Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Collapse of Will

The papers are trumpeting the new RCA-Rabbanut agreement concerning conversion procedures. According to the Jewish Week: 'The new arrangement requires that all judges overseeing conversions in the U.S. be approved by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, with the RCA providing domestic oversight.' Opposition to the new deal is, predictably enough, confined to the left wing of the Orthodox rabbinate, which supports the minimalist theory of the requirements for conversion (as discussed below). The rest are, meanwhile, silent.

The rest are making a mistake.

Now, let me be clear. As I wrote the other day, I am far from being a minimalist in matters related to conversion (except in the case of child conversion, which is an entirely different matter, and on which I wrote one my only responsum. Even there, I based the conclusion on an explicit responsum of Reb Moshe Feinstein זצ"ל).

The issue here, though, is not only one of conversion. The issue at hand is the integrity, autonomy and authority of the American Orthodox Rabbinate. Except in rare cases, the acts of one Bet Din have always been accepted and respected by other Batei Din. א"כ במה מצינו כח בית דין יפה? By what right does the Israeli Chief Rabbinate arrogate to itself the authority to sit in judgement upon the acts of colleagues abroad? Do they know anything about Diaspora Jewry? Would they dare pasken a קורקבן without looking at it in context? Are they familiar with the codes and nuances of diaspora life? Do they understand, or accept, the fact that the education and דרך הלימוד imparted at RIETS might be different than that taught in Porat Yosef or Hevron, and that it might lead to different though אויסגעהאלטענער פסקי הלכה? As the Rav זצ"ל, once said in shiur: אווירת ארץ ישראל מחכים, אבער איך זאג א בעסערער סברא.

It will be averred that the new arrangement puts מורי ורבי Rav Herschel Schechter and Rav Mordekhai Willig in charge of approving the new דיינים. That may ameliorate the situation, but only partially since the Rabbanut has maintained right of veto over their decisions. Will they, would they, excercise it? I have no doubt that they would, and will.

Don't forget that the rabbanut is, largely, composed of second and third rate appointees (the ones who didn't rate becoming Rashe Yeshiva or senior Ramim, but who need the high salaries to support their families). It's a system based on power politics, and rife with nepotism. Many, many of the rabbanim and dayyanim with whom I've spoken have only contempt for the great Talmide Hakhamim of the Golah. As I noted before, one senior dayyan stated that it is absolutely impossible that any rav in the Diaspora should be able to learn as well as a rav in Eretz Yisrael! When Rav Schechter's name was mentioned, it took a few minutes for him to begrudgingly admit that Rav Schechter knows how to learn (sic!).

In a word, this new agreement bodes ill for relations between the Orthodox communities in the world (and Europe hasn't weighed in on the issue yet.) It drives a knife into the back of רבני צוהר and the wonderful תלמידי חכמים produced by כולל ארץ חמדה.

What, one may ask, is the correct model for international rabbinic relations, prior to the reestablishment of the Sanhedrin? I suggest we take a new look at the Gemora in Horayot 11a:

Rabbi enquired of R. Hiyya: 'Is one like myself to bring a hegoat?' 'You have your rival in Babylon,' the other replied. 'The Kings of Israel and the Kings of the House of David,' the first objected, 'bring sacrifices independently of one another!' 'There,' the other replied, 'they were not subordinate to one another, here, however, we are subordinate to them.'

והמבין יבין

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Response to Aaron Rakeffet

In the latest issue of BaDaD, Rabbi Dr. Aaron Rakeffet published a letter criticizing my critical review of his book, The Rav. Most of the communication requires no comment. However, I would like to correct one error in his letter.

In the review, I noted that in his biographic introduction, Rakeffet fails to mention the important work done by Marc Shapiro and Seth Farber. Rakeffet responded that I was being sloppy in my criticism since 'In order to cite them I would need a double measure of רוח הקודש, Divine Spirit. Their scholarship was not completed or published when I was writing The Rav.'

