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National Suicide: The Death of a Nation

Lemmings are known for their mass suicide: jumping off cliffs, to die in the sea. Americans are not known for mass or individual suicide.

 

wrong to have fought back?

wrong to have fought back?

An Israeli man who was stabbed in the neck has been criticized by Yariv Oppenheimer, head of the Peace Now organization for fighting back and killing his attacker. Given that the alternative for the victim was to let himself be killed, Oppenheimer was effectively advocating a form of assisted suicide. A similar view was held by another great peace advocate. Gandhi said the Jews should have committed national suicide during the holocaust, and simply let themselves be killed.

gandhi-jews-racism

The lemming mass suicides were dramatic, stirring the hearts of television viewers just twelve years after Gandhi counseled the Jews to follow the same path.   Audiences would have been glued to the screen to watch people with yellow stars sewn to their clothes, commit national suicide by willingly stampeding to their deaths.

Suicide at Masada

Madasa2CD_600aThere is actually a story of mass suicide by Jews at the fortress Masada, but it took place before the advent of transportable recording equipment, approximately two thousand years ago. The best we can do is to re-imagine the story from archaeological remains, and the historical account of Josephus. The television series were reconstructions (in 1981, 2002 and 2015), rather than actual recordings of events, allowing for greater artistic and political license. The heroic story of a thousand men, women and children who committed national suicide rather than surrender to the Romans gripped the imagination of the world, and of the nascent independent Jewish nation.

Stories abound as well about Jewish communities during the Crusades who committed mass suicide rather than submit to the crueler predations of the Crusaders. While the rabbis who permitted this were praised in some quarters, they were roundly criticized in others.

Do such suicides set a precedent? Is the leader of Peace Now following Jewish tradition when he says a victim of terrorism should refrain from fighting back?

No.

The Masada story has been seriously called into question. Yigal Yadin, the lead archaeologist who promoted the heroic tale of national suicide has been accused sacrificing truth for the sake of myth. There are too many questions about interpretation of artifacts, too many archaeological remains that don’t fit the story. While there may have been suicides, they likely did not take the shape or scale of the heroic account promoted by Josephus and Yadin.

Suicide is often a response to stress or depression. But it’s not a Jewish response, especially to life-threatening situations. Josephus, a Romanized Jew, gave a Roman cultural inflection to the story of Masada. The silence of the Sages of the Talmud on an alleged act of national suicide speaks volumes; either they disapproved, or it didn’t take place.

Contemporary Individual Suicide

There are many ways for individual suicide, using a knife, a gun, or a noose. A person can instruct his doctor to give him a lethal dose of medicine, or provoke a policeman into shooting him (“death by cop”). He can climb into a poisonous snake pit, or bring the snakes into his home.

Contemporary National Suicide

There are many ways to commit national suicide. If you weaken the forces that protect a country from its foes, then it’s easier for them to stab its citizens in the neck, whether literally or metaphorically. When the police are prosecuted for protecting citizens, the level of protection will naturally drop. When laws prevent people from defending themselves, the foes of the nation, whether foreigners or citizens, have a free hand. The country becomes the poisonous snake pit.

When a nation is told by its leaders that it is sinful, that it is a source strife around the world, that nation will turn upon itself. The Biblical exhortations of Isaiah are happy children’s stories, compared to the evils impugned by “progressives” on America and the Western world. When the President’s Church Minister says “God Damn America,” you have to wonder if the leader of the free world answered “Amen,” and took upon himself the responsibility of making it happen.

Citizens of America, Canada and the Western world are being told by people such as Yariv Oppenheimer that it’s wrong to defend yourself against someone trying to kill you. The citizens of Cologne, Germany, were told that rape doesn’t matter; better not to offend the perpetrators. Sexual trafficking of children is kept out of the news.  And governments, to the chagrin of their populace, bring in more and more “refugees,” whose ethnic or religious group is responsible for most of this crime.

Lemming Suicide

It seems that America, Canada and the Western world are rushing headlong over a cliff, like the lemmings. But it’s not as simple as it seems. The lemmings didn’t willingly jump to their deaths. They were pushed by film crews anxious for a good story.

Norway lemming (Lemmus lemmus)

Norway lemming (Lemmus lemmus)

Americans aren’t metaphorically jumping off cliffs either, clamoring for wholesale immigration of people who want to change the nature of the country.  Witness the wild popularity of Donald Trump, Geert Wilders or Marine Le Pen.  They’ve tapped into national revulsion to filling your home with snakes, many of which are poisonous.  Trump et al are considered pariahs or clowns by intellectuals and pundits. Like the lemming film-makers before them, these myth-bearers are also anxious for a good story, or rather a feel-good narrative, and they are willing to push their country off a cliff in order to get it. It’s the same story in many European countries.

Suicide is unnatural, and a bad way to greet the future, and so people are resisting having their nation run off the edge of a cliff. It may not make for a pretty story, but the alternative, killing the character of your country, is much uglier.

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Indigenous Jews, Indigenous People

inuit village

I’ve spent a lot of time living and working with Indigenous people. I spent a winter in the boreal forest with Indians, five hundred kilometers from the nearest road or telephone. My wife and I spent a winter in an Eskimo village. I’ve eaten raw walrus, raw beluga whale (while it was still alive), beaver, rabbit, caribou, and other stuff you don’t begin to want to know about.

The world recently marked Holocaust Remembrance Day, paying tribute to the six million victims. Well, Prime Minister Trudeau payed tribute to the victims, but refused to identify them as Jews. There have in fact been other holocausts, whether of Jews (think Chmielniki pogroms) or other peoples. Think American Indians.

Rabbi José Faur of Netanya, Israel writes of the Spanish American holocaust:

Not a single soul of the native population of Jamaica, Bermuda, St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, Panama, Cuba, etc., survived. …in the course of only fifty years, the Iberian conquerors managed to reduce the population of native Americans from eighty million to ten million. By the year 1600, the population of Mexico was reduced from twenty five million to one million. This is the greatest genocide in recorded history.

