12 June 2015

Parshat Sh'lach Lekha 5775

25 Sivan 5775
Erev Shabbat Kodesh
Shabbat Mevarchim

Parashat Shelach Lecha: Please meet one of the ten spies
by Daniel Pinner

You know who the ten spies were? You know how they made such a terrible mistake? You think they were fools maybe, or that they lacked faith in God? That they didn’t know that God Himself protects Israel, so the physical power and size of the Canaanites was less relevant to Israel’s destiny than last year’s rainfall in Spain? That they didn’t know enough Torah?

Think again.

“They were all men – they were leaders of the Children of Israel” (Numbers 13:3). “They were all sharp-witted men” (Targum Yonatan ad. loc.), and “whenever the Tanach uses the word anashim (men) it indicates important men, and at the time they were all worthy” (Rashi).

“They were mighty men” (S’forno), otherwise Moshe wouldn’t have chosen them. The Ba’al ha-Turim (Rabbi Ya’akov ben Asher, Germany and Spain, c.1275-1343) notes that the three words שלח לך אנשים (“send for yourself men”), with which God’s charge to Moshe begins, end with the letters חכם (“wise”): “Ensure that they are wise and righteous”.

All these commentators base their comments on the Midrash. “Whenever it says anashim (men), they are righteous men… You call these men fools? – They were called fools solely because they slandered the Land of Israel… They were righteous both according to Israel and according to Moshe” (Bamidbar Rabbah 16:5).

To understand who these spies were, what caused them to go so directly against God even despite their righteousness and wisdom, and how they managed to plunge the nation into such heresy and sin, it is best to meet one of these spies.

He is a wise and righteous Jew, scrupulously observing all the mitzvot. He believes devoutly in the Torah, and all his actions are for the sake of Heaven. Like the ten spies he is convinced that it is against God’s will for us Jews to enter the Land of Israel. His name is Rabbi Dovid Feldman, he lives in the USA, he represents Neturei Kharta, and he is about to give a speech.

Three years ago he addressed the Quds Day Rally in Los Angeles, California. His entire speech, in all its glorious heresy and blasphemy and denial of Torah, can be seen here.

Let us see what this modern-day spy says. And remember, this is no ignoramus-off-the-street, this is no Reform heretic. These are the words of a bona fide Torah-true Jew.

[0:00-0:04] “With the help of the Almighty, a-salaam aleikum”. That is to say, this rabbi, claiming to speak in the name of the God of Israel, begins by addressing his audience in Arabic, using a traditional Islamic greeting.

[0:05-0:10] “We are gathered here today to commemorate the International Day of Al-Quds”.

Where exactly is Al-Quds, again? I searched the entire Tanach, through all the Midrashim and the Talmud, and I haven’t found a single reference to such a city. Yerushalayim – Jerusalem – yes, but no Al-Quds. Oh well, maybe God Himself got His city’s name wrong. How lucky He is that Rabbi Dovid Feldman is here to correct Him on the name of His holy city.

[0:52-0:59] “This is the message of true Judaism: This is a message of solidarity to the Palestinian people…”.

Ah yes, “Palestinian”, from Palestine. Just remind me, please, where do Jewish sources ever call it “Palestine”? Israel, Judea or Judah (depending on the translation), Canaan, the Land of Israel – but I haven’t yet found anywhere in Tanach, Talmud, Midrash, Commentaries thereon, or any other authentic Jewish source that calls the Land “Palestine”.

Well, a little re-writing of the Tanach here and there might be necessary. Again, how lucky God is that Rabbi Feldman is here to correct Him.

Just to put this into perspective: God called this Land Canaan, Israel, and Judah. The pagan Roman idolaters, in their desire to erase Jewish history, renamed the Land “Palestine” in the year 3895 (135 C.E.), after they crushed the Bar Kochba Revolt. It is intriguing, is it not, that Rabbi Feldman prefers the name given by the idolaters who destroyed our Holy Temple over the name given by God. Ah well, spies, you know, spies…

[1:21-1:30] “Judaism forbids, in any manner, shape, or form, the occupation in Palestine”.

Oh, really? And there I was, believing that not only did God Himself command us to live in the Land of Israel – oops, excuse me, in Palestine, since you, Rabbi Feldman, pasken according to idolaters – but also promised through all His prophets that we would one day return there. Ah well, I guess Rabbi Feldman disagrees with Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Hosea, Amos, and all the others. After all, what is Shivat Tziyyon (the Return to Zion) and Kibbutz Galuyot (the Ingathering of the Exiles) if not “the occupation in Palestine” in at least some “manner, shape, or form”?

[1:45-2:04] “Judaism forbids stealing, killing, harming other people, and damaging properties of others. Therefore, all crimes committed against the Palestinian people has [sic] no justification within Judaism”.

