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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.

The hisotory of Jewish political messianism

Many chareidim claim that the view of the religious Zionists that the mitzva of yeshuv haAretz is a catalyst for redemption is a modern religious innovation. Arie Morgenstern, in his article Dispersion and the Longing for Zion, 1240-1840 shows that such a view is a-historical at best and revisionist at worst. It is worth while to read the entire article. Keep in mind that the article does not give an overview of those rabbis in history that opposed the messianic ferment and its expression into mass aliya, if you are interested in reviewing the history of such opposition, I highly recommend Avi Ravitzki's essay The Impact of the Three Oaths in Jewish History Published in the back of his book on modern Jewish Messianism, הקץ המגולה ומדינת היהודים: משיחיות ורדיקליזם דתי בישראל which has been translated into English as Messianism, Zionism, and Jewish Religious Radicalism.

Here is an excerpt from Morgenstern's article:

"Indeed, from the time of the Crusades until the nineteenth century, Jewish life was infused with a sense of messianic anticipation, which found expression, among other things, in aliya. This messianic anticipation was focused on specific dates, which were endowed with mystical significance. Starting with the year 5000 on the Jewish calendar (1240 c.e.), the beginning of each new century signaled for many the possibility of redemption, leading large groups of Jews to make the journey to Palestine as a necessary step in bringing it about. Some of these aliyot were unknown to us until recently; in other cases, recent research has added substantial detail to the historical record. The picture which emerges is one of a clear, recurrent trend of immigration to the land of Israel, which was by no means limited to the “lower” elements of society but took with it Jews from all walks of life. Indeed, in many cases, some of the outstanding Jewish figures of their day led the way. Although the number of Jews who succeeded in making the voyage and settling in Palestine never constituted more than a small portion of world Jewry, these messianic aliyot were of enduring significance, partly because of the renown of those who took part, partly because of their regular appearance over the centuries, and partly because of the variety of diaspora communities which participated. The messianic impulse which spawned these waves of immigration, and the belief in the centrality of the land of Israel upon which they depended, were in no way marginal to the Jewish tradition, but in fact became an axis of Jewish spiritual life. Indeed, the story of aliya from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries illustrates the depth and force of the Jewish people’s connection to its ancestral homeland, a connection that was carried into the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when modern Zionism found a new way of giving it voice."

Couldn't have said it better myself

Ben Chorin's latest post speaks for itself:

To my good friends in “Red” Haifa:

I write to you as a brother and, as brothers are wont to do, I will speak directly and honestly. My heart is with you in these difficult days. But still I must point out to you that if you were not in Haifa, this would not be happening to you. You chose to live in Haifa despite the inherent dangers and despite Arab claims to Haifa. Now you must pay the price for that decision.

I appreciate that you and your ancestors have dreamt of living in Haifa for generations, but do Arabs not have dreams? They too dream of Haifa and, as their rockets prove, are willing to struggle valiantly to realize those dreams. It is you who stand in their way. For how long will those of us who do not dream of Haifa, who do not even care to visit Haifa, need to do battle in the name of your messianic hallucinations?

For years we fought in Lebanon to defend you even though we did not believe in the justice of your cause. We have had enough. We do not want to chase down children shooting rockets in Lebanon. Lebanon is a quagmire. It would be simpler for all of us if you just moved elsewhere.

Unfortunately, I suspect that your idolatrous attachment to your homes is such that these arguments do not persuade you. So, at least think of the economic cost of your insistence on staying in Haifa. Do you know how much money is wasted every year on subsidizing your hopeless escapade? This money could be spent on feeding the poor, on providing care for the sick and incapacitated, on finding a cure for cancer, on shelters for battered women. Do you not care at all for the less fortunate in our society? Shame on you.

I turn to you as a brother. Come home. Come back to the heartland. To Judea and Samaria, where the rockets don’t reach. They will be there and we will be here. It would be best if you came of your own volition. We will see to it that you will be fairly compensated. But do not mistake our generosity and civility for lack of resolve. If you do not leave Haifa voluntarily, we will have no choice but to remove you by force.