Things weren’t as bad in Canada. In South and Central America the natives were a disposable labor force, enslaved to extract precious metals. Canada existed because of trade with independent natives, who trapped furs and exchanged them for guns and other implements which in turn, made their lives so much better. There were wars on or between native groups, sometimes exploited by colonialists and traders, but the slaughter was limited.

In the United States, the land the Indians lived on was often considered more valuable than the lives of the Indians themselves. Various military forces slaughtered whole communities, from infants to elders. At Wounded Knee the men were separated from the women, then ordered to hand over their guns. First the men were shot, and then the soldiers turned on the rest of the villagers. Such predations were so common that the Sioux population was reduced to dangerously low levels. The Lakota People had lost nearly 80% of their people. To keep their tribes and clans going, they raided settlers traveling cross-country, adopting their children into the tribe.

Jews were sent on death marches during the Nazi Holocaust. The Navajo were sent on the Long March. The Cherokee were exiled on The Trail of Tears.

But it’s not just a history of suffering that Jews as indigenous people share with Indians. In fact, when the first colonialists came to North America, many were convinced that they had found indigenous Jews, the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, because of the many Hebrew-seeming practices. The Navajo and Eskimo for example, are very strict, on the issue of “Tumas Ohel,” contamination of a building by death. If a person dies in a Navajo Hogan or Eskimo igloo, the building is forever abandoned. The Eskimo will cut an opening in the wall of an Igloo to let the dead person’s spirit escape, similar to many Jews opening the window in the room of the dead.

Many Indians have a variation on the laws of “Nidda,” menstrual separation. They don’t send bloodied handkerchiefs to a rabbi for inspection, but have their own stringencies.

The Yucatan Indians practiced circumcision, the Incas had a ceremony that resembled Passover, and others had a form of “Yibbum,” where a widow had to marry her closest male relative. To the fifteenth and sixteenth century European mind considered the savages as indigenous Jews, joined together by practice and belief, if not by blood.

There were differences, though. The Jews clung tenaciously to their religion, whereas many South American natives were willing to accept Church teachings. Christopher Columbus was allegedly instructed:

In order that the Indians should love our religion, they should be treated lovingly, and should be given some merchandise and gifts.

Rabbi Faur continues:

Consider the common practice of snatching children from their mother’s arms and throwing them to be devoured alive by dogs, or smashing them against the rocks and throwing them to die in the mountains. The usual way to kill native leaders was in groups of thirteen, in honor of Jesus and the twelve apostles!

So much for loving treatment. The Spaniards were careful though to make sure that no one with Jewish blood, not even Conversos came to their colonies, lest they hinder the loving conversion of the natives.

Rabbi Faur explains the difference between the Jewish and Christian approach to Indians:

A determining factor in the Jewish attitude towards Native Americans is the Jewish view of the “other.” In Hebrew tradition, the “other” is not a “deformed” being, but only a different expression of the “image of God,” common to the children of Adam, the father of all humanity. The Hebrew term kamokha, “as yourself;” connotes a horizontal perspective. The biblical commandment to “love the other as yourself (kamokha)” excludes a vertical perception of the “other,” with all the monstrous consequences that this commandment had in Christian tradition.

Ultimately, the colonialists concluded that the Indians were not the descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes. They knew that their own religion came out of Judaism. To link the savages to the Jews, was to link the savages to Christianity, was to link the savages to themselves. Indigenous Jews was not a feasible paradigm.

When I was in an Inuit village for a winter, my being Jewish was of little import. One woman remarked that I was lucky, because it meant I would go straight to Heaven when I die. A Pentecostal Eskimo explained his fervent beliefs to me, but never tried to impose them.  A friend of mine who spent a year working in Baffin Island told me he never encountered any antisemitism from the Inuit, only from the white support workers stationed there.

There are actually many Native American indigenous Jews. A friend’s Shawnee Indian name means “Walking Knife.” He made Aliyah, moved to Israel about

15th c. Spanish ketuba

15th c. Spanish ketuba

five years ago. Another friend of mine, a brilliant Lakota Sioux Jewish woman, is a warrior: a Vietnam Veteran, who also served in the first Iraq war. Her mother had moved from the reservation to city on the west coast. She found herself taking an interest in Judaism, eventually deciding to study for an Orthodox conversion. From her studies the mother finally came to understand the old parchment that had belonged to her mother’s mother’s mother. It was a Ketubah, a Jewish marriage contract. The rabbi overseeing her study told her she was a returned person, the taken away who finally comes home. My friend’s mother was drawn to Judaism because she was already Jewish, a descendant of a child taken on an Indian raid; adopted into the Lakota people, but somehow never removed from her birth tribe. And although very different peoples, the indigenous Jews and the indigenous Lakota share a core value: a person is defined by his obligations and relations.

scene from movie Little Big Man

Little Big Man

The kidnapped child, adopted into his captor’s tribe is a common theme in literature. The 1970 film Little Big Man (starring Dustin Hoffman) tells the story of a white child raised by the Cheyenne. The movie title was the name of an actual Oglala Lakota warrior who fought at the battle of Little Big Horn. The recent British television series The Last Kingdom tells the story of an English nobleman captured as a child by the Vikings, and raised as a Dane. In the novel Quantum Cannibals, Osnat is adopted by a cannibal shaman, and learns the ways of her captors.

It’s true that many Native Americans are attracted to popular leftist causes, such as the Palestinians. In some areas, Muslims are marrying into tribes, and trying to gain control Indian reservations. In New Mexico, they are grabbing at the Native Art business.

