Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Europe Fights Back with Candles and Teddy Bears

By Giulio Meotti

  • Europe still has not realized that the terror which struck its metropolis was a war, and not the mistake of a few disturbed people who misunderstood the Islamic religion.
  • We are apparently not ready to abandon our masochistic rules of engagement, which privilege the enemy's people over our own.
  • It appears that for Europe, Islamic terrorism is not real, but only a momentary disruption of its routine. We fight against global warming, malaria and hunger in Africa. But are we not ready to fight for our civilization? Have we already given up?
Candles and flowers left behind following an evening vigil on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England, held after a suicide bombing by an Islamic terrorist who murdered 22 concert-goers the night before. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
This long and sad list is the human harvest of Islamic terrorism on Europe's soil:
Madrid: 191. London: 58. Amsterdam: 1. Paris: 148. Brussels: 36. Copenhagen: 2. Nice: 86. Stockholm: 4. Berlin: 12. Manchester: 22. And it does not take into account the hundreds of Europeans butchered abroad, in Bali, in Sousse, in Dakka, in Jerusalem, in Sharm el Sheikh, in Istanbul.
But after 567 victims of terror, Europe still does not understand. Just the first half of 2017 has seen terror attacks attempted in Europe every nine days on average. Yet, despite this Islamist offensive, Europe is fighting back with teddy bears, candles, flowers, vigils, Twitter hashtags and cartoons.

Rav Kook on Balancing the Heart of Judaism and the Detailed Actions

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 5:10) 

Gemara: The cow of Rabbi Eliezer would go out (on Shabbat) with a rope between her horns, against the will of the Sages. 

Ein Ayah: A living organism with a backbone and heart at the center of its life-force energizes and gives life to all the limbs and extremities of the body, up to and including the growth of hair and nails. Indeed, the entire body together creates a full and complete life. When the extremities disconnect from the source of the life-force, they shrivel up and die. This is not the case of very lowly organisms with no central life-force. Each part of the organism exists independently of the rest. 

We find a parallel in the world of spirituality and ethics. The living Torah is the loftiest part of life itself and is the essence and core of the life-force for everything else. It unifies and pours vitality into all the details and minutiae of life, in accordance with the strength of the centrality of the life-force. Just as a stronger blood flow increases the vitality and life of the extremities of the body, so too a healthy spiritual core invigorates all aspects of life and its details. 

However, we find two opposing concepts. The lofty center unifies and vitalizes the individual actions in as much as they relate to the core. On the other hand, there is a need for guarding and giving the correct balance and weight to the individual actions. For life is not found within the individual actions, but rather within the strength of the lofty core. 

We need to beware of making the individual actions, in and of themselves, the center of life. On the other hand there is an even bigger danger if we focus on the core of life and think that the individual actions are irrelevant and can be done away with. 

Therefore it may happen that a mistake can be made specifically from a great soul who might overlook a detail. This can happen by his focusing on the core life and idea with a deep understanding that the details are only meant to have significance within the whole that is deep within them. And it happens that specifically such a great person, who resonates with the essence of life and its core, might be mistaken and improperly trivialize a certain action. Although this is a mistake, as the completeness of life is dependent on the core bringing vitality to specific actions and details, nevertheless it is a mistake that can be corrected. It will force him to strengthen and clarify the connection between the life-force and the detail, redefining the correct proportions of importance and measurements. 

On a certain level, we prefer to have such great souls who are totally enveloped with the core ideas of life even though it is almost unavoidable that such great people might make mistakes at certain times. It is for this reason that the Sages did not vehemently oppose Rabbi Eliezer but rather showed that it was “against their will."

Kingship vs. Fatherhood

Parashat Naso and Chag HaShvu’ot 5777
HaRav Nachman Kahana

HaShem, in His infinite wisdom, brought about myriads of entities in all the worlds He created.

In the spiritual worlds which are far beyond our experience or comprehension with their innumerable universes and spiritual levels, angels are ranked according to their innate ability to comprehend the infinite Creator. There are the elementary Serafim, and the higher level Ofanim, and the Cha’yot Hakodesh, and many more.

In the daily Shacharit (morning) service we quote the initial stage of angels – serafim, who praise HaShem with the words:

קדוש קדוש קדוש ה’ צבאות מלא כל הארץ כבודו”
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

These Serafim comprehend HaShem’s glory as it manifests itself in our earthly world including the entire space that we call the “universe” which is estimated to measure 20 billion light years from end to end.

Following the Serafim, there appear the more elevated angels of Ophanim and Chayot Hakodesh who comprehend a greater glory of HaShem, and they declare:

ברוך כבוד ה’ ממקומו
Blessed be the glory of the Lord from His place.

“From His place”, meaning the Seraphim see HaShem as limited by a place (the universe); however, HaShem’s glory, as discerned by the Ofanim and Chayot Hakodesh go beyond his place of the “earth”. They continue to the limitless realm of the “Holy Throne” – the Kisai Hakavod.

As stated, HaShem created a hierarchy of inherent spiritual beings (angels) whose sanctity is dictated to them with no possibility of self-change. The situation is fundamentally different with regard to the Jewish nation. HaShem is goal orientated, so He presents to every Jew the freedom to choose his goal level of sanctity which will determine the depths of understanding the Almighty after the individual leaves this world.

There are basically two levels which observant Jews can strive for, but whose details number in the many millions. (In this divrei Torah I don’t include the non-observant for whom I have only great pity for what they are relinquishing in return for the fleeting moments of imagined pleasure).

The two levels can be categorized as אבינו מלכנו – our Father our King, when one is “King” and the other “Father.”

HaShem is King when one fulfills the Torah laws because they were commanded by HaShem to the Jewish nation. He is King when one fulfills the mitzvot because of fear of punishment and even loss of one’s place in the world to come. The Torah is replete with warnings of what will ensue if we don’t abide by HaShem’s commandments – the commands of the King.

When one abides by the Torah only because of fear of the heavenly King he cannot be considered irreligious or non-observant, but he is limited to the status of a loyal servant.

However there are those who view HaShem as their heavenly eternal Father, and express those feelings in concrete terms, by acting toward the Almighty as a son or daughter would to a parent.

Two examples:

1- Rashi, the master teacher of the TaNach and Talmud, is famous for his clarity and preciseness of presentation, where every word is measured and meaningful.

There is one place in Rashi’s commentary on the Talmud which appears to simply be a mistake. The Gemara (Ketubot 112b) in its discussion of the great mitzva of living in Eretz Yisrael relates:

ר’ חייא בר גמדא מיגנדר בעפרה, שנאמר:(תהלים ק”ב) כי רצו עבדיך את אבניה ואת עפרה יחוננו
Rabi Chiya bar Gamda would lie on the ground of Eretz Yisrael, as stated (Tehilim 102:15): For her stones (of Eretz Yisrael) are dear to your servants; her very dust arouses in them feelings of love

Rashi’s comment on this excerpt is a simple repeat of the verse as it appears in the Gemara:

כי רצו עבדיך את אבניה ואת עפרה יחוננו
For her stones (of Eretz Yisrael) are dear to your servants; her very dust arouses in them feelings of love

So, what is Rashi telling us that the Gemara does not already say?

Rashi is indeed teaching us a great lesson. Look closely and you will discern that Rashi in his quote of the verse omitted one essential word from the Gemara’s text, the word “שנאמר” – meaning “as stated”.

Rashi is teaching us that if your feelings for the holy land of Eretz Yisrael are dictated by the fact that the mitzvah of living in the Promised Land is stated in a verse, then you have no real feelings of love to the land and you have not completed the mitzva.

In a similar vein, if you honor your parents because it is stated in the Torah “Honor your Father and mother”, then you are a halachic robot who has not absorbed the spirit of what HaShem wants from us.

Just as our relationship to a parent is not dependent on a particular verse in the Torah but should be a part of our natural makeup as civilized human beings, so too the laws of the Torah have to become part of our very selves. We should keep Shabbat because Shabbat is in our blood. We should give tzedakah because we agonize at the suffering of another Jew. The purpose of the written mitzvot is not that they should remain articles in the “law book” but that we study them until they become an intrinsic part of our basic personality.

One who fulfills the will of HaShem that became his own will has elevated HaShem to the status of Avinu – our Father, and the individual to the status of son or daughter.

2- What makes the episode of Akaidat Yitzchak (the binding of Yitzchak in preparation for being sacrificed) so essential in Judaism?

The call to sacrifice YItzchak was made by HaShem to Avraham – not to Yitzchak. So, in fact, Yitzchak had the prerogative to refuse. And had he done so, Avraham would have been exempted from his obligation, and Yitzchak could not have been held liable, because he was not commanded.

Yet Yitzchak agreed to be sacrificed for one reason. Despite the fact that HaShem did not command Yitzchak to give up his life, Yitzchak knew that it was HaShem’s will that he be sacrificed on the altar on what was to become the Temple Mount, in Yerushalayim.

When one keeps the Torah not because of the dictate of the King but in the knowledge that it is the wish of the King, then the King becomes a Father and the Jewish nation attains the privileged status of princes and princesses.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Shevout Samayach,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5777/2017 Nachman Kahana

Isru Trump

By Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

In Israel last week, the rejoicing over the 50th anniversary of the liberation and unification of Yerushalayim amounted to a three-day celebration when combined with the two-day visit to Israel of President Trump that served as a welcome introduction. Of course, there is nothing that can make everyone happy. A cabdriver on Tuesday complained to me that the Trump shutdown of large parts of the city cost him business and cut into his income. A different cabdriver on Wednesday told me how much he enjoyed the Trump visit because there was less traffic when and where he could drive and so he benefited from the extended menucha (rest) during these days. Different strokes for different folks.

