Beyond the Cusp

June 25, 2017

The Scene Turned Ugly at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn

 

The rally was organized by extremist groups in the camp of Orthodox Jewry in both the United States and Israel who are against their congregants having to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) because they believe that their willingness to study Torah, most of them, should exempt all of them from service just in case they decide they desire to study Torah today. These groups are part but not all of the Haredi movement. What is interesting is that in the United States the Haredi have normal lives, as they would see things. In Israel, many of the Haredi do not work and instead spend their days studying Torah, or so the argument is made. This is why they claim they should not be forced to serve in the IDF. They claim that according to Torah, their study brings about peace and that is their contribution to the safety of Israel. This is not a universal belief and there are Haredi who serve in the IDF with great distinction in many cases. These soldiers are in risk should they visit friends or family in Haredi neighborhoods and one recently suffered broken ribs as he was attacked in his own Haredi neighborhood. This was a disgrace and the most despicable of actions by those Haredi who perpetrated this beating.

 

IDF Crest Insignia

 

This takes us back to the rally held at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, New York, New York. This rally was anything but inexpensive. Those behind organizing this rally have deep pockets and cannot be taken lightly as with such pockets comes power. This makes the events which transpired at the rally of importance. The rally was announced as being held in sympathy with the Haredi in Israel and their soon being required to serve in the IDF except for a percentage who will be Torah scholars, but the average Haredi are going to be drafted, as are everyone else, to serve their term in the IDF. This is part of the effort to integrate the majority of the Haredi into mainstream Israeli society as this is quickly becoming a necessity as the numbers of Haredi in the population increases the remainder of the Israeli people will be unable to support the Haredi. This is being resisted and the movement has been joined by other extremist groups in the camp of Orthodox Jewry. The rally very quickly turned from supporting the Haredi cause to being grossly anti-Zionist and then finally anti-Israel. That is where the rally became troubling and unacceptable.

 

Having political views is one thing which is acceptable. Turning against the Jewish state by organized Jews and doing so in such a publically observable manner is unacceptable. Jews who believe that Israel has no right to exist because according to their belief and interpretation of Torah the Jews were to await the Messiah before reestablishing their homeland is one thing. Publically calling Israel an abomination or decrying her existence is something entirely different. By expressing such views in a public forum can only result in enforcing the enemies of Israel and possibly result in enemies of Israel acting claiming that even the Jews do not believe in or support fully the Jewish state. Calling for an end to Israel is calling for the elimination of the Israeli Jews who are going nowhere voluntarily. That is well over six-million Jews plus all the rest of the Israeli population. This is a serious breach of reality. The Jewish state is a fact and exists. Claiming that the Zionist Jews should have awaited the Messiah is a wonderful thought. There are also Jews who read the same Torah and believe that there need be a Jewish Israel and Jerusalem into which the Messiah can return. Obviously, both sides of this argument cannot be correct and to muddy the waters further there are those who believe that there will be no Messiah, but only a Messianic Age. There will be only one means of determining which of the three sides are correct, and that will require either the arrival of the Messiah or the Messianic Age. The arrival of the Messiah will, of course, answer many, many questions and settle who was correct, as if it makes any difference at that point.

 

That brings us back to now. There are far too few Jews for us to go around accusing one another of presumably unpardonable sins, at least not so publically. Jewish sects have had their differences in every age. Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Ben Azzai had a few differences over which Jews to this day can discuss and argue over the merits of the two Torah scholars. There are many who could rightfully declare that opposing the Jewish state today is tantamount to opposing the survival and welfare of the Jewish people as a whole. Debating Zionism was the biggest argument in Judaism a century ago but as of May 15, 1948 (5th of Iyyar, 5708) that debate was made mute. There is no reason to continue to beat a dead horse, as the saying goes. That debate is over, Israel lives and now it is the future of the Jewish people. Should Israel disappear the remainder of Judaism would assimilate and disappear except for a few stray groups clustered around their Rabbi and the Jews would become more of an oddity than a religion. That is the future of Judaism without Israel.

