Powered by WebAds

Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Contemporary Commentary to Bava Metzia 84a, Part III

Continued from here.

Let us look at the next passage in this aggadata:

One day [Reish Lakish and R. Yochanan] had a dispute in the beit midrash [about a Mishnah in Keilim that says: A sword, a knife, a dagger, a spear, a handsaw, and a scythe, at what point can they become tamei [impure]? When their manufacturing process is completed, [and they are finished utensils]. And at what point are they considered finished utensils? R. Yochanan said: When they are hardened in the furnace. Reish Lakish said: When they have been made to shine by dipping them in water. [Referring to Reish Lakish’s past,] R. Yochanan said to Reish Lakish, “A robber knows his trade. [As a former bandit you are an expert on weapons’ production.]” [Deeply hurt,] Reish Lakish retorted, “What good have you done me? [When I was the head of a gang of bandits] they called me Master, and here they call me Master!” R. Yochanan shot back, “I did you a lot of good, for I brought you under the wings of the Shechinah!” R. Yochanan’s sister [Reish Lakish’s wife] came and cried to him, “[Please pray for my husband!] Do it for the sake of my children!” He replied, “Leave your orphans; I will sustain them!” (Jeremiah 49:11). “Don’t let me become a widow!” she cried. “Your widows can depend on me” (ibid.), R. Yochanan replied. Subsequently Reish Lakish died.
This is the climax of the entire passage. As we discussed regarding the previous passage, R. Yochanan taught Reish Lakish a completely new mode of leadership and influence. Their relationship grows and they become close and intimate study partners. Reish Lakish has now left his previous world where the only type of power known was the power of the sword. Torah, by its very nature, supplies the world with a different type of strength, a spiritual strength which, as we discussed before, is intimately related to the aesthetic side of life. However, Torah does not exist in a vacuum and its influence inevitably relates and overlaps with areas of life that we do not commonly associate with the realm of the aestetic. The Mishna in Keilim which was discussed in the academy is a case in point, the halachic parameters of weapons of war must be discussed and brought within the purview of the Torah. We can say that the ‘Kol Yaakov’ – the Torah – must make itself relevant to the ‘Kli Eisav’ – to the sword.

The Mishna poses us with a question of how to define the completed form of a weapon. Rav Yochanan suggests that the answer is when a weapon can be used for its intended purpose – when it is hardened in the furnace and thus can be used. Rav Yohanan sees weapons only in their functional role. They are something which, unfortunately, we must sometimes use, but which has nothing to contribute towards our spiritual understanding of the world. Weapons to Rav Yohanan lack any aesthetic qualities. Reish Lakish, on the other hand, suggests that the final stage of the weapon is not the point at which it becomes functional but rather when is when it is made to shine using water. To Reish Lakish, there is an aesthetic aspect even to something as coarse as a weapon. Reish Lakish can see the weapon from the point of view of the aesthetic.

Could the difference in outlook be a function of the respective backgrounds of these two giants of Torah? There is a famous saying in the Gemara (Berachot 34b) where chazal inform us that in the place where Baalei Teshuva stand, even the completely righteous can not stand. Many explanations have been given for this gemara. One such explanation is that baalei teshuva raise the negative experiences of their past towards the holy and thus can accomplish things spiritually which the completely righteous can not. Could it be that Reish Lakish’s past life allowed him to access a spiritual level inaccessible to Rav Yohanan? I would suggest so. It could be that his life as a bandit exposed him to elements of life which would have been completely inaccessable to someone like Rav Yohanan and thus he could see an aspect of the Kli Eisav which Rav Yohanan could not.

We have only now analyzed the first half of our passage. In the next installment, we will try to analyze Rav Yohanan’s reaction to Reish Lakish’s argument and the subsequent events.


Some people find this funny. I find it pretty scary:

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Rav Kook on Mystical learning, secular education, and the Ramchal

Great insights into Maran HaRav's educational philosophy can be gleaned from the following letter he wrote in 1906 (Iggeret 43, Translation by Rav Bezalel Naor):

By the grace of God, the holy city of Jaffa, may it be built and established, 12 Kislev 5666.

Peace and blessing to the venerable great Rav, our teacher Yeshayahu Orenstein, may his light shine. Your precious letter reached me, and I had some doubt whether or not to reply, because I feared that you, heaven forbid, would suffer anguish from my letter, and why should I cause a venerable Torah scholar such as yourself, long life to you, any suffering? In any case, I decided to answer briefly, [and] perhaps the Lord, blessed be he, will grant that you heed my words, so that you may suffer less pain from the [issues dealt with in my] articles, and this will be my reward — saving a precious soul like yours from pain and worry.

You should know, your honor, that my main intention In my articles, and with anything I write, is simply to awaken the hearts of Torah scholars, old and young, to diligence in the careful study of the inner Torah [in all the following ways]: in mussar in all the ways we have received from our most holy teachers; in the [philosophical] investigation of all the holy books left to us as a legacy by our great Rabbis, masters of inquiry; in kabbala in accordance with all the ways which are an inheritance from our fathers, may their memory protect us: in the way of the Rishonim; of the Achronim; [The Rishonim and Achronim are the early and later generations of Torah scholars in medieval Europe. Rav Kook is referring specifically to the early mystics, such as Nachmanides and Roke’ach, and the later ones, the Ari and his disciples.] of Chassidism; and of the Gaon Rav Eliahu from Vilna and Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato, of blessed memory. And [also] to study all the commentaries on the holy Zohar, and Sifra Detzinuta, Sefer Habahir, and the Book of Creation, and all the midrashim of our sages, [with the purpose of gaining] both familiarity and expertise. This demands great diligence, just like the diligence needed for the study of the Talmud and legal rulings.

True, not everyone's nature is fit for this, so anyone who is unable, but who is of keen mind, is obligated to study at length the intricacies of the Talmud, the commentaries of Rashi and the Tosefot on it, and the legal rulings [of great rabbis]. One, however, who has talent for the in-depth study of wisdom and kabbala should shorten his lengthy periods [of legalistic study of the Talmud], even though the intricacies and innovation [of Talmudic and legal studies] require them. In any case, he must not neglect the study of the intricacies of the Torah, because God finds joy in it.
The major part of his study, however, should be to know his creator. This is written in the introduction to Etz Chaim, and see also Or Ne’erav. In these times, when because of our many transgressions, many young people are becoming more and more enticed by the smooth [cosmopolitan] speech of the nonbelievers in our nation, we must also show the world that Torah scholars occupied in the holiness of the true Torah not lack power of rhetoric and eloquence of language.

This was the intention of the pious Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato of blessed memory, in his poetry and [drama]] and I, in humility, also want to grasp the hem of their cloaks and follow their example inasmuch as I am able. And because the full [comprehension] of the Holy Torah also requires the knowledge of the wisdom of the world in some matters, and in particular so as to be able to reply to a nonbeliever, an imperative in our day.

For this reason I mention the words of our Rabbis, the Gaon Of Vilna and the Maharal of Prague in his book Netivot Olam, [section] Netiv Hatorah, chapter 14.8 [It must, however, come only after] diligent study of the Torah and the purification of virtues and deeds, especially from anger, arrogance, and sadness, which are the major causes of evil, and the diligent, fixed, and daily study of the inner Torah, each person according to his capabilities.

From examination and experience [we know], after all these preliminaries, that one can not be harmed, heaven forbid, from the knowledge of [secular] wisdom, if taken in measure and with the [earnest goal] of honoring God; on the contrary, it will add to one's strength great happiness and broadness of mind in the service of the Lord, blessed be he.

And if, heaven forbid, there are people who misunderstand my words, and see in them meanings I did not intend, this is not [sufficient reason] to keep the benefit [of my words] from those worthy of it, as Maimonides, of blessed memory, wrote in his letters, that the ways of the Lord are trustworthy, etc.

Through diligent regular study in the pleasure of the inner Holy Torah, the soul which occupies itself with this without seeking any personal benefit will be lit in the light of happiness and most sublime love, spiritual pleasures like those of the world to come, and there will be no need to fear the evil lash, or only to a minimal extent, and with this one's soul will find strength and courage, and fear no adversity, not in this world and not in the next, for even if sit in darkness, the Lord is my light.

This is, approximately, the intention of the words of mine on which you commented. How good and pleasurable it is to judge one another favorably, and by this the heavens are praised and the honor of heaven magnified, as is the honor of the Holy Land and the Torah scholars in it.

As for myself, I take no great delight at being praised, nor offense at being insulted. Praise the Lord's blessed name, that diligent occupation with the study of mussar and the inner Holy Torah granted me this characteristic. For this reason, I see no need on my part to explain myself. I do so simply to calm your heart so that you will not suffer, because all my will and desire is to bring happiness to people and fulfill, as much as I can, "those who fear you will see me and rejoice.’’ For this reason I said that I hope that these words may pacify your heart. And may the Lord blessed be he, bless you and your family with long life, and may we be privileged to see the joy of Zion and the building of Jerusalem with the revelation of the majesty of his blessed kingdom, a name for us, praise in all the nations of the Land, and may the entire Land be filled with the knowledge of the Lord. As is becoming your pleasant soul, and the humble young soul on your doorstep, looking to light and salvation.

