Wednesday, September 30, 2009

UN Goldstone report garbage

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

my 6 High Holiday sermons as podcasts


Yom Kippur Yizkor MInha sermon Rabbi Jonathan Jinsburg
Posted in Uncategorized by rabbiginsburg on September 29th, 2009

Jonah is told by God to go tell Ninevah the truth about their sins and tries to flee. Yizkor started as a memorial to Jews killed in the crusades. Today’s spiritual heirs of Hitler are at it again-denying the Holocaust, threatening genocide against Jews and the West. they must be stopped
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Yom Kippur Morning 5770 Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg
Posted in Uncategorized by rabbiginsburg on September 29th, 2009

Continuation on living the best life-Yom Kippur does not atone for sins vs. another person

To live an ethical life is crucial to God and Isaiah’s message today
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Kol Nidre sermon 5770 Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg
Posted in Uncategorized by rabbiginsburg on September 29th, 2009

The essence of Yom Kippur on how we do what God wants us to do-be the best we can be. It is about the self-but not phony self esteem or based on self pity-but on self awareness, self respect, self reliance, self improvement, self love, self control
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Rosh Hashanah day 2 5770 We must care. Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg
Posted in Uncategorized by rabbiginsburg on September 29th, 2009

We must care that those who hate peace, Israel, Jews, freedom, democracy, the west, the US, are gaining power. They must be stopped
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ROSH HASHANAH Day 1 Sermon 5770 Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg
Posted in Uncategorized by rabbiginsburg on September 29th, 2009

Living a more Jewish life as part of a better life
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Erev Rosh Hashanah 5770 Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg
Posted in Uncategorized by rabbiginsburg on September 29th, 2009

We do not blow the shofar on Shabbat. What can we learn fro the absence of the shofar this year to improve our lives?
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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Brent Rosen's Tribune article 100% wrong

I am disgusted by a piece that a Rabbi had published in the Chicago Tribune on Erev Yom Kippur. In a nutshell: He has it totally backwards: This biased, dishonest report of the UN distances us from a just and peaceful solution. No country in the world does a more thorough job than Israel insuring it’s armed forced operate morally, often imperiling its soldiers lives. Rosen focuses again completely on the wrong issues of morality. He sides with the murderers and not the innocent. There is a life and death struggle here- Hamas of Gaza has said it’s stated goal is to destroy Israel, that Israel has no right to be a Jewish state and the Holocaust is a lie. Yom Kippur Minha Haftarah reading is Jonah where Jonah tries to avoid his responsibility to tell others who need to repent to do so. Rabbi Rosen has completely twisted the central issue and the true call for repentance by directing his call to the innocent nation of Israel who simply wants to live in peace with its neighbors, who unilaterally pulled out of Gaza, hoping the Gazans would be able to run their own country peace fully, and instead were greeted by thousands of missiles. Finally its citizens demanded that Israel do something to stop the missiles, so their army went in to protect their families and nation, finding the shooters in schools and hospitals and hiding behind children. Predictably the UN decided before it started that Israel committed war crimes, and this rabbi, who leads a fast for Gaza and writes extensively about our “misunderstnding Iran”, focuses his words of repentance on Israel and not the murderous Hamas in Gaza. He has Judaism and morality 100% backwards.

ROSEN WROTE: On Sunday night, the Jewish community will begin our annual Yom Kippur fast.
My response: TRUE

ROSEN WROTE: The physical deprivation is a crucial element of the day, but as with many faith traditions, the fasting itself isn't really the point. Going without food and water is, rather, a device, intended to sharpen our senses and lead to reflection.
My Response TRUE

ROSEN WROTE This reflection is notably, pointedly, not a personal pursuit. All through the Yom Kippur prayers, we're called to do "cheshbon nefesh," a moral accounting, as a community: "We have sinned," we pray. "Forgive us."

My response: TRUE

ROSEN WROTE : But though the rituals are ancient, they're never far removed from modern life. Between our prayers, American Jews are sure also to discuss the current events that touch our community most deeply: the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace, President Barack Obama's recent meetings with the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the United Nations' recent Goldstone Report, in which both Israel and the Hamas government are accused of war crimes. To my great sorrow, however, many in the Jewish community have already rejected the latter out of hand.

My response” AS THEY SHOULD. It is completely biased from the get go. The report should be investigated as to its bias.

ROSEN WROTE :Rather than jointly consider Israel's acts in Gaza, carry out real cheshbon nefesh, and accept our communal responsibility, it has proven easier for many of us to employ communal defense mechanisms, and insist that in this particular case, there's no need for reflection.

My response: THAT IS NOT WHAT HAS BEEN SAID. He Employs classic logical fallacy of red herring.

ROSEN WROTE : Since the report's publication, the UN and commission chair Judge Richard Goldstone have been vilified and disparaged, by both the Israeli government and American Jewish leaders.

My response: AS he should be, as I will demonstrate below.

ROSEN WROTE : There has been little consideration of the actual findings, or the fact that Israel refused to cooperate with the commission, or conduct its own investigation.

