Beyond the Cusp

February 17, 2019

Has the Time Come for Women as Rabbis?

 

We understand that the obvious answer is, ‘No,’ and that there really is nothing to debate, but when has that stopped us. There are the numerous arguments put forth by the Open Orthodoxy or New Orthodoxy, Modern Orthodoxy, Neo-Orthodoxy or the more realistic, Reform Judaism with a few additional Commandments. The crux of the problem is, as almost anybody who has read anything about this tempest in a teapot, the ordination of women as Rabbi. The easy answer is to stand with the nearly unanimous decision by virtually every Poskim, the RCA (Rabbinical Council of America) and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and declare from the rooftops while standing next to a scarecrow of a man playing his violin and scream, “Tradition!” But that is taking the short road to an answer which leaves out all the intricacies and ignores the pressures and times of modernity. Women’s rights will need to be addressed at some point, but that point has not yet arrived. Far too many of those in positions to accept this challenge are mired in the rules and morals of early in the past century. Then women took care of the home and the men took care of the world just as the Bible and Torah instruct are the responsibilities of each gender. The world had gone through a period of rocketing change with gender roles being blurred and the responsibilities often being turned on their heads. But Judaism has not survived by being reckless and rushing to accept every change which has come down the halls of time. Tradition has been the watchful eye which kept the boat upright and it is not about to allow for the boat tipping too far left just as it kept it from tipping too far right as the political pendulum has swung back and forth.

 

 

The best approach might be to take small steps and see how they work and if they place too much of a burden or cause things to become difficult or produce side-effects which are arduous, then the small steps can be retraced and a return to normalcy. It is not as if Judaism has not gone through some tumultuous traumas. When we left Egypt we found that the generation which had been in Egypt were not fully capable of change and this resulted in forty-years of wandering almost aimlessly in the dessert until a new generation could be born and reach age. Then, with a fresh population unencumbered with the ravages of slavery and dependence filled with self-confidence was capable of the task of winning a homeland. Then Joshua, one of the two spies who came back with a report of a land ready to be taken, the other was Caleb. The fight was probably far more difficult than it would have been for the Israelites when they first perched on the borders of what is today Israel. But in time the lands were conquered and became the initial state of Israel (see map below). That was how nations were built and how many an empire would start out, taking a small regions for their own and then embarking on greater conquests often incorporating the conquered people initially into their empire as full citizens. This was the name of the game and the Jews started with no king or queen but lived only with the guidance of Judges and Prophets. Prophets continued into their period with Kings which turned sour all too quickly. Then there came the years of conquest by foreign empires with short stints of self-rule. Eventually the Jews, as they had come to be known as most were Judeans by birth, as they were from the Tribe of Judah, were dispersed throughout the Roman Empire, with some even thrown into slavery in further lands, and there appeared to be no way for this small group surviving such treatment. The Jews remained dispersed throughout the world and only in the past century and a half have really begun to return to the ancient homelands reestablishing the nation of Israel. So, yes, we have seen dire times and persecutions and even the Holocaust, a persecution unparalleled in, at the least, modernity. We survived and remained a people through one factor; we remained steadfastly true to our holy books and based it all on Torah. The Torah became our homeland, portable and able to be applied in any region, setting, situation and so forth. This is partly why the leaders of the Jewish Faith, not necessarily the Jewish Nations but the faith, remain resistant to change, without foresight to see what is over the horizon, one remains reluctant to change, especially change that appears to be drastic, that which has guided and kept your people as one through the harrowing threats of history.

 

Twelve Tribes of Israel and the Original Borders for Israel

Twelve Tribes of Israel and the Original Borders for Israel

 

So, perhaps, in the not too distant future, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel might venture into permitting equal seating for men and women in a section of the main hall, not necessarily the entirety. They could permit those synagogues which were inclined to set aside an area where husband and wife, of course with children, to be seated together but leave sufficient space for those opposed to such a liberal concept to sit where this area is not bothersome. Yes, we know some people will find it bothersome that a synagogue in the next town allows such seating and they will claim it unnerves them. Change is not easy, ask the Vatican, as we Jews have been about traditions and the literal applications of the rules for far longer than the Christians have. Perhaps there might be some other half-step we have not considered, but change will need to come in small doses as we Jews are a stiff-necked and stubborn people, or so our Torah tells us. Still, we have changed and kept pace with the world as when we reestablished our homelands, we did not return to a monarchy as it last was nor did we try to rely on prophets and judges as even earlier times, nope, we went with a parliamentary democracy and one far more convoluted than even the European versions. Even the Jews who returned home making Aliyah often comment on how Israel has made a parliamentary system of government even more contentious than their home countries could have imagined. For further proof, simply start to read and follow the machinations and other finagling which are sure to play out along the way to the April 9, 2019 Israeli elections and see for yourself.