Avraham Yitzhak Hakohen Kook

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Rav Kook on Nationalism and Olam Haba

In a letter to Samuel Aleksandrov of Bobroisk, dated 29th of Shevat 5668 (1908), Rav Kook writes (Igrot HaRaaya I, pg. 134, translation by Rav Bezalel Naor):

Regarding his honor's comment concerning the difference between the collective and the individual. Certainly, our nationalists are wont to theorize that through the weakening of the national spirit in the later periods there arose the study of individuality. There is some truth in this, but not as they formulate it. They are of the opinion that personal immortality is a new doctrine engendered by attenuated nationalism. The truth is that in most ancient times, when the national spirit flourished, it was already said, 'The soul of my master will be bound in the bond of life.' (I Samuel 25:29) The woman of Teko'a's words were, 'God does not lift away the soul but devises thoughts so that the banished one may not remain banished from Him.' (II Samuel 14:14) Finally, a recurrent phrase was 'being gathered to the fathers.' (Genesis 15:15, Judges 2:10, II Kings 22:20, II Chronicles 34:28) The medieval authorities who dealt with these matters already commented on these expressions. (Maimonides, MT, Hil. Teshuvah 8:3; Crescas, 'Or Adonai 3:2:2. Menasseh ben Israel, Nishmat Hayyim I, 7) These are eternal truths. The principle of individuality can never be totally elided from the mighty collective spirit. Rather [an accurate description is] when collectivism is strong, the individual principle is not discernible or pronounced, because it serves as a centerpoint to the great circle. When [on the other hand] collectivism is weakened, the centerpoint becomes discernible. [This point of individuality] fills with many maxims and sermons, and assumes a prominent place in the lives of individuals oblivious to the life of the collective. So when the sun of the national spirit set, there were established studies concerning the individual unit, the individual personality. These studies were expanded and publicized; this in turn forced the disclosure of several inner mysteries from the spiritual past concerning absolute existence [i.e. the afterlife]. Out of the darkness of this decline issued a great light: the worldwide dissemination of spiritual information, which greatly refined personal character.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Translation/Explication please

כשהנשמה מאירה גם שמים עוטי ערפל מפיקים אור נעים (הראי"ה קוק זצ"ל)
I would like to hear the readers' take on this famous saying of Rav Kook. (and yes, this is a shameless and lazy attempt to generate comments)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The dilemma of the anti-Zionist

The recent visit of the Neturei Karta to Iran and the swaths of condemnations by Hareidi publications of this act illustrate to me the impossible situation the mainstream Hareidim have arrived at.

If they root for the Arabs, Jews die.
If they root for the Jews, they are basically rooting for the success of the state which they despise so much since the state is doing most of the fighting.

So what do they do? I would assume that most are davening for some sort of open miracle that would somehow quietly and peacefully dissolve the state. However, any ideology that relies on Nisim Geluim leKatchila is an impoverished one which has no real plan for the future and nothing more to offer than depressing passivity.

Oh well, what am I complaining about? Every community has their problems - its just that this ones looks like a really big one to me.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Translated by R. Bezalel Naor:

Not with depression, not with fearfulness, not with sentimental weakness must we turn to the divine light, but with a clear knowledge that what flows from the depths of our heart to approach G-d is a natural, complete and healthy faculty. It is more than just a natural faculty — it is the basic, natural faculty of our soul. It emerges in us from the soul of the Life of all worlds, from the soul of all existence, of all being.

The more we increase knowledge, increasing spiritual illumination and a healthy physicality, so will this wondrous light shine in us, a lamp on the path of our life.
Orot Ha’emunah, p. 80
We must pity those who are so plagued by self-doubt that they know not what they live for. The irony of life is that those skeptics who most fervently yell against religious fundamentalism and the danger it poses to the world in the form of Islamic fascism are also the ones who are in the final analysis too weak and unsure to do anything about it. The only thing which can supply the strength to fight evil done in the name of faith is an opposing faith of greater confidence.

Europe, which has abandoned faith in favor of rational secularism, is being crushed under the weight of Islam. America is conflicted and has still not decided what her true nature is. For us Jews who believe in the mission with which we were entrusted by G-d, the path is clear. We must respond to evil by increasing good. We must respond to darkness by increasing light. We must show the world a new way - a way which is founded in a faith which informs every aspect of existence and makes it purposeful. A way which grabs all that we know and establishes it on the foundations of Holiness.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Contemporary Commentary to Bava Metzia 84a, Part II

Continued from here.

To continue our discussion of this aggadata, lets analyze the gemara one section at a time:

One day R. Yochanan was bathing in the Jordan. Reish Lakish saw him and gracefully jumped into the Jordan after him. Said R. Yochanan to him, “Your strength should be used for Torah.” Retorted Reish Lakish, “Your beauty should be for women.” R. Yochanan said to him, “If you will abandon your ways, I will give you my sister [in marriage] who is even more beautiful than I am.” Reish Lakish agreed; he then wanted to turn around to collect his weapons but suddenly he could not jump as far as he did before [for as soon as he committed himself to live by the spiritual values of the Torah his physical strength waned (Rashi)]. R. Yochanan taught him Chumash and Mishnah, and Reish Lakish became a Torah scholar [and the study partner of R. Yochanan].
I would like to suggest that this is a direct continuation of the behavior R. Yochanan exhibits in the previous section of aggadata. Just like R. Yochanan uses his incredible beauty to help increase kavod shamaim in the previous section, he does the same here, utilizing his physical beauty (and the physical beauty of his sister) in order to build another sage in Yisrael. We know from the previous section that R. Yochanan did not fear the potential negative effects of Ayin Hara that others may fear as a result of similar behavior. R. Yochanan, a descendant of Yoseph, is impervious to the ill will of others. R. Yochanan, a leader himself, recognizes a quality of leadership in Reish Lakish and tries to make an appeal to the value system of power which Reish Lakish appreciates: ‘Your strength should be used for Torah’

Reish Lakish is affected by the words of R. Yohanan. He recognizes a great power which is inaccessible to him. However, this new power is of a different nature than the type of power that he is familiar with. The power of R. Yohanan is in the realm of the aesthetic, something which Reish Lakish has up till now associated with femininity and weakness in life (“Your beauty should be for women.”) However, Reish Lakish sees something deeper in the external beauty of R. Yochanan – something reflective of great inner strength that can only be accessed through the aesthetic. When we talk of the power of the aesthetic, we are referring to the ability of humanity to appreciate the beauty of abstract ideas. This ability to appreciate the aesthetic in life can move societies and shift centers of power. The pen is mightier than the sword but in order to wield its power, it must take an aesthetic form that will be appreciated by others. This is key, the power of the aesthetic must exercise itself through the medium of man’s social life. Thus it becomes a double edged sword – in proper hands, it can move society towards greatness. In the wrong hands, the power of the Ayin Hara as explained in the previous installment can reach disastrous proportions.

The fact that Reish Lakish perceives the potential of such a mode of leadership is of great note. Reish Lakish, as we know him at this point in the story, is a leader of a gang of robbers. He knows only the power of the sword and thus immediately appreciates the physical strength of R. Yochanan. R. Yochanan shows him a different kind of strength. The strength of the aesthetic in life. That which up until now he associated with weakness and femininity is now expressive of great strength of a mysterious kind. This is a key lesson that this portion of the aggadata is coming to teach. The power of the aesthetic is identified with the power of Torah. (everyone can think to a particular moment in the development of their learning where a concept became clear to them in all its beauty. The pleasure derived from such moments can best be described as aesthetic pleasure. It is not the utility or power of the teaching which transforms us but rather our appreciation of its internal and uniquely beautiful structure).

Reish Lakish thus perceived the power in beauty. He sees in R. Yochanan that brute force is not the only type of influence that exists in the world. There is a loftier and more human dimension which can be a source of tremendous strength – but not of the physical kind. Expecting to acquire another source of power and strength, Reish Lakish takes upon himself the pursuit of the wisdom of Torah. However, when Reish Lakish focuses his attention on the spiritual dimension through involvement in Torah, his physical strength wanes without him even noticing. What he probably hoped – an additional source of power to add to his list of abilities – ends up coming at the expense of his previous achievements. The power of the word, however, has already ensnared Reish Lakish. There is no going back. Through involvement in Torah NOT for the sake of heaven, he arrives at true love of Torah and the spiritual dimension of life.

Thus, we see that that R. Yohanan has success using his beauty for the purpose of the spiritual good. Behaviors which would cause others to fail were used by him with great success. He was able to navigate the power of the aesthetic without disrupting the social balance. However, there is a potential flaw hidden in this segment of our story. The good that was brought through the behavior of R. Yochanan was contingent upon Reish Lakish having an appreciation for that which R. Yochanan has to offer to the world, even if that appreciation is of the most physical type. What if Reish Lakish lacked such sensitivities? In the next segment of the aggadata, we see for the first time a crisis caused by R. Yohanan’s behavior. In the next installment, we will try to learn the rest of the aggadata in light of the ideas we have so far constructed.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Important letter by Rav Kook

Rael has posted an important letter by Rav Kook:

By the grace of God, the holy city of Jaffa, may it be rebuilt and established 8 Adar 5670 [1910]

Peace and blessing my friend, the renowned rabbi, who is wise and learned, a treasure of Torah and fear of God, our master Rabbi Barukh Meirs, may he live to a long and good life, the head of hte rabbinic tribunal of the holy city of Haifa, may it be rebuilt and established.

Your precious letter reached me. Rabbi Joshua Burak has undoubtedly informed you of our conversation concerning the general condition, and that I wrote him an encouraging letter. May it be God's will to prosper his efforts to strengthen the knowledge of God and his laws among the people of Israel in the Holy land.

