Sunday, January 30, 2011
Saturday, January 29, 2011
But what about Torah's other assertions, as for example the one in its opening verse - which asserts the creation of a physical world? Is this then not true; Is this world's existence an untrue fact?
My understanding of it is, that the world we percieve as real, should be considered real from our perspective - but only as it concerns our behavior and how we interact with the infinite situations confronting us in our perceived physical environment.
In the Rebbe's own words, "Chassidus Chabad [Lubavitcher Rebbes' teachings] opens the gates to the chambers of wisdom and understanding, enabling us to know and recognize G-d." (Hayom Yom, 17 Kislev)
Thursday, January 20, 2011
A young man, raised as an orthodox Jew, troubled with cognitive dissonance, wrote to Dr. Gotfryd concerning his inability to appreciate traditional behavior, mostly because he sees man as insignificantly irrelevant to an all-powerful Creator of this grand universe. [I did the highlighting]
Although I don't know you, I hear your problem and I feel your pain.
You mention thinking out of the box. The way you see things, Faith is in the box and Reason is out of the box. I question that.
Let's take, for example, a famous discovery by a brilliant 20th Century mathematician, Kurt Gödel. It's called the incompleteness theorem and it has two parts. Simply put, Gödel proved that any logical system is incomplete, and that any complete system must be illogical.
Let's put this in context. Here we have a fellow, whom historians call "one of the most significant logicians of all time", making the most famous pronouncement of his illustrious career and what does he say? That logic itself is always inside the box and if you want to get out, be ready to embrace the irrational.
Let's take another example, this time from the world of Physics. Physics is a good subject for people who embrace logic such as you and here's why. Logical people generally want things demonstrated to them empirically. Empirical things are those that can be observed, measured and analyzed rationally. Science is the pursuit of knowledge using empirical methods, and physics is the most basic of all natural sciences.
Scientists often work by analyzing, which means to break something down into its component parts to see how it works. For physical objects that means decomposing it into atoms and even smaller bits. The branch of physics that deals with tiny stuff like that is called Quantum Physics and it is absolutely weird. Or to be more exact, its methods are very sensible but the facts about nature it has uncovered are absolutely weird.
The discoveries of Quantum Physics are so bizarre that Albert Einstein called them "spooky" and only accepted them after 25 years of trying to disprove them. Erwin Schrodinger, the scientist who earned the Nobel Prize for writing its equations said, "I do not like it and I'm sorry I had anything to do with it." Even Niels Bohr, who was the first champion of Quantum Theory said, "If you think you have understood it, you most certainly haven't."
The piece of the puzzle I'd like to present to you, Shalom, is a quantum concept called observership and it was developed by John Wheeler, arguably one of the greatest minds in physics of all time. Four of his students earned Nobel Prizes; his book, "Gravitation," is still the standard text on Einstein's theory; he was a co-founder of nuclear energy; and he invented the concept of a "Black Hole" in space.
Observership is the idea that there must be a conscious human observer for physical reality to emerge from a potential to actual state. Observation makes things happen. In Wheeler's unrefuted view of the quantum, people are co-creators of reality and not only now but reaching back into the past, all the way to the beginning of time.
He validated this notion with "delayed-choice" experiments, where a quantum goes through a two slit barrier and then the observer decides to observe it as either a particle (in which case it went through only one slit) or as a wave (in which case it went through both). The observer, acting in the present, determines not only what things are, but also what they were in the past!
This addresses your central question: Does the Creator care about us? Observership is His way of saying, "Yes, I do. And if you look closely, you will see how you make all the difference in the world."
I had a written correspondence with John Wheeler you might enjoy reviewing. That story is online at www.chabad.org/81944. He wrote me about his respect for and interest in the Chabad Rebbeim and their works and included a photocopy of an article he wrote for scientists and philosophers that has a surprising Torah twist.
Wheeler, addressing a joint meeting of the Royal Society and the American Philosophical Society, tries to come to terms with the surprising fact that human beings are just as important for the universe's existence, as the universe is for our existence.
