21 January 2010

A Boy and the Power of Tefillin

By this time, the entire world has been exposed to the story of the poor 17 year old bachur who's act of davening Shachris, the morning prayer service of the Jewish people, resulted in the diverting of a small commuter aircraft from its route. On the surface, it is an "oy vey" moment. How could the aircrew be so uninformed? How, after questioning the passenger and observing his behavior could they still "error on the side of caution"? Never mind that tefillin are described in the Torah and have been worn since the time of Moshe. On the one hand, the most knee jerk reaction is to deem the flight crew ignorant and ill-trained. Surely, they must have heard of tefillin? Certainly, in training, they are taught about unusual religious practices they could see during a flight?

These doubting questions are natural, which is a good indicator that a sensitive Jew should not judge these goyim so harshly. Instead, think of the wonderful opportunity afforded to share with the world the practice of wearing tefillin. Every major news service, print, audio, television and Internet have discussed tefillin today. Amazing!!!! Gentiles world over have learned that Jewish men wear tefillin in the morning. And this is true even as we read in this week's parasha, Bo the first command to wear tefillin (Ex 13:9 - And it will be for you a sign on your hand and for a remembrance between your eyes...)

It is an unnatural thing to do, to see the positive in the strange. But indeed this situation can be a turned into light, a kiddush HaShem, for such is the way of a Jew. The message that HaShem runs the world can be taught even at the cost of flight delay. Even in a cramped commuter plane, a Jew can still be a Jew - tefillin and all. Now, all those who are lax in their observance of tefillin have no excuse. If only their non-Jewish colleagues, friends, co-workers and acquaintances would ask every day, "did you wear tefillin this morning?"

Having experienced putting on tefillin during a flight (albeit pre-9/11), I think the following advice might be useful to Jewish men who will be flying during morning davening time. First, tell a member of the flight crew before you start to daven what you are about to do, that you will be wearing particular religious garments and most importantly, that what you are about to engage in is a daily routine, not just today, on this aircraft. If possible, take some literature with you that will support your position. Be humble, not pushy - poised, not erratic. Explain to the other passengers seated next to you and explain to them what is happening in the event they are questioned. "During part of my prayer service I am unable to speak unless it is an emergency. If someone asks me what I am doing, please relate to them what I related to you". Incorporating is a very powerful tool.

The potential impact of the story will be determined by the decision making process which some Jews, who may not yet be so secure in their yiddishkeit will go through when deciding to publically wear tefillin or not. A Jew might think, do I really want to put on tefillin with all these other people around? Non-Jews might laugh or stare or G-d forbid think me crazy. Maybe that Jew believes it to be dangerous?

These are fears which are caused by a galus inspired weakness. Maybe that same Jew could or should think instead, "these people looking at me are astounded that my faith is so strong; that I am oblivious to my surroundings". The fear is shifted to its proper place. It is the goy or not yet strong Jew who then thinks, "I could never do that". The answer to that theorized inquiry is, "I am a servant of HaShem and he commanded me to put on tefillin". Such faith is not scorned or ridiculed but admired, maybe quietly, maybe enviously, but admired.

This bachur and his tefillin were very powerful, enough to divert a flight in progress. That's some davening!!! What power a single Jew possesses! The non-Jewish world should see Jews davening in tefillin more often. Tefillin is a sign, a segula, a branding of the wearer as in service to G-d. The Jew wearing the uniform of HaShem's service, testifying to all who see him that HaShem is the boss, not just the captain, but the air traffic controller as well.

Below, Rabbi Posner writes about the various meanings of a "sign".

Bindings - Rabbi Zalman Posner, Chabad.org - an excerpt from Think Jewish

A nice tefillin story:

Tefillin on the Train

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17 January 2010

J-Street Mythology and Deception

On Saturday, 16 January, the "Tennessean" ran "Group backs 2-state solution", a story sub-titled "Jews in J-Street want to put political pressure on Israel". The report on the visit by Hadar Susskind, directory of policy and strategy for J-Street, focuses on the idea that J-Street offers American Jews an alternative to the mainstream Israel advocacy organization AIPAC. J-Street, however is a contradiction not just of logic but of religious values. Logically, since J-Street advocates the mythical "two-state solution" where Israel being one of the two with the other being not a country, not a country in waiting, not even a nationality but a gang masquerading as a government in waiting, J-street clearly is not a pro-Israel advocacy group.

