21 August 2018

Basic Concepts: "Revenge"

10 Elul 5778

Turning the other cheek is a Christian 'value,' not in accordance with our Holy Torah. And there is some innate human awareness that revenge is necessary to bring the world into balance. Who has not heard a child's voice raised in righteous anger: "That's not fair!" And who has never joined in the cheers at the precise moment in the movie where the bad guy gets what's coming to him? Something very satisfying settles on the heart when justice is served. 

Or Hara'ayon, Chapter Twelve: "Revenge," pp. 273 - 275...
Love has its place, as does hate. Peace has its place, as does war. Mercy has its place, as do cruelty and revenge. The Torah dons sackcloth over the distortion of the concept of revenge, which has become a target for the arrows of all Jewish Hellenists and worshippers of the alien culture, as if revenge were negative and evil by nature.

The very opposite is true! No trait is more justified than revenge in the right time and place. G-d, Himself, is called Nokem, Avenger: "The L-rd is a zealous and avenging G-d. The L-rd avenges and is full of wrath. He takes revenge on His adversaries and reserves wrath for His enemies" (Nachum 1:2). Our sages also said (Berachot 33a), "Shall we say even revenge is great because it appears between two names of G-d? 'A G-d of vengeance is the L-rd' (Ps. 94:1). R. Elazar responded, 'Indeed. Where revenge is necessary, it is a great thing'" {see Rashi].

"It is a great thing!" It is a great mitzvah to take revenge of the righteous and humble from the evildoer. Whoever forgoes or rejects such an opportunity is cruel, and he denies belief in G-d. As King David said (Ps. 58:11-12):

     The righteous man shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance. He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. Men shall say, "Verily, there is a reward for the righteous. Verily there is a G-d Who judges on earth."

This is the secret of the greatness and holiness of revenge. It explains why it is a mitzvah and why the righteous are joyous when they see it carried out. When injustice is done on earth, when the kingdom of evil takes control and stifles the righteous and the innocent, it is only natural for a person to ask G-d, "Where are You?" In a period of Divine concealment, doubt and heresy burgeon forth, as it says (Deut. 31:17), "I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured. Many evils and troubles shall come upon them, so that they will say on that day, 'Are not these evils come upon us because our G-d is not among us?'"

...The evildoer's victory is the very worst profanation of G-d's name, because it implies the defeat or impotence of G-d. Of this King David said (Ps. 44:23-25):

     Nay, but for Your sake are we killed all the day. We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Awake! Why do You sleep, O L-rd? Arouse Yourself, cast us not off forever. Wherefore do You hide Your face...?

Thus, when G-d stops hiding His face and actually "awakens...like a mighty man recovering from wine, and smites His enemies" (Ps. 78:65-66), when He takes revenge of His people and of Himself, which are one, He thereby sanctifies His name, proving to the world that Israel indeed has a G-d and that He lives and endures. The victory of injustice and wickedness is ostensible proof of G-d's absence from the world, and there is no greater profanation of G-d's name. By contrast, G-d's victory and revenge over His enemies, the evildoers, prove to the world that "verily there is a G-d Who judges on earth!" (Ps. 58:12)....
NOTE: These are just short excerpts from the greater body of work. It is preferable to get the books and read it in its entirety.

20 August 2018

Gog uMagog This Sukkot?

10 Elul 5778

There is a new report circulating that Trump intends to reveal his "Deal of the Century" Peace Plan during his speech to the UN General Assembly which opens September 18, 2018 and which happens to be Erev Yom Kippur. I don't know which date is set for the President's speech, but that puts it in the neighborhood of Sukkot which is the traditional time period for the Gog uMagog War.
The White House Middle East policy team is still working on the Trump administration’s peace plan. Trump said when he first took office he would support either a one- or two-state solution, whichever both parties agree to.
A month after meeting with Trump, Abdullah briefed French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Amman, according to French diplomats. The king said he warned Trump that “many young Palestinians don’t want the two-state solution anymore, but would rather live together with the Israelis in one state with equal rights for all.” He also suggested that Israel “will lose its Jewish character,” Axios reported.
That led Trump to say, sarcastically, “What you say makes sense. … [In a one-state scenario,] the prime minister of Israel in a few years will be called Mohammed.”
Abdullah said he asked Trump not to rush to present his peace plan “because there are too many difficulties at the moment,” the French diplomats confirmed.
Trump said that he is still committed to the issue, and if his administration can’t reach a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, then no U.S. administration ever will. (Source)
A "two-state solution" doesn't prevent the same scenario from coming to pass, it just kicks the can farther down the road. While 'Palestine' will be Judenrein, Israel will still have a sizeable Arab population with voting rights. 

