Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Efraim Halevy on Hamas

Efraim Halevy is a former head of Mossad. I believe I have posted videos of him here before. He is quite articulate and reasonable, a very impressive figure on the political scene. He wrote an article called "Israel’s Hamas Portfolio" that discusses the Hamas issue, a bit on the history on the group, and what we might do about it now.

"The Hamas movement has been around for less than a quarter of a century. Its covenant and charter, approved in 1988, a year after the organization was established, clearly propagates a policy designed to bring about an end to the State of Israel. To fulfill that aim, Hamas has resorted to armed struggle, terrorism targeting innocent civilians (particularly children), and has launched and maintained a capacity to train and dispatch suicide bombers to densely populated urban targets, shopping malls, central bus stations and discothèques, all in Israeli territory.

"Throughout its short existence, just over two decades, the movement has borne the brunt of the combined force of Israel’s security and defense capabilities. The Israel Security Agency (ISA, commonly known as the Shin Bet) has mounted and perfected a massive intelligence-collection operation, second to none in the history of modern anti-terrorist warfare. All other branches of the Israeli intelligence community have joined hands with the ISA and the IDF in executing daring and precise surgical operations directed at terrorist groups and individuals in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip with deadly effect. The core leadership of Hamas, including its founding leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, has been brought before
Israeli courts, tried, sentenced and detained for long periods of time."

Keep reading

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

More on the Imperative to Study Grammar

"With regard to grammar, I note that my revered father זצ'ל held that its study is included in the מצוה of תלמוד תורה because its knowledge is crucial for reaching correct Halakhic conclusions. He cited a grammatical error which led a well intentioned author to propose building a מקוה in any Jewish home. Ignorance of the gender of the noun אצבע in רמב'ם הלכות ספר תורה פ'ה ה'ט had led that individual to advocate מקוואות in that were undersized and invalid; their use would have resulted in massive איסורי כרת. Knowledge of grammar is thus not פרפראות לחכמה, which the תוספות יו'ט defines as "studies undertaken to enhance knowledge" also not to be denigrated -- but גופי תורה , 'studies that affect Halakha.'"

R' Nathan Kamenetsky, Approbation for Grammar for Gemara, Yitzchak Frank (Jerusalem: The Ariel Institute, 1992)

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Candles of the Menorah by Tzvi Avraham


The Candles of the Menorah

by Tzvi Avraham

Chanukah is a good time to ponder the meaning of the Menorah in the Temple, both because the eight   Chanukah lights commemorate a miracle that happened to the seven branched Menorahת and because of the profound connection between the two suggested by the midrash cited by Rashi[i] that when Aharon was distressed by not participating in the offerings of the Nasiim at the initiation of the Ohel Moed, Hashem consoled him telling him that he was destined to something greater: the mitzvah  of the Menorah, which the Ramban explains was intended to suggest the Chanukah Menorah.

The Midrah Tidasheh of R. Chaninah ben Dusah[ii]   describing  how the entire creation is suggested by features and kalim of  the  Beis Hamikdosh, tells us that the 7 candles of the Menorah are identified correspond to the seven planets, i.e., the seven planets visible without a telescope known in ancient times: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon.   (The ancients numbered the Sun and the Moon among the planets.)  That interpretation is also found in the Targum Yonasan.[iii]  

The medieval Castilian mekubal Yosef Gikitilia also  mentions it in his sefer Ginas Egoz[iv] while declaring, in keeping with midrashim and the opinions of most Rishonim, including Rabbeinu Elazar Hagadol, Harokeach, the Ramban[v], the Nimukei Yosef[vi], the Ran[vii]  among others that  “without a doubt,” the influence of  planets governs the world subject to Hashem’s supervision and control.     The seven candles, he tells us,  correspond to the seven planets,  and he invites  the reader to ponder their deeper meaning.  Let’s take up that task  tonight, because we have help at hand:  the interpretation of the planets which  Rabbeinu Elazar Hagadol, the Rokeach, gives in his commentary on Sefer Yetzirah.

