Beyond the Cusp

March 30, 2017

Can We All Have One Tradition?

 

There is a wonderful side of Judaism which will tear it apart. The advantages of these wondrous diversifications, the ever greater variants of the traditions and prayers within Judaism, is that you can seek your own niche where you are most comfortable and everything tends to reflect your concepts and ideals you expect from Judaism. This means that almost any Jew seeking a comfortable place within their religion, Judaism, that somewhere, should you seek long enough or be fortunate and find your home quickly, there is a congregation which practices the Jewish faith exactly as you picture such in your own concepts, points of importance and traditions you remember from your childhood mixed with other items which simply serve to interest and soothe you. This is both an advantage to Judaism and a future anathema for Judaism. Let us explain. We just hope that we upset as few people as possible but we will still tell what we fear and believe.

 

Judaism is a unique religion in that it has remained largely in limbo where the main efforts for over two and a half to a little over three millennia has been to retain everything exactly as they were when the Temple was corrupted by the Greeks and then the Romans with one brief period after the Maccabean revolt when the Temple was rededicated and consecrated for Hashem. Judaism was frozen at a period soon after their return from the Babylonian exile, the second of the three exiles (Egypt was the first) when the Persians permitted them to return and rebuild the Temple and return to their dedication worshiping and serving Hashem. This era came to a crashing halt with the arrival of the Greeks who replaced the Persians and were on their path to conquering Egypt and the Judeans, the remaining Jews residing in Judea and Samaria largely were but a minor conquest. The Greeks did all in their power to pressure the Judeans (Jews) into Greeks by impressing Greek ethics on the Judeans. First was their introduction of the Greek sexual revolution where orgies, homosexuality and pedophilia were introduced and they brought bath houses plus the worship of the perfect, unaltered human form. This led to the Greeks making circumcision against the law and any circumcised males were executed which meant that any Judean following their religion was fearful of being inspected for having been circumcised as that meant certain death. The Greeks were all but immediately replaced by the equally distasteful Romans who were slightly more crafty than were the Greeks. The Romans corrupted the Sanhedrin placing Roman approved and compromised Jews in place and in the main cities the Rabbis were mostly Roman approved. Religious and traditional Judeans retreated to the countryside and the Judean Hills and caves eking out a living subsisting on whatever they could find growing wild or raised in small farming plots. Everything was done to minimize their coming to the Roman’s attention. This led to a strict, traditional and unchanging interpretation of Torah and the practice of their religion and the keeping of their simply life style.

 

The Roman occupation in many ways did not actually begin to come to a conclusion until the decade of the 1950’s and the return of the Jews to their ancient homelands of Eretz Yisroel. The scars and deprivations of the Roman occupation remained even after the fall of Rome as before Rome had even really started their serious decline, they reacted to a Judean uprising by dispersing the Judeans to the farthest corners and throughout their empire just as they had other enemies in order to bury them from the pages of history. Every group that the Romans had used this form of punishment, disappeared from the pages of history just as the Romans had intended. The Carthaginians who were the final political form of the Phoenicians were dispersed thusly with the Capital City of Carthage having the lands surrounding it salted such that it became barren for the next few centuries. The Phoenicians or the Carthaginians, whichever name one wishes to utilize, are gone and no longer consist as a peoples. The others who the Romans thusly treated are equally erased from any following history and to the point that we do not even recognize any names which we could use to display the effectiveness of this punishment. The Judeans proved to be the exception because they had one thing which was different, their definition as a people was transportable and could be applied anywhere and though it was deigned to work best in the Promised Land, in Israel geographically, they had the ruleset and defined history contained in Torah which was established and had an agreed and exact form and wording which was never to be altered making it an anchor.