My response: Thye knew it would be 100% biased from the get go, as are all UN reports. Overwhelmingly the UN consistently attacks Israel, and never once, for example, chastised Hamas for sending thousands of missiles at Israel, sending suicide bombers etc.

ROSEN WROTE : As a rabbi, this grieves me deeply. For, painful as it is for us to admit, Israel's behavior in Gaza has consistently betrayed our shared Jewish ethical legacy.

My response: A lie.
Israel conducted itself more nobly there than any army in history and under provocation of thousands of missiles sent from schools and hospitals by the monsters in Gaza.

ROSEN WROTE :This was true before the war, when the Israeli blockade denied Palestinians basic necessities; it was true during the war, when Israel responded with disproportionate force to Hamas rockets; and it has been true since the war, as Israel has deepened the blockade, preventing Gazans from rebuilding their homes. As a result of Israeli actions, some 60 percent of Gazans don't have continual access to water and face near-daily power outages of up to 10 hours at a time, while hundreds of thousands are dependent on foreign aid agencies for food.

My response: Very simple-tell Gazans to force its democratically elected government to stop shelling its neighbors with thousands of missiles and no problem at all. Israel unilaterally pulled out of Gaza and all it got was missiles and a clearly stated desire by the tyrants who control it to destroy Israel.
Israel was unbelievably compassionate towards the Palestinians in Gaza because what they should really do is what America and Britain did to the Germans during WWII and that is bomb the entire country into submission for having launched a war against us that we didn't ask for and did nothing to deserve. England and America killed tens of thousands of German citizens and America - hundreds of thousands of Japanese - because they refused to put their arms down, surrender and make peace. Israel has never done anything like that at all. The sadness of the Cast Lead operation and that is Israeli soldiers died because they did not want to end these attacks by just bombing the Gazan cities into submission but rather went in with troops - lost precious Jewish lives - in order to limit tremendously the number of civilian casualties. That was an great act of kindness and compassion on the part of Israel and some Israeli parents buried their sons because of that act of kindness and compassion.
As for the Palestinians who lost their lives - I feel very bad for their families (assuming they weren't actually Hamas) and I say to them. You elected Hamas - you stand by and let them attack a neighboring sovereign nation - this is what you have brought upon yourself. And if you didnt vote for Hamas - we are truly sorry for what your fellow Palestinians have brought upon you.

There are consequences to launching war and I'm sorry that you think the Palestinians should somehow be protected from those consequences.

HE WROTE: A humanitarian crisis of this magnitude demands a response from within the Jewish faith community -- and knee-jerk rejection of any and all criticism of Israel won't change the facts. It will only distance us from a just and peaceful solution to this conflict.

My response:
It is not a humanitarian crisis-and no mention at allof the humanitarian crisis of growing up facing thousands of missiles?
He has it totally backwards: This biased, dishonest report of the UN distances us from a just and peaceful solution. Here is why:

ARTICLE! Response to the Goldstone Report on Gaza (Economist-UK)

•The UN report on the fighting in Gaza is deeply flawed. The risk is that both sides will now conclude the wrong thing: Arabs that Israel has just been found guilty; and Israel that it will never get a fair hearing in a hostile world.
•From the very start, this report had to overcome the taint of prejudice. It was mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, a notorious anti-Israeli outfit.
•Israel's attempts to drop warning leaflets, direct civilians out of danger zones and call daily humanitarian pauses may well have been inadequate, but the report counts them for nought. It is a grisly thought, but if Israel really had wanted to make Palestinian civilians suffer, the toll could have been vastly higher.
•Israel has argued that Hamas fighters endangered civilians by basing themselves around schools, mosques and hospitals. Yet the mission's fact-finders could detect little or no evidence for this - despite plenty of reports in the public domain to support it.
•And there is a danger of double standards. American and European forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo caused thousands of civilian deaths, without attracting a Goldstone.
•The peace process was never going to be easy. With its thimbleful of poison, the Goldstone report has made the job all the harder.

Article 2. Netanyahu on the report in an interview
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "I do not think so. I know that there are other opinions but I do not think so for one simple reason – this game was fixed. This was a field trial, the result of which was known in advance. Look at the mandate which this commission operated under, a mandate which – by the way – most Western countries opposed and had reservations about. From this mandate, they say in advance that Israel carried out war crimes and now they are filling in the blanks. ..Then there was the first missile, and the second and the thousandth. There were thousands of missiles and finally Israel responded, as is its right, against the terrorists who hide inside civilian populations and fire at civilian populations. Now the same international public that applauded when we left there points an accusing finger and accuses us and not Hamas, of being war criminals

