25 July 2018

Jews Deserve Derekh Eretz, Too!

The light of 14 Menahem Av 5778

Derekh Eretz Series part 1 | part 2 | part 3

From Wikipedia's Hebrew site, Shim'ei ben Gera chasing after King David as he escapes from Yerushalayim.

NOTE to my gentle readers: Drink plenty of water during these hot days of summer (at least in the Northern Hemisphere).

You may have noticed that the Jewish People as a whole has been on the defensive, and kept that way, for quite a while (since the days of Pharaoh, to be exact. Remember: "Be wise with them..."). It's time to push back. Have you observed our enemies, even though we think of some of them as friends, always starting to report the moment we strike in response to an offending blow, portraying it as the first? I wouldn't want to be in the same orchestra with these "ladies and gentlemen." They always start off on the wrong beat or a completely different rhythm.

For instance, Iran and Hamas have been cooperating in their attempt to cause the Jews to leave Israel en masse, shooting, bombing, injuring, kidnapping and murdering Jews, mainly civilians for years at a time. The reporters are silent. Then, all of a sudden, they start reporting.

War on Israel Explained as a Badly Played Opera
What happened? Israel (protagonist or antagonist, depending on which side you're on) was fired on during the time the overture was supposed to be played, and fired back on beat two of the first act; and the media (orchestra) treat it as though it were the overture, beat one. As a result, there was some action without the music during the overture, but now there's lots of music during the first act — maybe we killed some of them, maybe we destroyed bases of operation — whatever we did, if it were music, would shock the audience to find themselves in the middle of something they know nothing about. Because most of the orchestra wasn't participating during the entire overture, the audience wasn't either. Lots of talking was going on, and getting up and down to get popcorn (maybe the place is something between a music hall and a movie theater). Maybe they thought the overture was just stage hands setting up the stage, who knows.

This "opera" has been going on for a few thousand years: For the purposes of this post I'm calling it Opus No. 1, Act 3, by HQB"H. Many of the actors and singers have been improvising their parts, or so they think.

I'm not particularly an opera fan, but because the parts of operas contain a script and drama, they resemble the back-and-forth I am trying to describe in non-military terms. I hope the progression would be better understood thereby. The one major difference is that Jewish people, like the rest of the world, really are born, live and die!

These days, we need to open a conversation to include those Torah-abiding, Land-of-Israel-loving Jews whose voices have been silenced by being shamed, called names, slandered and libeled over issues that boil down to matters of common decency and courtesy, which constitute only some of the meanings of derekh eretz.

I believe the Jewish People has been bashed, battered around, and considered "the bad guy" of the world for more than long enough. If common decency does not include the Torah-abiding and Land-of-Israel-loving, it has failed. We refuse to cooperate with the attempt to drive the Jew from the world.

 ***End of Introduction***

Tomer Devorah, in answer to this guest post, defends the Jewish People by pointing out that we have a tougher time with repentance than the nations do because the yetzer hara'  is stronger in Jews. I find this enough justification to put in my esser agaroth (approximately 2 cents - it might be 3 now 😄).

I would add an explanation, incomplete though it is, to this: In a way similar to those who have lived with prejudice from others (in my experience, mainly American black people — about them, I learned in college), some Jews tend to beat up on each other physically, verbally and in writing (not all at once, G-d does have mercy.).

Shamefully, some of us also tend to side with our enemies even more than the aforementioned minority. This yetzer hara' was shown to be so bad that we recently saw (literally, on video) London Jews' defilement of qaddish — the version of this praise of HQB"H that is said for the dead — for Hamas operatives (terrorists, in our terms) who were killed in national self-defense. Now that's crossing many lines of derekh eretz, and I would have been remiss in a post like this if I hadn't mentioned it. And here's a story that should give chills. There's more, but the links alone would fill up several posts.

After 70 years of an existing state of Israel, where Jews presumably rule the country, we still must learn how to identify where to apply our efforts most effectively so that we have maximum room for action, especially in the verbal and written arenas. I hope this series will at least be part of the beginning of such identification so that we will cease our self-flagellation and exert ourselves against those who treat us badly.