 

Yes, there are those with a differing view of Torah than the religious Zionists like myself. They believe the Messiah must come to establish Israel and we believe that Israel must have been established and Jerusalem brought into Jewish hands for the Messiah to have an Israel from within which to enter Jerusalem. We believe that Israel is not yet ready to receive the Messiah and until we hold Jerusalem as our capital undivided and wholly holy and ours and with all the holy cities of our Torah under Israeli law and with Jews as the citizens within. Then once we are worthy, the Messiah will come. That is when all the Jews are worthy and we will never be worthy as long as we are at one another’s throats. We are one people despite our differences and we need to act as one people. Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Ben Azzai had differences and debated their different interpretations all while each respecting the other. We could learn a lot from their friendly rivalry which was carried forth with high respect and never with animosity from one for the other. Debate within Judaism is almost a tradition, but always with respect and cordiality. As fellow Jews, we must act as what we are, brothers and sisters, a glorious family, the descendants of Abraham, Isaak and Jacob. Differences aside, we all say the same prayers and observe the same holidays and enjoy our Sabbath meals with family. While I understand the arguments of whether Israel was to be established before or by the Messiah and understand how many rise and fall over this argument, I see all of us as Jews first and foremost. We must all adopt this view for there are too few of us as has been the sad reality in every age. When we fight amongst ourselves, we only stir up wrath which will be our downfall. We must overcome out differences and learn to love one another as the siblings which we are. That is the long and the short of this and displays such as the one at Barclay Center in Brooklyn, New York, New York can only serve to destroy the Jewish people making us but a footnote of history. Torah say such can never be, so apparently Torah says we must mend our ways.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

March 16, 2016

Should the Haredi be an Israeli Priesthood?

 

There are a number of schools of thought on whether or not the Haredi should be permitted to study Torah and allow that to be their contribution generally to Israeli society. Some are demanding that the Haredi face mandatory enlistment into the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) exactly the same as the rest of Jewish youths. Some are in favor of just young men while permitting the women not need to be enlisted with some claiming they be encouraged or made to serve in alternate public service. Then there are those who desire to allow the entirety of Haredi population simply lead pious lives dedicated to learning Torah with the referencing the numerous Haredi who spend as much as twelve hours every day except Sabbath either in services or learning Torah. Some less observant Israelis have pointed out the appearance of Haredi young men apparently strolling parks or in other non-study activities as proof that such a deferment for Torah study has been abused by some Haredi with which they broad brush the entirety of Haredi. There are few who desire to force the true and studious Torah scholars to not be permitted their honest scholarly pursuits as thus too is an important service whether all understand or even believe such dedication actually serve the State. Any serious answer to this situation, this challenge to the leadership of both the State of Israel and the Haredi society must find a reasonable and sensible solution which also takes into account some obvious demographic realities of the situation.

 

The one problem is that the Haredi community is a growing sector which would eventually reach a critical percentage where they would exceed the ability of the nation to support their complete absence from the societal productive engines. Simply stated, at some point in the not far distant future the Haredi community will be required to become productive if only to offset any costs their entire segment of society places on the State. The claim that the Haredi cover their own costs may be accurate to a point but at some point just producing sufficient food and clothing would exceed the potential of the state to produce and/or import even if the Haredi pay for their consumption as should they become over half, if not merely a lesser percentage, the production of the remainder of the population could not produce sufficient without employing the entirety of the remainder at a pace to support twice their population. At some point the Haredi will be made to make a judgement of which of their population show a particular promise or special talent lending them capable of receiving support to dedicate themselves to Torah study and such deferment should also be provided for any Israeli judged and desiring such dedication. There should be similar requirements as exist for professors at universities and colleges or teaching at Yeshivas. Also the Yeshivas should also be teaching at the least a basic education in addition to Torah study and perhaps a Torah curriculum for the public schools could be taught by religious scholars not just at Yeshivas. Such dispensations could and should be pursued with a plan to utilize those best suited in Torah scholarship to pursue such ends while it will soon be imperative for parts of the Haredi community to join the workforce and also serve in the IDF in special units which would allow for their observant lifestyle and restrictions not be challenged either intentionally, as has been the appearance in some instances, or through misunderstanding. These units will also likely require that a percentage, if not majority, of the officers and command chain be Haredi such that the sensitivities of these units will be better accommodated and understood by their commanders. If Israel is going to be serious about incorporating the Haredi into the society as a whole and especially into the IDF then some accommodations will be required and some give and take will be necessary on both sides. This will even include some arrangements with employers which will benefit all religious Jews and give some additional freedom to secular Jews and Israelis who are not particularly or even slightly Jewish. These accommodations will necessarily include scheduling such that the Sabbath is a say free of work with the obvious exception should rotation require a Haredi combat or mission necessary unit be scheduled for a rotation which counters Sabbath as defense of the nation is an exception recognized under Torah and universally.

