Monday, November 30, 2015

MK Yinon Magal Resigns From the Knesset

That was quick:
Jewish Home MK Yinon Magal handed in his resignation to step down from the Knesset on Monday, as the testimony of a third woman accusing him of sexual harassment was revealed.

Party chairman Naftali Bennett responded on Monday, saying, "I received Yinon's resignation announcement, this is a fitting action. I hope that the process he is in will end as quickly as possible and he will be able to devote himself to his family and to his path ahead."

I'd like to jot down a few notes about this:

1) "The God of these (the Jews) hates lewdness" (Sanhedrin 106A) - the acts attributed to Magal, some of which he admitted to, are totally unacceptable.

2) On the other hand, "Nothing can stand in the way of Teshuvah "(Laws of Teshuvah 3:14). Indeed, God's mercy is everlasting...the political system not so much.

3) Kudos for Magal for resigning and not "grabbing the horns of the altar".

4) It looks like Yinon Magal will be replaced by Avi Wortzman, who in my eyes proved to be a worthy representative in the previous Knesset.

5) It is interesting to note that the chain of events leading up to Yinon Magal's resignation was a post on Facebook, which gives us another example of the power of the Social Networking Sites.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

November 30th: Remembering the Jewish Refugees

On June 23, 2014, the Israeli Knesset passed a law designating November 30 as an official date in the calendar to remember the uprooting of almost one million Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran.
On this day we will remember the plight of these people, many of whom left all of their property behind. These refugees were successfully absorbed, mostly in Israel but not only in Israel. In contrast most of the Arabs who left their homes in Israel did so voluntarily, at the behest of the invading Arab armies. They are political pawns, whose refugee status is being perpetuated by the Arab states and UNRWA.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Dvar Torah For Parashat VaYishlach

It is well known that "what happened to the fathers is a sign for the children." The people of Israel, throught the generations, experience many of the same trials and tribulations that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob experienced.

Jacob is finally going to come back to his place of birth, the land of Israel. But it is not going to be easy! "The Holy One Blessed Be He gave three good gifts to Israel, and all of them He did not give except through affliction, and they are: Torah, and the Land Of Israel, and the World To Come"(Berachot 5A). And what happened to Jacob is a sign for his progeny:

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
Who was the man that wrestled with Jacob? Rashi says:
Our Rabbis explained (Gen. Rabbah 77:3, 78:3) that this was the prince (guardian angel) of Esau.
Esau tried to prevent Jacob from returning to his homeland ,but he did not succeed:
And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was strained, as he wrestled with him. And he said: 'Let me go, for the day breaketh.' And he said: 'I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.' And he said unto him: 'What is thy name?' And he said: 'Jacob.' And he said: 'Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for thou hast striven with God and with men, and hast prevailed.' And Jacob asked him, and said: 'Tell me, I pray thee, thy name.' And he said: 'Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name?' And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: 'for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.' And the sun rose upon him as he passed over Peniel, and he limped upon his thigh.
Yes, Esau did cause some damage, but God healed Jacob's limp:
And the sun rose for him: This is a common expression: When we arrived at such-and-such a place, the dawn broke for us. This is the simple explanation. The Midrashic Aggadah (Tanchuma Buber, Vayishlach 10; Gen. Rabbah 68:10) [explains]: And the sun rose for him-to heal his limp, as it is said: (Mal. 3:20): “the sun of mercy, with healing in its wings”; and those hours that it hastened to set for him when he left Beer-sheba, it hastened to rise for him.
So it is today. The children of Esau are continually trying to prevent the return of the Jewish People to the land of Israel. They, like their forefather, succeed in injuring us. However, "There are many devices in a man's heart; but the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand." We are coming back, and nobody can stop us, for it has been foretold:
That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the peoples, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. If any of thine that are dispersed be in the uttermost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will He fetch thee. And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and He will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers.
Shabbat Shalom!

For more on the Parasha from your's truly: Here and here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sitting in the Shadow of Donkey Dung

We say that life today is rough,
The world was wiser when we were young.
I must admit that times are tough,
Sitting in the shadow of donkey dung.

The millenials are in a state of depression,
The bells of delirium have been rung.
They think it's climate change and microaggression,
Not detecting the shadow of donkey dung.

Myriads of manly beasts whose moniker I shall not mention,
Their carcasses are rotting in the sun,
All because they refused to pay attention,
To the shadow of donkey dung.

Perhaps it was better not to see it,
And that this song had not been sung.
But here I am and so be it,
Sitting in the shadow of donkey dung.

The Yinon Magal Scandal

I heard about this scandal not too long after I put up a post with him giving a brilliant speech to the Knesset in Arabic.

In the meantime, Mr. Magal has stepped down as the head of the Jewish Home faction in the Knesset.