The visit itself was one that delighted healthy Israelis and thinking Jews. The change in tone from the Obama years was stark; Obama waited five years to visit Israel as president, and when he came he lectured, hectored, criticized and attempted to demean Israel's government. Would Hillary Clinton have doubled down on Obama's pro-Arab tilt or been the first president to visit the Kotel, as Donald Trump became this week? The Trump visit unended the hoary shibboleths of the American diplomacy that is wedded to orchestrating another partition of Israel and engendering a second Arab state on the biblical land of Israel, not because it will produce peace but another high-profile signing ceremony.

Trump's visit, and his kind, thoughtful and endearing words about Israel, reversed the trajectory of Israel-United States relations in a New York minute. The proof of the different approach and its success were worn on the lugubrious faces of Israel's most leftist TV political commentators who toiled in vain to find something to criticize in PM Netanyahu's statecraft and any - any - evidence that Trump supports their cherished two-state illusion. Alas, the good spirit engendered by the visit depressed them even more, and a number seemed downright angry.

What is the Trump approach to the conflict in the Middle East? It is to build on the only positive, though unintended, foreign policy legacy of Barack Obama: the budding cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia and the Gulf kingdoms to fight radical Islamic terror and especially the nefarious influence of Iran. In Riyadh, President Trump mentioned Israel several times while speaking to 50 Arab and Muslim political leaders, and none of them walked out or threw their shoes at him. The roof of the venue also did not collapse. Apparently it is clear to them that the Jewish state is the least of the problems that threaten their autocracies.

The most marked change, and the one that had right-wingers buzzing, was what Trump didn't say. Not only did he omit the conventional non-wisdom that the conflict in Israel is the core of all problems in the Middle East but he also failed to mouth the words "two-states." It was so shocking, given the last decade's obsession, that when I informed my barber of what had transpired, he was stunned, deliriously so. It's the type of platitude that people of a certain bent have been thoughtlessly expressing for so many years that its absence was the story, along with Trump's lecture to Palestinian "President" Mahmoud Abbas (now in the tenth year of a four-year term) that he must immediately halt funding terror and subsidizing terrorist families to be taken seriously as a negotiating partner.

To be sure, Trump burned no bridges and credit must go to him and his advisors who crafted his speeches. He acknowledged Abbas as "a partner for peace," even though that is absurd, because Trump has as much influence in selecting the leaders of the "Palestinians" as do the Palestinians. It was a "nothing to lose" throwaway line. But Trump, in his speech to Israelis at the Israel Museum, became the first president in memory to acknowledge the Jewish people's connection to the land of Israel as rooted in the Bible and not just a consequence of the Holocaust. The latter - an Obama construct that was harmful to Israel - reduced Israel's claim to the land as based on security needs only. That raised the expectation that Israel would surrender the Jewish heartland as long as its existence and safety were guaranteed, on paper of course. It is about time the world recognized that, as someone said last week, saying that Jews have no claim to Judea is as ridiculous as claiming that Arabs have no right to Arabia.

No wonder Abbas looked so grim, like a man who was told that the jig is up, notwithstanding that, tragically, Abbas always has the terror jig to fall back on, G-d forbid. Old habits die hard, but he should also recognize that it doesn't seem that this administration will handcuff any Israeli response to renewed Arab terror. Some right-wingers were disappointed that Trump did not move the US embassy to Yerushalayim. But readers of this space know that I have long maintained that the Israelis - including the current government - do not really want the embassy moved, despite all their protestations to the contrary. The possible fallout does not outweigh the advantages. I disagree; symbols do matter, and American recognition that Yerushalayim is Israel's capital - something endorsed by the Czech Parliament this week, in defiance of the European Union's mendacity - would send a powerful message to the world, especially the Arab world.

More importantly, Trump paid obeisance to the "peace process" and the "negotiations" and "getting to the deal," while knowing full well that none of this will happen. It is a wise decision and one that will drive batty the professional peace processors at Foggy Bottom and their European counterparts. It seems that he has been told, or realized on his own, that a true settlement is not possible, and getting involved will only expend his energy on futility, waste his time and sap his strength. It happened to his predecessors. He said, in essence, "You two have a problem but I know that a solution can be found. I really want one. So work it out amongst yourselves, and I'll be happy to help along the way." One can hear an echo of Jim Baker mocking Israel in front of Congress in 1991, reading out the White House phone number and saying "call us when you're serious about peace." Well, now the sandal is on the other foot, and Trump is saying this to Israelis (for whom the status quo is working out quite well) and the Arabs who dwell in the land of Israel (who, aside from the terrorists and the political class) also much prefer to be ruled and protected by Israel than by the PA: "Good luck and please keep in touch. I have more important things to deal with." And he does.

It is always possible that events and insidious individuals will overtake even his good intentions. There is an entrenched bureaucracy that has been trying to frustrate his agenda, as ill-defined as that sometimes is, and that bureaucracy can be found in every federal department. The American government is polarized to the point of dysfunction. The solitary bi-partisan objective is reelection and that sustains the political class. The media focus on trivia and foolishness; Russia tried to influence the US election as much as the US tries to influence the elections in every democracy that matters, including several times in Israel. The obvious is being trumpeted as malicious, astonishing and unprecedented. Most ominous: the intelligence agencies are compromised by a disgust for Trump that has some leaking classified information in violation of the law, daring someone to arrest them. Those who think the FBI is beyond destroying a president should recall the deeds of Mark Felt. Any of these could force Trump's hand. A reversion to the days of coercion, condescension and hostility to Israel is unlikely but not impossible. Trump, an outsider, may yet tame the Blob, as the Washington foreign policy establishment is known, or the Blob may yet consume him.

The two days of Trump were a wonderful prelude to Yom Yerushalayim - which some Israelis called "Isru Trump." His words were a useful exercise in legitimating the world view of most Israelis and validating their sense of purpose and Israel's reason for being. And that was followed by the celebrations that were a timely reminder that the divine miracles of 1967 are bearing fruit. Yerushalayim is thriving, the Kotel was hopping, Israel is more secure and prosperous than ever and as several commentators noted this week, the Western Wall is not Judaism's holiest site but is adjacent to Judaism's holiest site, which is the Temple Mount itself. No one spoke in those terms, as recently as a few months ago, but that has nothing to do with Trump.

It has been fifty years, and one prays that the best is yet to come, and not that far off, "today, if you but hearken to My voice" (Sanhedrin 98a).

Friday, May 26, 2017

Moshe Feiglin’s Unconventional Speech for Jerusalem Day

Moshe Feiglin delivered this speech in the name of the Knesset at the memorial ceremony for the fallen soldiers of the Six Day War and the War of Attrition on May 28, 2014 

Dear Families, Honorable High Court Justice Uri Shoham, Commander of the IDF Ground Forces General Guy Tzur, Honored Guests, 

With awe and trepidation, with a hidden tear and shaking knees, we stand here today facing the glory of your bravery and the splendor of your triumph. And we salute you, our brothers, heroes of fame. 

We will never know why, after 2000 years it was specifically you who were chosen by our Father in Heaven to be the silver platter upon which Jerusalem was served to us in the wondrous War of Miracles of Six Days and the War of Attrition that followed on its heels. But this we will always know, when you were called to serve you parted from your loved ones and ran with alacrity ahead of the camp. You left everything behind and together, you charged into the fire. In Armon Hanatziv, Ammunition Hill, in the Alley of Death and the Police School, in the Canal, in the strongholds, in the Land of Pursuit. You forged a covenant of brothers, you sacrificed your lives for each other. One hand held the other, and for a rare moment – too rare – you taught us the true meaning of oneness. Oneness at the front and oneness at home. In the merit of one hand holding the other (numerical value 14+14), we merited the 28th , that wondrous 28th of Iyar, as if our Father in Heaven was pleased and said, if my children are sacrificing their lives in extraordinary brotherly unity, they are worthy that I should be their Father and I will transform the natural to supernatural. And five pursued one hundred – and one hundred pursued ten thousand and the enemy was smitten, and in six days, you liberated our holy Land. And when the walls of dispute of the heart fell, the wall of stone was broken and Jerusalem was united. 

“The Temple Mount is in our hands,” called Mota “I repeat – the Temple Mount is in our hands” And our flag was raised over the holy Mount And the sound of the shofar rang out… And you are the teruah of the shofar And you are the shevarim of the shofar And you are always the great outcry 

Since then, we have become confused, we did not know how to clarify and continue the authentic, natural, united momentum of liberation. We did not know what to do with your gift. In the gap that has since widened between us, a wall has once again been built in Jerusalem. And again, we will look down and admit the truth. The city is very divided, we have dropped our flag, we have not really safeguarded the unity of our city acquired with your blood. 

And it is fitting and good that with awe and trepidation, with a hidden tear and shaking knees, we return every 28th and stand before you, every Iyar, every year. And we report back to you and we will stand silent in the face of your judgment. What have we done this year to safeguard your gift, the unification of Jerusalem, the city of our Holy Temple, Jerusalem of Gold, for which you were the silver platter upon which it was served to us. 

Yom Yerushalayim Was WHEN?

By Shmuel Sackett

What holiday was celebrated this past week? It was a very special day, just this past Wednesday, when world Jewry celebrated – or should have celebrated – “Yom Yerushalayim” (Jerusalem Day) marking the 50th year since Hashem returned the entire city of Yerushalayim to the Jewish nation.

Thanks to Hashem’s mighty warriors – the brave and holy soldiers of the IDF – the Old City, the Kotel and most importantly of all; Har HaBayit – were returned to Jewish control. But wait, there was a lot more than that! This special day marks the modern miracle called “The Six Day War” in which many areas of our holy land were liberated and returned to their rightful owners.