 

We have somehow gone from Exodus Chapter fifteen verse twenty and twenty-one where it says, “Miriam, the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel (tambourine) in her hand, and all the women came out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam called out to them, Sing to the Lord, for very exalted is He; a horse and its rider He cast into the sea.” This was then and today there are numerous groups within Judaism where men are forbidden to see women dance or perform or even hear them sing as it became considered immodest. There is proof that we can change, and not always in a more progressive direction despite the uncomforting fact that many times the Jews were at the forefront of revolutionary change. Too often these very same revolutions turned against the Jews and persecuted them claiming they were the enemies of the state they assisted in forming. Such was the case in the Soviet Union and in other cases before that and since. These such outcomes went quite some distance in imprinting caution in the Jews who survived, escaped or were fortunate enough to read of these events from a distance into a dread for change. We have held to our traditions which for centuries slowly drifted to being more and more conservative as this is the result of persecution. The Jewish People are barely a full generation beyond what was a cataclysmic conflagration to our people who lived on the European continent as the Germans and the Russians took their turns persecuting and executing Jews. This did not endear that generation or the following ones to favor radical change, well, except in the United States where much of the radical changes politically and culturally have manifested. They may have found their start in America or in Europe, but if it did not play in America, it likely did not play for very long.

 

Change in Judaism has mostly run at a slow pace making sure that the ground was solid before taking that next step. Wild and reckless are not exactly words which have described the religious Jewish communities. Insular, reactionary, conservative, traditional, stoic, intractable and other similar adjectives have all been used, even by Jews themselves, in defining the Jewish communities, as there are in the United States and Europe as well. Still today in Israel, there are religious communities which all live in a closed community which one need apply and be interviewed, fact-checked, virtually investigated and their religious credentials checked and rechecked before they are permitted to reside within the community. These are some of the communities where the most influential leaders of the Jewish community reside. Asking these individuals to change something so central to Judaism is something which is simply not going to play well. The fact that there are congregations, mostly, if not solely, in the United States and Canada trying to introduce such changes to the Orthodox community, as it has been initially only in Reform and Reconstructionist and later spread to Conservative, is potentially the initial steps. For Jews, though, simply playing well in America is not sufficient for it to become accepted, it must play in Israel. Were the RCA to accept such a change, an alteration in what has been tens of century’s worth of tradition, then perhaps it might be considered by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, though the RCA does not tend to make such moves without working with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. The two operate very much in tandem with much and often deep communication and coordination. This is due to their being the two organizations which preside over the two largest Orthodox communities in the world, one all of Europe does not match. The first sign that there might be a crack in the bricks through which changes will eventually pour through would probably be the permitting, even only on special occasions, for married couples to sit together. Currently, the men sit in one area and the women in a separate area simply because having the women sitting with the men is considered a potential distraction. What some Rabbis might notice is having the wives sit separate from their husbands also provides distraction as they may wish to see how the other is doing or even suddenly realize something which urgently need be communicated, but that is what cell phones are for, right? Kidding aside, the experimentation with women being ordained as Rabbis will very likely have to wait until it starts to make cracks into Israeli society, and that might be closer than we think. No matter the number of Open Orthodox (by whatever name they decide to use this week) Synagogues who have women as assistant Rabbis or Rabbinical interns or outright Rabbis, they will remain shunned, rejected and refused continued sanction by the RCA as they remain lockstep and in sync with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. No matter how many influential American Rabbis join a bandwagon calling for the liberation of Orthodox Judaism, that change will not be leaving the station any time soon. Wait for coed seating to be accepted universally, and then, just maybe there will start to be the inkling of a discussion on going further. First coed seating will need a full period of testing, say about a century or two, then we can talk. Should things go faster than this, it will be a surprise and a sign that the Jews have begun to feel safe and beyond threat in Israel. Currently, we have bigger fish to fry then even coed seating, let alone women as Rabbis.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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March 19, 2016