I found it interesting, from one of the articles linked above, that one of the organizers of the qaddish event, "Rabbi" Laura Janner-Klausner, is attributed to having actually called British Jews on the lack of derekh eretz over the argument that followed:
“...one Jew wishes another dead,” crossing “the boundaries of decency and we are now into violent, harassing, bullying behavior.”
This quote from her did not take into account that her group violated this principle first, by having this qaddish event at all — much less in public — in the first place. No one there even stopped to reconsider after a Jewish taxi driver burst in and severely berated them over the news that 50 of the dead Gentiles they were giving the honor of a qaddish were Hamas operatives who had attacked Jews! Dismissing him because of his demeanor (or lack thereof) did not help at all. As far as I'm concerned, they had already effectively wished all the Jews of Israel dead by expressing mourning for our enemies.

In that same article, London-based writer and sociologist Keith Kahn-Harris said "the vitriol around the Kaddish for Gaza affair was unprecedented because “for the first time, the same kind of venom also [was directed at] some Zionist left-of-center groups.”

What about the venom injected by those "Zionist left-of-center groups” every day, constantly against orthodox, traditional, and other Jews with common sensibilities? Isn't that also lack of common decency and courtesy? This sort of "I can dish it out, but I won't take it" attitude reflects those who behave that way, and not those they treat in this cavalier manner.

I do not identify with that sort of Zionism, in case you were wondering. I consider the term Zionist applied to the left-of-center to be probably more cover than anything else. Zion refers to Jerusalem, lest we all forget, and to their chagrin is pro-Torah.

I should note that the sort of outrageous behavior I mentioned coming from the Left is called "virtue signaling" by the younger adult generation (millennials — our children and grandchildren, r"l). It won't get these Jews anywhere if — or more likely when pogroms start; in fact, they may die first as an example to others, as has happened in other times and places. If they haven't done so already, I suggest that at minimum they do teshuva (repentance, but even more than that), publicly apologize and make some substantial financial and spiritual investment in their lives in Israel, before the worst happens.

Disgustingly, many media people — even Jews — wrote in favor of the event. Only one person who commented positively on this event has walked his words back so far. Unfortunately, I can't find the link anymore. But Melanie Phillips notes in The Jerusalem Post the very real inequality of expectations:
It was...dispiriting that those condemning such insults voiced deep concern over the damage being done to the Jewish community – not by the mourners-for-Hamas, but only by those who were insulting them.

But at least the Londoners at RSY-Netzer later dropped one of the leaders of this unholy qaddish event, a woman, from leading a group here to Israel on a summer tour (on the linked page, go to the very end for the reference to her.). Now, that was exemplary. I hope the rest of the group learned the lesson so that they may take action and avoid the fate I mentioned two paragraphs above while they still can.

  • Hamas called a ceasefire only after burning down in 1,000 fires more than 7,400 acres of farmland, forests and parks, much of that nature reserves. This is not merely terror; it is an attempt to starve us out, may G-d help us. Mark my words: People who complain that Israel (meaning the national Jew, of course) is always depending for support from other nations should realize that their nation's support of Hamas during this time period means they aided and abetted this huge crime against the people, animals, and plants of Israel, since most nations supported Hamas at Israel's expense. Not only that, but it is not the first time Israel has been deprived of the fruit of her own handiwork. Gush Katif was providing food for the world before it was destroyed at the behest of the world and made into Hamas' launching pad for our destruction in 2005; in addition, there is the more recent attempt in 2016 to burn the country down (search). We will not forget, and on the day of judgment we will not forgive either. Don't mistake us for those who turn the other cheek to garner favor, even if our government seems to do so.
  • Gideon Levy of Ha'Aretz wrote that the LGBTQ strike was the strike of the pampered (that part I agree with) and that the Left should be striking on behalf of the Arabs instead. Of course. The rest of us can count on it, and the rest I don't want to say because I don't want to give bad people good ideas. I don't subscribe to HaAretz, so I'm sure there's more I haven't linked to.

The big question in the context of this article is, How do Jews in Israel respond to people who refuse to grant derekh eretz, particularly towards Jews in general, and all the more so towards Israeli Jews? Like the United States under Franklin Roosevelt, who wanted to silence the Jews in WWII**, just when we'd found out about the still-ongoing Holocaust. Even though he never made the declaration, the world, including British and other Europeans, cooperated to keep Jews out of Palestine-before-it-became-Israel, thus causing many more deaths than there otherwise would have been. (My father-in-law, z"l, hated President Roosevelt until the end of his life for this.)