Places like Hebron, Shechem, Bet El, Kever Rachel, Shilo, the Jordan Valley and all of the Golan Heights were taken away from the enemies of Hashem and returned to the Tribes of Israel. As a matter of fact, if you write down the name of every place in Israel mentioned in the Bible, an astonishing 93% of them were redeemed during that miraculous war! I hope you absorbed what I just wrote: 93% of the places mentioned in Tanach, the places we read about in the weekly parsha and haftora, the places where our greatest prophets and leaders are resting, the places where historic battles took place and where promises were made by Hashem to our people – 93% of these very places were imprisoned and held captive. Yet on this great day, they were liberated and set free!!

What a miracle!! What an awesome privilege to live and experience this before our eyes!! So, how did you celebrate Yom Yerushalayim? WHAT??? You didn’t even realize that this past Wednesday was Yom Yerushalayim? What happened? Didn’t your local Rav mention it last Shabbat in Shul? Isn’t it on your weekly Shul or Yeshiva calendar? Why not? Why is this amazing, incredible miracle not part of our daily lives? What does that say about us… and our leaders? How can we ignore the modern day splitting of the sea? If you think I am exaggerating, please consider the following: This was not a war like Vietnam or even the Gulf War, which America entered for global reasons. This was a war for survival. The Arabs were planning on massacring every man, woman and child in the State of Israel. They were planning on doing to them what Hitler did to the Jews of Europe and nothing less. Had we lost that war, we would have lost over 3,000,000 more Jewish lives. The response would have been to build a new Yad Vashem to the former Jews of Israel and maybe our Rabbonim would have added a new fast day to cry to Hashem for the spilling of more Jewish blood.

There is a major problem with this logic. Why do we only come to Hashem in sickness, tragedy and death? How come we have a major problem thanking and praising Hashem for the good things He gives us? Why must our prayers only be filled with tears and lamentations as opposed to joy and happiness? Think about this: If, G-d forbid, a bomb explodes in a crowded pizza shop on Main St, Cedar Lane, Central Ave, Ben Yehuda or Mamilla, we will all rush to shul to immediately daven and say Tehillim. Yes, that is the correct response and I will rush to shul as well to beg Hashem for mercy and to heal the wounded. But what if – just minutes before the explosion – a miracle occurs and the bomb is detected, safely defused and the terrorist apprehended. Instead of massive carnage and blood there is quiet and serenity. Hashem has saved the day and nobody was injured! Shouldn’t we still run to shul – only this time to thank Hashem for His mercy and kindness?

Let me make this point very clear. Hashem wants to hear from His children! He wants the sweetness of the Tehillim – but in praise and happiness, not in begging and crying. How can I write these words? Do I claim to know the ways of Hashem? No, not at all. I don’t understand Hashem’s secret ways nor do I dare try to understand His infinite wisdom and logic. But I do know this – because I have been taught it since the first day of my life: Hashem is our Father and our King and He is full of compassion, mercy and kindness. He wants to be close to us – as every father wants to be close to his children. He wants to rule us as a King but wishes His subjects will serve Him with love, not only fear. Every Chassidic sefer I have ever read talks about the need to serve Hashem out of love which is a much higher level than serving Him out of fear. So where is our love? Why do we all get together for the Tisha B’avs but are nowhere to be found on the Yom Ha’Atzmauts and Yom Yerushalayims? Where is our gratitude for the modern day miracles? Dearest friends; open your eyes! What has happened these past few years – since 1948 – are miracles that can be compared to defeating Paro, Achashverosh and the mighty Greeks during the days of the Maccabees. We must acknowledge these miracles and thank Hashem for sending them to us. Don’t let these days pass you by because by doing so, you are neglecting a major foundation of Judaism called “Hakaras Ha’Tov” – acknowledging the good.

Imagine not thanking a neighbor who saved your child from an accident – who would do such a thing? Yet, do we thank Hashem for saving our land, our people and our nation and for returning to us Ma’arat Ha’Machpela, the site of the Mishkan in Shilo and the Kadosh Ha’Kedoshim on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem?

We have a lot of work to do but it begins with ourselves and our leaders. Let’s make a promise that from this day forth we will not only ask Hashem to heal the sick and comfort the mourners but we will also thank Him for building our land, fortifying our army and increasing the talmidim in our Yeshivot. We will sing His praises for allowing Jewish farmers to properly keep Sh’mittah and for the tens of thousands of new Jewish homes that will populate the land of Israel in the coming years. And a few more things to ask Hashem for: Ask Him to help you sell your house and find you a good job in Eretz Yisrael. Ask Him to help you make Aliyah – not while running away from gas chambers and pogroms – but while things are quiet and serene. And ask Him to connect you to His Land so that even if you are stuck outside of it for a while, you don’t ever again miss a day like Yom Yerushalayim!

If Israel Respects Itself, Trump will Follow Suit

(Video in Hebrew with English subtitles. If you cannot see the subtitles, open the video in YouTube)

The Manchester Arena and the Western Wall

The first rule of intelligence work is that there are no coincidences. A horrifying terror attack at a pop concert Monday night at the Manchester Arena followed by hours the first-ever visit by a sitting American president to the Western Wall of the ancient Temple at Jerusalem. We do not know except in generic terms who bombed the children and teenagers who gathered to hear Ariana Grande, but we know the message: "We will murder your children." It is a message designed not only to terrify but to horrify. We do not know either what occasioned the timing of the atrocity, But we know how large looms Jerusalem in the civilizational war of our times.

The importance of President Trump's visit to the Western Wall--in Hebrew, the Kotel--cannot be underestimated. Even though the United States announced the visit as a personal rather than an official one, and even though Israeli officials were excluded from the visit, the image of an American president standing in awe before the embodiment of the three-thousand-year Jewish presence in Jerusalem was a diplomatic gesture on the grand scale. It came on the eve of Israel's celebration of the 50th anniversary of the unification of its ancient capital during the Six-Day War of 1967. While the President of the United States touched the ancient stones in reverence, his Jewish daughter Ivanka prayed a few meters away at the women's section.

With this gesture, President Trump buried years of diplomatic maneuvering to deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and the Temple, which is a synecdoche for the Jewish presence in the Holy Land. Jerusalem is the tipping point for American diplomacy. Last December 23 the outgoing Obama Administration refused to veto UN Resolution 2334, which called Israel's presence in East Jerusalem an illegal settlement. The decisive phrase, which America's veto had suppressed until then, referred to "Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem," including the Western Wall. Israel rightly regarded Obama's abstention as a stab in the back.

Two months earlier, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) passed a resolution that airbrushed away the entire Jewish connection to Jerusalem, in obeisance to Arab claims that no Jewish Temple ever existed in the city. Throughout 2015, a wave of paranoia spread through the Muslim world with rumors that Israel planned to seize control of part of the Temple Mount and turn one of the Moslem mosques build atop the Temple ruins into a synagogue.

President Trump has not acted on his campaign promise to recognize Israel's sovereignty over Jerusalem and to move Israel's embassy there, but his Kotel visit sent an electrifying message to the Muslim world: America stands by Israel's 3,000 year claim to its ancient capital. In stark contrast to the Obama Administration, President Trump repudiated years of Muslim diplomacy focused on the sole objective of evicting the Jews from their holiest site. He did so after telling Muslim leaders assembled in Riyadh that it was their responsibility to extirpate the terrorists from their mosques, communities and countries.

The Manchester bombing well may have been radical Islam's first response. Through Islam's religious lens, the Temple Mount embodies Jewish sovereignty, and the Jewish return to Zion challenges the supercession of Islam itself. Did not the Jews and Christians pervert and falsify the original revelation given to them by Allah, and did not Mohammed restore this true revelation as dictated to him by the Archangel Gabriel? Have not the Jews lived as dhimmi in abject humiliation and dependence, as living evidence of the truth of Islam and as punishment for their perversion of the true revelation?

Jewish preeminence in arms, science, technology and business humiliates the Muslim world: How is it possible that a few million Jews could defeat the armies of 300 million Arabs in war after war since Israel's founding in 1947? Innumerable conspiracy theories that blame American imperialism circulated to make sense of this. Parts of the Arab world are reconciled to the permanent presence of Israel, notably the Egyptian government (although not necessarily the Egyptian street). But Arab hope has not died that the existence of the State of Israel is a temporary aberration that will be erased like the Crusader state that persisted from 1090 to 1291. All the bad things that happened to the Arabs, in this vision, will one day come untrue.

As long as the Jews cannot enforce their claim to Jerusalem and to the site of the ancient Temple, much of the Muslim world believes, their presence can be regarded as temporary, and the humiliation as tolerable--a punishment from Allah for insufficient devotion to Mohammed's revelation. Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem is not compatible with the prejudice that Israel has been replaced as God's people. That is why Jerusalem has been the wedge issue in Mideast diplomacy for the past several years, and why President Trump's presence at the Kotel represents such a dramatic change.

If the Manchester atrocity responded to Trump's actions in Jerusalem as well as Riyadh, why attack England rather than the United States? An attack on America in response to a well-received and popular intervention by an American president would galvanize American opinion behind Trump. But the British are squishy. Britain voted for Resolution 2334 while America abstained, to appease its large Muslim population and to foster its residual influence in the Muslim world. France and Russia also voted for 2334, and all of Western Europe supported it.