Some natives are unabashed Zionists. I will close with the words of a non-Jewish Indian friend, a Metis named Ryan Bellerose, one of the strongest voices in contemporary Israel advocacy. He starts from the position that Jews and Indians are both indigenous peoples: the former from Israel, the latter from their lands in the Americas:

Ryan Bellerose

Ryan Bellerose

You want to be Jewish? Learn what that means. It’s not just about wearing a kipah and doing Shabbat once in a while; it’s not saying a few prayers sometimes; it’s a way of being, a totality of belief, action and life. You are not white Europeans, you have to stop thinking like them let alone acting like them. You even have a blueprint for it: it’s called the Torah.

…you just need to start being Jewish. The longer I am in Israel the more I am seeing the effects of resisting assimilation on your people. The more I see how important UNDERSTANDING what being indigenous really is.

I believe that indigenous people need to stand up for each other, that we all have something to learn from each other and that it’s a two way street. I have learned a lot from my Jewish friends and I hope they have learned a few things from me as well. So take it from a Real Indian, the Real Jews are the ones who remember who they are and the ones who have no problem telling you who they are. I believe that indigenous people need to stand up for each other, that we all have something to learn from each other and that it’s a two way street. I have learned a lot from my Jewish friends and I hope they have learned a few things from me as well. So take it from a Real Indian, the Real Jews are the ones who remember who they are and the ones who have no problem telling you who they are.

Indigenous Jews and indigenous Native Americans are related through customs and through the oppression we have endured. We are tied together as indigenous peoples, and as warriors. We can learn from each other.

(This essay was presented as the Sabbath sermon at the author’s synagogue)
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What Islam Says, According To the Experts

What Islam says, Expert Voices:

 

 

Bush Islam saysThat’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace

former President George W. Bush (Christian)

 

 

 


Obama Islam says

Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not “Islamic”

Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance

President Barack Hussein Obama (Christian- though some argue that his attendance at an Indonesian Madrasa indicates that he is Muslim)


Kenney Islam saysIt has nothing to do with being a Muslim or following the Islamic faith

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, commenting on a man who said he was motivated by Islam to shoot a policeman. (Christian)

 

 


 

Trudeau Islam saysI spend a lot of time running from the Bangladeshi to the Pakistani to the Maghrebian to the Sunnah Wahabi mosque.”

–Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Christian)

 

 

 


 

Merkel Islam saysIslam is part of us

–Chancellor Angela Merkel (Christian)

 

 

 


 

Hollande Islam saysMuslims are the first victims of fanaticism

–President François Hollande (Christian)

 

 

 


 

Hodges Islam saysThe Muslim community contributes to cultural, economic, and spiritual diversity of our city

–Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges (Christian)

 

 

 


 

Michel Islam saysIslam is a peaceful religion of compassion

Prime Minister Charles Michel (Belgium) (Christian)

 

 

 


 

Prince Charles Islam saysin the West, in turn, we need to be taught by Islamic teachers how to learn with our hearts, as well as our heads

Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales (Head of the Church of England)

 

 

 


 

Rajoy Islam saysNobody should fall in the gross deception that jihadism represents Islam… or the fallacy which says that there is an Islamic war against the West

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (Christian)

 

 


 

Pope Francis Islam saysFor authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Quran are opposed to every form of violence

Pope Francis (Head of the Roman Catholic Church)

 

 

 


 

Gandhi Islam saysThe sayings of Muhammad are a treasure of wisdom not only for Muslims but for all of mankind.

Mahatma Gandhi (Hindu)

 

 


 

What Islam Says, Dissenting Voices:

 

Adnani Islam saysWe will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women.

– Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the Islamic State’s chief spokesman (Muslim)

 

 

 


 

Wood Islam saysThe reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic… the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

– Graeme Wood, contributing editor at The Atlantic (religious identity unknown)

 

 


 

Baghdadi Islam saysIslam is the religion of war

– Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, BA, MA, and PhD in Islamic studies from the Islamic University of Baghdad; Caliph of ISIS (Muslim)

 

 


 

Erdogan Islam saysThere is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that’s it

– Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey (Muslim)

 

 

 


 

Khomeini Islam saysWe will export our revolution throughout the world because it is an Islamic revolution

– Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founding father of Iran’s Islamic Republic (Muslim)


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“So this is how liberty dies

…with thunderous applause”

I’m a sci-fi enthusiast. I love The Time Machine, the many volumes of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, Asimov’s Robot and Foundation series, and more. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen Star Trek (TV and film), and Star Wars.  When my kids were young, I ran Star Trek role-playing games at my synagogue. We had the toys, the costumes, the books, the video tapes, and then the DVDs. I gave religious talks based on sci-fi themes. I was a serious enthusiast. The scene in Star Wars- Revenge of the Sith, where Padme observes “this is how liberty dies…” is to my mind a critical political observation.

So I’m trying to understand why I’m not in a hurry to see The Force Awakens, the new Star Wars movie. It’s not because I’m getting old. It’s not because I’m afraid that Disney ruined the franchise, or that the Jedi have turned into Bambi. I trust the Director, J.J. Abrams. He makes good films. Nor am I concerned that The Force Awakens will only have a short run in theaters.

The reviews are great. My children and grandchildren loved it. The merchandising is ubiquitous. But I don’t care.

This is how liberty dies

In Aldous Huxley’s 1932 dystopian sci-fi novel Brave New World, the public is distracted from important issues by non-stop drugs and sex. In 1958, Huxley revisited Brave New World, examining contemporary western culture and finding that his dystopia had been realized. He concluded, to his dismay, that

what in fact has happened, above all in our Western capitalist democracies — the development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false, but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant… non-stop distractions of the most fascinating nature… are deliberately used as instruments of policy, for the purpose of preventing people from paying too much attention to the realities of the social and political situation.