My dear friend, you called my attention to the station of religion at the present time. What can I say to you, my friend? My heart suffers grievously because of the general situation. There is no one left who represents with dignity the cause of God's name and his Torah in the Holy Land. The more I brood on this though, the more troubled I feel in my heart and I cannot see an effective way to begin some corrective action. For it is very difficult for me to come to a meeting of minds with most of the leading religious figures of our time, may God watch over them they desire follow the old path solely, to keep themselves at a distance from every creative talent and from all current trends in life. In my opinion, this is the altogether against the way of God. By their attitude they strengthen the hands of the rebels and support the wrongdoers. Alas for the sins of these people, though they are well-intentioned.

I have no alternative but to support the educational efforts which leave room for the knowledge of the world and of life, and that trains the children to find joy in life, to be strong and brave, to cultivate hygiene and personal dignity. When this training will be combined with training in the Torah and the true fear of God, it will become their adornment and enhance their vitality. In the end even the nonreligious forces will have acknowledge the validity of our position.

But what can I do when this approach, which I have no doubt we must follow, has embroiled me in the entanglements of a war from the right and the left? However, I place my hope in God, may his name be praised, that he will strengthen me to hold on high the banner of truth, that the holy cause be vindicated. And you know, my friend, that these important issues are all interrelated. Most of the scholars of our generation, even the greatest among them, pay no attention cultivating the principles of the fear of God, in a spirit of broadmindedness, as would befit the leaders of the generation. They cannot pursue new paths appropriate for the needs of the time, to direct them toward holiness. In their opinion, they must not veer from the old pattern, refusing to draw on any good element in the new ways, thereby to mend the condition of the generation.

They will not acknowledge, under any circumstances, that they have neglected a basic principle which embraces the whole Torah and all religion.

It is for this reason and that we stumble in the daytime as the blind man stumbles in the dark, and the multitude are led astray, they are increasingly alienated from their faith. But they are in sense at fault. Since there is no one to show them the right course, to join the holiness of the Torah and religious faith with life, they are losing their faith. But there are many good elements in them and much sensitivity of spirit, and many among them desire with a full heart the salvation of the people of Israel and of this, their basic goal is rooted in holiness, for the salvation of Israel truly embraces all aspects of holiness. It is for us to judge charitably even the most offending among them, if only he is not willing to defect from our people and join our adversaries.

The more we add positive elements to our education program and teach our children the subjects which help a person earn a livelihood and gain self-respect, together with the study of the Torah, the foundation of the Torah will be strengthened and gain in vitality.

But with whom shall I speak, who will agree with me, who is prepared to jeopardize his own honor for the Honor of God, praised be He, and of His Torah, and for the holiness of His beloved land?

Let us hope that God will act for his own sake, and inspire the hearts of all the Torah scholars to comprehend the pure way of God and that Israel and Judah will soon find deliverance. And this will be my reward.

My greetings to you as so befits your precious self, and with much love, and in anticipation of God's help.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Contemporary Commentary to Bava Metzia 84a, Part I

The post that Bari posted on the aggadata regarding Rav Yohanan and Reish Lakish generated some very heavy and heated discussion. I would like to attempt to offer a very different approach to this aggadata that I have been working on which I hope will give a possible understanding of the aggadata that will neither cast Rav Yohanan as a villain c”v, nor will it justify the problematic behavior described in the aggadata as I believe Bari’s post did.

My basic theory is that the Aggadata of Rav Yohanan and Reish Lakish is not an autonomous unit but rather the extension of the aggadata that precedes it. Here is the beginning of the discussion of Rav Yohanan on Bava Metzia 84a:

R. Yochanan said: ‘I am the only one left of the beautiful people of Jerusalem [people whose faces radiated with a special glow (Rashi)]. [Comments the gemara:] If a person wants to see this radiance of R. Yochanan, he should take a silver cup straight out of the silversmith’s furnace [while it is still glowing], fill it with the pits of a red pomegranate, surround the top with a crown of red roses, and place it between the sun and the shade; and this radiance is only a semblance of R. Yochanan’s beauty.

[The Gemara asks:] Is that so? For did not a Master say: The beauty of R. Kahane is only a small portion of R. Abbahu’s; the beauty of R. Abbahu is only a small portion of Yaakov Avinu’s; Yaakov Avinu’s beauty was only a small portion of Adam’s; and R. Yochanan is not mentioned at all in this cateogory! [The Gemara answers:] R. Yochanan was different, [he did have this luminous glow,] but he did not have a beard.

R. Yochanan used to go and sit at the gate of the mikveh. He would say, “When the daughters of Israel will come up from performing the mitzvah of immersing in a mikveh, let them see my face, that they should have sons that are as beautiful and as learned as I am.” Said the Rabbis to him, “Aren’t you afraid of an evil eye?” He replied, “I am an offspring of Yoseph against whom an evil eye is powerless.” For it says, “A charming son is Yoseph, a charming son by the well” (Genesis 49:22), on which R. Abbahu commented: Don’t read alei ayin, “by the well”, but rather, olei ayin, “above the [influence of the evil] eye.” R. Yose b. R. Chanina derived it from [Jacob’s blessing to Yoseph’s sons], “And may they proliferate abundantly like fish within the land” (Genesis 48:16): just as fish in the seas are covered by water, and the evil eye has no power over them, so, too, the children of Yoseph – the [evil] eye has no power over them.

There are several reasons to suggest that this aggadata was meant to be read together with the piece that follows it. First, this is a repetition of aggadatas that have already appeared in the Gemara (Berachot 20a and 55b). I think that it is fair to suggest that they were repeated here in order to give context to the story that follows. Further, using one particular understanding of Ayin Hara which I would like to put forth here, I believe that the two stories make up one conceptual unit.

What is Ayin Hara? There are many answers to this question. I would like to put forth a particular formulation of it which was advanced by Rav Kook in Ein Aya. In two remarkable pieces (Vol I, p. 102 and Vol II, pg. 275-6), Rav Kook develops the idea that the evil eye is a disturbance of those unseen social and spiritual connections that tie people to each other. None of us lives as an island, we are all affected by and affect a wider social reality that transcends our selves. Ideally, our relationship with others should be one of balance and propriety where each person takes into account his place in the greater fabric of life. Sometimes, however, a person may act in such a way that causes others to perceive him in a negative fashion. Behaviors that flaunt one’s advantages over others are the most likely to disturb the social balance. Such behaviors engender jealousy and hostility towards that person and then, on either a conscious or subconscious level, the person may respond with negative attitudes of their own until a cycle of hostility ensues which upsets man’s social and spiritual life on all levels. Thus, Ayin Hara is a natural process in which a lack of sensitivity to that which ties humanity together starts a chain reaction which disturbs those very ties and eventually hurts he who initiated such behavior.

How then, is Ayin Hara associated with Yoseph (or with fish, for that matter)? Yoseph is the prototype of someone so true to his self that he becomes impervious to the influences of the environment. Yoseph lived in a foreign culture with tremendous personal challenges and all the while, he stayed true to his inner purpose. Yoseph’s internal spiritual compass was so developed and autonomous to the point that the attitudes of others had no influence on the way in which he defined himself or his purpose. Such a person can allow himself more freedom in his behavior, not having to fear being affected by the ill-will of others. Such a person becomes so secure in his own sense of self that the negative attitudes of others are simply not factors in his day to day life.

Fish have a similar property. Fish live totally unaware of that which occurs over the surface of the water. They continue their life regardless of the actions of those above ground. This is the nature of Yoseph, he set up a mental barrier between himself and the rest of the world which simply did not allow him to be affected by the attitudes of others.

In talking of Yoseph’s immunity from Ayin Hara, we are then discussing protection from Ayin Hara in one direction only. That is, the protection of a person from attitudes others have toward them. It does not, however, guarantee, that Yoseph’s actions will not influence the attitudes of others towards themselves. Yoseph may not be subject to the ill effects of ayin hara; however, this does not mean that he can not disturb the inner lives of others.

In light of the preceding ideas, Rav Yohanan, a tremendously beautiful person, was not concerned with the indirect effect his social behavior might have had on his own spiritual growth. He was not concerned with publicly displaying his tremendous beauty and the potential jealousy that this may engender in others. Internally, he knew that his actions were for the sake of heaven and that he did not, therefore, have to fear the negative attitudes of others. He did not fear the small-minded jealously or the petty ill-will that others may or may not have toward him. This, I believe is central to our understanding of the next part of the story, that of Rav Yohanan and Reish Lakish.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Rare Video of the Chazon Ish!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Rare video of Rav Kook and Rav Sonnenfeld!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Ramchal - 4th Hakafa

Continued from here.

If the last hakafa was one of the activity of man in his degraded state. This hakafa represents a return to passivity:

If the lessons that are to be learned from the exile are embedded into our hearts, we realize that all activity must reflect and show to the world how the Will of Hashem is all that truly acts in the world in the world. Our activity is only a channeling of that will and must never obscure people’s ability to see Divine providence on the world stage. However, this is a different passivity than that which is shown in the second hakafa. There we had the passivity that can only hope for a far-off ideal. Here we have a passivity that hopes for the concrete realization of that ideal and all the stages that lead up to that realization.

