The Galut the Youth Do Not Know

We are living in truly amazing times. If one were to look back at history, he would not believe that so much could transpire over a seventy year period. The Jewish people not only survived the horrors of the Holocaust, but we have emerged as a flourishing

nation in our precious State of Israel.

For the younger generation, 40 and under, their view of the Galut, the Exile, begins and ends with the Shoah. Tonight we commemorate “Yom Hashoah”, Holocaust Memorial Day, with a day of national mourning for the six million who perished during World War Two. For those living in Israel, it is impossible not to be aware of this tragic piece of history.

The younger generation has not lived through any period where there was religious persecution for the Jew, anywhere in the world. Jews are free to practice their religion without hindrance regardless of where they live. They did not witness the difficulties of Soviet Jewry, Syrian and Iranian Jewry, or the plight of Ethiopian Jewry, that took place shortly before their birth.

The younger generation have come into this world to a situation that probably has not existed for at least two thousand years. The Talmudic term, ” SHIBUD MALCHIOT” refers to our exile and our subservience to foreign rule. It becomes difficult to practice our religion while living under foreign rule, who often forbade us from practicing Judaism. By the grace of G-d, this term is no longer applicable.

Sometimes it is a good idea to witness first hand, the conditions that Jews were forced to live in, during various periods of our history. One can visit Spain, for example, and see the remnants of a once thriving Jewish community only to be expelled in 1492. In Barcelona, there was already an edict as early as 1401, forbidding Jews from trespassing the soil of that city. (Jews get their revenge today with luxurious Passover packages all over Barcelona, with the Spaniards serving them hand and foot!)

Our youth need to be made aware of the resiliency of our people through the most difficult hardships imaginable. Surviving inquisitions, pogroms, and expulsions was no small task. The Jewish people were likened to olive oil as it always rises to the top, so did they. For the most part, it was clear that we were guests in most of these countries, and usually, unwanted guests.

The reason why these lessons must be learned are twofold. The older generation has a more justifiable reason to be on guard in terms of its interaction with the non-Jewish world. We have witnessed reasons to be suspicious and cautious.

I certainly would like to believe that things are changing in this area. The youth often see us as paranoid and intolerant in our dealings with the non-Jewish world. Perhaps if they better understood the source of our suspicions, there would be less tension between the older and younger generation.

The second reason why understanding the Galut is beneficial, is the necessity to be constantly conscious of how fortunate we are. Our ancestors would have had a difficult time believing that a day will come when Jews all over the world can practice Judaism if they want to. That day is every day. The paradox is that while we are free to live as Jews, so many choose not to take advantage of this luxury and gift.

Maimonides was very pragmatic in his approach to Judaism. He believed that the only difference between this world and the world to come was SHIBUD MALCHIOT. So according to him, we may have turned the corner in that we have entered a new phase of our Jewish destiny.

Today, on the eve of Yom Hashoah, it is a good time to take stock of where we are, and from where we came. The lessons of history are invaluable. Sometimes when we are too close to the mountain, we don’t realize how high it is.

If the only lesson to be gained from this article is that we acquire an awareness of how much we are blessed and how much we need to give thanks to G-d for bringing us to this miraculous state, it will have achieved much. We will realize that we are living in truly amazing times.

Dennis Prager and Yom Tov Sheini

I truly admire Dennis Prager. He is a great representative of the Jewish people and is a very proud Jew. He emphasizes the importance of holding on to ethical values and strongly speaks out on behalf of the State of Israel.

Many years ago, I met Mr. Prager at the home of a mutual friend. I was introduced as one who lives in Israel. Without even a polite, “nice to meet you,” Prager went on attack mode and asked, “What’s the deal with the two-day Yom Tov?” I was ready for him and answered, “It’s your punishment for not moving to Israel!” To this, Prager responded, “That’s the only answer I will accept.”

Very recently, I was sent one of Dennis Prager’s excellent rebuttals to repeated Donald Trump bashings. It appeared on You Tube. I noticed that on the side, there was a short interview with Prager, something about the observance of two days Yom Tov for Diaspora Jews.

In this interview, Prager was asked why he did not consider himself Orthodox when he was such a champion of the Torah and traditional Jewish values. To my surprise, Prager again mentioned that he could not embrace Oethodoxy when the two-day Yom Tov was still in operation even after there was a set Jewish calendar.

Apparently, this two-day Yom Tov issue, has been an open wound for Mr. Prager for several decades. I would like to offer an explanation that perhaps Prager might consider, for he is a very honorable man.

For nearly 15 years, I have been teaching Talmud five mornings a week, to a group of highly intelligent retirees. As we have been delving into this sacred text, we continue to marvel at the incredible wisdom of our sages.It is not only their wisdom that impresses, but it is also the high level of personal sanctity that they were able to achieve.

The Rabbis who fixed the set calendar in the year 358 of the Common Era, were known as Amoraim. We are taught that these Rabbis were on such a saintly level, that it was impossible to even fathom. It seems obvious that they were aware of the implications of demanding that two days of Yom Tov be observed outside of Israel, while one day is observed in Israel. It is perfectly in order to accept the reasoning of the Amoraim as being something beyond our comprehension, rather than simple foolishness.

A similar situation applies to the separation demanded by the Rabbis between husband and wife, for those observing the laws of Family Purity. The Torah sets the separation at seven days while the Rabbis made it a minimum of 12 days. Many view this as unfair or unreasonable. Again, the Rabbis of old applied their intense wisdom designed to enhance a Jewish marriage. After many years, a learned Chassidic rabbi, speculated that the Rabbis were trying to increase passion between husband and wife. A 12-day separation accomplishes this. A seven-day separation does not.

I do not know if Dennis Prager will read this. However, this is a good lesson in humility that we defer to those holier and more learned than we are. It is certainly disappointing that the Rabbis of today do not reach the toe nails of those of previous generations. We can look at this positively that it is a sign of the Mashiach’s imminent arrival. In the meantime, we would be wise to study our ancient texts to get an understanding of the Judaism that has survived nearly two thousand years.