To explain it, he found nothing better than a Midrash - that's right a Talmudic legend - about a dialogue between Avraham Avinu and Hashem. And to clarify he includes a 40-line footnote with a dozen more Talmudic discussions and references, all reviewed by a panel of Jewish scholars (most of whom have Nobel Prizes of their own).
Shalom, I think this story has a special significance for you. You, like Avraham Avinu, have decided to take an individualistic path. Not satisfied with what family and society was telling him, he needed to figure things out his way. He too started with a logical approach - that's how he negated idolatry and asserted there was one invisible and all-powerful force.
But what exactly was his logic? You can explore it in my blog under the Abraham Principle, in the left panel of my www.arniegotfryd.com website. There I trace Avraham Avinu's cognitive journey back to one singular concept and then apply that at many levels with some amazing results. I invite you to follow those blog posts one by one if you truly want to have a logical point of view.
The idea is that whenever there are parts A and B that together form an organized structure or system, and A has no intrinsic control over B, nor does B have any intrinsic control over A, there must exist some coordinating entity C external to them and more powerful than them, since it has the capacity to hold them together in some unified way.
This bit of logic alone can elevate you step by step from a hodge-podge random world, to an orderly one with a hierarchy of material causes, to the possibility of polytheism, to the necessity of monotheism.
Then the same logic takes you to various conclusions within this Being. First, it cannot have a form. Next it cannot be limited in any way. That leads to the kabbalistic notion of "tzimtzum lo kepshuto", which means it is logically impossible for the Creator or First Cause to be somewhere in the heavens above without simultaneously being right here as well. This Cause conceals Its existence from us while not concealing anything from It.
That in turn leads to the necessity that the Creator made a world in order to hide and then be found, and that the finding must be by a human with enough intelligence to understand the Abraham Principle. Knowing the Creator made the world in order to be discovered by man, Avraham set about to let others know, for after all, they too were here for ostensibly the same reason! Hence he started teaching this even before any revelation had been made to him.
It also explains why there was a revelation of The Being to Avraham, and why he spent a lot of money feeding people in order to promote the message. The Abraham Principle is a subtle philosophical concept and not everyone is so intellectually inclined. On the other hand, everyone likes to eat and Abraham's "Chabad House", with its feed 'em and teach 'em outreach style, attracted those types to his mindset as well.
Another implication of the Abraham Principle is that material reality is constantly dependent on a flow of creative energy, the Chassidic doctrine of continuous creation. In modern physical terms that's referred to as the vacuum fluctuations in a transcendent, formless "field" that all mass depends on.
That makes the universe a constant miracle in a world made for man, a pretty major sociological and cosmological outcome considering the simplicity of the logical rule that generated it.
Shalom, we used to live in a society that painted a thick red line between Faith and Science and very few dared cross it. That situation really lasted only about 200 years and in principle it ended about a hundred years ago.
Still there are relics, throwbacks to 19th Century materialism and rationalism, pseudoscientists who claim that if it's not physical it doesn't exist; if it's not sensible it isn't relevant; if it skips across time and space it didn't happen. These people are out of touch with today's science and you should be aware of that.
You should also be aware it's not only a few eggheads who talk like this. The whole theme has hit mass media with a raft of books and movies like The Secret, What the Bleep, and the Matrix.
At this point you might be thinking, "Fine, there is a G-d, logic and science bring us to that, but then what?" Which religion, and which style within the religion, and how much must we do?
You mentioned your quest for truth. I believe if you honestly analyze your options regarding religion and lifestyle, your quest for truth will lead you right back to where you started from: Chabad. But people are not only motivated by lofty philosophical goals. They also want happiness and peace of mind, an easier life and personal freedoms.
I know two young men, friends, who were both dissatisfied with the rabbinic Judaism in which they were raised. One was considering becoming a Christian and the other simply stopped observing. They were having a discussion and the drop-out got really angry at the wanna-be convert. I asked him what makes him think he is any better.