And there is a flood of more questions:
  • How can we develop as a decent society when we must constantly act to prevent murder and mayhem, which threaten the exclusion of all else?
  • How can we continue to demand from ourselves to just take punishment from those who dish it out, but can't take it themselves?
  • What do we do about our continuing self-deprecating behavior, so that we can encourage, or command, respect? 
  • How do we respond to the continuous assault on our integrity? 
  • Must we be polite and courteous to those who obviously hate us and want to get rid of us? 
  • Must we continue to accept those among our own whose lifestyle and goals threaten our survival as a people?
  • It is good to correct misstatements and lies about Jews and Israel, but is that our only weapon? 
  • Have we constrained ourselves by our behavior and responses to attacks, whether they be physical, written and verbal; and how?
  • How do we protest the invasion of behavior and "culture" denigrating the Holy Torah without being immediately shoved aside?
  • and more...you may write yours in the comment section.
Self-Created Problems...and Some Solutions
Here and now, you can find plenty of great Israeli writers, defenders, and expositors of our country, religion, and culture right on the sidebar of this blog. But, as one of the bloggers I read during this writing wrote back in May 2018, right after the London-qaddish-incident: "It should surely not be left to a few bloggers to show the red card." (He was referring to the 10 people he was naming and shaming from that event, which has already been discussed above here. And, eight more were added lower on the page there.) He's right.

The problem is that for most of Jewish history once we were driven out from Judea יהודה (this country's name then, which included all the land west of the Jordan River and maybe more) close to 2,000 years ago, we were not allowed any means of self-defense from would-be murderers and hardly any rights to oppose those who would shame and slander us verbally, or libel us in writing.

In our day, Israel has plenty of people who qualify as enemies among us, whom our government has allowed and encouraged to remain in place, who are not decent, to say the least; and even has allowed enemies to visit. Here's how the younger brother of Shalhevet Pass, of martyred memory***, was slapped by a Swiss multinational official invited by Breaking the Silence (BTS) to Hevron, where they were in a forbidden area — they were not supposed to go into Jewish neighborhoods, but they went anyway. Let's understand OUR "other" now, as others are expected to be understood: The boy kicked an adult in the shin and was slapped across the face, knocking off his kippah. You can read the rest of the story here and here.

Notice that the Arabs (not to mention the actual murderer) have not yet paid for baby Shalhevet's murder. Can you dare blame her brother, or his community, for his lack of respect for these adults?

Frankly, I hope BtS gets collective punishment (hard jail time, for starters) for their activities, including inviting non-Jews here for the purpose of weakening our country over the years. I certainly hate what they do and don't want to discuss with such people. They actually lied about IDF activities, as many have testified already. You can read and decide for yourself which side you believe: Google search.

A Couple of Good Examples
Yosef Rabin replied to "Rabbi" Leah Jordan's article on the "qaddish event" here. I'm sharing this with you as an excellent example on how to be offended by another's words and how to repudiate them, even if the offender is a fellow Jew. Just so you know: Lashon hara' ("evil speech") only occurs if you are talking about someone. My Rav says that direct verbal confrontation is exactly what is supposed to occur. If it started in public, it may be finished in public. Attempts to embarrass Israel in public, for instance, must be met publicly.

Micha Mitch Danzig dialogued by email with an Israel/Jew-hating (presumed) non-Jewish conspiracy theorist who blamed the Jews for practically everything under the sun. Read the whole series; this is part 2 of it. And here is part 1. (You do have to go back to the page I linked to here to click on each article.) This is a great rebuttal of many lies about many things Jewish. It's great mainly for the readers who come along and benefit. I don't know whether this creep who wrote him ever changed his mind.

How are the Jews Supposed to Win?
Ultimately, we must obey the words of our Father in Heaven: drive the so-called "people of the land" out. Now that we have the largest concentration of Jews in the world, it's long past time to start thinking about what our best interests might be. Over the last seven decades, we have tried just about everything else: gifts of money and land, appeasement, negotiation with our neighbors, sharing governance with our Arab-Israeli citizens, putting up with treason even from Knesset members (Ahmed Tibi and Hanan Zawabi, anyone?). All this, of course, with the "encouragement" of the nations, the bad advice of our frenemies. CAN WE STOP NOW, PLEASE, BEFORE WE GO ANY FURTHER DOWN THIS ROAD?

