to embrace Obama's policies on Iran and the Palestinian issue would require ignoring Obama's track record in the Middle East: he welcomed the Arab Tsunami as an Arab Spring transitioning toward democracy; he stabbed the back of pro-US, former Egyptian President Mubarak and is turning a cold shoulder toward General Sisi, the current President, while embracing the anti-US Muslim Brotherhood, the largest Islamic terror organization; he denies the existence of Islamic terrorism ("workplace violence," "extremism"); he claims that "Islam has always been part of the American story" (2009 Cairo speech); he contends that the root cause of terrorism is social-economic deprivation; he trained the anti-US, pro-Iran Houthi tribes of Yemen; he provides tailwind to Iran's gradual domination of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen (which controls the critical strait of Bab al Mandeb), assuming that "the enemy of my enemy (Iran) is my friend," while in fact Iran is "my enemy"; he is preoccupied with the details of an agreement with Iran rather than with the details of Iran's rogue, terrorist, non-compliant, apocalyptic, expansionist, anti-US track record;;he aims to contain, and not to prevent, a nuclear Iran; he transformed Libya into one of the largest incubator of terrorism; he subordinates US unilateral action to multilateralism; he has lost the trust of Saudi Arabia and other pro-US Arab states, unprecedentedly eroding the US posture of deterrence.
For Netanyahu to embrace Obama's policies on Iran and the Palestinian issue would spare him the wrath of the White House, but would distance him from Middle East reality, dooming the Jewish State to destruction.