I must admit that I was upset that Naftali Bennett put Yinon Magal on the Jewish Home Knesset list. I had never heard of him, but I did know of so many other deserving people who had devoted their life to the community that were pushed down the list because of this appointment. However, his performance as an MK has been impressive. Now it looks like he has some legal trouble ahead of him in addtion to an uncertain political future.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Yinon Magal Addresses the Knesset in Arabic

Israeli Resilience

The Muslims, in addition to the blood that they are shedding all over the world, have been on a knife wielding murder rampage here in Israel for the last two months. But the Jews in Israel are not cowering. They are defending themselves and carrying on with their lives.

Here are a couple of cases demonstrating that Israeli resiliency. The first case is the one of Leah Bowman. Leah was the tour guide that was attacked by an Arab who smashed a bottle on her head. Undaunted, she returned to the scene of the crime and is continuing to guide tours:

But, of course, I was left with a dilemma: I have been guiding in all areas of Jerusalem for years, feeling safe to go and explore, and loving it! What do I do now? Should I continue to do this? Thinking through everything that had happened, I realized that actually, the area very is safe with all the police and army all throughout the city, and the cameras. And more than that, I decided that I’m not going to let terror keep me away from what I love to do, and all the more so, Jerusalem and guiding throughout Israel. I will continue to learn, explore, and guide in every corner of the city and the country: Gush Etzion, the Dead Sea, Tel Aviv, and in Southern Israel, showing visitors the inspiring history, and about the security situation.

Learning about the history, archaeology, and Biblical sources is very empowering. With all of the problems we are facing in Israel and around the world, I think that the healthiest response is to take the opportunity to strengthen ourselves in our knowledge, commitment to what we believe in, and physically (and yes, I’ve signed up for an awesome program of self-defense classes for women in Jerusalem!)

Just a week after the attack, I was back in the exact same place giving a tour, and was able to say the blessing thanking God for doing a miracle for me in this place, and I can say that on my birthday, my life was renewed for me.

Leah has a blog that can be seen here.

The next case is that of Raz Bibi. Raz Bibi is a border patrol policeman who was stabbed and critically wounded by and Arab terrorist in May. Now Raz is back in uniform:

Roughly a month after the attack he was discharged from hospital and directly went to the Kotel (Western Wall) to pray and offer thanks for his miraculous recovery. Following another few months of heavy rehabilitation he once again showed his heroism by electing to return to active duty in the capital.

"From the moment when I opened my eyes in the hospital I knew I would return to wear the uniform of the Border Police. Today I'm happy that I returned to serve alongside my comrades in arms," Bibi was quoted as saying by the police.

"And who is like Thy people, like Israel..." (2 Samuel 7:23). "But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad...(Exodus 1:12). We are here to stay!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Some Thoughts on Jonathan Pollard Being Released From Prison

I am happy! I've been advocating for Pollard's release pretty much from the start of this blog. (Click here to see all of the posts where I mentioned Jonathan Pollard, sorted by date in descending order.) Blessed is He who redeems prisoners!

I know that there are many who will disagree with me on this matter, but even in this sad episode, Hakol LaTovah, it was all for the good. Here are some things to consider:

1) Before his capture Jonathan was a fairly assimilated Jew, far away from Torah and Mitzvot. During his jail stay, he became more observant, and was taken under the wings of one of the generation's greatest rabbis, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu zt"l. What started as a desecration of God's name has become a sanctification of His name.

2) By seeing the way the United States discriminated against Jonathan Pollard, American Jewry learned once again that Jew hatred exists at the highest levels of government. Pollard's suffering has come to teach Jews all over the world and especially in the United States that it's time to come home tho the land of Israel!

3) There is even a silver lining to the restrictive conditions of the parole. We can compare Pollard's redemption to the nation as a whole. The redemption of the Jewish People comes little by little. Why is this so? Because the transition from the darkness of the exile to the bright light of redemption would be hard to handle, if the redemption were to come all at once. Jonathan's gradual acquisition of freedom may actually be good for him in the same way.

Shabbat Shalom to Jonathan and Esther Pollard and to the entire Jewish People.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

What Makes Bernie (Sanders) Run?

Why should I care about Bernie Sanders? He will never be President of the United States! Americans are not that foolish! But then again you never know. The majority of them voted for Barack Obama - twice!

Rolling Stone magazine has this wonderful quote from Sanders:

You've said of Netanyahu, "I'm not a great fan." What's your issue with him?

Do I think that Netanyahu overreacted? Yes, I do. War is terrible unto itself. But I think that Israel overreacted and caused more civilian damage than was necessary. They have very sophisticated weapons systems. They make the case, and I respect that, that they do try to make sure that civilians are not damaged. But the end result was that a lot of civilians were killed and a lot of housing was destroyed. There was terrible, terrible damage done.

In order to evaluate Sander's expertise on the matter, here is a summary of his military experience:
Sanders applied for conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War; his application was eventually turned down, at which point he was too old to be drafted.
As an aside, how can a conscientious objector desire to be Commander in Chief of the most powerful army in the world? Would not he object to sending young men and women to kill and die?