Redemption then and Now

The Passover Hagadda asks the question as to why the Seder is held in the evening. The Tanna, Ben Zoma, explains that the extra word in the Torah , “Kol” teaches the Seder should be at night. The Rabbis disagree and say that “Kol” teaches that the exodus story

will be told in this world and in the world to come.

The Talmud in Tractate Brachot 12b, refers to a verse in the Book of Jeremiah that states that in the future we will no longer praise G-d for the miracles in Egypt, but we will praise Him for taking us from the north and gathering our people from all of the lands that we were scattered. If this will be the case, the Talmud asks, then we will no longer mention Egypt in the world to come.

The Rabbis answer that while it is true that future miracles will surpass those witnessed in Egypt, we will, nevertheless, still praise G-d for taking us out of Egypt.

My good friend and study partner, Dr. Eli Passow, made a profound observation when this section of Talmud was studied recently. Dr. Passow observed that we have already witnessed miracles in our lifetimes that have surpassed those we enumerated at our Seder. The plagues in Egypt lasted one year before we were driven out of Egypt. Compare those miracles with what we have seen in the last seventy years:

The Jewish population in Palestine in 1800 was 8,000 Jews. Today, we are blessed with over six and a half million Jews from the four corners of the earth.

The image of the Jew has dramatically changed. After suffering the tragic and horrifying Holocaust, Israel and the Jewish people have learned how to defend themselves. Israel is listed as the eighth superpower in the world! And the image of the defenseless, easy to pick on Jew, is over. Today, Jews fight back and they win.

A land that was bemoaned by our prophets as being desolate and non-productive, is filled with the most modern cities. The produce of Israel, is the envy of the world. Even our cows give more milk than any other cows in the world.

Israel has established diplomatic relations with 160 of the 193 nations of the world. They are seeking our guidance in matters of agriculture, technology, and medicine.

When looking at the bigger picture, not only is all of this miraculous of biblical proportions, but we are witnessing the fulfillment of prophecies made over two thousand years ago.

It is far from an exaggeration to say that indeed the miracles we have been privileged to see, if we’d only open our eyes, do surpass that which our ancestors witnessed in Egypt.

Chag Sameach

Shevet Moriah

I am proud to be a member of Shevet Moriah. We are high school graduates from the Class of 1971. We are all members of Bnei Akiva, a religious Zionist youth organization.

We met in high school and we have remained close friends for about fifty years. We have become more like an extended family rather than just friends. We began as innocent youth that met socially on a regular basis. We were instilled with idealism and a love for Israel. Many of us fulfilled this Zionist dream by making Aliya and strengthening the State of Israel.

This sense of family was felt very strongly when one of our dear friends tragically passed away suddenly. Each of us felt that we lost a sister and the pain was very great. The passing of Phylis Zisken Goldman, of blessed memory, who was a special lady respected and loved by all, affected us deeply.

The passing of a dear friend coupled with plans of a Shevet Moriah reunion next November, made me realize that I was fortunate to be a part of something very special. Approximately twenty five couples from the States as well as over fifty couples living in Israel, have already registered for this reunion.

The sad reality of our Moriah experience is that it seems highly unlikely that this could be duplicated in today’s world. We had a certain innocence about us. For the most part, we were able to maintain Platonic relationships between boys and girls. Our rabbis were aware of our activities, and allowed us to continue. There are very few couples from this group who married. It was a wholesome comeraderie.

Today’s Judaism does not have that same sense of idealism. Our youth is not innocent in today’s society with the internet and an overall lack of morality. And the rabbis of today are much more extreme and would not allow such “mixing” between boys and girls.

Perhaps telling our story might inspire others to at least attempt what we have accomplished. In the meantime, I am so grateful to have been able to be part of this Shevet Moriah experience. And we all look forward to next November when our “family” gets together again to share our wonderful memories.

Her Son-Not Your Son

It is well known in Jewish law that a child is Jewish if his mother is Jewish. This is known as “matrilineal descent.” I will try to explain the basis for this law.

There are two places in the Torah that deal with the subject of matrilineal descent. The first relates to the subject of the Hebrew slave. A Jew can be sold into slavery if he was a thief and was unable to pay for the item he stole. As a form of rehabilitation, the court will assign him a Jewish family to live with and work for over a period of six years.

During those six years, his master may give him a non-Jewish slave to sire children with her. The Torah is very specific in telling us that at the end of six years, when the Hebrew slave goes free, “His (non-Jewish) wife and children belong to the master, and he goes free.”

The children are considered her children and not his, and they also have the status of Canaanite slaves. This case is our first proof that the offspring of a Jewish man and non-Jewish woman, follow the mother.

The second proof comes from today’s Parsha that discusses the prohibition of intermarriage in Chapter seven of Deuteronomy. This is explained in the Talmud in Tractate Kiddushin 68b.

The Torah is very specific by telling us, “You shall not give your daughter to his son, and you shall not take his daughter for your son.” The next verse begins with the words, “When your son shall be removed from before Me and he shall worship other gods.”

The Talmud explains that this verse is only referring to the case of your daughter marrying a non- Jewish man but not the case of your son marrying a non-Jewish woman. The reason being that the son that comes from such a union is “her son” but not your son.

The belief based on the Talmud is that this tradition taught by Moses himself was that the offspring of the union of a Jewish man with a non-Jewish woman is “her son” and not your son. Hence, that child is not considered Jewish according to Jewish law.

Hopefully, this gives a little better understanding of the origin of matrilineal descent. We must remember that the Jewish people managed to survive through a very harsh exile, due to their strict adherence to the Torah and traditions handed down from generation to generation.

Galut

M any do not really understand the term, “Galut”. We translate the word to mean, “exile”, but its significance is far greater than we realize. During the period of the “three weeks”, we are supposed to reflect on the curse or punishment known as Galut.

The Jewish people had a very special role that we were meant to fulfill in an ideal society. All of the Jewish people were meant to live in the Land of Israel. Each Jew was connected to his particular tribe, and each tribe was allocated their own parcel of land to settle.