Well, normally this is indisputably true. But in time of war, the rules are very different. But now, we can imagine Setur son of Michael, Nahbi son of Vophsi, Yigael son of Yosef, and the other spies standing over the Children of Israel in the Paran Desert and solemnly declaiming: “Judaism forbids stealing, killing, harming other people, and damaging properties of others. Therefore, all crimes committed against the Canaanite people have no justification within Judaism”.

This “rabbi” has obviously never read the very first Rashi in the Torah: “Said Rabbi Yitzhak: The Torah should have begun with ‘This month will be the beginning of your months’ (Exodus 12:2), which is the first mitzvah which Israel were commanded. So what is the reason that the Torah opens with ‘In the beginning’? – Because ‘He has related the power of His works to His nation, to give them the inheritance of nations’ (Psalms 111:6). So if the nations of the world should say to Israel: You are robbers, because you invaded the lands of the seven [Canaanite] nations! – they tell them: The entire world belongs to God, He created it and gave it to whomsoever he saw fit. It was His will to give it to them, and it was His will to take it from them and give it to us”.

[2:33-3:01] “According to Jewish belief, Jews were placed in exile about 2,000 years ago, and this was a Divine decree; this was not because of our physical weakness. According to Judaism we are forbidden to end this exile by physical means. We are forbidden to create a state of our own. This was respected, accepted, for generations, close to 2,000 years”.

Well, not really. Evidently this wise and learned rabbi has never heard of the Bar Kochba Revolt, which attempted to re-establish Jewish sovereignty in Israel, and which was led spiritually by Rabbi Akiva, who was one of the greatest of all the Rabbis of the Talmud.

(Just to indicate how great Rabbi Akiva was, in any halachic dispute between Rabbi Akiva and any other rabbi, the halacha invariably follows Rabbi Akiva: no one can overrule him in any matter at all.)

So much for it being forbidden to use physical means to create a state of our own.

And as for being forbidden to end the exile – has Rabbi Feldman really never heard of the uncountable Jews – predominantly the most devout and the greatest rabbis – who left exile and returned to Israel throughout the centuries? Of the Rambam, who made aliyah in 1168? Of the 300 Tosafists from England and France who made aliyah in 1211? Of Rabbi Yechiel of Paris, who made aliyah in 1260? Of the Ramban, who made aliyah in 1267? Of Don Yosef Nasi, who settled two entire cities – Tiberias and Safed – in 1561 with a huge influx of Jews? Of the over 2,000 Jews who followed Rabbi Yehudah he-Chassid, the Maggid of Shdetlitz, Poland, to Jerusalem over a few years beginning in 1700?

[3:07-3:20] “What is the Jewish hope? – The Jewish hope is for the final redemption, this is a happening which is going to be a spiritual issue, which is going to come about through the Almighty Himself without any human intervention”.

Well, no. Redemption comes about through hishtadlut, through our efforts, which God promises to bless with success if and when circumstances are right. You think that when David the shepherd-boy (long before he was King David) faced Goliath, he raised his hands to the Heavens in prayer? Or that when the Maccabees faced the Syrian-Greeks and Hellenist forces they recited Psalms and waited for God to zap the enemy? Or that Rabbi Akiva sat passively in silent prayer?

See the words of the Rambam concerning the final redemption: “If a king from the House of David will arise, who studies Torah and observes the mitzvot like David his ancestor – both according to the Written Torah and the Oral Torah – and will force all Israel to follow it and strengthen it, and will fight Hashem’s wars, then he is to be considered as fulfilling the criteria of mashiach. If he does all this and succeeds, and builds the Holy Temple in its place and ingathers the Jewish exiles, then he is definitely mashiach…. But if he does not succeed in all this, or if he is killed, then it is clear that he is not the one whom the Torah has promised” (Laws of Kings 11:4).

Now Rabbi Feldman would no doubt distort and pervert the Rambam’s words “fight Hashem’s wars” to mean something like “fight spiritual wars”, convince Jews to be more religious. But the Rambam’s precedent is Shimon Bar-Kochba, who took up very temporal weapons on very physical battlefields, physically fighting and killing the Romans to liberate Israel from Roman occupation, and who indeed began to succeed but was then killed.

The Rambam clearly sees the final redemption as being wrought by a human king and by human power, including military power. Sorry, Rabbi Feldman, but great as you undoubtedly are, the Rambam is even greater. The final redemption comes about at the hands of a human leader, your heresy and denial of the Torah to the contrary.

Our redemption, which is obviously a spiritual issue, involves our very prosaic and temporal return to the Land of Israel, by force of arms if necessary – again, your heresy and denial of the Torah to the contrary.

