24 September 2016

"Productive Teshuvah"

22 Elul 5776

In this last week before Rosh Hashanah, now that we've looked at some of the things we need to do teshuvah for, I'd like to turn the focus to the process of teshuvah itself.

Hatzlachah rabah to all of us!

Productive Teshuva (Repentance) Rosh Ha-Shana 2016

23 September 2016

Parashat Ki Tavo 5776

19 Elul 5776

Google had a cute little graphic with falling leaves yesterday telling me that it was the first day of autumn. It immediately brought to mind the colorful fall foliage of my youth in the old country. And as I thought about that, I wondered to myself - what are my visual cues now that we are leaving summer behind and heading into cooler fall weather? Of course, ripening pomegranates in the garden and ripe dates hanging from the trees lining the roads!

"When you enter the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a heritage, and you possess it and settle in it, you shall take some of every first fruit of the soil which you harvest from the land that the LORD your God is giving you, put it in a basket and go to the place where the LORD your God will choose to establish His name.

You shall go to the priest in charge at that time and say to him, “I acknowledge this day before the LORD your God that I have entered the land that the LORD swore to our fathers to assign us.”

~Shabbat Shalom~

22 September 2016

Has Man Become His Own God?

20 Elul 5776

For what it's worth, I think the "signs" connected to the Freedom Tower are harbingers of judgment. Look out New York!

Is It Really True That "They Are Either For Us or Against Us?"

19 Elul 5776

I just heard a very profound statement: "It looks as if the world is divided between those who are for us and those who are against us, but in reality, the whole world is against us."

And we don't even have a clue just how virulent the hatred really is.

(h/t Mystical Paths) Some pertinent excerpts:


...[In] September 2010 [Sandy Berger] sent Ms. Clinton ideas on how to pressure Israel to make concessions for peace. Mr. Berger acknowledged “how fragile Abbas’ political position [is],” and how “Palestinians are in disarray” and that “[f]ailure is a real possibility.” Mr. Berger was well aware, and informed Ms. Clinton, of the very real possibility that Israel would be placing its national security at grave risk in a deal that would very likely fail and lead to a Hamas takeover. But Mr. Berger felt the risks to Israeli lives were worth it. He advised making Mr. Netanyahu feel “uneasy about incurring our displeasure.”. . .

Anne Marie Slaughter, Clinton’s director of policy planning from 2009 to 2011,...wrote Ms. Clinton in September 2010, devising a scheme to encourage wealthy philanthropists to pledge millions to the Palestinians (which no doubt would have been embezzled by Abbas and his cronies, as were other funds). Ms. Slaughter writes, “This may be a crazy idea… Suppose we launched a ‘Pledge for Palestine’ campaign… Such a campaign among billionaires/multimillionaires around the world would reflect a strong vote of confidence in the building of a Palestinian state.”

She adds, “There would also be a certain shaming effect re Israelis, who would be building settlements in the face of a pledge for peace.”

Here’s how Clinton responded to this call for aiding “Palestine” and “shaming Israelis”: “I am very interested-pls flesh out. Thx.”

[Thomas] Pickering wrote Ms. Clinton on December 18, 2011, suggesting a secret plan to stir up major Palestinian protests in an attempt to force the Israeli government into peace negotiations. He stated that the protests “must be all and only women. Why? On the Palestinian side the male culture is to use force.”

Mr. Pickering’s goal was to ignite protests that would engulf the West Bank, “just like Tahrir Square.” He adds that the Palestinian “leadership has shied away from this idea because they can’t control it,” and they are “afraid of being replaced.”. . .

The idea was as dangerous for the Palestinians as it was for Israel. As Mr. Pickering admits, widespread protests could overthrow Abbas’ government, and if Palestinian men joined in, widespread violence would inevitably break out.

