Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Monday, October 23, 2006

Taking Stock

So I decided to take the Orthodoxy Test Again, just to see what affect the Hagim might have had on me.

The results...Drum Roll:

NerdTests.com User Test: The Orthodoxy  Test.


Friday, October 20, 2006

Solemn, Grim Determination

Jews (and Christians) who live in their oh-so-sophisticated Western bubbles never see it. Certainly, they never see it up close. It is there, however. It is there right in front of our faces. We, however, choose to disregard it. We invoke our habitual 'cognitive ego-centrism' to ignore, or neutralize, it.

'It' is the powerful hold that Islam has upon its adherents. 'It' is the ability of the cries 'Jihad' and 'Al-Aqsa is in Danger' to move Muslims to action.

I saw 'it' in action twice this week. The first time was when I watched the masses of Muslims march around the Qa'aba on this third week of Ramadan. The second time was this morning. Returning from a Brit in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, I enountered part of the 170,000 Muslims on their way to pray on Har HaBayit. They came from all classes. There were men, women and children. On their faces was a unified look of solemnity and grim determination. They knew very well that their presence on the Temple Mount (whose existence they deny) is not only an act of personal piety. It is a statement that the dhimmi had better watch out, for their days are numbered.

This is Islam Militans. This is the enemy that has risen, once again, to destroy us. It is absolutely irrelevant to argue that Islam need not be this way. Even if I grant that position, my concession would not cancel out the fact that this is how Islam manifests itself today. Islam militans seeks to realize Muhammad's call to annex the world to the Dar-al-Islam. Islam militans unites both Sunna and Shi'a. There is very little that the President of Iran says that is not fundamentally acceptable to a believing Muslim.

Islam militans. I saw it on the faces in the crowd streaming to our Maqom ha-Miqdash. It was unmistakable. It was very sobering. It will not be countered by numbering our sins or indulging in even-handedness, or moral relativism. It will not be turned back through negotiations. How can a reasonable person expect another to negotiate away his deepest raison d'etre?

The only answer is to return to ourselves, and to God. The pragmatists will say that this makes sense, because unless you believe in your right to live, you will lack the wherwithal to preserve it.

That is true enough. Pragmatism is, however, not enough.

It is time to return to God, and the demanding moral and religious regimen that entails. It is time to cultivate a devotion to Torah, Jewry and the latter's absolute right to Eretz Yisrael. That force still marks and increasingly animates the overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews and enables them to defend our people and our country, at the risk of their very lives. (This is with the prominent exception of the judicial, academic, journalistic, governmental and business elites who are busy trying to destroy every last scintilla of Judaism in this country. Hopefully, they are speaking to no one but themselves.)

You see, there is a God. He is the Creator of the Universe and the Author of History. For inscrutible reasons, He has been bringing Jews home for almost two hundred years. That return defies historical logic and precedent. That return demands of us, the returnees, not to repay generosity with ingratitude. We do exactly that when we corrupt the land morally. We do exactly that when we turn the Torah into something with which to beat up our fellow Jews. We do exactly that when we tell God that we'd rather follow our own rules and worship ourselves.

We have within us, a much greater solemn, grim determination than had Christendom, or than that which Islam presently flaunts. By looking within, we will find the only proven, and authentic way, to emerge victorious in the struggle that faces us.

R. Yitzchok said: The Torah should have begun with [the verse] "This month shall be [your first month]," it being the first precept that the Israelites were commanded. Then why does it [the Torah] begin with "In the beginning"? This is because [of the concept contained in the verse,] "He declared the power of His works to His people in order to give to them the inheritance of nations." Thus, should the nations of the world say to Israel, "You are robbers, for you have taken by force the lands of the Seven Nations," they [Israel] will say to them: "All the earth belongs to G-d. He created it and gave it to whomever He saw fit. It was His will to give it to them and it was His will to take it from them and give it to us."

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A Lesson at Sukkot Time ....From the Haggadah

In a famous passage, the Pesach Haggadah states:

Go forth and learn what Laban the Aramean wanted to do to our father Jacob. While Pharaoh had issued a decree against the male children only, Laban wanted to uproot everyone - as it is said: "An Aramean tried to destroy my father."

