Monday, January 08, 2018

The Mainstream Media Questions President Trump's Mental Stability

Monday, December 18, 2017

To Save Iran Deal, Obama Administration Blocked U.S. Efforts to Target Hezbollah Billion Dollar Criminal Enterprise

According to this report published at (hardly a Republican media stronghold), the Obama Administration actively obstructed the efforts of a U.S. task force to bring down a billion dollar criminal drug, arms and money laundering operation by Hezbollah. The reason: to protect the nuclear deal with Iran.  The Obama Administration did so even though Hezbollah was funneling cocaine into the United States.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Princeton Hillel Cancels Appearance by Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister

The Jerusalem Post reports that the Princeton Hillel chapter has cancelled an appearance on campus by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (pictured below). This is truly a sad and disturbing story, which raises serious concerns about the commitment of Jewish college students to Israel. Fortunately, Ms. Hotovely will still speak at Princeton, but under the sponsorship and auspices of Chabad rather than Hillel. Shame on Rabbi Julie Roth, Executive Director of the Center for Jewish Life on Princeton’s campus, for caving in to the demands of these so-called "progressives."

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

John Kelly on Compromise and the Civil War

John Kelly, the White House Chief of Staff, has been under troll ridicule attack for several days now for saying that the Civil War resulted from a failure to reach a compromise. One certainly may question General Kelly's wisdom in making the statement, and insist that no compromise on slavery in 1861 would have been morally acceptable. However, General Kelly is vastly more knowledgeable of history than his sarcastic critics (surprise!). As a witness for his defense, I call President Abraham Lincoln, who wrote the following letter to New York Tribune editor Horace ("Go West, Young Man") Greeley while the Civil War raged:

Executive Mansion,
Washington, August 22, 1862
Hon. Horace Greeley:
Dear Sir.
I have just read yours of the 19th. addressed to myself through the New-York Tribune. If there be in it any statements, or assumptions of fact, which I may know to be erroneous, I do not, now and here, controvert them. If there be in it any inferences which I may believe to be falsely drawn, I do not now and here, argue against them. If there be perceptable in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend, whose heart I have always supposed to be right.
As to the policy I "seem to be pursuing" as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt.
I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.
I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free.
A. Lincoln.
What President Lincoln was saying, and perhaps General Kelly as well, is that sometimes official duty may trump moral principle, even at great cost to others. As history turned out, the Civil War continued, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation (which of itself did not free a single slave), the Union prevailed in the war, and slavery was abolished in the U.S. by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. That does not change the historical accuracy of General Kelly's statement, nor does it vindicate the historical ignorance of his know-nothing critics.
Of course the trolls will simply respond that Abraham Lincoln was a European White Male Racist and demand that the statue pictured above be removed.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Aviv HaTora Celebrates the Bnei Mitzvot of Ethiopian Olim

Thanks to Yonatan Boofty, at Israel National News Arutz Sheva, I learned about Aviv HaTora, a institution dedicated to fostering religious community life in Tel Aviv. Among its many programs, which include a gan yeladim (kindergarten), a yeshiva and a seminary for women, Aviv HaTora has a project to prepare the children of the Ethiopian Aliyah living in Tel Aviv-Yafo for their Bnei and Bnot Mitzvah (plural of Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah, when a Jewish boy reaches age 13 and a Jewish girl reaches age 12, and they assume responsibility for observance of the commandments). The following video shows their recent celebration of Bnei and Bnot Mitzvah. Honored guests included the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv Yafo, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau (who is also former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel and the father of the current Chief Rabbi of Israel, David Lau), the Chief Rabbi of the Ethiopian community in Tel Aviv-Yafo, and the Mayor of Tel Aviv-Yafo. The celebrants and their families were then bussed to HaKotel HaMaaravi (the Western Wall in Jerusalem), where the boys received their tallitot and tefillin, put them on and were called to the Torah. A festive mesibah [party] and seudat mitzvah [feast celebrating a Jewish life cycle event] followed. Here is a video of the celebration. I especially enjoyed the dancing of the Ethiopian men.   For more about AvivHaTorah, go to its website,  to http:

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Grasshopper and the Ant, as retold by the "Progressive" Left

Once upon a time, during a bright and cheery spring, a grasshopper came across an ant, working hard at harvesting seeds.  "Why are you working so hard?" asked the grasshopper. "Look, it is sunny and nice outside.  Come play with me all day."