It would obviously be impossible to prevent men from participating in these demonstrations, yet Mr. Pickering felt this extreme risk was worth taking, even if it meant the replacement of Abbas with another Hamas-styled government—even if it meant violence breaking out across the West Bank, leading to a third intifada and the murder of countless Jews. He emphasized the need to hide all U.S. involvement in this plot. Ms. Clinton forwarded the email to Monica Hanley and asked her to “pls print.”

Clandestinely stirring up potentially violent protests in an attempt to force Israel to go against its best interests? Advice like this was par for the course when it came to Ms. Clinton’s advisers.

...These emails make it clear that, as Boteach says, key Clinton advisers were looking for ways, including manifestly irresponsible ones, to coerce Israel into making dangerous concessions to the Palestinians in exchange (from all that appears) for nothing.

These folks wouldn’t have sent such ideas to Clinton if they didn’t understand that she was looking for ways to accomplish the same goal.

21 September 2016

War Talk

19 Elul 5776

Four Flash Points That Could Trigger World War III: “We Have Not Been This Close To Nuclear War In A Long Time”

As can readily be seen by the current events, the world has not been this close to a nuclear war and World War 3 in a long time. There are four major flashpoints right now that could easily escalate and ignite a powder keg, transforming from a regional conflict or conflicts into a world war: Syria, the South China Sea, Ukraine, and North and South Korea. The “reconstruction” of a Cold War-type faceoff, initiated by the U.S. and NATO building up forces in Eastern Europe and facing off against Russia.

A nuclear war will be initiated by an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) detonation over the continental U.S., followed by a nuclear exchange and a war with conventional forces.

As of this writing, the U.S. has “mistakenly” bombed Syrian governmental military forces, causing at least 60 deaths with more than 100 others wounded. The Russian government is sizzling, especially with the response by (of all people) Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the UN....

See the rest here.

See related: U.S. bombers fly over South Korea for second time since North's nuclear test

Pentagon Chief: US Troops Poised To ‘Fight Tonight’ Against North Korea

Is North Korea Preparing for a Long-Range Nuclear Missile Launch?

It Doesn't Get Any Clearer Than This

18 Elul 5776

Just so we have things straight in our own minds (me included)...

The Rambam in Hilchot Melachim u'Milchamoteihem (The Laws of Kings and Their Wars), Chapter 10, Halachah 9:
"A gentile who studies Torah is liable to the death penalty. They should be involved in the study of their Seven Mitzvot only."
(Commentary: A gentile who studies Torah - Other than the Seven Mitzvot
is liable to the death penalty - At the hand of God. Sanhedrin 59a comments: Deuteronomy 33:4 states: "The Torah which Moses commanded us is the heritage of the Children of Israel." "It is our heritage and not theirs." The passage continues, noting the connection between the words מורשה and מאורסה, "betrothed", and explains that a gentile's study of Torah is equivalent to adultery.)
"Similarly, a gentile who rests, even on a weekday, observing that day as a Sabbath, is liable to the death penalty. Needless to say, [he is liable for that punishment] if he creates a festival for himself.
The general principle governing these matters is: They are not to be allowed to originate a new religion or create mitzvot for themselves based on their own decisions. They may either become righteous converts and accept all the Mitzvot or retain their statutes without adding to [or] detracting from them.
If [a gentile] studies Torah, makes a Sabbath, or creates a [religious] practice, a [Jewish court] should beat him, punish him, and inform him that he is liable to the death penalty. However, he is not to be executed."
The Rambam in Hilchot Melachim u'Milchamoteihem (The Laws of Kings and Their Wars), Chapter 10, Halachah 10:
"We should not prevent a gentile (Ben-Noach) who desires to perform one of the Torah's Mitzvot in order to receive reward, from doing so, [provided] he performs it as required."
Commentary: We should not prevent a gentile who desires to perform one of the Torah's Mitzvot - i.e. one of the 613 Mitzvot commanded to the Jews aside from Torah study and the Sabbath.
in order to receive reward - A person who is not commanded to fulfill a mitzvah receives less reward for its observance than one who is commanded. Nevertheless, even in the latter instance, God acknowledges the person's deeds and grants him blessing.
A gentile may only fulfill mitzvot for the sake of reward. He is forbidden to accept them as obligations incumbent upon him. Thus, his intent must be the very opposite of that of a Jew who serves God for His sake and not for his own.
...[provided he perform it as required - He must perform the mitzvah in all of its particulars as required by Jewish law. The Radbaz explains that mitzvot which require holiness and purity, as for example, tefillin and mezuzah, should be withheld from gentiles.