He said, "Look, I may be lazy, I may be rebellious, but at least I'm honest. I'm telling G-d, 'Sorry I'm not interested in keeping all these mitzvos, it's too much work.' He's saying to G-d, 'You aren't interested in the mitzvos anyway, and Christianity agrees with that.' That's how he thinks to justify himself."
If doubts drive you from your faith, that's one thing. If it's the burden of Torah and mitzvos driving you to doubt, that's something else. Don't cover yourself with a skeptical philosophy. If you do, you will always be stuck. If you just say, "Not right now Hashem, I'm busy," it's not ideal but it's more honest and the path to teshuvah is clear.
I'd like to switch subjects and close on the subject of deeds. You are obviously very anxious over your turn of mind and mood and I am frankly worried for your mental health and stability. It's for that reason I suggested to you on the phone you take up some small chesed project for a half hour once a week. Call a sick relative. Visit a senior. Help a kid with homework. Clean up your mother's kitchen.
Stepping outside your mental misery will give you a breather and allow fresh ideas to sink in. For you thinking out of the box means to relax your logic and let life flow. Doing a chesed will attach you to something higher than yourself, but without feeling religiously pressured. Let me know how it goes.
Sincerely, Aryeh Gotfryd
Saturday, January 15, 2011
His friend came over and helped him out. They called the police, who arrived 20 minutes later. The police, at the station, told him his case is closed for lack of any evidence.
This despite the fact this video caught the action, people were about, and the car and their dress could easily provide clues to catch the criminals. No doubt, were it Jews attacking Arabs, there would be a much more responsive, aggressive search to nail the perpetrators.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Israel, to be acceptable to the international community, must strip herself of Jewishness. That there are officially 56 Muslim governments and states in the world, 20 of them Arab states - that's okay!. The 'luminaries' in our time hold that for the Jews to have even one Jewish state automatically renders it a racist state.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
And if you liked that song, you'll love this too.
Friday, January 07, 2011
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
Purim: Why Do They Hate Us?by Rabbi Yosef Y. JacobsonThe Uniqueness of Jew-HatredHatred of the Jew has been universal, permanent and deep. Death for the Jews has been desired and plotted by the tyrants of every age. Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Caesar, the Turks, the Christians, the Muslims, Stalin, Hitler and almost every great power that ever lived and flourished, defined the Jew as a target for abuse or complete annihilation. Jews have been expelled from nearly every country in which they resided: England, France, Hungry, Austria, Germany, Lithuania, Spain, Portugal, Bohemia, Moravia, Russia, Poland and the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, and of course, from their ancient homeland, Eretz Israel.Throughout the centuries, many millions of Jews were murdered, including millions of infants and children. The Babylonians and Romans killed three million Jews. The Christians and the Muslims, in their Crusades, inquisitions, conversion decrees, blood libels and general religious fervor over a span of 15 centuries slaughtered millions of Jews, often wiping out entire communities. Chmelnitzky and his bandits beheaded 300,000 Polish Jews during 1648-49, while Hitler put to death a third of our people, including one-and-a-half million children. In nearly every country where Jews have lived, they have, at some time, been subjected to beatings, torture and murder, solely because they were Jewish.And though many of us thought that the evil of anti-Semitism perished in a post-Auschwitz world, we have been rudely awakened during the last few years, as it once again has reared its ugly face, particularly among Arab nations and sympathizers in Europe.Why such hatred and fear of a people who never constituted more than a small minority? Why did almost every great culture and civilization see us as their ultimate enemy? Are we really such an evil people as to threaten the well-being of virtually every civilization for the past 4,000 years?Most scholars and historians, including many Jews themselves, choose to view this ongoing obsession not as something uniquely connected to Jews or Judaism, but rather as a multitude of isolated events erupting as a result of distinct