Can we use the word "Jews" and the word "Win" in the same sentence and in the proper sequence? With the help of HQB"H, we can. King David, the forbearer of Mashiah Tzidkenu, said:

I will speak of Your decrees, and not be ashamed in the presence of kings.
וַאֲדַבְּרָ֣ה בְ֭עֵדֹתֶיךָ נֶ֥גֶד מְלָכִ֗ים וְלֹ֣א אֵבֽוֹשׁ׃ 
Tehillim 119:46 | תהילים קיט: מו

Even though some among our enemies may not be able to defend their positions properly (see the video here for a laugh), we can't relax just yet. If we don't start demanding and commanding reciprocity of common decency and courtesy, we surely will not receive it. If those who demand derekh eretz from others without being willing to return the favor, we must be able to change our tone and stance to match theirs. And, if they threaten us, then we need to overcome them, doing whatever it takes with the help of G-d, shamelessly.

*Common decency and courtesy, or proper, appropriate behavior, came before Torah: from Midrash Vayikra Rabbah 9:3.

**hat tip to Mashiach is Coming; she also featured The Hypocrisy of Intersectionality and the Jewish Question, which highlights another methodology of shutting Jews off from the decent actions of others to save their lives and property.

***Murdered in Hevron by an Arab sniper while in her father's arms in 2001 shortly after the Arabs were given certain lands by none other than Binyamin Netanyahu (who was prime minister then, too). She would have been 17 years old today — approximately 7 years older than her brother. More

22 July 2018

A Special Case for Derekh Eretz This Tisha b'Av

10 Menahem Av 5778

Derekh Eretz Series Part 2

part 1 | part 2 | part 3

Why write about one special case when there are so many?
Because there was a strike today in Israel on behalf of the LGBT community supported by many companies in the high tech sector as well as many well-known companies that serve Israelis, media writers, photographers, and videographers will be writing a lot about the proud ones and showing us rainbow-colored visuals of them. The issue this time is the surrogacy law (original, 1996) that was just passed which included single women, and excluded same-sex couples and single men (here's an explanation of surrogacy in Israel and how it is applied. This may be the wording prior to the law that just passed, which I couldn't find.). This exclusion is perceived as an affront to equality of opportunity and denial of the "right" to have a family.

Whether everyone has the right to have a family is another issue. It is true that the Jewish People as a nation has a history of many, many exterminated families in efforts to eradicate us as a people, and this is what the strikers are appealing to. Further digression would be inappropriate at this point.

Rabbis and other Torah scholars are welcome to comment since I'm sure I'm leaving plenty out.

Media Presentation
Notice that the majority of the videos will be shot low across the crowd; it's a video trick to give the impression of more people than there actually are.

For example, this video that I saw on the Jerusalem Post homepage was shown as the same four clips of the same march over and over in order to get readers' attention. If the viewer doesn't look closely, it seems like a tremendous crowd is marching. The video is only 14 seconds long.

Another video, showing marching in Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Yerushalayim, the latter two of which are shot low, while the Tel Aviv section, having the largest crowd, is shot from above. The video is only 1 minute, 18 seconds.

So, I'm not at all impressed. The religious crowd at the Kotel, praying and protesting over the then-upcoming expulsion of Gush Katif in 2005, for example, was far greater by itself than all these LGBT marches put together. Yet, there was no publicity and there are no videos left from that time, but only from later on. Nevertheless, I do feel the need to single out a special case for a certain tiny portion of the LGBT+ (or Q, or whatever) people here.

The Proposed Exception to the Rule: The Special Case
I read an op-ed article late last week (I'm not saying where or linking to it) and came across a commenter there who said he knew he was gay from a very young age. At a certain point during his adulthood, he decided NOT to live that lifestyle and became Orthodox.

None of the other commenters believed him; they piled flame after flame on him. I was the only one, and so I got flamed too.

Even though I might have been wrong about this particular person, I was made aware that there could be such people among us, both male and female. It occurred to me that when such a person identifies him or herself and reaches out for help and friendship, attempts should be made to provide in some form or fashion.