How liberty dies- Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev

The Force Awakens is a distraction of the most fascinating nature. A new threat arises, thirty years after the fall of the evil Galactic Empire. We had a terrestrial equivalent to the Galactic Empire, and its end was sealed thirty years ago, with the appointment of the reformer Mikhail Gorbachev as leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The USSR was a utopian nightmare, whose goal was to spread its own brand of socialism across the entire world. Gorbachev dismantled its brutal system of central control, freeing the economy and allowing the people, and ultimately its subject nations the freedom to make their own decisions. Socialist oppression is for most of the world a bitter memory, its tens of millions of victims long buried. The few holdout states such as Cuba, North Korea, China and Vietnam are more concerned with nationalist issues than global ideological conquest.

We don’t have a new threat. We have the resurgence of a very old one. But it is just as dangerous as the unrealized Communist hegemony, and oh so much more depraved. While the Communist leaders had the ability to start World War III, they knew enough to back off, when actually facing it. Destruction of the planet was not an acceptable outcome.

How liberty dies Caliph of the Islamic State

The Caliph of the Islamic State

Islamic militants look forward to the apocalypse, the end of the world, to usher in an Islamic utopia. From Indonesia to England they have attacked tourists, schoolchildren, concert-goers, shoppers, transit users— anybody at the target location. There is no concern of avoiding collateral damage, when the intent is to wreak terror in a population you want to subdue.

Darth-Vader_6bda9114

The Caliph’s moral superior

Except in Israel, most western citizens will not be personally touched by terror. After all, there is a statistically higher chance of choking to death. Governments and media pundits respond to terror attacks by saying that terrorists don’t represent Muslims; I believe them. American political leaders claim that the Islamic State, ISIS, is not Islamic , and so there’s no need to worry about Islam’s growing reach, about increasing the Muslim population in the Europe and North America.

The leader of ISIS, its Caliph, has a PhD in Islamic Studies, and probably knows more than President Obama about what is and what isn’t “Islamic.” Nonetheless, many Americans, Canadians and Europeans will accept Obama’s assurances that ISIS is contained.  There’s nothing to worry about, even as the number and scale of terrorist attacks escalates. People can pay attention to their foes on the football field, or  the big screen. But this is how liberty dies… with thunderous applause. The unreal, the irrelevant distracts people from the actual threats in their neighborhoods, in their cities, countries, on their planet. They pay attention to the menace in a galaxy far, far away.

How liberty dies Yazidi children

Yazidi children on the ground

So I don’t care about the new Star Wars movie, at least not enough to rush out to see it. There is more important, more gripping drama taking place in my own galaxy, on my own planet; it deserves my attention. And it’s not something where I am a passive viewer, unable to affect the outcome. I can write letters to the editor, I can express myself on Facebook. I can donate to organizations such as CYCI— The Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children of Iraq. I can support the politicians who recognize the seriousness of the threat, and have a strategy to deal with it. With Star Wars- The Force Awakens, all I can do is decide how much money to spend on tickets and merchandise.

This is how liberty dies… with thunderous applause and deafening ignorance.

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Paris: A Fool’s Paradise Is a Wise Man’s Hell

A Fool’s Paradise Is a Wise Man’s Hell

Thomas Fuller

The twentieth and twenty-first centuries have seen incredible progress in science, technology, art, philosophy, morality, and more. Not only that, but we can

Senegalese farmers learning how to install the Tipa irrigation kit

access all that knowledge and wisdom from a device we carry around in our pockets. We have even transcended modernity according to many progressive thinkers, and moved into the “post-modern” era. There is no need for a religious messiah; we have carried ourselves into paradise, albeit a fool’s paradise. Truly these are enlightened times; the realization of humanity’s universal values.

These enlightened values are a force in themselves. John Kerry, the American Secretary of State reacted to Russia’s invasion of the Crimea by telling Russia “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped-up pretext.” The times, according to Kerry, dictate behavior. In a similar fashion, the new Prime Minister of Canada, when asked why a fifty percent female cabinet was important to him said, “Because it’s 2015.” President Obama, reacting to the Islamic terror attacks in Paris stated that “this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.”

It seems those values aren’t so universal.

Muslims make up over twenty percent of the earth’s population. While we can assume that most don’t support violence on the scale of the Paris attacks, if we look around at the world’s Muslim-controlled regions, we can see that they operate with different values than the ones adhered to by Secretary Kerry, Prime Minister Trudeau, or President Obama.

They made gallows just high enough for the feet to nearly touch the ground ... and they burned the Indians alive.'

‘They made gallows just high enough for the feet to nearly touch the ground … and they burned the Indians alive.’

But it would be wrong to assume that the problem is simply Islam. Christianity, followed by Islam, developed the concept of the religious enemy (in contradistinction to the political enemy). All non-believers are sub-humans, and bereft of rights. In early Spanish South America, for example there was a

…common practice of snatching [native] children from their mother’s arms and throwing them to be devoured alive by dogs, or smashing them against the rocks and throwing them to die in the mountains. The usual way to kill native leaders was in groups of thirteen, in honor of Jesus and the twelve apostles!”

The rape, torture and mutilation of native women by the Spaniards differed little from ISIS’ contemporary treatment of Yazidi and Christians. This contrasts with the Biblical rules of war for dealing with captive women, where such women were given a month to mourn for their captivity, and could not be sold or enslaved. And even the idea of

'A man bought me and took me to Tal Afar: when we arrived I was forced into marriage. That night he tied my hands and legs and he blindfolded me. Then he raped me. He hit me with a whip.'

‘A man bought me and took me to Tal Afar: when we arrived I was forced into marriage… he tied my hands and legs and he blindfolded me. Then he raped me. He hit me with a whip.’

capturing a woman was considered evil. It seems that a set of morals accepted over three thousand years ago is more enlightened than the values of a large part of humanity today.