circumstances. For example, why do millions of Arabs hate Jews today? Why are thousands of them inspired to burn Jewish babies alive? Because, the common explanation goes, we are occupiers, occupying their country, and they yearn for liberation. If Israel would only grant the Arabs independence and hope, the venom would dissipate.But why did they kill us before the "occupation" of 1967? Why did six Arab countries try to destroy Israel at a time when there were no settlements or settlers? Because, during the War of Independence in 1948 between the newly created State of Israel and its Arab neighbors, hundreds of thousands of Arabs fled their homes and ended up in refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza. The Arabs were seeking to return to their homes inside pre-1967 Israel.But why did the Arabs initiate this war against Israel in 1948 and thus create, through their own error, the refugee problem? Why did they not accept the United Nations' partition of Palestine and accept the reality of Jewish existence in the Jews' ancient homeland? For this we must search for another explanation.The attempt continues to remove the notion of anti-Semitism from anything distinctly Jewish. The Germans, we are told, hated the Jews because they were scapegoats for a depressed economy. And the Christians wanted the Jews dead because they claimed we killed their god. Stalin murdered Jews because he believed they were capitalists, while Europeans of the Middle Ages were repulsed by the Jew because of his economic success, and on and on.Yet, this approach is unconvincing. To deny that there is a single ultimate cause for all anti-Semitism, to reject that an underlying reason has sparked the hatred of billions of non-Jews for four millennia, contradicts both common sense and history.Anti-Semitism has existed too long and in too many disparate cultures to tolerate a claim that each culture hated the Jews because of some distinct factor disconnected from being Jewish. To believe that Jew-hatred is just another form of racial or religious bigotry, lunacy, ethnic hatred, lack of tolerance, xenophobia, resentment of affluence and professional success, is to turn a blind eye to the core cause of this unique loathing. Of course, various factors may exacerbate anti-Semitism and cause it to erupt at a given time, but these factors do not explain the origin and genesis of this hatred. (1) One scholar put it well: Economic depressions do not account for gas chambers. (2)Haman's AttemptThe famous Purim story, recorded in the biblical Book of Esther and read during the Purim festival, relates one more attempt, made some 2,500 years ago, to reduce the Jewish people to a pile of ashes, this time by a Persian minister named Haman. Haman approached the then-king of Persia, Achashverosh, and offered him a tremendous sum of money in exchange for permission to arrange a "Final Solution" of having every member of the Jewish people, men, women and children, put to death. The king responded: "The money is given to you (Haman), and the nation (of Israel) is yours to do with as you see fit." (3)This interaction seems quite understandable to me. Achashverosh, a no less miserable anti-Semite than Haman, happily embraces the idea of a world devoid of Jews. Yet, the Talmud apparently feels it necessary to illustrate the situation by means of a parable. (4)A Mound and a Ditch"Achashverosh and Haman are compared to two people, one of whom had a mound of dirt in his field, and another one who had a ditch in his field. The owner of the ditch said to himself, 'How I wish the owner of the mound would give me his mound in exchange for money, so that I can fill my ditch.' And the owner of the mound said to himself, 'How I wish the owner of the ditch would sell me the use of his ditch, so that I can remove the mound of dirt from my field and dump it into his ditch.'"After some time," relates the Talmud, "these two men encountered one another. The owner of the ditch said to the owner of the mound, 'Sell to me your mound!' The owner of the mound responded: 'Please, take it for free.'"The Talmudic illustration is clear. Achashverosh is compared to the owner of the mound, which is a metaphor for the Jewish people. He desperately seeks to get rid of it. Haman is seen as the owner of the ditch, eagerly attempting to obtain the mound. When Haman offers to purchase the "mound" for money, Achashverosh gladly gives it to him for no payment at all, enthusiastically consenting to the annihilation of the Jews.But here is the question: Parables quoted in Talmudic literature are never meant as entertainment, but rather as tools to clarify