Beyond the Cusp

March 3, 2017

Jewish Divide Over Trump Very Telling

 

Here’s a news flash that the media thus far has refused to mention, there are many Jews who support President Donald Trump. The media has been quite vocal of those Jews who are vehemently protesting the Trump Presidency. Probably the most telling example has been the Senate hearings to approve his Ambassador to Israel, David M. Friedman. We will gladly grant the media that President Trump’s choice for Ambassador to Israel of David M. Friedman is a novel appointment when compared to previous appointments made by all the previous Presidents throughout Israeli history. There have been Ambassadors, Middle East Special Councils, Palestinian Israeli Peace Ambassadors and all sorts of other appointments made concerning Israel and her Arab neighbors plus the fact that American Ambassadors to the United Nations often have to interdict in matters concerning Israel, especially in United Nations sanctions against Israel often brought by Arab and European nations at the behest of the PLO or Palestinian Authority (PA) which have more often than not been vetoed by the United States Ambassador.

 

All of these past officials have more often than not been career Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) with the remainder have been political appointees. There have been more than a few of the most recent Israeli Ambassadors and Special Appointees who have been Jewish and thus touted as being most obviously as pro-Israeli. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. Some in particular, Thomas R. Pickering, Martin Indyk and Denis Ross have been some of the most antagonistic to the Israeli cause. Both Martin Indyk and Denis Ross were said to be very much favorable to Israel because of their being Jewish which is like claiming that someone had to be favorable to illegal immigration across the southern border because they were Hispanic, an insult and very likely false. Indyk and Ross attempted to force Israel to make concessions in exchange for empty promises which had been given by the PA before and never acted upon or immediately broken often with an in-your-face attitude. David M. Friedman is a different Jew, he is also a Zionist. This is a first for an Ambassador to Israel and many Israelis are expecting great things if only our leaders can be bold, even brash for a change. Some here in Israel have placed David M. Friedman as being to the right and more Zionist than Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu or most of the other Ministers of the Knesset. Additionally, Israelis have begun to believe that President Trump will be good for Israel providing Israel acts good for Israel.

 

Additionally, Orthodox Jews mostly voted for President Trump over Hillary Clinton while Democrat Jews voted almost universally for Hillary Clinton and are extremely upset by her loss and screaming mad over President Trump. During the hearings for Ambassador David M. Friedman there were Jews disrupting the hearings blowing Shofars. Traditionally the sounding of the Shofar other than as part of religious observance has been used as a warning sign often used as an alarm that enemies were advancing or other calamity. Sounding the Shofar at the hearings for the new Israeli Ambassador they were meaning that a calamity was occurring threatening Jewish lives. Their actions were over the top as no lives were being endangered and no emergency was coming for Jews and if anything this appointment was going to be good for Israel, a new page in appointments of advisors to Israel.

 

This brings us to what for us is one of the saddest things we will ever discuss, Israel and the American Jewish left. Often at demonstrations denouncing Israel some of the most virulent demonstrators will come from leftist, liberal Jews. These Jews are more attached to their leftist principles than they are to Torah and Israel. These are Jews who will never consider making Aliyah and were the members of our Synagogue who when we made Aliyah asked us why in the world we would want to go live in Israel of all places. They were stunned that somebody they knew would do something which was such an anathema to them. These were the same members of the Synagogue who had to get past the horror that we might actually be Republicans as we had admitted. Many initially thought we were joking and trying to be funny and some when they realized we actually were Republicans never spoke with us again. Israel has actually become a divisive issue in the American Jewish community.

 

For Jewish Democrats it is a serious problem. There are still a goodly number of friends to Israel remaining in the Democrat Party but their numbers are diminishing and some have actually needed to go underground in their support. Pro-Israel Jews in Reform Synagogues have to act like the Marranos during the Inquisition where they practice their Judaism silently and with little visible evidence at home and were good Catholics in public even to going to church daily and every action including rosaries and confession to avoid the Inquisition and the tortures and death sentences which would be their punishment if their being a Jew was ever rooted out. These new Marranos support Israel but must do so while in conversations in Synagogue or at Temple functions, as most Reform Synagogues refer to themselves as Temples; something less Jewish in its identity, these Jews either remain silent on issues Israel or denounce those sensitive issues such as Bibi Netanyahu, the greatest force of evil in the Middle East.

