Friday, April 20, 2018

Requirements of Torah Im Derech Eretz and Recent Events

"It is evident from the concluding verse of this Psalm that Asaph does not think here only of the Jewish people, but also pleads the cause of the salvation of all mankind on earth, all of whose existence and welfare is dependent, first of all, upon the proper enforcement of justice and right." (Hirsch Siddur, p. 214, Psalm for Tuesday)

Many who pretend to be followers of Torah Im Derech Eretz may be disappointed to learn that TIDE is not Modern Orthodoxy, is not a license for wanton consumption of secular culture. Rather it allows for utilization of the best elements (and you won't find those on television or Hollywood films) of secular wisdom, when that wisdom does not conflict with or dilute Torah in any way, as long as Torah remains our main pursuit. This knocks out many people who claim to be TIDE from truly being classified as TIDE. 

Those people may be even more disappointed to learn that Rav Hirsch was not a fan of Zionism. He stressed over and over again that our home is Torah and the land is an adjunct to that. Land without Torah is very dangerous. And not only that, but Rav Hirsch stressed the applicability of the Three Oaths from the Gemara in Shavuous, that Jews are not allowed to immigrate en masse to the land, nor to take it by force. Rav Hirsch also forbade dealing with institutions run by non-religious Jews, like, you know, the Israeli government. So that knocks out about 90% of the remaining people who claim to be followers of Hirsch.

But not only that. Under TIDE, a person should not care only about Jews. Imagine that. We also have to have concerned for humanity in general. Our view should not be, anything for Jews even when it harms gentiles. We should even promote the general welfare of gentiles. Imagine that. 

So that brings us back to the shooting of the protestors in Gaza. The Israeli government has become so arrogant over the last decade. It doesn't even hide its methods anymore. It really has overplayed its hand here, shooting more than a thousand people with banned exploding bullets, killing three dozen and maiming a few dozen, including a little boy. He now has one leg. 

Was he a danger? Was an eleven year old boy a danger because he came too close to a fence? Was he going to break through and beat up all the soldiers and then march on to Tel Aviv like some beast from Greek mythology?

For decades now, Zionists everywhere have been claiming that every act of violence by the State of Israel is necessary and justified. Most religious Jews, I am so sorry to say, can't imagine for even a second that the Israeli government has ever made a mistake of any kind, done any injustice whatsoever to the Palestinians because the government like a god is perfect and the Palestinians are all devils, all terrorists, even though in fact there has been an average of 20 acts of terrorism a year since '48 and there are millions of Palestinians. So if one is capable of grade school math, he can calculate that 99.9% of Palestinians do not engage in terrorism. Call me a leftie if you want but at least I can do math.

One - that is one who thinks - starts to wonder. When the government of Israel talks about existential threats is it being paranoid? Is it being delusional? Because if people protesting on their side of a fence are labeled rioters because they roll tires in a field then one starts to wonder if the definitions being used are a little off. Normally, rioting means destruction of property like cars and store windows and harm to people. There is not much damage to property that one can do in a field, particularly their own field. And there is not much harm one can cause to others if those others not only are located on the other side of a fence but in fact don't live anywhere near the fence.

It's pretty obvious that the goverment of Israel could have said, go ahead wave your flags, roll your tires, and yell. Just don't cross that fence, the one we set up to lock you in your concentration camp. And let us note that a ten year economic blockade that leaves 95% of drinking water polluted is a cause worthy of protest. Go ahead, yell about it. We blame Hamas for this as we do everything but that doesn't mean you can't have your protest. That would have been nice of us. 

But that is not what the Israeli government has done. Rather, it has gone ahead and shot 1000 people that clearly and obviously to everyone who is not paranoid and completely brainwashed by fear mongering did not present a danger to anyone other than themselves via smoke inhilation of burning rubber. 

And surprise, surprise, the Palestinians are becoming less peaceful. Did we provoke them by any chance, provocation of the gentiles being another issur from the Torah?

Provocation is a serious matter. We seem to feel at this point that we are so powerful that we can provoke all we want and our armed forces will keep us safe. That's an idol worship. While the yearly frequency of terrorism in Israel since '48 is 20 a year, the rate prior to '67 was 3 a year. Thus, terrorism has increased with this military occupation that we insist we must maintain to prevent terrorism. Huh? Not only that but the rate in recent years is 50 a year. Thus, all the tough guy tactics that we claim keep us safe have made us less safe. One can suspect, chas v'shalom, that the sniper shootings of Gazan protestors will trigger acts of terrorism that would not have otherwise happened. Maybe it's time to rethink our methods and attitudes. This assumption that everyone who breaths is a killer may not be the right way to go.

