Sunday, March 12, 2017

Murderer of 7 schoolgirls given hero's welcome in Jordan - "He simply fulfilled his national and religious duty"

Arutz 7   A hero's welcome is planned for the Jordanian soldier released last night after serving 20 years in prison for murdering seven Israeli schoolgirls during a class trip in 1997.

Ahmed Daqamseh was a soldier in the Jordanian army when he opened fire on a group of students who were visiting the “Island of Peace” of Naharayim on March 13, 1997, as part of a class trip.

Daqamseh was sentenced to life in prison for the massacre, which in Jordan usually means 25 years in prison. However, he was released five years early following repeated calls for his release. In 2013, 110 out of 150 Jordanian MPs signed a petition calling for his release.
In 2011, then-Jordanian Justice Minister Hussein Mjali caused an uproar when he called for Daqamseh’s release, claiming that he is “a hero. He does not deserve prison. If a Jewish person killed Arabs, his country would have built a statue for him instead of imprisonment."

Following the deadly terror attack, Jordan’s King Hussein personally visited Israel and, alongside Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, expressed his condolences to the girls' parents.

Daqamseh has denied committing any crime and has said that he should be freed from prison since he had simply fulfilled his national and religious duty by killing the students.

What Happens When You Fight a ‘Deep State’ That Doesn’t Exist

The Trump administration, in its fight against the “deep state,” could risk exacerbating the very problems it has pinned on shadowy bureaucratic forces: leaking, internal conflict and the politicization of institutions like intelligence agencies.

American institutions do not resemble the powerful deep states of countries like Egypt or Pakistan, experts say. Nor do individual leaks, a number of which have come from President Trump’s own team, amount to a conspiracy.

The diagnosis of a “deep state,” those experts say, has the problem backward.

Mr. Trump has put institutions under enormous stress. He has attacked them publicly, implied he would reject intelligence findings that cast his election in a poor light, hobbled agencies by failing to fill critical positions and cut off bodies like the National Security Council from shaping policy.

That has forced civil servants into an impossible dilemma: acquiesce, allowing their institution to be sidelined, or mount a defense, for example through leaks that counter Mr. Trump’s accusations or pressure him into restoring normal policy-maker practices.

Those defensive acts have deepened perceptions in the Trump administration of a “deep state” that must be rooted out. This tit-for-tat cycle, scholars say, risks substantially weakening both Mr. Trump and government institutions. In the long term, they warn, this could undermine the government’s ability to function — and to serve the millions of Americans who depend on it.

A Repurposed Term

Though Mr. Trump has not publicly used the phrase, allies and sympathetic news media outlets have repurposed “deep state” from its formal meaning — a network of civilian and military officials who control or undermine democratically elected governments — to a pejorative meant to accuse civil servants of illegitimacy and political animus.

It is akin to Mr. Trump’s appropriation of “fake news,” a term that originally described rumor mills but one that he has used against any outlet that reports real news unfavorable to his administration.

Much as his use of “fake news” miscasts reporting as lying, “deep state” presents apolitical civil servants as partisan agents. And it mischaracterizes those officials, who seek to defend their place within the system, by presenting them as acting against that system.

Both phrases have become tools that Mr. Trump or his allies use to deflect perceived criticism by attacking the legitimacy of the critic.

The effect is to twist basic functions of democratic governance into partisan disputes. This might serve Mr. Trump in the short term, but in the long run it carries risks.[...]

When, for example, Mr. Trump accused former President Barack Obama of tapping his phones, he forced the F.B.I. into an unappealing choice: Let the accusation slide, though it implies the bureau broke the law, or rebuke the president and risk the appearance of playing politics.

Either way, the bureau loses some of its internal influence, public stature or, quite possibly, both. Losing stature can be especially dangerous, as the bureau needs public trust to effectively operate.[...]

Susan Hennessey, a former National Security Agency lawyer, and Helen Klein Murillo, a law student, wrote in Lawfare that Mr. Trump’s accusations that career civil servants are partisan agents, along with his administration’s aggressive internal investigations, could be read as “an intention to use the pretense of leak investigations to engage in political retaliation.”

This risks deepening rank-and-file mistrust of Mr. Trump, which Ms. Hennessey and Ms. Murillo believe helped motivate initial leaks.

The cycle of mutual suspicion could well spiral, further breaking down the relationship between the president and the institutions through which he is meant to govern.[...]

Each round, even if it ends in a policy defeat for the White House, galvanizes supporters against the institution blamed for his setback. This is driven by political polarization, in which Americans who see themselves as aligned with a political tribe come to support that group’s positions and oppose its perceived adversaries.

Mr. Trump, for instance, portrayed his immigration ban’s legal defeat as the fault of politicized judges. The attacks did not resurrect his order, but it did tell millions of supporters to distrust the judiciary as politically motivated. His attacks on the news media send similar messages.

This undermines the ability of these institutions to act as checks on the president or other powerful actors, because they can be more readily dismissed as serving narrow partisan agendas.

Polarizing supporters against intelligence agencies — which, in response to leaks, he has called “un-American” and has said echo “Nazi Germany” — makes it easier to reject their policy recommendations, freeing up Mr. Trump to pursue policies at home or abroad that those agencies might oppose.

That is one potential parallel with real deep states, which leaders such as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey have used as foils to justify consolidating power.

Timur Kuran, a Duke University professor of political science, wrote on Twitter, “Team Erdogan used the ‘deep state’ narrative to destroy political institutions and restructure the bureaucracy. Happening now in USA.”

That polarization can work both ways. Some critics of Mr. Trump have championed the perception that institutions are working to broadly oppose Mr. Trump.

Representative Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California, wrote on Twitter: “We are whistle-blowers, press, judges, legislators, cooks, teachers. We are #DeepState. We are the American people.”

When it was suggested that “deep state” could be a risky rallying cry and that institutions could suffer if they were seen as a political opposition, Mr. Lieu wrote in response, “Unless you believe the President is a danger to the Republic, which I do.”

But Dr. Saunders saw the administration as shooting itself in the foot. Treating the bureaucracy as an adversary, she said, had mostly served to mire Mr. Trump in controversies and weaken his ability to put policy into effect.

“You get the feeling that Trump doesn’t understand that working invisibly through the bureaucracy would strengthen him,” she said.

Is Trump viewed as so infallible that even posting critical comments destroys my crediblity?!

Ever since I have been posting articles about Trump - in particular his blatant lies - I have received comments that this inappropriate. There are two explanation give.1) Because the topic is viewed as irrelevant to a Jew and thus I am wasting energy to do so. 2) Because criticism of Trump is mistaken since he is fighting the evil of Obama and the Clintons and therefore there is something wrong with my understanding of truth and reality if I dare suggest he is a liar and buffoon.