 

 

Haredi Soldiers Taking Time for Morning Prayers in the Field During Training

Haredi Soldiers Taking Time
for Morning Prayers in the
Field During Training

 

The accommodations in the workplace would be no different than the accommodations granted Islamic religious members of the workplace who require prayer five times each day with the times set fairly rigidly. There should also be a liberalized attire universally applied for any group which had certain requirements for their appearance and attire. As stated, such accommodations should be universal and inclusive such that every group is comfortable and not unnecessarily required to break with traditional attire whenever possible. Needless to point out, should the required attire of a workplace stand counter to one’s religious requirements they should not seek employ in such locations such as nightclubs, clothing stores with secular progressive clothing requirements, and any place equally obvious which would be stated up front such that those who objected to the requirements would know not to seek employment in such places. There has to be certain rights both respecting the employer as well as the employees. An upscale and modern liberal clothing store would not be a place where Haredi or Islamic attire would be an accepted uniform, of sorts, attire which would necessarily show off such attire as part of being a salesperson. Some things should be obvious even to the most casual of observers, and the law should recognize the right of an employer to have appropriate attire and acceptance of the cliental and activities. A disco might not be an acceptable place for a strictly religious person of many faiths to choose work and such a place could have expectations which would exclude such employees in the first place. Such things should be obvious, period.

 

Military uniforms and other specific requirements for position are also understandable. An elite force which is designed to deploy places where the requirement might include wearing of a gas mask that people with full beards would have difficulties with such a mask and thus might not desire such an assignment or must be willing to remove their facial hair. As far as working in close proximity with women offending some stridently observant individuals, there should be accommodations and allowances whenever and wherever imaginable with a very liberal interpretation if such is possible. The scheduling women singing before a Haredi unit should never even cross the minds of commanders and if such were to be scheduled, then those wishing to excuse themselves should be granted alternate assignments and not just necessarily set free of any work related requirements. They might perhaps be assigned other duties such as cleaning communal areas or guard duty or other duty as seen fit in place of the setting they find objectionable. There is always something that requires doing in a military setting or they could be assigned policing the area of the performance after its completion. Such assignments would be at the discretion of the commanders of each unit.

 

The Haredi community should be granted generous liberties to define who amongst their community show and should be granted liberal special rights classifying them as a Torah sage or an astute and capable educator capable of inspiring students in the ways of Torah and the Written and Oral Laws. Whether or not a quota or percentile of the Haredi population will be permitted special observance privileges to spend their lives studying Torah or teaching Torah and the commandments and traditions in an inspiring fashion will largely depend on the responsible response and classification of their population between dedicated Torah scholars and teachers and those who will serve in the IDF or social services will, in the best possible of worlds, be left to the Haredi for as long as they perform these functions responsibly. Such a compromise needs to be reached such that both the Haredi and the general population are served through a mutual agreement and not through actual legislation, laws, court cases and general animosity. The reality is both the general Israeli public and especially the Haredi are majority Jewish populations and it would be nice to believe they could reach some accord which satisfies both communities. One can only hope that such an agreement is possible and can be attained with minimal if any acrimony as we are both majority Jewish, right?