J-street, as with many of the leftist organizations which wish to create a "Palestinian" state composed of arabs living in the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria, are driven not by a grand desire to make peace so much as motivated by a leftist, theological view that all 3rd world revolutionary movements which challenge the establishment possess inherent virtue. It doesn't matter what tactics or beliefs the 3rd world movement uses because the virtuous goals of the revolution permit excesses. So thus, we find that Israel's system of checkpoints and the construction of the partition wall in Judea and Samaria, proven effective anti-terror tactics are considered evil and repressive, while the excesses of the Palestinian revolutionary movement, primarily the wink and nod to terrorism (provided it is the PA gang and not the Hamas gang perpetrating the attacks), and arabic press messages espousing the pose of the old-fashioned PLO propaganda (conveniently not translated into English) are excusable.

Since J-street advocates policies which, if enacted would endanger the lives of millions of Jews in Israel, their positions are in direct contradiction to Torah values. One need not be a biblical scholar to know that siding with those who seek to harm their fellow Jews are not held guiltless or blameless. The actions of those Jews who support the enemies of the Jewish people will delay the final redemption and will result in their own extinction. This is not my opinion but supported theologically and historically. It is a most perplexing and bitter moment in time, the result of a long and seemingly unending exile, which finds Jewish advocates for "peace" hosting common ground with terrorists and enemies of "peace". A better day will come when honesty of thought will permit clearer vision. Palestine, does not and has never existed. There is no legal requirement for Israel to withdraw from any additional territory. An honest reading of UN Res 242, instead of the arabian propaganda version will lead a reader to understand that Israel's secure borders were the primary goal. Palestinians? The name "Palestinian" is not found in the text of the agreement, meaning the "Palestinian" national myth had not yet been created. Instead, "refugees" are discussed. Refugees from where? Not Israel, but disputed territory, administered by Jordan between 1948 and 1967 and unowned. In any event, Israel's withdrawal from the Sinai in 1982 exceeds any obligation of withdrawal from " from territories occupied in the recent conflict " as stated in Res 242.

All of this returns us to our discussion of J-street and its Jewish proponents. After reviewing the historical and religious views of Israel's security, one will then understand it is not Israel's security which drives J-street proponents but another belief. A belief that "peace" does not come through historical right or even strength, but through weaknesses, pacifism and "Chamberlainian" appeasement. Ultimately, such beliefs bring war, bloodshed and eternal conflict.

J-street background

Res 242 background

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05 January 2010

The New Iraq is the Old Iraq

Back in the day, when the Iraq post-war outcome was in question, one of the favorite claims made by my politically conservative brethren, (those who were the most invested in success of the post-war) was that a Iraqi democracy would bring a change to the political structure of the Middle East. A successful Iraqi democracy would put pressure on the other arabian countries to leave behind primitive beliefs and modernize - voila - end of conflicts in the Middle East. Never mind that somewhat real elections have been held for years in arabian countries, this rising tide lifts all boats argument was strongly advanced by President Bush as a way to end terrorism and conflict. This argument seemed reasonable, after all we went to war against Saddam basically because he was a squeaky cog in the islamo-fascist terrorist infrastructure.

Other great hopes of modernization included the now distant expectation that a democratic Iraq would normalize relations with Israel. It is well beyond any shadow of a doubt that this was all fantasy. Iraq is not becoming the great arabian democracy any more than it is becoming a friend of Israel. While the voices pontificating the fall of Iraq after US troops withdraw may be premature, what will certainly not change is the fact that Yishmael is still Yishmael.

Take for example two recent stories. Both represent a different focus, or pose of the "new" Iraq. One example is representative of the fact that Iraq is still a very islamic land. In the INN story below, we find that the Tomb of Yechezkel is slated to become a mosque. Democratic Iraq seems to have no tolerance of religious expression or history. Islam has no need to turn a Jewish shrine into a muslim one if it is recognized as a place of holiness already with the exception of wanting to erase all vestiges of the once large and proud Iraqi Jewry. How irrational this is? One day, the Iraqi government mouth piece may even deny Jews ever lived in Iraq.