Morality is not linear and progressive, especially if we are charting the behavior of mankind. It is a jagged line, soaring to phenomenal heights and astonishing depravity. We cannot expect the passage of time to elevate people’s behavior. There are no universal values that we all share, whether in the realm of political autonomy or the human right to life. It’s a fool’s paradise to think otherwise. Ask Vladimir Putin about the Crimea. Ask ISIS about the rights of captives. Ask a Muslim imam for an paris destructionunqualified condemnation of the Paris terror attacks. To use “universal values,” the “twenty first century” or the year being 2015 to formulate strategy is to walk from a fool’s paradise straight into the hell of Paris, Madrid, New York, Washington, or Buenos Aires… A wise man understands we are already there.

 

 

 

Your comments are welcome

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Rabbi Elimelech ’s Prayer of Fire

Monday, October 5, 2015 (Shemini Atzeret, 5776) is the twelfth anniversary of the death of my father, the renowned author and lecturer, Yehuda Elberg.  His novels and short stories were published in Yiddish, Hebrew, English, French, German and Spanish.  He was Scholar In Residence at Oxford University, and took part in summer programs in the former Soviet Union.  The following is one of his Hassidic tales.

 

Tehilla & Yehuda Elberg

Tehilla & Yehuda Elberg

Rabbi Elimelech ‘s Prayer of Fire

from Hassidic lore
Want

Want
Original art by Esti Mayer

If you think it was only in Givon that the sun stopped in its tracks, I beg your pardon, you’re wrong. It happened again when the tzaddik, Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk was still a young man, and a disciple of Rabbi Ber, the holy preacher of Mezritch.

Rabbi Elimelech—of blessed memory—was on his way to his rebbe. As he walked along immersed in holy meditation, he suddenly realized that the sun was about to set, and that it was high time he said the afternoon prayer, mincha. He entered an inn at the roadside, and went to the kitchen for water to wash his hands, as required by law before saying one’s prayers.

The inn filled with drunken coachmen singing with raucous voices. Ignoring them, Rabbi Elimelech walked over to the corner, facing east to Jerusalem. Every fiber of his body was filled with exaltation of prayer as his holy lips parted to begin the Ashrei, when suddenly the innkeeper burst out of the kitchen screaming: “Who stole my loaf of bread?”

“That bum over there was in the kitchen,” said the drunk, pointing at the Rabbi. The innkeeper grabbed hold of Rabbi Elimelech, and threw him out. He dragged himself to some trees nearby. The Rabbi stood against one and began reciting psalms to raise his fallen spirits, so that he could recite his prayer, with a pure heart and proper devotion.

When he reached Psalm 29 and recited the sentence, “The voice of the Lord bursts into flames of fire,” a fire descended from heaven and engulfed the inn. The innkeeper and peasants tried to extinguish the flames, but it was in vain for the water they poured on dried up instantly as if devoured by the fire, and the blaze raged on.

Rabbi Elimelech —of blessed memory—had just begun to recite mincha when he caught sight of the fire. He stopped praying, and turned his face to the blaze. The flames were reflected in his eyes as if they, too, were on fire.

“You did that on my account, right? You wanted to vindicate my honor, right?” the tzaddik called up to heaven. “But I don’t want that kind of honor.”

By now the sun was setting at the horizon’s very edge. The time for the afternoon prayer would soon pass, and yet the Rabbi’s lips were sealed. He did not complete the Ashrei, but simply stared at the conflagration, and stubbornly remained silent.

In another moment, day would pass into twilight. Heaven’s window had already been shut against the evening’s dew, and beads of moisture hovered between sky and earth; they could neither fall nor rise. The sun’s rim hung to the brink of heaven, as a drowning man holds on to the rim of a well by his fingernails, with his last ounce of strength. The stars could not be lit until Rabbi Elimelech’s mincha reached heaven. The sky turned bloody, as if the day was to be snuffed out beneath the knife of a slaughterer. All the trees in the wood whispered: “Nu, well, so now what?”

“I won’t say mincha for you until you put the fire out.” The tzaddik remained unyielding.7-The-Plough-Inn-rural-scenes-William-Shayer-Snr

Ought I tell you what happened next? Clearly Rabbi Elimelech had expressed his wish, and the Lord—blessed be He—fulfilled it. The blaze disappeared; the inn remained undamaged. It was only slightly scorched by the smoke, so that far and wide it would attest to the greatness of the tzaddik. The holy Rabbi continued the Ashrei with deep joy. “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, long forbearing, and of great mercy.”

As soon as the Rabbi—of blessed memory—had reached the closing prayer Aleinu, the dew descended in blessed abundance, and settled upon all that grows. The stars came out dancing, and covered the skies like jewels on a king’s crown. The Rabbi—of blessed memory—managed to get to Mezritch in time for the evening prayer, by a miraculous shrinkage of distance, I guess. The Lord loves his tzaddikim, and occasionally relaxes the laws of nature for their sake.

After the prayers, Reb Ber saluted Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk with the customary greeting “shalom aleichem” and added the words the angel spoke to Jacob when our forefather vanquished him, “For you have striven with God and have prevailed.”

Rabbi Elimelech began to tremble. He had not—God forbid—intended to challenge the Lord’s will. He merely meant to hold back a punishment.

The holy preacher consoled him: “If a mere mortal is not envious of his son or disciple, as our Sages have said, then surely even more so, our Father in Heaven would not be jealous. He takes pleasure in your compassion for his creatures.”

The grave of Rabbi Elimelech

The grave of Rabbi Elimelech

May the merits of the holy tzaddikim intercede for us, so that we be granted the privilege of serving the Lord with pure hearts and profound devotion.

Translated from the Yiddish by Shulamith Charney
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A Black Hole in His Heart

Bekenstein

Dr. Jacob Bekenstein, ZL

The groundbreaking theoretical physicist Dr. Jacob Bekenstein died on August 16, 2015, at the age of sixty-eight. Although not well-known in popular culture, he played a key role in developing ideas which transformed much of modern physics. He was the Polak Professor of Theoretical Physics for many years at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Racah Institute of Physics. Hebrew University is one of the targets of the BDS campaign to boycott and isolate Israel.