Postmodern Europe has long since abandoned religion; to profess faith in a personal God is prima facie evidence of mental defect among the European elite. Europe thinks the Muslims are crazy, to be sure, but there are a lot of them, and the path of least resistance is to mollify them. Why should we suffer for the religious delusions of the Jews?, the Europeans ask themselves. The Manchester bombing, I surmise, is an attack on the soft underbelly of the West, whereas a frontal attack on the United States would elicit a decisive response. The Europeans, who want to manage their long, sickening decline without too much trouble, tend to blame Israeli intransigence for their problems. If only Israel were more like Denmark or Luxembourg, the Europeans tell themselves, none of these terrible things would be happening. The appeaser hopes the crocodile will eat him last.

Postmodern America--the America of Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, of campus speech codes and safe spaces and progressive virtue-signalling--agrees with the Europeans. So does the shrinking, isolated Israeli left. But most of America senses an existential bond with the State of Israel; in contrast to Europe, where Israel ranks next to Iran as the world's least-regarded country, Americans support Israel against the Arabs by a margin of more than 4:1. America's sense of identity is imprinted with the image of Israel.

Barack Obama appeased the terrorists, most abjectly Iran. Donald Trump declared war on them and came in person in an unprecedented action to stand by Israel. We should not forget that this is a war, and we are in its early stages.

Yishai Fleisher: An Israeli Sword Dance?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Reliving Revelation

By Rabbi Ari Kahn

The goal of the Exodus never was merely geographical relocation, the physical removal of the Jewish slaves from the boundaries of Egypt. From the outset, the liberation of the descendants of Avraham had a far more specific goal: The Jews would be liberated, redeemed from exile, and taken to the Promised Land. In order to achieve this, there was one important stop to be made on the way, a rendezvous with God at a very specific spot:

שמות פרק ג: ח, יב
וָאֵרֵד לְהַצִּילוֹ מִיַּד מִצְרַיִם וּלְהַעֲלֹתוֹ מִן הָאָרֶץ הַהִוא אֶל אֶרֶץ טוֹבָה וּרְחָבָה אֶל אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבָשׁ אֶל מְקוֹם הַכְּנַעֲנִי וְהַחִתִּי וְהָאֱמֹרִי וְהַפְּרִזִּי וְהַחִוִּי וְהַיְבוּסִי:
וַיֹּאמֶר כִּי אֶהְיֶה עִמָּךְ וְזֶה לְּךָ הָאוֹת כִּי אָנֹכִי שְׁלַחְתִּיךָ בְּהוֹצִיאֲךָ אֶת הָעָם מִמִּצְרַיִם תַּעַבְדוּן אֶת הָאֱלֹהִים עַל הָהָר הַזֶּה:
And I am coming down to save them from the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, to a land flowing with milk and honey; to the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Yevusites.
And he said [to Moshe], "For I will be with you; and this shall be a sign to you, that I have sent you; when you have brought forth the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God upon this mountain." Shmot 3:8,12

The liberation of the Israelites from Egypt could have been effectuated in many different ways. Surely, the Almighty could have removed them immediately, making the Exodus effortless and sudden. Yet God's plan, from the outset, was for a slow, deliberate process. We have noted elsewhere that one of the objectives of this process was to reveal the power of God, both to the Jews and to their oppressors, and to unmask the deities of the Egyptian pantheon as nothing more than worthless idols. The Egyptians, as representatives of the non-Jewish world, were only one of the intended audiences for this lesson; in fact, the Jews themselves were no less in need of this display of God's singular dominion over all of creation. Just as the plagues punished the Egyptians for their pagan practices and inhuman cruelty, they prepared the Jews for that preordained rendezvous at the mountain, and the revelation they would experience there.

שמות פרק ו, ז
וְלָקַחְתִּי אֶתְכֶם לִי לְעָם וְהָיִיתִי לָכֶם לֵאלֹקִים וִידַעְתֶּם כִּי אֲנִי ה’ אֱלֹקֵיכֶם הַמּוֹצִיא אֶתְכֶם מִתַּחַת סִבְלוֹת מִצְרָיִם:
And I will take you to Me for a People, and I will be to you a God; and you shall know that I am the Almighty your God, who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. Shmot 6:7

Knowledge of God was the goal. Each plague revealed more of God’s power, and of the impotence of the gods of Egypt. These escalating displays of God's might, and of His intimate and ongoing involvement in the world which He created, were a type of revelation in and of themselves. Later, as the Jews safely crossed through the sea and witnessed the cruel Egyptians receiving their just reward, they experienced a higher level of revelation of God's power and omnipotence, of His might and justice. Finally, at Sinai, they experienced a unique, full-scale revelation.

Each of these experiences of revelation was accompanied by a very particular content: In each case, the Jewish People were given laws alongside the sights, sounds and experiences. In each case, the sensory lesson was paralleled by an intellectual or cognitive lesson: In Egypt the Jews were instructed in great detail how to keep the Pesach, both as a vehicle for their immediate, personal, physical redemption and as a commemorative holiday to maintain that experience for all time. Similarly, immediately after crossing the sea, at Marah the Jew received more laws[1]. And finally, at Sinai, ten statements were uttered which would impact the entire world and transform the Jewish People forever: The Ten Commandments.

What was the primary importance of the Revelation at Sinai? Was it the laws which were imparted or the sensory experience of an infinite God communicating with man? If we could separate these two elements, the Revelation and the content of the Revelation, we would be left with rather surprising results: It may be presumed that if left to stand alone, the content of the Revelation at Sinai, namely the Ten Commandments, presents a radical departure from accepted social norms and embodies a stunning[2] and potentially transformative social and theological system. Yet, devoid of divine provenance, the message would be relatively unimportant. Had these been a set of laws set down by a community to guide their interpersonal and religious behavior, their impact would have been no greater than any other set of laws that held sway in the ancient world; indeed, the mores of a miniscule band of liberated slaves would have merited no attention whatsoever beyond the bounds of that minute community. Had these words not been the Word of God, delivered in a unique and earth-shattering moment of mass revelation, even had these same words been delivered in a more commonplace fashion to the adherents of the faith, they would not have held the same place in our collective conscience or consciousness, nor would their impact have been so widespread. In other words, the fact that God spoke is more important than what He said; only after one acknowledges that God indeed spoke does the message, the content, the words of that speech attain supreme significance.

In choosing the Haftarah to be read in conjunction with this Parsha, the Rabbis emphasize this idea. TheHaftarah reading is utilized as a means to encapsulate and reinforce the major theme of the Parsha, and in this case, the theme has nothing to do with law and everything to do with revelation:

ישעיהו פרק ו, א-ד
בִּשְׁנַת מוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ עֻזִּיָּהוּ וָאֶרְאֶה אֶת ה' יֹשֵׁב עַל כִּסֵּא רָם וְנִשָּׂא וְשׁוּלָיו מְלֵאִים אֶת הַהֵיכָל:שְׂרָפִים עֹמְדִים מִמַּעַל לוֹ שֵׁשׁ כְּנָפַיִם שֵׁשׁ כְּנָפַיִם לְאֶחָד בִּשְׁתַּיִם יְכַסֶּה פָנָיו וּבִשְׁתַּיִם יְכַסֶּה רַגְלָיו וּבִשְׁתַּיִם יְעוֹפֵף:וְקָרָא זֶה אֶל זֶה וְאָמַר קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ ה' צְבָאוֹת מְלֹא כָל הָאָרֶץ כְּבוֹדוֹ: וַיָּנֻעוּ אַמּוֹת הַסִּפִּים מִקּוֹל הַקּוֹרֵא וְהַבַּיִת יִמָּלֵא עָשָׁן:
In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also God sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the Sanctuary. Above it stood the seraphim; each one had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he did fly. And one cried to another, and said, 'Holy, holy, holy, is the God of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.' And the posts of the door moved at the voice of he who cried, and the [Temple] house was filled with smoke. Yishayahu 6:1-4

Yishayahu recounts a spectacular vision, a personal revelation of the majesty of God and His holy minions. And yet, the association of this prophecy with our Parsha is not necessarily the only possible choice; various other, perhaps more appropriate, sections of the Prophets could have been utilized. In fact, when the Ten Commandments are read during the holiday service on Shavuot, a different section is read as the Haftarah: the section which records the quintessential revelation of the Chariot of Yechezkel. This leads us to a simple, unavoidable question: why the different Haftarahs? Why was the portion from Yechezkel chosen as the Haftarah for Shavuot, while the same verses are paired with Yishayahu's vision for this week's reading?[3]

In fact, the Talmud records a certain tension regarding the choice of Haftarah for Shavuot: The association of the Revelation of the Chariot as the reading for Shavuot was not a foregone conclusion.

תלמוד בבלי מסכת מגילה דף לא עמוד א
בעצרת (דברים ט"ז), "שבעה שבועות". ומפטירין (חבקוק ג') בחבקוק. אחרים אומרים: (שמות י"ט), "בחדש השלישי", ומפטירין (יחזקאל א') במרכבה. והאידנא דאיכא תרי יומי - עבדינן כתרוייהו, ואיפכא.
On Shavuot (Pentecost), we read (Devarim 16), "Seven weeks," and for haftarah a chapter from Habakuk (chapter 3). According to others, we read “In the third month”(Shmot 19), and forhaftarah the account of the Divine Chariot (Yechezkel 1). Nowadays that we observe two days, we follow both courses, but in the reverse order. Talmud Bavli Megila 31a

The Talmudic discussion expresses a tension that is part of a larger debate regarding the nature of Shavuot: Is the focus on the agricultural aspect of the holiday which is clearly stated in the Torah, or is it on the Revelation, which is traditionally associated with this same holiday?[4] The conclusion is that we commemorate both the Feast of weeks, which is agricultural, and the Sinaitic Revelation which took place on that date. This technical resolution is a convenient combination of these two aspects, reflected in the scriptural readings, appropriate for Jews in the Diaspora who celebrate Shavuot over two days.[5]By twinning the reading from Parshat Yitro with the Haftarah from Yechezkel and assigning them to the first day of the holiday, the Revelation is deemed the primary theme; the second day of the festival is of lesser stature, and the "leftover" readings are relegated to secondary status. In short, our question remains unanswered: why is the Haftarah of the Chariot read on Shavuot, but not for Parshat Yitro as well? If the main thrust of these verses is the Sinaitic Revelation, why did the Sages establish a different reading for this week's Parsha?