I have not taken these comments too seriously. I have noted that Trump propensity to lie is causing real damage - not just to America  - but to the world. That he is bringing about an unhealthy change in the relationship to truth and democracy. While there can be legitimate differences in how to govern or what programs are viewed as legitimate - but that there should be no argument about the importance of truth. There is no question that Trump makes up "alternative facts' such as that 3 million illegal voters cast votes for Clinton. That he makes false accusations such as that his phone was tapped by Obama - without any proof. Etc etc etc.

This week I received a new claim. My correspondent - who has a solid reputation - wrote the following. Up until I started posting about Trump I was viewed by many as the source of truth dealing with things such as child abuse, halacha, rabbinic scandals (e.g, Tropper) and the incredible perversion of halacha and rabbinic leadership - the Kaminetsky-Greenblatt Heter.

My correspondent said he personally knows many people - including rabbis - who view me a credbile source of information and especially for the Kaminetsky-Greenblatt Heter I am the only source. He therefore expressed pain that he had gotten feedback from various people including rabbonim - that what they perceived as my irrational obsession with Trump - had destroyed my crediblity on all the other issues.

In other words, despite my full documentation of the Kamientsky-Greenblatt heter - these people have decided that since I am a nut there is no reason to be concerned about the Kaminetsky-Greenblatt Heter or anything else that I might discuss.

My understandings is that rabbis who will dismiss all the documentation solely because it has been reported by someone who is critical of Trump - means simply they are looking for any excuse to duck responsiblity for the matter. However my correspondent disagreed.

Out of the respect I have for this individual, I decided to make a poll to ascertain what is the dominant view there. There are 2 issues that have two alternatives. Thus there are four question and everyone should check two boxes.

1) Do the posting about Trump in fact destroy my credibility about the Kaminetsky-Greenblatt Heter and other matters and 2) Is this an important question.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The great anti-Semitism panic of 2017

I’m not insensitive to anti-Semitism. Despite growing up in Jew-friendly New York City, I experienced my share of it — kids throwing rocks at my Jewish Day School bus, anti-Semitic graffiti on our home’s fence, among other incidents. And as Volokh Conspiracy readers know, I’ve blogged quite a bit about anti-Semitism. I’ve mostly written about anti-Semitism coming from the far left, but I’m not at all naive about the existence and virulence of anti-Semitism on the far right.

Nevertheless, I’ve been rather taken aback by the panic in the Jewish community over American anti-Semitism since Donald Trump won the election. The recent spate of hoax bombing threats to Jewish community centers and other Jewish institutions around the country has been a precipitating factor, but the fear is drastically out of proportion to the threat; no bombs have been found, and there are no indications that there is any real physical threat to Jews. By contrast, in the past decade or so there have been actual murders at a JCC and a Jewish federation office without precipitating such panic.

It seems that much of the panic is in fact due to Trump, with the JCC threats seen as a potential first sign of the deteriorating status of American Jews. While Jews are the most-liked religious group in the United Sates, some degree of trepidation is not unreasonable. As Andrew Silow-Carroll points out,

Most Jews didn’t vote for him, and regarded his campaign antics as particularly unsettling, from his appeal among white supremacists and ethno-nationalists to his willingness to exploit the country’s racial and ethnic divides.

In his embrace of a fiercely chauvinistic “economic nationalism,” White House strategist Steve Bannon represents something “unprecedented and inconceivable” in the minds of many Jews. Until Trump, resurgent nationalism seemed a problem for Europe, where economic malaise, fear of immigrants and the ghosts of the 20th century have combined into a particularly toxic brew on the right.

Yet, just looking at my Facebook feed, the origins of the fear bear only a tangential relationship to the actual Trump campaign. For example, I’ve lost track of how many times Jewish friends and acquaintances in my Facebook feed have asserted, as a matter of settled fact, that Bannon’s website Breitbart News is a white-supremacist, anti-Semitic site. I took the liberty of searching for every article published at Breitbart that has the words Jew, Jewish, Israel or anti-Semitism in it, and can vouch for the fact that the website is not only not anti-Semitic, but often criticizes anti-Semitism (though it is quite ideologically selective in which types of anti-Semitism it chooses to focus on). I’ve invited Bannon’s Facebook critics to actually look at Breitbart and do a similar search on the site, and each has declined, generally suggesting that it would be beneath them to look at such a site, when they already know it’s anti-Semitic.

There is also a general sense among Jews, at least liberal Jews, that Trump’s supporters are significantly more anti-Semitic than the public at large. I have many times asked for empirical evidence that supports this proposition, and have so far come up empty. I don’t rule out the possibility that it’s true, but there doesn’t seem to be any survey or other evidence supporting it. Given that American subgroups with the highest proportions of anti-Semites — African Americans, first-generation Hispanic immigrants, Muslims and high school dropouts — are strong Democratic constituencies (though the latter group appears to have gone narrowly for Trump this time), one certainly can’t simply presume that Trump has a disproportionate number of anti-Semitic supporters.

Often living in a blue bubble, liberal Jews easily can panic when they don’t know anyone who voted for the other side’s candidate(s), and can assume the worst about the other side’s supporters. Indeed, liberal Jews tend to panic whenever “the right” is doing well in American politics. Consider this Wall Street Journal headline from exactly 22 years ago: “Religious Fervor: Some Liberal Jews, To Their Own Surprise, See a Rise in Bigotry — And, Unlike Many Orthodox, They’re Concerned About The Right’s New Power.” The article elaborates:

These are anxious times for American Jews. Still reeling from the results of the November election, many liberal Jews are alarmed by the rise of the religious right. They are increasingly uncomfortable with verbal attacks by conservative commentators on the “cultural elite” and on “Hollywood,” both of which they believe are code words for Jews. And they are shaken by well-publicized reports of neo-Nazi groups and of anti-Semitic violence by teenage “skinheads.” Suddenly, secular Jews — for whom anti-Semitism was always something remote — are feeling a new vulnerability and wondering whether the political and religious tide is turning against them.

Remember the great anti-Semitic pogroms of 1995? Neither do I. To take another example, I’m not sure what, if anything, Philip Roth was trying to say with his 2004 book “The Plot Against America,” but I know liberal Jewish reviewers welcomed it as a warning of the ever-present threat of anti-Semitic right-wing fascism looming over the United States in Republican-dominated America.

Meanwhile, Jewish “defense” groups, most prominently the Anti-Defamation League, have stoked the panic with wildly exaggerated rhetoric. Jonathan Greenblatt, a former Democratic politico who now runs the ADL, stated in November that the “American Jewish community … has not seen this level of anti-Semitism in mainstream political and public discourse since the 1930s.” Among other omissions, Greenblatt must have slept through the George W. Bush administration, when mainstream “experts,” mostly on the left, were claiming that the small number of Jews in the Bush administration had somehow manipulated the Gentiles running the administration into leading the United States into a war against Iraq to benefit Israel. Unlike the current anti-Semitic rhetoric coming from the neo-Nazi fringes, these allegations were coming from places such as the Harvard University and the University of Chicago faculties.[....]