"Sorry," responded the ant politely.  "I would like to play, but I must gather seeds for the winter, so I and my family have something to eat when the cold comes."

Eight months later, it was cold and snowy.  The grasshopper came to the ant's nest.  "Give me your seeds," said the grasshopper.  "I am hungry."   "I will give you some of my seeds," said the ant, "and maybe others will give you some as well.  But I must keep the rest to feed me and my family during the winter."

"No," said the progressive government tax official standing behind the grasshopper. "You must give him 50% of your seeds."

With only 50% of the ant's seeds left, he and his family barely made it through the winter.  The next spring, when the grasshopper asked him out to play, the ant said, "Sure, why not? If I spend my time gathering seeds the government will take half of it away anyhow."

So neither the ant, nor the grasshopper, worked that spring, summer and fall, and in the winter, they both starved.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Jaime Escalante vs. Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley: The Racism of Low Expectations

  Do you remember the late Jaime Escalante? 

He gained fame teaching AP Calculus to mostly Latino students at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles from 1982 through 1991.  His success--more to the point, the success of his students in achieving passing scores on the national AP Calculus exam--was dramatized in the 1987 film, "Stand and Deliver."  In one of his best roles, for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, Edward James Olmos played Mr. Escalante.

Despite his success, or perhaps because of it, Mr. Escalante encountered substantial opposition from teachers' unions, his fellow faculty members and the usual suspects who opposed his program of unyieldingly high expectations for his students.  Mr. Escalante lost his chairmanship of the Math Department at Garfield High, and in 1991, resigned his teaching position there, citing faculty politics and petty jealousy as the reasons for his decision.   According to Wikipedia, at the height of Escalante's influence, Garfield graduates were entering the University of Southern California in such great numbers that they outnumbered all the other high schools in the working-class East Los Angeles region combined. Even students who failed the AP often went on to become star students at California State University, Los Angeles.  However, after his departure, and that of several teachers who had helped him develop the Garfield AP Calculus program, the level of math achievement at Garfield rapidly declined.

Now please meet Elroy Ortiz Oakley, Chancellor of the California Community College System, who heads the nation’s largest community college system of 114 campuses.  In an interview published today in the Los Angeles Times, Chancellor Oakley advocates that intermediate algebra be dropped as a requirement to earn an associate degree. He said, "“College-level algebra is probably the greatest barrier for students — particularly first-generation students, students of color — obtaining a credential.”

At Central High School in Phoenix, where I graduated in 1969, Intermediate Algebra was a prerequisite to even take AP Calculus.  The head of California's community colleges thinks that what was once a high school standard is too tough for students of color.  That is the racism of low expectations.

Jaime Escalante's students were often first-generation immigrants from Mexico or Latin America, or the children of those immigrants. Nearly all of his students were people of color, usually Latinos.  He demanded that they stand and deliver their best. They did.  Jaime Escalante died in 2010.  Mr. Escalante, we mourn your death and need educators like you more than ever.

Thursday, May 11, 2017


From Reuters via Yahoo Finance.

First China purchased the Israeli agricultural cooperative Tnuva. Now Chinese investors are scrambling to invest in Israeli tech companies. Hopefully this will promote regional peace, as the Chinese will not be happy with those anti-Israel forces who would threaten their multi-billion dollar investments. Indeed, I feel the same way about Chinese investment in the United States. In world history, when a rising imperial power challenges an existing empire, the result has often been terrible armed conflicts. Think of the Peloponnesian Wars, the Punic Wars, the centuries of conflict between France and England, World War I and so on. I would be delighted if the People's Republic of China has so much invested in our country that it would never think of allowing a dispute to spiral into armed conflict, and the converse sentiment should also apply. Peace through capitalism.

HONG KONG/TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Struggling to seal deals in the United States as regulatory scrutiny tightens, Chinese companies looking to invest in promising…

Friday, March 17, 2017

"Judaism Doesn't Need this 'Genius' "

In a February 23, 2017 post here at The Hedgehog Blog, I challenged remarks by French intellectual and philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy to the effect that "American Jews need to be wary of their new President."  Of course, every American needs to be wary of every President.  Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.  What I objected to was the charge pushed by Monsieur Levy and CNN that Donald Trump has anti-Semitic sentiments.