and crystallize an abstract or complex concept. Yet, what is so difficult to understand about a story of two people who despise the Jews with similar intensity and eagerly cooperate to destroy them? Why do we need a parable about a mound and a ditch to clarify the situation between Haman and Achashverosh? (5) And even if there is some difficulty in understanding what transpired between Haman and Achashverosh, how is it explained by means of this seemingly simple and superficial parable of a mound and a ditch?What is more, the parable doesn't even fit the story it is attempting to illustrate. In the parable, the owner of the mound is seeking to dispose of his mound while the owner of the ditch craves to obtain the mound and fill his ditch with it. In the actual story, however, both the owner of the "mound," Achashverosh, as well as the owner of the "ditch," Haman, wish to dispose of the "mound", the Jewish people, and get rid of it completely. You can't fill a ditch with a mound you crave to annihilate! (6)Two Layers of Anti-SemitismWhat the Talmud is really attempting to convey via this parable is an answer to the question we raised at the onset of this essay: Why, nearly always and nearly everywhere, have Jews been hated? Why did Haman crave to kill every single Jew, down to an infant? Why would King Achashverosh be so eager to purge his country from all Jews? What have the Jews really done to attract such profound universal animosity?It is this question, perhaps one of the great questions of history, that the Talmud is attempting to confront in this little passage.Anti-Semitism, the Talmud is telling us, is multilayered, with a "body" and a "soul." The "body," or the outer, external layer of anti-Semitism as personified by Achashverosh, sees Jews as a "mound." The inner, deeper and more complicated layer of anti-Semitism personified by Haman views the Jew as the cause of a universal "ditch."The external layer of anti-Semitism sees the Jew as a mysterious and suspicious stranger in world history, a foreign creep, a "mound" that simply does not belong here and ought to be disposed of. The Jew is perceived as a cancerous tumor, an alien growth, the ultimate intruder. The Jew may attempt to do everything possible to assuage the discomfort and mistrust the gentile feels toward him. He may sell himself, his soul, his people and his values. But it is usually to no avail: As long as the Jew is alive, he will remain, in many a non-Jewish eye, an irritable "mound", obstructing freedom and comfort.Yet this crude outer shell, or "body," of anti-Semitism, is born of a deeper and subtler space within the non-Jewish consciousness: the soul behind anti-Semitism. Jewish existence opened a "ditch," a vacuum, in the heart of the human race, and every non-Jew, in one way or another, is aware of this truth, causing him to look at the Jew with admiration and affection, or with hate and repulsion, or with a mixture of the two.Confronting a Ballad of Eternity"What is the meaning," asks the Talmud, "of the term Mount Sinai? Sinai, in Hebrew, means hatred. Sinai is the mountain that gave birth to Jew-hatred." (Talmud, Shabbas 89a) (7)Some 3,500 years ago, at the feet of a lone mountain, the Jewish people received a gift that transformed their life and destiny for eternity. No matter whether religious, secular or assimilated, that moment imbued Jewish life with the dignity of eternity, the nobility of the divine and the grandeur of the infinite. The gift of Torah inculcated Jewish life with tremendous moral and spiritual responsibility, but it simultaneously granted the Jewish heart, the Jewish home, the Jewish family and the Jewish community, rich and poor alike, a taste of heaven.When the non-Jew encounters the Jew, he is, consciously or subconsciously, struck by a richness of spirit, a depth of living, a resonance of eternity and an echo of the divine that is not easily described, but very palpable. There is something about the Jew that is larger than life, and the non-Jew feels it, sometimes more acutely than the Jew.The Jewish presence, challenging the world with a call from the infinite, forming a collective conscience of the human race, opened a hole, a "ditch," in the heart of humanity. The Jewish people, by the shared richness and fullness of their lives, compelled the world to confront a feeling of spiritual emptiness in the absence of a life guided by a higher morality, ultimate dignity and purpose. The Jewish people opened a profound wound in the soul of civilization, causing it to wonder of its obsession with power and material wealth is, at the end of the day, meaningless.Few things are as unbearable