Everyone knows that Avraham Avinu was an astrologer.  It’s even mentioned by  Rishonim as a decisive justification of astrology. So it’s no surprise that Sefer Yetzirah, which was written by Avraham Avinu, has a considerable astrological content. In the fourth chapter, which discusses the creation of the planets, the Rokeach gives us his interpretation of the planets while explaining  why each is assigned  to rule its specific day and night of the week.  His discussion of the planets complements the   considerable and detailed astrological science in his magnum opus, Sod Razei.  His astrological science is substantially the same as the Ibn Ezra’s – (Ibn Ezra  was a renowned astrologer and wrote 12 treatises on astrology, some of which were translated into Latin and had a profound impact on the western tradition of astrology.) but  his interpretations express  ancient traditions transmitted to him through  his Rebbe, R’ Yehudah HaChasid, his father, R. Yehudah b’rebbe Kolonimus -  (so he tells us in his introduction to Sodei Razei and at the end of his commentary on Sefer Yetzirah) -  a kabalistic tradition which flowered in the 12th and 13th centuries in Germany which we now call  Chissidus Ashkenaz.


Saturn[viii], he tells us, is, as all agreed, the most distant of the planets.  The ancient and medieval astrologers used the terms  hot and cold, wet and dry when they described the nature of the planets, and  Saturn, all agreed, is cold and dry.  But the Rokeach explains why.  Saturn is located just below the upper waters that are cold to protect the world from the heat of the angelic worlds above them.  That cold is what makes him cold.  Dry?  He leaves that to us, but its pretty clear to me:  His dryness is his thirst:  he thirsts to know the world above the upper waters, and, for that reason, has little interest in worldly matters and tends to exercise his  typically  “gvuradik” influence  that would induce us to turn from them to higher things. Saturn, the Rokeach adds, is Moshe Rabbeinu.

Jupiter is the next planet, just below Saturn. He is moderately warm and moderately moist, i.e., he has the qualities that promote life and virtue.  He is universally identified with all the endeavors and institutions that promote prosperity and express the dignity of man.  I like to think of Jupiter as turning the vision of Saturn into the  spiritual ideals  that bring dignity and prosperity to all who live by them.  And I think that the Rokeach would agree, for he identifies Jupiter with Moshe’s brother, Aharon Hakohen, Kohen Gadol  and celebrated for his compassion and pursuit of peace.  He personifies  the dignity of man in the service of Hashem. 

After Jupiter, Mars.  Mars is what we’d expect Mars to be, and what he is for Chazal:   choleric, inclined to violence  and aggression:  the spirit of the soldier. But also the virtues of the soldier:  the obedience, courage, persistence determination, decisiveness. And  we need that, for that’s the kind of strength it takes to fulfill the ideals of Jupiter in this dark and chaotic world.   Mars, the Rokeach tells us,  is David Hamelech and the spirit of the Moshiach.

After Mars, the Sun. 
The Sun is malchus, but not just any malchus, for three letters of Hashem’s name are inscribed on him. He is the proximal source of  the warmth that sustains life and light that bestows sight, which is why he rules the first hour of the erev yom chimishi, when animals of all kinds were created.[ix]  We might think of the light of the Sun as the shadow  of Hashem’s Majesty.

Just below the Sun: Venus.  The Rokeach’s description of Venus might be summarized as:  the love of life that Hashem brings forth through the heat and light of the Sun.  L’chaim!

Below Venus:  Mercury.   Every night of the week is ruled by one of the planets. Mercury rules Motzei Shabbos, erev yom rishon, the Rokeach tells us,  because Mercury represents the chochmah with which Hashem created the world on the evening following the Shabbos that preceded the creation of the world.   

And then the Moon, who governs  leyl vav, i.e., Thursday night, because the Moon has the power to incline the heart to good or to evil, and it was then that Hashem thought of creating man with the freedom to do good and evil.[x]   That is,  the Moon which moves to good or evil also represents the freedom human beings have to choose to do good or to choose to do evil, for “just as Hashem gave power and dominion to the planets to exercise a good or evil influence, He gave power and dominion to man to subdue his natural impulses, and do what is good and right in the eyes of Hashem.” [xi]

The Rokeach tells us that the planets govern the entire natural order, even the heart—but not the will, and what he  describes, with his interpretation of the planets, are the seven   principles that govern the created world and the heart (though not the will) of man, for whom the world was created. 