Rakeffet, however, is wrong on both points. Shapiro's research was effectively completed in 1995, with the acceptance of his doctorate at Harvard (upon which his book is based). Farber's PhD was submitted in 2000, a year after 'The Rav' was published. However, as Rakeffet himself declares, he was well aware of (and involved in) both projects while he was preparing his book. All he had to do was pick up the phone (or log onto his e-mail) to obtain a copy of Shapiro's PhD, and drafts of Farber's work (which were already extant). No prophetic capacity was required, only responsible scholarship.

Anyone purporting to write a biography of the Rav, or even a biographical introduction, is obliged to avail himself of the best sources at his disposal. The failure to do so, as I wrote, renders the introduction (even in its limited form) 'stunningly inadequate.'

[Update: I noticed tonight that Rakeffet possessed a copy of Shapiro's PhD, but didn't use it for the information it contains about the Rav. Furthermore, his book was completed while Rakeffet was still writing his (though they appeared the same year). My point still holds.]

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Leniencies Of Bet Shammai

One of the more intriguing comments of Hazal regards the question of judicial and ideological consistency. The Talmud (Eruvin 6b and parallels) writes:

The Halacha is always in agreement with the House of Hillel, but he who wishes to act in agreement with the ruling of the House of Shammai may do so, and he who wishes to act according to the view of the House of Hillel may do so. [He, however, who adopts] the more lenient rulings of the House of Shammai and the more lenient rulings of the House of Hillel is a wicked man. [While of the man who adopts] the restrictions of the House of Shammai and the restrictions of the House of Hillel, the Scripture says: But the fool walks in darkness (Ecclesiastes 2:14). A man should rather act either in agreement with the House of Shammai both in their lenient and their restrictive rulings or in agreement with the House of Hillel in both their lenient and their restrictive rulings.

In Modern Orthodox circles (and among Haredim, behind closed doors), much satisafaction is derived from the second part of the highlighted passage. [While of the man who adopts] the restrictions of the House of Shammai and the restrictions of the House of Hillel, the Scripture says: But the fool walks in darkness (Ecclesiastes 2:14). The stringency obsession of the contemporary Halakhic community is often maddening. Indeed, it serves to turns the Torah into the categorical opposite of 'its ways are ways of pleasantness.' (Of course, the most prominent attempt to address is etiology is found in Professor Haym Soloveitchik's classic essay, 'Rupture and Reconstruction.' See also the exchange here and here, along with Professor Samuel Heilman's Sliding to the Right.)

At the same time, the first part of the statement also deserves careful attention. [He, however, who adopts] the more lenient rulings of the House of Shammai and the more lenient rulings of the House of Hillel is a wicked man. There is, it is true, nothing wrong with ruling leniently when that is both appropriate and thoroughly based halakhically. However, it is illegitimate to exclusively seek leniencies and 'ways out' that violate halakhic integrity, personal intellectual and religious consistency and/or seek to render personal convenience (ideological or otherwise) superior to the plain dictates of Torah observance. [In fact, I vividly recall that in a Saturday Night lecture in 1973, when the Rav זצ"ל was teaching the first paragraph in הלכות עבודה זרה he characterized 'kula searching' as a form of עבודה זרה. More specifically, he used the Rambam's formulation: מתנבא בשם השם לעבוד עבודה זרה. The immediate context was the then recent Conservative decision to include women in a minyan. He extended it to people who search through Shulhan Arukh to look for קולות.]

Respect for the halakhic process, and judicial/methodological consistency are the hallmark of the Jew, for whom 'Accepting the Yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven' (קבלת עול מלכות שמים) is an essential part of his spiritual makeup, even when it is difficult or inconvenient.