Subsequently, in the March 2017 issue of Commentary, one of my favorite Rabbis and commentators on Jewish affairs, Rabbi Meir Y. Soloveichik, rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York City and the director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University, launched a devastating challenge to the recently published book by Bernard-Henri Levy, The Genius of Judaism.  Rabbi Soloveichik's essay is entitled, "Judaism doesn't need this 'Genius'."  His most serious problem with the book is Monsieur Levy's rejection of the concept of the Jewish people as a nation chosen by God for a specific mission in history, to be a "kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (Exodus [Shemot] 19:6)  Levy admitted in his book that he had never studied or practiced Judaism before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).  Rabbi Soloveichik recommends that he do both before presenting himself as a pundit for the Jewish people. 

Predictably in the current intellectual climate of Jewish America, the more progressive and secular wings of Judaism were thrilled with Levy's book.  The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles made Levy and his book the cover story in its January 11, 2017 issue.  An inside photo accompanying the article shows Levy sitting in an art museum, posed in front of three paintings depicting the Shroud of Turin.  I wonder if anyone at the Jewish Journal knew enough about Judaism or Christianity to recognize the irony.

Mayim Bialik takes on Palestinian activist Linda Sarsour

 As reported at Fox News Entertainment, yasher ko'ach, Mayim Bialik.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

In CNN Column, Bernard-Henri Levy Claims, "Clearly, the Trump Administration has a Problem with Jews"  In a column published by CNN, under the title, "Clearly, the Trump administration has a problem with the Jews," as part of CNN's ongoing campaign to convince the public that Donald Trump is an anti-Semite, French intellectual and philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy proclaims that American Jews need to be wary of their new President. Those who follow my writings know that I have never been a fan of the Donald.  I did not vote for him, I am not happy with his retreat from conservative principles such as free trade and free markets, I abhor many aspects of his vulgar personality.  However, he is not an anti-Semite.

Monsieur Levy speaks from a perspective of too much philosophy and too little personal knowledge of Donald Trump. The President has spent an entire life socializing with Jews, doing business with Jews, employing Jews and supporting Jewish causes, including, especially, Israel. His father, Fred Trump, donated (as in fee, gratis, a gift) the land in Brooklyn for construction of an Orthodox Jewish synagogue, and Fred Trump, a Methodist, went on to be the largest annual donor to that synagogue for decades, because of his friendship with the Rabbi. Every one of Donald Trump's children is either married to a Jew or dating one, except for Barron, who is only 11 years old. His grandchildren are halachically Jews, which is more than a lot of American Jews can say. In 2004, during the Gaza War, when many American Jews joined Palestinians and Leftist activists in protesting against Israel, Donald Trump was Grand Marshall of the Salute to Israel parade.

So what does a person have to do, after a lifetime that proves by his actions that he is not an anti-Semite, to prevent people who do not know him at all, such as Monsieur Levy, and media outlets such as CNN (which has more sinister motives), from accusing him of anti-Semitism. CNN, which employs jounalists who are supposed to research facts such as the ones I have mentioned above, indeed has by this campaign disgraced itself as a news orgnaization, and is intentionally promoting Fake News, just as the President said. We are witnessing a very ugly attempt on the part of the Left to drive Donald Trump from office, by any means necessary.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Trump Derangement Syndrome Strikes L.A. Times Sports Columnist

  The latest victim to contract Trump Derangement Syndrome is Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke.  Here is how Plaschke opened his column in today's Los Angeles Times:

The week before the Super Bowl is historically filled with all sorts of sordid distractions, from cocaine to prostitutes to the infamously bared butt of a quarterback.

But there has never been anything like the divisive presence that will soon threaten to fracture the attention of the New England Patriots.

And what, according to Plaschke, is the sordid distraction that threatens the Patriots, which is more serious than cocaine, prostitutes or publicly naked quarterbacks? Why, what else but the public support of Patriots Owner Robert Kraft, Head Coach Bill Belichik and Quarterback Tom Brady for President Donald Trump? Plaschke writes that for this sin Kraft, Belichik and Brady must answer to their players, their fans, and the NFL world in general.

Yes, Mr. Plaschke, I know that you were "with Her," like everyone else who writes for your newspaper. But consider this (and I write this as someone who also did not vote for the President): if you believe, as you say you do, that Kraft, Belichik and Brady are extremely intelligent and discerning people, could it be that they see something in Donald Trump that you (and I) entirely missed?