The law of the land was the Torah and its implementation was left to the holy scholars of the Sanhedrin. The priests and Levites had their specific task in serving as the spiritual leaders of the people. Tithes were given by the nation to support these spiritual leaders as well as the poor.

The Temple in Jerusalem was a source of pride to the entire nation. The temples of Solomon and Herod were visited and admired by the nations of the world. There truly was a time when the prophecy of Ezekiel was fulfilled: “You will be My people and I will be your G-d.

The tragedy that led to our banishment from the land, was due to our turning away and violating G-d’s covenant to strictly adhere to the commandments. A people who were well versed in the Torah, began to be ignorant and apathetic of the sacred laws and tradition given from G-d to Moses.

Our Galut has lasted nearly 2000 years. Jews were scattered among the nations where they were usually unwelcome. Most of the years of our Galut involved suffering and persecution in every way imaginable.

The countries that welcomed us and treated us kindly, brought a different curse. This was the plague of assimilation and intermarriage that runs rampant in the world today.

The only good that could be said of our Galut is that individual Jews made their mark in setting a great example of exemplary morality and scholarship. Despite the hardships and challenges, we miraculously survived. This was only due to the meticulousness of each generation to remain steadfast in transmitting the Torah and its laws to children and grandchildren.

Today we see another fulfillment of prophecy when we were warned: “Behold a famine is coming to the Land. It is not a famine of bread and water. It is a famine of listening to the word of G-d.”

The ignorance of the majority of the Jews of the world is astounding. When once every Jew knew the Five Books of Moses by heart, even the most basic concepts allude most Jews.

In the long run, the affluence that Jews have known, does not spell Jewish survival. The rebuilding of the House of Israel with a return of over six and a half million Jews, is certainly a reason for hope and optimism.

However, until all Jews return to their roots and realize how precious our religion is, there is the necessity to pause and reflect on this very painful and bitter Galut. We must learn its lessons and pray that G-d returns the glory we once had with the rebuilding of the third Temple speedily in our days.

G-d and the State of Israel

R av Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Tzfat,made an important point regarding Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel Independence Day. We are to see the similarities between the redemption from Egypt and today.

Every time there was an incident of strife in the desert where G-d was questioned, the troublemakers always accused Moshe Rabbeinu of taking them out from Egypt as if it was his own idea.

We see this before the splitting of the Red Sea, and we saw it when they complained for lack of meat, and it was the excuse for creating the Golden Calf. Each time Hashem had to make it clear that Moshe was the messenger and Hashem in His glory, redeemed us.

Today we must never make this same mistake and attribute the miracle of the State of Israel to anything less than it being ONLY because Hashem decided that now is the time to rebuild the House of Israel.

I was deeply saddened to see the prime minister of Israel being unable or unwilling to give gratitude to Hashem, in a brief Independence Day message. Netanyahu claimed that he’s often asked by world leaders how to explain the establishment and incredible growth of the State of Israel. Instead of sanctifying the Name of G-d by telling all who will hear that we are enjoying G-d’s blessing and that is the only explanation, he praises the citizens of Israel.

It is true that the Jewish people are a great people with intense faith and amazing resilience. However, as we say in the Haggadah, if G-d had not taken us out, we would still be in Egypt no matter how wise and intelligent we were. Now, more than ever, when we have so much to point to and be proud of, we must not forget that without Hashem, none of these achievements would have come to be.

The Miracle of the State of Israel

Y ears ago Rav Meir Kahane used to begin his lecture tour with the following opening statement: “Anyone who has witnessed the events since 1948 and does not see the Hand of G-d, is not a non-believer, is not a scoffer, he is blind!”

This quote has been stuck in my mind this Yom Haatzmaut as Israel celebrates its 69th birthday. The accomplishments of this little country in such a relatively short amount of time, is nothing less than miraculous.

I was privileged to hear Rav Shmuel Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of Tzfat rattle off these miracles in the context of prophecies made over 2500 years ago. Some of his observations:

-The Jewish population in 1800 was only 7000 and in 1920, roughly 50,000. By 1948, the population rose to 650,000 and in 2017, nearly 6,500,000.

-There is a prophecy regarding the widening of the roads to Jerusalem. Our transport minister, Yisrael Katz, told Rav Eliyahu that his purpose in building a Tel Aviv-Jerusalem speed train, and the widening of the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, is in preparation of the building of the Beit Hamikdash.

-Israel is considered the eighth superpower in the world militarily, when we had only a makeshift army in 1948.

-According to Rav Eliyahu, the birth rate of Jewish women has surpassed that of Arab women, when once the average for the Arabs was 9.1.

-The number of countries desiring to have diplomatic relations has been rapidly increasing, where the nations of the world want to glean from Israel’s wisdom and technological advances.

-A final point that is so significant is that the growth of the State of Israel, proves that G-d has not rejected the Jewish people. On the contrary, Israel is the number one reason for the huge increase in non-Jews flooding our Jewish courts seeking conversion. As a rabbi, it has become easier to prove G-d’s existence, by simply pointing to our modern day miracles.

Indeed, anyone who doesn’t see the Hand of G-d that we are witnessing today, has to be blind. We must give thanks to Hashem that we have merited seeing the fulfillment of these prophecies in our lifetime. Chag Atzmaut Sameach!

Halacha

Pesach is definitely in the air with tonight being Rosh Chodesh Nissan. This is a holiday that tests one’s commitment to Halacha. On the one hand, it is clearly a holiday of abundant Chumrot, stringencies, as it is only one week and people tend to be extra strict during the week of Pesach. Admittedly, some of these Chumrot are often exaggerated, but the actual Halacha must not be compromised.

Years ago, I remember young students taking home a flyer titled, “Do it right on Pesach night. It had all of the measurements necessary in order to fulfill the Mitzvot of the evening. This included the required size of our wine glasses for the four cups, the amount of Matza, Maror, Karpas, etc.