Lo and behold, along comes Trump, and left-wing Jewish activists are portraying Jews as one of the many groups threatened by him. Trump, and, more specifically, exaggerating the threat of anti-Semitism from Trump and his supporters, gives these Jews an opportunity to, for example, stand side by side with Muslim activists in opposing various “isms” and “phobias,” rather than quarreling with them over Israel.

The irony of all this is that if you talk privately to those who work in the Jewish organization world, many will confide that the greatest threat to the security of the American Jewish community is “changing demographics,” which is a euphemism for a growing population of Arab migrants to the United States. Anti-Semitism is rife in the Arab world, with over 80 percent of the public holding strongly anti-Semitic views in many countries. The issue of whether and to what extent the United States should expand refugee admissions is a complex one, and a potential rise in (potentially violent) anti-Semitism, at least in the short term until refugees and their families assimilate, is hardly the only factor to be considered. But it’s surely a paradox that the groups and individuals who express the most public fear of potential anti-Semitism emanating from the Trump administration express little if any concern about the potential problems of admitting an untold number of refugees and immigrants from countries where extreme anti-Semitic sentiments are mundane.

Woman and their relationship to Satan, yetzer harah and death

update: Added the Maharal (Avos 1:5) [translations below are copyrighted]

In researching how women are viewed by Judaism - despite the many positive things which are said - there are other statements which associate woman with evil. These sources can not be simply ignored or dismissed as minority opinions - there are too many of them and by a wide range of authorities through the ages.

In this post I will discuss the relationship between women and the ultimate negativity - Satan, yetzer harah, sin and death. It is important to note the nature of Satan. While it clearly is not the Christian concept of a rebellious angel - it is not systematically discussed or consistently used. The clearest manifestation if found in Job. Satan seems to be an angel or spiritual force that provides spiritual tests - with G-d's permission. I will discuss this more fully in a separate post as well as the nature of the yetzer harah. Furthermore the negativity seems to be instrumental in providing tests which enable a person to exercise free-will and thus be rewarded. Thus Judaism does not view women as evil but rather associated with sin and temptation that needs to be overcome for spiritual growth and to reach perfection. This idea of G-d providing us with spiritual challenges is discussed by the Ramchal (Derech HaShem 1.2 The Purpose of Creation). [I bring many other sources in my Daas Torah]
ספר דרך ה' - חלק א פרק ב - בתכלית הבריאה
ד. והנה לשיהיו במציאות, הענינים השונים האלה של שלימות וחסרון שזכרנו, ותמצא הבריה שזכרנו בתכונה שהיא צריכה להיות, פירוש - באפשרות לשני הענינים וביכולת עליהם, שיקנה השלימות ויעדר מן החסרונות, ושימצאו לו האמצעיים לדבר הזה, פירוש - לקנות זה השלימות, הנה ודאי שפרטים רבים ושונים צריך שימצאו בבריאה, ויחסים רבים בין הפרטים האלה, עד שיצלח התכלית המכוון בה. ואולם הבריה אשר התעתדה לענין הגדול הזה, דהיינו לדביקות בו ית' כמ"ש, היא תקרא העיקרית שבכל הבריאה, וכל שאר מה שימצא במציאות לא יהיה אלא עוזר באיזה צד או באיזה בחינה אל התכלית לשיצלח וימצא, ועל כן יקראו טפלים לבריה העיקרית שזכרנו:
ה. אך הבריה העיקרית באמת היא המין האנושי, וכל שאר הנבראים בין הגבוהים ממנו ובין השפלים ממנו, אינן אלא בעבורו להשלמת ענינו, לפי כל הבחינות הרבות והשונות הראויות לימצא בהם, וכמ"ש עוד לפנים בס"ד. והנה ההשכלה וכל המדות הטובות, הם עניני שלימות שנמצאו להשתלם בם האדם, ועניני החומר ומדות הדעות הם עניני החסרון שזכרנו, שהאדם מושם ביניהם לקנות לו השלימות:

Bereishis Rabba(17:6): From the beginning of the Torah until here no letter samech is written. But when Eve was created then Satan was created with her. [Satan being spelled with samech and not the normal spellling with a sin]. And if you object and note that there is a samech when it mentions the rivers in Eden – that is about rivers and not about people.

Rabbeinu Bachye (Bereishis 3:1):And the Serpent was cunning. This verse about the Serpent is adjacent to the previous verse talking about the woman because Satan was created with the woman. She is the body i.e., the physical manifestation of the yetzer harah. Woman is easy to seduce to sin. Furthermore the numercial value of the word “the Serpent” equals 364 if you allow a value of one for the whole word. The word “satan” also equal 364.

Gra (Even Shleima 1:8): There are some people whose natural propensity is to be good– nevertheless they are wicked. Such a person is given all his reward in this world so that he receives nothing in the future world. That is because despite that it is very easy for him to do good - but he simply doesn’t want to do good. Concerning such a person it says in Yeshaya (3:9), Woe is to their soul because they rewarded evil to themselves. In contrast someone whose natural propensity is to do evil and consequently they are in constant war against their desires – we say (Avos 5:23), According to the effort is the reward. Therefore even if occasionally they succumb to sin – G-d forbid! – G d does not hold it against them as our Sages say (Berachos 17a), Greater is the promise that was made by G-d to the woman more than the men... That is because despite their propensity to do evil since they are from the “left side” which is closer to sin, therefore G-d gives them more credit for the mitzvos they do then the men. This is explained by our Sages (Chagiga 12b) with a parable. Who does the king give greater reward when he asks his servants to come to work very early? It is to the women. Because not only do they come early - despite it being contrary to their normal schedule - but they also come earlier than the men who do typically do come early.(Maharsha Chagiga 12b/Gra Berachos 17a).

Gra (Mishlei 10:1): 1. The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son makes a father glad; but a foolish son is the grief of his mother. ...Furthermore "a wise son...." the kabbalists write that man has within him two forces - the power of the father and the power of the mother. When the power of the father is dominant then he is wise and righteous. However when the power of the mother is dominant then he is a fool. That is why "the wise son makes a father glad" - because the son is manifesting the power of the father. In contrast when he is "a fool who causes his mother grief" - it is because he is manifesting the power of the mother.  In addition "the wise son..." the positive commandments come from the aspect of the father while the negative commandments are from the aspect of the mother - as we explained before (Mishlei 1:8). The righteous are only praised because of the positive commandment while the wicked are only despised because of the negative commandments that they transgress. This is what is meant by "a wise son makes a father glad" In other words he rejoices that the son is manifesting the aspect of the father. In contrast, "a foolish son is the grief of his mother" because he is manifesting the aspect of mother.