1.  The spiritual longing to know the truths of Heaven and the joy of the angels—i.e., the Love of Hashem  that makes it hard for a person to see any value in the pleasures of this world—Saturn
2.  The ideals which move us to live in this world in a way that is worthy of that vision—Jupiter
3.  The determination and drive to implement those ideals against the resistance of the dark forces that resist them--Mars
4.  The creative force which brings forth the life of this world in which Hashem so delights—the Sun
5.  Delight in this life brought forth by Hashem as a gift to all creatures—Venus
6.  The understanding of world--the understanding of life--that empowers us to use the world and manage our lives to fulfill the Divine purpose of creation—Mercury
7. The freedom of will which introduces responsibility, merit, the possibility of sin,  and the powers of darkness with which man must contend—the Moon

Even more succinctly:
1.  The yearning to be close to Hashem – Saturn
2.  The ideals and moral standards inspired by that yearning – Jupiter
3. The determination to implement those ideals - Mars
4.  The creativity that brings forth a world  in which those ideals are to be realized – the Sun
5.  Delight in that world as a gift from Hashem – Venus
6.  The wisdom and discernment that enables a person to use that world to serve its divinely ordained purpose -  Mercury
7.  The moral freedom which gives meaning and purpose  to the operations of these principles – the Moon

I’ve described these seven principles as spiritual forces while identifying them with the planets. That may be confusing: do they govern the heart or  do they govern the world? 

The answer is that they are the powers which are the essential expression  of  created existence  itself.  Man is a microcosm:  the powers which are the essential expression of created existence are the very same powers which govern his human nature. 

These are spiritual powers (matter is governed by spirit) and spiritual powers are not mediated by things that are merely physical.  There’s no reason to think that the Rokeach would take issue with  Rambam’s description of the planets in Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah (3:9):  They are
  
בעלי נפש ודעה והשכל הם והם חיים ועומדים ומכירין את מי שאמר והיה העולם כל אחד ואחד לפי גדלו ולפי מעלתו משבחים ומפארים ליוצרם כמו המלאכים וכשם שמכירין הקדוש ברוך הוא כך מכירין את עצמן ומכירין את המלאכים שלמעלה מהן ודעת הכוכבים והגלגלים מעוטה מדעת המלאכים וגדולה מדעת בני אדם


Clearly, the planets are good.  There is nothing evil in them.   Nevertheless, according to the Rokeach, the Ibn Ezra and all medieval astrologers,  planetary influences can be  destructive and even evil, according to their locations in the heavenly sphere and relations to each other.  The otherworldliness of Saturn can turn into world rejection;  the dignity of Jupiter into arrogance;  the martial spirit of David into cruelty and hatred;  the light and heat of the sun that brings forth life can also destroy it.

Jeremiah tells the people (10:2)

ב כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה, אֶל-דֶּרֶךְ הַגּוֹיִם אַל-תִּלְמָדוּ, וּמֵאֹתוֹת הַשָּׁמַיִם, אַל-תֵּחָתּוּ:  כִּי-יֵחַתּוּ הַגּוֹיִם, מֵהֵמָּה

Learn not the way of the nations, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the nations are dismayed at them.

Why should they not fear them?  The Malbim explains, the pagan nations are subject to the influence of the planets, but not you, for so long as you are live true to the ways of Hashem, You are governed by Him, and He will intervene to moderate their influence in accordance with his judgment. 

How then, can they exercise an evil, destructive influence?

The Rokeach explains Divine government through the planets, and the Maggid of Mezritch, as the Bnei  Yisaschar summarizes his doctrine,  says substantially the same thing[xii]:  When Hashem created the world, He surveyed the entire history of man, and ordained from the very beginning the way each person’s life would be directed according to his nature.  So long as  person conducts himself according to his nature, doing averas when he is, by nature, so inclined, and doing mitzvahs insofar as he is, by nature, so inclined, he will live subject to the Divine Government Hashem  established b’maaseh b’reishis when, knowing his nature and foreseeing his behaviour, Hashem  placed the planets in their orbits to be located and to interact in a way which subjects him to the appropriate governing  influence, presumably an influence that would subject him to experiences that would move him to take his life in hand and make the effort to serve Hashem for which he was created.

For Hashem created us to do teshuvah, i.e., to do more than what we are inclined by nature to do to serve Him.    Clearly, when a person fails to do that, he needs a push, perhaps even a shock (though, of course, sometimes he needs is an extra measure of chesed).  That push or shock will likely come in the form of an existential challenge, perhaps even a crisis, which lifts him out the indifference of a person who serves Hashem according to the flow of his inclinations.   What is called the evil influences of the planets is the gevurah that causes that to happen, the experience of gevurah that awakens a person to teshuvah.

Hashem foresaw the need for that gevurah, and programmed it into the revolutions of the planets, so that each one of us would get a taste of it as it would be required.  But when the time comes, if Hashem sees that a person doesn’t need to be treated with gevurah, that  he doesn’t need a shock to awaken him, He protects him from it and moderates the gevurah the planets would have exercised, or turns it into a chesed.  With that in mind, let’s consider the mitzvah of lighting the Temple Menorah.