It’s easy to boycott a place: don’t go there. It’s easy to boycott a thing: don’t use it. It’s a little more difficult though when the thing is ubiquitous in society, such as much of modern medicine, or the technology behind most computers and cel phones. It’s difficult, but it’s possible. Despite his declared support for the Boycott, Divestment Sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel, the physicist Stephen Hawking has failed to give up the communications technology which allows his disease-racked body to talk to the world. It runs on a chip designed in Israel.

It’s even more awkward to boycott an idea, especially when that idea is the foundation of your most important accomplishments: the theories that brought you fame and honor, the work your reputation is built on. Stephen Hawking anyonewhoboycottswon’t boycott or give up his communication system. Nor will he boycott a physics theory from Israel, which powers the ideas he communicates.

A Black Hole in His Heart

Hawking is famous for his work on Black Holes. His two-faced support of the BDS movement demonstrates though that Hawking’s greatest disability is the black hole in his heart, not his disease. Neil Radow, a physics student at Bar-Ilan University eloquently explains the issues at hand.

*****

Israel, BDS and the Hawking Hypocrisy

We’re under attack through the BDS- Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions- movement. Particularly jarring is the academic boycott. That seemingly intelligent people have such a misguided view of the region is astounding. Not so long ago, the most famous living scientist, Stephen Hawking, joined the boycott.

Not only is his choice upsetting, it is- in his case- particularly hypocritical. Crippled by a horrible disease (Lou Gehrig’s syndrome), Stephen Hawking to all accounts is a story of success against all odds. Almost completely paralyzed, he moves and talks via machine; his robotic voice is recognized the world over. Despite his disability, Hawking has made important contributions to such fields as M-Theory (Superstring Theory) and the so-called “wave function of the universe.” His most important contribution, however, was his work on Black Holes. In 1974, Stephen Hawking showed that Black Holes emit radiation. This discovery earned him investiture as a Fellow at the Royal Society. Indeed, Black Hole radiation is now known as “Hawking Radiation.” The discovery proved that something actually does escape from Black Holes, as opposed to what had been previously believed. The new physics theory excited the science world.

Hawking’s work, like that of all science and scientists, is highly derivative. In this case, Stephen Hawking’s prediction of Black Hole radiation was derived almost entirely from the work of one man, the Israeli physicist Jakob Berkenstein, who passed away on August 16, 2015. Berkenstein has made many contributions to physics- particularly in the field of Black Hole thermodynamics, and was a professor of physics at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Of note, Berkenstein predicted that Black Holes would have entropy, essential to Hawking’s later prediction of Black Hole radiation.

The Bekenstein–Hawking entropy formula for a black hole

The Bekenstein–Hawking entropy formula for a black hole

To understand why, one must first understand what entropy is. For laymen entropy is often defined as the state of disorder of a system. A more accurate description in scientific terms is, however, more difficult. A complex system (i.e. group of different gasses in the air) can be thought of as a deck of cards. If the cards are arranged in order- aces, twos, threes, etc.) that represents the system’s state of highest order, or lowest entropy. Any other arrangement of cards in the deck is a higher entropy configuration. Therefore, entropy could be defined as the number of microscopic arrangements of particles that would be indistinguishable on a macroscopic level. In this example of a deck of cards, any random order of cards could be considered a high entropy state. According to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, entropy in a closed system will nearly always increase. It is important to note that this is a statistical law: entropy of a system CAN increase, it is just exceedingly unlikely. This tendency of entropy to increase is often cited as the reason that time flows in only one direction – the so-called arrow of time.

When Stephen Hawking first read Berkenstein’s paper, he found it hard to believe that Black Holes have entropy. Eventually however, he accepted the results and built upon them, to make the most important breakthrough of his career. Hawking realized that if Black Holes have entropy, they must have a temperature (heat). He was even able to calculate what this temperature must be – the larger the Black Hole, the lower the temperature. If Black Holes have heat, he conjectured, then they must, too, emit radiation. This turned Black Hole physics on its head. Prior to Hawking’s discovery of Hawking Radiation, it was generally believed that nothing could escape from a Black Hole. According to Stephen Hawking, not only is this incorrect, but all Black Holes will eventually evaporate away to nothing. Today, most scientists accept this to be true.

A little over a year ago, Hawking was invited to the residence of Israeli President Shimon Peres for a conference about moving towards the future. Hawking initially accepted the invitation, but backed out at the last minute, a decision influenced by pressure from Palestinian academics and American radical linguist Noam Chomsky.

Despite its support by Hawking and others, the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) is inherently misguided and, in the case of Hawking, extremely hypocritical. If Stephen Hawking wants to boycott Israel, he should retract his previous findings, which would have been impossible without the work of Israeli physicists on which it is based. ∞

Neil Radow

*****

It’s traditional upon hearing about the death of someone you know of to say “May his memory be a blessing.” Not many people outside the world of physics know about the life, death or works of Dr. Bekenstein. We can say with certainty that his memory is a blessing, that his science and brilliance is a blessing that in the long run benefits all people. Despite Hawking’s professed boycott, the black hole in his heart cannot dim the brilliance that shone from the Racah Institute of Physics. Despite many attempts to portray Israel as a black hole in the world, despite the BDS desire to make it into a closed system, Israel will continue to astound its detractors with the science, wisdom and righteousness it radiates to the world. Dr. Jacob Bekenstein and Israel continue to be a light unto the nations.

Baruch Dayan Ha-Emet

Baruch Dayan Ha-Emet

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A Call To Arms

Shattered by Esti Mayer

Shattered
by Esti Mayer

Pick up your guns, strap on your helmet and report for duty. The bad guys are coming, and we have to mobilize. There have been skirmishes in many places, as varied as Ottawa, St. Jean, Chattanooga, Fort Hood, London, Paris, Västerås (Sweden) and others.  Lord only knows where’s next, and He isn’t saying.