The following comes from Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim at the website:

Gentiles and Torah Study:
Maimonides’ Subtle Lesson

Reader: I read your posts on gentiles studying Torah. I disagree [that Noachides are prohibited].
Everything I have read regarding restrictions on Torah study only applies to “idolaters”...not Noachides. The Talmud and Rambam refer to Star Worshippers (Ovade Kochavim). I know that this term was a result of the Christian censors, however, I also know that in the Temani manuscripts of the Mishneh Torah the term is “AKuM” (Star Worshipper). These manuscripts are free of the many errors of the Vilna edition. The Rambam makes a point to distinguish between a “Noachide” and an “idolater”. See his Laws of Sabbath 29:25, and Laws of Blessings 9:9 (7), Laws of Forbidden Foods 11:5 (8 in Vilna versions), and Laws of Forbidden Foods 11:2 (4). It is in Laws of Forbidden Foods 11:8 that the Rambam takes special pains to point out that unless he clarifies the term Star Worshipper it is used to refer to an idolater: “And every place that says ‘Star Worshipper’ unqualified, behold, this is a servant of idolatry.”

As far as I can tell this is very clear. Please correct me if I am wrong, but please quote sources so that I can study the issue, and so I can tell others the correct teaching. Thank you for your time.

A Noachide

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: You quote Maimonides Laws of Forbidden Foods 11:8: “And every place that says ‘Star Worshipper’ unqualified, behold, this is a servant of idolatry.” Your intent was to suggest that Maimonides maintains there exists two distinct individuals: a Star Worshipper, and a Noachide. From that first step, you wished to deduce that since Maimonides says (in Laws of Kings) that only a “Star Worshiper” is prohibited in Torah study, this is limited to a Star Worshipper, and thereby permits a Noachide to study. But you did not read the opening words of that law (Forbidden Foods 11:8) where Maimonides makes clear that his definitions are for “that” section of Laws of Forbidden Foods alone. Therefore, you cannot transpose his use of terminology onto other areas, since he openly limits his terms to that section.

Furthermore, if your position is correct that the prohibition of Torah study applies exclusively to idolaters, and not to Noachides, why do we find no laws concerning “Noachide” Torah study? The answer is because the prohibition of Torah study applied to “idolaters” in fact refers to ALL non-Jews, Noachides included. (I explained before that the reason behind this law is to maintain the Jew as the sole authority of Torah. Since the Jew alone is required to practice all of Torah, he is best suited to teach it, as his obligatory practice enforces greater attention to the Torah’s demands. This is not a racist law, but a practical law, which aims at insuring Torah for all people).

Now, a proof for my argument is derived from Talmud Sanhedrin 59a. It states there that an idolater who studies Torah is culpable of death. But that very Talmudic portion then asks, “Why is this prohibition not an eighth ‘Noachide’ law?” Consider carefully: this Talmudic question cannot be asked, if this portion were not including Noachides in the general term “Star Worshipper”. The Talmud is clearly referring to all Gentiles including Noachides, with its general reference of “idolater”.

The Talmud continues, “A Star Worshipper who studies Torah is akin to a Jewish High Priest; but this is no contradiction to the former threat of death for his Torah study: this latter praise applies to his study of his 7 Noachide laws.” Thus, the Talmud first condemns the Star Worshipper for Torah study, and then praises him for Torah study. The apparent contradiction is removed: the condemnation applies to one who studies more than his 7 Noachide Laws, and the praise applies to one who studies only his 7 laws. We thereby prove that the Talmud’s use of Star Worshipper is synonymous with Noachide, in this case.