Bava Basra(15b):And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold all that he hath is in thy power, only upon himself put not forth thine hand etc. . . . And it fell on a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house that there came a messenger unto Job and said, The oxen were plowing etc.31 What is meant by the words, The oxen were plowing and the asses feeding beside them?32 — R. Johanan said: This indicates that the Holy One, blessed be He, gave to Job a taste of the future world.1 While he was yet speaking there came also another and said, The fire of God. . . While he was yet speaking there came also another and said, The Chaldeans made three bands . . . and fell upon the camels and have taken them away . . . While he was yet speaking there came also another and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house, and behold there came a great wind from the wilderness and smote the four corners of the house and it fell upon the young men . . . Then Job arose and rent his mantle and shaved his head. . . and he said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb and naked shall I return thither; the Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not nor charged God with foolishness. Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves . . . and the Lord said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the Lord and said, From going to and fro in the earth etc.2 He said: Sovereign of the Universe, I have traversed the whole earth, and have not found one like thy servant Abraham. For thou didst say to him, Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and the breadth of it, for to thee I will give it, and when he wanted to bury Sarah he could not find a place in which to bury her, and yet he did not complain against thy ways. Then the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, for there is none like him in the earth . . . and he still holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him to destroy him without cause.3 Said R. Johanan: Were it not expressly stated in the Scripture, we would not dare to say it. [God is made to appear] like a man who allows himself to be persuaded against his better judgment. A Tanna taught: [Satan] comes down to earth and seduces, then ascends to heaven and awakens wrath; permission is granted to him and he takes away the soul.

Bava Basra(16a): ; And Satan answered the Lord and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thine hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will renounce thee to thy face. And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold he is in thine hand: only spare his life. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord and smote Job etc.4 R. Isaac said: Satan's torment was worse than that of Job; he was like a servant who is told by his master, ‘Break the cask but do not let any of the wine spill.’ Resh Lakish said: Satan, the evil prompter, and the Angel of Death are all one. He is called Satan, as it is written, And Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.5 He is called the evil prompter:6 [we know this because] it is written in another place, [Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart] was only evil continually,7 and it is written here [in connection with Satan] ‘Only upon himself put not forth thine hand.8 The same is also the Angel of Death, since it says, Only spare his life,9 which shows that Job's life belonged to him.

Bava Basra(16a): R. Levi said: Both Satan and Peninah had a pious purpose [in acting as adversaries]. Satan, when he saw God inclined to favour Job said, Far be it that God should forget the love of Abraham. Of Peninah it is written, And her rival provoked her sore for to make her fret.10 When R. Aha b. Jacob gave this exposition in Papunia, Satan came and kissed his feet.

Bereishis Rabbah (17:8): Why does a man go out bareheaded while a woman goes out with her head covered?’ ‘She is like one who has done wrong and is ashamed of people; therefore she goes out with her head covered.’ ‘Why do they [the women] walk in front of the corpse [at a funeral]?’2 Because they brought death into the world, they therefore walk in front of the corpse, [as it is written], For he is borne to the grave... and alI men draw after him, as there were innumerable before him’ (Job XXI 32 f).3 And why was the precept of menstruation given to her? ' Because she shed the blood of Adam [by causing death], therefore was the precept of menstruation given to her.’ ‘And why was the precept of " dough"4 given to her? ‘Because she corrupted Adam, who was the dough (hallah) of the world,5 therefore was the precept of dough given to her.’And why was the precept of the Sabbath lights given to her? ‘Because she extinguished the soul of Adam, therefore was the precept of the Sabbath lights given to her.’7

Maharal (Avos 1:5):Don’t have excessive idle conversations with women. ...That is because one who does is going towards and is attracted to a reality which is lacking and he is clinging to an deficit which is evil. This is like we said above in the introduction that when the woman was created that Satan was created with her. This is stated in Bereishis Rabbah (17), That the letter “samech” does not appear in the Torah until woman was created. This is to teach us that when the woman was created that Satan was created with her. The explanation of this is as we said. The woman is more materialistic then the man because the man is considered to be on the level of Form relative to the woman. And since the woman is more materialistic the Satan was created with her. That is because the Satan is the Angel of Death which is the power which causes a lack amongst the created beings. That is because the lack is associated with material as is known concerning material which it clings and is attracted by the deficit. This is what is meant that when the woman was created that Satan was created with her. In other words this is referring to the level of man because the male is on a higher level than the female. That is because the female is attached to absence and deficit. Now to explain the Mishna which says that whoever has excessive idle conversations with womem causes evil to himself. That is because when a man follows after the woman who is clinging to the deficit – there is no greater evil than the deficit as is well known. This however is does not degrade the woman herself at all. But rather it is saying that when a man goes down from his level to go after a woman with excessive idle chatter then the man is deviating from reality and moves toward deficit. Thus it is negative and evil for the man when he deviates from his proper level which is the level of the male and goes after something which is lower than his proper level.Thus when the Tanna of the Mishna points this out, he is not coming to diminish the love a man has for his wife. Because unquestionably a man should love his wife as he loves himself and the Tanna is not addressing that at all. He is only concerned with a man having excessive idle chatter with his wife. Because to the degree he has excessive idle chatter with his wife he goes down from the level of the male and is attracted to material which is attached to deficit. Thus he is causing evil to himself.[to be continued]

Maharal (Bava Metzia 59a): All those who follow the advice of their wife fall into Gehinom – This is truly incredible. We explain this also in relationship to Avos (1:5), All those who talk a lot with their wives are idle from words of Torah and in the end they inherit Gehinom. You should know that the woman is compared to Substance while the man is compared to the Form in every place. And when the Form is not separated from the Substance but rather the Form follows after the Substance entirely – he falls in Gehinom. That is because it is well known that the deficit is attached and bound with the Substance. This is alluded to by the Sages when they noted that when the woman was created the Samech was created with her. Because we don’t find the letter Samech in the Torah until the woman was created. ויסגר בשר תחתנה Bereishis (2:21) and closed up the flesh. That teaches you that with the woman was attached the deficit which is Satan who is the Angel of Death. When the Form follow after the Substance the Form obtains the deficit. That is because Gehinom is only the complete deficit as we learn from the names Gehinom itself... But this is only when the husband listen to her regarding worldly matters. But regarding household matters, “He should bend down and listen to her”. That is because it is clear that the Form stands on the Substance and the Substance serves the Form and is like a house for the Substance. Therefore regarding household matters “He should bend down and listen to her”. In contrast in worldly matters, if the Form follows after the Substance – then such is loss and deficit for the Form. However according to the other answer of the gemora that a husband should listen to his wife also for worldly matters that is because the Form stands on the Substance and thus also advice worldly matters are relevant. It is only spiritual matters that should be avoided from the wife. That is because the husband is considered the abstract Form but not the Form in the Substance. In such a case if the man follows after the Substance it would be a deficit for him. That would mean that the Form which is the abstract Form is sunken in the Substance which is a completely negative for the Form. Understand these matters in depth because they are very clear.