Moreover, keep in mind, sir, that the name of the team is "the Patriots" and that the original Tea Party took place in Boston.  In the meantime, Mr. Plaschke, you have achieved something that I never thought possible--you have turned me into a Patriots rooter for this Super Bowl.  Go Pats!  Inflate the score, not the footballs!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

UK PM May Says Kerry Focuses Too Much on Israeli Settlements

Chutzpah, schizophrenia, dissociative state, creative inconsistency or regret? British Prime Minister Teresa May strongly criticizes Kerry's speech, defending the US abstention on UN Security Council resolution on settlements, one week after the UK voted in favor of that resolution. May said Kerry was wrong to focus so much on Israeli settlements. Say what?
The comments came less than a week after the UK voted in favor of UN Security Council Resolution 2334 condemning Israel for settlement activity.

If East Jerusalem is Occupied Territory ...

Now that Secretary of State John Kerry has described East Jerusalem as "occupied territory," I guess we can expect the Mainstream Media to adopt the following descriptive phrases: "the traditionally Arab Jewish Quarter," "the traditionally Arab Hadassah Hospital and Hebrew University on Mount Scopus," and "the traditionally Arab Mount of Olives Jewish Cemetery." The occupation of that last site has been particularly hard on the Palestinians, because from 1948 through 1967, when it was in sole Arab possession, its tombstones were an important source of building materials for roads and latrines--another blatant example of the Zionists depriving Palestinian use of their natural resources and a fitting subject for a UNESCO resolution that the Obama Administration can support.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Obama Administration Abstains on Anti-Israel Vote in UN Security Council

Today, for the first time since 1967, the United States abstained on a UN Security Council resolution, condemning Jewish settlements in the “occupied territories.”  Because the U.S. abstained, rather than vetoing the resolution, the resolution passed. This abstention is a departure from the policy of 8 previous U.S. Presidents, Democrat and Republican, from Lyndon Johnson through George W. Bush. 

The "occupied territories" as defined in the resolution include all of Jerusalem, including the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.  They include the lands covered by the Gush Etzion settlements, which were settled by Jews prior to 1948, but were overrun by the Jordanian Army in 1948.  For that matter, they also include all of Yehuda and Shomron (the so-called West Bank"), even areas that no political leader in Israel, not Likud, not Labor, no one but the extreme far Left, would consider ceding to a new Palestinian State as part of a peace treaty.  From today on, a Jew who adds on a bedroom to his apartment in Efrat or French Hill has violated a UN Security Council Resolution. Today, for the first time, all of the settlements in Yehuda and Shomron exist in violation of a Security Council resolution.  Unlike General Assembly Resolutions, which are essentially meaningless, a Security Council Resolution has real consequences under international law, including providing a legal basis for enforcement action by UN member states, including boycotts, trade embargos, military and economic sanctions, or perhaps even worse.

At this early date, before President-Elect Donald Trump takes office, I have no idea what the new Administration's policy toward Israel will be, although all signs to date are positive.  Mr. Trump publicly decried the resolution and the U.S. plan to abstain prior to its passage, and even persuaded Egypt to temporarily withdraw it (only to have it reinstated by other UN member nations).  I cannot say, and we may never know, what the policies of a Clinton Administration would have been. 

However, one may judge with certainty the actions of President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and the left-wing American Jewish organizations, such as J-Street, who supported this change in American foreign policy.  The pettiness and vindictiveness of such an action by President Obama as he leaves office cannot be overemphasized. The consequences of today’s abstention remain to be revealed in God's good time, and as He wills.  Yet whatever transpires, the stain on the Obama Administration, on all Democratic Party politicians and leaders who do not condemn this abstention forcefully and publicly, and on J-Street and their fellow travelers, is indelible.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Prime Minister Netanyahu on the Palestinian Leadership's Call for Ethnic Cleansing of Jews


On his Facebook page, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes the following statement about the stated desire of the Palestinian leadership to create a "Yuden-Frei" [Jew free, in the parlance of the Third Reich] Palestinian State.  He questions the legitimacy of those who describe settlements in Judea and Samaria, the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people, as "obstacles to peace,"  when in Israel millions of Palestinian Arabs live peacefully with a Jewish majority.  Which is the apartheid state?  Here is the transcript of Bibi's video, but one is well advised to watch the short presentation in its entirety:

I'm sure many of you have heard the claim that Jewish communities in Judea Samaria, the West Bank, are an obstacle to peace.