It should be noted that Bernie Sanders, who said he is "proud to be Jewish", has the dubious distinction of being a pioneer of intermarriage in the United States, back in the 1960s, when the intermarriage rate was only about 10%. He divorced his non-Jewish wife two years later, fathered a child out from a different woman out of wedlock, and married his current gentile wife in 1988. Proud to be Jewish? Give me a break!

I would also like to note that I think that his socialist agenda is a disaster.

Woe unto humanity if this guy becomes President of the United States!

(The title of this post was inspired by this classic essay.)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Rashi's "I Don't Know": More Than Just Humility

Towards the end of this week's Torah portion, Toldot, we read the following:
And Isaac sent Jacob, and he went to Padan aram, to Laban the son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebecca, the mother of Jacob and Esau.
We know that Rebecca is Jacob's and Esau's mother. Why does the Torah bother to mention this. There must be something to be learned from this seemingly useless repetition of something that we already know. Rashi, the Torah's foremost commentator, has a surprising answer:
I do not know what this teaches us.
For someone of Rashi's stature to say, "I don't know" is a sign of great humility. But I think that there is more to this.

The Siftei Chachamim asks that if Rashi does not know what this comes to teach us, then why doesn't he just stay silent and not mention it? He answers that Rashi had several explanations, he just did not know which one was correct. I find this explanation hard to accept, for we see plenty of verses where Rashi offers multiple explanations. Here's one from this week's Torah portion:

It came to pass when Isaac was old, and his eyes were too dim to see, that he called Esau his elder son, and he said to him, "My son," and he said to him, "Here I am."
Why did Isaac lose his eyesight? Rashi offers three explanations:
Because of the smoke of these [wives of Esau] (who would burn [incense] to the idols) (Tanchuma, Toledoth 8; Pesiktha Rabbathi 12). Another explanation: When Isaac was bound on the altar, and his father was about to slaughter him, the heavens opened, and the ministering angels saw and wept, and their tears fell upon Isaac’s eyes. As a result, his eyes became dim (Gen. Rabbah 65:6). A third explanation: to enable Jacob to take the blessings (Gen. Rabbah 65:8).
I think that the answer to why Rashi wrote, "I do not know" is that he wanted assure the reader that indeed there is a difficulty in the text. When one learns Torah and he encounters a difficulty, he immediately looks to see if one of the great classic commentators had the same question. If none of our great rabbis asked the question, that may be a sign that he is not learning well, that he is "way off". So here Rashi is telling us that there is a question to be asked here, and that one who asks it is learning well!

Any questions?

Shabbat Shalom!

Monday, November 02, 2015

Kahane Memorial: It's Been 25 Years

Time does fly. It's been 25 years since Rabbi Meir Kahane of blessed memory was murdered by an Al Qaeda terrorist. Last night I attended the annual memorial in Jerusalem.

I've been to a few of these memorials in the past. It seems to me that every year the crowd attending the memorial grows. I am always surprised by the number of young people that attend. A very significant percentage of those there were born after Kahane was assassinated. A lot of those attending had that "hilltop youth" look, sporting large knitted skullcaps and long sidelocks. There were also a few Hareidi youth there. I don't know if they came out of curiousity or if they identify with Kahane.

One of the recurring themes of the evening was that we do not have too look hard for what is causing the recent terror wave. It's written in the Book of Numbers chapter 33:

51 'Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: When ye pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 52 then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their figured stones, and destroy all their molten images, and demolish all their high places. 53 And ye shall drive out the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein; for unto you have I given the land to possess it. 54 And ye shall inherit the land by lot according to your families--to the more ye shall give the more inheritance, and to the fewer thou shalt give the less inheritance; wheresoever the lot falleth to any man, that shall be his; according to the tribes of your fathers shall ye inherit. 55 But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then shall those that ye let remain of them be as thorns in your eyes, and as pricks in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land wherein ye dwell. 56 And it shall come to pass, that as I thought to do unto them, so will I do unto you.
"They must go." "There is no hope for coexistence with the Arabs." "If there are no Arabs there is no terror." Etc., etc. etc.

The Temple Mount also took center stage. Rabbi Yehuda Kroizer mentioned how more and more people are going up to the Har HaBayit. Aviya Moris, who famously called the "prophet" Mohammed a pig after being harrassed by Muslim women on the Temple Mount also spoke.

Another theme of the evening was reviewing the activities of various activists. Bentzi Gophstein mentioned that in the previous week his Lehava organization had rescued six Jewish women, some of them with children, from Arab villages. A film was shown that depicted some of the antics of activists Baruch Marzel, Dr. Michael Ben-Ari and Itamar Gvir.

Naturally, there was also an appeal for contributions. I don't think that these people are not receiving too much support from the government. :) I imagine that they were able to raise a little bit of money from the sale of Rabbi Kahane's writings and other goodies that was taking place at the entrance to the hall.

Rabbi Dov Lior arrived and was greeted with the singing of "Yamim Al Yemei Melech Tosif". He talked, among other things, about Rabbi Kahane's commitment to Torah study and his fine character traits.

To sum things up, Rabbi Meir Kahane and his son Binyamin may have been murdered, but their ideas live on.

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