and as frightening as the recognition of your life being insignificant and meaningless. Thus, the non-Jewish response to this "ditch" exposed by the Jewish presence was swift and sharp, and it came in two different forms.Some non-Jews responded by actually elevating their lifestyles to a higher plateau. They assuaged the feelings of emptiness by forming a life and value system grounded on the Torah's weltanschauung. The American nation, founded on the Judaic ethic of respecting the liberty and individuality of man formed in the image of G-d, remains a vibrant and blessed example of this choice. This is why most of the Founding Fathers were authentic philo-Semites, cherishing and celebrating the Jew and his Jewishness.John Adams wrote, "I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize man than any other nation." He wrote as a Christian, but added that even if he were an atheist and believed in chance, "I should believe that chance had ordered the Jews to preserve and propagate to all mankind the doctrine of a supreme, intelligent, wise, almighty sovereign of the universe, which I believe to be the great essential principle of all morality, and consequently of all civilization." (8)This path, though, requires extraordinary discipline and sacrifice. Living with the G-d of the Torah is a tremendous burden. It demands that one challenge his or her ego, laziness and selfishness on a daily basis; it requires one to surrender many instincts, cravings, lusts and natural dispositions. It is rewarding and fulfilling, but not easy.Sadly, most non-Jewish cultures and civilizations opted for an easier and more instinctive method through which to "fill" their mental and psychological "ditch": Kill the Jew, they said, and the void will be gone.This is the "soul," or the deeper, spiritual layer, of anti-Semitism, engendered by the very existence of the Jew, who by his history, value system, indeed, his very being, reflects the rays of a living G-d of morality, justice, love and humility. It is a resentment and hostility directed toward the cause of a persistent emptiness in life.Today, more than ever, the choice is clear. You can overcome this emptiness by cultivating a life of goodness and kindness, a life consistent with the divine image at the core of every human being, a choice personified by so many of our non-Jewish neighbors in today's world. Or, if you choose to follow the crude and evil dimension of man's psyche, you can come to hate and be repulsed by the Jews.The attempts of many a tyrant to destroy the Jew were, in essence, a demonic drive to dethrone G-d and declare Him dead. The alternative, keeping the Jew alive, meant to live with the unbearable pain of personal emptiness. This also means that antisemitism is not only a "Jewish problem," it is a disaster for every moral and decent non-Jew as well. "Watch how a nation, religion, a political movement treats Jews, and you have an early and deadly accurate picture of that group's intention toward others. Anti-Semites wish to destroy the perceived embodiment of that higher call to the good, the Jews. But they do not hate the Jews alone. They hate whatever and whoever represents a higher value, a moral challenge." (2)Haman's RageNot all anti-Semites were aware of the "soul" of their hatred. Haman was. When the entire Persian elite bowed to Haman daily, with the exclusion of one Jewish rabbi, Mordechai, the Bible tells us that Haman "was filled with rage." (9) Why? Imagine thousands of people prostrating themselves before you on a daily basis, except one old ultra-religious man with a white beard. Big deal! Why was Haman so perturbed by the sight of one obstinate Jew not falling on his knees to worship him?Because Haman, in a very deep place, knew that Mordechai had it right. Mordechai's behavior resonated in Haman's inner heart. It exposed the truth that Haman was not a god. Haman, craving to become a deity with ultimate power, was forced to confront the mediocrity and emptiness of his own ego.He thus approached Achashverosh and said: I have a ditch in my heart, which I cannot bear anymore. I must rid the world of its Jewish presence. Achashverosh, a far less intelligent and complex person, responded: Great! The Jews, for some reason or another, always irked me regardless. I'd be more than happy if you can remove this cursed mound from my presence.The SolutionOne of the many conclusions of the aforementioned idea is that the proper method of dealing with Jew-hatred in all of its manifestations is not to attempt to eclipse or deny one's Jewishness and the unique role of the Jewish people in history. The gentile, instinctively