In his commentary to the Haggadah, Hazon Ovadiah (II), Rav Ovadiah Yosef (שלח לו ה' רפו"ש), observes that the difference between Pharaoh and Laban lay in their honest and dishonesty, respectively. Pharaoh was very straight about who he was. He was the enemy, the oppressor and the enslaver of the Children of Israel.
Laban, however, was a totally different story. When he caught up with Jacob, after the latter had fled Aram, he protested (Gen. 31, 27): 'Why did you flee in secret, and outwit me; and you didn't not tell me, so that I could have sent you away with joy and with song, with a tambourine and with a lyre.'

Very nice. Right after that, however, Laban betrayed his true feelings. 'It is in my power to do you evil; but the God of your father spoke unto me yesternight, saying: Take heed to yourself that you speak to Jacob neither good or ill (v. 29).' In other words, Laban was a fruad. He pretended to be the loving father and grandfather. Behind the facade, however, lurked a vicious enemy who could only be restrained through Divine intervention. Pharaoh, thus, was the better enemy. At least he was straight.

In the great tradition of Pharaoh, came today's open declaration from Al-Fatah:

Fatah member: Abbas recognition of Israel political
Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades leader explains PA president's ultimate goal is to destroy Jewish state
Aaron Klein, WND
Published: 10.04.06, 14:52

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' stated recognition of Israel's right to exist is part of a "political calculation" aimed at ultimately destroying the Jewish state, a terror group leader and member of Abbas' Fatah party told WND in an interview.

The leader said the Fatah party does not recognize Israel and that any final accord that doesn't include flooding the Jewish state with millions of Palestinians will not be supported by the Fatah party and will lead to Palestinian civil war. "The base of our Fatah movement keeps dreaming of Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jaffa and Akko," said Abu Ahmed, Fatah member and leader of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in the northern Gaza Strip. "There is no change in our position. Abbas recognizes Israel because of pressure that the Zionists and the Americans are exercising on him. We understand this is part of his obligations and political calculations."

The Brigades is the declared "military wing" of Abbas' Fatah party. Together with the Islamic Jihad terror group, the Brigades has taken responsibility for every suicide bombing inside Israel the past two years, including an attack in Tel Aviv this past April that killed an American teenager and nine Israelis. The Brigades also has carried out scores of deadly shooting and rocket attacks against Israeli civilians in recent months.

Abu Ahmed explained Fatah itself has never officially recognized Israel.
"It is the PLO, which is a separate entity, that recognized Israel,and this was a step, a tactical step that had as its goal to bring the resistance and the revolution closer to the lands of Palestine," Abu Ahmed said. The PLO was the official governing body of the Palestinians until the A was formed following the Oslo Accords. Subsequent Israeli-Palestinian agreements were signed officially by the Fatah-led PA but not by Fatah as a party.

Still, Fatah leaders, including Abbas, have made scores of statements recognizing the Jewish state. But Abu Ahmed commented, "There is an opportunistic class at the head of the Fatah leadership that for personal and political interests says it accepts the existence of Israel. There is no change in our official position. Fatah as a movement never recognized Israel. It is the PLO who did so for the reasons I mentioned."

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Great Refugee Fraud

Ben Dror Yemini has published the second installment of his series on the world's hypocrisy toward Israel. This time he documents how no displaced people are kept as refugees,or encouraged to return, except for Palestinians. Hopefully, this too will be translated.

In honor of the occasion, I offer this documentary on the Jewish Refugees from Islam:

Monday, October 02, 2006

It Didn't Turn Totally White

There was a scarlet thread in the Bet HaMiqdash that would turn white as soon as the scapegoat was throw off of the cliff in the land of Azazel (near today's East Talpiot Promenade). This symbolized the fact that God forgave His people, based on the verse (Isa. 1, 18): 'Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.'

The Talmud (Yoma 67a) recounts that this thread was posted in different places, at different times. The reason was that if the thread did not turn white, the people would become depressed. Without going into the possible reasons for the malfunctioning of the thread two millenia ago, on this particular Yom Kippur, I fear that if we still had that scarlet thread it would not turn purely white.