This is the first explicitly messianic chapter and it represents the desire of the destitute to see the historical transition from their lowly state to the elevated one. Visions of world justice and the universal recognition of Hashem abound. This chapter is right in the middle of the Hakkafot and thus rightly represents a pivot-point in the consciousness of the nation. The rest of the hakafot are of a different stage in world history. They represent the ultimate result of us understanding the messages of the first four. In the next hakafa, we already celebrate what will be in the future, when the events of this hakafa are complete. Thus, the Ramchal brings us to the present in four hakafot – possibly recognizing that the eternal nation who celebrates with their eternal Torah, can celebrate the inevitable result of world history before it even occurs. It is quite amazing when you think about it – a nation which celebrate in a concrete manner that which most of the rest of the world are not even convinced exists in the potential – in the end, however, that is what we are, the Am HaNetzach, and we must act accordingly.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Well, at least we have a security fence VI

Continued from here.

Well, after spending $1,000,000,000 on a security fence and destroying the lives of 10,000 precious Jews, channel 10 (reported in jpost here) wakes up to discover that the fence does not accomplish a thing:

Entire segments of the security fence near Jerusalem have been breached, allowing dozens of Palestinians to enter the country from the West Bank on a daily basis, Channel 10 reported on Monday evening.

According to the report, no fence remained at all for a stretch of some eight kilometers, and every meter or so, the upper part of the fence was bent.

Holes in the barrier were noted approximately every 100 meters, and the alarm system had been disconnected.

The discovery raises the question of the effectiveness of the barrier, which was built to keep terrorists from infiltrating the country.

Well, Neftuli, this is the 6th post on the topic. Are you ready to concede this point yet?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Lubavitchphiles unite

AddeRabbi has a great short post (funny and sad simultaneously) on the legacies of Lubavitch on the one hand and Satmar and Ponovitch on the other.

I always found it telling that there is so much anti-Habad sentiment on the web - it truly unites the yeshivish and the modern in many ways. I was never a part of it however. I, among countless others, probably owe my teshuva (at least partially) to Habad and their near boundless Ahavat Yisrael. On the other hand, my few encounters (before I was religious) with people claiming to represent the ideologies that most vehemently opposed Habad always left me with a strong desire to stay as far away from the religious world as possible.

Thus, it is not so surprising to me to see the way the detractors are handling their own succession issues.

Warning to commenters, any anti-Habad rhetoric which I subjectively feel passes the bounds of respect due to the movement will be deleted.

Rare Ramchal play now on the Net!

The Ramchal, among other things, was a playwright. For many years, his plays had been hard to get a hold of. Well, Now the Ben-Yehuda project has made available Migdal Oz - the most famous of the Ramchal's plays - online!

This play was written by the Ramchal for performance at Rav Yeshayahu Bassan's (the Ramchal's Rav in Kabbalah) wedding. It was written in 1727 when the Ramchal was only 20 years old. The early maskilim tried to "adopt" the Ramchal as the father of secular Jewish literature. However, careful reading of these plays shows an underlying mystical-religious theme which is really there in all of the Ramchal's work (this was brilliantly shown by Prof. Shimeon Ginzburg z"l in his work on the Ramchal). Anyone who is aware of the Ramchal's view of the world would immediately realize the absurdity of conceiving of the Ramchal as someone who lived life while conceiving of a divide between the secular and the Divine.

In any case,


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ramchal - 3rd Hakafa

Continued from here.

The third Hakafa is a continuation of the second:

The necessary passivity of exile must give birth to some kind of mental or physical activity. To the Ramchal the first active element of exile must be the longing for the Divine. The relationship that was lost must be grieved over and the soul must actively express the longing for that which was lost.

The chapter is filled with imagery of man in his lowest state reaching out to the Divine. To the Ramchal the first lesson that exile must teach us is to appreciate the fundamental essence of the relationship between the Jewish people and Hashem. Playing on the lessons of the first and second hakkafot, the poet rises from passivity to declare his desire for the ideal. The desire is for the restoration of the relationship in both the intimate and private sphere as well as the public sphere. The poet declares ‘as I lay I hope for You’ as well as ‘all nations shall bow to You.’

This poem is one of activity after forced passivity and will be followed in the next hakafah by the expression of the desire to see Hashem remove the hindrances which keep us passive. The activity of the Jewish people in the mental/emotional sphere is followed by the desire to see the activity of Hashem in the world as we once again descend into passive mode.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ramchal - 2nd Hakafa

Continued from here.

In the second hakafa we descend into our own reality. The full pain of galus is confronted in all its lowliness:

More humble. Less proud. The nation has to distill the core of the message while being stripped of all its institutions. The tone is more pleading than the first hakafat but even in exile the nation must be aware of its internal nature, but in a lower tone – “May Your eyes turn towards the faithful, and may You have mercy over the humble.” We recognize the ultimate justice of Hashem and ask that he have mercy on us. The tone is more passive just as the nature of exile is passive.

This is the direct opposite pole of the first hakafa. If in the first hakafa we want to instill awareness of our special active nature, in the second we must inculcate the idea the human activity by itself can never lead to redemption. We must realize that there is Divine providence which guides the world and that our actions must be in sync with that providence so that together, our action and Hashem’s providence will bring the world to its perfection.

We shall see in the third hakafa how this passivity must turn into active longing for Hashem. That, however is for another post.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Ramchal - 1st Hakafa

Continued from here.

The first Hakafa is joined by a chapter from the tehillim of the Ramchal:

The chapter starts by pointing out the impossibility of adequately expressing the greatness of Hashem. “Who will tell Your praise Hashem?” and the answer “We are Your servants, Hashem, You have made us. We will say Your Truth for all eternity! Together we will bless You!”

To be able to function as an individual one must be self-aware. One must know their abilities, their limitations, and their purpose. The same is true for the nation. A nation must know its special and unique nature in order to function properly. Thus the Ramchal has us declare that we are a nation whose ability and purpose is to declare the praise of Hashem in this world.

This hakafa is a set up for all the others. It is a mission statement that should make us aware that we have a task which no other nation can fulfill. We must make sure that Hashem’s name is praised through our national and communal life. This is something that the chapter seems to imply is only possible when we function as a national unit. This chapter represents our desire in its most ideal. We shall see that later hakafot are more aware of the limitations of reality but not this hakafa. One must start on a journey fully aware of what SHOULD BE. Only such awareness can give one the strength to engage reality in all its imperfections.

I will try to continue this series for the rest of the week. (I am just curious. Is anyone interested in this or does it just interest me?)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Ramchal - before the hakafot begin

In light of my previous post on the Ramchal’s simchat Torah service, I thought I would start a series of post regarding the entire service the Ramchal innovated for the evening hakafot.

What we have left from the Ramchal is mostly his later writings. The vast majority of his most original and profound work was lost to us due the Herem of the Rabbis of Venice who succeeded in driving his esoteric and eschatological writings out of the public eye. One of the works which is lost to us is a “sefer tehilim” that the Ramchal composed in biblical Hebrew. We are lucky however that several chapters of this work made their way into liturgical writings which survived the ban. Out of the 150 chapters, only about 13 have survived and the Ramchal’s simchat Torah liturgy preserves 7 chapters in their entirety. I would like to attempt a series of post which will analyze the Ramchal’s approach to simchat Torah in light of the liturgy which he composed.

I would like to start with the following supplication, composed by the ramchal for recitation after the evening service is complete:

The recurring theme in this prayer is the choseness of the Jewish people and our collective experience as a Divine nation. The prayer also focuses on the special relationship between the Jewish people and Hashem, accentuating how the relationship is stronger than the one between Hashem and the other nations of the world. Special emphasis is given to the special providence which the Jewish people merit in this world – even in the state of exile. The prayer seems to also be very cognizant of our current state of exile and its theological implications.

What is missing from this prayer (and from that matter from the entire service) is any mention of the Torah. The entire service is completely involved with the nation and its relationship with the Divine. Even the type of personal relationship with the Divine whose achievement is the central focus of Messilat Yesharim is almost completely missing from this liturgy.

It seems that to the Ramchal, the national celebration of the Torah must reflect our national nature. Further – The joy of the day must not be achieved through the external aspect of the Torah as a separate entity but rather as the celebration of the Jewish people as a “Torah nation”, a nation whose very national soul is identical with the spirit of the Torah.

In my mind, I try to imagine how the Ramchal would see the act of circling the bima holding sifrei Torah. I do not think that he would view the ritual as an act of the Jewish people showing respect to an external revelation but rather as a conflation of the sefer Torah with the Jewish people who together experience joy as they start to realize that they both represent the imprint of the infinite upon this coarse and finite world.

Hopefully, as we go through the 7 hakafot, we will find even greater clarity and insight into how the Ramchal saw the holiday as one of both national and eschatological significance.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

To the process of ideas in Israel

MevaseretZion has a great summary of Rav Kook's masterpiece, "To the process of ideas in Israel."

Check it out!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ramchal on Simchat Torah

This is a poem the Ramchal wrote to be included in the Simchat Torah liturgy after the 7th hakafah. Read it carefully. The ramchal saw the hakafot as being expressive of the desire of the Jewish people to return to the land of Israel and see it rebuilt.

The hakafot may have been seen by the Ramchal as a re-enactment of the hakafot that the Jewish people observed before the conquest of Yericho. The ritual may demonstrate that the the ultimate purpose of Torah is not just abstract thought but also to bring that abstract thought down into the world.

In other words, the purpose of simchat Torah to the ramchal was not simply to have abstract joy engendered by the Torah but rather to channel that joy towards real spiritual and physical goals.