 

Five beautiful, glorious and holy Torah Scrolls which carry near infinite wisdom and are the foundation of all Judaism and their culture and civilization is built around the Torah and the teaching of Torah

Five beautiful, glorious and holy Torah Scrolls which carry near infinite wisdom and are the foundation of all Judaism and their culture and the Jewish civilization is built around the Torah and the teaching of Torah

 

The other half of their religion and life definition were contained in the Oral Law, their Oral Code which was designed to be flexible and change with time as they proceeded through life together in Israel, but now they were not in Israel or together, thus the Oral Code could be altered in different means for different areas. Thus the Rabbis over the next few centuries wrote and discussed the different ideas and ideals of the Oral Code and codified them into writing such that it would no longer be altered and everybody could remain on the same pages. This became the writings which today make up the Talmud. The most interesting of the concepts in Talmud is that only the final agreed definitions apply as the law, the discussions are included for future reference when new ideas or changes in societies take place. The greatest change has recently occurred, the return and start of the Ingathering of all Jewish Peoples back to their ancient homeland in Israel. But there was and still remains a division in Judaism which derives from whether they were from the Islamic world, including Spain when it was called Andalusia by its Islamic conquerors who were removed finally around 1492 which also included the voyage by Columbus to the New World and the Inquisition in which all non-Christians were brutally converted or killed in a purification of Spain by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella which targeted mostly Muslims and Jews. This forced the majority of the Jewish population to escape with their Muslim neighbors over to North Africa. These Jews mixed with the Jews already living throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Meanwhile there remained a sizeable number of Jews who were spread throughout Europe. There became some not necessarily insignificant differences between these two families of the Jewish Peoples.

 

There are also other groups of Jews with some dating back to the times of King Solomon and others to the full loss of ten Tribes which made up the nation of Israel (the northern kingdom which included the tribes of Dan, Ephraim, Reuben, Gad, Manasseh, Asher, Naphtali, Zebulun, Issachar and Simeon) who had separated from Jerusalem and Judea (the southern kingdom which included the tribe of Benjamin) and became known as the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Some tribes of Jews in disparate regions have made claims as to being descendants from these lost tribes of which two of the most well-known are the Ethiopian Jews and the Menashe from India. The claims of these people are traced and certain realities which would survive in any actual tribes from the Israelites which are commanded in Torah. Should these tribes continue to hold these commandments and practice a Torah dictated lifestyle, then their claim is far more believable and they are invited to return home. The many different peoples is truly amazing and what is even more fascinating is that most of the people from these tribes tested had a particular gene which has been determined as being present in Jews showing the same ancestral maternal origin and also a gene which traces to the Middle Eastern peoples.

 

Eight Hundred Year Old Yemeni Torah Scroll Rescued with the Congregation's Rabbi and Seventeen Desperate Jewish Refugees Accepted and Taken in by Israel Granting Them Citizenship

Eight Hundred Year Old Yemeni Torah Scroll
Rescued with the Congregation’s Rabbi and
Seventeen Desperate Jewish Refugees Accepted
and Taken in by Israel Granting Them Citizenship

 

Where this has led is that even amongst Jews with similar backgrounds, due to the fracturing of the different Jewish communities, there started to form cracks in their practices as each Rabbi came up with something slightly different. Now the struggle is reunifying a religion which though having the identical central basics has also picked up particular practices and traditions which differ each following from a particular Rabbi. This led to some occasions where one Jew would claim, “My Rabbi taught,” while the next Jew countered, “Well, my Rabbi teaches,” and the arguments have led to some less than admirable situations. Judaism and Torah are supposed to unite all Jews to a common heritage through shared history but the histories were fractured by Roman decree and the ravages of time and separation. The Oral history being codified minimized the differences but sometimes the smallest differences are the most difficult to rectify and harmonize. Recently we read an article by Rabbi Melamed who sees the need to rewrite a new oral code which can be utilized as the basis for law in the lands of Israel. These laws would serve as had the original Oral Law and would be adaptable to change, not written in stone. These codes would cover both the secular world and the religious world. They would be a careful blending of Torah teachings and wisdom with the needs of a modern society. This would be worked through using a conclave of leading Rabbis from every discipline in Judaism with all the disparate schools represented from Ashkenazim, Sephardi, Mizraim, Chasidim, Traditional, Orthodox, Zionist, and as many others as can be represented giving the widest view and closest to totality such that what is produced while not granting any one groups complete satisfaction would find the path acceptable to as many Jews as are willing to forge a new unity and new beginning.