In other areas you mentioned such as Laws of Forbidden Foods, Maimonides uses the terms Star Worshipper and Noachide differently, referring to two exclusive individuals. However, in his Laws of Kings he uses these two terms as referring to one single person; not separate individuals, but two “statuses” within that person! I will explain.

Regarding a Jew benefiting from idolatrous wine outlined in Laws of Forbidden Foods, there is a difference between a Star Worshipper’s wine, and the wine belonging to a Noachide. The Star Worshipper’s wine has greater prohibitions, understandably. Here, Star Worshipper and Noachide refer to two distinct people.

This distinction, you have carried over to all areas, but in error. You feel that the Talmud and Maimonides’ prohibition on Torah study is on Star Worshipers “alone”. I have disproved your position from Maimonides’ opening statement in Forbidden Foods 11:8, and from Talmud Sanhedrin…but there is more to learn here.

While researching your question, I realized an in interesting pattern in Maimonides’ classification. In his Laws of Kings (Chap. 10) Maimonides switches off between referring to a “Noachide” and a “Star Worshipper”. In that section when discussing any of the 7 Noachide Laws, he refers to the Gentile as “Noachide”. And when he discusses laws pertaining to anything other than the Noachide Laws, he uses the term “Star Worshipper”. On the surface, this might seem to support your theory, but I believe he switches his term for another lesson, which is quite insightful, and novel.

The 7 Noachide Laws include murder, stealing, cursing God, and others. When Maimonides outlined these 7 laws, he refers to the Gentile as “Noachide.” But there exists other laws for every Gentile.

A Gentile cannot study most Torah sections, he cannot observe the Sabbath, and he cannot smite a Jew. When Maimonides discusses these laws, which are not subsumed under the 7 Noachide Laws, but are equally binding, Maimonides refers to the Gentile as a “Star Worshipper”. The question is why Maimonides switches his term? Why is he not consistent in his terminology? The fact that he is referring to the same individual is proved from Laws of Kings 10:9: “A Star Worshipper who is engaged in Torah study is culpable of death, and he should only engage in his 7 Laws.” The words “his 7 laws” proves that in this section, unlike his Laws of Forbidden Foods, Maimonides refers to “one” person as both a Noachide, and a Star Worshipper. He is intent on distinguishing roles within one person.

The reason for this distinction I believe is as follows. Maimonides intends to educate the reader as to what “status” in Gentiles generates certain laws. In as much as one desires a right-to-life, he must observe a minimal set of laws, 7 Noachide Laws. If any one of these laws of broken, the person is punished with death. Even if this Gentile steals a penny, he is killed, whereas a Jew would not be. Why is this so? What is the justice? The reasoning is as we said; these 7 laws are a minimal system, which earns the observer a right to continued existence. If one cannot observe at a minimum, these 7 laws, then he has fallen below the threshold of God’s minimum standard of human life. He must be killed. But if a Jew stole a penny, he has not fallen below the threshold, since he has 612 others to keep him inline. God would be as lenient with this Gentile, if he chose to observe the 613 Commandments. God is equally just to all humans. This explains why Maimonides uses the term Noachide when addressing the 7 laws, since it is with these 7 that a Gentile earns his right-to-life; exactly what the Noachide Laws target.

But when discussing the Gentile’s prohibition of observing the Sabbath, Torah study and smiting the Jew, Maimonides switches his term to “Star Worshipper”. Why is that?

The reasoning is that here, Maimonides is no longer addressing laws regulating a Gentiles “right-to-life”, but other laws; laws that “obscure the boundary of Jew and non-Jew”. If a Gentile observes Sabbath, and studies Torah, he in fact renders himself to an onlooker ostensibly as a Jew: he acts like a Jew resting on the seventh day, and he partakes of the Jew’s unique role as Torah educator with his study of more than his 7 Noachide Laws. This is not a lack in fulfilling his Noachide role, since the Gentile is in fact doing ‘more’ with these two commands. No…the violation committed here with Sabbath observance and Torah study is regarding his role as Star Worshipper. His status as Noachide does not enter the picture, but the other status does: i.e., his status of “non-Jew”, or “Star Worshiper”, which was the original classification that offset the first Jew who was monotheistic.