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

February 9, 2014

Israel as the State of the Jewish People

One of the major hurdles that are causing an impasse in the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has been the demand for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the State for the Jewish People. Under Islamic law, Sharia, any land that was once under Muslim rule must never fall under other than Muslim rule and if it should then forcing a reversion back under Muslim rule becomes an imperative for the entirety of Islam. But this tenet of Islam is only the excuse behind the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish State; their real motivations are simply the destruction of Israel as being Jewish and that is the driving force behind their refusal. The refusal by the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish nature of Israel is actually a secondary problem facing those who insist that Israel be defined as a democratic Jewish state. Their major difficulty is the secular Jews who do not view Israel as Jewish but simply desire that Israel be defined as a multiethnic pluralistic democratic state and to simply ignore any reference to the Jewishness of the majority of the citizens of Israel. Many of these Jews are simply secularists who happen to have been born of Jewish parents but who do not follow the commandments and traditions of the Jewish faith to a greater degree.

                          

This situation is far more than just a bothersome and tedious argument between the religious and/or Zionist sectors of Israeli society with the secular, post-Zionist sector of Israeli society; it is a struggle for the heart and soul of Israel as to whether or not it will be justifiably defined as the Jewish State. This dispute over how to define the nation of Israel has become more heated over the last couple of decades as more and more Israeli Jews are returning to their faith and roots and the study of Torah has become more mainstream. The original large majority held by the secular and often socialist Zionists who held the controlling hand in the formation of the governance after Israel was founded in 1948 has seen their majority dwindle away until they are facing the fact that Israel has become increasingly religious and Zionist. This is taken as a direct threat to the comfort of those who purport that the government should be purely secular and that in order for Israel to be considered a partner in what they see as the civilized world, they hold dearly to the principle that there must be a separation of the state from any religious influences. Unfortunately, their belief that there should be no religious influence on the government does not hold in the other direction, they also hold the opinion that the state should have the final say and ability to overrule and control the functions of religion within the society. Needless to say, they see absolutely no discrepancies in holding these two opposing views as they view religious observance and religious influences on the nation and the society as a detrimental effect fraught with superstitions and antiquated ideas and ideals. Their actions reflect a trepidation that the growing influence of religious ideas and ideals into Israeli society might rub off on them and corrupt their pure core concepts of good governance and its need to be completely removed and independent of the evil influences of religious principles, especially Jewish religious principles, as their fear is that the society will favor Jews over non-Jewish citizens. Much of this unwarranted fear stems from their lack of understanding of Jewish laws, traditions and the importance it places on equal treatment with an emphasis on equality before the law.

 

Any competent and complete study of Jewish law, Torah, reveals commandments that Jewish society is required to treat the stranger no differently that it treats another Jew. The stranger amongst the Jewish People has the same rights and actually a few additional rights stemming from not having to fulfill certain religious duties which a Jew is expected to fulfill. The stranger has every secular right that a Jew is allowed and is to be treated fairly by the courts, allowed security in their possessions, respect given their religious practices providing such does not cause Jews to break any commandments or violate the Noahic Code, and generally see no difference in any legal pursuit or action. These secularists also refuse to acknowledge that it was from Jewish societal laws that much of modern western civilized laws are based. This is even more true when one refers to the founding basis of the United States and its laws of governance and rights granted the people. It is also the basis for why in the United States any legal immigrant has near equal rights and responsibilities as an American citizen enjoys or is obligated. The ideas and ideals of a limited government comes from Torah which insists that any King of the Jewish People is forbidden from acquiring great wealth, horses, cattle, lands or other trappings of advantage or benefit over the peoples that they rule. Needless to say, these laws worked as well as the United States Constitution has limited the rise and overpowering of the Federal Government trampling over the individual States’ rights and powers. Any ruler of the Jewish People is also directed to spend inordinate amounts of time studying Torah so that they will be familiar with its restrictions and follow the law in an exemplary manner as an example for the population to also act according to Torah and keep the commandments. The secularists by attempting to reduce, if not eliminate, any religious influence over Israeli governance and also impede those who have strong religious beliefs from attaining high office, especially in the judiciary, are actually going against Torah and its guidelines of equality and acceptance of others who have different beliefs.