There is an important distinction between the reading for this Shabbat and the reading for Shavuot which may help clarify the issue: This week's Torah reading is the entire Parshat Yitro, whereas on Shavuot only certain sections are read. The sections deemed germane to the holiday focus on the preparations for the Revelation and the Revelation itself. While in both instances, the Revelation is the central theme – on Shavuot it is the only theme. Thus, while the same words are read on two different occasions, they are framed by different contexts. We may say, then, that although the same words are read on both occasions, they do not ultimately deliver the same message.

The public reading of the Torah on each of these two occasions is a complex interplay between the written word and the traditions regarding the cantillation of these words. Although the description of the content of the Sinaitic revelation is universally known as the Ten Utterances or Ten Commandments, the written Torah, dictated to Moshe by God, actually groups four of the Commandments in one verse, ostensibly in one statement or utterance:

שמות פרק כ, יג
לֹא תִּרְצָח (ס) לֹא תִּנְאָף (ס) לֹא תִּגְנֹב (ס) לֹא תַעֲנֶה בְרֵעֲךָ עֵד שָׁקֶר: (ס)
You shall not kill. (new line) You shall not commit adultery. (new line) You shall not steal. (new line) You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (new line) Shmot 20:13

These four precepts, clearly separate commandments, are in fact contained within one verse – a verse which is visually broken by the beginning of four new lines of text, but one verse nonetheless. While there are those who would be tempted to consider the contents of this verse as a single utterance, we should also take into account the opposite phenomenon: Other Commandments, such as Shabbat observance, are stretched out over several verses:

שמות פרק כ, ז-י
(ז) זָכוֹר אֶת יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת לְקַדְּשׁוֹ:
(ח) שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים תַּעֲבֹד וְעָשִׂיתָ כָּל מְלַאכְתֶּךָ:
(ט) וְיוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי שַׁבָּת לַה’ אֱלֹהֶיךָ לֹא תַעֲשֶׂה כָל מְלָאכָה אַתָּה וּבִנְךָ וּבִתֶּךָ עַבְדְּךָ וַאֲמָתְךָ וּבְהֶמְתֶּךָ וְגֵרְךָ אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ:
(י) כִּי שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים עָשָׂה ה’ אֶת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת הָאָרֶץ אֶת הַיָּם וְאֶת כָּל אֲשֶׁר בָּם וַיָּנַח בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי עַל כֵּן בֵּרַךְ ה' אֶת יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת וַיְקַדְּשֵׁהוּ: ס
 7. Remember the Shabbat day, to keep it holy.
8. Six days shall you labor, and do all your work;
9. But the seventh day is the Shabbat of the Almighty your God; (on it) you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates;
10. For in six days God made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore God blessed the Shabbat day, and made it holy. Shmot 20:7-10

There are two traditions of how to read the verses of the Ten Commandments.[6] The first is called Taam Elyon, in which each of the Ten Commandments is read as a separate thought or statement, with ten distinct expressions or phrases representing each one of the Ten Commandments, regardless of the size or number of verses it contains. The other method of reading this section is known as Taam Tachton, which adheres to the form as we know it from the written text (and most printed, published texts), with up to four commandments in one verse and other commandments divided up across several phrases.

When is each of these methods used? Although there are different customs, the Chizkuni offers the most compelling explanation. On Shavuot, the objective is to "relive" the Revelation; therefore, we read Taam Elyon[7] – for that is how God said the commandments at Sinai: ten independent and distinct statements. When in the course of the weekly cycle we read Parshat Yitro, the Taam Tachton is employed, reflecting the way God dictated the Commandments to Moshe when it was time to write them down[8]. In other words, on Shavuot, as we relive the Revelation, we attempt to recreate the Sinai experience by mimicking the way the Commandments were spoken to the Children of Israel assembled at the foot ofMount Sinai, in ten distinct utterances[9]. The purpose of reading the Torah on a weekly basis over the course of the year is to study the content of that Revelation, to ingrain, internalize and understand whatwas said. Therefore, we learn the text as God told Moshe to write it, reading the Taam Tachton.[10]

Why, then, do the Haftarot fail to reflect this distinction? Both the reading from Yishayahu and the reading from Yechezkel focus on the experience of revelation; neither focuses on the content or message of revelation. By choosing sections which highlight the revelation for both Shavuot and the weekly portion, the sages seem to blur the distinction between the Revelation itself and the content of that Revelation. We would expect the Haftarah of Parshat Yitro to contain a legal section or a re-working of the principles of the Ten Commandments. We might have expected the Sages to assign one of the many exhortations of the prophets to adhere to the laws of the Torah or to abandon foreign forms of worship. Instead, we find a Haftarah that offers an alternative revelation experience. Apparently, the Sages had another consideration in mind when they assigned the Haftarah for Parshat Yitro.

On Shavuot, when we replicate the experiential aspects of the Revelation, the Haftarah is Yechezkel's vision of the Chariot. This, the Sages felt, was the vision closest to the actual experience of Revelation, of seeing the heavens open up. However, the assignment of the Haftarah from Yishayahu for Parshat Yitro requires further inquiry. While there is no argument that the overall message of this week's Haftarahselection is revelation, there is another 'oddity' about this week's Haftarah which may be relevant: TheHaftarah reading is actually comprised of several disjointed sections from the Book of Yishayahu. Rather than a straightforward account of Yishayahu's vision, the (Ashkenazi) custom is to read through the sixth chapter and continue into the seventh chapter. This latter section recounts the story of the sinful King Ahaz who had given up all hope of repentance and return to God. The Haftarah then proceeds to the ninth chapter, in which a child is born, signifying rebirth and new hope. Clearly, the Sages carefully crafted this Haftarah reading, and 'revelation' is not the exclusive topic of this Haftarah. God's communication with man is one element of the Haftarah; another element is man's propensity for sin, and the final element is the possibility of repentance which leads to personal and national redemption. In this way, the latter part of the Haftarah is closely related to the process of redemption that began in Egyptand the various levels of revelation the people experienced as the Exodus unfolded.

As we saw at the outset the entire exodus was in of itself a series of revelations, and processes which led to freedom, even after the ten plagues an “eleventh plague” went even further both in terms of freedom and in terms of revelation. This eleventh plague was the splitting of the sea, there once and for all the Egyptians were rid of, plunged into the depth of the Sea.

God appeared at the Sea as a warrior, a warrior poised for battle wreaking vengeance and exacting justice from the cruel slave masters, therefore at the sea the people exclaimed:

שמות פרק טו
(ב) עָזִּי וְזִמְרָת יָהּ וַיְהִי לִי לִישׁוּעָה זֶה אֵלִי וְאַנְוֵהוּ אֱלֹהֵי אָבִי וַאֲרֹמְמֶנְהוּ: (ג) ה’ אִישׁ מִלְחָמָה ה’ שְׁמוֹ:
The Lord is my strength and song, and he has become my salvation; he is my God, and I will praise him; my father’s God, and I will exalt him. 3. The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name. Shmot 15:2,3

Here God appeared as a Man of war:

מכילתא פרשת השירה פרשה ד
ה' איש מלחמה. למה נאמר לפי שנגלה על הים כגבור עושה מלחמה שנא' ה' איש מלחמה
God is a Man of war: why does it say this for God appeared at the sea as a warrior whho makes war as it says God is a Man of war Mechilta Parshat Shira Parsha 4

According to the Mechilta, at Sinai God needed to introduce Himself for the people did not recognize Him, they had seen God as a man of war, and now saw a gentle scholar:[11]

מכילתא פרשת בחדש פרשה ה
אנכי ה' אלהיך. למה נאמר לפי שנגלה על הים כגבור עושה מלחמות שנאמר (שמות ט"ו) ה' איש מלחמה נגלה על הר סיני כזקן מלא רחמים

Despite the power and majesty of the visions of Yishayahu and Yechezkel, the revelations they were granted lacked one major element: A crucial element of the revelation that was revealed to the generation that was liberated from Egypt was the clear and obvious implementation of divine justice. They saw, in the ten plagues in Egypt and the "eleventh plague" at the sea, that "there is justice and there is a judge." They were able to see the entire canvas of Jewish history as it reached its culmination. The people felt this in such a clear and profound manner that they were able to point their fingers as justice was meted out:

רש"י שמות פרק טו
זה אלי - בכבודו נגלה עליהם והיו מראין אותו באצבע, ראתה שפחה על הים מה שלא ראו נביאים:
In His glory he appeared to them and they pointed at Him with a finger. A maidservant saw that which eluded the prophets. Rashi Shmot 15:2

This is what eluded both Yishayahu and Yechezkel, the element that distinguished the revelation which the generation of the Exodus witnessed from any other.