In Temple times, when a person did teshuvah for an averah, he would typically bring a korban.  The animal that was shechted and burned on the altar represented the body of the one who brought it, the repository of his natural inclinations and evil inclinations which moved him to sin.  The act of sacrifice  gave them up to the will of Hashem, subordinated his natural impulses and willfulness to the Will of the Creator and King.   

The kohen’s role of setting up the wicks and filling the cups with oil is comparable to his role of performing the physical part  of offering  a sacrifice.  Only he can set the flesh of the sacrifice  on fire—place it onto the fire burning on the altar – because the purpose of that fire is to extract from the flesh the pleasing fragrance that ascends to Hashem.  His act symbolically purified the body that had served the sinful will of the person who brought the sacrifice. He was the instrument of that symbolic purification.

But that sacrifice had to be lit, as a candle is lit, with another fire before the sacrifice would find favor:  the fire that purifies a sinful will. That fire, of course, is the teshuvah that ignites the heart with the glowing ember of a burning soul,  so that it bursts into flame as it beholds the Light of Truth and Goodness.  Even a Yisrael--the one who brought that sacrifice for his sin - could light that fire.

Each candle corresponds to one of the planets, one of the seven fundamental forces that are the essential expression of created existence – nature—coordinated, orchestrated by Hashem b’ma’aseh breishis to  govern the lives of every Jew who acts as he is naturally inclined, whether to do mitzvos or to do averos.   
Lighting the candles (which is not an avodah and can be done by any Jew)  is comparable to the interior act of  teshuvah which ignites the heart with a Light which transforms it, inspires and guides it to a love for Hashem that serves Him without consideration of natural inclinations.

The purpose of burning the oil is not to offer a pleasing fragrance to Hashem – if it were, it would be an avodah that only a Kohen may do—but rather to produce a fire and light like the fire and light which inspire the heart to teshuvah when bringing a sacrifice.  That fire is the flame of the Glory that governs all those who proclaim it, governing them directly,  setting aside the order of Divine government that operates through the planets which the candles represent.  That Light, concealed in the oil, is now revealed, that all may know and be assured:  אין עוד מלבדו   השם הוא האלוקים!
   
The candles of the Menorah burned from evening to the morning with one exception:  the Ner Ma’aravi, which was to be kept burning throughout the day, relit in the morning if it had gone out.  But during the Kehunah Gedolah of  Shimeon Hatzaddik, the Ner Hama’aravi never went out.  It always miraculously continued to burn straight though from evening to the evening of the next day.  The merit of Shimeon Hatzaddik was so great, that the Ner Ma’aravi didn’t have to be relit in the morning.  Hashem kept it lit it for us.  That was the miracle of the Ner Ma’aravi.

Which of the seven candles was the Ner Ma’aravi? There are three opinions:  It was the first candle of the Menorah closest to the Kodesh Hakadoshim;  the middle candle, or the second from the candle furthest east.  Each of these candles represented a different planet.  Applying the Rokeach’s explanation of their meaning, we might interpret this machlokes  as a disagreement in Hashem’s response to the merit of Shimeon Hatzaddik. 

The first candle would correspond to the first planet, Saturn.  If the miracle occurred on the first candle, i.e., if Hashem sustained the light of the first candle, it would mean that Hashem responded to Shimeon Hatzaddik’s merit with a gift of what Saturn, i.e., Moshe, would give us:  a gift of Torah, by  bestowing an extra measure of the Light of Torah on his generation

The middle candle corresponds to the Sun.  If Hashem kindled the middle candle, it would mean that Hashem responded to Shimeon Hatzaddik’s merit with a gift of what the  Sun represents:  the Light of His Presence  and Majesty.

The second to the last candle corresponds to the Mercury.  If Hashem kindled that second candle, it would mean that Hashem responded to Shimeon Hatzaddik’s merit with a gift of what the  Mercury represents:  the knowledge, insight and discernment that enables us to order our lives and create the things through which we live in the ways that best serve the ultimate purpose of our lives:  avodas Hashem.

The miracle of Chanukah was that Hashem kept all seven candles lit for eight days—a miracle much like the miracle of the Ner Ma’aravi in Shimeon Hatzaddik’s time. Shimeon Hatzaddik’s tzidkus  was such a great testimony to  Hashem’s Malchus, that once the Ner Ma’avi was lit, Hashem kept it lit as a proclamation of His Malchus: His rule over the planet which the Ner Ma’aravi represented, and with that the assurance that the active principle it mediated would be implemented by Him to maximize the welfare of Klal Yisrael.