 

There have been some notable instances recently which exemplify this struggle for the heart and soul of Israel. Not the least has been the arguments over how to include the Haredi in the mandatory induction of youth into the IDF or National Service. Despite his campaigning as a pro-Zionist, pro-settler and renunciation of his father’s animosity of the religious, Yair Lapid has recently made numerous statements of positions which are diametrically opposed to his campaign promises. Just as his father before him, Yair Lapid has shown contempt for the Haredi and spoken out against dedicated Torah study as an unnecessary and wasteful endeavor which has little place or service of the nation of Israel. His most recent rant declared that his Yesh Atid Party would leave the government, presumably forcing new elections, if any new enlistment law covering the Haredi youth did not include sentencing them to incarceration and not simply calling for a fine or loss of government benefits. Any law which called for a loss of government benefits on any Haredi refusing a lawful draft would actually be even worse than a jail term as it would preclude their ability to study Torah full-time, the argument at the core of this debate. The Supreme Court declared the Tal Law unconstitutional voiding it thus removing the automatic deferment for anybody who studied Torah full-time in a structured arrangement from IDF or National Service. The Tal Law had been in effect since the formation of the State of Israel in 1948 and had just recently been challenged by leftist organization on the grounds that it was discriminatory. I am unaware of any people other than Haredi who had attempted to utilize the Tal Law to gain deferment from service on the grounds of full-time Torah study but if such were permitted then the law was not discriminatory. The leftists claimed that the law discriminated against secular Jews and non-Jews unfairly but since nobody from either group ever attempted to have the Tal Law applied to them, there is no case of it being denied to any other than Haredi draft age youth. Perhaps there is the solution to drafting a replacement law for the Tal Law, simply pass a new Tal Law that is worded almost exactly the same but include specific guidelines which make the law applicable to anybody who desires to take up full time Torah study in a structured environment. By allowing such a deferment to go to any citizen of draft age would remove any discriminatory application. It might be necessitated that an additional allowance be included determining that Haredi Torah schools be opened to other than Haredi who desire to study Torah full time. I would hope that the Haredi would welcome the additional interest in Torah study and willingly allow such applications and look upon them favorably.

 

Israeli Minister of Finance Yair Lapid has also taken a pro-two state peace plan position which is diametrically opposed to his campaign statements of support for those communities east of the 1949 Armistice Lines, the Green Line. He has praised United States Secretary of State Kerry and Israeli Justice Minister and lead negotiator Tzipi Livni on their efforts to forge a solution which will be tailored such that Mahmoud Abbas and the rest of the Palestinian leadership will approve and sign said agreement. Yair Lapid has made statements degrading and ridiculing Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home Party, the same man with whom an agreement was reached that either both or neither would join the coalition and also agreed to back the Jewish residents beyond the green line and fully support a Zionist agenda. I wish I could say that this contemptible reversal by Minister Lapid is surprising but he appears to be following and walking in the exact same footprints as his father, Tommy Lapid, walked in his brief political career. Just like Tommy Lapid and his Shinui Party, Yair Lapid is leading his party in a path that castigates the Haredi community and compromises a true Zionist view for the rights of the State and people of Israel. The polls have reflected this similarity as his father’s party entered the Knesset with six seats in its first election and failed ever after from returning and Lair’s party had an impressive nineteen seats in his first elections and polls have shown a steadily decreasing strength over time to where they are indicating that the Yesh Atid Party would only receive half that number if elections were held today. One can expect that number to continue to dwindle if Yair continues to fall away from his campaign promises and aligns further to the left and post-Zionist positions.

 

The erosion of support for Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid Party is further proof that the people of Israel are returning to their religious roots and supporting a Zionist settling of all the lands of Israel and departing the leftist, socialist roots that ruled supreme for over fifty years after the founding of Israel. Where this will eventually lead has yet to be made clear. The optimistic side tells me that we will not need wait too much longer before we witness a change in the direction and attitudes of those who decide the path that the governance of Israel will take. The “old guard” will soon be replaced by a younger generation who appear to be less restrained in their enthusiasm and display an enviable level of energy and vigor. The future appears promising providing Israel can survive the remaining years of trial by fire and onslaught of an orchestrated drive to eradicate the Jewishness of Israel. Much of this has been aided by the absence of the full and unbridled support from the administration in Washington.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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