רבנו בחיי (בראשית ד:כב): ואחות תובל קין נעמה. דרשו חז"ל (בראשית רבה כג:ג) אשתו של נח היתה ונקראת כן על שם שהיו מעשיה נאים ונעימים. ויש אומרים שהיא היתה אשת אשמדון אם אשמדאי והשדים נולדו ממנה. וארבע נשים היו אמות השדים, לילית, ונעמה, ואגרת, ומחלת, ויש לכל אחת ואחת מהן מחנות וכתות של רוח הטומאה אין מהם מספר. ואומרים כי כל אחת מושלת בתקופה אחת מארבע תקופות שבשנה ומתקבצות בהר נשפה קרוב להרי חושך. וכל אחת מושלת בתקופתה משעת שקיעת החמה עד חצות לילה הן וכל מחנותיהן. ועל כולן משל שלמה וקרא אותם עבדים ושפחות שהיה משתמש בהם כרצונו. וארבע נשים אלו נשיו של שרו של עשו הן ודוגמתו נשא עשו ארבע נשים כדמפורש בתורה. וגם חז"ל האריכו במדרש (שם כד, ו) בענין אדם הראשון שכל אותן מאה ושלושים שנה שהיה נזוף בחטאו שהוליד רוחין ושדין ולילין ומזיקין. וזאת מעלה ושלמות במין האדם שממנו הרוחניים שבגלגלי היסודות גם ממנו יש רוחניים שכליים במרום, והבן זה:

The writing on the wall: Being a Jew in Trumpland

It started during the presidential campaign with anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish journalists, but since Donald Trump’s election the ripples of hatred have turned into a giant wave. In a special coast-to-coast project, Yedioth Ahronoth presents excerpts demonstrating the extent to which American Jews have become consumed with trepidation and who are beginning to realize that ‘never again’ is a very fragile phrase in the current climate.

Last Monday morning, local television channels in the United States were flooded with footage of small children holding the hands of adults walking next to them and trying to catch up with them. The adults, meanwhile, were trying to get the little ones to walk a bit faster, without making them panic. From North Carolina to Maryland, from Alabama to Rhode Island, thousands of children were evacuated from at least 12 Jewish community centers and schools.

It was the fifth wave in a month and a half of telephone bomb threats against Jewish centers. Only one day earlier, desecrated headstones were discovered in Philadelphia’s Jewish cemetery.

A week earlier, vandalized gravestones were discovered in the St. Louis Jewish cemetery. Several days prior, dozens of Jewish centers were evacuated. A week earlier, swastikas were taped to the front doors of a synagogue in downtown Chicago, and swastikas were scrawled on the windows of a New York City subway train.

The day before that, and a day after, and pretty much every day since the change of administration in the US, America’s Jews have been facing provocations and insults which they never thought they would experience there, in that enlightened democracy.

In the middle of the week, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued a new security advisory to workers and visitors of Jewish institutions. This followed 90 bomb threats in a week and a half, including one threat directly against the ADL headquarters in New York, although they all eventually turned out to be false threats.

According to the new advisory, the different institutions must review their evacuation procedures, in case of bomb threats, as well as the security arrangements at the entrances to the buildings.

These troubling phenomena are now a matter of routine, and a direct result of the freedom felt by anti-Semites, racists and other ignorant people to bring their hatred out into the open.

It began during the presidential campaign, when Jewish journalists were the main victims of anti-Semitic harassment, whether on social media or in emails with images of ovens. But since Donald Trump’s election—after gaining the support of neo-Nazi organizations, leaders of the Ku Klux Klan and the new generation of white supremacists—the ripples of anti-Semitism have turned into a big wave.

Under the anti-political correctness guise, real poison has been discharged into the American air. In the meantime, no one is actually trying to stop it, before something really bad happens. The result is that America’s Jews wake up in the morning without knowing where the next insult, in the best-case scenario, or the next physical threat, in the worst-case scenario, will come from.

The following excerpts—some using their full name, some using only their first name for fear of being exposed—describe what the US Jewry is going through right now. This relatively small segment of the population—proud, pluralistic and esteemed—knows its history and is beginning to understand that “never again” is a very fragile phrase these days:

The toxic strain of liberalism that makes blacks—and Jews—invisible

Early on in Get Out, Jordan Peele’s directorial debut and one of the most significant American films of the last three decades, a couple runs over a deer on a country road. It’s all downhill from there: Soon, the cops arrive, and the film’s real drama begins to unfurl. The driver, Rose, is white. Her boyfriend, Chris, is black. A policeman asks Chris for his driver’s license. Rose insists Chris was never behind the wheel, and so shouldn’t have to present his papers. Tense looks are exchanged. The drama of race in America simmers, threatening to boil over.

It does, but not as you might expect. Soon, Chris and Rose arrive at the elegant home of her parents, the Armitages. Dad’s a surgeon with a white beard and twinkly eyes. Mom’s a therapist with a soft smile. They’re huge fans of Obama, as they make a point of telling Chris right away. They’re every bit as welcoming as that cop was suspicious. They’re enlightened folk, good progressives who hold all the right ideas. And they may also be homicidal maniacs.[...]

What’s truly terrifying about Get Out is that its monsters aren’t the stock bigots we’re used to seeing—the sweaty, swaggering sheriffs with Southern drawls, the oily Republican preppies—but a novel, and much more realistic, kind of menace. Peele’s villains say all the pretty things about white guilt and black empowerment and racial equality, but when it comes to doing, they’re very much proponents of more coercion from on high, more social engineering, more bad ideas that put the bodies and the minds of black people at mortal risk. Chris’ experience may be more macabre than usual, but it’s not fundamentally different than, say, that of the folks living on Chicago’s West or South sides—where 762 people were murdered last year alone, and where the response of the progressive administration was to call for making the already stringent and clearly ineffective gun laws even more stringent and ineffective—or that of the kids in Detroit, where decades of progressive policies have turned the public schools into crumbling monuments to hopelessness. In those cases and too many more, black lives matter mostly as abstractions, the moving background in the morality play designed to reinforce liberal pieties, vilify anyone who doesn’t hold the right opinions as racists, and, most tragically, ignore the real lives of real people in need of real help.