The miracle we celebrate when lighting the Chanukah Menorah was similar, only on a much greater scale corresponding to the much greater scale of the declaration of Hashem’s Malchus by the m’sirus nefesh of the Maccabim.  It was dramatic demonstration that when we kindle our hearts with the Light of Torah and  turn ourselves to Hashem, He turns to us and keeps those Lights burning, doing for us far more than what we could do for ourselves: for when we transform ourselves for Hashem,  He transforms the world for us.




[i] במדבר ח:א
[ii]   Perek 1
[iii] סדר פקודי מ"ג
[iv] הוצאות ישיבת החיים והשלום תשמ"ט דף רלז
[v] See, for example, his commentary on the name א-ל ש-די (בראשית יז:א)
[vi] טור קעט
[vii] See the eighth and eleventh droshos in דרשות הר"ן
[viii] The following interpretations of planets are found in his commentary on Sefer Yetzirah, esp.  on pages 48-52
[ix] SY 52
[x] SY 52
[xi] Commentary on SY 71
[xii]  See ספר בני יששכר מאמרי ר"ח מאמר א'

Thursday, November 22, 2018

TIDE vs. TUM

Torah im Derech Eretz requires self-discipline and its no surprise that it developed in Germany as Germans are known for their self-discipline. With TIDE we can get the best of secular materials as long as we are very discerning and leave out the problematic stuff.

With Torah u'Maddah, the philosophy is once we go with the secular, we study it all. We don't differentiate. 

Hirsch and TIDE have been honored by gadolim for a century and a half. And results go along with it. Hirsch was enormously successful at keeping people in the fold and attracting people. TUM  has successes. There are people who can handle it. But arguably the masses cannot. It has resulted in  departure from the fold plus traife offshoots like Open Orthodoxy.

Some authors are known for their decadence. D.H. Lawrence is famous for writing novels that lowered moral standards. We are not talking only about his private life here but the essence of his novels. One of his most famous novels is called "Sons and Lovers." Another is called "Lady Chatterley's Lover." There is no excuse for putting Lawrence in a collection that alleges to hold a higher moral standard.

Isaac Asimov was famous for his atheism. Moreover, his parents were Torah observant. He wrote, "I am an atheist, out and out....Emotionally I am an atheist. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time." To give children an attachment to an atheistic Jew who left religion is very problematic.

Yet, one sees these authors in books by at least one frum publisher of children's collections. At Stern College of Yeshiva University, they study Lawrence:


3351 Modernism 3 credits
Modernist texts in English focusing on fiction and poetry from 1900-1930. An introduction to the intellectual and technological backgrounds of modernism and their relationship to modernist themes in the visual arts. Writers may include Conrad, Stein, Joyce, Lawrence, Pound, Eliot, Yeats, Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Hurston.
3733 The Development of the British Novel III 3 creditsTreats twentieth-¬century experiments in fiction. Authors may include Conrad, Joyce, Lawrence, Woolf, Lessing, Byatt, Coetzee, and Rushdie.

The frum publisher features Lawrence:


And reads Asimov:




Now the material included in the books is neither illicit nor atheist. So to a large extent this comes down to a disagreement as to whether it is appropriate to include acceptable material from authors who are otherwise unacceptable. There are some people to whom all goyim are the same and as long as the material itself is acceptable it doesn't matter what else the author has done in his writing or life because really they are all traife. But I think that we  can make more precise distinctions. Some authors are far worse than others and kids develop an attachment to writers.

There are plenty of authors who don't have these glaring problems, particularly if you stick to the 19th century and earlier. Dickens, Stevenson, Hawthorne, Irving, Twain. But even if you go with the 20th you have John Steinbeck who was married 3x but his novels strive for morality. Pearl S. Buck, Arthur Conan Doyle, E.B. White, Joseph Conrad, Tolkien, Rudyard Kipling, James Joyce. You have plenty of people to choose from who are less problematic than Lawrence and Asimov.

The further back you go, the better it gets. 17th century is better than 18th which is better than 19th which is far better than the 20th. As for the 21st, stay away entirely.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Gaza and Cholera

Some blame the rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel's blockade. However, rocket attacks preceded the blockade. Thousands of rockets and mortars were launched from Gaza prior to the blockade. Israel imposed the blockade in 2006 -7 after the Palestinians elected Hamas, which vows to take over Palestine for Islam and refuses to renounce violence. 