 

Horned Netanyahu

 

For far too many American Liberal Leftist Jews, Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has been the reason why President Obama was unable to make peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis and had Netanyahu simply followed the instruction, the orders from on high at the Oval Office, then Israel would have peace. There are no arguments which they would ever accept and they honestly believe that the Arabs would be happy if only Israel would surrender everything to the Green Line and half of Jerusalem and all the terrorism and demands would end. Never mind that Mahmoud Abbas refuses to even say, let alone guarantee, that the terror and violence would end with such an agreement, he has instead stated that any agreement would be but the initial step to the removal of the Zionist entity and that all resistance, that would be terrorism, would continue until the Zionist entity has been eradicated and the Jews defeated completely. Never mind that in Gaza there is Hamas which has promised to murder every Jew on Earth which includes these American Leftist Jews who happily claim that Hamas can be reasoned with. One would think with the history of the Jewish People, especially their recent history, specifically since the last century, that when some group of extremists claim they have designs for the complete annihilation of the Jewish People they would take things like that very seriously.

 

That Israel, and even additionally President Trump to the point of violence and lost friendships, have become the two most divisive issues in the Jewish community is the saddest commentary one could imagine. Israel, the hope and the prayers of Jews for thousands of years now a matter for derision and splitting the community is beyond sadness. Israel and Jerusalem, the final desire of every Seder is, “Next year in Jerusalem” and Psalms 137, Song of Babylon, which demands that as a member of the Jewish People, Jerusalem must be our first love and, allow me to quote, “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill (strength). (And) May my tongue cling to my palate, if I do not remember you, if I do not bring up Jerusalem at the beginning of my (chief and most important) joy.” Yet somehow Israel, and even the surrender of the Old City of Jerusalem and the surrendering of the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives Cemetery, has become a sticking point, an issue for debate and for too many simply something too trivial to be bothered with when supporting those for whom Israel is a bother is the real issue. How can Jews unfriend other Jews or shun them in the Synagogue because they support Israel. They demand, ‘how can one support Israel’ which is simply just for those other Jews, those religious Jews, those Jews who are just too Jewish and the ones the anti-Semites hate. They believe that because they support the right causes and they rub elbows with the right people that should the anti-Semites ever get their dream again and Jews are hunted down that they will be granted exceptions because they are those good Jews. They do not realize that to an anti-Semite the only good Jew is a dead Jew. But these Jews would gladly sacrifice those Zionist crazies if it would advance their standing at the club, or even sadly their Synagogue. We hold some truths to be very troubling and beyond our ability to accept. How can there be an ingathering when so many Jews refuse to even accept the concept of a Jewish State, a Jewish People or of Hashem and instead view their Synagogue as just another social club. This makes one remember that a minority of slaves left Egypt with Moses and a similarly percentage returned after they were liberated from Babylonia by Cyrus the Great and the majority either remained in Babylon or migrated to the major cities of Persia.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

December 18, 2013

Who Are Most Jewish or at Least Acceptable as Jews?

Of the entirety of the Jewish people are only the Hareidi and maybe the Orthodox the only real Jews or are the Conservative and Reform just as Jewish and how about Kabbalah or even Reconstructionist and other less popular forms of Judaism? The answer you will receive depends just as much on the individual as it does which particular branch of Judaism the responder belongs. Then there is a question as to whether one need be a Zionist to be a true Jew. This has become a pertinent question which will receive some coverage in the near future due to Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the Reform movement’s US conference through a live video link. Hareidi leaders, who are quoted in Hareidi newspaper Hamevaser claimed that the previous Prime Ministers had resisted recognizing the Reform movement claiming, “It is too bad that Netanyahu is adding fuel to the raging fire and pushing the cart further into the abyss.” The Hareidi tied the Prime Minister’s apparent sin to the current political situations adding, “This is even more serious because these are very sensitive days, in which Hareidi Jewry is fighting for its life because of the decree for forcibly enlisting yeshiva students. On days in which the tension needs to be lessened, the prime minister elects to deepen the damage to the Hareidi public, and strengthen the Reform movement that has led to grave assimilation in the Jewish people.” And finally they accused the Prime Minister saying, “By so doing, Netanyahu proves that the struggle is not for ‘equality in bearing the civil burden’ or other clichés. This is a clear plot to destroy religion, Torah and the mitzvoth [commandments]. That is the true aim and there is no other.”

 

 Where the best answers would likely come from learned Rabbis there is a more political way to view this question, namely who will be determined to be Jewish should, G0d forbid, part or all of the world go off the cliff and once again decide the world would be a better place without any Jews populating the planet. Such an event is not as impossible as many had believed it had become as the memory of the horrors which gripped Europe under the hatreds of the Nazis. One need only look almost anywhere on the Earth and evidence points to a sharp increase in anti-Semitism. Iran regularly holds demonstrations with tens of thousands chanting “Death to Israel, Death to America” where by Israel they mean not only the nation but also the Jewish people and they do not mean just the United States when saying America as much as the entirety of the Western world. Then there are the leadership of the Palestinians such as Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Khaled Mashaal of Hamas will regularly speak of removing the Jews from residing in Israel as they claim that once they regain rule over the lands from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea their first order of business will be to remove, read that as murder, every last Jew so as to repurify the lands and remove what they see as a blight.