מכילתא בשלח - מסכתא דשירה פרשה ג
'זה אלי', ר' אליעזר אומר "מנין אתה אומר שראתה שפחה על הים מה שלא ראו ישעיה ויחזקאל..."
'This is my God': Rabbi Eliezer said, 'How do you know that which the maid[12] saw was superior to Yishayahu and Yechezkel?…" Mechilta B'shalach Mesechta Shira Parsha 3

Leaving Egypt is a continuum, an ongoing revelation of different faces and facets of God: might, justice, compassion. Each plague revealed more, and finally, at the Sea the people saw the might of God. They witnessed the fulfillment of the covenant between God and Avraham - not only their own liberation and the judgment and punishment of the Egyptians, but the realization of the ultimate goal of their entire history. They saw the conquest of the Land of Israel:

שמות פרק טו, טו-יח
אָז נִבְהֲלוּ אַלּוּפֵי אֱדוֹם אֵילֵי מוֹאָב יֹאחֲזֵמוֹ רָעַד נָמֹגוּ כֹּל יֹשְׁבֵי כְנָעַן: תִּפֹּל עֲלֵיהֶם אֵימָתָה וָפַחַד בִּגְדֹל זְרוֹעֲךָ יִדְּמוּ כָּאָבֶן עַד יַעֲבֹר עַמְּךָ ה’ עַד יַעֲבֹר עַם זוּ קָנִיתָ: תְּבִאֵמוֹ וְתִטָּעֵמוֹ בְּהַר נַחֲלָתְךָ מָכוֹן לְשִׁבְתְּךָ פָּעַלְתָּ ה’ מִקְּדָשׁ אֲדֹנָי כּוֹנְנוּ יָדֶיךָ: ה’ יִמְלֹךְ לְעֹלָם וָעֶד:
Then the chiefs of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moav, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away. Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of your arm they shall be as still as a stone; 'til your people pass over, O God, 'til the people pass over, whom You have created. You shall bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of your inheritance, in the place, O God, which you have made for you to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O God, which your hands have established. God shall reign for all eternity. Shmot 15:15-18

The vision they see as the sea splits open takes them to the future. They see themselves in the Land ofIsrael, free and independent; they see the Temple built in its glory. They see the dominion of God as absolute. Yet they lack one very important element: the Word of God, the vehicle through which the world would be transformed. They must travel to Sinai and receive the Torah, to encounter another aspect of God they have yet to experience: the intellectual challenge of Judaism, the content of the Revelation at Sinai. Once that is accomplished, once the Jews are fortified with Torah, even if they stray from the path, they have the ability to right their course by redoubling their efforts and rededicating themselves to the acceptance of Torah. This is the lesson of the Haftarah: The glorious vision of Yishayahu is tempered by the reality of a King of Israel who has strayed. But the final section of theHaftarah contains a promise of rebirth,[13] a message of hope, a vision of the rejuvenation of the Davidic line and the final, glorious chapter of Jewish history, when God’s throne will be complete and all the prophesies fulfilled.

ישעיהו פרק ט, ה-ו
כִּי יֶלֶד יֻלַּד לָנוּ בֵּן נִתַּן לָנוּ וַתְּהִי הַמִּשְׂרָה עַל שִׁכְמוֹ וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ פֶּלֶא יוֹעֵץ אֵל גִּבּוֹר אֲבִיעַד שַׂר שָׁלוֹם: לְמַרְבֵּה הַמִּשְׂרָה וּלְשָׁלוֹם אֵין קֵץ עַל כִּסֵּא דָוִד וְעַל מַמְלַכְתּוֹ לְהָכִין אֹתָהּ וּלְסַעֲדָהּ בְּמִשְׁפָּט וּבִצְדָקָה מֵעַתָּה וְעַד עוֹלָם קִנְאַת ה’ צְבָאוֹת תַּעֲשֶׂה זֹּאת:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government is upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called "Wonderful counselor of the mighty God, everlasting Father, prince of peace". For the increase of the realm and for peace there without end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice for all eternity; the zeal of the God of hosts performs this. Yishayahu 9:5,6

On Shavuot we commemorate the giving of the Torah; therefore, the Haftarah is Yechezkel's spectacular vision, mirroring the Revelation experienced at Sinai. However, when the same verses are read in Parshat Yitro, the focus is not on an isolated event. Rather, we are following the path which began one awesome night when Avraham was told that his children would be enslaved, but would one day return to their land. The fulfillment of God's covenant with Avraham took his descendants through Egypt and through the sea, and led them to the foot of Mount Sinai. Considering the Revelation as a part of this larger journey is very different than the view of the Revelation as a singular event. This event, celebrated on Shavuot, requires our identification, while the much larger view of the events of Sinai requires a grasp, an understanding, an ongoing process of internalization of the content of the Revelation.

Our Sages took this process one step further when they assigned the Haftarah reading. Throughout the ages, when Parshat Yitro is read, with the visions experienced at the Splitting of the Sea still fresh in our minds and the song of praise sung by Moshe and all of Israel still ringing in our ears, the Sages broaden the canvas even further, including the point that the Davidic line is reestablished and God’s dominion complete. Only then will the journey be complete; only then will the covenant be fulfilled. Only then will God's dominion be fully revealed to all of mankind.

[1] See here
[2] The Talmud notes that the numerous commandments regarding interpersonal behavior was revolutionary. See Talmud Bavli Kiddushin 31a.
תלמוד בבלי מסכת קידושין דף לא עמוד א
בשעה שאמר הקב"ה (שמות כ) 'אנכי' ו'לא יהיה לך', אמרו אומות העולם: 'לכבוד עצמו הוא דורש'. כיון שאמר (שמות כ) 'כבד את אביך ואת אמך', חזרו והודו למאמרות הראשונות. רבא אמר, מהכא: (תהלים קיט) 'ראש דברך אמת', ראש דברך ולא סוף דברך? אלא, מסוף דברך ניכר שראש דברך אמת.
Ulla Rabbah lectured at the entrance to the Nasi's house: What is meant by, 'All the kings of the earth shall make admission unto Thee, O God, for they have heard the words of Thy mouth?' Not the word of Thy mouth, but the words of Thy mouth is said. When the Holy One, blessed be He, proclaimed, 'I am [the Lord your God]' and 'You shall have none [other Gods before me]', the nations of the world said: He teaches merely for His own honor. As soon as He declared: 'Honor your father and your mother,' they recanted and admitted [the justice of] the first command [too]. Raba said, [This may be deduced] from the following: 'The beginning of Your word is true': ‘the beginning of Your word, but not the end!? But from the latter portion of Your declaration it may be seen that the first portion is true.
[3] There are numerous instances in which a particular Haftorah is used to accompany more than one Torah reading. The Sages were well aware of this option, but did not avail themselves of it.
[4] These seem to be two completely disparate themes. It is interesting that on Shavuot we have another reading, that of Megilat Ruth, which fuses together these two themes: The backdrop of the megilla is the agricultural life in Israel, and the story is about accepting the Torah.
[5] For more on Shavuot and the giving of the Torah see my book Emanations (Targum Press 2002), pages 135 ff.
[6] We have not touched upon the version of the Ten Commandments in Devarim, Parshat VaEtchanan. In that version, Moshe recaps the events of the Revelation; this is not divine speech, per se, and is therefore only tangentially related to our present discussion.
[7] See Elya Rabbah Shulchan Oruch Orach Chayim sections 142, 494 who insists that Taam Elyon only be used on Shavuot and not Parshat Yitro.
אליה רבה סימן קמב
יש לקרות בחג השבועות בניגון עליון דעשרת הדברות, שמלמד מקום דעשרת הדברות ואין חושש על התחלות הפסוקים ומקום סיומן. הפסוק והדבור הראשון מתחיל אנכי ומסיים לשומרי מצותי וכו' הכל דבור אחד, ואנכי ולא יהיה לך מפי הגבורה. פסוק שני לא תשא, ולפי שהוא פסוק אחד אין בו אלא ניגון אחד. ויקרא פני בפתח תחת הנו"ן כי אינו סוף פסוק. ותיו דתרצח ותנאף ותגנוב דגושה. ובקמ"ץ תחת [תעשה] התוי"ן. ומתחת קדמאה בפסוק לא תשא בפתח תחת הנו"ן. אבל בשבת פ' יתרו ואתחנן קורין בניגון התחתון מלמד על התחלת הפסוקים וסיומן. ופני בקמ"ץ תחת הנו"ן. ותוי"ן הנ"ל רפה. ופתח תחת [תעשה] התוי"ן. ומתחת קדמאה בפסוק לא תשא בקמ"ץ תחת התי"ו. כן (הוצאות) [הוצאתי] מתמצית כוונת תשובות משאת בנימין סי' ו', והוא האריך מאוד. ועיין בחזקוני פ' יתרו [שמות כ] ואור תורה [שם], מג"א סי' תצ"ד [ריש הסימן].
אליה רבה סימן תצד
ובריש סי' קמ"ב נתבאר לקרות [בטעם] עליון בשבועות.
[8] See Chizkuni commentary to the Torah Shmot 20:14
חזקוני על שמות פרק כ פסוק יד
יש ברוב הדברות שתי נגינות ללמד שבעצרת שהיא דוגמא מתן תורה, ומתרגמינן הדברות קורין כל דברת לא יהיה לך וכל דברת זכור בנגינות הגדולות לעשות כל אחת מהן פסוק אחד שכל אחד מהן דברה אחת לעצמה. ודברות לא תרצח לא תנאף לא תגנוב לא תענה קורין בנגינות הקטנות לעשות ד' פסוקים שהם ד' דברות. אבל בחודש שבט כשקורין בפרשת יתרו כשאר שבתות השנה קורין לא יהיה לך וזכור בנגינות הקטנות לעשות מכל אחת מהן ד' פסוקים, ודברות לא תרצח לא תנאף לא תגנוב לא תענה קורין בנגינות הגדולות לעשותן פסוק אחד לפי שלא מצינו בכל המקרא פסוק משתי תיבות חוץ מאלו ובשבועות דוקא כמו שפי' למעלה. גם בדברות אנכי ולא יהיה לך יש נגינה גדולה לעשותן שתיהן פסוק אחד לזכרון שבדבור אחד נאמרו, כיצד בתיבת אנכי פשטא ובתיבת אלהיך זקף קטן ובתיבת הוצאתיך תלישא ובתיבת מארץ מצרים קדמא ואזלא ובתיבת עבדים רביעי.