Year
Rockets
Mortars
2002
17
455
2003
123
514
2004
882
276
2005
574
286
2006
1,247
28

However justified the blockade might be, it seems to be contributing to an enormous humanitarian crises. 98% of the drinking water in Gaza is polluted in part due to the focus of Hamas on terror, the effects of Israeli bombing on the sewer infrastructure, the availability of a single overburdened aquifer, and the dearth of materials to rebuild the infrastructure.

Gaza borders Israel and sits 70 km from its population centers. According to a recent article in Organic Lifestyle, "Cholera spreads easily through contaminated water and food and kills very quickly; it often proves fatal within hours of the first symptoms of vomiting or diarrhea." So if they get cholera, we may get it, Heaven forbid. 

What to do? I don't know, but we need to know that pummeling and squeezing Gaza is not necessarily the answer. Tough guy tactics are the preferred method in Israel but they really might not be the best course of action. 

Professor Haim Gvirtzman of Hebrew University argues that “the Palestinians" as refers to them (rather than the leadership) have the means of correcting the water crisis in Gaza and the West Bank but refuse to employ it. For example, he says that 40 sites were identified for drilling in the Hebron Hills region and despite being offered funding by the international community, Palestinians have only drilled at one-third of them over the last twenty years. He says they refuse to build water treatment plans despite available funding and lose one third of their water through leaky pipes that they fail to fix. He lists numerous other reasons as well. However, most of the concerns the West Bank. He says Gaza could build a desalination plant but refuses. His write-up from the Begin Center is here. So according to his view, it could be that the blockade isn't really the cause even of the water problems. 

World Bank: Blockade Means 90 Percent of Gaza Has No Safe Water | News | teleSUR English


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Shin Bet Commander with a Heart

How to prevent Jewish and Arab terror, from a Shin Bet commander who fought both - Times of Israel

Avi Arieli plays soccer with Palestinian youth to develop a relationship with them and prevent terrorism through education:

“After playing for a bit, we naturally get to talking. I hear about their struggles, and in between, I’m able to caution them against offenses such as stone throwing.”

On developing informants: “it can only be done through persuasion, not by threats or force.”

“If I threaten a prospective informant, I know that from that very moment he’s already planning how to betray me.”

Arieli ran the "non-Arab terror division" aka Jewish terror. He says the Hilltop youth are mostly kids from broken homes. "“They speak about ideology, but the passion that’s driving them is coming from other places — from broken homes and from being tossed out of school.”


Thursday, November 15, 2018

We Must Give Credit to Netanyahu: He Blocked Another War With His Body - Gideon Levy of Haaretz

A powerful piece of writing by Gideon Levy. I try not to post full articles because they are somebody else's property. But this one is so important, involves saving lives, Jewish lives and gentile lives, that I'll post it all. Remember that 67 Israeli soldiers died in 2014's Operation Protective Edge and the cost was more than 2 billion dollars. 

One should only enter a war with care and reason. Both of the US invasions of Iraq (Bush I and Bush II) were encouraged by false information: in the first case that the Iraqis were pulling babies from incubators. The testimony for this was made up by the Kuwaiti ambassador's teenage daughter, coached by a PR firm. It was untrue. For Iraq 2, the pretense was Iraqi WMDs, which were never found. The claim was untrue.

For all the hysterical conservatives, and yes conservatives can be hysterical, this doesn't mean we love Iraq and hug Sadam Hussein. It just means war isn't necessarily the answer. Sometimes, you just have to live with dictators. Iraq arguably is far worse off now than before he was removed. And the cost to the Iraqi people and the US soldiers and treasury has been immense.

The impetus for invading Gaza now is the 500 rockets that were fired in recent weeks. This arguably was triggered by the shootings of hundreds of protesters over the last 5 months. As I have tried to argue here, the shootings were unnecessary for the most part. Claims that 40,000 people were charging the fence were as baseless as claims of Iraqi WMDs. This doesn't mean anybody condones Hamas, a march called march of return, or those among them marchers that were violent. It means oftentimes it's best when cooler heads prevail.



We Must Give Credit to Netanyahu: He Blocked Another War With His Body - Gideon Levy of Haaretz

Imagine Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid as prime minister. The army would already be at the outskirts of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. The pilots would be bombing and the artillery would be shelling. Gaza would lie in ruins. On the Palestinian side, hundreds would be dead after the first strike, some of them traffic-police cadets just like in that other wonderful war, Operation Cast Lead of 2008-09.