Article 3 From The Guardian, Wednesday 16 September 2009, by Dan Kosky:
Richard Goldstone's long-awaited report has confirmed suspicions that his investigation is guided by an agenda to isolate Israel. The farcical investigative process has produced a report which vilifies Israel but helps little in better understanding the Gaza conflict. Much was rightly made of the investigation's one-sided mandate, which erased Hamas's culpability. Panel member Christine Chinkin, branded Israel's Gaza operation a "war crime" before the inquiry had even begun. As a result, the Israeli government rightly recognised the warning signs and stayed away from the Goldstone process.
On the basis of such flimsy testimony, Goldstone's recommendations are particularly sinister. Although "the findings do not pretend to reach the standard of proof applicable in criminal trials", they will undoubtedly fuel a judicial campaign against Israel. Both Israel and the euphemistic "Gaza authorities" have been given six months to prove their mettle in investigating potential war crimes or face the prospect of becoming international pariahs at the international criminal court (ICC).
Realistically, no one can expect to hold to account a non-state actor such as Hamas, supported by Iran. Fewer still can imagine that any Israeli investigation will be judged by the UN framework as satisfactory. The Israeli authorities have already investigated more than 100 allegations of wrongdoing, with 23 cases still pending. These efforts were deemed insufficient before they began and one wonders how many convictions would have to be secured in Israeli courts to ward off the wrath of Goldstone.

Rosen of course ignores the moral pervisty of the UN and the report to focus condemnation on the innocent.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

The Goldstone Report

•President Peres: Goldstone Report Makes a Mockery of History - Roni Sofer
Israeli President Shimon Peres responded to the UN Goldstone Report saying that it "makes a mockery of history" and that "it does not distinguish between the aggressor and the defender." "War is crime and the attacker is the criminal. The defender has no choice. The Hamas terror organization is the one who started the war and also carried out other awful crimes. Hamas has used terrorism for years against Israeli children....The report gives de facto legitimacy to terrorist initiatives and ignores the obligation and right of every country to defend itself." (Ynet News)
See also Justice in Gaza - Richard Goldstone (New York Times)
•UN Investigation of Israel Discredits Itself and Undercuts Human Rights - Alan M. Dershowitz
The report commissioned by the notorious UN Human Rights Council is so filled with lies, distortions and blood libels that it could have been drafted by Hamas extremists. In effect, it actually was. Members were accompanied on their investigations in Gaza by Hamas activists who showed them only what they wanted them to see. The group was eager to find or manufacture "evidence" to support what the Human Rights Council itself had directed them to find, namely that Israel committed "grave violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly due to the recent Israeli military attacks against the occupied Gaza Strip." This conclusion was reached before any investigation.
The lowest blow and the worst canard is the claim that the Israeli judicial system "has major structural flaws that make the system inconsistent with international standards." This is a direct attack on the Israeli Supreme Court by a lawyer who knows full well that there is no country in the world that has a judicial system that demands more accountability than the Israeli system does. There is no judicial system in the world that takes more seriously its responsibility to bring its military into compliance with international law.
The report is not intended to establish general principles of international law, applicable to all nations. It is directed at one nation and one nation only: the Jew among nations - Israel. (Hudson Institute New York)
•IDF Judge-Advocate General: Israel Right Not to Cooperate with Goldstone - Yaakov Katz
The distorted and one-sided UN report proves that Israel had been right not to cooperate with the Goldstone mission, IDF Judge-Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Avichai Mandelblit said Wednesday. "From an initial review of the report it is clear that it is biased, astonishingly extreme, lacks any basis in reality and is a sharp deviation from the mandate given to the mission." Mandelblit spoke of a new "legal front" that the IDF was facing and warned of attempts by numerous NGOs - and possibly European countries which support them - to deter Israel from launching future military operations by threatening its officers with legal action.
Prof. Asa Kasher, author of the IDF's code of ethics, noted that "this report was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that unfairly deals mostly with Israel. These are anti-Israel politics that contain a level of anti-Semitism in them." Kasher noted how the report opened with a detailed description of the Israeli blockade on Gaza. "It is as if this is how it all started," he said. "They did not bother to ask why there was a siege, which was done out of self-defense." (Jerusalem Post)
•UN Smears Israeli Self-Defense as "War Crimes" - Gerald M. Steinberg
The tendentious and extremely biased report succeeded in angering Israelis from across the political spectrum. The report condemned every Israeli response to the 8,000 rockets fired by Hamas, but its recommendations did not include any steps to end this aggression. And while Israel is accused of committing acts of terror, the report never acknowledges that Hamas committed acts of terror, even though it is legally banned as a terrorist organization by the U.S and EU. The Goldstone report will increase Israeli cynicism regarding the viability of international institutions and guarantees of Israeli security and fair treatment. (Wall Street Journal Europe)
•The Moral Inversion of the Goldstone Report - Melanie Phillips
The Goldstone report does worse than establish a moral equivalence between the instigators of genocidal violence and those who were attempting to defend themselves against it. It presents Israel, the victims of such aggression, as war criminals and the Palestinians, the actual instigators of terror, as its victims. This is not moral equivalence but moral inversion. Even worse, Goldstone presents the Palestinian aggressors as victims of Israel, requiring Israel to make reparation to those from whose houses and streets it was attacked. No reparations to Israel are required from any Palestinians, even though Goldstone accepts that Hamas committed war crimes and crimes against humanity by firing thousands of missiles at its civilians.
This disreputable piece of work will embolden and empower Hamas and Palestinian terrorism, provide the jihadis of the UN and their accomplices with the means further to persecute Israel and endorse its genocidal attackers, and incite the Arab and Muslim world still further to aggression and to war. (Spectator-UK)
•The Goldstone Report: 575 Pages of NGO "Cut and Paste"
The 575-page Goldstone report is primarily based on NGO statements, publications, and submissions, in numerous cases simply copying false and unsubstantiated allegations. (NGO Monitor)