A blogger whom I have never met, but whom I hold in the very highest esteem, wrote the following:

So I went to the Kol Nidre service last night with some good friends. We left after about an hour. It was so not happening. In New York, London, and anywhere else I’ve been to Yom Kippur services the places are packed to the gills because most folks go to synagogue but once a year and Yom Kippur is that once. Some places you even have to get tickets in advance. This beit-knesset was one of many big ones we’ve got here in Tel Aviv. It was absolutely not filled to the gills last night. There were far more women in the upper women’s section than there were men in the men’s section down below and there was still ample space up top. The average age (and I’m including here the infants and small children dragged along) of participants on the upper deck was about 65. If you take out the outliers of the babies, the average age jumped to about 75. There were no makzorim (prayer books with the kol nidre service stuff) available. It seems you were expected to bring your own –which the really elderly knew to do. The rest (the few) of the younger crowd mostly did not know and also don’t have ‘em to begin with and so we kind of stood and sat around. One of the girls along with us (a native Israeli) sent text messages on her phone through-out the time we were there. I was wishing I’d brought along a phone to do the same with. The cantor was uninspiring, everyone was sort of doing their own thing –a kind of private reading/mumbling of the service–it was not the Kol Nidre service of my previous experience. But, it seems, it is the typical service here because Tif had gotten us to try this synagogue after having gone to another one last year that was exactly the same and she was thinking that it had been an anomoly. It was not. Blech. No fun and definitely not inspirational.

So where was Tzohar, in all of this? Where were all of the much-vaunted Yom Kippur initiatives? How come no one spreads the word of their existence, or creates a presence in the great mausolea of Judaism that were built so large and remain so hollow? Why doesn't someone think to provide extra mahzorim?

What a wasted opportunity! If we are to rebuild a truly Jewish country here, and observance is stage two, this kind of farce must be extirpated! However, I don't blame the elderly worshippers in this (or any other) so-called "Great Synagogue." I blame myself, and those like me, who have the tools to communicate and teach, but spend their Yamim Nora'im in religious enclaves. Bli Neder, I intend to find a way to do Teshuvah for that. I urge others to do the same.

Otherwise, G-d forbid, the thread may never turn white.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Quiet

There is a controversy whether God created the world from the inside out, or the outside in. As I look outside, there is no doubt in my mind as to which is correct.

God created the world from a point, from Har HaBayit. From there, creation spread out to the universe entire.

How do I know? I know, because of the quiet. The quiet descent of Qedusha that began from the Gates of Heaven at Har HaBayit, sometime this morning (or was it Thursday?). Slowly, it spread out, in all directions. Now, still three hours from the onset of יום הקדוש you can literally feel it as it envelops the earth. There is a hush, as קדושת היום settles over Eretz Yisrael. Nearby, men make their way to the miqveh. In a little while, Minhah and the first confession. At the סעודה מפסקת our family will look at one another, with love and apprehension and ask מחילה for past wrong doings.

The quiet קדושה, for God is not in the lightening and the thunder, affects everyone who lets it in (as the Kotzker taught: וו געפינט זיך דער בורא עולם? וו מאן לאזט עם אריין ). A long time ago, my son lost his brand new digital camera. Heartbroken, he put up posters and looked everywhere for his camera, for which he had saved a very long time. He had no luck.

This morning, after shul, I came home to find my wife holding the camera. Someone had deposited it outside of our home.

The sublime silence of Qedushat Yom HaQadosh.

God is in His Holy Temple. Be Silent before him all the earth.

גמר חתימה טובה!

Gmar Hatima Tovah!

עבירות שבין אדם למקום, יום הכיפורים מכפר; שבינו לבין חברו--אין יום הכיפורים מכפר, עד שירצה את חברו
I would like to ask forgiveness, seliha u-mehila, of anyone that if I may have hurt, injured, insulted, slighted or adversely affected this past year, either through things I have writen here or in any other way. Please accept my sincerest apologies and my commitment to do everything in my capacity to avoid such transgressions in the future.
In the same way, I freely forgive any injuries and slights that were done to me.
May הקדוש ברוך הוא hear our prayers and grant us forgiveness for all of our sins and transgressions, and for the sins and transgressions of the entire House of Israel. May He bless us with a year of health, of Love of Torah and Fear of Sin, of salvtion from all of our enemies. May he help all of Israel to return to Him, to His Torah and to His Land. May he bless us, all of Israel and all the works of His hands, with His Peace.
גמר חתימה טובה לנו ולכל בית ישראל, בכל מקום שהם.
לשנה הבאב בירושלים

The Great Kapparot Debate

(Courtesy of Maariv-NRG.)