I was thinking about this when I read Rabbi Professor David Berger's Apologia pro Vita Sua,
'Identity, Ideology and Faith: Some Personal Reflections on the Social, Cultural and Spiritual Value of the Academic Study of Judaism' (published here). In a particularly pertinent passage, Professor Berger writes (25-26):

In the realm of concrete decision-making in specific instances, it is once again the case that the impact of academic scholarship does not always point in a liberal direction. In other words, the instincts and values usually held by academics are not necessarily upheld by the results of their scholarly inquiry, and if they are religiously committed, they must sometimes struggle with conclusions that they wish they had not reached. Thus, the decision that the members of the Ethiopian Beta Israel are Jewish was issued precisely by rabbis with the least connection with academic scholars. The latter, however much they may applaud the consequences of this decision, cannot honestly affirm that the origins of the Beta Israel are to be found in the tribe of Dan; here, liberally oriented scholars silently, and sometimes audibly, applaud the fact that traditionalist rabbis have completely ignored the findings of contemporary scholarship. Some academics do not hesitate to criticize and even mock such rabbis for their insularity and their affirmation of propositions inconsistent with scholarly findings, but on occasions like this the very same people are capable of deriding other rabbis for their intolerant refusal to ignore modern scholarship. (Emphasis Added)

One need not, however, go so far afield as to the origins of Ethiopian Jews (who may yet be deemed to be Jews, irrespective of their purported Danite origins), in order to make this point.

One glaring example of self-imposed cognitive dissonance (albeit in a non-Festingerian mode) is found in the current debate over the minimum requirements for conversion. There are two schools of thought. The minimalist school (most prominently associated with R. Ben Zion Meir Hai Uziel, based primarily on the Maggid Mishneh ad Hil. Issure Bi'ah 13,7) maintains that a priori acceptance of the commandments is desireable but not critical for the effecting of a valid conversion. The other school maintains that conversion without a meaningful, longstanding and proven commitment to full religious observance (with varying shades of opinion as to the extent) is meaningless (This was emphatically the opinion of Rav Soloveitchik. In shiur, on a number of occasions, he suggested that while the convert who was less than qualified might be Jewish as far as his or her personal obligation to perform mitzvot was concerned, it would be absolutely insufficient for marriage. Such a convert would be barred from marrying a Jew until he or she had proven himself (cf. Hil. Issure Bi'ah 13, 15; Shita Mequbetzet ad Keritot 9a. See also the comment by R. Hayyim Ozer Grodzensky in ShuT Ahiezer III, 26 s.v. ומהאי טעמא נראה).

In contrast to other scholars, however, my own research I carried out over the past five years) has led me to the conclusion that the latter opinion is historically the most authentic. Without going into details (which will appear when the study is published), suffice it to say that prior to the Emancipation, it never occurred to Hazal or the post-Talmudic authorities that their could be any other type of conversion short of absolute and proven devotion to a life of observance. This requirement is not stated, because in law that which goes without saying usually does. The minimalist interpretation developed as a result of the exigencies of the Jewish entry into modernity, and is no more than 250 years old.

My point here is not to argue against the cogency of the minimalist interpretation (though I, personally, believe that the more demanding approach is correct). Law has its own life and dynamic. What I do wish to point out, is that resort to historical/academic methods and results in the act of halakhic decision-making (as opposed to its legitimate use in the discovery of realia or the determination of texts) is a problematic enterprise. At the very least, though, the religious integrity of the practitioner demands consistency in application.

As the Gemara concludes:

A man should rather act either in agreement with the House of Shammai both in their lenient and their restrictive rulings or in agreement with the House of Hillel in both their lenient and their restrictive rulings.

Muhammad A Dura Redux: Or, How Rachel Corrie Really Died

First George Orwell, and then, Jean Baudrillard warned that the media world was ripe for the manipulation of the truth. The tireless efforts of Richard Landes, Philippe Karsenty, and Nidra Poller demonstrated how the icon of the Oslo War (aka Intifada II), Muhammad al-Dura could not possibly have been killed by Israeli bullets in September 2000. (More likely, he's still alive or conveniently elsewhere.)

Now, proof has surfaced that Rachel Corrie, the ISM anarchist, was not killed while protecting a Palestinian house. She died accidentally while trying to prevent the closing of a tunnel used to smuggle arms and the component parts of Kassam rockets into Gaza from Egypt.