UN Must Hold U.S. to Same Standard as Israel - Ari Shavit (Ha'aretz)

•Two weeks ago American airplanes fired on two oil tankers in northern Afghanistan at the request of a German military officer, killing some 70 people. The U.S. and Germany are responsible for the attack, together with NATO members Britain, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway. If the international community is committed to international law and universal ethics, it should investigate the assault.
•If the U.S., Germany and NATO refuse to cooperate with investigators, the UN should consider transferring the case to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. It may be necessary to put the U.S. president and the German chancellor on trial for committing a severe war crime that did not distinguish between civilians and combatants. Absurd? Yes.
•The U.S. has killed thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the last few months encouraged Pakistan to make an extremely brutal military move in its Swat Valley. The U.S. was not required to account for it because everyone understands that this is the price of the terrible war on terror.
•Only Israel is required to uphold a moral standard no superpower or Middle Eastern state is required to uphold.
See also Will U.S. Now Let Goldstone into Afghanistan? - Amir Oren (Ha'aretz)

Article 4. from Camera UN's Goldstone Report Contains Major Error that Calls into Question Work’s Credibility
The vast majority of the report’s 575 pages are taken up with indicting Israel as a serial violator of human rights and the laws of war.
The seriousness of these charges certainly requires meticulous fact finding and painstaking documentation, but this is precisely where the Goldstone report is woefully inadequate…
A prime example of the report’s shoddiness is its analysis of the Israeli attacks on January 15 in the area of the Al Quds Hospital in Gaza City. The report devotes more than eight full pages to this one event (pages 174 to 182), considering on the one hand Palestinian testimony that there were no Palestinian attacks from the area, and also quoting from a prior Israeli report that reached the opposite conclusion.
One should note first that, of course, Israel did have intelligence information that armed groups were present in the hospital. That’s why they fired back at them. ..Thus, rather than dealing with the evidence in the Israeli report, Goldstone and his colleagues simply ignored those parts that disproved their charges. The UN should immediately and forthrightly correct this error and should apologize to the government of Israel. The UN should also withdraw the Goldstone report pending a complete, independent and genuinely objective review of its procedures and its conclusions.”

In the end, the report's most critical recommendation is that Israel and Hamas thoroughly and credibly investigate themselves, and hold accountable any combatants or commanders who violated the law.

My response: It is laughable to suggest hamas will hold accountable anyone who violates the law. Is he serious or far worse? Everything Hamas does is against the law-they call for the obliteration of a sovereign state!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Remember these are people that deny Jews have any ties to Jerusalem. See my blog

Rosen writes: The actions of the Jewish State ultimately reflect upon the Jewish people throughout the world. We in the Diaspora Jewish community have long taken pride in the accomplishments of the Jewish State. As with any family, the success of some reflects a warm light on us all. But pride cannot blind us to the capacity for error on the part of the country we hold so dear. We cannot identify with the successes, but refuse to see the failures.”

They are a proxy of Iran, where this rabbi visited last year. see him here sitting with an Iranian Muslim leader.

Here is what he wrote on his blog
“While I prefer not to weigh in on the rhetorical hairsplitting debate on Ahmadinejad’s notorious 2005 “threat” to “wipe Israel off the map,” I’ll only suggest that our attitudes (not to mention our foreign policy) must be based on real intelligence and understanding, and not fear-based, knee-jerk assumptions.”

My response: :By the way Ahmadinejad’s did not just say in in 2005, he says it often, as well as denying the holocaust.

Here is a man who lives in the comfort of Evanston Illinois, who works actively to undermine Israel in world opinion. It is outrageous.

Rosen concludes: let this be the Yom Kippur on which we act on the Scriptural imperative to "seek peace and pursue it," by calling ourselves and Israel to account.

My response: NOT the UN who is a thousand times more biased against the greatest democracy in the world than the totalitarian tyrants he seems to sympathize with?
Not call the murderous Hamas of Gaza to account.:

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

new take on teshuva


Regardless of make or year, all units known as "human beings"
are being recalled by the Manufacturer. This is due to a
malfunction in the original prototype units code named
"Adam" and "Eve" resulting in the reproduction of the same
defect in all subsequent units. This defect is technically
termed, "Serious Internal Non-morality, " but more commonly
known as "SIN."