With sensitivity and with resoluteness.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Please pray

From Jameel:

Please have the following people in mind in your prayer:
Kidnapped IDF soldiers:

Gilad ben Aviva
Ehud ben Malka
Eldad ben Tovah

Four children seriously wounded in a Katyusha attack up North:

Michal bat Revital
Bat Zion bat Reivtal
Avraham Natan ben Revital
Odel Chana bat Revital


The title best described what I wanted to scream at work as I heard that rockets have now killed a grandmother and her 4 year old granddaughter grandson. May Hashem avenge their blood. [UPDATE: the rest of the family is also injured - some criticaly - please pray for their recovery]

The religious Zionist community is like the Yirmiyahu of our generation. Forced to see all of its warnings coming true and bearing the animosity of a blind generation which has no vision or direction. May Hashem grant us leaders who will raise the honor of the Jewish people to the lofty level described in the prophets. Who will raise the honor of Hashem, the Torah, and the Jewish people to levels higher than ever before. VeImru Amen.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sometimes a poem can say more than an entire post

I am not going to even try and translate this. The beauty will be lost in the translation:

צִיּוֹן תַּמָּתִי, צִיּוֹן חֶמְדָּתִי
לָךְ נַפְשִׁי מֵרָחוֹק הוֹמִיָּה.
תִּשְׁכַּח יְמִינִי אִם אֶשְׁכָּחַךְ, יָפָתִי,
עַד תֶּאְטַר בּוֹר קִבְרִי עֲלֵי פִּיהָ.

What Israel should do

They should take the following advice:

General Richard Hawley [ed. Charley Hall has informed me that this was not said by General Hawley. It was a parody email sent around. Still, this parody is better advise than most commentaries I have read] was the commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and was commander of the Allied Air Forces in Central Europe, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

When he was asked, "Does violence only lead to more violence?", this is what he had to say.

This one is so stupid you usually have to be the president of an Ivy League university to say it. Here's the truth, which you know in your heads and hearts already: Ineffective, unfocused violence leads to more violence. Limp, panicky, half-measures lead to more violence. However, complete, fully thought-through, professional, well-executed violence never leads to more violence because, you see, afterwards, the other guys are all dead. That's right, dead. Not "on trial," not "reeducated, "not "nurtured back into the bosom of love." Dead. D-E-Well, you get the idea.

If only Israel understood this.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Who is the enemy?

So, All the delusional people who want to believe they can actually differentiate between the leadership of the Arabs and the populations itself (**cough**, ** cough **, nephtuli), a new poll has now come out that shows that 77% of the Arab population supports the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit.

Will those delusional westernized Jews please wake up and realize that we are in a war. Not a war against terror. Not a war against Hamas. Not a war against Hizballa. It is a war against a foreign nation who believes our land belongs to them. They are willing to die (and kill) in order to get their land back and unless we are willing to fight back and realize we are in a REAL war, they will continue making our situation intolerable.

The war is against a violent and evil culture which we must either defeat fully or be defeated.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Anyone have a good answer?

In a news interview, the Father of Yehuda Basel Hy"d, asks:

"Why did they put my son's life in danger instead of sending in the air force?"

The answer is: "the lefties and all those who have adopted a western-based morality value the lives of enemy civilians more than our own soldiers. The thought of 'innocent' Arabs dying disturbs them much more than a Jewish soldier being killed."

In any of the lefties out there have a better answer that makes them look like something higher than dreg, please feel free to let us know.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Rockets on Ashkelon

How many predictions of the "extreme right wing" have to come true before the imps on the left start admitting they were wrong?

Do we really have to go through another expulsion in order for the rockets on Tel Aviv prediction to become true?

(The reason those on the left can never come to terms with the reality on the ground is that their western outlook on life makes it impossible to conceive of the reality that an entire nation of people are out to destroy the Jews. That is why they do mental gymnastics to explain how the Hamas victory was not because the Arabs believe that they will be most effective in moving Israel closer to destruction. That is also why they have no problem expelling their own brothers and sisters from their homes while at the same time opposing on the most (least) profound moral grounds all "kach-nic" ideas to expel the enemy instead)

Monday, July 03, 2006

The first to wake up

Well, the first lefty to admit the mistake of the expulsion has spoken.

We are still waiting for the rest of those lost souls to wake up. (Actualy, I am pretty tired of waiting. How long will it be until a real religious political leader who is not a hack emerges? Let's hope not too long.)