The videos and background are here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Only in Israel (I think)

Walking up (quickly) to catch the bus to Bar Ilan, I passed the above vending machine. It doesn't sell soft drinks or food. It sells Torah. More specifically, the Meorot Daf HaYomi people have started an intiative called ותן חלקנו , which provides a modicum of Torah study (Humash, Mishna, Gemora, Halakha, Hagut) divided into days, in a pocket sized book. This vending machine makes the week's learning available to travellers in a rush (like the photgrapher who was running and got a fuzzy picture).

I think it's cool.

Since I was rushing, the picture came out a little fuzzy.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Shut Up and Sing

Shut Up and Sing is the name of a polemical tract by Conservative columnist, Laura Ingraham. Its stated goal is: 'Why the elites want America to be torn down, tradition by tradition.' Among other things, it asks the question why celebrities are given a disproportionate role in the formation of public opinion.

We desperately need an Israeli version of this book.

Consider....Five fiction novelists (Amos Oz, A. B. Yehoshua, David Grossman, Etgar Keret and Meir Shalev)who never had to bear responsibility for anything, are touted as the avatars of religion (more correctly the need for its extirpation) and politics (the Arabs are alays right; the Jews are racists)...Singers and Entertainers (e.g. Aviv Geffen and Gila Almagor) are given unlimited coverage whenever they feel the need to express their opinions on political issues...'Journalists,' whose job is to look pretty and mouth the news (and don't have enough education to finish an undergraduate seminar paper), insidiously insert their opinions into their broadcasts....

Who asked them? Who appointed them to think for everyone else?

We need to raise awareness of the way these lichens are subverting our country. It's time to crack open the closed academic/judicial/media/literary guild and let fresh air in.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Justice Minister vs. The Supreme Court

Readers of this blog and of Ben Chorin, are well aware of the judicial autocracy that reigns in Israel (see here, here, here, here, here, and especially here).

Now the Justice Minister, Professor Daniel Friedman, lets us all in on an open secret. The Supreme Court is a parochial, power broker. It's interested in its own radical, post-modern agenda and will stop at nothing to achieve it. (Rights are for WASPS= White Ashkenazi Secularists with Proteksia).

Straight Speaking: Bernard Lewis on the Present State of Affairs

(Courtest of INNews)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Either Way It Leads to Idolatry (For Parshat Ki Tissa)

About thirty years ago, Rav Soloveitchik זצ"ל gave a shiur in which he highlighted five key aspects of this week's Parsha (available here), of which I'd like to discuss the first.

The Rav contrasted the sin of Adam and Eve with that of the Golden Calf. The two, he observed, were diametrically opposed. Adam and Eve were guilty of the sin of arrogance. They were aware of the fact that they were the pinnnacle of creation, that they had been created in the veritable image of God. Hence, they succumbed to the temptation of going one step farther, to become the equals of God. As the serpent put it (Gen. 3, 4-5): And the serpent said to the woman: 'You shall not surely die; for God knows that on the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as God, knowing good and evil.' Unadulterated, self-centered pride led to man's undoing.

The sin of the Golden Calf, the Rav said, was a result not of arrogance but of extreme self-negation.
The Torah relates (Ex. 32, 1): And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mount, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron, and said to him: 'Up, make us a god who shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we know not what has become of him.' The people were profoundly insecure. Moses' delay in returning led them to panic and seek a tangible replacement for Moses, who would mediate between them and God. Their total sense of self-negation, their lack of backbone led them to hand their souls over to an idol. " ע"כ דברי הרב בקיצור נמרץ.

As I was thinking about this, it hit me that both extremes result in idolatry.

In the first case, unbounded narcissism, rendered more egregious by intellectual arrogance, leads to self-worship. Arrogant man worships himself, makes his god in his own image and dares to dictate to God. In the Orthodox world, this translates into those who would sit in judgement upon the Torah, because it doesn't fit the curremt fashion in Western 'thinking.'