Some of the symptoms of the SIN defect:
[a] Loss of direction
[b] Lack of peace and joy
[c] Depression
[d] Foul vocal emissions
[e] Selfishness
[f] Ingratitude
[g] Fearfulness
[h] Rebellion
[I] Jealousy

The Manufacturer is providing factory authorized repair service
free of charge to correct the SIN defect.

The Repair Technician, Hashem, has most generously offered
to bear the entire burden of the staggering cost of these repairs.
To repeat, there is no fee required.

The number to call in for repair in all areas is: PRAYER.

Once connected, please upload the burden of SIN through the
REPENTANCE procedure. Next, download ATONEMENT from
the Repair Technician, Hashem, into the heart component of
the human unit.. No matter how big or small the SIN defect is,
Hashem will replace it with:

[a] Love
[b] Joy
[c] Peace
[d] Kindness
[e] Goodness
[f] Faithfulness
[g] Gentleness
[h] Patience
[I] Self-control

Please see the operating manual, TORAH, for further details
on the use of these fixes. As an added upgrade, the Manufacturer
has made available to all repaired units a facility enabling direct
monitoring and assistance from the resident Maintenance
Technician, Hashem. Repaired units need only make Him welcome
and He will take up residence on the premises.

WARNING: Continuing to operate a human being unit without
corrections voids the Manufacturer' s warranty, exposes the unit
to dangers and problems too numerous to list, and will ultimately
result in the human unit being incinerated.

Thank you for your immediate attention.

Please assist by notifying others of this important recall notice.
Author Unknown

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

the facts

Israel's reaction to the U.N. Human Rights Council Fact Finding Mission Report

The U.N. Human Rights Council has published its report on the Gaza Operation. The report effectively ignores Israel's right of self defense, makes unsubstantiated claims about its intent and challenges Israel's democratic values and rule of law.

A website has been launched ( which provides factual information addressing the legal and political context of the conflict in Gaza, the issue of Gaza war crimes, the issue of human rights and the investigations into the Israeli military conduct during combat.
Additional links:

President Peres' reply to the Goldstone Commission Report

Ambassador Michael Oren's response to Goldstone on PBS can be found on

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Vayalech 1

video vayalech 2

Video on Nitsavim

against Dorff on Universal health care

sday, September 8, 2009
against Dorff's view on universal health care
David Klinghoffer

In the always lively Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, Rabbi Elliot Dorff writes in a cover essay that "support for universal health care is an imperative in Jewish law." Is it now? On health care reform, Rabbi Dorff has his classical sources all lined up -- most having to do with obligations on the community to rescue its needy, the captive, and those otherwise endangered. The communal court system can compel a person to give charity in support of the poor. Proper medical services are a necessity in a Jewish community. And so on. Whether through socialized medicine or government health insurance, something must be done: the fact of there being 40 million uninsured Americans is "intolerable."

Do you notice how many times the words "community" or "communal" appear in the foregoing paragraph? Rabbi Dorff is chairman of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of Conservative (i.e., liberal) Judaism. He knows that Jewish laws of the kind he cites are specifically communal laws. They were never envisioned as applying en masse to a non-Jewish country of 300 million people. Liberal Jewish analysts often lose sight of this simple fact. So too in the abortion debate where, simply put, Jewish law for Jews is more liberal on abortion than Jewish law for Gentiles. We are more protective of the unborn non-Jewish life. In Torah, there are separate legal tracks -- the Mosaic and the Noachide, for Jewish and Gentile communities respectively. Yet liberal Jews invariably cite Jewish abortion law, not the Gentile one which makes abortion a death penalty offense. They forget that we live in a non-Jewish country.

Even apart from this, your local Jewish community and the United States of America are incommensurable in many ways. There are three key things about a religious community. It is small in size. It's homogeneous. And it's voluntary. The three together make the provision of welfare benefits to members of the community an affordable proposition. None of these are true in the far, far vaster and incomparably more diverse context of our country. I mean, is this not obvious? Practical considerations like this have led Connecticut's independent senator, Joseph Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, to call for putting off radical health care reform till we can afford it.

If you object that I myself have extrapolated from Jewish to American law many times here in this blog and in my book How Would God Vote?, my answer is that I always try to take care about making clear it's the philosophical principles behind the laws that can be extrapolated, not the laws themselves. That way lies the road to theocracy.

When it comes to caring for the needy, there are not one but two major Jewish philosophical principles at stake. One is the obligation to provide for the poor. You don't need any detailed presentation of rabbinic statutes to know that this would apply to the area of health care. It's right there in the book of Ezekiel. The prophet chastised Israel's rulers, her "shepherds" for "tending themselves" while ignoring the needs of the flock: "the frail you did not strengthen; the ill you did not cure; the broken you did not blind" (34:2,4).

Counterbalanced with his, however, is the Torah's overwhelming emphasis on personal responsibility. Apart from being beyond our country's current means, one problem with government-run universal health care, which is where ObamaCare would inevitably tend, is that it relieves not only the poor but everyone else of their responsibility to see to their own health needs. Rabbi Dorff mentions the "intolerable" plight of the uninsured. How many? The figures you hear from the Left are deceptive because, among other things, they include people who for whatever reason -- because they are young and healthy, or maybe older and foolish -- think they can get by without insurance.