Maimonides is exact. He uses the term Star Worshipper when addressing a Gentile’s violation in Sabbath observance and Torah study, since with these infractions, the Gentile is not failing in his “Noachide” role, but in his “Star Worshipper” role…a role which is diametrically opposite to the role of Jew. Just as a Star Worshipper opposes monotheism, so too, a Gentile who wishes to dilute the uniqueness of the Jew by copying his Sabbath ad Torah, equally destroys the Jew’s role, and monotheism. Similarly, Maimonides uses the term Star Worshipper when addressing the laws about a Gentile smiting a Jew, for the same reason.

The Jewish “ideology” must be preserved by the Gentile’s refrain from mimicking our primary commands of Sabbath, and Torah study. And the Jewish “body” is preserved by the Gentiles’ refrain from physically assaulting a Jew. And when a Gentile does not take care to preserve the Jew, that Gentile is failing due to his attachment to a “Star Worshipper” inclination. Appropriately, Maimonides calls that person a Star Worshipper, since these three laws address the preservation of the Jew so as to help the world oppose polytheism. Maimonides’ intent is to underscore the capacity in the Gentile that generates this violation. The Gentile who observes Sabbath destroys the Jew by obscuring the Jew’s role. Since this Gentile is not abandoning any of his 7 Noachide Laws, his violation is not in terms of his right-to-life “Noachide” status. Therefore, Maimonides does not address him as a Noachide. That status plays no role.

But when a Gentile fails to uphold all 7 Noachide laws, Maimonides now refers to him as a Noachide, that is, one who should have observed these 7 laws at a minimum. Here, he fails to uphold such a minimal system; he is referred to as a “Noachide who failed.” Failing to observe the law of stealing for example is not due to Star Worship tendencies, but to a Noachide right-to-life issue.

We now realize that Maimonides, in one section, will use the terms Star Worshipper and Noachide as referring to two individuals; and in Laws of Kings, he uses the same terms to refer to two statuses in a “single” person. This explains why there is no discussion about a Noachide studying Torah, since he is the identical person described in the prohibition of Torah study by “Star Worshippers” . Maimonides and the Talmud refer to a Gentile with a few references, thereby teaching the additional insight that certain sins are blameful due to certain roles for which we shirk responsibility.

When a teen fails to accurately compute geometry basics, we blame him for being a poor “student”, since it is his studies that we address. And when the same person does not visit his father who is sick in bed, the parent would be incorrect to say, “What a poor student you are”. For in this capacity, the blame addresses his role as a “child”. The appropriate blame would be “you are not a good son”.

So too here, Maimonides teaches us by changing a reference to the same Gentile, indicating his “capacity” or status that is to blame for his infraction.

Why Is it That What Should Be Self-Evident Rarely Is?

18 Elul 5776

The Rambam in Hilchot Melachim u'Milchamoteihem (The Laws of Kings and Their Wars), Chapter 10, Halachah 10:

"...if an idolater gives chaity, we should accept it from him and give it to the gentile poor."

Commentary: Two reasons are given as to why charity should not be accepted from gentiles:
  • The merit of their generosity will prolong their rule over the Jews (Bava Batra 10b).
  • The fact that Jews feel it necesary to receive charity from gentiles causes chillul HaShem, the desecration of God's name, (Rashi, Sanhedrin 26b).

20 September 2016

Even Obama Sees We're in the Midst of Birur

18 Elul 5776

Barak Obama reportedly said in his speech at the UN today: "...there appears to be a growing contest between authoritarianism and liberalism right now."

In other words, between Law and Order (Hashem's) and chaos/anything-goes (NWO).He's right! In one word - birur.