The second story from Jpost is also outrageous. US ally PM al-Maliki has approved a plan to ask the UN to demand Israel pay for damages (financially) caused by the 1981 bombing of the Osirak nuclear reactor under construction at that time for Saddam Hussein (YmShm) by French nuclear engineers. At the time of the first Gulf War, then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney pointed out that the bombing by Israel made the US attack much simpler. Conceivably, a Saddam Hussein with nuclear weapons would have changed the balance of power in the region and possibly the world in very bad ways. (this is the best lesson in thinking about Iran with nuclear weapons). At the time of the bombing though, Israel was treated as a villain. The UN resolution al-Maliki is basing his claim on Security Council Resolution 487 according to the story below gives Iraq the opportunity to demand compensation. Of course, al-Maliki would not have been PM nor been involved in the government of Iraq had Saddam lived and had still been running the show there. What a strange way to say thanks for helping to bring democracy to Iraq. But this brings us back to the theme of the story - Irrational arabians doing irrational things. This is the new Iraq. This is the new and improved Iraq. This is the Iraq which carries the hope of arabian social revolution and modernization with it. This is the new Iraq which, if it holds together, could become a democratic and powerful force opposing Israel in the future.

Iraq De-Judaizing Ezekiel's Tomb - by Hillel Fendel

(IsraelNN.com) Early reports that Iraq plans to retain the Jewish nature of the Tomb of the Prophet Ezekiel are apparently false. Sources in Baghdad say that the government plans to turn it into a mosque and erase all Jewish markings.

Iraq announced earlier this year that it would revamp the ancient burial site, which is located in Al-Kifl, a small town south of Baghdad. The U.S.-backed government announcement implied that its Jewish nature would continue to be emphasized.

Since then, however, reports have surfaced that the government is actually planning to build a mosque there, including removing the ancient Hebrew inscriptions that adorn the site. Some reports say that all or some of the lines of Hebrew script have already been erased.

Ezekiel (Yechezkel, in Hebrew), lived in the sixth century BCE, having accompanied the exiled Judeans to Babylon. His prophecies include the Vision of the Dry Bones, as well as the future return of Jewish People to the Land of Israel even if they are not deserving (Chapter 36: 22-25). Thousands of Jews often visited the site of his tomb annually before Iraqi Jewry came to an abrupt end in the middle of the 20th century, and Moslems and Christians continue to visit it even today.

Shelomo Alfassa, Director of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, reports that Islamic political parties have pressured the government to remove the Jewish inscriptions. He quotes the Iraqi news agency Ur News as reporting that the writing and ornamentations “are being (or have been) removed… under the pretext of restoring the site.”

Alfassa quotes sources to the effect that Iraq’s Antiquities and Heritage Authority “has been pressured by Islamists to historically cleanse all evidence of a Jewish connection to Iraq - a land where Jews had lived for over a thousand years before the advent of Islam.”

Professor Investigates
Four months ago, a German-based Iraqi journalist tipped off the Association of Jewish Academics from Iraq in Israel (AJAII) that plans were afoot to build a mosque on the site of Ezekiel’s Tomb. AJAII asked Dr. Jabbar Jamal al-Din, a lecturer in Jewish Thought at Kufa University in Iraq, to investigate these reports – and he said that he believes them to be untrue.

Baghdad Sources: Room for Concern
Sources in Baghdad, however, feel otherwise. Prof. Shmuel Moreh - Israel Prize Laureate in Arabic Literature and Professor Emeritus at Hebrew University of Jerusalem - told Israel National News that he had received worrisome phone calls from non-Jewish friends in Baghdad. Prof. Moreh, who serves as the Chairman of the Association of Jewish Academics from Iraq, said that the plans are to turn the holy site into a mosque, and “some told me that they are taking off the Hebrew inscriptions.”