Don’t have a gun? No problem. There’s the vast logistics and support network needed by an army at war. A call to arms doesn’t mean you have to personally fire a weapon.

surrender

surrender

You have no time for logistics? Can’t take off time from work? So what are you going to do to help for the Yazidi, Kurdish, or Assyrian

victims of ISIS?.   Are you concerned about the Syrians? Do you want them, or North African refugees in your country? Should you be concerned about the anti-science suppression of GMOs, which make proper nutrition available to the world’s poorest people? What about the campaign to delegitimize the only western democracy in the Middle East?

Call to arms- bomb us

A Call to Bomb

There are so many more issues: religious or environmental fanaticism, political correctness, sexual correctness, corporate greed, union greed. The list goes on and on. Can you really say you have no time to answer a call to arms? Many people consider themselves apolitical. Either they don’t care, or think one person can’t make a difference. They’re wrong. If you pay any taxes, politics affect your life. If you don’t grow your own food, politics affects you. Unless you’re a hermit, completely off the grid, politics affect you, whether it’s the stability of your job, the cost of your electricity, or the cost of your food. Even if you’re completely off the grid and nuclear war breaks out, politics affects you.

An Electoral Call to Arms

Voting makes a difference. Look at the economic decline of the U.S.A. under the current administration. Look at its loss of influence, its loss of respect. President Obama’s reset of relations, his red lines drawn in disappearing ink have given tyrants a free hand to flex their muscles, to threaten their weaker neighbors in the Ukraine, the Middle East, or the South China Sea. His quest for peace, for ending war, has made the world a much more dangerous place. On the home front, his election should have put paid to the issue of American racism. But race relations have deteriorated to levels unseen since the 1960’s as some unscrupulous people issue their own call to arms. What would have happened if Mitt Romney had won the election? John McCain? Any answer would be sheer speculation, but we can say for certain that different policies would have brought different results. The people who voted for Obama changed their country, changed their world.

In Canada, the choice of leader also makes a difference. Tom Mulcair, the Leader of the Official Opposition (and leading in some opinion polls) is very clear: he

a call to arms down

A Call to Down Arms

doesn’t want Canada fighting ISIS overseas. Does he want to wait till ISIS is conducting more than skirmishes on our shores? Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau mocked the Prime Minister’s combative policies, accusing him and his supporters of ““trying to whip out [their] CF-18s and show how big they are.”” He advocated Canada giving victims of ISIS rapes, torture and beheading advice on how to stay warm in winter.

So given ISIS’ track record, given its ambitions, given its skirmishes in North America, does it make a difference who is elected Prime Minister? Who is the President of the United States? To be apolitical in the face of such horror is to say you don’t care. That makes you an enabler.

For most Americans and Canadians, no matter how passionate they feel about a political issue, there is little they can do. We live in a representative democracy where we select the government that will make choices on our behalf- whether to go to war or appease, fight climate change or fight poverty, battle oppressors or constructively engage them, drop bombs against ISIS, or drop blankets on their victims.

There are Canadians and Americans picking up weapons (be they real or metaphorical) in the fight against ISIS, in the fight against fanatics that threaten our way of life, that threaten our safety and livelihood.  The call to arms they have answered is one that all of us must heed.

Voting Call to Arms

Weapon of Choice

It’s election time in Canada, and election time is approaching in the U.S.A. Therein lies the opportunity; therein lies a call to arms. It’s when we tell our leaders what direction to we want our country to turn towards. The choices are very stark.  Pick up your gun by working in support of the people who will best protect our interests, best protect our way of life. Campaign for the candidate who has learned the lessons of history: peace doesn’t come from appeasement. It comes from strength.

 

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Any Fool Can Know

Disarming the troops

Disarming the troops

At about 11:00 a.m. on July 17th 2015, a gunman attacked a storefront Naval Recruiting Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, firing aggressively into its window. No one shot back, because Bill Clinton had long ago disarmed U.S. soldiers on military bases. As any fool can know, as the only one armed, the gunman had the situation under control.

He then drove to a Naval Reserve Center seven miles away, where he murdered four Marines, before being killed by authorities. By 1:30 p.m., Chattanooga police said “The active shooter situation is over.” A dangerous situation was now under control.

By 2:00 p.m. President Obama had been briefed by his national security team. Half an hour later the Tennessee Governor made an announcement that people serving their country had lost their lives, and by 3:10 the incident was described at a news conference as an “act of domestic terrorism” (a statement later retracted).

By 4:00 the shooter was identified as Kuwaiti-born. Few media outlets were willing to reveal though, that he was the son of a Palestinian. Although Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez had traveled to Jordan and perhaps Yemen recently, counter-terrorism “experts” wondered why he had attacked the military facilities in the U.S.  A CNN news analyst wondered if he was Muslim.

It was time to investigate. The FBI announced it had no idea of the suspect’s motivation. Vice-President Biden promised that the United States would get to the bottom of the shootings. President Obama was a little ahead of him, declaring that it was a ‘lone gunman,’ and vowing a full investigation. The President’s words assured the American people that the government had the earlier chaos under control.

Any Fool Can Know. The Point Is to Understand

The Point Is to Understand

The gunman’s home was raided. A bomb squad truck, a military truck carrying armed men rolled into the area of the shooting. Police closed off streets, turned away people wanting to reach their homes. It quickly became clear that Abdulazeez blogged about Islam, argued with his schoolmates about Islam, and showed signs of becoming increasingly devout.

Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”
Albert Einstein

Any fool can know that Mohammed is a Muslim name, can understand why a Kuwaiti-born Palestinian would shoot up a U.S. military facility. Any fool can know that unarmed soldiers can’t defend themselves against someone with an assault weapon.  If you won’t see the pattern of the Fort Hood “workplace violence,” the shooting of an unarmed soldier at the Canadian Parliament, soldiers being run over in Quebec, and the Chattanooga rampage, then any investigation, no matter how thorough, will not prevent further attacks, further chaos. The point is to understand.