How do you understand this poem in light of the traditional theme of simchat Torah?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Excerpts from the secular bible

Jameel posts here about the response of MK Oron to criticism of his perverted legislation proposing to outlaw Jewish outreach to minors.

I will not be posting about the actual content of the letter. Rather I want to focus on the concluding sentence of the letter:

אני מבין שאתה לא מסכים עם דעתי זו ולכן איש איש באמונתו יחיה

I understand that you disagree with my viewpoint, and therefore, "[every] person in his own faith shall live"
The last portion of the sentence איש איש באמונתו יחיה is often used by secular Israelis to connote the ideal of freedom of conscience for all. They often quote it in a ‘biblical’ manner and I am pretty sure that many are convinced that this is actually a biblical verse. In truth, it is a prime example of the appropriation of a biblical concept by secular Zionism and turning it into a slogan either ambivalent or hostile towards religion.

In our holy literature, the phrase which closest approximates the above form is found in the book of Habakkuk 2:4
הִנֵּה עֻפְּלָה, לֹא-יָשְׁרָה נַפְשׁוֹ בּוֹ; וְצַדִּיק, בֶּאֱמוּנָתוֹ יִחְיֶה.

Behold, his soul is puffed up, it is not upright in him; but the righteous shall live by his faith.
Traditionally, this concept has been used in our writings to teach the importance of being faithful to our God and His Torah. Of being true to our traditions and living a life of faith and goodness. It is a shame that instead of learning about our beautiful heritage, there are MKs who would rather legislate laws in order to keep large segments of society ignorant of it – and using corruptions of biblical verses no less!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Yom Kippur Thoughts

Pre Yom-Kippur thoughts. The Maggid of Mezritch writes (צוואת הריב"ש, עמ' י-יא):

ואני בוטח בו שהוא ברא כל העולמות בדבריו יש מאין והכל מאין נגדו והוא משגיח עליהם לתת להם שפע וחיותם וכ"ש שיכול להוריד לי כח וישגיח בחסדיו גם עלי ויצילני שלא יבטל אותי יצה"ר בשום דבר בענויי שיאמר לי שאני חלש ונתייבשו המוחין שלי וכן כמה פיתויים

I trust in Him – that He Who created all the worlds through His word Ex Nihilo and compared to Whom all of existence is nullified and He watches over them [the worlds] to give them their sustenance – All the more so that He can grant me strength and in His mercy watch over me and that He shall rescue me so that my evil inclination will not afflict me by saying that I am weak and that my intellect has dulled and other similar enticements.

This basic idea in chassidus is quite revolutionary in its implications. It straddles quietism and activism simultaneously seeing man as that creature in the world which can passively receive and behold divine Will while at the same time seeing man’s personal strength and activity as the correct manner in which to channel that Will. Many people see teshuva as a process which weakens man’s will and forces him to come to terms with his own failings and his true insignificance in the world. The approach of the Mezritcher is the exact opposite –any view which causes man to acknowledge his own weakness is a result of the evil inclination. Each of us must become strengthened and aware of our abilities to channel the light of Hashem into this dark world. This task will not be achieved through acknowledgement of weakness but rather by a strengthening of the divine component of our will.

May we all merit to gain more strength this Yom Kippur. May Hashem forgive all the sins of the Jewish people and may this year be the year of our final redemption.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Shana Tova

I recieved the following Dvar Torah from one of the readers. I thought it was very beautiful and wanted to share it with everyone:

Rav Yitzchak Izik Sher (Leket Sichot Mussar, Vol 2, p. 34) quotes a famous statement of Maimonides (Rambam) that every single person has merits (mitzvot) and negative acts (aveirot). One whose merits are greater is “good”, one whose negative acts are greater is “evil”, and one whose merits and negative acts are equal is “in the middle” – which is how we should view ourselves, especially at this time of year. The Rambam complicates this statement by adding that there are certain positive acts which, alone, equate to many negative acts and vice versa – however, the only one who can make such a calculation is G-d. Rav Sher, quoting a number of sources, raises the question – how do we know if we are doing enough to make sure that we are being judged favorably? What should our approach be to raise ourselves to the level of a “good” person, worthy of a positive judgment on Rosh HaShana?

Rav Sher suggests a marvelously simple yet profound approach that can be applied to all mitzvot as well as to avoid negative acts. When performing a mitzvah, it is not simply enough to comply with the legal requirements, rather, one must also do it with one’s heart as well. By looking at a positive act not simply as an obligation, but as a way of life, worthy of sacrifice and effort, one is transformed as the mitzvah is no longer an abstract act, but rather a way of life that serves to improve not only the participant, but all of those impacted by it as well. We do not know how G-d views that specific mitzvah – whether or not it counts for a lot or a little, but we can certainly use the heartfelt emotion and feeling as a means to truly enhance and improve our overall lives.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The demographic problem

Read about what you can do to help on MevaseretZion.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Various musings

Arutz Sheva reports that a recent study showed 44% of chareidi men are actively engaged in the work force. I have to assume that this number will increase as the community grows and as economic reality becomes more pressing.

The reason I am posting this is so that next time someone starts ranting about how the chareidim live off the backs of others, this should be brought up. nearly half support themselves to the best of their abilities and the other half (many of whom dedicate their time to learning) can hardly be considered to be living in the lap of luxury on the backs of others.

I have seen many blogs bring up sectarian issues lately. I think this is wrong and harmful - especially in this month of Elul when we should be concentrating on that which binds us and not that which separates us. All who choose to accept upon themselves the framework of Torah are bound together in an eternal covenant. There are very serious disagreements and debates that will probably continue for a long time - sometimes these disagreements lead to speech and terms that cross the lines of propriety. However, at the end of the day we must re-assert the covenant that ties us together. We must reassert that we share a common destiny and that we are all part of an organic whole.

There is an anecdote about the Ariz"l. The Ariz"l once stated that the purpose of galut is to collect the 'sparks' that are latent among the nations of the world. A student challenged him and said, "If the Jewish people had not sinned and gone into exile, then what would become of those 'sparks'?" The Ariz"l answered that when the Jewish people act as an organic whole and use all their strength in a combined fashion, then the sparks are attracted to that organic whole and 'rise' by themselves. In other words, our task of redeeming the world must be accomplished - it is built into the fabric of reality - it is up to us if we want to accomplish it through the beauty of what we could be or, God forbid, through a less than ideal set of circumstances. In the end, reality will force our hand - it will just be better if we change the reality so that it won't have to force anything.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

ADL - Anti (self-)Defense League

ADL Slams MK Effie Eitam's Statements on Transfer of Arabs
12:33 Sep 12, '06 / 19 Elul 5766

(IsraelNN.com) The US-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has issued a condemnation of Knesset Member Effie Eitam (National Union-NRP) following Eitam’s call for the transfer of Arabs from Judea and Samaria and removal of Israeli-Arab Knesset members.

“Such inflammatory statements are irresponsible and display an ugly and abhorrent bigotry against other peoples and leads to incitement,” the ADL statement said. “Calls by public figures to ban minorities and expel them from their homes are abhorrent. These are irresponsible statements advocating collective measures that the ADL totally rejects.”

“Eitam’s remarks do nothing to further Israel’s quest to live peacefully among its neighbors and are an insult to its loyal Arab Israeli citizens,” the statement, issued by the group’s Israel office, concluded. “ADL rejects the notion of transfer of any people from their homes and homeland.”

The ADL was a vocal supporter of Ariel Sharon’s Disengagement Plan, which called for the forced expulsion of nearly 10,000 Jews from their homes in Gaza and northern Samaria.

I would be disappointed if I actually expected something from this band of hypocrites. Of course they are wrong - there is nothing morally wrong with the population transfer of a hostile population. There IS something wrong with leaving such a population in place and endangering the well-being of your own population. In truth, they understand this since they supported the expulsion of Jews when they felt it would better Israel's situation. Now, why all of a sudden does population transfer become a global moral standard? Hypocrites! When will they stop bowing at the alter of western civilization? Democracy is a practical tool, not an independent global value.

I am all for democracy (since it works well most of the time) but when the values of democracy endanger the well-being of 5 million Jews, they have to be compromised - period.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The flip side of the coin

The following is a coin that was minted during the begining of the bar Kochba revolt in 133 ce:

For those who do not know, the full name of Bar Kochba was Shimeon ben Kosiba. He led a revolt against the Romans which lasted for 3 years during which he controlled a significant part of Yehuda (although he never controlled Yerushalaim). The revolt was an initial success but it came to a grinding halt with Bar Kochba's death in Beitar.

Much attention has been paid to the messianic component of the revolt. Rabbi Akiva was the spiritual leader of the rebellion and, along with the majority of the sages of his generation, considered Bar Kochba to be the Mashiach.

What I find interesting about the coins from this era is that the consistently refer to Bar Kochba as "Nasi" instead of what I would have expected which would have been "Melech." The title of Nasi, as far as I knew until I saw these coins was generally reserved for the head of the high court during the time of chazal. I find it surprising that Bar Kochba would refer to himself as "Nasi." Does anyone have any explanation for this?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

New blog on the block

Yet another victim of the j-blogosphere.

May you have a speedy recovery from this addiction.

VeImru Amen.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The generals as 'experts'

Joe settler has an important post for anyone who is still naive enough to think that the current set of Army brass in Israel are experts whose top concern is the safety of the population in EY:

Nine different Generals came to visit my friend’s reserve army unit after the war.