 

The horrors of the past will be the flames for the forge with which Israel will become one and our laws will once again be one uniting every Jew and Israelite to the other. The beginning is in sight if we take the opportunity to enlist the many flowers from the far corners of the globe and enlist every Jewish soul, our pluralistic yet harmonious neshama, and once we have merged our futures and woven our pasts into an embroidered and gorgeous prayer shawl with Tzitzit being the only strings attached, we can allow this to cover us all as a single people in our own nation home at last.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

March 19, 2017

Why the World is Poised to Die

 

The world is precariously teetering on the very brink of oblivion. The reasons are a collection of small offences most barely registering as merely a small paper cut but still the world is bleeding from millions upon millions of paper cuts and thin slices from a blade as sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel. Many of these cuts were inflicted early in many a child’s life and they, like a hemophiliac, cannot deter the flow as these effects continue and can only worsen as life continues and demands more from every individual. The spring-force of the initial cuts begin with their early education. Way back when we attended public schools, teachers either chose the profession because they were dedicated to instructing young minds and took great pride when any student from their classes shone forth later in life and even more so should that student mention teachers without name who were the fountain that began their quest which led to their accomplishment. The rare teacher who gets actually named was often slightly embarrassed and would deflect the honor demanding it was shared with their fellow teachers. The teachers never gave going on strike for higher paychecks as denying the children even an hour of their best efforts was beyond their mindsets. These were dedicated individuals. Some of our teachers were conservative and may have even been (gasp) Republicans. I had one teacher who drove a different Cadillac to school each day with hardtops in the winter and convertibles in the spring and I learned later in life that he owned a summer camp for children which stood on a few hundred or so acres of woodlands which he owned. He was a rather wealthy man who had other incomes and never needed to teach or even have the summer camp but he loved children in a healthy way and just enjoyed watching them thrill at accomplishment or just fun. Teachers’ highest desire was to have students achieve in which they would take quiet pride and use it to have them strive to do even more. We never heard a teacher complain about their pay level or over a student who was difficult. Of course it was also when a teacher could strike a child in their class as a form of discipline. If your teacher had struck you, once and never very sharply, it was something you prayed your parents never heard of it as they would add their own corporal punishment which was always far harsher than the teacher.

 

But the failing education system is just one aspect of the threat. Another threat is the destabilization of large segments of the world. The greatest areas currently are within the Middle East, Northern Africa (MENA) as well as the Horn of Africa. These are areas caught in seemingly unending wars and in many instances one side is backed by either Iran or Islamist terrorist forces such as Boko Haram, al-Qaeda, ISIS (Islamic State) or criminal elements such as the pirates found off of Somalia. The three main wars are found in Libya, Yemen and Syria. Additionally there are nations caught in economic collapse or extreme poverty often due to economic policies which failed disastrously. Such nations include North Korea, Venezuela and Somalia. These nations suffer from starvation and deprivations beyond belief by most of us for which we should feel very grateful. The people stuck in these nations whether suffering unending destruction from wars or economic collapse cannot have any part of a normal life. These destabilized regions are capable of impacting beyond their borders through massive refugees straining the economies of neighboring countries to the point where if their economy is not sufficient to support the influx, their economy can also collapse from the pressures. Other problems can come from massive influx of refugees from one set of customs, conventions, systems or acceptable comportment. These strains on the societal fabric can be just as destructive as financial pressures can be on an economy. Put the two together and the result is often violence as the two clashing societal standards make for such systemic shock that the refugees generate a level of unacceptance that it becomes threatening to the existing native populations. The most visible of these threats currently is manifested in Europe where the refugees from the problems tearing through the MENA states and the Horn of Africa plus Afghanistan and Pakistan (and even Turkey) have been flooding Europe and the threat of similar influx into the United States was what influenced President Donald Trump to do exactly as he promised during the campaign and invoked an end to accepting immigrants from seven MENA nations, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. We are not about to get into the legality or morality of the ban insisted upon by President Trump, we are just recognizing that President Trump was simply reacting to these forces in discussion without caring about the particulars of law and ethics, just the effect, which was to preserve societal calm and, as stated, decrease the likelihood for terrorists to enter the United States along with the refugees from nations where checks of any kind were difficult if not impossible. Every one of the mentioned nations is in some form of distress with no real and functioning governance. That is the recipe from areas of disasters and importing disasters is often not a good policy.