Pesach is really a test for all of us to see how seriously we take Halacha and how thoroughly we want to follow it. Ideally, we are to act like the wise son in the Hagaddah. He wanted to know everything about Pesach to the last detail. So should we.

My Female Soldier

A great deal has been written and said recently that paints an unfair picture of religious girls serving in the IDF. I would like to set the record straight as the father of such a soldier.

Our fourth daughter decided that she was going to the army, unlike her three older sisters who did national service known as “Sherut Leumi.” At first we were apprehensive about her decision, mainly because of the bad press and the concern that the army will be a bad influence on her religious observance.

She was adamant that this is what she was doing. She joined a wonderful preparatory program that involved serious Torah studies at Kibbutz Ein Hanetziv, and the deal was done. Her Kibbutz experience intensified her love for learning at a higher level than at any time in her previous twelve years of study.

She has been in the army for nearly a year now and it has been an extremely positive experience. When she told people in the army that her father was a rabbi, they assumed I was a Reform rabbi. The idea that I am Religious-Zionist came as big a surprise as the fact that she did not hide that she was religious.

Our daughter works in a unit that works at rehabilitating soldiers who are greatly disadvantaged. Many come from the streets or from difficult home situations, and the army wants these soldiers to be productive members of society when they finish their service. This specific service involves teaching and building self esteem.

We are impressed that the IDF shows such concern for its soldiers. But we are more impressed by the dedication of these young “religious” girls and the devotion they show in their work. It is extremely rewarding and they have seen great success.

Aside from all of this, the willingness to interact between religious and secular is extremely important. It may sound shocking but there are numerous secular Israelis who have never even had a conversation with a religious Jew. This is not an exaggeration.

When these girls show a willingness to explain what it means to be religious, it bridges gaps and the girls themselves are strengthened. They know they are being looked at all of the time and must set a good example.

Admittedly, not all units are like this one and there are definitely problems of religion and the mixing of the sexes. It needs to be pointed out that giving “labels” to things, can be very damaging. The label that religious girls serving in the army are “damaged” does such a terrible disservice to so many remarkable young ladies.

In many circles, a girl is similarly branded for the terrible sin of “wearing pants.” Such an act of heresy may prevent the “good catches” from looking at a girl in pants. I am well aware of the rules of modesty and agree that dressing according to Halachic standards, is preferred. But this issue like so many others, is blown way out of proportion.

Meanwhile, I will tip my knit Kippa (a symbol of religious Zionism), to a number of very special pants wearing female soldiers, that bring us all a great deal of pride

Poisoning Innocent Minds

One of the beautiful aspects of youth, is the simplicity and innocence of young people. Despite the bravado of claiming to know everything, there still remains a great deal of gullibility and naïveté about the real world. When a young person picks up a history book, he will assume that the facts presented are authentic. They represent a true accounting of the events presented. As he grows older and becomes more seasoned and knowledgeable, he will learn that the very same period that he studied, can be learned from a totally different bent. The victims suddenly become the oppressors and the villains now become the heroes. What may have been thought to be crimes, become acts of altruism. Being older and wiser, our student learns that even history books are biased. The personal views of the historian are incorporated into the description of historic events. The reason why the media has been under attack so strongly, is that within their description of current events, there is an undertone of presumed values that are not shared by all. Just like the history books, it is almost impossible to be objective in reporting. Ideally, these values should at least be shared by the majority, but they are not. A case in point is the coverage of President Trump’s efforts to screen those entering America. His intentions are to protect the United States citizens from potential criminals and terrorists. This is why he wants to build a wall on the Mexican border. The drugs smuggled into the country and the crimes committed by many illegals, has led to the deaths of thousands of citizens. It would seem to make sense that people need to feel safer. Not only does terrorism kill, but drug overdose and armed robberies, do, too. Nevertheless, as obvious and logical that this might be, there still remains a philosophical question regarding collective punishment. One school of thought says that human life is sacred and the loss of one innocent human being cannot be taken lightly. If an entire ethnic group or people, suffer as a result of this, this must be done in order to prevent the death of even one person. Even though there are many of that group who could be honest, law abiding citizens, they will be included with the criminals. The second school of thought sees this as unjust. They are against collective punishment, for they see it as morally wrong to punish the majority for the sins of the few. This view of justice takes precedence even above the potential loss of life. Collective punishment is viewed as racist. And to be a racist is far worse than having innocent people dying needlessly. Mainstream media seems to adopt this latter view. The real issue of saving and protecting American citizens, is overshadowed by that dirty word called “racism.” Those proposing such laws can then be included with other notorious racists. This leads to the unthinkable where the “protectors” of the people suddenly become equated with Nazis, Heaven forbid. The masses are stirred up to violently protest this “threat to civilization.” There should at least be an attempt at objectivity by the media. They should not be fanning the flames of dissension by forcing their views on the masses. They should try to present both sides. They do not have the right to preach their view of morality in how they report the news.

The tragedy of this reality are the innocent minds that are poisoned by these biases. The same is true on college campuses where so called scholars impose their views on their students. At the very least, there should be a clear delineation by those in positions of influence, that they are presenting “their” view of truth. They should make it clear that other views exist that may also be correct. I once took a course on the Middle East conflict at a Chicago university. For 15 weeks, I was subjected to vicious anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rants by this professor. Eventually, other Jewish students protested against this so called scholar. There was a small victory as the name of the class was changed to “The Arab View of the Middle East Conflict.” Nobody has the right to force their views on others. Maybe a solution to this dillema would be to define the specific leaning of the presenters of the news. CNN would be called, “A Leftist Liberal presentation of current events.” Fox News would be “A Conservative presentation.” This would certainly avoid a great deal of confusion. Perhaps this would lead to the possibility of sharing views in a civil, respectable manner. I once debated a notorious leftist on the subject of our rights to Judea and Samaria. I made a point of expressing my views in a dignified and respectful manner. A mutual party asked each of us separately what we thought of our debating partner. Surprisingly, we each gave the same response. “He is a nice person but his views are dangerous!” This is the ideal in sharing opposing views. It is my sincere hope that sanity will shine through and there will be an end to all of the dissension and ill will. Goodness must prevail and evil must be destroyed. The world will then be a better place to live in