[9] See Sefer Toda’a chapter 28.
ספר התודעה - פרק עשרים ושמונה (המשך):
ובשבועות נוהגים לקרוא בציבור לפי הטעם העליון, המפסיק בין כל דיבור ודיבור, לפי שבו ביום נתנו עשרת הדברות, ועל כן עושים מכל דיבור פסוק בפני עצמו. ודיבור שיש בו כמה פסוקים, מחברים אותם ועושים אותם פסוק אחד, כדי שיהא כל דיבור נשמע לעצמו, שכך שמענום מסיני:

[10] For more on this concept see Rabbi Yosef Soloveitchik Shiurim L’Zecher Aba Mari, page 211.
[11] The Megaleh Amukot Parshat Tazria, observes that this is the meaning of a line in the liturgy in the An'im Zemirot, Ziknah byom din ubacharut byom krav.
סדור תפלה - נוסח אשכנז - סדר תפילת שחרית שבת - מוסף
חזן - זִקְנָה בְּיוֹם דִּין וּבַחֲרוּת בְּיוֹם קְרָב. כְּאִישׁ מִלְחָמוֹת יָדָיו לוֹ רָב:
ספר מגלה עמוקות על התורה - פרשת תזריע
על הים הי' הקב"ה כגבור וכבחור ועל הר סיני כזקן יושב בישיבה זקנה ביום דין ובחרות ביום קרב וכדי שלא יטעו לכן לבש הקב"ה חלוק של תפארת על הים כ"ש (ברכות ח) והת"ת זה מתן תורה כליל תפארת בראשו נתת בעמדו לפניך על הר סיני ז"ש (תהלים צג) ה' מלך גאות לבש לבש שבאותו הפעם על הים כי גאה גאה עז התאז""ר בגי' תרי"ג לבוש של תורה ז"ש (שמות טו) ה' איש מלחמה ה' שמו מה לך הים כי תנוס שעל הים הי' מורא עבור מלחמות ועל הר סיני לא הי' מורא עליהם רק ההרים תרקדו כאלים בשמחה וע"ז השיב על הים הי' כגבור מלפני אדון חולי ארץ שהיא השכינה תמן דינא אבל הר סיני מלפני אלוה יעקב שהוא מדת תפארת. ההופכי מן דרך נחש עלי צור מהפכין ועושים אגם מים:

[12] The Talmud in a similar teaching says that even the fetus in utero and the babe suckling at the breast saw the divine revelation at the sea. See Talmud Bavli Sotah 30b.
מסכת סוטה ל:
תָּנוּ רַבָּנָן, דָּרַשׁ רַבִּי יוֹסֵי הַגְּלִילִי, בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁעָלוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל מִן הַיָּם, נָתְנוּ עֵינֵיהֶם לוֹמַר שִׁירָה, וְכֵיצַד אָמְרוּ שִׁירָה? עוֹלָל מֻטָּל עַל בִּרְכֵּי אִמּוֹ, וְתִינוֹק יוֹנֵק מִשְּׁדֵי אִמּוֹ. כֵּיוָן שֶׁרָאוּ אֶת הַשְּׁכִינָה, עוֹלָל הִגְבִּיהַּ צַוָּארוֹ, וְתִינוֹק שָׁמַט דַּד (אמו) מִפִּיו, וְאָמְרוּ, (שמות טו) "זֶה אֵלִי וְאַנְוֵהוּ". שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, (תהלים ח) "מִפִּי עוֹלְלִים וְיוֹנְקִים יִסַּדְתָּ עֹז". (תַּנְיָא) הָיָה רַבִּי מֵאִיר אוֹמֵר, מִנַּיִן שֶׁאֲפִלּוּ עֻבָּרִין שֶׁבִּמְעֵי אִמָּן אָמְרוּ שִׁירָה? שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, [דף לא ע"א] (שם סח) "בְּמַקְהֵלוֹת בָּרְכוּ אֱלֹהִים, אֲדֹנָי מִמְּקוֹר יִשְׂרָאֵל". [וְהָא לָא חָזוּ? אָמַר רַבִּי תַּנְחוּם, כֶּרֶס נַעֲשָׂה לָהֶם כְּאַסְפַּקְלַרְיָא הַמְּאִירָה וְרָאוּ]:
Our Rabbis taught: R. Jose the Galilean expounded: At the time the Israelites ascended from the Red Sea, they desired to utter a Song; and how did they render the song? The babe lay upon his mother's knees and the suckling sucked at his mother's breast; when they beheld the Shechinah, the babe raised his neck and the suckling released the nipple from his mouth, and they exclaimed: This is my God and I will Praise Him; as it is said: Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou established strength. R. Meir used to say: Whence is it that even the embryos in their mothers’ womb uttered a song? As it is said, Bless ye the Lord in the Congregations, even the Lord, from the fountain ofIsrael. But these could not behold [the Shechinah]! R. Tanhum said: The abdomen became for them a kind of transparent medium and they did behold it.

[13] Christian sources have attempted to co-opt this section as "proof" of their belief, and relied on a combination of violent mistranslation, together with total disregard for historical context.

Message for Today: “Let us Fulfill Gladly all the Torah’s Teachings!”

By HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

It is a Jewish custom that when a child reaches the age of speech, his father accustoms him to saying, “Moses prescribed the Torah to us, an eternal heritage for the congregation of Jacob” (Deuteronomy 33:4). Already from earliest childhood, a child hears that the Torah is an inheritance, and that it belongs to the entire Jewish people. The Torah does not belong just to this individual or that, or to this movement or that. Rather, it belongs to the entire Jewish people till the end of time.

Before the Sinai Revelation, the Jewish people repented, abandoning their divisiveness and uniting, as it says, “They had departed from Rephidim and had arrived in the Sinai Desert, camping in the wilderness. Israel camped opposite the mountain” (Exodus 19:2). Rashi comments, “As one man, with one heart.” From their receiving of the Torah, about 3000 years ago, until today, the Jewish people have never ceased to learn, teach, and fulfill our holy Torah. The Torah is a book of life. As it says, “It is a tree of life for those who take hold of it” (Proverbs 3:18).

Today, our generation, the generation of the rebirth and of ingathering of the exiles, is facing spiritual, social and political crises, as we sense today. The means of rectifying this complex situation is to foment a change in culture and education, and to establish Torah learning as a national value of the first order. All Jewish children, and adults as well, should be learning Torah, as was the situation during the time of King Hezekiah, who passed a compulsory education law. If during the dark exile, Torah learning illuminated the Jewish souls, ensuring their survival, all the more so in the Land of Israel and State of Israel, that the Torah learning of myriad Jews should strengthen the spirit of the nation.

Our holy Torah belongs to the entire Jewish people, and to every individual Jew. We shall certainly be the living fulfillment of the blessing, “Our Father! Merciful Father! You, who are ever compassionate! Have pity on us and inspire us to understand and discern, to perceive, learn and teach, to observe, do and fulfill gladly all the teachings of Your Torah” (Blessings of the Shema).

With blessings for a joyous Shavuot holiday,
Looking forward to complete salvation.
Shabbat Shalom.

Torah from Heaven

By Rav Uri Sherki
Rav, Machon Meir
Rav, Kehilat Beit Yehuda, Jerusalem

Two proofs are given to show that there is a Divine source for the Torah. But they must be understood in depth and not simply in accord with the folk approach – that millions of people would not lie about the description of an event, especially not to their children. This approach will not withstand objective criticism, and the only thing it can accomplish is to strengthen the conviction those who were already convinced beforehand. We will be able to find satisfactory answers by delving more deeply into the matter.

First of all, we must note that revelation is a formative event in the history of a nation. A national identity is not the result of a willful choice. Rather, it is born within the nation and it is in fact an element that is forced on the people. Every national identity is built up on a basis of collective psychology which stems from powerful events that leave a deep impression within the nation. If the event took place before the era of history began, it is clouded in doubt, and it may well be a myth spawned by imagination. This is not true of an event that took place after the national identity was formed, such as the story of the wars of Troy or the Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah. In such cases we can verify that the event did indeed take place – not because there are witnesses but as a result of the strong impression it left on the public awareness.

In addition, the character of a story can by itself be an indication of the truth. This is especially true for a story that is beyond the limits of human imagination. While it is true that there are stories of individual or collective revelation in all cultures, such that they might indeed be the fruits of imagination, these stories always, without exception, involve an “immanent” deity who is internal to the world and not transcendental revelation by a G-d who created the world and is external to it. The only story where the revealed one is the Creator Himself is the one that is told by Bnei Yisrael. And in fact the written description of the event emphasizes that the people who experienced the revelation were wary of participating. Clearly, the interference of the Creator in the natural course of events can interfere with the spiritual stability of man, and it would never occur to mankind to invent such a story even with the goal of establishing a new religion. All others who developed a new religion spoke only of revelation by an entity that is part of creation, such that it did not undermine the foundation of existence.