 

Further, we are experiencing a challenge to the Judeo-Christian ethics which has guided the Western World for much, if not all, of the last few centuries. This challenge is coming from the Islamic world and Islam. Once before there was a fear of cultural invasion when there was a sizeable influx of Chinese and other Orientals largely to assist in building the railroads. These Orientals were mostly Buddhists and also brought with them opium as part of their social habits and because there were those in the United States who were making quite a profit from the sale of opium and its derivatives. Where there was some disruption, especially the opium influence, it was short-lived and limited in its scope. Even this was dispersed and dissipated as their influence spread as the railroad extended eastward, their numbers became lessened as a percentage of the general population at any location beyond San Francisco. The city was of sufficient population size to absorb the Chinese who remained largely within their small area which today is still known as Chinatown, and became a tourist attraction and the place of a thousand Chinese restaurants. The United States survived that influx as these immigrants stayed to themselves and with time acclimated to Americanism. There were numerous immigrant waves subsequent almost all from Europe. The Italians, Germans, Irish, and with each group they faced discrimination as they learned the language and customs, which were quite different than Europe but the religious customs were familiar. With time they all became Americans and there were few problems with these groups. The next influx of refugees which had only a cursory introduction to America were from Viet Nam. These particular refugees were eager to learn and become fully American as they were fleeing the Communist takeover of their nation and saw the United States as their saving grace.

 

These experiences would lead one to believe that the United States would be capable of making Americans out of any refugees. What need be made clear is that in each of these groups were not so much Americanized by the people of the United States as much as these refugees desired to become Americans. One might then posit that the same would hold for the Islamic communities given time. The only metric we have for measuring this has been the refugees and their incorporating into European society. If this is the only measure, then there is a problem as the Muslims have fallen into two distinct groups, those willing to become more European and those demanding that Europe become Islamic. Let this be made clear, they are not demanding that Europeans become accommodating and accepting of Muslims but rather that the Europeans must submit to Islam and make Islam the main faith superior to all others and that the Muslims should govern all of Europe. They further threaten war and terrorism should they not be accommodated completely and all their demands met. Directly proportional to their increased presence sexual predation of women has directly increased, terrorism has increased only lagging slightly behind the numbers and crime in general has increased also proportionally.

 

There are those who have claimed that these increases have not been seen in the United States. That may be the case but then the United States has also not seen the same increase in percentages as has many nations in Europe. Further, the nations with the least percentage increase of Muslims have seen little if any increase in their criminal numbers while the nations with the greatest increases in percentage of Muslims have had notable increases in some cases leading to blowback from their native populations. In the United States it should be noted that there are areas where Muslims have taken control of entire neighborhoods and made them fairly inhibiting to non-Muslims and uncomfortable for those non-Muslims who have refused to leave their homes for whatever reason. Those who had fled these neighborhoods often claimed the Muslims had destroyed their formerly peaceful neighborhood. One example is Hamtramck, near Detroit, Michigan. There are also Islamic only camps where they hold military style training and place armed guards at the front gates denying even law enforcement from entering. One such location in New York is the hamlet of Islamberg neighboring the Town of Hancock, New York and located 145 miles northwest of New York City. Muslims who have come to the United States over the years have all blended in well. Statistics show that there are two groups of Muslims where this is becoming far less the case. Where the most recent refugees were as high as fifteen percent which may have terror ties according to some reports and a mere five percent by more moderate assessments, either could become a problem as their numbers increase which is why vetting becomes important. Even vetting will not prevent the second, a ticking time bomb, as the children of Muslims are more likely to become radicalized than their parents were, especially disaffected teens looking for meaning in their lives making them targets for the radicalizers to prey upon. Also more likely to become radicalized are converts who often adopt the most radical forms of the religion. All of these require more careful vigilance which was what was once said and attributed to many, including Thomas Jefferson but never proven, there is the admonition that, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Perhaps this is the solution, this and a good vetting system and an engaged public in elections and the education of the children, the most precious resource we have.