and accurately, feels the "otherness" of the Jew; the non-Jew innately senses the holiness embedded within the Jewish soul. When the Jew denies this holiness, when the Jew, embarrassed by his Judaism, tells the world, "I am just like you," the non-Jew senses a lie, a secret conspiracy, and he despises the Jew even more. The world will forever dislike Jews who dislikes themselves.The Jew also knows that bribing, appeasing, and trying to bend over backwards to those who hate us will not supplant their hate with love. The animosity stems from too deep a place for it to be transformed through money or appeasement. Jews always knew that their primary and eternal hope remains in their relationship with G-d, the sole Master of the universe, through the Torah and its Mitzvos.That is why, when Mordechei and queen Esther learned of Haman's decree, the first thing they did was engage in fasting, prayer, repentance and good deeds. Only after three days of fasting and introspection, did Esther use her position as the beautiful wife of the king and attempt to influence him, in the midst of a drinking party, to obliterate the decree against the Jews. Now, if Esther wished to impress her husband, she should have gone to a beauty-parlor, not fast for three days. Esther knew, as every Jew knows deep down in his heart, that salvation will not come from a man who sees the Jews as an eternal "mound." Salvation will come from G-d. Therefore, the first and foremost objective is to strengthen our relationship with G-d. Only afterward are we called to follow the course of nature and attempt to influence world leaders to help secure the survival of the Jewish people.Once we have secured our relationship with G-d, there is hope that G-d will manipulate the hearts of the Jew-haters to assist, rather than destroy, the Jews.[Based on Lubavitcher Rebbe's talk, Purim 1965 (11)]Footnotes:1) For a comprehensive discussion of this subject, the history and dynamics of antisemitism, as well as a convincing refutation of many of the popular reasons given for antisemitism, see Why The Jews? (Prager and Telushkin, Simon and Schuster, 1983)2) Ibid. p. 213) Esther 3:114) Megilah 14a5) See Benayahoo to Talmud Megilah ibid. and Chasam Sofer - Toras Moshe L'Purim for their symbolic explanations of this parable.6) Of course, one may answer that the parable is an imperfect one and it is just here to illustrate the point that the owner of the mound is willing to dispose of his mound without receiving payment. Yet anyone familiar with the Talmudic literature is aware of its extraordinary profundity and meticulousness. It is thus clear that the comparison between Haman and an owner of a ditch seeking to fill it is precise and meaningful. Yet in the actual story, Haman's role is reversed, seeking to dispose of the mound and not have it remain in his territory.7) Shabbas 89a. See Eyon Yaakov to Ein Yaakov, ibid. The explanation for anti-Semitism that follows has been articulated by Maimonidies in Igeres Taiman, chapter 1.8) For an elaborate discussion on this theme, see On Two Wings: Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding (Michael Novak, 2001)9) See Faith After the Holocaust (Eliezer Berkowitz, Ktav, 1973) pp. 114-127, where this point is brilliantly demonstrated.10) Esther 3:511) Sichos Kodesh 5725 pp. 444-454
Tuesday, January 04, 2011
Monday, January 03, 2011
The Chai Bar Carmel project is located along the northern coastal region, at the top of Mount Carmel, where a wildfire recently stripped the land of its forest. Volunteers and project workers who worked tirelessly to rescue the animals as the inferno raged miraculously succeeded in saving every single one.
Sunday, January 02, 2011
We are living through a global campaign of demonisation and delegitimisation of Israel in which the western media are playing a key role.
The British media are the global leaders of this campaign in their frenzied and obsessional attacks on Israel. In the BBC in particular, such virulence attains unparalleled power and influence since it is stamped with the BBC’s global kitemark of objectivity and trustworthiness.
Israel’s every action is reported malevolently, ascribing to it the worst possible motives and denying its own victimisation. Instead of the truth, which is that every military action by Israel is taken solely to protect itself from attack, it is portrayed falsely as instigating the violent oppression of the Palestinians.
Tyranny around the world — such as the 20-year genocide in southern Sudan, or the persecution of Christians in Africa or Asia — goes almost unreported, as does Palestinian violence upon other Palestinians.