In the second case, it is not arrogance but irrational despair that is man's undoing. Total lack of faith in one's God-given strengths leads man to hand over his freedom, his reason, and his soul to powers that he deems greater than he. These may be human or (in his mind supernatural). If they turn to anyone other than God Himself, they are no less idolatrous. Blind reliance upon men or things, upon leaders or amulets, are nothing less than עבודה זרה.

The Rav concluded that man is duty bound, by God commanded, to cultivate both a strong sense of his greatness and of his mortality and limitations. He must be proud and humble. He must live his life on a dialectic between the two extremes, never embracing either. Avoiding the extremes, while embracing the complex contradictions in human nature, is the only way of avoiding disaster.

Develop Modern Orthodoxy in Israel

At the end of the day, there is a limit to how much one can bemoan the corrupt, self-destructive behavior of Israel's government and governing elites. There is a limit to the frustration engendered by the ongoing חילול השם of the 'Party of the Evening,' which will sacrifice Jerusalem and our lives for a few more sheqels (and to keep its aparatchiks out of jail, like the Prime Minister). There is a limit to how much you can point out the frightening parallels between the prophecies of Jeremiah and the current situation. Complaining and bemoaning don't achieve anything more than a brief catharsis, which grates on the nerves of the reader (and the writer).

So, as the expression goes, 'What is to be done?'

Well, as far as I am concerned, that means redoubling efforts to judaize Israel. After all, if we really believe that God gave us this land, we need to recall that our presence here is contingent upon our behavior and our responsibility for that of our brethren. It does not take a genius to realize that the present constellation is evidence of a portentious Divine Decree (גזירה).

As I've often said, the tragedy today is that so many Israeli Jews define themselves as Jews first, but have no access to Judaism because the religious leadership and community (especially the Religious Zionist rabbinate):

a) has reduced the Torah to Eretz Yisrael to the exclusion of all else

b) lacks the intellectual, cultural, scholarly and halakhic tools and integrity to present the Torah in a manner that will commnd the respect (and, hopefully, assent) of the average Jew

c) lacks, in its liberal sectors, intellectual and religious humility; while the less liberal sectors lack compassion.

A responsible Modern Orthodoxy can make a powerful contribution to ameliorating this situation. Unfortunately, previous indigenous efforts (in which I have participated) that focused upon institutions failed to achieve more than an occasional flash. This was largely due to organizational territorialism, considerations of ego, and (too often) fear of various types of backlash. Hopes that institutions across the sea will achieve anything are sadly misplaced. These generate little more than words.

In any event, in addition to teaching and writing, I thought that it might be a good idea to test the waters. So, I've started a Facebook group: Develop Modern Orthodoxy in Israel. The idea is to create a modest location to start thinking and acting 'out of the box.' Anyone with whom this resonates is invited to join.

Let's see how it goes.

Not Only Nero Fiddled...So Does Israel

Kosovo is already here
By Israel Harel

Kosovo's declaration of independence has sparked concern in certain circles in Israel. The day may not be far off when the Arabs of Galilee start clamoring for political independence, too. In recent years, many of them have been cutting themselves off, psychologically and physically, from the Jewish-democratic State of Israel.

The Muslims of Kosovo constitute an absolute majority of the population, and the same is true for the Galilee Arabs. Quite a few Jews have been leaving the Galilee, especially since October 2000, and not many are joining the sparse Jewish population there, despite an array of financial incentives. The events in Kosovo have triggered memories of the thousands who took part in the violence in Wadi Ara in 2000, blocking major traffic arteries and cutting off access to Jewish communal settlements in an outbreak of rioting that coincided with Yasser Arafat's war of terror.

Memories come rushing back on the use of live ammunition in some cases, and the operation of an underground and terror cells alongside the suicide bombers dispatched from Gaza, Judea and Samaria.Demonstrations where the Palestinian flag is raised in protest - on the anniversary of Arafat's death, for example - have become commonplace on campuses in Israel, especially at the University of Haifa. In the Galilee and Haifa, Arab intellectuals and public figures have compiled documents known as "The Vision," in which they reject Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland of the Jewish people.

