21 August 2015

Parshat Shoftim 5775

6 Elul 5775
Erev Shabbat Kodesh

"You shall not set up a sacred post — any kind of pole beside the altar of the Lord your God that you may make —  or erect a stone pillar; for such the Lord your God detests." (Devarim 16.21)

It goes back to Am Yisrael being a holy nation - one set apart from the other nations to fulfill a unique destiny. We are forbidden to copy the ways of the gentiles.

Washington Monument, Washington DC, United States – Standing just over 555 feet (169.294 meters) tall, the Washington Monument is the world’s tallest obelisk as well as the world’s tallest stone structure. Like many modern obelisks, it is not monolithic but rather composed of marble, granite, and bluestone gneiss. Construction began in 1848 and completed only in 1884. It is one of the most recognized symbols of Washington and even the United States.

Obelisk at Saint Peter’s Square, Vatican City – Located in the middle of one of the most famous city squares in the world, the obelisk in Saint Peter’s square is a 4,000 years old Egyptian obelisk which was transported from Egypt to Rome during the reign of Emperor Augustus. It was moved from the circus to its current site in 1586. During the Middle Ages, the gilt ball on top of the obelisk was believed to contain the ashes of Julius Caesar. However, when the ancient metal ball was removed, it was empty. This ancient monolithic obelisk is just over 25 meters tall.

Luxor Obelisk, Luxor, Egypt – Two giant obelisks once stood at the entrance of the Luxor Temple, a UNESCO world heritage site. The right one was given as a present to France during the 19th century and it now stands in the Place de la Concorde. The left obelisk still stands today at the entrance.

You can see seven more here - Ten Awesome Obelisks from Around the World.

And as you might imagine, it all hearks back to Egypt!

In 241 BC the Romans conquered Sicily in the course of their first war against Carthage. The possession of this island at the center of the Mediterranean Sea led to the first contacts with the Egyptian Empire, which was ruled by a Greek dynasty, the Lagides, after Lago a general of Alexander the Great. The Lagides are more often referred to as the Ptolemies, Ptolemy being the recurring name of their Pharaohs. The rise of Rome in the Mediterranean did not lead to confrontation with Egypt, although the internal quarrels among the members of the Egyptian dynasty gave Rome some say in the internal matters of Egypt.

In 49 BC Pompey, after his defeat at Pharsalus, sought refuge in Alexandria, then the capital of Egypt, but the Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII assassinated him to ingratiate himself with Caesar. Caesar however was not pleased with the killing of his rival and took the side of Cleopatra, both sister and wife of Ptolemy in a dynastic quarrel between the two. A Roman army defeated Ptolemy in 47 BC and Cleopatra ascended the throne of Egypt. The Roman general fell in love at first sight with the Egyptian Queen and in a way it was the same for the two countries.

With the exception of Greece no other country had greater influence over the Romans and the Egyptian gods became key members of the Roman pantheon. The official iconography of the Roman Emperor, strictly defined by Augustus admitted only one exception so that the Emperor could be portrayed as an Egyptian Pharaoh to underline the continuity between the pharaohs and the emperors. In this context Augustus after having defeated Antony and Cleopatra and conquered Egypt in 30 BC brought from Heliopolis to Rome the obelisks dedicated to the Pharaohs Rameses II and Psammetichus II. Other obelisks came from Egypt or were made in Rome in the next three centuries; thirteen of them can still be seen in the streets of Rome. (Source)

So keep this in mind when when you read this week's parsha and the prohibition of erecting a stone pillar next to Hashem's altar. It's a reminder of everything that is abhorrent to Hashem!

For those who don't already know, there is a city on the coast of Israel called Caesarea after the Caesars of Rome. It was built by the Romans when they ruled over Eretz Yisrael and there they made a real Roman home for themselves which included one of these stone pillars...

In the second century CE a large facility for chariot races...was constructed in the eastern part of Roman Caesarea. This facility replaced ‘Herod’s Circus’, which was built in the western part of the city. A fallen obelisk and three conical columns made of red granite (Aswan granite) were discovered in the center of the arena in the eastern hippodrome. The obelisk was found broken, in three pieces . Due to the importance and uniqueness of the obelisk it was decided to re-erect the monument in its original location

The Caesarea obelisk is the only one of its kind known to exist within the boundaries of the State of Israel, and thus re-erecting it was an unprecedented project. A vast majority of the conservation committee approved the recommendation to re-erect the obelisk in its original location, as proposed by the IAA. (Source)

The present-day 'Roman' city is intimately connected to the Rothschild family and "is one of Israel's most upscale residential communities. The Baron de Rothschild still maintains a home in Caesarea, as do many business tycoons from Israel and abroad," and including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.


  1. The more we study world history with Jewish eyes the more it all resembles avoda zara

    1. Great point.
      Even the monotheistic Islam's crescents are merely symbols left over from their moon-worshipping ancestors.
      I remember being surprised when reading about the Midyanim in Tanach, with their crescent-wearing camels, that Chazal labeled them as Arabs.
      Nothing new under the sun, eh?