Also of interest... (H/T Esser Agaroth): EU plans massive transportation project without consulting Israel

"The Avodah of These Days"

9 Elul 5778

More from the book The Spirit of the Seasons, Insights into the Yomim Tovim by Jonathan Shooter...
Rosh Hashana: Getting our Priorities Right
based on a shiur by Rav Shlomo Brevda

Let us understand certain facts about the way Hashem created us. Man was made with a physical guf, with all that it desires, and also a ruchnius neshama. These elements contradict each other and have separate agendas. However, they are supposed to make peace, with the guf surrendering to the neshama, and certainly not the opposite. However, these are unique times, most of the world live with their neshama being subservient to the guf. The servant has rebelled and become king, the guf now tells the neshama what to do. 

...Using Torah and mitzvos, we are meant to attempt to tame the guf and train it. Until the neshama succeeds, the guf is in armed conflict with the neshama. The neshama wants to learn Torah, whilst the guf wants to eat and enjoy itself.

...'Man sees what his eyes behold, but Hashem sees into the heart' (Shmuel I 16:7). Hashem's requirements of man lie not in his deeds, but in the avodah of the heart. The test is, how close a person is to Hashem, and what are his desires and longings. Is his essence about getting closer to Hashem, or about the vanities of this world. With this as the key, a person can realise where he stands, whether his desires are towards spirituality, or physicality. 

...We have an obligation to do teshuva for mistaken beliefs and values. The Ramban says that no one can have a part in the Torah of Moshe unless he believes that all our experiences are miracles from Hashem, that there is no natural or customary order to the world. If a person does mitzvos then he is rewarded, if he sins then he is punished. It follows that when a person thinks 'My power and the might of my hand has gotten me this wealth' (Devarim 8:17) then he is going against this principle and is in effect practising idolatry. 

When we go after materialism, we become more self assured and think we are in control, yet really everything depends on mitzvos and aveiros. We have to believe that everything is from Hashem and not just random and by chance. ...This is the avodah of these days, to totally accept the idea that everything is from Hashem and that there is nothing besides this....

19 August 2018

Chaval For Missed Opportunities

9 Elul 5778

A year ago, 2 Elul 5777, the best landlord in the world (my landlord) and his wife and family lost their 16 year-old yeshiva bachur son in the most cruel way. It was the first day of school and as he ran across the street to catch his bus home, he was run down by an Arab driver and died a few hours later. They had his one-year askarah last week. They live above me, but I didn't see him that often. Even so, the only way my pain at his loss could have been any greater was if he'd been my own flesh and blood. I have tears in my eyes as I write this. It doesn't help that my baby brother, at 18, died the same way.

Well, you may wonder why I'm telling you all this. It has nothing really to do with the subject of this blog post, but I needed you to have some idea of the feelings behind what I am about to write. You probably also have some pain of loss like this where you can be just fine until suddenly you think of it and it sends a shock through your heart to your stomach and the only way you can describe it is heartbreak. The pain of your brother's loss. It's inescapable.

That's exactly how I feel every time I come across an article like this one...
The Israel Tour Continues: Rubashkin Meets With HaGaon HaRav Kanievsky, MK Eichler
Arriving in Eretz Yisrael last week, Sholom Rubashkin is making his first trip outside of the United States since the travel ban prohibiting him from leaving the country was lifted.
...Eichler felt Rubashkin was unjustly sentenced, mentioning his plight to US Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to Israel.
Please don't get me wrong. I do not begrudge Sholom Rubashkin his freedom. Not at all! What hurts is the seeming lack of feeling and concern for a fellow Jew who is even worse off than Rubashkin. How could there be such unmitigated joy at his release and now his ability to come to Israel while a fellow Jew - Jonathan Pollard - longs to the depths of his soul for that same opportunity and continues to be denied?

How can this be among brothers? Perhaps Sholom Rubashkin has brought up the issue of Jonathan Pollard's sentence and the press has ignored his remarks. But, until today, in all the coverage of Rubashkin's release, I've never once seen any remarks by him on behalf of his brother who remains a virtual prisoner and who can't even properly celebrate Shabbat or chagim because of the restrictions placed upon him for the last 2 1/2 years since he was paroled after serving 30 years.

Justice continues to be denied to Jonathan Pollard and no Jew, especially not one who has suffered in a similar way, can ignore any opportunity to speak out on his behalf. So many people have taken credit for having a hand in Sholom Rubashkin's release from prison and now his release from parole restrictions. Their job is not done until they have had a hand in freeing every Jew denied the justice of their cause. 

Sholom Rubashkin has ten children. He lived a whole life before serving 8 years in prison, while Jonathan Pollard spent 30 years trapped in hell with no chance to have a family. 