Before the Annapolis summit, delegates of all the Israeli Arab organizations convened in Nazareth and reached a unanimous decision to call upon Mahmoud Abbas not to cooperate with Ehud Olmert and recognize Israel as a Jewish state. A delegation of Arab Knesset members was sent to meet with the Palestinian negotiators to ensure that the message had sunk in. If the Arab citizens of Israel vehemently oppose recognizing Israel as the Jewish homeland, said MK Ahmed Tibi to Abu Ala (Ahmed Qurei), how can you, the representatives of the Palestinian people, even consider such a thing?

Israeli governments have resigned themselves to the blatant, unconcealed separatist actions of the Galilee Arabs, and this only perpetuates the phenomenon. Shimon Peres, who was appointed by several governments to oversee measures ultimately aimed at increasing the Jewish presence in the Galilee, talked a lot but did little. Political correctness, such as halting the campaign to "Judaize Galilee," was his guideline.

All the authorities, including those in charge of law enforcement, have resigned themselves to criminal acts ("juvenile delinquency," the police chief of the Northern District calls the phenomenon of stones thrown at Jewish vehicles, especially near Hamovil Junction), such as encroaching on state land and illegal construction that has reached the scope of tens of thousands of buildings.

Kosovo is already here, even without a formal declaration of independence. Looking at the government's mode of conduct in the periphery, and even its response to the Qassam rockets in the south, one realizes the futility of expecting it to wake up and fight against those who are challenging Israeli sovereignty in the Galilee.

The leaders of this separatist policy in the Israeli Arab community know very well that apathy and lack of self-confidence also characterize the approach of the agencies of the state - the police, the courts, the Israel Lands Administration, the tax authorities and the Ministry of the Interior - in their dealings with the Arab public. This only increases the motivation to gnaw further at Israeli authority and sovereignty.Unlike the Kosovars in the Balkans, who are satisfied with their separatist province and do not claim ownership over all Serbian territory, the Arabs of the Galilee, and certainly the northern wing of the Islamic Movement, claim ownership - political and territorial - over all of Israel. The "salami method" pays off.

In the Negev, the Bedouins are taking over large stretches of land almost without hindrance, while Israel's do-nothing government responds by establishing committees to "sort out" the land issues. The most recent of them is the committee chaired by Judge Eliezer Goldberg, which is now convening.

This inertia will probably continue, with the Zionist state financing, via education, health, national insurance and other state monies transferred to citizens, a population that is de facto establishing a Palestinian state within the sovereign State of Israel - separate, of course, from the Palestinian state that the Arabs are pushing for in Judea and Samaria.

Cry It From the Mountains!!!

[This article just appeared in the Jerusalem Post, and deserves to be carefully read and then disseminated throughout Israel. A few highlights below.]

Dangerous infatuation
Daniel Doron

Israelis - and especially their university educated elites - seem to have a dangerous infatuation, a puzzling delusion about the capability of their governments to solve almost any problem. Otherwise how can one explain the recent crop of suggestions by ostensibly mature people, holding responsible positions, that government protect them from the vagaries of the dollar exchange rate or from rising housing costs.

For decades Israelis have been taking cruel and usual punishment, from runaway inflation to low wages, to monopoly induced inflated costs, to the erosion of their pensions, as a result of their trust in government management of the economy. Yet they keep asking for more, at ever growing costs, though it should have become obvious that governments cannot deliver what they expect. Governments can no more control powerful economic forces that change the rate of the dollar or the costs of housing, than they can control the rise and fall of tides.

Israelis should have discovered by now that the more government over reaches, the less it can deliver. In fact governments create, and then aggravate, most of our problems. When governments' fingers are stuck, as in Israel, in every pie, they are incapable of doing anything. They cannot even perform their legitimate tasks, like protecting the people of Sderot from Kassam attacks.

Liberals who choose to believe in governments' endless capacity to do good - despite overwhelming evidence that governments are innately incompetent, that they are bedeviled by too may goals, mostly conflicting or confusing, that their executive arm, their bureaucracies, lack the capacity for the efficient execution of policy - should travel from Tel Aviv to Ben-Gurion airport.