One wonders, what about all the other times we were told that violence was necessary because of the dangerous enemy. By dangerous enemy did they mean teenagers with tires? Ladies waving flags? Journalists taking notes? 

Apologies to all blind followers of the state and its propaganda. I am a follower of Rav Hirsch and he was a follower of the Torah that forbids murder and forbids Chillul Hashem. Can there be a much bigger Chillul Hashem than a sniper meticulously and intentionally shooting a little boy in the leg because he came too close to a fence that isn't actually near any of us? All this while billions of people are watching? Not exactly what one could call not having a choice but to be harsh. Rather, it is seeming that we take great pleasure in being harsh. And that is yetzer hara of a very bad kind and the kind nevertheless that seems to be standard in Orthodox Jews who worship the state. So much for Jews being indentifiable by kindness, humility, and modesty. 

All those people need to read Rav Hirsch's writings again, not for permission to watch television (as if he gives it) but to find their way again to the path of mentsch Yisroel. As Rav Schwab noted, Torah Im Derech Eretz is not a kulah, not a leniency, it is a chumrah, it is a harder path of life. Just as we don't ban all secular studies, we don't declare war on all the goyim of the world. We need to use our minds, think, use fact, control the emotion, reason, and seek the truth, seeking the middle path, slice and dice. Is that person really coming to kill you just because he wears the same kind of clothing as someone who did, or speaks the same language of someone who did? Justice, justice you shall pursue. And that doesn't mean justice only with Jews. It means you shall be a just person no matter who or what you are dealing with. We say to countries what we say to police. If you are so jittery that you shoot at anything that moves, you shouldn't be a policeman or a country. Let somebody else do the policing or the running of people's lives. We need steady, rationale people in charge. If you are convinced that everyone is out to get you, you more likely need to be in a mental institution than a government office. 


Thursday, April 19, 2018

On Israeli television: Discussion and Condemnation of the shootings of Gazans

Discussion of the shootings of Gazans on Israeli television

Video link appears above. Once again, I will stress, these are Jewish Israelis talking on Israeli television. Get that, Israelis. Israeli television. Israelis. No Arabs talking here, no "Palestinian propaganda" as some like to label everything and anything that questions anything the Israeli government does. This is Israeli television. Got that? Israelis. Israelis. Jews. Israelis. Are you following? All former military people. Israelis. Strangely, we often have to go to secular Israelis to find any traces left of humanity. Much of the Orthodox world has lost it.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

It was not the land

It was not the land that Moses had been commanded to proclaim to his people at the outset of his mission as מורשה, as the inheritance they were to preserve (Ex. 6,8). The Law, to be translated into full reality upon that soil, was to be the true מורשה, the one true, everlasting inheritance, the one true center around which the nation and its leaders were to gather as one united community. Herein lay the goal and the destiny, the character and the significance of the people.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch "The Kehillah," Collected Writings, Vol. VI, p. 62

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Chad Gadya: An Interpretation


Chad Gadya
An Interpretation

by Rabbi Tzvi Abraham
Chad gadya. Chad gadya.
That Abba bought for two zuzim, Chad gadya. Chad gadya.
Then came a cat and ate the goat, That Abba bought for two zuzim, Chad gadya. Chad gadya.
Then came a dog and bit the cat, that ate the goat, That Abba bought for two zuzim, Chad gadya. Chad gadya.
Then came a stick and beat the dog, that bit the cat, that ate the goat, That Abba bought for two zuzim, Chad gadya. Chad gadya.
Then came fire and burnt the stick, that beat the dog, that bit the cat, that ate the goat, That Abba bought for two zuzim, Chad gadya. Chad gadya.
Then came water and quenched the fire, that burnt the stick, that beat the dog, that bit the cat, that ate the goat, That Abba bought for two zuzim, Chad gadya. Chad gadya.


Then came the ox and drank the water, that quenched the fire, that burnt the stick, that beat the dog, that bit the cat, that ate the goat, That Abba bought for two zuzim, Chad gadya. Chad gadya.
Then came the shochet and slaughtered the ox, that drank the water, that quenched the fire, that burnt the stick, that beat the dog, that bit the cat, that ate the goat, That Abba bought for two zuzim, Chad gadya. Chad gadya.
Then came the Angel of Death and killed the butcher, that slaughtered the ox, that drank the water, that quenched the fire, that burnt the stick, that beat the dog, that bit the cat, that ate the goat, That Abba bought for two zuzim, Chad gadya. Chad gadya.
Then came the Holy One, Blessed be He and slew the Angel of Death, that killed the butcher, that slaughtered the ox, that drank the water, that quenched the fire, that burnt the stick, that beat the dog, that bit the cat, that ate the goat, That Abba bought for two zuzim, Chad gadya. Chad gadya.