American Jews, thankfully, are considerably more fortunate, but the dread evoked by Get Out is not entirely unfamiliar. In most of polite society, Jewishness is treated in much the same way as the murderous Armitages treat blackness: an idea to be celebrated while the actual people who embody it are destroyed. For proof, look no further than Linda Sarsour, one of the organizers of the massive Women’s March, protesting the inauguration of Donald Trump: Having raised tens of thousands of dollars to help rebuild a Jewish synagogue desecrated by anti-Semitic vandals in St. Louis, she thinks nothing of siding with Islamic Jihad operatives or embracing convicted terrorists who have murdered two young Jewish men. To our progressive betters, this is not a problem: They embrace Judaism but have no problem with those who kill Jews. Platitudes are offered, power is preserved, and the parade of folly goes on.

Like many, I’ve witnessed it firsthand. Spending a few years as a professor at New York University, I soon realized that while my colleagues would, if asked, go to great lengths to denounce anti-Semitism as vile, they had little patience for anyone, myself included, who believed that Jews were people who deserved basic rights. When I emailed a fellow professor and asked to participate in a weekend seminar she was organizing to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—a subject I know a thing or two about—I was ignored, and eventually informed that the event was by invitation only, and that I wasn’t invited. It was, of course, dedicated to discussing the singling out of Israel for boycotts, divestments, and sanctions, a plot that would hardly benefit from the perspective of a proud Israeli-born Jew who insists his people have as much of a right to self-determination as everyone else in the world.

It was this kind of corrosive ideology—extolling the values of diversity while enforcing a crippling orthodoxy that had little patience for Jewish identity—that eventually drove me to get out of academia. It didn’t take long for me to learn the same lesson Chris does in the movie, namely that the point of this new strain of toxic liberalism isn’t really to help victims of racism or anti-Semitism or any other sort of discrimination; rather, it’s to reconfigure the identities of white people so that they may go on and enjoy the same exact comforts to which they’re accustomed. It’s the same prejudices wearing better clothes. And it works because it projects its disdain for the unruly lower orders onto poor whites—working stiffs like that hapless cop, schlubs who probably eat at Denny’s and listen to Toby Keith and vote for Donald Trump—while continuing to deny actual black people the right to cast themselves as the protagonists of their own dramas outside of the rigid scripts written for them by the white elite. The same is true for anti-Semitism, which the same elites can now project onto Israel: The Jewish State, our intellectual and moral betters insist, is the home of the bad Jews, murderous thugs who massacre innocent Palestinian babies and therefore can expect nothing less than the knife, the bomb, and the rocket, while the good Jews are those who nod in agreement, smile politely, think little, and say less.

Chris’ purgatory, like mine, wasn’t one specific moneyed estate occupied by one specific set of psychopaths. It was, and is, the twisted version of multicultural meritocracy peddled everywhere from our finest universities to our most revered newspapers, institutions once devoted to free inquiry and now committed to nothing more than laundering the inherited privilege of the children of the enlightened elites who can then emerge, after four years of devouring the doctrine, as social justice warriors who can safely inherit their parents’ fortunes and get jobs in cool start-up tech companies, which, surprisingly or not, look like the exact opposite of the quota-based politically correct heaven-on-earth to which they aspired so fervently just a few months earlier. It’s a scam, and, as Jordan Peele reminds us, it can be a deadly one.

Watching Get Out, then, I felt the old sense of dread that gnawed at me every day of my academic career creep back. I know what it’s like to be in a room full of people who smile but don’t really believe you matter. And in life, just like in that fine movie, there’s really only one thing to do in such situations: acknowledge that the threat is real, refuse to play the game, and get the hell out.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Republicans wave a white flag on repealing Obamacare

Democrats denouncing the new House GOP health-care bill should actually be dancing in the streets. Perhaps, in the privacy of their own homes, the savvier ones are popping the champagne corks. The true meaning of the proposed legislation is that, after eight years of all-out political and ideological struggle against Obamacare, Republicans have surrendered — pretty much on all fronts.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) should have written the bill on a large white tablecloth and run it up the nearest flagpole.

Yes, yes, the plan is labeled “repeal and replace.” And, true, it does away with many of the Obamacare provisions that conservatives most reviled, including the individual mandate to buy insurance and a bevy of taxes. If enacted and fully implemented, the plan probably would insure fewer people and shift more of the cost down the income distribution scale, in part by restricting the flow of Medicaid funds to the states.

Democrats and their allies in the liberal policy community are not wrong to fret about that. However, when they look up from their spreadsheets, what they’ll notice is that much of Obamacare’s architecture remains: The GOP bill relies on regulated and subsidized individual insurance, plus a Medicaid program that would be smaller than it has been since Obamacare began, but still larger than it was before, to fill coverage gaps left by the mainstays of U.S. health care: Medicare and employer-paid plans.

After vilifying that set of interlocking policy compromises as a budget-busting, freedom-destroying ticket to second-rate medical care, the leaders of the GOP House have now declared, in writing, that they don’t have a fundamentally different idea, much less a better one. Even the individual mandate, and the “tax penalty” that enforced it, isn’t really gone. It is recast as a requirement to maintain continous coverage, enforced by a surcharge payable to insurance companies.

Heretofore, the health-care debate was a contest between Republicans, who were bent on repealing “every word of Obamacare,” and Democrats, who defended it.

Now it’s an argument about whose subsidized-regulated-individual-market-plus-some-Medicaid thingy works better.[...]

Conservative true believers certainly aren’t impressed. “Many Americans seeking health insurance on the individual market will notice no significant difference between the Affordable Care Act (i.e., Obamacare) and the American Health Care Act,” wrote Michael A. Needham of Heritage Action for America. “That is bad politics and, more importantly, bad policy.”[...]

Donald Trump got elected president by promising to repeal Obamacare — except for all the good stuff such as preexisting-condition coverage and up-to-26-year-olds staying on their parents’ plans — as well as to protect Medicare.

A not-unfair summary of the typical American voter’s view on health care might go like this: “Give me a plan with abundant covered services and choice, and shift as much of the cost as possible onto someone else, while protecting the poor, but for heaven’s sake don’t make it ‘government-run.’ ”

That inconsistent set of demands pretty much defined public opinion back in 2009, too, which is partly why Obamacare came out as it did. It represented the maximum politically feasible distance Democrats could move toward their top goal, universal coverage.

The GOP bill conversely — and revealingly — represents the maximum progress House Republicans think they can make toward free-market health care without committing political suicide. They sure didn’t get very far.

When Leaders Fail: Healing From Rabbinic Scandal

Jewish Action Magazine by Rabbi Yitzchak Breitowitz

In Bernard Malamud’s novel The Natural, an extremely talented ball player, Roy Hobbs, is discovered to have taken a bribe to throw a baseball game. He is barred from baseball for life and all his records are expunged. In a poignant final scene, a young boy turns to Roy with pleading eyes and says, “Say it ain’t so.” But Roy cannot. He simply weeps.