The Yardstick for the Jew

I t used to be that Jews were trained to adopt a philosophy regarding any election, that the candidate who is “good for the Jews”, gets the Jewish vote. Unfortunately, things have gotten very confused in the Jewish world and this confusion is so great that Jews are no longer certain what is really Jewish and what is not. Dennis Prager recently wrote an article blasting a Conservative rabbi for advocating a fast day on the day Donald Trump was sworn in. Others felt the “Jewish” thing to do was to sit Shiva after the election results came in. Prager contends that to the Liberal Left, their philosophy represents true Judaism and anything else is not Jewish. It is absolutely necessary to restate the impact that the State of Israel has on worldwide Jewry. The image of the Jew has changed dramatically since we have Israel. Jews are viewed with much more respect and dignity because of Israel and the Israel Defence Forces. Jews are safer all over the world because Israel is protecting them. In short, the treatment of Israel reflects an attitude towards all of the Jewish people. If someone speaks out against Israel, he is belittling the entire Jewish nation. Zionism and Judaism are one and the same. One cannot hate Zionists and love Jews. Today, political correctness has taken priority over much more important issues. Because of the tremendous influence of the media, being polite and outwardly accepting, gives a politician great leeway in covering up dangerous views. And to the contrary, if one has ideas that will benefit the world, but he cannot express them in a politically correct manner, they will be discarded. The Torah acquaints us with our first politically correct villain. Lavan, whose name means white. He always seemed to say the right things. He found a rationale for switching Rachel and Leah, and for cheating Jacob in every way possible. At our Passover Seder, we mention that Lavan wished to utterly destroy us. Our prophets warn us to “Beware of the smoothed tongue.” Former President Obama is constantly praised for his grace, charisma, and gentlemanly manner in how he conducted himself during his presidency. People are fooled into thinking that he is a friend to Israel. Ironically, he is our modern day Lavan. Obama’s inability to say the words, “radical Islamic terror,” and at the same time, relentlessly blaming Jewish settlements for all the problems in the Middle East, is very Lavan-like. His promoting a deal with Iran, a nation that sponsors terrorism, is an obvious affront to Israel and the Jewish people. Obama’s abstention during his last month in office at the United Nations was despicable and showed how he really felt about the Jews. If someone is bad for Israel and the Jews, he is not our friend. Every Jew who voted for him, should feel ashamed. All is not in vain, if a lesson is learned from this. Assimilation is the greatest tragedy in our times. Not only is intermarriage a plague, but so is the assimilation of truly Jewish ideas. When all is said and done we have the G-d of Israel and our own people to rely on. History has taught us this lesson through a long and painful exile The Rabbis repeatedly speak of truth and peace, Emet and Shalom, going together. When we recognize the truth, as difficult as it may be, we have peace of mind. Let us hope we learn from this very tumultuous election, to be wiser and support only those who truly support Israel, the Jewish nation, and show respect for the G-d of Israel.

Their Religion - our religion

The reaction by the Liberal-Left to the inhauguration of Donald Trump and his election to the US presidency, is difficult to understand. There are hundreds of thousands of individuals, who are still in a state of shock and mourning, because their candidate lost. Perhaps an analysis of the beliefs of the Liberal-Left in contrast to traditional Jewish beliefs, may shed light in explaining this intense response to a legitimate democratic process in choosing the leader of the free world. It appears that the philosophy of the liberals has developed into a kind of religion. If this is accurate, and its devotees feel certain that they have the monopoly on all that is just and merciful in this world, it is understandable that they lament the blindness of those who do not “see the world as they do.” And what adds salt to their wounds, is that the winner epitomizes the opposite of this great wisdom of the religion of Liberalism. The Liberals have an attitude that it is not possible to be more compassionate and caring than they are. They are so sure of this that they mock those who live according to the Torah. Their arrogance convinces them that the Torah is no longer relevant. Since it is outdated, they needed to step in and teach the world proper values. G-d’s holy Bible has no relevance to today’s sophisticated, technological world. Traditional Judaism believes the Torah applies for all generations. It is a reflection of G-d’s will in the universe. We are totally subservient to Him. His exaltedness does not allow for any other value system or philosophy to come close to the Torah, in terms of justice and morality. The Rabbis speak of humility as the prerequisite to piety, and freedom from sin. Humbling oneself allows a person to turn evil into good. The negation of the Torah and G-d, and substituting instead a new definition of right and wrong, is anything but, humility. The Liberal religion believes that evil does not exist and man is inherently good. Crime is only an expression of frustration. If everyone received love and understanding, and economic opportunity, there would be no crime. Our Torah believes that G-d created good and evil. It is up to man to use his free will to make the right choices. If he chooses good, he is rewarded. If he chooses evil, he will be punished. Unlike the Liberals, there is absolute accountability for one’s actions. The Liberal religion stresses the importance of doing what makes one feel good and be happy. As long as nobody is directly being harmed, feeling happy outweighs real morality. The Torah believes that every Jews’ actions affect the world. There has to be a system that tells a person when he has crossed the line, in his pursuit of happiness. This is the reason for the Seven Noachide Laws. A society must maintain limits, if it is to thrive and certain types of pursuing happiness, are morally wrong and unacceptable. The issue of collective punishment is very different according to the Liberals and the Torah. The Liberals will welcome refugees as a sign of benevelonce, and are willing to take the risk that they are inviting criminals into our country. The Torah demands that we do all in our power to protect the lives of every Jew. There is no glory in allowing ourselves to be killed because we won’t shoot the enemy that uses a child as its human shield.