Alfassa provides the following translation of the relevant report in Ur News: “The officials of the Department of Antiquities and Heritage say that their restoration programme will continue until 2011 and is designed to carry out essential maintenance and prevent the dome and roof from collapsing. But their hidden purpose, sources say, is the removal of features that emphasize a historical connection with the Jews who built the shrine and lived in the city for hundreds of years after the Babylonian exile.”

Though well over 100,000 Jews lived in Iraq a few decades ago, this number has now been decimated to no more than eight, Prof. Moreh said. “There are others,” he added, “but they barely know that they are Jews; in many cases, their parents did not tell them.”

Alfassa concludes: “Iraq - the Biblical Mesopotamia -is almost as rich in Jewish history as the Land of Israel. The tomb of the prophet Ezekiel dates back to the Babylonian exile in the sixth century BCE. It was there in Iraq that Abraham discovered monotheism, and it is where the prophets Ezra, Nehemiah, Nahum, Jonah and Daniel are all buried.”

'Israel must compensate Iraq for Osirak'- Jan. 5, 2010 JPost.com Staff - THE JERUSALEM POST

Iraq will demand that Israel pay compensation for bombing the unfinished nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981, an Iraqi member of parliament told the Iraqi al-Sabah newspaper in an article published on Tuesday.

Muhammad Naji Muhammad claimed that his government was planning to enlist the United Nation's help to pressure Israel into compensating Baghdad, according to a DPA report cited by Channel 10.

"Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the Foreign Ministry turned to the UN and the Security Council demanding that Israel pay us reparations for damage caused to the reactor in 1981," Muhammad was quoted as telling the newspaper.

Baghdad is demanding that the UN establish a committee to assess the scope of the damage caused by the Israeli strike in order to calculate the appropriate compensation.

The Iraqi demand is based on UN Security Council Resolution 487, which was drafted following the bombing of the reactor in June 1981. The resolution harshly condemned Israel's aerial attack and determined that Iraq had a right to demand compensation over the damages.

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Pharoah, Taxation, and Population Control

(Ex 1:8-11)

A new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, "Behold! the people, the Children of Israel are more numerous and stronger than we. Come, let us act wisely to it lest it become numerous and it may be that if war will occur, it, too may join our enemies, and wage war against us and go up from the land." So they appointed tax collectors over it in order to afflict it with their burdens; it built storage cities for Pharoah, Pithom and Raamses. (translation from Artscroll, The Saperstein Edition Rashi.)

When Pharoah, king of Egypt wished to oppress Bnei Yisroel, he first chose heavy taxation as a method. It is clear from the text that the priority of Pharoah was not a national building campaign, but to reign in what was perceived as a foreign population for which Egypt felt both compelled to control but afraid to allow to leave. The Egyptian reasoning is bizarre. Logically, if Bnei Yisroel were a threat to the land, they should have been thrown out. If they were essential to the country, Pharoah should have engaged in efforts to incorporate the people. Whatever the Egyptians thought about Israel, what was not in the calculation was the conclusion that Bnei Yisroel was loyal to Egypt. To Pharoah, Israel was a necessary evil. So, how did Pharoah choose to handle the necessary evil? Tax them. Increase the burden on them. Show them who is boss. How do you control populations in order to repress them and enslave them? Taxation. How do put people in their place? Taxation.

Manipulating populations through social and economic means is not a phenomenon of the 20th century. The dictators and villains of history can count Pharoah of Egypt as one of their role models.

20 Teves/6 January - I realized later that I forgot to cite the source for the Torah graphics. This came from ORT - Navigating the Bible.

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01 January 2010

The Conservative Movement Searches For Its Soul

Conservatives to tackle intermarriage,'homo-lesbian' ordinations. Dec. 28, 2009

Burning issues threatening to split the Conservative Movement, such as the ordination of homosexual and lesbian rabbis, the sharp drop in the number of young members and the challenge of intermarriage will be raised this week during a two-day conference in Jerusalem's Van Leer Institute entitled "Conservative Judaism: Halacha, Culture and Sociology."

