Beyond the Cusp

May 15, 2019

American Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism Reprimands Europeans

Filed under: Israel — qwertster @ 1:55 AM
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Just as Elan Carr’s speech to the confab of European Rabbis was concise and to the point, we will try and match his efficiency in use of words. But first we would like to link to our source for our material. It was refreshing to have a representative if the American Administration finally fighting for the Jews rather than finding excuses to give such efforts the sort shrift. Further, to hear one speaking truth to power, where too many people have been reluctant to call out the Europeans for making laws which basically tell their populations that Jews are no longer welcome, is a relief and gives one hope. In particular, he brought out the examples where nations have targeted Judaism stating, “We have these disgraceful pieces of legislation that ban ‘shechita’ and contemplating banning ‘Brit Mila’ … well let me tell you what this is, this is nothing other than a forced expulsion of the Jewish communities …” The beginning of his presentation was used first as a tribute to the pro-Jewish individual we have in President Trump, likely the most positive in his support and love for the Jewish People and Israel. Then Envoy Carr moved rapidly to the main points he wished to convey.

 

United States Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism Elan Carr

United States Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism Elan Carr

 

About the only thing he missed was how these thus far European acts against vital parts of Jewish life is just another means by which Hashem is performing the In-Gathering of Jews to the Holy Lands. Envoy Carr touched on the fact that the United States is also facing a series of crises of its own makings. He continued noting the universal rise in anti-Semitism worldwide while targeting both left and right wing anti-Semitism stating, “We have a confluence of sources of anti-Semitic hatred, from the ultra-right ethic supremacist movements to the ultra-left, anti-Israel, anti-Zionist movement, to radical Islam – movements that should hate each other far more than they hate everything else, and then united in this age old sickness of humanity known as anti-Semitism.” It was good to hear somebody fight the good fight as we have contributed to with our own miniscule means. We have yet to receive an invitation to anything resembling the stature of those to which Mr. Carr’s words were directed. About the sole omission was admitting that the United States is close behind Europe, where anti-Zionist and anti-Israel positions have been obviously manifest and celebrated on both ends of the Atlantic Ocean. So, here is United States Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism Elan Carr with his address given before the annual Conference of European Rabbis, this year in Antwerp.

 

 

We like the fact that Envoy Carr gave these European Rabbinical elites much to consider along with suggestions for the treatment of the growing anti-Semitism. Then he presented these Rabbis with direct orders to take back to their synagogues and Yeshivot the words of warning spoken that day. The remedy is what it has always been, education leading to understanding and recognition of the first seeds of anti-Semitism is when the fight needs already have been initiated. Pro-active steps are better than reactive steps, but even reactive steps are better than no steps at all. We would have to agree that the two scourges of Judaism are evidenced within his speech, growing levels of anti-Semitism and assimilation. These have been with the Jews ever since Pharaohs first restricted our use of straw provided by the Egyptians.

 