Yet Israel is dwelt upon obsessively, held to standards of behaviour expected of no other country and, with its own victimisation glossed over or ignored altogether, falsely accused of imposing wanton suffering.
Time after time, otherwise cynical, reality-hardened journalists have published or broadcast claims of Israeli ‘atrocities’ which are clearly theatrically staged fabrications or allegations. The false narrative of Arab propaganda is now so deeply embedded in the consciousness of journalists that they cannot see that what they are saying is untrue even when it is utterly egregious and indeed absurd.
The war against Hamas in Gaza in 2008/9 was a case in point. The British media had scarcely reported the constant rocket bombardment from Gaza. Most of the public were simply unaware that thousands of rockets had been fired at Israeli citizens.
But when in Operation Cast Lead Israel finally bombed Gaza to put a stop to the attacks, it was denounced for a ‘disproportionate’ response and for wantonly and recklessly killing ‘civilians’ — even though, according to Israel, the vast majority were targeted terrorists. Nevertheless, the media gave the impression that the Israelis were a bunch of bloodthirsty child-killers.
Israel is further accused of causing a humanitarian catastrophe in maintaining a blockade of Gaza. But there is scant mention of the many supplies Israel does allow through, nor the steady stream of Gazans being routinely treated in Israeli hospitals, nor the fact that it is Egypt which maintains a much tougher blockade on its own Gazan border.
This is because Israel’s crime is to defend itself militarily. To much of the media, Israel’s self-defence is regarded as intrinsically illegitimate. It is routinely described as ‘vengeance’ or ‘punishment’. Thus Sir Max Hastings wrote in the Guardian in 2004: ‘Israel does itself relentless harm by venting its spleen for suicide bombings upon the Palestinian people.’
Israel’s attempt to prevent any more of its citizens from being blown to bits on buses or in pizza parlours was apparently nothing other than a fit of spiteful anger. The Israelis were presented by Hastings not as victims of terror but as Nazi-style butchers, while the aggression of the Palestinians was ignored altogether.
In short, Israel is presented as some kind of cosmic demonic force, standing outside of humanity.
To what should we ascribe such unique malice towards an embattled and besieged people?
The first thing to say is that this phenomenon is characteristic not just of the media but the wider intelligentsia and political class.
In Britain, the established church, the universities, the Foreign Office, the theatrical and publishing worlds, the voluntary sector, members of Parliament across the political spectrum, as well as the media — have signed up to the demonisation and delegitimisation of Israel.
It’s the home of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
It’s where human rights lawyers threaten to arrest Israelis for war crimes as soon as they step off the plane at Heathrow.
It’s where an English judge virtually directed a jury to acquit anti-Israel activists, who cheerfully admitted committing criminal damage against an arms factory because it sold equipment to the Israelis, on the grounds that the Israelis were making life in Gaza ‘hell on earth’, and were behaving like Nazis and that if they had done this during World War Two they ‘might have got a George Medal’.
It’s where Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron told the Turkish Prime Minister that Gaza was a prison camp, that the Israeli ‘attack’ on the Turkish terror flotilla ship was ‘completely unacceptable’, and where the British Foreign Secretary ‘deplored the loss of life’ in that Israeli attack.
Britain has effectively become a kind of global laundry for the lies about Israel and bigotry towards the Jews churning out of the Arab and Muslim world, sanitising them for further consumption throughout English-speaking, American and European society and turning what was hitherto confined to the extreme fringes of both left and right into the mainstream. Where Britain has led, the rest of the west has followed.
What is striking is the extent to which a patently false and in many cases demonstrably absurd account has been absorbed uncritically and assumed to be true.
History is turned on its head; facts and falsehoods, victims and victimisers have their roles inverted; logic is suspended, and an entirely false narrative of the conflict is now widely accepted as unchallengeable fact, from which fundamental error has been spun a global web of potentially catastrophic false conclusions.