"This will be the first time that an institution not associated with the Conservative Movement will devote a scholarly conference to Conservative Judaism," said Professor Naftali Rothenberg, Jewish Culture and Identity Chair at Van Leer. "And this is happening on the backdrop of a major crisis that the Conservative Movement is undergoing, in which members of the religious Right and Left in the movement are headed in opposite directions."

To be truthful, there has not been a real "Conservativist movement" in many years. What exists now is another version of "Reformism" albeit with different managers and owners. Conservativism ceased to exist after the driving on shabbos decision. Going forward, the impetus to figure out new ways to break away from halachic Judaism disguising rulings as formulated from halacha has set a tone which is leading to an inevitable split up of "Conservatism" in favor of Reformist and Traditionalist "movements".

Having learned that all Jews in their heart's really want to follow Torah and do mitzvos in a proper way but are knocked off course do to outside influences, one must look at "conservativism" and "reformism" for that matter, with pity. These holy Jews, congregants of Conservativists synagogues (those who actually are halachically Jewish that is) have been convinced by the credibility of multi-generational participation and the goodwill presumed by the religious experience that the evolution of their religious experience is supported by Torah. A slow, but certain evolution it is. There was never a drive to do away with halacha (like in Reformism), but to make halacha bend to the will of simple people who merely wanted their religious experience to be consistent with their secular experience or that of their children.

There is plenty of room for understanding Torah in a modern context. Torah must make sense at all times and in every place. There is no room, however to re-define Torah to permit the forbidden and kasher the treif. Conservativism sought to do this and fell into a trap of its own making. And thereby set its own course to obsolescence.

For each generation to make its own mark and find its own way there must be a structure upon which to build. Generationally speaking, there is no “Conservative” movement to build upon. It has come to its logical conclusion.

The conference in Jerusalem has scheduled as one of its topics the decline in young membership, a problem not faced by Orthodoxy. The reason is that there is no room to continue moving Conservativism towards Reformism without fully becoming Reformism and it cannot go backwards. Those youth who want to be fully connected to the Jewish world find their way to Orthodoxy, possibly in college, through Chabad or other outreach programs. Those who do not find it necessary yet to connect to the Jewish world may, on occasion check in at a Reformist Temple or blend into the woodwork, vulnerable to the delights of Edom and “marriage” to non-Jews or worse. Thus, one can see the reason why Conservativism at the grassroots is so interested in kashering the relationship between Jews and non-Jews and male to male and female to female. These reflections of the world of Edom, now fully part of life in Reformism, will soon be the norm in Conservativism. What is Conservativism other than a Reformism with different owners?

But sigh, more perversion awaits in the world of Edom. For today, marriage to non-Jews and homosexual professional staff is the trend. What comes next? When does Torah-true Judaism stand up and say enough. Be our brothers or be something else – but please stop the attempt to drag the holy Torah and halachic credibility into your world, the reflection of Edom.

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What Words Offend Arabs? The Truth.

Children's Poetry Booklet Recalled After Arabs Complain
(Israeli censorship kowtows to Arabs.
When Will We Tell The Truth Without Fear)

(IsraelNN.com 7 Sivan 5768/June 10, '08) Ynet's web site and Arab complaints against a ten-year-old boy's poem about terrorists has resulted in the recall of all of the Nes Ziona municipality's children's poetry booklets.

Ynet boasts that its coverage of the poem resulted in its being recalled.

The text of the poem (Ynet's translation):

Ahmed's bunker has surprises galore: Grenades, rifles are hung on the wall. Ahmed is planning another bombing!What a bunker Ahmed has, who causes daily harm.Ahmed knows how to make a bomb. Ahmed is Ahmed, that's who he is, so don't forget to be careful of him.We get blasted while they have a blast!Ahmed and his friends could be wealthy and sunny, if only they wouldn't buy rockets with all their money.

Poetry competition director Marika Berkowitz, who published the booklet, was surprised at the protests and told Ynet: "This is the boy's creation and this is what he wanted to express. Of course there should be a limit, but I think the there is no racism here. 'Ahmed' is a general term for the enemy. These are the murmurings of an innocent child."

The Education Ministry told Ynet: "The local authority that published the booklet should have guided the students in a more correct manner through the schools. The district will investigate the issue with the local authorities."
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