I also understand that it is really, really difficult to make this a reality due to the social dynamics among homos versus those among heteros. Trying to mix them together is virtually impossible. If you're single and female, try going to the movies with a girlfriend and observe how other people check you out; the same with males, even more so. In religious communities, dress often serves as a way to reassure others that you're one or the other.*

The Right of the Default Group to Accept or Reject
Of course, the clal (Hebrew for collective and refers to the greater Jewish People) comes first. Normally among Jews, people who pursue lifestyles departing from the default according to the Torah get pushed aside, particularly if they insist on pushing their lifestyle on others, as these strikers are. (Christians got this, among many other things, from us, explaining why non-Jews of this persuasion also encounter this phenomenon.) But in the case of one who chooses to not go after the desire that takes him or her away from the normative community, but does not know how to negotiate socially or doesn't feel he would have a genuine friendship without the other party knowing about him, we should not be so quick to reject him. HaShem wants all of us to make teshuva, and if one such as the person I met online wants to repent, or has already done so, he is no worse than we are.

Also, there may be social problems that require attention from a specialist, who may be able to separate them out from his toevah (non-normative) tendency, and thus enable him to socialize, pray, and receive appropriate support from the clal.

On the other hand, people perceived as non-repentant may indeed be so. Once the non-repentant are accepted, they may begin, whether quietly or openly, reverting to the behavior they said they had given up. If they respond badly to being questioned about it, according to community norms, they should be rejected again.

This is true for any social group; the gender orientation issue is no exception. Nations are large social groups. Israel is a particularly small nation, and its core happens to be a family; so, divisive issues like the rights of non-normative couples to form families affect us more than other nations.

So let's not beat up the truly repentant non-normative Jews...please.
Warning to the normative group, especially those with American and European backgrounds, according to the Torah: We are no better than the homos (the non-normative people) when it comes to sin. Torah scholars may confirm that the higher up one is on the spiritual ladder, the greater the consequences are for his/her sins.

The Torah records just a few parashioth ago that Pinhas, the son of El'azar, was the very one who earned the Kahuna and HQB"H's brit shalom by a spear through a hetero couple in an illicit act.

Here's an extremely simplified recent history: A few generations ago, Hollywood was busy promoting hetero relationships outside of marriage (called affairs). When a pill to prevent pregnancy was invented ("The Pill") in 1957 and approved for contraceptive use in 1960, all kinds of extramarital affairs abounded as the Pill became popular, including switching partners with other couples, orgies, and the like. Women, in particular, could delay marriage as long as they wanted. The 1967 "Summer of Love" occurred with this as its background.

After all this and more, the homos came out and began fighting for their rights, and the transgender concept followed not so long after, with surgical procedures to accomodate. Let's not forget who opened the Pandora's Box to all this, and be kind to a truly repentant Jew, whatever his or her gender orientation.


Although comments are allowed below, I also hope we can now move on to other issues that require derekh eretz...like this one. I hope the next post will be the final one.

*I don't like to use the word "gay" to refer to homos. I still remember when this word had two applications: Gay, a girl's name, and gay, a synonym for happy. I feel sorry for those who still bear the name alongside the description of a certain social group that was long ago exposed for not being happy.

17 July 2018

Derekh Eretz: The Foundation of Humanity and Judaism

5 Menahem Av 5778

Derekh Eretz Series part 1 | part 2 | part 3

This post was inspired by this Myrtle Rising post on the Pele Yoetz (she has more about him there, as well.). I commented there, in part: "The first thing I would tell people now is that in doing teshuvah, one must acquire a good heart, if s/he doesn't already have one, *before* acquiring religion (not implying that religion should not be sought at all, just get the heart in the right place first.). Derekh Eretz kadma laTorah...

Her reply prompted this post and the next one (or 2...).

A Wikipedia editor found this on King David Street... "proper behavior precedes the Torah"

 Everything in this post includes me, and my gentle readers should also take this message to heart during these difficult times that we live in. Some of it may seem obvious; but today, nothing is obvious. Gray areas abound when it comes to what is termed acceptable. Many already say that black has become the new white, and vice versa. This post should not be taken as the last word on the topic, as much as I would like it to be; consult your Local Orthodox Rabbi for details and sources.

In Israel, we're praying for the society around us — that it should become, and then remain, good for our people to dwell together (based on Tehillim 133:1). That's one main reason why we all need to be decent people, and we need everyone else around us to also be decent.