The Ramatkal (Chief of Staff) was also supposed to visit but after the hard time the 9 generals got he chickened out.

General Gantz (the head of all IDF ground units) came to the unit to explain what happened and to tell them we won the war (since it wasn’t obvious to anyone that we did). At the end he asked if anyone had questions.

One soldier got up, and said, “I have 2 questions for you, a personal question and an operational question.”

He continued, “My personal question is regarding the statement you made a year ago. You see I am a settler and I volunteered to fight in the IDF, and I want to know if after 100% of us settlers showed up to fight and die, do you still stand by your statement that "settlers are worse than Hizbollah"?”

For his second question he asked, “How come you sent in us ground units without first destroying all the enemy sniper positions and houses overlooking us?”

For the first question, he actually denied he said what he said, adding that “Aryeh Eldad is just trying to get brownie points”, but then he said that he doesn’t take back a word of what he said. I guess that means he did say it and still thinks its true.

Regarding the second question, he answered the tanks destroyed most houses marked as Hizbollah sites.

Unfortunately Gantz forgot to mention that most of the houses were apparently not marked.

At this point, the flustered Gantz had enough and ran away like all the other generals that visited this elite reserve unit.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Bitter defeat

So, it looks like the evil imps that run the Israeli government are planning to surrender to the enemy monster and therefore declare that Jewish blood is worthless and that all those soldiers died for nothing.

The only question is what change in attitude can all of us implement so that the deaths of those holy martyrs will not have been in vain. The only think I can think of is the words of the Navi (זכריה ד:ו):

וַיַּעַן וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלַי, לֵאמֹר, זֶה דְּבַר-יְהוָה, אֶל-זְרֻבָּבֶל לֵאמֹר: לֹא בְחַיִל, וְלֹא בְכֹחַ--כִּי אִם-בְּרוּחִי, אָמַר יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת

Then he answered and spoke unto me, saying: 'This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying: Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.

The Mahral in his introduction to Netzach Yisrael explains that the term כִּי אִם in the tanach is never used to completely reject one idea in favor of another - rather it is always used to create a primary secondary relationship between the phrase that is before and that which is after.

In other words, the Navi is telling us that military power in and of itself is useless when the spirit of Hashem is missing. This is so clear in the pathetic leadership we have today. They have all the weaponry in the world but lack the spiritual strength to use it less they offend the perverted moral sensibilities of the nations of the world. Thus they waste Jewish lives accomplishing NOTHING and put millions of Jews in extreme danger out of their spiritual weakness and fear of the nations.

Every Jew to whom the nation of Israel and their mission is important should know: we will not have any peace until those who carry the spirit of the LORD take the reigns of leadership. As long as the power is in the hands of those who reject all that is holy and good, we are insuring the continuing suffering of the entire world. Forget the machloket. Forget reishit tzmichat geulateinu or not. Forget all the excuses. We are talking about pikuach nefesh of the most direct kind. If all of us who hold the Torah as our banner do not stand up and take control, we will ensure the continuing pointless death of precious Jews. If we do not take control, we will not be able to declare: "Our hands did not spill this blood"

So the next question is: What can a simple Jew such as myself do? I really don't know the full answer, but if all of us demand that our leaders and rabbanim drop everything that divides them and come to some agreement so that we can all be united as one political block. We must DEMAND unity! If 100 years ago, the litvaks, chassidim, and yekkes managed to get together and form agudat Yisrael as an umbrella organization to represent them all, why in the worlds can we not do the same today??? We must stop seeing ourselves as satellites and shtadlanim in the political process in Israel - We ARE THE NATION! The Torah is our banner and anyone who does not rally around their banner and their flag will always be stepped upon.

I pray that someone out there, just one person will read these words and do something - anything to increase Torah unity in this world. If even one person does - Zeh Yiyeh Sechari.

May the souls of the fallen soldiers shake the heavens and demand our speedy redemption. May their memories be a blessing.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Nachamu, Nachamu

From Orot (Translation by Rav Bezalel Naor):

"The redemption continues. The redemption from Egypt and the complete redemption of the future are one unending action: the action of the strong hand and outstretched arm, which began in Egypt and works though all eventualities. Moses and Elijah are redeemers in a single redemption; the beginner and the ender, the opener and closer together fill the unit. The spirit of Israel hears the sound of the movements, the redemptive actions, brought about through all eventualities until the sprouting of redemption will be complete, in all its plentitude and goodness."
May Hashem send us Torah leaders, gedolei Torah, proficient in the entire Torah, both esoteric and exoteric. Leaders that have vision and are proactive and not only reactive. Leaders that can relate to all the various types of souls which exist in klal Israel. May they raise the potential of the entire nation to the holy level it deserves. May we merit to see the full redemption speedily in our day.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Guest post from Raglei Mevaser

Formula to fight a war and win it, too:

The way to end the current mess is to recognize, as doresh does, that all "good" (i.e. religious) Muslims hate Israel and want to destroy it, as they and their leaders have been saying very publicly.

Acting with that enlightening knowledge firmly in mind, the next step is to announce that any village from which a rocket is launched will be flattened from the air, regardless of civilian presence. If civilians don't want themselves to be killed, let them police their own village and make darn well sure that not a peep escapes their area.

Of course any government leader who opens his mouth in hatred of Israel and calling for its destruction is found dead in his bed the next day. After all, guys, Hashem has given us our own army and intelligence. We're not supposed to go like sheep this time.

To defeat one's enemy, you've got to understand him. Arab culture is very much based on honor (refer to “honor killings” if you will). When the Arabs respected the Jews, after the awesome miracles of the previous wars, notice how quiet and subdued they were.

Once they sense weakness in Israel (stemming from lack of belief in G-d and twisted Christo "morals" like "tohar haneshek" rather than Torah-true morals) they are emboldened to raise their eyes from the ground and lick their lips hungrily. Like predators, they attack where they see vulnerability.

The beginning of the end (chas v'shalom) was after the War of Independence, when the leaders of the army and state of Israel begged the Arabs (who fled in anticipation of a post-victory bloodbath along the lines of what the Arabs would have done had the situation been reversed) not to flee for their lives but to come back and live peacefully with the Jews side by side.

The root of our present problem and the "middle eastern cycle of violence" is that we never declared unequivocally, as the Jewish people, that G-d gave this land to us, and only to us, and we will live here forever, with the Arabs living peacefully not among us, but in their 21 other countries. If we had annexed the “territories,” I doubt we would be in this situation today.

We are past due to claim what is rightfully ours, given to us by G-d Himself, and we’re paying in Jewish blood, which has become cheapened considerably lately in light of our reluctance to defend ourselves with overwhelming force born of conviction.

Important post from Jewish Worker

The pathetic leadership of Israel

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Hashem Yishmor!

Report: Olmert favors German forces

Money quote:

"There is at the moment no nation that is behaving in a more friendly way toward Israel than Germany," he added. "If Germany can contribute to the security of the Israeli people, that would be a worthwhile task for your country. I would be very happy if Germany participated."

Well folks, there you have it. We are back full circle. Secular Zionists basically want to dismantle the state. Return to a situation when we are subjects of the nations of the world

(they have been behaving this way for a while, now they just want to make it official - and GERMANY nonetheless - boy, Freud would have a field day)

In truth, many chareidim would be happy with such a turn of events. It would prove to them that Jews really are supposed to be nebuch cases and that we should strive to be bigger nebuchs at every opportunity as they believe Hashem commanded.

So who is left? A she'erit pleita of national-religious Jews who have neither made the state into an avoda zara nor have they sold out the ancient hope of having a country of our own like the chareidim. The question is whether there is anything we can do to stop these people from completely destroying the vessels that were created in the past 50 years.

I am really not sure. I pray that Hashem sends us worthy leadership quickly. We need to be saved from evil hacks like Olmert.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Important post from Avi

JoeSettler posted the following on his blog. I believe that everyone must read this in order to understand what is really happening in Israel:

"I have not read any of the comments posted about my action on any of the lists and nor do I intend to. However, I did get some updates as to what was posted and I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you what made me take the drastic action that I did. (I do not plan on making any more posts or replies on this matter to any list).

First of all Olmert and Chalutz have already publicly declared that they can not promise that they will be able to stop the Hizbullah rockets falling on Northern Israel.

In addition, the UN is now working on a draft resolution that will allow a multi national force to patrol South Lebanon and give Lebanon a protected country status – which means that if any other country attacks it, the international community can then attack back.

Basically, put together, this all means that once the multi-national force is in South Lebanon and the Hizbullah continue to shoot rockets on Israel, Israel can NOT defend itself because, if it did, the international community would have the “legal” right to attack Israel. This is the ceasefire Israel will be forced to accept with the direction of the current political leadership.

What does this all have to do with my refusing to serve in the war up North?

Because the best of our soldiers are fighting and dying in house to house combat in Lebanon and millions of Israelis are refugees because our government places the lives of the enemy civilians over the lives of our own – this is not a way to fight, period, and definitely not a way to fight a war that must be won.

Because our government no longer intends to stop the rockets in the North, just like it has made peace with the fact that the rockets in the South are a fact of life that Israelis have to live with as well. Because Olmert is already on record saying that this war is being used to ensure that an international recognized border is implemented on the East as well, via the destruction of more yishuvim and the expulsion of more Jews from their homes in Yehuda and Shomron. Because this war is allowing Olmert to assist the Hizbullah in setting up rockets in destroyed communities in Yehuda and Shomron to then fire on Tel Aviv and the Mercaz.