We must also try to refine the concept of a Divine Torah, from heaven. Rav A.Y. Kook explains, a man can admit that the Torah came from heaven, but he might be referring to a very low level of heaven. This paints the one who gave the Torah as a pedantic accountant collecting the relative weights of mitzvot as compared to sins. And there are others who feel that they deny the Divine origin of the Torah while at the same time they search for a source of the Torah among the highest levels of human wisdom and morality. Such an approach is in fact very close to the true definition of Torah from heaven.

Zionist Chassidism: The British and the White Paper

By Rafi Ostroff 
Head of the Religious Council of Gush Etzion

In 5699 (1939), near the Torah portion of Bamidbar, the British published their “White Paper” which limited Jewish entry into Eretz Yisrael. The Rebbe of Husiatyn did not mince words in his reaction to this decree, and in his writing we can sense his tempestuous reaction. The following is what he wrote.

* * * * * *

[This week the government of England published a “White Paper” which was an expression of its betrayal of the nation of Yisrael.]

The Haftarah of the Torah portion of Bamidbar is the prophecy of Hoshaya. “And the number of Bnei Yisrael will be as the sands of the sea, which cannot be measured and cannot be counted. And it will be that instead of saying to them, ‘You are not My nation,’ it will be said to them, ‘the sons of the Living G-d.’ And the children of Yehuda and Yisrael will be gathered together, and they will choose a single leader, and they will rise up from the land, for the day of Yizrael is great.” [2:1-2].

The day of the ingathering of the exiles is as great as the day when heaven and earth were created (Pesachim 88a). And Yisrael is called by the nickname “Yizrael” because they were planted among the nations (from “lizro’a,” to plant).

Our hope and our belief and confidence that we will return to Eretz Yisrael and rebuild its ruins are based on the promises of the prophets, who spoke in the name of G-d, and whose words will never fall by the wayside when the time comes for them to be fulfilled. We do not base our aspirations on the Balfour Declaration and on the promises of England. We have known from the beginning that their mouths speak untruth, and that their right hand attests to a lie. 

However, when the declaration was made many Jews came and invested money and blood in the enterprise of building up Eretz Yisrael, for we can never afford to pass up any opportunity to rebuild and to settle our holy land, since the sages have taught us in Sifri that living in Eretz Yisrael is the equivalent of observing all the mitzvot. And that is also what the Ramban wrote in his commentary of the Sefer Hamitzvot of the Rambam: When the Torah wrote, “You shall take possession of the land and dwell there, for I have given the land to you” [Bamidbar 33:53], that was not only an ideal and a promise, it was a positive mitzva. We must settle the land if we have an opportunity and not leave it as a wilderness. That is, not only is there a mitzva to live on the land, we must also build there and plant. This is a positive mitzva for all generations which obligates each and every one of us even during the time of exile, as can be seen from many sources in the Talmud.

And there is another reason why many of our people took advantage of this opportunity and came to Eretz Yisrael to rebuild it. Some of our ancestors saw our time as the beginning of the ingathering of the exiles. For example, RADAK writes (commentary on Tehillim 146:3): Just as Koresh in the exile of Babylon was a messenger in the hands of the Divine guidance to give a license to rebuild Eretz Yisrael, so in the future G-d will arrange for rebuilding by virtue of a license given by the kings of the other nations... Thus, just as we did not rely on England and its promises, so we should not despair when it betrays us, heaven forbid. 

The distortion of traitors and all of their falsehoods and intrigue cannot block the fulfillment of the prophecy quoted above, “And the children of Yehuda and Yisrael will be gathered together, and they will choose a single leader,” referring to Mashiach, the King. And all of our demonstrations and protests are good, we must continue to protest and demonstrate against evil that is done to us, even though we know and have faith that with G-d’s help the others will not be able to harm us, heaven forbid. 

According to a well-known folk tale, the other nations of the world are crossing an iron bridge while Yisrael goes on a bridge made of paper. In the future, the bridge made of iron will break and they will fall into the water and drown, while we continue to go on to our destination. The meaning of this is that the other nations put their trust in their iron swords, but they will falter and fall. We go on a bridge made of paper, symbolizing the holy Torah. How a great reward awaits those who follow its path!

There are some Jews in Eretz Yisrael who are faithful to their people and their land. They build and work, and they are ready at any time to sacrifice their lives for Yisrael and for Eretz Yisrael, and this is without a doubt a great thing. However, it is a shame that some of them forget that the nation of Yisrael must forever be linked to the name of G-d. They forget that the nation of Yisrael is different from all the other nations. The others are nothing more than nations, while Yisrael is the nation of G-d. However, I am confident that these people too will return to the understanding that Yisrael is the nation of G-d and they will then come to the right conclusion based on this recognition.

* * * * * *

Next week we mark 30 years since the passing of Rabbi Yisrael Yosef Shalom Friedman, the Pashkiner Rebbe.

Rabbi Yisrael was a seventh-generation descendent of Rabbi Yisrael, who founded the Rozhin Dynasty of Chassidut. In his manner and behavior, he continued according to the unique path of the Husiatyn Dynasty, which is part of the Rozhin tradition. Their ideal is a humble sect, combining true modesty and Zionism. In this way, Rabbi Yisrael showed by his life an example of everything that is beautiful in Chassidut.

Rabbi Yisrael’s sons continue on his path in Chassidut. They are intimately embedded within the community of Yisrael, they take part in social missions throughout Israel, and day by day they carry on his way of life, along with hundreds of his students.

May his memory guide us along the path of Torah!

Declarations and Symbols as Opposed to Facts and Actions

By Zevulun Orlev

We celebrated Yom Yerushalayim with Hallel and thanksgiving, with joy and dancing. Sadly, during the rest of the year the unification of Jerusalem is more on paper than it is a real fact. Construction in the city is frozen, its Moslem citizens are taught in school to become “shahidim” and Holocaust deniers, and they refuse to accept the Jewish heritage on the Temple Mount. At the same time, the Moslem Waqf is unopposed as it destroys Jewish archeological evidence, and the law of the land is not enforced in the eastern sections of the city. In spite of the very significant law of unification of Jerusalem, for fifty years the city has witnessed many more dramatic declarations than it has seen actions taken by the government.

President Trump’s visit in Jerusalem requires us to hold a serious discussion about the significance of the declarations and symbols related to Jerusalem as opposed to establishing facts on the ground and fashioning reality, especially in view of our desire that the United States should recognize the city as the capital of Israel and move its embassy there. 

Setting Priorities

Since there are political, security, and ethical restraints, it is necessary to establish priorities and preferences. If we assume that political reality does not release us from having to pay a price for our decisions and does not allow us to act freely exactly as we would want to, the only path open to us is to search for the best way to fulfill our vision at the lowest possible price, in such a way that the benefit will outweigh the cost. 

Defining the Vision

Every path that exists on the way to fulfilling our vision of Jerusalem has both benefits and shortcomings.

Symbols and declarations are beneficial in defining our vision, in setting goals, and in implementing the values that are at the basis of the vision, as opposed to our Moslem enemies and those from among the other nations who despise us and boycott us. Declarations provide a benefit as a way of strengthening our internal support and gaining support among our friends among the Jews and in the Western World in general. It is best that our struggles against the Arab World and the rest of the world will remain at the level of declarations and not taking real action. The main disadvantage of such an approach is that it is hard to change reality and to establish hard diplomatic facts using only declarations and symbols. 

Taking Hold of Reality

On the other hand, a method based on establishing facts on the ground has benefits in that it has real consequences that are hard to ignore. There is a natural tendency to accept established facts, and it is relatively easy to defend established facts on the ground. The weakness of such an approach is the fear of the heavy price which we might find it difficult to pay, because of diplomatic isolation, harsh decisions of the UN Security Council that might even lead to sanctions, a deepening of existing boycotts, a loss of support among our friends in the world, and pressure by the United States – all of which might harm our interests.

If we assume that our friends around the world, including the United States, operate in their contacts with the Arab countries and the other countries which oppose us in line with their own diplomatic and economic interests, for this approach too we must choose which is the best front line for our struggles: Is it the matter of symbols and declarations – like moving the embassy to Jerusalem – or is it the matter of facts on the ground – like unfettered building in all sections of Jerusalem, putting emphasis on the eastern areas?

We must recognize that the United States will not be able to operate in both ways at the same time. If anything, it might just skip making any decisions at all.

We must begin by making our own decision. What do we choose? What path will we try to convince President Trump to follow? It goes without saying that a lack of a decision on our part is the worst possible alternative, since that would demonstrate a lack of leadership and a serious diplomatic and security lapse, leading to serious harm in our ability to achieve the vision of Jerusalem. 

The Correct Proportion: 75/25

We should learn to operate in a way that is based 75% on establishing facts on the ground and 25% on an attempt to make use of symbols, declarations, and ceremonies. In Jerusalem we must make a clear decision to control the facts. The fact is that we are building Jewish neighborhoods in the eastern parts of the city. Nobody in the world, not even the Palestinians, demand that we abandon these areas when peace will be achieved. Remember the diplomatic struggle surrounding the construction of the area of Chomat Shmuel (what was originally called Har Chomah). But now the neighborhood exists, and today not one Palestinian demands that it be evacuated. The same will be true after we build a new neighborhood in the area of “Giv’at Hamatos” and expand all the other Jewish areas in the eastern sections. Widespread construction is as necessary as oxygen in order to establish a solid Jewish majority in the city, to strengthen it economically, and to convince the whole world that Jerusalem is indeed the capital of our country.

King David wrote, “Jerusalem which is built up will be a city that has been joined together” [Tehillim 122:3]. Read this in a very straightforward way. There is a link between construction and joining together. Building up Jerusalem will unify it. Construction is the key and the basic ingredient for unification. We will unify the city by building there.