Truly universal health care would mean mandating that everyone be insured. How else can we all share the burden of paying into the common insurance pool if the healthy or imprudent opt out? In the last election when Democratic candidates were vying with each other to spell out their visions for socialized medicine, John Edwards even wanted to mandate regular medical checkups! Compelling what seems to be common sense, precluding the individual's freedom to take his chances if he prefers, places "universal health care" on the list of those other liberal political notions that foreclose free choice and moral responsibility. I've argued before that the common denominator linking most of the standard liberal policy preferences is a discomfort with the responsibility of an adult to make free choices for himself. (Abortion, of course, is a choice a woman makes for herself but also for the other person in her womb, who if he could speak would likely opt for a pro-life stance.)

The most important word in the Jewish vocabulary is mitzvah, commandment. The idea of a commandment assumes choice -- taking responsibility for yourself. When good choices are compelled, they loose meaning. Supporting the poor is such a choice. When it's forced upon us, the moral significance of the mitzvah is lost.

I wrote earlier about the idea of ritual contamination -- tumah. As Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains it, tumah comes from experiences that convey the powerful but erroneous impression that we are not free and therefore not responsible. The classic instance is contact with a corpse. Bound by materiality, its spark of divine spirit having fled to rejoin the Creator, a dead body has the power to hypnotize us with the impression that we ourselves are unfree. Nothing could be more morally perilous than taking such an idea to heart.

Hirsch wrote, commenting on Leviticus (11:46-47): "All these [contamination laws] are truths which, in the face of human frailty and the powers of the forces of nature which the appearance of death preaches, are to be brought again and again to the minds of living people, so that they remain conscious of their unique position of freedom in the midst of the physical world, and remain forever armed in proud consciousness of their freedom, armed against the doctrine of materialism."

Any truly Jewish approach to caring for the sick and needy would keep in mind the imperative to avoid conveying tumah to the rest of us while we are at it. On the other hand, market solutions to problems like our health care "crisis" have the virtue of casting citizens not as helpless children but as responsible adults. That's the Torah's way.
Posted by at 11:18 AM 0 comments

Friday, September 4, 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2009

whatever happened to ethics?

Whatever Happened to Musar?
Whatever Happened to Musar?


Rabbi Reuven Hammer


A quick glance at newspaper headlines is enough to cause one to question =
the premise that Jews are a special people. Indeed it appears that we =
are like everyone else, only more so. Religious and non-religious, in =
Israel and abroad, we seem to have lost our moral compass. Rabbis are =
laundering money and trafficking in body parts. Ultra-Orthodox Jews =
indulge in violent protests injuring people and property. A gunman =
shoots and kills young people at a center for gays. A rabbinical student =
runs down a parking lot attendant in a dispute about a parking fee. =
Gangs kill each other and kill innocent people as well. Government =
officials - religious and non-religious - are accused, indicted and =
often convicted of misuse of office, of bribery, of sexual offences. =
Murder, child abuse, abuse of the elderly, all of these have become =
commonplace. The litany is endless. What does all this prove? I think it =
only indicates that we are indeed human, that we are a people like every =
other people. Jews indeed are like everyone else.=20


Maybe that is what the prophet Amos had in mind when he said, "To Me, O =
Israelites, you are just like the Ethiopians - declares the Lord. Behold =
the Lord God has His eye upon the sinful kingdom.." (9:7-8). There is =
nothing inherently special about us unless we adopt a code of ethical =


As a matter of fact ethical behavior is at the very heart of what =
Judaism teaches and of our identity as Jews. Everyone knows that the =
prophets, Amos, Jeremiah and so many others, constantly emphasized =
morality and made the point that ritual observance without morality was =
not only hypocritical but renders the ritual hateful to God. "Seek good =
and not evil, that you may live.Hate evil and love good, and establish =
justice in the gate." (Amos 5:14-15). But one does not have to go to the =
prophets to learn this lesson. The Psalms as well are bursting with =
ethical teaching. For example Psalm 24 which we recite on Sundays =
describes what one has to do to be worthy of entering the gates of the =
Temple, "One who is clean of hands and pure of heart.."=20


The Torah itself stresses ethics and morality from the very beginning. =
Note God's reasoning concerning the choosing of Abraham: "For I have =
singled him out, that he may instruct his children and his posterity to =
keep the way of the Lord by doing what is just and right."(Genesis =
18:19). The definition of 'the way of the Lord' is simple - 'doing what =
is just and right.' The laws of the Torah are filled with ethical =
demands: proper treatment of the stranger, kindness toward the widow and =
orphan, charity toward the poor, helping one's enemy and so much else, =
demands that the Sages taught were the very essence of the Torah. Thus =
Akiba said that the verse "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus =
19:18) was the basis of the entire Torah (Sifra Kedoshim 4) and Hillel =
taught that the Aramaic rendering of that verse, "Do not unto others =
what you would not want done unto you" was the basic teaching of the =
Torah, "the rest is commentary" (Shabbat 31b). My teacher, Louis =
Finkelstein, used to say that all of Judaism, all study, all observance =
of the mitzvot, was intended to produce a person that would live =
according to that one verse. Musar, living an ethical life, is the very =
essence of being a Jew.