Where and when these forms of anti-Semitism will finally end is anybody’s guess. Ours is a traditional figuring that these will remain with us until the arrival of the Mosiah. It cannot be honestly claimed that these problems do not exist within Israel, as they are ever-present. What makes Israel a different case is that the anti-Semitism comes from within our people, the worst and most difficult type to fight. Where does one turn when the core of much anti-Semitism comes from within the tribes? This too is not anything original as such has posed problems from those faced by Moses upon his return down the slopes of Mount Sinai only to find those he was presumably bringing to the Holy Lands were themselves facing a crisis of the faith of the Jewish People in the sin of the Golden Calf. Imagine his dismay as Moses was coming upon this scene of debauchery being performed by the Jewish People. This was sorted out by Moses and set straight before Hashem. If only that had been the last time that the ancient Hebrews turned to a darker side and disappointed Hashem and Moses similarly, yet Moses fought for them repeatedly and properly as molding these people into a unified group capable of living a Torah defined life in the Promised Lands was his task assigned by Hashem. This difficult task was achieved only through weeding out those who were not worthy and educating a new generation which was worthy of receiving Hashem’s gift of the Promised Lands. That is what is so amazing about the Jewish People, we are continually fighting the same battles which largely exist today exactly as they did in the times of Moses. The difference is that today much of the problem could be rectified simply by bringing everyone home and then stand against the onslaught which assuredly would be coming as the Arabs would believe that this was their time to act. That form of overt hatred and anti-Semitism is far more easily fought than is that which rises from within our own ranks. The internal struggles are part and parcel of our eternal struggle and has often seen us as our own worst enemies. When we have first unified our own house, then we can administer to the rest of the world. To do so before that would be premature and leave us open for scorn. May the day soon come when we no longer sew hatred nor war anymore as we will have finally put down anti-Semitism in all of its manifestations and moved beyond primitive and petty hatreds, learning acceptance for all in our midst. Then will come the day when the words of Isaiah 2:3-4 will have come true, and finally we will realize these words.

 


And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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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

 

April 11, 2017

Israel in Need of an Internal Revolution

 

There are some who believe that Israel should form a committee to draft a Constitution which then should be voted upon by the citizenry. There are those who call for a simple change in how appointments are made to positions such as Judges, Attorney General, Police Commanders, Military Commanders and other political and justice and enforcement positions. There are many who are calling for Israel to annex all or parts of Judea and Samaria. Some are demanding that the Palestinian Authority be dissolved and its leadership and most of the security forces be deported. There are some calling for the office of Prime Minister to be determined by direct elections instead of by whichever political party receives the most number of seats and forms the coalition as they claim this results in granting excessive power to the Prime Minister as his party also controls the parliament and can prevent legislation from being considered at his whim. There are those demanding that the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) be more religious soldier friendly touting the infractions being imposed upon far too many religious soldiers which force them to choose between a good performance review and their religious ethics as often their training or activities present conditions which break Halachic Laws, and the military command is fully aware of these difficulties and are using them to drive religious soldiers from the ranks of the military and particularly from the officer corps. When religious officers reach the rank of Major they often face opposition and malice intended to drive them from the service and they face selected distrust which robs them of any possibility for further promotions as the Central Command seeks to retain their secular purity. All of these disparate forms of revolutions are simply pieces of the problems which could all be remedied through the efforts of one group of people from within the Israeli population; the Rabbinate.

 

The first step needed would be the unification of the position of Chief Rabbi. I am far from the sole Israeli Jew who has one parent who is Ashkenazi and the other who is Sephardi. With such a divide, while leaving the rule that my Father automatically is used as the determinative factor, despite in my case that my Mother was more involved in my religious education; such individuals will often have a clash if they marry opposite their father, be he Ashkenazi or Sephardi, with a wife knowledgeable of the opposite set of rules. An example comes next week during Pesach concerning whether or not one may have rice, for example. Still, with the number of intermarriage between Ashkenazi and Sephardi youth, the number of Jews who will not look at Judaism as much as being bipolar as Ashkenazi and Sephardi. Making such an alteration will require unifying Judaism such that there is a single prayerbook, a single set service, a single Kashrut standard which is accepted by all the now disparate Rabbinate factions. This will require many of our leading and most respected Rabbis to come together and reach an agreement which will make all of them relatively and equally uncomfortable with the final set of rules, prayers, prayer services, Hebrew language and a merging of Jewish history such that the story of all the branches are interwoven into a single story. This will leave everybody upset with the results and pointing to some fact here or there bemoaning that such an important event which occurred in Kutná Hora in what is now the Czech Republic or el Kharga Oasis in Ancient Egypt has been omitted from the combined histories. Yes, we picked these locations completely at random and any similarities to events or descriptions are purely coincidental. If the numbers of complaints are relatively equal from all angles, then the stories and other merging events are likely being performed correctly and with careful considerations. These are events which will be happening behind the scenes except for the merging of the positions of Chief Rabbinates into one office covering every Jew making a giant step towards the unification of Judaism at least within Israel.