I've always been perplexed by this notion.
Because no one would seriously claim that the nearly two million Arabs living inside Israel – that they're an obstacle to peace. That's because they aren't. On the contrary.
Israel's diversity shows its openness and readiness for peace. Yet the Palestinian leadership actually demands a Palestinian state with one pre-condition: No Jews.
There's a phrase for that: It's called ethnic cleansing.
And this demand is outrageous.
It's even more outrageous that the world doesn't find this outrageous. Some otherwise enlightened countries even promote this outrage.
Ask yourself this: Would you accept ethnic cleansing in your state? A territory without Jews, without Hispanics, without blacks?
Since when is bigotry a foundation for peace?
At this moment, Jewish schoolchildren in Judea Samaria are playing in sandboxes with their friends.
Does their presence make peace impossible?
I don’t think so.
I think what makes peace impossible is intolerance of others. Societies that respect all people are the ones that pursue peace. Societies that demand ethnic cleansing don't pursue peace.
I envision a Middle East where young Arabs and young Jews learn together, work together, live together side by side in peace.
Our region needs more tolerance, not less.
So the next time you hear someone say Jews can't live somewhere, let alone in their ancestral homeland, take a moment to think of the implications.
Ethnic cleansing for peace is absurd.
It's about time somebody said it.
I just did.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

We Mourn the Death of Rabbi Eliyahu Yosef She'ar Yashuv Z"L

Boruch Dayan HaEmet.  Blessed be the True Judge.  We mourn the death of Rabbi Eliyahu Yosef She'ar Yashuv, at the age of 89. Here is a link to the Jerusalem Post obituary.  He was the Chief Rabbi of Haifa from 1975 until 2011. However, to me, the most interesting era of his life was 1948-49, when he fought with the Irgun.  Wounded in the battle for the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, which was besieged by the Jordanian Arab Legion and Palestinian militias, he and his fellow defenders surrendered when the Old City fell, and he became a prisoner of war in Jordan at the age of 20.  He was put in charge of the religious needs of his fellow 600 prisoners. As related by Rabbi She'ar Yashuv to Jerusalem Post columnist Liat Collins, one of his fellow prisoners, Yosef Blustein, was impressed with how he handled the diverse population of prisoners, who ranged from the secular to the ultra-Orthodox.  When Blustein later became Deputy Mayor of Haifa, he recommended Rabbi She'ar Yashuv for the post of Chief Rabbi of Haifa.   “If I hadn’t been a prisoner of war, I wouldn’t have become a chief rabbi,” he said of his experience.

The name "She'ar Yeshuv" means "a remnant will return." In the Book of Isaiah, it is the name of the son of the prophet, and symbolizes the hope for the return of the Jewish people to their land after their long exile.  Rabbi She'ar Yeshuv's life symbolized the miracle of the return from exile that we have merited to witness in our lifetime.  May his memory be for a blessing. May he be a righteous advocate for the People of Israel before the Holy One, Blessed be He. 

Israeli Archaeologists Restore Floor Tiles from the Second Beit HaMikdash (Temple)

A fascinating story appears in today's Jerusalem Post: Israeli archaeologists have recovered fragments of floor tiles from the Beit HaMikdash Sheni, the Second Temple, rescued from the truckloads of excavation rubble dumped during illegal construction projects by the Islamic Waqf, which exercises control over the Temple Mount.  In the course of expanding Al Aqsa Mosque, the Waqf has ignored Israeli law and has destroyed findings of great archaeological and historical importance from all eras of Jerusalem's history, but particularly the Second Temple era.  Indeed the Waqf, like the Palestinian Authority, deny that the Second Temple ever existed.  But truth rises out of the earth. Now, using patterns found in the floor tiles of palaces and other structures built by King Herod the Great, who expanded and renovated the Temple, and also contemporary Roman buildings, the archaeologists believe that they have restored tiles as they originally appeared in the Temple.  For Jews, these are the floors on which our great sages, such as Rabbi  Yochanan ben Zakai and Rabbi Hillel walked.  For my Christian friends, yes, Jesus would have walked on these tiles when he visited the Temple.

Restoration of floor tiles is a start.  May we merit witnessing the restoration of the entire Beit HaMikdash, soon and in our time.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Hallel Yaffa Ariel, may her memory be a blessing, murdered in her sleep. Palestinian Authority calls her killer a hero.