While I was writing this post, I found a Torah-observant blog that takes decency as its primary mission.

My friend Daisy of Israel Truth Times recently posted a video by R' Gutman Locks, in which the Rav said to the pastor, in essence: Who should you greet, the Prince or his father the King? Of course, the King! It's only derekh eretz...common courtesy or common decency. (It includes more than that, but I don't want to make the article even longer than it already is.)

My dear colleague Devash of Tomer Devorah has been seeking ways to protest the invasion of toevah promoters in the Holy Land so that we may not be at fault for standing by, as people did at the Sin of the Golden Calf.

And Neshama of Going Home...to Yerushalayim reblogged concerning a slap to the face of a little Jewish boy already traumatized by the sniping murder of his big sister. More on that, next post.

So, of late I have been seeing the primary issue of derekh eretz in all these places...and more! I hope I can do some justice to this topic, particularly during these last 9 days leading up to the (delayed, thank G-d) Tisha b'Av fast.

If you think about it, everything that is considered gracious, courteous and considerate  — and downright correct — comes from this principle. Giving credit where credit is due, being grateful for everything you're given, taking opportunities to give, not taking credit for someone else's work, not accusing people falsely, and so on. For Jews, even all the commandments we are given are haShem's gift to us, to enable us to complete our mission while here in this world — ultimately uniting the physical and spiritual worlds. All this depends on common courtesy and decency; it (the Hebrew term derekh eretz דרך ארץ in all its meanings, implications and consequences) is the very foundation of all that is good in our world and in all creation.

Who is obligated and appropriate applications
Who is obligated in derekh eretz? Boiling down the sources, at the risk of oversimplification: Essentially, everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, from children of the age of understanding until extreme old age, when any number of diseases and disabilities can occur to prevent its expression. This includes the vast majority of human beings, regardless of age according to maturity level; gender-identification and actual gender; family status; financial status; health status, including many disabilities; and intelligence, both intellectual and emotional.

This is also why children are under their parents' constant supervision until they are able to internalize and reliably produce appropriate behavior — usually before attending school or being allowed to socialize outside their parents' presence; and even then, "the village," including school, serves as an extension of the parents (hence the Latin expression in loco parentis).

Regarding animals and animal rights: Because they are not capable of it on their own, they don't have any obligation to concepts like courtesy and decency, which is why domesticated animals are under human supervision, care and, yes, ownership; and why people are often held legally responsible for their animals' aggression against others outside their home (a guard dog's aggression against a home invader, such as a burglar, is an appropriate use of this behavior, enabled by the animal's instinct.).

It is also derived that even the poorest of the poor are obligated to charity. So, others who may lack in other areas are also obligated to contribute the necessary ingredients for a successful society.

A Word on Exemptions
In fact, any condition which prevents the expression of common courtesy and decency can exempt one from it at any time. Usually, these limitations also prevent people from fully participating in life, making them virtually harmless (but not always...people who are mentally ill and always looking for something to throw around and break in their anger, for example, are in need of external controls. People in this unenviable position must cry out strongly to haShem and dig deep for resources to make the effort to marshal their own self-control, to whatever extent they can, to relieve their personal hell-on-earth. I am not saying this is easy, or making light of it.).

Definition Summary
In short: Derekh Eretz is primarily meant to produce good hearts and the resulting peace in order to hold together human society, according to G-d's will. In order for our lives on earth to continue, and to prevent the Creator from destroying His creation and starting all over, we need to bring it back to the forefront of personal and collective behavior. It is the first step to teshuvah, even before taking on religion and observing the commandments; and it underlies every single commandment in the Torah!

At its best, it also protects against chaos and evil. If we don't go by objective standards and norms, such as those of the Torah, we have to give a lot of thought to what kinds of people and behavior should be given the open door of courtesy and acceptance, and which, not. (This seems to be beyond most people because we are decent and kind, and therefore give a lot of leeway to people and practices that end up harming society, not to mention our own families. We are easily convinced, and even coerced, early on to believe that certain forbidden practices should become normative that had previously been hidden (one of the signs I saw when looking for pictures was: "A shred of decency for marriage equality"), and we will see the results over time as these ideas take root and mature; and, we have seen some of these results already. We need to ask ourselves whether we're going in the right direction by encouraging these trends, or by standing by and watching them take effect.