 

Throughout the history of Judaism there have been sects or divisions of Jews who strayed from the strict laws, mitzvah, commandments and rituals that the most strictly religious Jews hold to as the essence of being Jewish. Even the manners and practices for the most religious of Jews has altered over the ages. One obvious example are the restrictions on not eating leavened during Passover as the Sephardic and the Ashkenazi rule different items as forbidden during the holiday with rice being one of the most often used examples. Much of the disturbance between the different forms of Judaism comes down to the level of strictness regarding observance of the laws, traditions, mitzvah and rituals. What many do not take into account is all the different forms of Judaism currently are unable of completely following all of the commandments as there is not a Temple in Jerusalem to which many of the commandments and mitzvah require in order to be practiced. Rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem, or elsewhere if that is the decision as before King Solomon built the First Temple there were other sites where the Tabernacle had been kept and where the mitzvoth pertaining to it had been held, should be one of Judaism’s highest priorities and that should be accepted as a foremost desire of the Jewish people. Still, there are some among the most religious of Jews who claim that Zionism is a wrongheaded cause and the Holy Temple must await the coming of the Messiah as that is who is to rebuild the Holy Temple. Just what the Jewish people need, another argument dividing us.

Now we can get to the opinion section where whatever I write I will likely receive a ton of grief for every ounce of kudos. My belief is that even the most secularized and unobservant of Jews is still a Jew even if they have completely sworn off their religiosity as there is still that remote glimmer of hope that something will awaken the spirit within them and they will return to the fold and recommit to Judaism. I would ask of those who are most observant and who have great difficulty with those Jews who only practice some of the Jewish rituals and commandments to keep open arms readied for any Jew who desires to rejoin and to remember that even after choosing to return and fully practice Judaism the wayward Jew must be walked at their own pace and care taken not to overwhelm them with changes expecting them to miraculously transform overnight. Were that it was that easy. Many Jews today are not observant because their parents were not observant and they were never taught what is required of an observant Jew. Many of these Jews do not read Hebrew and even more do not understand more than a smattering of Hebrew though they can read the Siddur and say many or even all of the prayers exactly as they are to be chanted. The lack of speaking and understanding Hebrew can pose a very high and difficult hurdle to returning to the fold and becoming a practicing Jew. Remember that even at the worst of times when many if not most of the Jewish people were Hellenized and spent more time practicing the Greek religions and philosophies than they did observing Torah yet still the Greeks were cast out and the majority of those lost Jews found their way back or their children returned to Judaism. The Jewish people are very likely on the leading cusp of such a change in these perilous times. The Jewish people have always bound together in the face of adversity and adversity is coming and very few even see it, let alone prepared for the evils approaching. When the problems strike it will require the religious members of Judaism to embrace their less observant Jews and teach them patiently Torah and the Commandments. They will need guidance and comforting and will stumble many times and will require understanding and support as they climb slowly back to the heights of Torah observance. Many will not understand what is happening to them or even why or how they were condemned for being Jews as their parents were not practicing Jews and held no ties to the family that are the Jewish people. There is a claim that almost every Jew alive today is no more than four or five generations removed from a religiously practicing Jew. Let us pray it will take less generations to bring them back home and that can only happen if those Jews who hold true to Torah are willing to take the time and live by example showing the joys that come with Jewish observance.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

December 5, 2013

The Provocateurs at the Wall

Again this week on Rosh Hodesh, the first day of a Hebrew month, there was the planned provocation at the Kotel, the Western Wall, by a group of self-proclaimed reformers demanding that Israel in general and the Kotel area in particular be made more accepting. They deem it a necessity that the traditions and rules which currently exist and are mostly kept by unspoken agreement be torn asunder and room made for universal acceptance of practices and attitudes from within the broad spectrum of the Jewish faith. These “Women of the Wall” feel that having the Kotel and environs be controlled and run under Halacha, the traditional religious interpretations of the Law and Commandments also referred to as Talmudic Law is too restrictive and foreboding, making the wall unwelcoming to many lesser religious Jews. These are the traditionally accepted practices and more by which traditional Orthodox Jews live their lives. The Women of the Wall want that Reform and Conservative Jews be permitted to hold their religious practices, especially those which run contrary to Halacha. Their argument is that by only allowing the most stringent interpretations of Judaism to be permitted at this the holiest place on Earth to Jews that there are numerous Jews who are being left out and unable to participate in activities or even to pray at the Wall.