[3:35-3:44] “Judaism is one thing, and one thing only: it’s a religion. It has nothing to do with politics or with nationalism”.

This is hardly a new claim. The Reform movement said exactly the same: “We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community, and therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning the Jewish state” (Pittsburgh Platform of 1885, the official statement of Reform ideology). Reform and Neturei Kharta oppose Zionism – Jewish nationalism, the return to Zion, the very redemption itself – for the identical reason.

Is Judaism only a religion and not a nation? Well, let’s ask God. Did He promise Abraham, “I will make you a great religion”, or “I will make you a great nation”? Find the answer in Genesis 12:2. Did God define us as His “religion of Priests and a holy Religion”, or His “Kingdom of Priests and a holy Nation”? (Hint: look in Exodus 19:6). “Nothing to do with politics or with nationalism” – has this wise moron and righteous blasphemer ever even read his Bible? Does he believe in it? What was Moshe – a guru? What was Joshua – a pulpit rabbi in Queens? King Saul, King David, King Solomon – were they yeshiva-heads? Or were all these men political and national leaders? (Hint: Read the Bible for the answer.)

“…Nothing to do with politics”? Either this wise moron has never heard of Hilchot Melachim u-Milchemoteihem (Laws of Kings and their Wars), with which the Rambam concludes his Halachic opus, the Mishneh Torah, or else this righteous blasphemer deliberately denies it. Hilchot Melachim u-Milchemoteihem is, if you will, a political piece, insofar as it contains the instructions on how to govern a Jewish state.

Unfortunately, it would appear that this learned ignoramus has also never heard of Tractate Sanhedrin of the Talmud, since that contains the basis for Jewish government – politics and nationalism at its peak!

My heart grows weary of listening to the heresies and blasphemies and idiocies and lies of this rabbi, and I am sure that you too, dear reader, grow bored and weary. Let’s abbreviate:

[5:49-6:05] The crowd chants “Gaza, Gaza, don’t you cry, Palestine will never die”.

“Never” is a big word; “never” is best left for God. If Rabbi Feldman believes – as he evidently does – that “Palestine will never die”, then he clearly does not believe in the coming of the mashiach and the ultimate redemption.

No, don’t deny it. Mashiach inevitably means restoration of Jewish sovereignty in the entire Land of Israel, which inevitably means no more Palestine.

Really, enough already. Let’s jump to the end:

[12:17-13:10] “Our prayer is – we hope and we pray for the speedy and peaceful dismantlement of the entire State of Israel. The respect and the dignity should be returned to the Palestinian people, the refugees should be returned to their towns, and all homes should be returned to its [sic] rightful owners. At that time we can expect that the beautiful peace and coexistence that did exist in the past hopefully will be the future. Ultimately, we pray that the Glory of the Almighty should be revealed throughout the universe, His Kingdom should be recognized by all, and all humanity should serve Him together in peace and harmony. Thank you very much, a-salaam aleikum”.

The “the beautiful peace and coexistence that did exist in the past” is unfortunately a dream, a lie, a myth, a fantasy.

But more important: notice that this “rabbi’s” ultimate prayer, hope, expectation is eternal Jewish exile. No return to Zion, no Ingathering of the Exiles, no Third Holy Temple.

Notice the boy to the rabbi’s right, holding the placard “Liberate the great Al-Aqsa Mosque”. This, then, is the modern spy’s vision of redemption. The Jews will remain scattered in exile forever, the Third Holy Temple will never be built on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and the line of King David will never be restored. Instead, this blasphemer and idiot’s vision of redemption entails the Ingathering of the Palestinian exiles, the Al-Aqsa Mosque standing as the eternal House of Allah on the Haram al-Sharif in Al-Quds, the restoration of the House of King Arafat ruling over Palestine forever.

Yet is there any rabbi, any responsible Jewish religious leader in the world, who dares to challenge the lies and heresies and blasphemies of Neturei Kharta? Their beards, their claims to be “Torah-true Jews”, seem to grant them immunity from the scathing criticism that would be hurled – that indeed is hurled – against the secular-left Israel-haters.

This is why the ten spies could get away with their heresies and rebellion against God. Those wise and righteous men “were righteous both according to Israel and according to Moshe”, so no one dared challenge them.

Now is the time for the nation to arise and consign the spies of our time – those wise and righteous men who make themselves into fools and blasphemers – into oblivion, into outer darkness. Let them dream their anti-Torah dreams of eternal Jewish exile; let them deny the fundamental principles of Judaism; let them collaborate with the world’s most vicious Jew-killers.

And let us cast off the yoke of the spies and return, strong and proud and free after all these weary centuries, to our homeland. As Caleb said: “Ascend – let us ascend – and we will inherit it! Because we can – we can do it!” (Numbers 13:30).