Probably the most infuriating aspect of the Liberal religion, is seeing someone who is not politically correct. If one can be perceived as a mysoginist, homophobic, or xenophobic, it makes the blood boil. The Torah does not wish to insult anyone, but clearly, the three cardinal sins of murder, idolworship, and sexual immorality, are so severe, that one must be prepared to die rather than violate these transgressions. It seems that to the Liberals, nothing can be worse than to be a racist or even tell an ethnic joke. The liberal views stated above, are constantly being reinforced by the media. They have been adopted by the masses. However, there has now emerged an even louder voice saying that the world is not a better place because of these views. People are not happier and do not have any real direction as a result of thinking this way. The Torah system has survived for thousands of years because it represents G-d’s will in His world. The realization that Liberalism is not correct would make a liberal sad and depressed. But instead of mourning, serious soul-searching is necessary. Humility as described by the Rabbis, is desperately needed to fix that which was made crooked. There is a striking similarity between the world of the liberals crashing down and the Arab-Israeli conflict. For centuries, the Muslim world viewed the Jews as rejected by G-d and that Islam was meant to rule the region known as the Middle East. It was inconceivable that a Jewish entity of any size could exist in the region. They were so sure of the truth of their beliefs. Now that there is a strong return of over six million Jews to their ancestral homeland, instead of seeing Israel as a fluke and wishing to destroy us, there should equally be an acceptance of reality. The only absolute truth in the world is G-d and the Torah. If Donald Trump continues to ask G-d for success, he will succeed in a big way. In the words of the Tanach, “G-d and the Torah are One.”

Trump and Jewish Loyalty

Shavua Tov from LA. I was able to watch the inauguration live which was very memorable. At 12:00 noon on Friday when Trump was sworn in, I had an overwhelming feeling that at that moment, the world became a better place as evil was weakened. In שמות פרשת ,we get a glimpse of our first encounter with self-hating, traitorous Jews. Rashi quotes the Midrash describing how Moshe Rabbeinu, when he was prince of Egypt, could not understand what the Jewish people could have done to deserve being enslaved by another nation. After killing the Egyptian, he is approached on the following day by two treasonous Jews who are not loyal to Moshe’s heroic act. They become informers to Pharoah of Moshe’s act. When Moshe sees this, he says, הדבר נודע אכן” .Now I understand the matter.” The Midrash says that when Moshe saw this lack of loyalty between Jews, and their willingness to help the enemy, he felt this was the reason why they deserved to be punished so severely. May Hashem grant us the ability to destroy the enemies from within, by having them do Teshuva. Needless to say, our enemies from without should also be destroyed. And it would be a good idea if our leaders in Israel would learn from Trump, and openly ask for Hashem’s blessings and help

Sarah's Fulfilled Life

Shavua Tov. There is an interesting explanation to the death of אמינו שרה .Most commentators connect her death to יצחק עקידת and the grief she felt caused her soul to leave her. Another way of looking at this episode was that the Akeida was the very incident that gave Sarah, the ultimate satisfaction and contentment as a Jewish mother. The goal of every Jew is to raise their children and grandchildren in the way of Judaism according to the example they set and the values they instill in them. This is a lifelong task that is usually never completely fulfilled. In Sarah’s case, Yitzchak was everything she had in terms of the future. When she heard of her son’s incredible faith and willingness to sanctify Hashem’s name at the Akeida, her life was done. Yitzchak had surpassed her in a way beyond anything she could have taught him. She died a happy woman. We should follow Sarah’s example of making it our biggest priority to never stop trying to teach our children right from wrong, holy from profane, and important from unimportant. Hopefully, our children will listen and glean from our wisdom and experience.

Is the Torah on Trial

It often amazes me that in the State of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people, that quoting from our holy Torah can bring with it claims of racism. Many have lost their potential appointments to important positions by committing the “crime” of quoting from the Five Books of Moses. On numerous occasions, Knesset members were removed from the podium for reading direct quotations from Maimonides and his Mishne Torah. This is a very strange phenomenon when we are known as the “people of the book.” It is likely that the primary miracle of Jewish survival during an Exile that has lasted nearly two thousand years, was because of our study and strict adherence to the Torah given on Mount Sinai, as was transmitted by Moses our Teacher. Until modern times, the perfection and sanctity of the Torah was never brought into question. It was understood that this was the only book that was written directly by G-d Himself. It was accepted by way of a covenant that this book applied for all generations. It was impossible for it to grow outdated. Every father and grandfather in every generation took the utmost care to give over meticulously the details as to how to live by the Torah’s teachings. The ability to challenge the validity of the Torah’s teachings has to come from either a great deal of ignorance or unbelievable arrogance. The ignorance might be able to be comprehended on one level. There are many Jews who have never studied or were never really exposed to its teachings. There was a recent study in America that showed an extremely high number of people who did not even know the contents of the Ten Commandments. The very idea that any individual who serves as a judge in Israel on any level and is not well versed in just the basic teachings of the legal system of traditional Judaism and Jewish Law, is unacceptable. If there is such ignorance, it may begin with the assumption that there is no validity to that system. This is where the arrogance comes in. For anyone to casually brush off the teachings of the Torah and the great scholars that existed in every generation, screams out arrogance to the highest degree. Is it possible to say that one’s own value system and determination of right and wrong is more compassionate and more just than that which we received on Mount Sinai? It’s as if this individual is saying to G-d, “You did an admirable job when we heard You speak the first two of the Ten Commandments on Sinai. The book You wrote served us well for a time but, unfortunately, Your book is no longer applicable to today’s modern technological world. But don”t worry, G-d, we’ve come up with our own system that we think works much better than what You gave us.” In essence, this is what is happening today. Often people who are believers in the Torah’s teachings, are accused of not being able to think for themselves. Those who believe that the world was created in six days, are given the title of “creationists”, as if there is something wrong with them for believing in the written word. The reality is that it’s time to accept that the alternative that has been presented, has failed miserably. The degradation of morality continues to decline. Recently MTV carried a segment urging young people to examine if perhaps they need to change genders. Already the Target Department Stores have decided to allocate thirty million dollars to create transgender bathrooms! The “it makes me feel good” philosophy, or so called tolerance of all types of deviant behavior, is not making the world a better place. People are more depressed and more unhappy. It’s time we stop putting the Torah on trial, and go back to living by its truth. The Torah has served us well for the past 3300 years. The irony is that we would not have a State of Israel without it and yet, so many reject it. As we say in our prayers when we place the Torah to the ark, “It’s ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace. Bring us back Hashem to You, and we will return. Renew our days as of old.”