From the flat landscape they will see rising a huge mound - the Hiriyah garbage dump. It is really a monument for the capacity of Israeli governments, Left and Right. They failed, for over 50 years, to move this dump from its present location on valuable real estate, to the Negev desert. Still we expect them to provide us with good education, health care, pensions and what not.

OUR GOVERNMENTS have been failing even in their provision of security, internal and external. ...

As for external security it is puzzling why we need to be periodically reminded by investigative commissions that our highly motivated, powerful and excellent fighting forces have been rendered dysfunctional by an increasingly incompetent and corrupt political leadership and by the army's own politicized leadership.

The Yom Kippur War, the first and the second Lebanon wars and the many severe security lapses in between should have alerted us to the rot spreading through our political and security establishments.

Our leadership conveniently embraced the stupid notion that terrorism cannot be vanquished by force, though all historical evidence (from the Assassins in the 11th century on to The Arab Revolt of '36-'39, Communist insurrections in Greece and in Malaya, the Red Brigades, The Shining Path, The Bader Meinhoff gang and others) proves that only force, mostly the wholesale elimination of the terrorists' leadership (which Israel has failed to do) is what vanquished them.Small wonder that when you do not expect to win you cannot put a stop to seven years of Kassam barrages by a couple of thousands rag tag terrorists, or that you fail to cope with the better trained 15,00 strong Hizbullah fighters.

We face many serious problems in Israel. They are only aggravated by our blind faith in government, in a bunch of politicians who cynically pursue their own self interest at our expense.

[Thanks to Aiwac for the reference.]

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tuesday Night Live

Last Night, I had the chance to witness an unusual new development in Israeli life. Tuesday Night Live in Jerusalem, a products of Arutz Sheva English TV, is a rousing evening of Zionism, Judaism and Jewish fellowship, hosted by the founders of the Ohr Olam Center for Biblical Zionism, Ari Abramowitz and Jeremy Gimpel. Its significance, aside from the quality of the show itself (the music is especially fetching) lies, in my opinion, in the following: a) good pro-Israel Hasbara b) a professional vehicle for Anglo-Israelis to express themselves and pool their talents c) a forum for down-home spiritual expression (with a bit of an evangelical aura) and (most important) d) a vehicle for the growth of new Israeli leadership in the 20 and early 30 something range.

I will not say that this is exactly my personal style. I am, however, glad to see yet another venue for Jewish self-expression in Israel. we need more of these. Chaqu'un a son gout ad mojorem Dei gloriam. It's a definite must (at least once) for a Tuesday evening (alternate weeks).

Rav Soloveitchik on Territorial Compromise: Summation

This post earned so much attention, that I thought it most apt to respond in a new post.

I am always honored to have Rav Yosef Blau comment on this blog. I agree with his overall sentiments. The ongoing significance of the Rav's Zionist statements and teachings (Kol Dodi Dofek, Hamesh Derashot and Al Ahavat ha-Torah) lies in their educational value and in the presentation of a powerful, passionate religious zionism which is not predicated upon the state necessarily being the start of an irreversible messianic process (something which, I believe, is both theologically problematic and religiously dangerous). Assuming that the redemption is irreversible flies in the face of multitudinous passages in the Torah that correlate ethical and religious behaviour as conditiones sine qua non of our residence here. On the other hand, subsuming the entire Torah to the possession of Eretz Yisrael, turns the latter into an הבה התלןיה בדבר at best.

I summarily reject, by contrast, the anonymous comment that I demagogically used the Rav to undo his own message. I did nothing of the sort. Based upon the transcript of Yehudah Avner's meeting with the Rav around 1980, it is clear that he would not have been the type of starry-eyed dogmatic dove that the religious and secular left turned him into. I, frankly, don't know what he would have said. Moreover, since necromancy is a capital crime, we have no right (or legitimate way) to find out.

Finally, anyone who wishes to obtain the tape is welcome to write me: As soon as I get my wireless card fixed, I'll be happy to send it.