Converted to terrorism

Converted to terrorism, and proud

President Obama’s investigation is not aimed at avoiding future attacks against U.S. military installations, or even against civilians. We know how to do that:

  • Arm American soldiers in the U.S.
  • Stop the influx of refugees.
  • Allow police and security forces to conduct ethnic profiling.

These measures won’t stop all assaults, but will certainly reduce their frequency and effectiveness. The fenced-off streets, the hundreds of federal agents, the massive resources being invested are a clear demonstration that the government has everything under control. This was an isolated incident, and they will soon get to the bottom of it. We will find out for example, if indeed Abdulazeez was a ‘lone wolf’ or part of an organized network.

ISIS has put out calls for Muslims in America to attack soldiers. Does it matter if such attackers are in direct communication with ISIS before following their instructions? According to such people, they aren’t even responding to a human call to violence, but rather the voice of God, as expressed by their prophet in their holy book. They respond with their prayers, with their guns and machetes. That, to the devout, is direct communication.

The massive Federal investigation that is getting under way is a sham, a pretense that the government has Muslim anti-American violence under control. It’s a way of avoiding action while pretending to take responsibility.

What Any Fool Can Know:

If we want to secure the country

If we want to secure the country

Most people knew what happened in Chattanooga shortly after the gunfire ended. The investigation, whether by Federal agents or fearful journalists is to ensure that people don’t have to face, don’t have to understand what any fool can know: the difficult decisions that must be made. The battle waged by ISIS in the mind of its soldiers, is the continuation of a war that began with the rise of Islam fourteen hundred years ago. If we want to secure the country, indeed the world against Jihad, we don’t really need to investigate. As distasteful as it might be, we have to understand: it’s time to fight back.

 

 

addendum:

The FBI has declared that there is no indication the Chattanooga shooter was inspired or directed by the Islamic State.

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God is sanctified through those near to Him

Ferguson "protest"

Ferguson “protesters” burning

In August 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, eighteen year old Michael Brown, a suspected thief, was killed while attacking a police officer. “Protesters” expressed their dismay by looting business, burning buildings and torching police cars.   Brown’s family members, those supposedly near to him physically attacked one another over who had the right to profit from souvenirs. Truth was not welcome; witnesses had their lives threatened for testifying that Brown was the aggressor, rather than the police. The death of a single suspected criminal was turned into a tragedy for a community, for a nation.

“I don’t think we can prevent folks who really are intent on destroying a community.”

In April, 2015, in Baltimore, Maryland, twenty-five year old Freddie Gray, a convicted narcotics dealer died while in police custody. More than three hundred and eighty businesses and institutions were attacked in the subsequent riots, including a

Baltimore "protest" looters

Baltimore “protesters” looting

seniors’ residence, a pharmacy, liquor stores… Many small, family owned stores— many without proper insurance were destroyed. The economic consequences of the riots will make life even harder for people who burned their neighborhoods down. The violence has made life much more dangerous, with murder rates skyrocketing. Police are afraid or unwilling to act, knowing they could be arrested for doing their job.

“To the youth of this city, I will seek justice on your behalf. This is a moment. This is your moment.”

Near to Him in Charleston

In June, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina, a young man sat in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church for an hour, before pulling out a gun and killing

  • Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a well-known community leader, civil rights advocate and state senator

    Nearer to Him

    Near to God

  • Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, a high-school girls’ track and field coach, and reverend at her local church
  • Tywanza Sanders, a 2014 graduate of Allen University’s division of business administration
  • Myra Thompson, wife of the Vicar of Holy Trinity REC Church in Charleston
  • Ethel Lee Lance, a 70-year-old grandmother who had worked at the church for 30 years
  • Susie Jackson, 87, a longtime church member
  • Rev. Daniel Simmons, 74, a retired pastor from another church
  • DePayne Middleton-Doctor, a former manager at the U.S. Department of Commerce and community development director

None of the victims were known for violent or criminal activities. In the aftermath of the massacre, the families of the victims forgave the killer. No buildings were destroyed. No police cars were overturned.  The so-called ‘Reverend’ Al Sharpton was ignored. A few days later, the church re-opened for Sunday services, and was filled with those near to Him (God).  Their prayers were the ultimate protest against violence, racism and evil.  A country stood awed by their power.

“Even if my life is worth less than a speck of dirt, I want to use it for the good of society”— Dylann Roof

Malignant Hatred original art by Esti Mayer

Malignant Hatred
original art by Esti Mayer

Near to Him

‘I will be sanctified through those near to Me, and before all the people I will be glorified.’

During the Biblical Exodus from Egypt in the Sinai desert, the two sons of the High Priest Aaron (Moses’ brother) were killed by a fire from the Lord. Moses told God’s words to his brother: ‘I will be sanctified through those near to Me, and before all the people I will be glorified.’ Aaron didn’t protest; he was silent, and then God spoke directly to him, rather than through Moses.

There are many discussions as to why Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu were killed, but they’re just speculation. We do know that they were among those near to God.

Dylann Roof offered his reasons for the Charleston massacre in a rambling manifesto. It’s still hard to understand why these nine people died in church. But we can be sure that they were among those near to God. The forgiveness offered by the victims’ families was an awe-inspiring sanctification of His name. The strength possessed through their connection to the divine enabled them to rise above the bitterness of their suffering. Unexpected death, instead of bringing the depravity and violence of Ferguson and Baltimore, brought the sanctification of God, as happened with Aaron’s sons in the Sinai desert. Mankind was able to demonstrate its capacity for nobility and strength. God was revealed not in the horrific deaths, but in the dignity of the families; of those near to Him.

“I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you. And [may God] have mercy on your soul.”