Israel Palestinian Peace Cannot be Negotiated the Same Old Ways

 

The Western ideal of negotiated settlement between the Arabs and Israel is not possible. The first rule is that the negotiations have nothing to do with a Palestinian state. As soon as Israel is destroyed, the surrounding Arab world will move into the areas dividing up the lands and slaughtering any Palestinian resisting their dividing up the long sought after spoils. There is no intention in the Arab world for a Palestinian state. Their only concern is Israel’s vaunted military power neutralized, and the Palestinians are the sacrificial lamb that disguises their snarling teeth in sheep’s clothing. The Israelis know this and the United States State Department knows this and anybody who has studied the Middle East knows this. Presidents of the United States knew this until recently as they had studied the wars with the Muslim Barbary Pirates starting with Thomas Jefferson and the wars pacifying the Muslim separatists by Blackjack Pershing in the Philippine Islands, a war that continues to this day against the Philippine government. But as has been stated, much to the shame of all, history has become the purview of nerds and misfits. Unfortunately knowledge of where we’ve been is not a prerequisite for leadership, a dearth and deficit which can only prove to be a great disadvantage as leading without a grounding in knowledge with a decent footing in history is taking the wheel of the ship of state ordering the rudder be removed. Perhaps we should have a campaign debate and hold a History Jeopardy debate with points et al; we might even get Alex Trebek.

 

 

Alex Trebek

Alex Trebek of Jeopardy

 

The United States is in its Presidential sweepstakes in what is a wide open field as there will be no actual incumbent. Hillary Clinton will try to play the role of incumbent though the closest she really has been was out at the State Department or decorating the table with the staff for a State dinner where she would play arm candy, probably not her strong suit. Meanwhile there will be in the other contest one who will claim he is the Trump suit. The next runner-up we can feel the Bern or continue on Cruz control. Whatever the result the eventual candidates will never face questions which actually matter for the position of President of the world’s main super power, or at least potentially its main super power if their leaders so choose. There will be questions which would be better posed to those running for Senate and the House of Representatives as they presumably are charged to be the legislators of the domestic issues. The President has the position of presenting the United States to the world and presiding over the foreign policies and all negotiations. If a President has no knowledge of world affairs and history leading up to the present and the precedents set by such, they will fall into the trap of being completely dependent upon the bureaucrats from the State Department for their foreign policy. This would soon commit them to the failures of the past as the State Department is not as adaptable and is more invested in continuing that with which they are familiar and comfortable rather than working to effect change and adapting when challenges present themselves. Government or other establishment career bureaucrats are not exactly daring innovators as they are go along to get along let’s just do that which has worked in most other situations and stick to the book. When it comes to the Arab Israeli conflict the book is what has everything mired in the failures of the past. Past administrations have tried taking the Israeli side, putting space between the United States and Israel and even placing, as President Truman did in 1948-9, an arms embargo on Israel as they were at war with half a dozen Arab nations and expected to perish and none of these positions have brought peace. There has been one policy never attempted and never likely to be implemented but which would end the discussions at least for the foreseeable future. Let us attempt to see what it might be and wonder which of the current candidates would be most likely to implement such an approach.

 

We need to look back to the first ten to twelve years of Israeli history. The initial starting-point of the Arab Israeli conflict dates to dawn on a Shabbat morning, namely Saturday May 15, 1948. On that sunrise the nation of Israel was but hours old, had no functional government and only a provisional government holding power until formal election would be held. Such would have to wait as that dawn brought half a dozen Arab armies and various militias over her borders with a genocidal intent and the end of what was considered an insult to the superiority, preeminence and invulnerability of the Islamic world. It took over a year before the fighting drew to an obvious stalemate and armistice lines were drawn, today known as the Green Line and the Blue Line. The Blue Line serves as the accepted border between Israel and Lebanon. The Green Line separates the Arab Palestinian disputed areas and Israel. It needs to be understood that the Green Line was demanded by the Arab League to never be considered or used as a border as doing so was tantamount to recognizing the existence of the Jewish State of Israel, an anathema to Arab and Muslim pride and self-respect. The original borders recognized by the United Nations and decided by the General Assembly defaulted to the Jewish State when the Arab League refused to accept the evenly divided United Nations map leaving the lands undivided to Israel (see maps below).