In the 19th century, when he feared that Jewish ethical living was no =
longer being taken seriously, Rabbi Israel Salanter developed the Musar =
Movement , devoted to the promotion of the study and practice of ethics =
as a fundamental part of Jewish life. A part of this system was the use =
of a 'musar room' where people could quietly deliberate ethical =
problems. This was intended to make business people aware of the need to =
decide what was right and what was wrong in their dealings.=20


Perhaps we need something of that sort today to provide moral guidance =
to people in all walks of life, business people, doctors, lawyers, =
scientists, politicians, teachers, clerks, builders, plumbers and =
electricians. Whether one is a religious Jew or a cultural Jew, Judaism =
without ethical concern is an oxymoron. Judaism is not simply a matter =
of kashrut and holiday customs but is built around a strong core of =
ethical values which have an impact on everything that one does in life. =
The reduction of religion in Israel to a part of political gamesmanship =
has served to emphasize all the wrong aspects of Judaism and to cast =
religious leaders into the role of self-serving organization men. The =
ethical demands of the Torah are seldom heard from their lips or from =
the lips of any public figures.=20


A renewed emphasis on morals should begin at an early age and should be =
integrated into our educational systems, religious and general. The =
religious systems should see to it that Jewish ethical literature is =
studied and made as important as Talmud. As a matter of fact the Talmud =
itself is rife with ethical and moral material and dilemmas, as is the =
Midrash. By proper picking and choosing, study of Talmud could be =
devoted to matters of moral import rather than to those that are merely =
legalistic. General schools should also make Jewish ethics - musar - a =
part of their curriculum.=20

The development of such a curriculum for various ages is an urgent need =
if we want our society to turn away from it current trend toward =
unbridled materialism, self-centeredness, disdain of the other and =
violence, both verbal and physical. Of course it is too much to expect =
that the educational system will be able to do the work by itself. It =
begins with each of us.=20


As we enter this season of self-searching, we should realize that the =
"new Jew" that Zionism wanted to create must incorporate the values that =
were important to Jews through the ages: concern for justice, mercy, =
honesty, willingness to give to and for others, modesty, restraint and =
the ability to judge between right and wrong. It is time to give musar =
its due.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

why I love Israel

Why do I love Israel? Let me count the whys. Here, in no particular order, is an updated list, with new additions and highlights of recent years.
excerpted from Barbara Sofer's "The Human Spirit: Top 60 Plus One Reasons I love Israel," May 7, 2008

Why do I love Israel? Let me count the whys. Here, in no particular order, is an updated list, with new additions and highlights of recent years.

1. Jerusalem is so quiet on Shabbat that you can hear birds singing even on the main streets.

2. We change our calendars on Rosh Hashana, not January 1, because that's the real new year

3. Just hours after leading his Chelsea team to its first Champions League final, Petah Tikva-born coach Avram Grant joined the March of the Living in Auschwitz, and told all of Europe that his pride at Israel's emergence from the horrors of the Holocaust surpassed any football achievement.

4. We serve kosher food in the trendiest malls.

5. Streets bear the names of prophets and medieval poets. Our communications satellite is called "Amos."

6. Land of milk and honey: Big news when Israeli archeologists recently discovered evidence of the beekeeping industry - even beeswax - that goes back 3,000 years.

7. Land of milk and honey: We're so successful at making milk products that we have hundreds of choices of cheese and advise New Zealand about making sheep cheese.

8. The Nahariya-based Strauss company, started by dairy farmer immigrants from Germany in 1936, together with the Elite company started by a candy-maker immigrant from Riga in 1934, are the largest coffee manufacturers in Central and Eastern Europe, and second biggest in Brazil. Aviv Matza exports its unleavened bread to Egypt.

9. We have laboratories to check for the biblically prohibited mix of linen and wool, shatnes, and we're the first country to make men's suits from recycled plastic bottles, for sale soon at Sears.

10. At Jerusalem's Biblical Zoo, the loudspeaker announces "afternoon prayers (minha) are now being held near the elephants."

11. The Biblical Zoo is kosher for Pessah. The primates eat matza; the parrots get rice.

12. Every kindergartner knows that frogs are the second plague in the Haggada, but our "save the frogs" campaign was launched at the Biblical Zoo on Passover.

13. Mega investor Warren Buffet's first investment outside the US ($4 billion) was in Israel's Iscar company. He got so much positive publicity that he told Iscar's CEO: "I was nobody before I bought your company."

14. Sixty years after statehood, even young people refer to something old-fashioned as "from the days of the (British) Mandate."