  2. Yea, really. I think it should have been destroyed...who needs a statue....

  3. Something unrelated, but...

    I remember R' Yehuda Richter mentioning the Malbi"m, something not too favorable about the middot of a police officer. Do you remember? Was it all police officers? Or just non-Kosher, non-Beth Din sanctioned ones? Interesting. I just remembered.

    1. Esser, if you read Hebrew, you must check out this article from Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg on the matter of police and Geulah

    2. Yeah, I read Hebrew. ;-) I guess you don't read my blog much. ;-)

      Thanks for the tip! :-)

  4. Devash, permanently destroyed and carted out of there...never to return....


    The recent media coverage and assault regarding recent events serves as a wakeup call from Heaven to renew and regroup our efforts to change the reality as we see fit. This short article will not suffice in explaining the key points in depth, nonetheless we will at least try to give a basic outline and hope that anyone who wants to learn more will do so.

    A fundamental change is needed

    Any response to specific incidents requires understanding the big picture. The reality in the State of Israel today is bleak, both from a practical perspective, and certainly from a faith based Torah perspective. If we further compare our current reality to a vision of idealistic, fulfilled Jewish life in the spirit of the Redemption, it looks all the more bleak.

    Therefore we need a fundamental change. We must look after the personal safety of Jews throughout the land of Israel (instead of covering up terror attacks and attempted murders by not reporting on them in the media). We must strengthen the Jewish identity, both of the public as a whole and of each child individually. We need the Education, Justice, Health, Finance, and Welfare ministries to be based on the values of the Torah. We need to see to the financial wellness of all Jews here in Israel. We need to strengthen Torah learning and also the academic world through a recognition that they must grow together (and not act as enemies or as separate entities). We need to strengthen Jewish family values, community, and our ability to have conversations from a place of Ahavat Yisrael (Jewish solidarity). We must act as a beacon of light and morality for the nations of the world (instead of submitting to their will).

    We must seek out this change, both out of a recognition that the current reality is flawed and because we desire rectification and progress (for this purpose we created the Derech Chaim Movement). Unfortunately, attempts at rectifying the reality often leads to frustrations and illusory solutions, oftentimes even from the most caring people of all. Therefore we must remind ourselves again and again of the true path of the Torah, "whose ways are the ways of pleasantry, and whose path is peace," in order to bring the necessary change.


    1. I have very serious doubts about Rabbi Ginsburg and his Derech Chaim movement. Personally, I think people like him and Moshe Feiglin and a few others mean well, but I don't think they are capable of doing what needs to be done. At this point only Mashiach can do it.

    2. Well, at least he's doing something constructive - and along the lines of Moshiach that no one else is doing - so for that I give him enormous credit. Also I think he and the others in the *Sanhedrin* are on the right track - taking the pope to task among others -


      Vatican asked for his arrest (!)

      Then this - gotta love him just for putting the pope on trial

    3. Don't under-estimate Rabbi Ginsburg - he has a lot of power over his students -who are many.

  6. Also, think they are thinking 'la la' style. We know all this (as pointed out above by Noise Blocker). Only Moshiach can do it, is right! Because there is nothing and no one to work with at the upper establishment level who are the ones with the power.
    Only Moshiach! Nili

  7. Don't even know what this is about - but looking at those photos you posted and then watched this latest thing that's happening - and hmm...those obelisks sure do look like what everyone's seeing in the atmosphere - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcckJAh52cU

  8. Here, bringing the Vatican to trial

    Pope Francis to be Tried by Sanhedrin
    By Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz July 7, 2015 , 11:30 am

    A re-established and self declared Israeli Sanhedrin, the religious High Court composed of 71 sages, has declared that it is putting Pope Francis on trial unless he retracts his statement that the Jews have no right to the land of Israel or to Jerusalem.

    In February 2013, the Vatican officially recognized the “State of Palestine” but more significantly, the Vatican signed a treaty in June with “Palestine” in which the Holy See switched its diplomatic relations from the Palestinian Liberation Organization to the “State of Palestine”. This treaty is the first legal document negotiated between the Holy See and the Palestinian state and as such, constitutes an official recognition.

    The trial and judgment will be on September 20th, 2015. If Pope Francis chooses to ignore the summons, he will be judged in absentia.

    The Sanhedrin sent a letter to Pope Francis in reaction to the Vatican’s recent support of the Palestinian Authority’s unilateral moves to declare themselves a nation, reported the Hebrew magazine Matzav Haruach on June 24.


    The letter stated:

    “Because the Vatican recognized the organization known as the Palestinian Authority as a nation, and has begun to refer to it as a nation in its documents. His honor has named the head of said authority as an ‘Angel of Peace’, as was explained by a spokesman for the Vatican, that his intention was to encourage Abu Mazen to advance towards peace. These actions, to our great dismay, are consistent with a long series of actions and stances that are as in the days of the Roman Catholic Religion, that swore to persecute Israel because we refused to accept their Messiah as the Messiah of Israel, and to renounce our faith. The recent announcements and actions of the Vatican are a rebuke to the Jewish Nation and to the Bible, which you use to interpret the prophecies, as if God has abandoned his original Nation of Israel. Reality has proven the opposite to be true.”

    “We require from you an apology for your recognizing as a nation those who stole the land, those who are known as the Palestinian Authority, and we are informing the Vatican that the sole God given right to the land of Israel is to the Nation of Israel.