Mr. Trump - Rebuild the Third Temple

Dear Mr. Trump,

When I voted for you, I hoped you would be the first American president to make it clear

that the settlements are not an obstacle to peace. I then watched a clip where you understood that a two state solution was not viable because of all of the hate and incitement in the Arab world. Children from the age of two are already being brainwashed to see Israel and the Jewish people in the worst way.

I would add to this that it is against the Islamic religion to recognize a Jewish entity of ANY size. They believe that the entire region is meant to be pan-Arabic. To accept a State of Israel, would be an admission of the falsehood of the religion. This is a bigger problem than even the hate and incitement that makes a solution that much more difficult.

You are about to become the most powerful man on earth. When it comes to the Middle East, every president has tried to build his legacy by forcing an unrealistic settlement on the parties in conflict. I would like to suggest that you build your legacy in a way that wasn’t attempted for a few thousand years.

Mr. Trump, you have developed some of the most amazing building projects in your career. Rebuilding the third Temple, would be your most ambitious project by far. The Temple was a place that actually brought peace to the world. The Rabbis of the Talmud have stated that had the nations of the world known how much they benefited from the Temple, they would never have destroyed it.

There is an interesting precedent to this proposal. In Scriptures in the Book of Nehemiah, we learn that King Darius was approached by Nehemiah, his butler, with the request that the walls of Jerusalem be fortified so that he and Ezra would succeed in rebuilding the second Temple.

There are opinions that say that Darius was the son of Esther and Achashveirosh, the King of Persia. You might remember that the good king also liked women by trying to show off his wife’s beauty and then making a beauty pageant to choose the new king. The Talmud adds that at the feast of Achashveirosh, he got into a deep philosophical discussion as to which women are more beautiful based on where they came from. That discussion would certainly qualify as “locker room” talk. 

By building the third Temple, you will help bring back morality and holiness to the world. It will cause everyone to want to get closer to G-d and elevate himself to be a more righteous and caring individual. Knowing that Temple service will be restored to the holiest place on earth, will have a ripple effect throughout the world.

I realize that we might have a little problem with the El Aksa Mosque as well as the Dome of the Rock. Our modern technology will allow us to move these buildings to Mecca without causing any damage to these ancient structures. Mecca will then become an even more popular place of prayer than it is today. If you get resistance from some world leaders, Putin will have your back for sure.

As for the details as to how to do the actual construction, the Temple Institute is ready to assist you. Rumor has it, that there is even a Red Heifer waiting for service. Through your efforts, the world will change dramatically for the good.

So many people laughed at you when you decided to run for president. They are not laughing any more.I know you like challenges and you want to make your mark on the world. As crazy as all of this sounds, Mr. Trump, you just might be the one to pull this off. Oh, and by the way, an added bonus for getting the job done, will be the coming of the Messiah. 

The Loss of Morality

The great Jewish philosopher and Torah scholar, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, in his classic work, Path of the Just, makes a brilliant observation regarding human nature.

The Ramchal, as he is also known, writes of the importance of reviewing and repeating basic and somewhat obvious lessons of human behavior. As obvious as they might be, if people are not reminded of these teachings, they will be forgotten.

An example of such a situation would be how society judges a righteous person. The obvious definition would be to describe an individual who loves and fears G-d, and he occupies his time doing numerous acts of kindness. He would be loved and respected and regarded as a righteous person.

Rabbi Luzzatto explains that if this definition were not repeated on a regular basis, after a while people would forget and a new description of “righteous” would emerge. The new “Tzaddik” would be one who fasts all of the time or immerses himself in a ritual bath of snow, and does other outragous acts of holiness. The true righteous person would now be overlooked as too ordinary.

I fear that we are experiencing a similar situation of forgetfulness in today’s society. Basic concepts that were seen as obvious, because they are no longer emphasized, have become forgotten.

The older generation that I proudly admit to being a part of, were taught basic moral truths. It was a given that when a young man or woman grows up, he or she are expected to marry and raise a family. If a couple would choose to live together before marriage, it was shocking and considered promiscuous. Virginity was something cherished and couples were expected to wait until marriage before engaging in sexual activity.

For whatever reason, such values were not repeated, and were forgotten. The “new morality” replaced the old, and people who held on to these old values were shunned and seen as archaic and out of touch with reality.

What is even more painful is that a basic value as faith in G-d, and trusting that the truths taught in the Bible, still have relevance, has also been forgotten. There have even been numerous articles belittling people who believe in the Bible’s description of creation.

The assumption is that the new values (or lack of them) becomes the norm. The old values are substituted with a repeated mantra of “do whatever makes you feel good.” Or, “if it makes you happy, it has to be right.”

Such views lead to a breakdown of all that is sacred. It creates a society of instant gratification. Marriage is seen by many as too difficult, not to mention the hardships of raising children. There is a lack of appreciation for those who understand that intimacy is sacred. We are not animals that need our lusts satisfied the moment one’s desire is awakened.

We would do well to learn from scholars who understand the world and are able to clarify right from wrong, and holy from profane. We need to study and review over and over again, their sacred teachings. If we don’t, we might be seduced into believing that the “new morality” has validity and represents progress. The reality is that the world is not a better place because of the loss of real morality. 

Settlements, Anti-Semetism and Self-Hating Jews

The great Jewish philosopher and halachist, Maimonides, once made a very poignant statement. He said that one who says he only follows the Written Law and not the Oral Law, is really saying that the entire Torah is false.

The point here is that people often camouflage their true feelings so as not to sound too extreme for fear of being unpopular. It is unacceptable to openly say that one hates Jews. Therefore, in our modern sophisticated world, this sentiment is expressed in a more subtle way.