Jonathan Pollard sacrificed his life and his freedom for Am Yisrael. Now, Am Yisrael must never rest, must never allow themselves to feel the job is complete while he is left behind.
If you have somehow missed the details of his case, please educate yourself about it here...

The Chagim: A Light in the Darkness

8 Elul 5778

From the Introduction to the book The Spirit of the Seasons, Insights into the Yomim Tovim by Jonathan Shooter...
The man stumbled through the forest in the pouring rain. Thick darkness enveloped him. He had a torch, but the rain had extinguished it long ago. The noise of the howling wolves petrified him. The crackling of the branches snapping underfoot frightened him. Soaking wet, he continued. Was he getting deeper in the forest, or was he on the way out of it? Would he even make it to daybreak, who knows what was lurking in the trees. Suddenly, through the puddles he noticed that he was on a pathway, which led to a crossroads. But which of the four directions was the right way to go? Then he stumbled upon a signpost pointing to all four directions, it would surely point him in the right way. The pitch black of the night however rendered the sign useless. He couldn't remain still for long, the driving rain was chilling him to the bone. He didn't want to carry on as he might get deeper and deeper into the thick forest. What was he to do? And then it happened. A bolt of lightning struck and lit up the night sky. He read the signpost and with renewed knowledge that he was on the right path, he continued on his way.

Throughout the year we are at a crossroads in the darkness looking for guidance as to the way to conduct our lives. A thick spiritual darkness covers the world preventing us from seeing clearly. Then we experience the festivals which show us the way. Their messages give us guidance and even when they have passed, we are spiritually uplifted and sure of the way to continue....
Shavua tov!

16 August 2018

"Time to Eradicate the Arrogance"

6 Elul 5778
Erev Shabbat Kodesh
Parashat Shoftim

Rabbi Mordechai Sitorsky

Parashat Shoftim: Elul - Time to Eradicate the Arrogance

~ Shabbat Shalom ~

A Fight to the Death

5 Elul 5778

The Americans don't plan on giving up. What will Hashem have to do to them to stop their meddling?

The Three Wannabe Peacemakers receiving award from Master Missionary Mike Evans

WASHINGTON -- Senior Trump administration officials working on a proposal for Israeli-Palestinian peace issued a joint statement on their work on Wednesday, cautioning a world eagerly awaiting their plan that "no one will be fully pleased" with its contents.
The statement was issued amid intensive discussions within the administration over when to release the plan to the public.
"No one will be fully pleased with our proposal, but that's the way it must be if real peace is to be achieved. Peace can only succeed if it is based on realities," said the team, comprised of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser; Jason Greenblatt, his special representative for international negotiations; David Friedman, his ambassador to Israel; and Nikki Haley, his envoy to the United Nations.

This initiative is doomed from the start. There will never be peace between the Jews and Arabs here because neither one can compromise on the issue of who has the rights to this Land. It is a fight to the death. It's either Us or Them. 

15 August 2018

Basic Concepts: "Life and Death"

4 Elul 5778

[How appropriate that we should arrive at this subject in the month of Elul.]

Or Hara'ayon, Chapter Eleven: "Life and Death," pp. 231 - 232...

Life was not meant for tranquility, rest or relaxation. Our sages said of Jacob (Bereishit Rabbah 84:3):

     When the righteous dwell in tranquility and seek to continue doing so here on earth, Satan comes and accuses them: "Is it not enough for them that their future reward is assured, but they seek tranquility here on earth as well?" Be aware that this really occurs. Because Jacob sought tranquility, he was punished with Joseph's disappearance. It says, "Jacob dwelled" (Gen. 37:1), and "I was not at ease, neither was I quiet, neither had I rest, but trouble came" (Job 3:26). "I was not at ease" because of Esau. "Neither was I quiet" because of Laban. "Neither had I rest" because of Dinah. "But trouble came": Joseph befell me.

Life was meant not for tranquility or for our own pleasure, but for difficult and even dangerous missions through which man can ascend spiritually and suppress his evil impulse and ego. He can accept upon himself the heavy yoke of G-d and mitzvot and emulate his Creator until he ascends just short of the angels, and in fact, surpasses them because he conquers his evil impulse. Life on this earth is short and limited. It is a narrow vestibule leading to a heavenly banquet hall. "The days of our years are seventy, or even by reason of strength, eighty, yet their pride is but trouble and wretchedness. It is soon cut off and we fly away" (Ps. 90:10).

A Jew's duty, during this short period, is to live, and there is no life but that of Torah. As we recite each evening in Ma'ariv, "[Torah] is our life and the length of our days."

The day of death is the end of life, the end of man's time to do mitzvot, serve G-d and praise Him. On that day, he ceases his role, and the opportunity to be spiritually elevated, to serve G-d and praise Him comes to an end....