 

Kutná Hora in the Czech Republic or el Kharga Oasis in Ancient Egypt

Kutná Hora in the Czech Republic
or el Kharga Oasis in Ancient Egypt

 

All of these steps are in preparation for making a change in Israel which will take a great effort from the entire Rabbinate, each and every member from every faction working often in conjunction with one another for a maximum effect. Israel is in need of a spiritual awakening. She has been becoming a more religious nation with a greater percentage of the population attending daily services and living Torah observant lives. There are those who are returning into the Torah observance whose lives sometimes slip but are making strides. Meanwhile others are becoming Torah observant for the first time in their lives or the first time in years after leaving such a lifestyle either while in the military, university, workforce or simply having left their parents’ house. The challenge for such individuals vary with some facing having to learn for the first time a wholly new way of living and sometimes struggling in the process. These people and the secular Jewish population require more assistance than most with encouragements and gentle assistances. They will require education and reinforcement until the religious life becomes almost, if not completely natural. The greatest challenge will be introducing the secular Jewish population to a religious life in a natural and unthreatening way. What such efforts would require, you ask. It would need for the Rabbinate, every Rabbi, to spend time being more public in their lives and leading a life which invites people to follow their examples and piques their interests. They also will be required to be approachable and open to people and affable such that people will feel comfortable seeking them out for information and guidance. This will also require Torah observant practices to be instituted as to what would be considered appropriate and inappropriate activities, actions, practices and situations for members of the general Rabbinate to engage in. Many in the Rabbinate will require further education on the acceptable and preferred means for approaching people and guiding them back to their faith. Some in the Rabbinate may be found inarticulate or otherwise unable to perform adequately and will need assignments in other areas perhaps teaching or administrative. The entire Rabbinate will need be brought under a single administrative effort.

 

Temple Institute concept for what building the Third Temple in modern day Jerusalem would appear like from a distance with modern buildings of Jerusalem in the background. May their vision and this concept figure become fact and fulfill our desires for unity and a single Temple and House for Hashem in our midst. May this dream be fulfilled before the next Ninth of Av so our lament will be lessened.

Temple Institute concept for what building the Third Temple in modern day Jerusalem would appear like from a distance with modern buildings of Jerusalem in the background. May their vision and this concept figure become fact and fulfill our desires for unity and a single Temple and House for Hashem in our midst. May this dream be fulfilled before the next Ninth of Av so our lament will be lessened.

 

There will also be a need that the Oral Law be reinstituted as an Oral Code which will be written but also updated, altered and mediated periodically with the Rabbinate choosing from amongst their ranks those they consider best suited to make wise and meaningful changes at set intervals, perhaps every three of five years. Once all these programs are in place and everything arranged neatly and actually functioning, then the people of Israel can consider returning to life as intended by Torah with the adjustments and changes initiated under the new Oral Law. There are things which will require large alterations such as the sacrifices as Israel is no longer a sleepy little agrarian society as it was three millennia ago. Instead of a King we will likely maintain an elected democratic and possibly even Parliamentary form of governance but with the single alteration that there will be a higher office than Prime Minister or President, that of the Cohen Gadol (Heb.כהן גדול), the head priest. Once these changes have been accomplished there will be one last item which will have become unavoidable by this point, the rebuilding of the Temple, the Beit HaMikdash (Hebrew: בֵּית־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ‎) in Jerusalem. Long before we complete these changes the annexation of all of Judea and Samaria will have long been settled and completed and the world will have come to accept it as fait accompli. Should this transformation take place and Israel return to being the central home of the Israelite Jewish People living a Torah observant lifestyle, by and large, this will solve many of the problems currently faced by Israel and odd as it may at first appear, it will also make the world a better place with time.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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