 

Burning Israel Star of David

 

There will be a final sign when the world is about to change and enter one of its darkest periods in all of its history. That sign is one that people are screaming hysterically will be brought forth because the President is Donald Trump, but that is not the case. This event will occur under a President who will more than likely have received over three-quarters of the American Jewish vote. This President and the supportive Congress, which will be of the same party, will have had overwhelming support from many Jewish agencies and groups such as the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Anti-Defamation League but will likely be opposed by the Zionist Organization of America. This President and his Congress will force through laws which will seem appropriate for the time and will be claimed are not targeting Jews as they slowly pass laws which conflict with Torah observance in the name of public safety. Eventually this government will allow the expulsion of Jews from the Universities and then their refusal to be licensed and licensing revoked to practice law and then medicine and slowly draw the noose around the Jews necks. All the while there will be prominent Rabbis who will make excuses for these moves against the Jews finding some absurdity to keep the majority of Jews sleeping as to do otherwise might cost them their reputation as a good left leaning liberal. Will Jews be placed in camps at some point? Probably not as they will slowly be forced from any position other than the most marginal in the public and the whole while they will continue to vote for those who favor these restrictions because that will be considered the right thing to do. Eventually, any Jew with an ounce of self-respect and love of Torah will leave the United States and travel to the lone nation where Jews are permitted, Israel. The Jews remaining in the United States will continue blaming Israel for their woes and never blink in taking every opportunity to protest Israel as the source of their problems, and not leadership like the current leadership in the Democrat Party. I do not need to name names as we have done so before but what I will point to is the actions of Jews currently who after voting for Hillary and then turning on President Trump and labelling him as an anti-Semite which is just the perfect example of what we are referring to as Hillary was the one who would have tried to destroy Israel and bring in as many Jew-hating people as humanly possible in the hopes of empowering the Democrat Party with new strength built on the prospect of crushing Israel and the Jews. The inability of the American leftist Jews to see what is plainly before their eyes bodes poorly and is the very reason that this future is all but guaranteed. It is so very sad and we wish it were not so, but just look at the actions of the ADL during these acts and threats against Jewish institutions and see where they fall should one of the people found for making these threats turns out to be a leftist, they will rush to their defense. That is why we fear the Jews will vote for their own persecution and ignite the End of American Freedom and bring about the End of American Exceptionalism.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

May 14, 2014

Israeli Politicians and Leaders Do Us a Favor Please

Sometimes it really does appear that Israeli politicians are either stone-cold-deaf or have a tin-ear incapable of recognizing when they hear others repeating the same criticisms they so loudly pronounced to every press and social media venue available to them. One might think they would have noticed when United States Secretary of State Kerry used the excuse that current Israeli political leaders and former Prime Ministers have said what I said as the reason he should not have been criticized for his initial comments they might have taken notice. Secretary Kerry’s actual words were, “(I)f I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two state solution. In the long term, a unitary, binational state cannot be the democratic Jewish state that Israel deserves or the prosperous state with full rights that the Palestinian people deserve. That’s what I said, and it’s also what Prime Minister Netanyahu has said. While Justice Minister Livni, former Prime Ministers Barak and Ohlmert have all invoked the specter of apartheid to underscore the dangers of a unitary state for the future, it is a word best left out of the debate here at home.” Where I feel assured that Secretary Kerry would very probably have still used the unfortunate Apartheid slur even without any Israeli present or former politician having also used the phrase in a similar manner, the fact he could throw the, well you all said it first, excuse back in our faces makes Israel appear petty for being upset over the Apartheid slur. It sure makes it next to impossible to justify indignance and to take insult when some foreign leader or politician or some NGO issues a press release which quotes our own politicians or former IDF, Security or Intelligence Officers making the same accusations. For that reason alone Israeli politicians and other spokespeople should choose their phraseology and wording very carefully and refrain from making reckless, inflammatory, derogatory or provocative statements which will most assuredly be providing ammunition for the unending throngs of detractors to utilize in their attacks upon Israel. Certainly requesting that those who are supposed to be representing our little nation to be respectful with their choice of language when speaking about Israel, especially in forums where those who live to denigrate Israel and Israelis, cannot be such a monumental task that it is beyond reason.