Chad Gadya  beckons interpretation.  It’s the concluding song of the Seder and that’s the key.  What do we expect from the final paragraph of an essay, or the conclusion of a  play?  Something that wraps it up and puts in perspective.  That’s what Chad Gadya does. 
The Haggadah is much more than the story of the Exodus.  It a bird’s eye view of Jewish history, not as a secular historian would see it, but as a sacred historian would see it:  as an unfolding of the spiritual destiny of Klal Yisrael,  from the beginning, when “our Fathers served idols,” to  the end, as we pour a cup for the prophet who will herald the coming of the Moshiach  and  petition (שפוך חמתך) for the manifestation Divine Justice that will mark the transition from the world we know to the world to come, in which all nations will revere Hashem and honor His Chosen People.  Chad Gadya identifies the essential motifs of the religious experience that drives our history.
Chad  Gadya – One kid  goat that Abba bought of two zuzim (Emunah)
The kid goat represents the Jewish People, which Hashem (Abba) acquired by bringing Bnei Yisrael to Mount Sinai and giving them the Two Tablets of the Law (The two zuzim).
Then came a cat and ate the goat (Kefirah)
The kid goat (the Jewish People )  is set apart from the nations by the emunah instilled at Sinai.  The opposite of emunah (revealed faith) is the kefirah of the  rationalist who scoffs at anything that cold reason cannot comprehend or ascertain. That scornful, cold intellect is represented by the “shunra,” the wild cat who hunts by stealth and pounces with cunning, killing the kid without compassion.
Then came a dog and bit the cat (The Longing Heart that finds no Peace in Kefirah)
The Hebrew word for dog is kelev, meaning “like the heart,”  and that’s what the dog represents, here:   the heart, with its longing for love.  The enmity between the dog and the cat is the struggle between the longings of the heart and the cold discipline of the intellect. The dog bites the cat because the longing for love, both human and Divine, is the greatest challenge to the rationalist spirit. For some, Judaism is more a matter of the heart; for others, more a matter of the mind.  The tension between heart and mind has been a driving force in Jewish history  (consider, for example, the rise of Hassidism).
Then came a stick and beat the dog (Torah Disciplines the Heart with Practice  and Images)
The stick disciplines the dog.  The dog is the heart that longs for love. Unless that longing is guided and disciplined by reason informed by emunah (i.e., Torah), that longing for love will turn to things that are hateful.  But how does reason address the heart?  Through images and practice (i.e. halachah).  They are compared, here, to the stick that disciplines the dog. Without that stick,  the heart may entirely reject authority of reason, and descend into the chaos of  whim and irrationalism.
 Then came fire and burnt the stick (When Mystical Passion Chafes at Halachic Restraint) 
The Transcendent  Glory of Hashem is revealed through an interior union  (d’vekus) unmediated by images, for just as Hashem transcends all things, we know Him most perfectly when we move beyond anything that an image can convey. The mystical passion that aspires to that interior union is the fire that burns the stick (the images and practice) that beat the dog (discipline the heart).  When mystical passion “burns the stick,” the communication based on images which reconciles the heart and the mind breaks down, so  the heart, swept up in the religious passion of the spirit, can feel constrained by the discipline of religious practice.  The result is antinomianism:  the rejection of Law and religious authority in favor of religious experience.  That can happen on the highest levels, and analogously, in people who have no real knowledge of Hashem, but reject  religious law and authority because they feel that it just “gets in the way.”   The tension between religious passion and halachic restraint is another dynamic component of Jewish history.

Then came water and quenched the fire (Body and Soul)
Few are fired with desire to know the Transcendent Glory of Hashem, because that fire is so readily  extinguished  by the flow of feelings and natural impulses that carry them away like an untethered raft on rapids. Those feelings and impulses are suggested by the water that that “quenches the fire that burned the stick.”

Then came the ox and drank the water (The Demands of the Body)
The ox is the natural life of every Jew sustained by the inner flow of natural inclinations.  Much as the ox would die without water,  the Jew could not live the human life Hashem created him to have without partaking in the “water” --the flow-- of his natural inclinations.  The ox drinking water represents the man preoccupied with his natural inclinations.