End of Introduction

A word to the LGBTQ+ crowd: You are also obligated to common decency, as above. Parading your cultural and moral norms in places where they are NOT normal at all, and in fact considered the opposite (Yerushalayim being the epitome of such a place, but there are many others as well) is outright aggression, not to mention a violation of common courtesy to a place and people you are visiting. To paraphrase an old saying: When in Yerushalayim, do as normative Yerushalmis do. Do not come here and flaunt in front of us.

Similarly to the feminists, the BDS-ers, the NGOs that are paid with foreign money to keep Israel's hands tied behind her back, and the political-correctness police, whether in Israel or from outside. What business is it of yours to hold Israel's feet to the fire for self-defense and land use issues that would be no problem for people anywhere else? Standards are either standards for everyone, or they are not standards at all (law and custom being expressions of standard, if you will).

If decency means that you respect other people's cultures, laws and history, Jewish and Israeli culture, law and history must also be respected, or it means nothing to anyone and certainly doesn't help nations to be our friend, as many claim in order to give us bad advice.

I hope these words will strengthen the rabbis who are the spiritual mainstay of our people here. I read an excellent suggestion, that they should call their talmidim to the entrances to the city in time to prevent these parades from taking place; but, I don't remember where. It might have been a comment. This is just one of many things that would help reverse this downward trend;  the right people must be involved and leadership must be taken.

Here's a personal illustration on the place of derekh eretz: I once took a college acting course, decades ago. I don't remember the name of the book, but I remember one thing from it that applies to this topic. When studying a script, before memorizing the part, the actor is advised to look at the relationships between his/her character and the rest of the characters s/he interacts with, and ask at each scene: Where is the love?

Applied to our topic: Every time Jews study Torah, Talmud and their associated texts and documentation, we must ask at each juncture: Where is the derekh eretz, the common decency, the common courtesy?

It's all hidden in the text and between the lines, like mortar between the bricks of a magnificent building, holding it together.

Which brings me to the question of how to deal with people who expect proper behavior and respect for themselves and their actions without regard for the impact these may have on the world, but refuse to expend effort in kind to specific individuals or groups of people, or who seek to provoke such people. That very difficult topic is next. I cannot promise to solve it all, but we need to give it our best shot.

*Common decency and courtesy, or proper, appropriate behavior, came before Torah: from Midrash Vayikra Rabbah 9:3.

13 July 2018

Where Have You Gone, Aaron haKohen?

1 Menahem Av 5778
Likhvod Yom Neshmat Aharon haKohen
לכבוד יום נשמת אהרון הכהן

by R' Ephraim Sprecher
very light editing by CDG

Pic from Amazon - it was for sale and most likely sold. Sorry, philatelists!

To paraphrase Simon and Garfunkel’s great song, “Where have you gone, Aaron haKohen, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you!”

Why is Aaron haKohen's Yahrzeit the only one mentioned in the Torah? None of the Avot or the Imahot were accorded such an honor and not even Moshe Rabbenu. Only the date of the death of Aaron is mentioned. Why?

Aaron's Yahrtzeit is the first day of the month of Av, and the Jewish calendar is structured so that Parshat Masei which records Aaron's death is read before Tisha B'Av. Why?

The Mishnah in Avot states that "Aaron loved peace and pursued peace." With his passing, disputes and divisiveness increased. The Talmud in Yoma 9 attributes the destruction of the Second Temple to "baseless hatred," Sinat Chinam, and divisiveness among Jews.

The destruction of both Temples was on Tisha B'Av.

The Yahrzeit of Aaron alone emphasizes the critical importance of his character traits, which are "loving peace, pursuing peace" and avoiding Machlokot. Thus, his Yahrzeit is in Parshat Masei, which is read before Tisha B'Av, to teach us that Aaron's exemplary behavior is the TIKUN (repair) of SINAT CHINAM, which caused the tragedies of Tisha B'Av.

Why did G-d choose Aaron to be the Kohen Godel and to wear the Golden Vestments?