In the 70s, the anti-Semitic campaign was initiated with slogans such as, “Jewish people, yes. Zionism, no.” There was also an attempt to equate Zionism with racism. One’s conscience could be clear for one might justify one’s feelings by thinking that he or she only hates Zionists and not Jews. The reality, of course, is that Jews and Zionists are one and the same.

Later, a new mantra was initiated to play on the sentiments of the liberal world by repeatedly mentioning the “self determination of the Palestinian people.” Suddenly, the same Jewish people that were persecuted for nearly 2,000 years, became the “bullies” to this poor downtrodden people. This proved to be another successful attempt that aroused those anti-Jewish feelings.

The most successful campaign to undermine the entire Jewish people is the repeated declaration that “Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria are an obstacle to peace.” It must be stated loud and clear that anyone who expresses this view is actually covering up his hatred of Israel and the Jewish people! And if a Jew believes this to be true, he is a self-hating Jew.

Once and for all the truth must finally come out with no apologies. Israel is not in “occupied” territory but Jews have returned to lands promised to us in the Bible and liberated in a defensive battle. If the Palestinians truly wanted peace, why can’t they accept living side by side with the Jewish people. The Jews will live in their settlements and the Arabs will live in their villages. Most settlements were established on empty hilltops far away from Arab populations. Is this an obstacle to peace?

Any non-Jew from the United Nations to the President of the United States who reinforces this notion of “settlements being an obstacle to peace”, does not like the Jewish people. It is a cover-

up for their great disdain for Israel and the Jewish people. We are not occupiers and we do not mistreat the Palestinian people. Failure to acknowledge this, fans the flames of Jew hatred.

If a Jew adopts such a philosophy regarding the settlements, it is an indication that he is ashamed of his being part of the Jewish nation. He would rather be “politically correct” and feel the pain of foreign nations than feel the plight of his own people. This makes him a self-hating Jew because he does not take pride in his Jewish heritage and the specialness of being a Jew.

This disconnection from his Jewish roots, causes him to bend over backwards to try to “understand” the frustrations of those who wish to destroy us. They delude themselves into believing that if they were only given love and economic opportunity, they would behave. They become blind to the vicious hatred that threatens Jewish survival and they aid the cause of the enemy.

If we would finally collectively announce without hesitation that this “obstacle to peace” is an anti- Semitic declaration, we would all be better off. When lies and falsehoods are allowed to exist in the world, darkness and evil is given strength. If we are to be a “light unto the nations”, we must eliminate falsehood with truth and goodness.

Israel’s existence and revival is good for the world. For out of Zion comes compassion, love of mankind and all that is sacred. We are in an era where G-d’s glory is again being manifest in the world. This light will shine brighter when lies and deception and the covering up of truth continues to exist. The first lie that must be put to rest once and for all is the “occupation” question. Settlements are not an obstacle to peace. Hatred of Jews and Israel is the real obstacle to peace. 

 

Incredible New Way to Learn Hebrew: Introducing- Hebrewvision

Mr. Avi Natan and EBS Publishing have developed a new and exciting method of learning Hebrew. It is designed as an application for I-Phones, I-Pads and Apple Computers. To our knowledge, this method has not yet been tried in the teaching of any language. The idea is to take into account the way that knowledge is being transmitted in the age of advanced technology. The information is given over by numerous videos and interactive stimuli. Instead of memorizing words or concepts, they are taught through making associations and being entertained. The videos themselves are creative and fun to watch. It becomes much easier to learn the language by making associations and by pushing buttons to get to the right answer. The Hebrew words are repeated and a translation and transliteration comes with each word. The presentation is done in such a way that it can even be mesmerizing to children as young as toddlers. On numerous occasions, I took out Hebrewvision from my phone to entertain children who were waiting in a line and driving their parents crazy. Instead of spending hours on pointless video games, Hebrewvision is similarly entertaining and children are learning at the same time. The application is meant for people of all ages and is divided into six books. Each book ends with a test to see if the information is being grasped. It can be used in a classroom setting or could be ideal for tourists trying to find their way in Israel. It is useful for anyone trying to expand his knowledge of the Hebrew language. Each book becomes a little more sophisticated than the previous one. The first book teaches the Hebrew letters with each letter associated with a different animal. There is a short video of that particular animal with the letter flashed as well as the name of the animal in Hebrew with its translation and transliteration. The viewer presses buttons that give the name, letter, and sound of the animal. The second book teaches numbers and how to tell time. Each number has it’s own video or game. For example, the number four has four balloons appear and the the student pops the balloons and is then taught the number four. He will later move the hands of a grandfather clock to earn how to tell time in Hebrew. The third book is all about food. It is divided into sections starting with fruits and vegetables, followed by dairy items, fish and meat, as well as drinks. Each food has either a video or some button pushing to learn the names of these foods. One could take this to a market and find virtually every food needed. Some foods are presented in a comical way as the eggs fall to the floor and crack, the watermelon explodes, and the strawberry gets doused with chocolate. The fourth book is about the home. It includes colors, clothing and the items that one might find in the various rooms of one’s home. There are videos interspersed, with the student testing himself by dragging the items written to their appropriate place in each room. Again, the combination of the visual with interaction is designed to help remember the various words. The fifth book is titled, “world” and it contains the names of people of various occupations. It gives the names of the places one might visit when he is out in the world. This includes restaurants and malls, synagogues, churches, and mosques, just as an example. It teaches about the seasons and various types of precipitation. It also includes the various means of transportation. The sixth book is actual speaking with simple useful phrases being taught. It is basic Hebrew that would allow someone the ability to get along on a visit to Israel. The information is presented in a clever way that should also help one’s memory. We have not found any language being taught in this manner and we believe that this reflects the overall change in today’s world as to how we gain knowledge. Creativity, entertainment, and interactivity, seems to be the way we get people’s attention. Hebrewvision attempts to meet this change in the manner that the subject of Hebrew is presented.

 

Hebrewvision can be obtained by going to the Apple I-Books / I-Tunes Store and typing in the word: “Hebrewvision”. For more information, please contact me at: rav@ravkennycohen.com