 

There are those reading this and asking why cannot the Wall be made more inclusive. The answer to this question was recently taken up by Jewish Authorities and the Knesset and a compromise was offered where a new section of the Western Wall has been cleared near to the Robinson Arch as an additional area adjacent to the traditional Kotel established where those who would prefer a less traditional set of practices be observed or held can be done without disturbing the peace and holiness that is preserved at the Kotel. The Women of the Wall initially had said that this was adequate and that they were satisfied and accepted this new arrangement. That was before the first of a new month where apparently they have changed their minds or something is awry as they were once again holding their “service” at the Wall which includes directly challenging Jewish Traditions and accepted practices as a provocation. Another claim they have made is that visitors from outside Israel might feel put off by the traditional and Halachic rules at the Kotel and that all the varied forms of Judaism should be granted acceptance of their rules, law, and commandments as they practice their faith and not be basically struck over the head with the stringent rules currently in place. Their demands that there basically be no rules regarding practices and services at the Kotel remind me of a quote attributed to Alexander Hamilton which states, “If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything.”

 

I feel a confession should be made about myself. I would not be considered to be an overly religious and practicing Jew under Halachic Law and was not raised as an Orthodox Jew as is the case for the majority of Jews in the United States and elsewhere outside of Israel. I have been to visit the Western Wall and did not feel out of place any more than my normal nervousness to being at a holy place which, in many ways, far exceeds my life’s experience of being Jewish and Torah observance and actually found some peace that this place was run under rules of strict observance that honored the traditions and the time honored values of Judaism as it was practiced over the centuries when the Jews, the Hebrews, the Israelites lived and ruled the Promised Land and observed and lived by the Torah, the rules handed down from on High. Personally I would not desire the Western Wall be changed in any way except possibly have scheduled classes for those seeking to reclaim their heritage, but that can be done most anywhere in Israel if you truly desire to do so.

 

Some might demand to have explained why this has caused such a ruckus and why cannot the rules be liberalized to allow for such practices from less observant Jewish sects. The first question that needs to be raised to answer this is exactly how far will it be necessary to redefine what is acceptable and what when the new lines are challenged and further changes are demanded? Eventually such a route would lead to complete anarchy and no rules what-so-ever.  Furthermore, the solution put in place should have satisfied all involved as a new section was made available for those practices outside of the Orthodoxy. Let us for a moment change the solution around and see if we can predict what would have happened if the main section of the Western Wall had been made to conform with the Women of the Wall’s demands and the Orthodox traditional Halachic rules were made to be applied in the newly opened section. I feel extremely comfortable in predicting that had that been the new arrangement, then these ladies would have held their protest observance at the new wall demanding it also be adjusted to their definitions of what is acceptable. Their leaders have made their true intentions known in slips during interviews when they admitted their ultimate aim is to redefine Judaism away from the strict Orthodoxy and make everything bend to accommodate the Conservative, Reform and other sects and to erase any vestiges of the Orthodoxy. Their aim is not to establish universal acceptance of all forms of Judaism but rather the universal rejection of traditional Orthodox Judaism.

 

Their desire is to tear down rather than to build and that is where the problem lies. To accommodate these ladies’ demands would be to accept the pretext that Judaism has no traditional laws, no true standards and that anyone may define what is permitted in their view and practice of Judaism and nobody else has any right to claim that they have missed the mark of being a true and observant Jew. Traditions are necessary and the Orthodoxy and their holding to the ancient laws and enforcement of the Commandments is what will allow Judaism to survive. This is far from the first time that there have been Jews who claimed they were modernizing the religion of Judaism and making it relevant to the times. The most obvious was when the ancient lands of the Jews broke into two Kingdoms, the northern Kingdom named Israel which felt that their views of the traditions and laws needed to be accepted, and the Kingdom of Judah which was the southern Kingdom which observed the older traditions. In time the Northern Kingdom fell to invaders and were carried off where they either ceased to exist as Jews through assimilation or simply not having the traditions on which to hold their religion close. These became the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel who were deemed not to return until the final redemption and the return of all Jews to their Promised Land. The Kingdom of Judah did also eventually fall but the Jews from Judea had their traditions and Halachic Laws to keep their religion alive and separate from all other religions thus keeping them from assimilation. This survival of traditional Judaism has ramification even into modern times if one looks deeply enough knowing what they seek but perhaps that is a subject for a later article.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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