The Torah states, "And Aaron shall bear the judgment of the Children of Israel on his heart constantly before G-D" (Shemot 28:30). This verse is a reference to the CHOSHEN-BREAST PLATE, which Aaron wore over his heart. This breast plate was folded in half to form a pocket into which was placed a parchment containing G-D's Ineffable Name. This was called the Urim VeTumim, which caused the letters of the names of the Tribes of Israel which were inscribed on the CHOSHEN to light up with answers to questions of national importance.

The merit of wearing the CHOSHEN was given to Aaron because of his special character. When he went to greet Moshe, after Moshe had been selected by G-D to lead the Jews out of Egypt, he came with a smile and a glad heart. As the Torah states, "And when he (Aaron) sees you (Moshe) he will rejoice in his heart" (Shemot 4).

This remarkable love for a younger brother, who will replace him as leader, was rewarded with the CHOSHEN that Aaron wore over his heart that rejoiced for his younger brother.

Was it so difficult to rejoice for a younger brother's good fortune? Does Aaron deserve such an amazing tribute just for being happy for his kid brother?

HaRav Nebentzahl, maintains there are various levels of selflessness. It is one thing to defer to one's brother. It is a totally different level, when a person has been the leader of Israel throughout the years of persecution, pain and sorrow as Aaron was, and to have his younger brother take over, and be happy about it!

This character trait is exceptional and amazing. Aaron had pure selfless joy for Moshe's good fortune, even though he was now demoted from his position of leadership of Israel.

Only a person who possesses such a loving heart of gold, had the merit to wear the golden CHOSHEN over his heart!

 In the merit of this article, may HQB"H give us the wisdom and courage to follow His will to the letter and spirit so that the peace Aharon haKohen pursued may come upon the world at last, and that these three weeks each year would be weeks of joy for Israel and the whole world.

Mashiah Go'el Yisrael, NOW!

06 July 2018

Why the FAST will Become a FEAST...

23 Tammuz 5778

...by Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher

First published here and here.

Zechariah 8:19 states, “Thus speaks Hashem of Hosts, the fast of the fourth month [Shiv’ah Asar B’Tammuz] and the fast of the fifth month [Tish’ah B’Av] and the fast of the seventh month [Tzom Gedaliah] and the fast of the tenth month [Asarah B’ Teves] will one day turn into days of joy and celebration for the House of Yehudah, provided that the people will learn to love truth and peace.” The theme that sorrow will one day not only give way to joy but actually turn into joy is a basic principle of Judaism.

An example of this idea appears in Yirmiyahu 31:12. “Then [in the Messianic Era] the young women will dance joyously; young men and elders together. I [G-d] will turn their mourning to joy. I [G-d] will comfort them and cheer them in their grief and sorrow.”

This verse echoes clearly the statement that we saw expressed by Zechariah. Yirmiyahu is not predicting some new, joyous celebration with no roots in the past. Rather, G-d will turn the mourning of centuries of exile into joy and celebration.

These joyous prophesies of Zechariah and Yirmiahu will be fulfilled in the Messianic Era.

Why is it that in the time of Mashiach these former mournful fast days, commemorating the CHURBAN, will become joyous festivals and not just ordinary days? Why will these FAST DAYS become FEAST DAYS when Mashiach comes?

The answer is that these sorrowful tragic days will assume their original intent.

The 17th of Tammuz was the date of the giving of the Tablets of the Ten Commandments that was supposed to be a day of great joy and celebration, when G-d gave us His Luchot written by the Finger of G-d”. However, that is also the very day that we worshipped the Golden Calf and Moshe smashed G-d’s Holy Tablets.

Moshe has to re-ascend Mt. Saini and plead for G-d’s forgiveness for the Jewish People. The Second Tablets were not given until Yom Kippur. When we do Teshuvah and Merit the arrival of Mashiach, we will have fully rectified and repaired the Sin of the Golden Calf. Thus, in the Messianic Era, the 17th of Tammuz will assume its original character, a day of joyous feasting celebrating the giving of the First Holy Tablets.

Tisha B’Av also was supposed to be the day that we resolved to enter the Land of Israel and conquer it. The Sin of the Spies, in slandering the Holy Land, took place on Tisha B’Av. The spies negative report prevented the Jewish people from entering the Land of Israel on Tisha B’Av.

When Mashiach comes, we will have rectified this Sin of the Spies also.

Thus Tisha B’Av will also assume its original intention of joyous national celebration of appreciating and cherishing the Holy Land of Israel!