In his black jacket, Marshall Lapid would brief his forces: kill, destroy, obliterate, demolish. The nation would cheer and the “leftist” media would be ecstatic – the united chorus of war. Fifty days of elation, of horrific killing in Gaza and anxiety and rockets in Israel, leading nowhere. This is what Lapid meant this week when he said that “this is the right time to employ force.”

Imagine Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay as prime minister. “Quiet is bought by deterrence, not with money,” he wrote this week, as any run-of-the-mill right-winger could have written. Imagine opposition leader Tzipi Livni, who lashed out in a similar way: “Deterrence is created through military strikes,” and “exchange the Hamas leadership for people who cooperate with us.” Imagine Ehud Barak, who quipped that Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, was “humiliating Netanyahu.”

Imagine the former military chief of staff, Benny Gantz, who held his silence; imagine Avigdor Lieberman, who resigned, or Naftali Bennett, who made threats. Imagine a nightmare. Not one of the demagogues on the left or right (as if there were a difference) offered anything but death and destruction. They simply wanted to placate the media, which has become more bloodthirsty and bellicose than ever, and the public, which only wanted to see dead Gazans, the more the better, with their houses destroyed as much as possible.

Only one person stood up to this surging dark wave without faltering; we must honestly say so and praise him – the prime minister blocked another war with his body. It has been proved yet again that Benjamin Netanyahu is the most resolute war-hater among the country’s leaders. We should reiterate that, whatever his motives, the result suffices to command respect. Due to him no blood was shed. We can’t make light of this, we can’t help but give him credit.

This time he even explained his policy – in Paris on Sunday and next to David Ben-Gurion’s grave on Wednesday. He spoke about the futility of war and the unpopularity of avoiding that path – the epitome of a leader’s statement. If a politician not named Netanyahu talked like that, we’d melt with pleasure. He spoke and he acted. No one praised him, and he’ll pay for it.

In Israel, avoiding war is perceived as defeatism. Giving him a compliment, even when he deserves one, is perceived as betrayal. You can’t say a good word about the devil, you have to treat a preventer of war the way you treat someone suspected of a crime. This week we had further proof that he has no substitute. The opposition has nothing original to offer.

There’s a direct line linking Lapid and Lieberman, one of bellicose populism. The cowards of the Zionist left didn’t dare say what they had an obligation to say long ago: Only a complete lifting of the Gaza blockade will solve Gaza’s problem, which is also Israel’s problem, and only a direct dialogue with Hamas can bring this about.

Netanyahu didn’t say this, he doesn’t think this. He’s also responsible for the daring and unnecessary undercover adventure whose failure led to the latest round of violence.

Thus Netanyahu is a poor man’s consolation, but a consolation nonetheless. A prime minister who again prevented a war, who understood that other than placating an incited public, the move would have been futile. A prime minister who lets fuel and money into Gaza so it can breath, even if just for a moment, is preferable to any of the warmongers in the governing coalition or in the opposition. Pictures of Gaza enjoying a little more electricity should warm everyone’s heart. But not in Israel.
On Wednesday, the bonus arrived: Lieberman’s resignation, especially if it ends the career of one of the most cynical and repulsive politicians we’ve ever had. For this too Netanyahu deserves a good word.

Now imagine Lapid. Imagine a war.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Use Your Time Well

Life is short. Look at all these great composers who lived a short time on this earth relatively speaking. Still they accomplished much musically. Fortunately, they didn't push off their goals for another day. The primary goals for Jews should be yiras shamayim, Torah, and mitzvos, not to be pushed off for another day.

Beethoven, 56
Portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820

Tchaikovsky, 53


Schumann, 45
Schumann

Mussorgsky, 41


Chopin, 39


Gershwin, 38
George Gershwin 1937.jpg

Bizet, age 37


Mozart, 35


Schubert, 31
Schubert

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Rav Avigdor Miller on Why Are there so few torah Jews

Q: 
 If being a Torah Jew is so enjoyable, why are there so few Torah Jews?

A:
Let me ask you something, a parallel question. You know, it's enjoyable to have good health. And it's possible to have good health. So why are so few people availing themselves of opportunity to having good health? You know, if every day you would take a brisk forty-five minute walk, and if you would eat your meals on time every time, and go to sleep on time every day, you would be a healthy and happy person. You should drink a glass of water every morning before davening, and be careful to avoid sugar and sweets; don't overeat! 