I’m all for beating the Hizbullah, but wake up and realize that is not what Olmert is trying to do! He already admitted that dismantling the Hizbullah is no longer a demand in any future ceasefire and Israel is not even demanding that the international force disarm them – but the demand concerning the Hizbullah will be some lukewarm demand that basically means the Hezbullah will stay put in Lebanon (maybe a few kilometers away from the border - a lot of good with rockets that fly 150 kilometers)!

So why are we fighting this war?

Our brave soldiers are dying STAM fighting house to house in a war so that Olmert can prove to Israelis that we need to destroy yishuvim in Yehuda and Shomron in order to place a border on the West Bank – an act that will then allow the Hizbullan to fire rockets from the hills of Yehuda and Shomron on the rest of Israel.

I have taken the very uncomfortable step of refusing to serve in this war in order to give across a message to the rest of Israel – wake up! This war is more about disinformation and public statements (JUST LIKE THE GERUSH) and less about actual victorious results.

The government has already given up the fight, the fighting now is just to “look victorious” before a cease fire is implemented, but the Hizbullah has already won – they have proven to the Arab world that rockets could be shot on Israel and Israel WON’T do what is necessary to stop it.

Israel CAN do what is necessary, but Israel’s current leadership is focused making ourselves look good in the eyes of the world and not about protecting its citizens or soldiers. The political echelon and the army leadership no longer have the moral capacity to defend us as a country.

This is what I protest!

Unless the leadership leading this war changes and the target becomes to beat the Hizbullah so that NO more rockets fall on Israel in the future from the North (or from the South) using all military means necessary (and NOT placing the lives of civilians protecting the enemy before the lives of our own civilians and soldiers) then I call on the Israeli government to stop this war now instead of using Israeli civilians and soldiers as pawns in the war to ensure re-alignment, that will put all of Israel in danger.

Somehow this message has to get across because not enough of us are seeing through the media spins, so I took it upon myself to take this drastic action so that people can hopefully start to wake up.

Olmert’s public statement on his real purpose of the war (to ensure the re-alignment plan) allowed me to finally get up the guts to take off my uniform. He finally revealed the truth for everyone to hear and I thought it would be an immoral act to let it get by without any upblic outcry against the way this war is being manipulated.

I know many of you will disagree with me, but I have had enough of the years of derelict Israeli policy that has made Jewish lives hefker in our own country.

With all the justification to fight this war – please realize that the way our current leadership is running it, it is yet another derelict policy proving how Jewish blood is hefker – the government has already gone on record that it doesn’t intend to win the war, rather cause as much damage as possible to the Hizbullah before a ceasefire. Hence the Hizbullah (who will continue to get rockets from Iran and Syria after a ceasefire) will have won regardless of the media spins our politicians will come up with.

Yes, we must beat the Hizbullah, AND Syria AND Iran (the real handlers behind the Hizbullah) – but that is not what this war is about unfortunately.

I pray for the safety for all my friends and comrades who are up North fighting – for those who disagree with my action and for those who agree with me but told me that they are too afraid of the consequences for joining me in my act.

Screaming this at the top of our lungs after the war would be too late – Am Yisrael needs to hear this now to hopefully help stop this from all happening and sometimes drastic actions are necessary to get messages across. Believe me, this step is most painful for ME and not for any of you who have the luxury of throwing your two cents into an email and not paying any consequences. This is a well thought out life decision that will have repercussions on my life today and in the future in ways that are impossible for me to know today – but I took the decision anyway because I thought it was the correct thing to do.

Disagree with me if you must but also please show respect for a fellow Jew, neighbor and possibly friend who took a life effecting decision for the benefit of Am Yisrael.

Achdut is very very important, it is what I strive to achieve day in and day out as a Jew, but when that feeling of “achdut” and our actual LIVES, as civilians and soldiers, are being manipulated and used cynically by politicians and army generals, then I believe it is better to cause a ruckus to help people realize that true achdut will only come when the leadership in the country is true and moral then go along with the charade. The current “achdut” that everyone wants to preserve in this time of war is only bringing the country to an even lower level of security and morality than it was at before.

As a little kid in New York City I dreamt of one day serving as an Israeli soldier and defending the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. I fulfilled that dream by becoming an infantry soldier in Golani. I have now taken a decision that stops me from being able to serve again to defend my country on the battlefield. I cry as I write these words, it is not something that I'm proud of, not at all. I will have to explain this act to my children whom I hope will one day be proud soldiers in an Israeli army based on true morality and Jewish pride. But I will no longer be a pawn of a crooked establishment that has, and continues to make Jewish lives hefker.

No more.

I'm willing to act and pay the price for my decision - what about you?

Avi Abelow"

Thursday, August 03, 2006

What vibrated in my mind all of the 9th of Av

הֲשִׁיבֵנוּ יְהוָה אֵלֶיךָ וְנָשׁוּבָה, חַדֵּשׁ יָמֵינוּ כְּקֶדֶם

Plural - not singular. We must return to Hashem as a nation. We must function as a society that brings the light of Hashem to all corners of the world. It is not enough to simply work on ourselves as individuals. Every Jew must make sure that he sees all other Jews as his brothers - peshuto keMashmao.

It is only when every Jew understands that each individual CAN NOT BE COMPLETE as long as the klal is not operating as it should that we will merit the final redemption.

May Hashem send a new spirit into our generation - one which will redeem us and the whole world in its wake.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Is there an end to the stupidity?

חכמה בגוים תאמין

No people in history have ever survived who thought they could protect their freedom by making themselves inoffensive to their enemies. -Dean Acheson

An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last. -Winston Churchill

No man can tame a tiger into a kitten by stroking it. There can be no appeasement with ruthlessness. There can be no reasoning with an incendiary bomb. -Franklin D Roosevelt

Appeasers believe that if you keep on throwing steaks to a tiger, the tiger will become a vegetarian. -Heywood Broun

The one sure way to conciliate a tiger is to allow oneself to be devoured. -Konrad Adenauer

You may gain temporary appeasement by a policy of concession to violence, but you do not gain lasting peace that way. -Anthony Eden

חכמה בישראל (בלי תורה) - אל תאמין
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Wednesday that he believed that a victory over Hizbullah in Lebanon would give momentum to his Convergence plan.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The foundations of learning, Part III

continued from here.

Another foundational skill that needs to be acquired in learning is the ability to recall that which was learned – otherwise known as chazara. I often heard how important chazara is but what really hit it home for me was when I read a letter that Maran HaRav Kook Ztvk”l wrote to his brother in which he expressed horror about the fact that he heard that his brother only review each chapter of gemara three times before advancing to the next chapter. Rav Kook rebuked his brother and explained to him that in his experience, it is impossible to have any success in learning without reviewing each chapter at least ten times (!) before advancing to the next one.

Well, to put it mildly, I don’t exactly review each chapter I learn ten times. Frankly, I don’t even review it three times. I just don’t have the time to review so much with the 3 or so hours I can learn every evening. What I have employed a system of chazara that takes up little time and if very effective. Anonymous also emailed me his own personal system of chazara which I will also add to this post.

My system is not really my own. It really belongs to a certain talmid chacham who used to learn at the local beit midrash. He introduced me to a wonderful book called “מפתח סוגיות ועניני הש"ס” which was written by a talmid chacham in Eretz Yisrael by the name of Elhanan Kohn. (If your local sefarim store does not carry it, you can order it from the author at 03-6773393). This book is basically an topical index of the entire shas bavli. The most valuble part, however is not the index itself but rather the section in the back of the book title “מפתח לסדר הש"ס – לשינון ולזכרון הלימוד”. What this section does is list the sugyas of each massechet in the order they appear in the gemara in as manner as follows:

A dayly review of the sugyas you have learned in the past month or two is more valuable than you can imagine. It keeps the sugyas fresh in your mind and at the same time allows you to remember which page the sugya is located on. It is a quick way to attain a fairly high level of knowledge of the structure of the tractate you are studying. Of course, this type of chazara does not five you a great grasp of the shakla veTarya of the sugya but it is good within its own scope and is very valuable to baal-batim. I recommend to make a copy of the chapter you are studying and keep it in the gemara so that you can quickly review it before and after you start your seder.

Anonymous emailed me his own method of chazara:

The following is a suggestion for retaining a bit of the Torah that one learns. More accurately, it is the outline of a system that can be modified to one’s own taste. First and foremost, so many rabbanim stress the value of writing things down. They say that making summaries of mishnayos or gemara is an extremely important practice. However what type of summaries are they referring to? How long and how inclusive should they be? These types of questions must be answered, and IY”H, will be addressed in due course.
The first action that should be taken once having finished an amud, for example, is to break down the amud into its various meimras and sugyas. The breakdown ideally should not be the shakla v’tarya of the amud, but rather a four/five line (max.) summary of each sugya. So, if there are four sugyas or subjects on the amud, then what one should write down are four brief summaries. Preceding each summary should be an underlined phrase that sums up the entire summary. So if the topic, for instance, is yehareg v’al ya’vor (Sanhedrin 74a), then the summary title would be exactly that: yehareg v’al ya’vor, or any other phrase along those lines. The summary would then be something like the following:
Three mitzvos are yehareg v’al ya’vor: Shfichus Damim, Gilui Arayos, and Avodah Zarah. Machlokes by A”Z, but chachamim say from “b’chol nafshecha” that A”Z is one of the big three. The makor of S”D is a sevara of mi yeimar d’dama etc. which is then applied to G”A by the hekesh between S”D and A”Z.