15. Theodor Herzl's bearded image welcomes visitors to hi-tech Herzliya, and we celebrate Herzl Day.

16. My five-year-old grandson can tell you all about Theodor Herzl. Also about Spiderman.

17. Combat soldiers aren't embarrassed to phone their moms and grandmothers.

18. While Intel Haifa workers were working in an underground shelter because of the missile attacks in the Second Lebanon War, Intel announced the new multi-core processor developed there.

19. Entire families show up for military graduations, and bring enough food to feed an army.

20. Name droppers. The poet Chaim Nachman Bialik named the Egged bus company and also the Tishbi winery

21. Youngsters travel far to visit the Kibbutz Kinneret cemetery where poet Rahel and national song laureate Naomi Shemer are buried.

22. First graders read the Bible in the original Hebrew, and celebrate with a party.

23. We follow the level of the Kinneret more faithfully than we do our stock portfolios.

24. We have only one Pessah Seder but Purim, our dress-up holiday, lasts three days. In Jerusalem on Purim, it's hard to tell who's in costume and who isn't.

25. We have the highest concentration of hi-tech companies outside Silicon Valley, and also the most yeshivot anywhere.

26. After a calamity, police have trouble keeping away bystanders who want to help.

27. Thousands of free-loan societies flourish. You can borrow wedding dresses and pacifiers.

28. Despite the tensions and political dissension, Israel has the highest Jewish birthrate in the world.

29. Despite the tensions and political dissension, Israel is the fastest growing Western country in the world.

30. "Jerusalem of Gold" is still voted the favorite national song.

31. We have timeless cuisine: You can order Israeli breakfast, business lunch and dinner simultaneously at Israeli cafes.

32. Our pilots fought over the honor of taking part in a fly-by over Auschwitz 60 years after liberation.

33. Israeli fighter jets accompanied tourists safely home from Mombasa after they were threatened.

34. We have 120 members of the Knesset because that's how many were in the ancient Great Assembly.

35. We first developed candy-sweet cherry tomatoes as a TV-watching nosh.

36. On Remembrance Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day, the act of remembering halts traffic. Even kindergartners stand silently, and understand why.

37. While dining rooms are shrinking in Western homes, Israeli dining room tables are getting longer.

38. We invite strangers for a home-cooked Shabbat meal.

39. An Israeli artichoke farmer with a sore back developed the sophisticated Hollandia beds and exports them from Sderot to many countries, including Holland.

40. Strangers feel free to tell a parent to put a hat on the baby in a country where we wear scarves, snoods, spodiks, streimels, wimples, fedoras, berets, tarbushes, homburgs, kippot and keffiyot.

41. While other Western nations debate immigration, we absorb more immigrants per capita than any other country in the world. Almost immediately all learn the Hebrew word for patience, savlanut.

42. Our street musicians can play in symphony orchestras; our supermarket clerks know calculus.

43. Our biggest shopping seasons precede Rosh Hashana and Pessah.

44. Municipalities' decorating contests feature succot, not trees. The Succot holiday is high season in Israel; book hotel rooms a year in advance.

45. Even politicians from anti-religious parties say "Baruch Hashem."

46. "Where were your grandparents from?" is a common question. Where else would anyone care about my grandparents?

47. We celebrate Mother's Day, now Family Day, on the yahrzeit of Henrietta Szold who, with Recha Freier, organized Youth Aliya but who had no children of her own.

48. For all the talk about the greening of the planet, we're the only country in the world that started the 21st century with a net gain of trees. (Thank you, Jewish National Fund)

49. During the Second Lebanon War, JNF rangers stayed in the forests during Katyusha attacks to save the trees

50. We're among the most Internet-connected people on the planet. We invented the cellphone, instant messaging, the chat room and the silent prayer, but still talk best with our hands.

51. Before Purim, the TV weather forecast relates specially to the day the kids go to school in their costumes. For a week before Yom Kippur, the weather report focuses on the upcoming fast.

52. We love children, and have more IVF per capita than any other country. It's free up to the first two children.

53. We celebrate Independence Day with a Bible Contest.

54. Israelis developed both the system to see photos from Mars and cameras to monitor crime on buses in Brazil.

55. Despite our soul connection to chicken soup, per capita we're the world's biggest eaters of healthier turkey, bigger even than America. Go figure!

56. We're among the first to help countries that experience disasters, and the first to have our field hospitals up. When Israel helped Turkey after an earthquake, an Israeli doctor made an incubator from a matza box.

57. Jewish soccer players for Bnei Sakhnin compete against Arab players for Maccabi Tel Aviv.

58. Childbirth and burial are free. Even the homeless have health insurance.

59. On Saturday night, the radio summarizes the news for all those who don't listen on Shabbat.

60. We're agricultural high achievers, producing seven times the output with the same water we used 25 years ago. Our date trees average 182 kilos - 10 times more than the average in the Middle East. One date tree is growing from 2,000-year-old seeds found in Masada.

And, as on a birthday cake, one for next year:

61. We come from more than 100 countries and dream in Hebrew.