 

 

Left UN Partition Plan Resolution 181 Rejected by Arabs Making Original British Partition Arab and Jewish Lands as Only Standing Agreement Supported in 1921 Arab League and Zionist Congress Backed by British Crown as Valid

Left UN Partition Plan Resolution 181 Rejected by Arabs
Making Original British Partition Arab and Jewish Lands
as Only Standing Agreement Supported in 1921 Arab League
and Zionist Congress Backed by British Crown as Valid

 

If a President were ever to understand that Israel took the remainder of the lands and built a nation which is determined to not merely survive but thrive no matter the threats or challenges instead of believing the State Department line that the Jews stole Arab Muslim sacred lands, then he might actually try something more effective than the past failures. The Israelis desire peace but not at the expense of losing their nation and towards that end the promise of defendable borders needs to be the primary concern. The matter of Israel returning lands has been satisfied with the return of the Sinai Peninsula, an area many times the size of Israel itself, and the release of claims to Gaza which is now in the hands of murderous terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad and other smaller families and splinter groups pledged to Islamic State, al-Qaeda and potentially others. These groups receive funds from the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran, Qatar and other Muslim and Arab sources and are equally threatening Egypt as they are Israel. Another fact glossed over were the nearly one million Jews dispossessed by their Arab and Muslim rulers who predominately came to Israel as refugees with barely any possessions and instead of placing them in camps and demanding the United Nations develop an agency with the singular responsibility of caring for them and their children and their children’s children into eternity or until they were permitted return to their former nations, they were welcomed and became functioning members of Israel and are today as vibrant and accepted as are every Israeli citizen and enjoy full rights. Another item glossed over is the numerous minorities such as Arabs, Christians, Muslims, Baha’I, Buddhists and virtually any other religious groups one might name who all have full rights as Israeli citizens including holding elective office, education, working and all other aspects while Israel’s neighbors cannot make the same claim about their Jewish citizens as they have none and the Arab Palestinians demand that any lands they eventually steal from the original borders of the Jewish State be completely cleansed of its Jews or they will annihilate them. This was put on its full and most gory display when two Israeli reservists made a wrong turn and ended up in Arab Palestinians areas. They were placed in the city jail in hopes of keeping them safe until they might be returned but the townspeople had a different idea. The police fled the building leaving them locked in the cells and the keys on the desk surrendering them to the mob which literally tore them limb from limb with one young teen making a display to the screaming joyous shouts of the crowd outside with the picture captured by a media photographer and secreted out and made public on newscasts worldwide as seen below.

 

 

Teenaged Terrorists Displays Bloodied Hands Sending Crowd Gathered to Witness or Take Part in Sacrificing IDF Reservists Tearing Them Apart with Their Bare Hands

Teenaged Terrorists Displays Bloodied Hands Sending Crowd
Gathered to Witness or Take Part in Sacrificing IDF Reservists
Tearing Them Apart with Their Bare Hands

 

Numerous peace offers and concessions have been made by Israel in exchange for promises and steps to follow, leading to peace yet every offer is pocketed and then peace is never forthcoming as in the end the Arab Palestinians walk away keeping every offer making it the required starting point. This had led to the now demand that Israel surrender half of Jerusalem and possibly even remove entire cities and manufacturing parks which employ Arab Palestinians as well as Jews in a state of equality and the Arabs receiving higher pay than even the Palestinian Authority average government employee. These are cities built in area C which originally was presented as remaining as a part of Israel and the Palestinian authority was forbidden building within yet now European governments and the European Union are buying exclusively lands in this area, building and bringing in Arabs to place facts on the ground and to force Israeli surrender of these areas which will leave Israel as vulnerable as she was in 1967 at the start of the Six Day War. This will only guarantee the next war and this time Israel might not be as fortunate as modern weapons are in every army in their area and combined the Arab nations easily have Israel outgunned and way outnumbered. Such a conflict might come down to the occurrence of a miracle rivalling the splitting of the sea. President Obama and Secretaries of State Clinton and Kerry have all demanded that the borders for Israel be based upon the 1949 Armistice Lines which the Arab League had demanded never serve as such. What has changed? The Arabs in numerous attempts have been unable to destroy Israel so they are now hoping to use this entity they invented of an Arab Palestinian different from their brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, parents and relatives in Jordan, Syria (or used to be in Syria), Egypt, Sudan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and beyond because they must be different so they can claim they are indigenous and thus have a claim to their reconstituted nation of Palestine. Problem is there has never been such a nation as we find out every so often when let slip the truth and one of the biggest was when in an interview where Zahir Muhsein, a PLO executive committee member, in a March 31, 1977 interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw stated for the record:

 

“The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct ‘Palestinian people’ to oppose Zionism.”
“For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa. While as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.”
As stated by Zahir Muhsein, a PLO executive committee member, in a March 31, 1977 interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw.

 

 

Perhaps the above quote should become required reading for those astute State Department career bureaucrats just so they can continue to consider themselves up to date and educated in the ways and machinations of the Middle East. The State Department has treated Israel as the land from Never Neverland which should be erased for the sake of peace and perchance restore Israel to her intended borders as per their existence on that Shabbat morning of Saturday May 15, 1948. There will be the cries that there are five or six or, who knows, seven million Arab Palestinian refugees. What will be left out is that these “refugees” have been living in actual apartment buildings and forced to be separate instead of allowed to be part of their parent country and were originally only slightly less than two-thirds of a million actual refugees originally. Put into a reference which is more appropriate, they were a few hundred thousand less than the eventual numbers of Jews expelled or driven from their homes across the Arab and Muslim worlds of MENA (Middle East and North Africa) and that a goodly number of them are in camps either in Jordan, the original Arab Palestinian land where three quarters of the population are considered to also be Arab Palestinians, Gaza mostly just outside Gaza City, and Area A of the West Bank right outside of Nablus where Mahmoud Abbas is having his pleasure palace, office of the President and troop barracks to keep him as President built (see picture below). Perhaps the original plan where the Arab nations were awarded for their almost defeating Israel and then losing all the lands back to Israel in successive wars to keep Area A and negotiate (but to be nice why not just surrender) Area B while Israel retains Area C as the Oslo Accords spelled out and end the whole affair and call it done. The disputed areas contained in Areas A and B were roadways which were to have shared usage but perhaps many of those could be easily surrendered as well and conditions made for Arabs in Areas A and B who already have positions in the companies remaining in Area C to keep such employment.

 

 

Mamoud Abbas planned masion estimated cosr of thirteen million dollars but will end up costing far more after required kickbacks

 

All of Jerusalem would remain as the Capital City of Israel, undivided, and open to people of every faith as it currently remains never to return to Islamic imperialism as was the case from 1948 until early June of 1967 when the Old City, Mount of Olives Cemetery and Temple Mount were liberated and forever to remain freely accessible to people of all faiths or even no faith. As for any Arabs who were considered Palestinians remaining in Area C or Jerusalem, they would be granted a path for Israel citizenship dependent on their refraining from terrorism by any family member or they could choose to have their property bought at a generous price and be granted a severance of residency awarded which would easily cover any moving and other relocation effects and be permitted to seek citizenship or residence outside of Israel with a promise to not return to Israel. Such individuals should be granted automatic residence in any Arab Palestinian state which emerges from Areas A and B in the future. Meanwhile the Palestinian Authority would remain as the ruling body until the framework for a real government will be forthcoming. If Mahmoud Abbas decides to continue as President for Life, well, that would be none of Israel’s business unless he also continued to instigate terror and allow attacks across the borders. That should be termed as a declaration of war and any persons crossing an international border to commit terrorist acts would face a military trial with potential capital punishment. That too should be stipulated though such should be understood. Any Arab Palestinians in camps should either be relocated to the Palestinian Areas or permitted to remain in their current apartments and be given a path to citizenship in the nation where they have already resided for two, three or even four generations. As for those driven from their camps after they joined the insurrection against Bashir al Assad, their lives have taken a dramatic turn and are now amongst the Syrian refugees and as indistinguishable as could be possible and many which may have survived are very likely somewhere in Europe seeking shelter and all that was sort of eluded to or promised by Angela Merkel and her fellow leaders in much of Scandinavia and Europe. We wish the refugees and their new found national homelands the best of luck in all things. Honest, we feel your pain but not enough to offer much else.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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