Now, another beneficial step that can be taken is keeping a notebook where each side of a page represents a blat or an amud. This might be bit tough at first to fit all the necessary information in one page, but the advantage is that once the daf number is known (more on that in a moment), then the summaries can be quickly accessed.
A special effort should not be made to remember daf numbers, but rather where the major sugyos are located. This step will actually lead to one knowing the number of each daf, since the major inyanim will then act as mental notes, indicating one’s place in the perek.
Once one has the aforementioned two or three word (or more if necessary) summaries memorized or at least knows them very well, he can think about them wherever he goes. After a bit of repetition, the outline of a blat can be reviewed in under a minute. If one is in a place that affords him a bit of quiet, he can go over the full summaries, once he feels comfortable with them.
There is much more to say about the topic, but hopefully this introduction will encourage others to find a chazarah method in gemara that works for them. IY”H, a sample outline of a blat will be provided in the near future.

If you have your own methods, please let us know in the comments section. May everyone who reads this blog go from strength to strength and make a real kinyan on the Torah which they learn (beAhava!).

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Why did the soldiers have to die?


Why do our soldiers have to die to protect the lives of the Lebanese???

Why do sick souls feel the need to give us lessons in "morality" when their immoral stances directly result in the deaths of our soldiers?

Why do evil politicians feel the right to declare publicly during war that a state has the right to play with the lives of its citizens?

Those soldiers should never have been there. That whole village should have been turned into a parking lot using aerial bombardment. There is simply no source either in Torah or even common sense to put your own soldiers lives' at risk in order to protect enemy civilians.

I know one thing, until the Army changes this immoral policy, neither of my sons will be joining it. Until the army starts valuing the lives of its soldiers, I will have no part of it. May Hashem send us true leaders who will be able to distinguish right from wrong, speedily in our days!

Monday, July 24, 2006

The foundations of learning, Part II

Continued from here

Another area that often needs to be built up in Jewish education is the study of Tanach - more specifically the Nach part of it. Of course, many people review the parsha every week so I would say the majority of people have a pretty solid grasp of the Torah (although there is definitely room for improvement). Almost nobody really knows tanach and the amount of people who went through a yeshiva education and have still never gone through all of neviim and ketuvim is somewhat shocking to be honest.

There are a few challenges in the learning of Nach. First, the language is often fairly difficult, the day school Hebrew education is pretty much sufficient for most of the early neviim. The average person can get through Yehoshua, Shofrim, Shmuel, and Melachim without too much difficulty. However, when one gets to the later neviim, Yirmiyahu, Trei Asar (not to speak of Mishlei and Iyov), they are pretty much lost. I know many people who have tried to learn tanach and stopped quickly after they started. Part of the problem is that people try to learn Nach in much the same way they approach chumash and gemara - they learn it from the commentaries. Don't get me wrong, the commentaries on Nach are great - it is just that before you can appreciate their greatness, it helps to have gone through Nach and acquire the underlying language and comprehension skills. That is why I recommend going through Nach several times without any commentaries, trying to understand the pshat of the words.

There are several benefits to this approach. First, Hebrew skills improve dramatically. Second, the psukim quoted in gemara learning become less cryptic and are more accessible. Third, a person actually learns the stories in Nach and the general themes and treasures hidden there.

There is, however, a problem. Efficient learning needs a structure and there is really no good structure/seder to the learning of Nach. One approach is learning a chapter a day. The problem with this is that: a) the chapters are of non-Jewish origin and often cause you to stop at an arbitrary point b) the chapter length is very variable - sometimes it is too long and sometimes too short. This does not lend itself to the establishment of a proper seder.

Luckily, Rabbi Seth Kadish has provided us with a wonderful service. He has created outlines for all the books of Nach and divided each book into (pretty much) equal sub-parts based on the massoretic chapters. The system is divided into 12 separate month cycles so that one can finish the entire tanach every year. Each day's portion is about 30-50 pesukim and usually takes about 20 minutes to get through. I highly recommend starting this system since it does not take up much of the day while at the same time building fundamental skills of learning which will improve other areas as well.

The sheets for the system are available in PDF format here

Friday, July 21, 2006

איש אשכולות

I was once asked on a thread why I am a talmid of Rav Kook. I answered that one of the many reasons is because he is the only Gadol of the past 100 years to have mastered the entire Torah in all of its aspects. No area was beyond his reach. He achieved greatness in halacha, aggada, lamdus, philosophy, kabbalah. And more than just mastering these different areas, he weaved them into a coherent system where one area of Torah informs us about the others. One of the commenter replied that he frankly finds it frightening that I think that Rav Kook was the only gadol to have mastered the entire Torah. Well, I am obviously no authority on the matter but I was thrilled to find that Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin Zt"l actually wrote the exact same thing in his remarkable book (which everyone should really read cover to cover), "אישים ושיטות". Here is the relevant passage (pg. 232):

:"לא יהיה הדבר להגזמה, אם נאמר שמרן הגרא"י הכהן קוק, ז"ל, היה בדורנו היחיד בין גדולי התורה, שהיה שולט בהלכה ובאגדה כאחת... כל מקצועות התורה היו ברשותו.. ולאו דוקא בהלכה. עולם האגדה הי לא פחות פתוח לפניו. חזון ושירה, מחשבה ומחקר, הגיונות ודעות - כל אלה היו שוטפים בלי הרף, כמעין הנובע, ממוחו ללבו ומלבו למוחו"

It would not be an exaggeration, if we say that Maran HaGaon Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook Z"l, was unique in our generation among the Torah Masters, who had mastered halacha and aggada as one ... all the disciplines of Torah were at his disposal ... and not only in Halacha. The world of aggada was no less open before him. Vision and song, machshava and investigative methods, ponderings and ideas - all these would flow unstoppably, like a gushing spring, from his mind to his heart and from his heart to his mind.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The foundations of learning

One of my biggest complaints regarding Jewish education today is the lack of foundation that kids are given in our basic texts. It seems like much of the learning revolves around teaching gemara beIyun (in depth) while the basic units of knowledge (mikra and mishna) remain missing.

It is not that I am against Iyun, but I often feel like when people think that they are learning iyun, they are really just grasping a particular course of understanding but end up missing the relevancy of that understanding to the greater structure of Torah. For one to understand the depth of the rishonim, one must truly have a strong knowledge and understanding of the basic texts that the rishonim had mastered. And that means knowing mikra, mishna, and bekius (breadth of knowledge) in gemara.

The problem becomes even bigger for baal-batim such as myself. It is often hard to find time to sit and learn. When you do find time, it is often hard to reach a high level of concentration and the quality of the learning is often poor. One of the solutions I have found to this problem is the pocket size kehati mishnayot. I am sure you have seen these little green booklets. They are nothing less than phenomenal. To learn one mishna with kehati for the first time takes an average of 3-5 minutes. If you have already done that particular mishna before, it usually takes 1-2 minutes, sometimes even less. Now since there are an exact average of 8 mishnayot per chapter - to learn one chapter per day takes about 30-40 minutes if you have never learned it before and about 10-20 minutes if you have already gone through it.

Now, the benefits are amazing and almost immediate. If a person does one chapter of mishna a day, then they finish the shas mishnayot in a year and a half, two chapters a day is a nine month cycle and 3 a day is a six month cycle. After you have been through the shas mishnayot once, then it takes you about the same time to do two mishnayot a day as it took you to do one the first time. After you finish the second cycle, then you can usually do three a day in about the same 30 minutes that you allocated to it before. And the great thing about mishnayot is that, unlike gemara, you can really spread the learning out throughout the day. One mishna here, a couple there, three on your lunch break. The results are incredible. You will also see a distinct improvement in your gemara learning since much of the time you spent before on getting the basic concepts of the gemara down are already known to you from the mishna.

I have put together a little chart of the mishnayot that anyone can print out and save. I find that it helps to check off the mishnayot that I have done in each cycle and that keeping track generally give one a sense of accomplishment and motivation to keep up the seder. Please let me know if you end up trying this. It really helped me and I would like to know if others feel the benefits of this 'system'.

Here is the chart (email me if you want it in pdf format since it is better quality):

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

What used to be common sense

In a letter to the editor of the LA Times (July 18th), a reader makes a point that used to be obvious to people but has become forgotten over the past 50 years of leftist indoctrination:

Re "Israel's risky response," editorial, July 14

The editorial's issues with Israel's "disproportionate" response seem to imply that the appropriate way to treat your enemy is to just hurt them a little more than they hurt you. This way your opponent will understand that you are serious, but things won't get out of hand.

Diplomacy and negotiation, not limited violence, are the appropriate way to try to send signals and keep a situation from getting out of hand.

The situation with the Palestinian Authority/Hamas and Hezbollah is already out of hand. Proportionality is really a demand that the stronger party fight at the level of the weaker party.

This is a cruel [emphasis added] position leading to a drawn-out, slowly escalating conflict, like Vietnam.

History shows that the surest way to minimize the suffering of civilians is through a short war, and that requires the use of immediate and overwhelming force to gain clear objectives.

There are generally two objectives to which this force can be effectively applied: breaking the enemy's political will and breaking the enemy's military capability to pursue its political will. If war must be fought, it must be won.