 

Then there is the little problem that exists throughout the Knesset, both between the parties in the opposition and also between the parties within the coalition. First off, being in the opposition does not mean that one needs to make derogatory and inflammatory remarks to every statement made by any of the leadership within the coalition. Yes, we know that Labor Leader Isaac Herzog and Meretz Leader Zahava Gal-On are opposed to virtually anything which Prime Minister Netanyahu says, stands for or supports. We also realize that you are not too fond of Jewish Home Leader Naftali Bennett and his support for any Jewish presence beyond the Green Line. Would it be ridiculous to suggest that you allow your voting record speak for you at least once in a while instead of running to every outlet and screaming insults about every single item they say even when it is said solely in the Knesset? And what is this backbiting between Tzipi Livni and Naftali Bennett or Yair Lapid and Prime Minister Netanyahu and any number of other intra-coalition sniping which appear regularly in the media. Could we not simply keep some of the inflammatory interpersonal taunts and ridicule more private? Every last piece of dirty laundry does not need to be paraded in full view for the world to see. And on another note to those in the ruling coalition but who believe that they would make a better Prime Minister than Bibi Netanyahu; your party did not get the mandate and thus you are supposed to be in a supportive role, not a combative role. Sure, we know you believe that it was simply a travesty of justice that you were not chosen to lead the government and that you are sure as you are that the sun rises over the Judean Hills every morning that should there be an election tomorrow that you would be chosen to be Prime Minister, please wait for the election and should you get your chance, then we will know for certain what kind of Prime Minister you would make. Just because you are the leader of one of the parties within the coalition does not mean that you are an equal partner to the Prime Minister, he actually does get to lead and make some of the big decisions and you are presumably to work with him. If you have a disagreement or a better idea, try talking to him in private or at least in the setting of a committee hearing and not on the evening news, Facebook, Twitter or the front page of every newspaper. Oddly enough, despite the fact that as Israelis many of us believe we also would make a better Prime Minister, when we argue the points it is not transmitted throughout the world to be heard by every person with animosity in their hearts towards our little country of Israel. Think of what damage your tirades and all too public arguments and disagreements will have on Israel and remember that Israel comes before your pride and ego.

 

There is one last item that brings many of us great sadness. This is to our beloved Rabbis who we respect and look to for moral guidance and exemplary leadership. It really pains many Israelis when we read that one of the supposed pillars of our society and those who we look to for examples of piety and guidance in living by the Torah and in a righteousness manner are found to have taken bribes or acted in other manner of deceit or shame. It is bad enough when politicians disgrace themselves but when one of our Rabbis does so it causes us to feel some amount of disgrace as well. We try to live well and in a manner which any Rabbi would comment there is a righteous person but how are we to act with restraint, respect and in a righteous manner if those whose lives are supposed to define righteousness and honor act shamefully. Granted the numbers of such scandalous events are few, but even a few is more than we should need to be burdened by. Just like our political leadership, the religious leadership provided by our Rabbis reflects on the name of Israel before the world as well as it reflects on all that is Jewish. When one of our Rabbis sins in such a manner it tarnishes each of us a small amount. As bad as that is, it is incomparable to the pain we feel when we read of a Rabbi who has acted shamefully transgressing our trust and setting a poor example. Please, for the sake of those who take inspiration from your deeds, for those impressionable who are easily influenced, for those whose trust you sustain, for all who seek betterment from your actions and for the sake of Torah which you represent, act with all this and more in mind as all the great goodness performed by the many is tarnished and shamed by the thoughtless and corrupt actions of any one from amongst you. For all of us act always in a manner reflecting the best and representative of Torah and then you and we can expect the same from those you influence by your acts. Be a blessing amongst the people of Israel and Israel too will be blessed by you and by those you touch.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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