Hallel Yaffa Ariel, may her memory be for a blessing, was a happy, beautiful, talented 13-year old girl. This picture shows her with mother, siblings and, I believe, her grandfather.

A Palestinian teenager entered her bedroom window in Kiryat Arba early this morning and murdered her in her sleep. He escaped from the apartment, but a security patrol encountered him on a nearby road. When they tried to apprehend them, he reportedly attacked and stabbed a guard before he was shot and killed. The Palestinian Authority (PA) is extolling him as a hero. As recounted in The Tower

Fatah’s official Facebook page promptly posted a picture of Tarayrah and declared him a martyr, which the nonprofit group Palestinian Media Watch described as “the highest honor achievable in Islam according to the Palestinian Authority.” WAFA, the PA’s official news agency, also called Tarayrah a martyr. This designation means that under Palestinian law, Tarayrah’s family is now eligible for monthly stipends from the PA, Palestinian Media Watch explained.

Tarayrah’s mother praised her son while speaking to a news outlet in Hebron after the attack, saying: “My son is a hero. He made me proud. My son died as a Martyr defending Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, he [my son] has joined the Martyrs before him, and he is not better than them. Allah willing, all of them will follow this path, all the youth of Palestine. Allah be praised

Will someone explain to me why Facebook permits Fatah to have a Facebook page, on which the cold-blooded murderer of a 13-year old girl is praised?

As noted on the Stand With Us Facebook page, just days ago an aide to Palestinian Authority President and Fatah head Mahmoud Abbas, may his name be erased, gave a speech (in Arabic of course) in which he urged Palestinians, "Wherever you meet an Israeli, cut his throat." This same Abbas received a standing ovation from the European Authority Parliament, for a speech in which he accused Israeli rabbis of calling for the poisoning of Palestinian wells. The charge was so wild and unsubstantiated that even the PA had to retract it, after bad publicity in the New York Times. But Abbas can publicly call for the murder of innocent Israelis, and he is listened to and obeyed.

Hallel was the cousin of my dear friend Mel Aranoff. Please visit Mel's Facebook page for more information about Hallel and, to separate the holy from the profane and the pure from the impure, her murderer.

When Israel left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea, all of the surrounding nations were afraid, because God so obviously had intervened in nature to protect Israel from the Egyptian army, who were drowned in the Red Sea. One nation, Amalek, dared to attack the stragglers in the camp of Israel as it traveled toward Mount Sinai. According to tradition, they captured a maid servant. The people of Israel counter-attacked Amalek and inflicted may casualties. God announces that it is an eternal commandment to the Jewish people to wipe out Amalek and erase its memory. Why? Our Sages compared the event to a cauldron of boiling water, of which the surrounding people are frightened. One person jumps in. He is burned, but he cools off the water a bid so that others follow. After the 10 plagues, the splitting of the Red Sea and the drowning of Pharaoh's army, all of the nations of the worlds were in awe of God and Israel, except for Amalek. Amalek so hatted God and the Jewish people that it was willing to risk destruction in order to attack Israel. Amalek was burned, but its attempt encouraged other enemies of God and the Jewish people to follow its path. The PA, Fatah, Hamas, ISIS, Hezbollah, the Iranian mullahs: they are the Amalek of our time.

Since the murderer of Hallel has already been killed, it may seem superfluous to say, “May HaShem avenge her blood,” but the actual killer was just the messenger of Hamas, Fatah, the Palestinian Authority, and and all those who give them political, moral and financial support. So I do say, “May HaShem avenge her blood and those of all of his holy people who have fallen victim to these enemies of God and humanity.” The fact that they do so in the name of God and human rights only makes their actions a greater chillul HaShem, a profanation of God's name, which, please God, also should soon be erased along with the name of Amalek.

The word "Hallel" is Hebrew for "Praise." May the name and memory of Hallel Yaffa Ariel be a blessing to her family and Am Yisrael. May her family be comforted among the mourners for Zion and Jerusalem. In her merit, may we all witness the final destruction of Amalek, when Hashem redeems Israel and rebuilds the Holy Temple, through his servant Mashiach, speedily and in our day.