Then came the shochet and slaughtered the ox (Using the Body in the Service of the Soul)
If we are oxen, we are not only oxen, for we have a Divine Soul.  The ox is nourished from below. The Divine Soul is nourished from above.  They tug us in opposite directions. How can we avoid being pulled apart?  The answer lies in the will, and the single most fundamental choice we can make:  the ultimate purpose of whatever we do to feed and care for that ox. 
A person can work with the purpose of living in luxury or he can work for the purpose of supporting his family and giving more charity.  The choice to serve that higher purpose is the spiritual choice of avodas Hashem that yokes the ox to the service of the soul. The shochet personifies that choice, reciting a blessing and fulfilling a mitzvah while slaughtering the ox for flesh to feed the body.  The death of the ox signifies the transfiguration of the physical through everyday  tasks when they are done with a higher purpose, so that the efforts we make to feed the body also feed the soul. That higher purpose is like the fire that transforms animal flesh into the sweet fragrance of sacrifice  that ascends to Hashem from the altar.
Then came the Angel of Death and killed the shochet (Sin and its Consequences)
But the  consecration of everyday tasks is not unobstructed.    Adam was made to live forever.  He died because he sinned. Just as we still die, we still sin, and the impulse to sin which Adam’s sin implanted makes it hard to lift our hearts to a higher purpose.  And so we are torn between an ox that forages the  fields and a soul that forages the Heavens. Will it always be like that?  Are we condemned to live forever frustrated in our avodah by the leaven of sin and an ox that bellows for the pleasures of his greens?   
Then came the Holy One, Blessed be He and slew the Angel of Death (Hope and Redemption)
No! The sin of man brought death to a creature that was made to live forever.  Hashem won’t allow that sin to  nullify His purpose of creating an immortal being that dwells in a temporal world. Someday He will restore the creature He made in His Image and  debased himself with sin to his  original dignity.  And then, the descendants of Adam  will live forever, their soul suffused like Adam’s in the Garden by an Eternal Light that penetrates through his soul to his body and nourishes it from above, so that the tick- tock of time in the natural world no longer measures the length of his days.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Widsom from the Gentiles: Ode To Joy

Close the holy circle tighter,
Swear by this golden vine:
Remain true to the vows,
Swear by the judge above the stars!

Escape the tyrants’ chains,
Generosity also to the villain,
Hope upon the deathbeds,
Mercy from the high court!
The dead, too, shall live!
Brothers, drink and chime in,
All sinners shall be forgiven,
And hell shall be no more.

by Friedrich Von Schiller

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Rabbi Miller on Charedim and the Army

“Some people are proposing to take frum boys into the army in frum regiments. You should know that it’s a shtus. The army is made לכתחילה for the purpose of changing the minds of the boys in the army. It’s a statement they made long ago. It’s very long. And it’s only a trick that they are using now to deceive the frummah into entering the army. The truth is Am Yisroel has to keep out of the army. We have to maintain our privilege as all the countries give, rabbinical students are patur from the draft, exempt from the draft. Let’s continue to fight for it, and not to yield, and not to listen to the מסיתים ומדיחים who are talking about frum regiments for frum boys.”
(Rabbi Avigdor Miller, “Fortunate Are You,” Audio # E-253, 1:15:52)

Monday, April 2, 2018

Gaza

The Torah Im Derech Eretz Society condemns the shooting of the protestors in Gaza as well as the theme of the protests which is return to pre-state homes when the theme should be end the blockade. We also condemn those Gazans who are engaging in violence by attacking the fence or throwing incendiaries. Though a small group, they are jeopardizing the safety of everyone with their actions. Jews are enjoined not to provoke the gentiles and shooting protestors with a billion Moslems watching can certainly qualify as provocation. Moreover, the shootings weaken Israeli claims of being surrounded by enemies as we basically see here people protesting in a field and rolling tires. We must always be careful with the laws of murder and be careful not to shed blood unnecessarily. We must careful also with chillul Hashem and the government has not demonstrated that these people who are protesting behind a fence in a field pose any danger. So the chillul Hashem of a government that insists on calling its country the "Jewish state" is high indeed. 

"The land of the Divine Torah is there for the people who live in it. Its most valuable product, the purpose and goal of the whole of God's Blessing directed to it, is every human life nourished by it, through its means able to dedicate itself to making God's Torah into a realisation. The land is only given on the condition of every human life respected as being unassailably sacred to the Torah. One drop of innocent blood shed and no notice taken of it drops a stitch in the bond which connects the land with the nation and both with God. (see verses 33 and 34). This holding human life to be so sacred is to be made evident immediately on taking possession of the land in the division of it by instituting the arrangement which the Torah had already referred to in the fundamental laws of Torah social life." (Ex. XXI, 13).  Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, The Pentateuch, Numbers 35:10