You know, it's possible to live a happy life! So why are there so many lunatics? You see them coming out of the cake stores, bakeries, carrying big paper boxes full of cakes. It's poison. Pastries with icing. Why are there a world full of so many lunatics?You can see the evidence on every block. Liquor stores everywhere. A liquor store is a sign that there are crazy people in the world. You need liquor like you need a hole in your shoe. So why are there so many liquor stores?

And the answer is that the world is throwing away opportunities for living happy lives. If they would smash the television and they would go out every day in the fresh air, around the block a few times, it would give them a different kind of a hold on life. Their eyes would sparkle, their cheeks would be red. They'd go to sleep early and get up early. They'd be living a life of happiness.

The truth is, happiness is available. I didn’t outline it yet. I'd be happy to speak about it more some other time. But there's a great deal of joy in this world that the vast majority of mankind hasn’t even begun to tap! There's so much happiness; enjoying the weather, enjoying the zest of the wind, enjoying the slap of the rain on your face. Enjoying the sunshine, taking a pleasure in the winter and the summer. There's so much fun in the seasons! If you learn how to taste each season you’ll find that each season has its own savor. And you’ll look forward to the zest of winter. You look forward to the delicious quality of summer. You look forward to spring and to autumn. There should be a song in your mind for every month. Every month is its own song! There’s a song, "Achta liba august"- a German song. Achta liba august; ah, the lovely August. But you could sing the same about every month. There’s a song, "There's Nothing Like a Day in September." There's a song like that. There's another song, "October." If you learn all these songs, you'll be singing your own songs, "How beautiful is January," and "How wonderful is February." We have to learn how to enjoy life. You know that it’s a big chochma to learn how to enjoy life.

Now there are a lot of frummeh who don't have any sense. And they say, "Enjoying life? This world you want to enjoy? No!" And so, these frum fools are missing out on life. There's so much to get out of this world. You know how much fun it is just to have your two feet and your two arms and your two eyes and your two kidneys? It's so much fun! If you don't believe me, ask a man in a wheelchair, sitting with a blanket over his knees. If you pick up the blanket, you'll see there's nothing underneath. He doesn't have any feet. Suppose he could have one foot. Just one foot! Now he could hop around on crutches. He'd be a millionaire! And you have two of them?! So you’re a multimillionaire! There's so much happiness in life, you can go meshugah from happiness!

So you're asking me a kasha, if Torah Judaism is so much fun, why are there so few Torah Jews? So I ask you, why are there so many lunatics who are ruining their health, ruining their teeth, ruining their stomachs, ruining their hearts! You know people are eating their hearts out by fighting all the time, and worrying! Recrimination in the house! Eating themselves up! There are a thousand and one things that people are causing themselves. Diabetes is usually caused by people fighting, by quarreling. Heart attacks are the result of excitation. People are excited and quarreling. How many family tragedies take place over the biggest narishkeiten?!

"Your mother said this," and "His mother said this," and there's a whole tragedy! I hear it every day. And people die of that. Here’s a woman who had cancer and died young because she had a bad husband. A wicked husband. He killed her! He murdered her with his wickedness. Here’s a man who had a heart attack because his wife always egged him on until he lost his temper. And finally in the midst of a burst of temper he fell dead. People die from emotions. If people would train themselves to live quietly, not to take anything seriously, to laugh it off, and instead to learn the science of being a שמח בחלקו, then their lives would be different.

So you asked me a question, why are there so many people who don't understand the joy of being a frum Jew? The joy of sitting shabbos around the table with your family singing zemiros! You know what a geshmak that is? You're sitting with your sons and leading them in zemiros. You have to have children of course. If you don’t have any children, then it’s just an empty table. If you want to practice ZPG (Zero Population Growth) by not having any children, so what can you expect in an an empty house already? But here's a man with ten children. And they're all singing, it's a choir. Ah, a pleasure, a taanug. It's oilem hazeh, it's gan eden on this world. Of course, the housewife is putting all of her talents into making delicious viands for Shabbos, and that makes the Shabbos so delicious! And everybody is smacking their lips and diving into it; they're enjoying it. They’re enjoying the shabbos. And everybody takes a nap. Instead of sitting behind the steering wheel and smelling the man in front of you, his gas fumes coming out of his [inaudible], you're sitting around your table with your children. And then you go to sleep; it’s quiet and peaceful. Then you get up, and everybody is learning, going to shul, you're family is together. The happiness of a true Orthodox life! Why are there so few people who don't have sense to live a normal life? Go ask them. 
TAPE # 403