Friday, April 15, 2016

My Beloved Called Out--a Seder Dvar Torah for Pesach 5776


“My beloved called out and said to me, ‘Arise my love, my fair one, and come away. For see, the winter has passed, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in the land, the time for song has come, and the voice of the turtle dove is heard in our land.’”
--Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs), 2:10-12

“All of the Writings are holy, but the Song of Songs is the holy of holies.”
--Rabbi Akiva

We associate Pesach (Passover) with the Song of Songs. Indeed, we have a tradition that Rabbi Akiva, who called the Song of Songs the holy of holies, was the Baal Ha-Hagaddah, the author of the Hagaddah, the text that guides the Pesach seder. Many have the custom of reading Shir HaShirim on the night of Pesach, after the seder. Ashkenazic communities read Shir HaShirim publicly on Shabbat Choel Moed Pesach (the Sabbath that falls during the intermediate days of the Passover festival). What is behind this strong association?

A parable, based on a drash I once heard from Rabbi Aaron Abend of Chabad of North Hollywood:

Once there was a young couple, whom we will call Shlomo and Yisraela. Just before they became engaged, Shlomo told Yisraela, “If you want to marry me, you will need to follow me out to the desert, where I live. It’s a real wilderness out there. Let’s have you visit the place, and take seven weeks to learn what life is like there and what I will expect from you when we are married.”

Yisraela was so in love she would have followed Shlomo anywhere. So she agreed, and on the eve of their engagement, she tried to make a special dinner for Shlomo, a roasted lamb, just the way he liked it, and her first attempt at baking bread. Well, she burned the roast, and the bread did not rise, and to tell the truth, it was a little burnt also.  But they were in love, so they laughed it off. Yisraela even saved a bone from the roast and a piece of the burnt flat bread as mementos.

Yisraela followed Shlomo out to the desert, the seven weeks passed, and they were married. Shlomo and Yisraela even built a beautiful home where they would dwell together.

However, as the years passed, Yisraela’s devotion to Shlomo waned. She flirted with some other guys. Shlomo moved out, and one night, after he saw her with another guy, he burned the house down.

So Yisraela and Shlomo lived apart, but Shlomo did not seek a divorce, and, indeed, was always there when Yisraela stumbled to help her get back on her feet. Every year, on the anniversary of their engagement dinner, Yisraela would again make dinner for Shlomo.  She would bring out the burnt bone and burnt flat bread from her memento box, and she would say to Shlomo, “You see Shlomo! Do you remember how crazy in love we were?  How when I was your young bride, and made our engagement dinner, I burned the roast and the bread, but we laughed about it?  How I followed you out to the desert? I still love you that way! Please take me back!”

And Shlomo would reply, “Yisraela, when I know that you really mean what you say, and I will someday soon, then I will take you back, I will rebuild the house, we will live together again, and we will love one another even more than before.”

That is why we read Shir HaShirim on Pesach. That is why we put the matzoh and the roasted shank bone on the seder plate, along with the bitter herbs and tears of our long estrangement from HaShem. That is also why Shlomo haMelech (King Solomon, who is not the Shlomo in our parable) wrote Shir HaShirim in romantic, actually erotic language. At the time of yetziat Mitzraim (the Exodus from Egypt) and matan Torah (the giving of the Torah), we were like new lovers. HaShem (literally, "the name," the appellation that religious Jews use for God in conversation other than prayer) has never stopped loving Am Yisrael (the Jewish people) like a loving, faithful husband loves the bride of his youth, even if she goes astray. The alienation is our own fault; it is we who drifted away. We need to use Pesach and the Sederim (the seder meals) to recapture the feeling of love for HaShem that we felt when we went out from Mitzraim (Egypt), the way new lovers feel for one another. We need to tell HaShem that we once again feel the love of HaShem the way we did then, and that we know that HaShem has always loved us that way. Then our Beloved will surely take us back, and we will merit to see the coming of Mashiach (the Messiah), the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash (the Temple in Jerusalem), and our final redemption, bimheirah vyamenu (soon and in our days).

“Go and proclaim in the ears of Yerushalayim [Jerusalem], saying, “So said HaShem, I remember for your sake the kindness of your youth, the love of your bridal days, how you followed Me in the wilderness, in an unsown land.”--Yirmeyahu [Jeremiah] 2:2

“And she shall run after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them, and she shall seek them, but she shall not find them. Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for then it was better for me than now.’
Therefore ,behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And I will give her vineyards from there, and the valley of troubling for a door of hope; and she will respond there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of Egypt.”
–Hoshea 2:9, 16-17.