In many ways, this novel is a metaphor for the loss of innocence, for the sadness of discovering that those we thought were paragons of virtue and greatness are flawed, for the sense of betrayal as we are cast adrift by those in whom we put our trust and faith. In many ways, this metaphor aptly describes a crisis that is spreading within the Torah community.

We live in the era of the fallen hero—indeed the tragic hero who is destroyed by the fatal flaw that lies within. In all walks of life, people whom we admired have disappointed us with their failures and weaknesses. We have become disillusioned and cynical. Unfortunately, even within the Torah camp, leaders in whom we placed our trust have betrayed us. And while the overwhelming majority of rabbis, teachers and spiritual mentors perform their tasks with integrity and commitment—and we should never make the mistake of condemning the many because of the sins of the few—many of us have lost faith in the very people who are supposed to inspire us in our faith. We see them engulfed in sexual scandals, child abuse, political intrigue, bribery and fraud. Some are accused of direct wrongdoing, others of cover-up and dissembling. Many have lost faith not only in those who are supposed to transmit Torah but, to some degree, in the goodness and morality of the Torah itself. God’s name and His glory quite literally have been besmirched, the very definition of chillul Hashem.

In some ways, this cynicism and loss of faith may be a greater tragedy than even the very real pain suffered by innocent victims (a pain that I certainly do not want to minimize in any way). The tragedy of cynicism presupposes that everything is tainted. Nothing good is real. No one is sincere. Everything is a gimmick. Everyone is a charlatan and a faker. And what is the use of pretending otherwise? These attitudes suck up hope the way a fire sucks up oxygen. They destroy spiritual strivings. They destroy hope for the future. They engender passivity and bitterness and ultimately become a self-fulfilling prophecy of defeatism and hopelessness. It is precisely at this juncture that we have to take stock and articulate some basic simple principles.[...]

A rabbi in particular may be prone to the sins of arrogance and hubris, especially if he is talented. While not necessarily the smartest person in the room, he is usually the most Jewishly knowledgeable. He determines how people are married, buried and converted. He literally makes life-and-death decisions and often has little need to justify, explain or defend those decisions. (This is a technical halachic matter, too deep and complicated for you to understand, et cetera.) As Lord Acton remarked, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” When there is a power relationship, when people approach you in their moments of vulnerability and weakness, and when people praise you for your scholarship, organizational abilities and debating finesse, there is the risk of arrogance, of kochi v’otzem yadi. One forgets that he is in the employ of God, and that whatever talents one was vouchsafed must be employed exclusively for the glory of God. It becomes about you, and when you become the focus, anything goes. Dovid HaMelech takes Batsheva and sends her husband to his death. Yochanan Kohen Gadol becomes a Tzeduki after eighty years of faithful service. The messenger gets tarnished and the message corrupted when it is intertwined with power, influence and control.10

Both as communities and individuals, we need to avoid dependence on charismatic leadership and the personality cult. We are setting ourselves up for disappointment. The rabbi is setting himself up for the “pride that comes before the fall.” The Alter of Slobodka deliberately spoke in a dry monotone to minimize his personal charisma. He wanted people to be affected by the content of his words, not the style of his personality. Indeed, the Derashot HaRan11 teaches that Moshe Rabbeinu was kevad peh and kevad lashon (had a serious speech impediment) precisely for the reason that people should not elevate him to the status of a demigod and be moved and inspired by his hypnotic oratorical abilities. (For the same reason, the Torah conceals the place where Moshe is buried12 and, according to some commentaries, this is also why Moshe’s name is not mentioned in the Pesach Haggadah.)

Rabbi Berel Wein describes the dangers of charismatic leadership very well:

We love the flash of brilliant insight, the devastating quip, the broad permanent smile, the warm embrace and the hero worship that characterize the person who possesses that elusive quality of charisma . . . . Yet, like all other seeming blessings, charisma carries within it seeds of self-destruction.

The charismatic personality is likely to succumb to the temptation of believing all of the adulation showered upon him or her. In the triumphant parades of the Roman emperors, a servant rode along in the emperor’s chariot and whispered to him, amidst the din of the cheering throngs, a reminder of his past failings and future mortality. Believing in one’s own charismatic qualities builds one’s ego to ferocious heights. And an inflated ego always leads to downfall and personal defeat. It allows the guilty to eventually believe in their own perfect innocence and to expect others to do so as well. Prideful haughtiness goes before a fall, opined King Solomon long ago. Prideful haughtiness is very often a byproduct of the charismatic personality.[...]

There is yet another danger that charismatic leadership poses, a more subtle one that may be especially damaging to adolescent students, ba’alei teshuvah and candidates for conversion. Such leadership tends to be autocratic, controlling and disparaging of individual choice and personal autonomy (even within the bounds of halachah). These are warning signals that should not be ignored. Leadership that tries to micromanage not only institutions but individual lives is inherently suspect. At least within the non-Chassidic tradition, the role of rabbis, roshei yeshivah, teachers and spiritual mentors is to inform, educate and inspire, not to command and direct. The students/congregants are expected to think for themselves and to have the ability and maturity to make decisions and take control of their lives; the rabbi’s function is to enable and enhance the development of those capacities.

From my own personal experiences, I can say that this was very definitely the approach of my roshei yeshivah, Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Ruderman and Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg, as well as that of Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky, all of blessed memory; and this was deeply rooted in the teachings of the Alter of Slobodka. As mechanchim par excellence, they saw their role as helping the student formulate his own approach to life and not simply be an automaton blindly following either the leader or the crowd. From the disciples of the Rav, I gather that Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik was exactly the same. This indeed was historically characteristic of the Litvishe gadol.15


Why does the Torah go into so much detail about the korbanot, and why is a kohen not permitted to contaminate himself by contact with a corpse? Rabbi Saul Berman22 once offered an intriguing thought. The kohen has great power; the power to effect atonement, reconciliation with the Creator. He has access to holy places that no one else may enter. He can perform rituals that no one else can perform. He is in charge of a cosmic apparatus that literally determines the survival of the world. This puts him in a position of control, and with that control comes the potential of abuse and manipulation. The antidote is transparency and accountability. Every Jew is entitled to know what the avodat hamikdash is and how the kohen performs it. The avodat hamikdash must be demystified and clearly explained so it does not become a force of control. For the same reason, the kohen effectively distances himself from people at the moment of their greatest vulnerability and weakness, for it is precisely at those moments that the potential for manipulative control is at its maximum. Rabbi Berman suggests that these considerations have relevance to the rabbinate as well. Rabbinic rulings, procedures and standards should not be seen as arbitrary, mysterious pronouncements whose authority is grounded in personal charisma but should be explained in terms accessible to the kehillah. While it is incontestable that a rabbi must be the final halachic authority within his congregation, it is equally true that he must be able to explain his positions, his standards and his behaviors. As Justice Louis Brandeis remarked in a different context many years ago, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Anything that cannot be explained was probably not justified in the first place. Rabbi Yossi aptly stated, “I never did anything for which I had to turn around and see who was watching me” (Erchin 15b).[...]

Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner30 noted long ago that although we are very familiar with the great successes of our gedolim—their brilliance, their hasmadah (diligence), et cetera—we know much less about their struggles, their mistakes and their failures. But in many ways, knowing how they dealt with setbacks and disappointments might be far more useful and instructive than simply viewing them as superhuman and perfect. (He was thus a bit critical of the hagiographic tendencies in the biographies of gedolim.) The true measure of greatness is growing and learning from our failures. “The tzaddik may fall seven times and rises” (Mishlei 24:16) does not mean he rises despite falling but rather it is the very confrontation with his inner demons that is the source of his greatness.[...]

But teshuvah is neither easy nor cheap. First, teshuvah necessitates taking responsibility for one’s actions rather than denying, equivocating or blaming others. When Shaul HaMelech failed to fulfill his duty to eradicate Amalek, he was not given a second chance. He was told that the malchut would be taken from him and given to someone better and more suitable. When Dovid HaMelech, on the other hand, committed sins that were arguably more severe, i.e., adultery and murder,34 he remained king and indeed his dynasty will produce the Mashiach. Rabbi Yosef Albo35 suggests that the key distinction between Shaul and Dovid lay not in the nature of their sins but in how they responded to the rebuke of the prophets. When the prophet Shmuel confronts Shaul, Shaul first denies the accusation (“I did the will of God”) and then blames others for his failure. By contrast, when Natan communicates to Dovid the enormity of his offense through the parable of the rich man and the lamb, all Dovid does is utter two words, “chatati laShem,” “I have sinned.” No excuses, no mitigating circumstances, no blaming of others.36 Indeed, Dovid followed the noble example of his ancestor Yehuda who similarly stepped forward to declare publicly “tzadkah mimeni,” “she [Tamar] is more righteous than I.”37 God does not expect our leaders to be perfect; God does expect them to take responsibility when they fail.

Second, teshuvah requires seeking the forgiveness of those who were wronged, primarily specific victims but including also the community as a whole that experienced significant betrayal.38 Rabbi Hutner39 eloquently explains that when a person hurts another, the damage he inflicts is not only the particular hurt the victim suffered but the fact that the victim feels psychologically violated, less secure in the world, bitter, angry, betrayed, less able to trust. The victim, in a sense, has become diminished as a person, and the perpetrator must do what he can to restore the person to his or her wholeness. Bakashat mechilah (asking forgiveness), then, is not simply an apology for the past but an attempt at restoration. And learning how to forgive is part of that restorative healing process as well. We are all weak and vulnerable, and we should look at all people with compassion and forgiveness. We must learn to forgive not only for the benefit of the sinner but for ourselves. A heart filled with anger and resentment can never move on. It is stuck. There is no room for God.

Third, teshuvah does not automatically mean restoration to a prior position.40 To take an extreme case, no sane person would argue that a repentant child molester should go back to teaching children. This is so for two reasons. First, it is impossible for anyone to gauge the true depth and sincerity of the teshuvah process. Second, even a sincere teshuvah may not be able to withstand a strong, overpowering temptation and the ba’al teshuvah may falter.41 We simply cannot take the chance that innocent people, especially children, may be harmed. Nevertheless, assuming we can minimize these risks, the person who takes responsibility, works to improve and sincerely seeks the forgiveness of those he harmed deserves the gift of a second chance to be of service to Klal Yisrael. All of us earnestly pray that God will give us these chances when we need them. God shows us the compassion that we are able to show to others.42 [....]


The sin of a spiritual leader, especially when that sin becomes known to the public, carries a much greater level of severity. In addition to the sin itself, there is a chillul Hashem, a desecration or profanation of God’s name, as the rabbi’s misconduct brings shame and disgrace on the Torah.43 This would even be the case if the misbehavior would not otherwise be a serious sin (e.g., rudeness in the checkout line or cutting someone off in traffic), and the chillul Hashem is obviously compounded by the gravity of the offense. According to Rambam,44 one who is guilty of chillul Hashem has no atonement (kaparah) until the day of death. Neither teshuvah nor Yom Kippur nor even suffering can erase the stigma of the sin. Standing alone, this ruling might suggest that although teshuvah is a necessary component for forgiveness, it is insufficient; there is literally no atonement possible within the confines of Olam Hazeh. However, this ruling does not, in fact, stand alone and other factors must be considered. There are at least five halachic arguments that suggest that even the sin of chillul Hashem is amenable to sincere teshuvah. [...]

Published response to above article   Jewish Action
“When Leaders Fail” is an article that fails. It is too late, cold and clinical and is filled with error. 
The author states, “In some ways, this cynicism and loss of faith may be a greater tragedy than even the very real pain suffered by innocent victims (a pain that I certainly do not want to minimize in any way).” This is wrong. Child abuse kills. It damages the brain. MRIs and other diagnostic tools prove this. Victims have shortened lives. 
The author writes, “There is an element of collective guilt in the fact that we as a community allowed these abuses to occur, did not respond to the problems that were brought to our attention, ignored them, swept them under the rug.” Wrong again. There is now a well-populated community of outspoken abuse survivors and advocates, whom the author neglects to thank and we do not bear this “collective guilt.” 
The author writes, “There are, of course, laws of lashon hara, and I am not necessarily envisioning full public exposure in the media (though this happens anyway), but at least within the limited community of responsible leadership, those who were harmed must be able to speak.” Wrong again. The author first told us that leadership bears the blame, and now recommends that victims should consult only with this failed leadership. He writes this while reminding us, in the vaguest way, of hilchos lashon hara, planting the seeds of doubt that true negative information about a misbehaving rabbi should not be reported. 
Finally, he states, “In the superheated atmosphere of the Internet, everyone is guilty until proven innocent and indeed quite often, is guilty even after being proven innocent. In this world of hyperbole, gossip, unsubstantiated rumors and personal vendettas, a casual reader might conclude that the rabbinate, and indeed the entire Torah community, has run amok, is utterly devoid of any semblance of morality and is nothing less than the modern incarnation of Sodom and Gomorrah. This does not reflect reality, and it is important that our children know this.” This sentence is not only wrong, it is an insult and smear upon every abuse survivor and advocate who taps words onto the Internet complaining about his or her abuse. Additionally, the implication that the survivors and advocates are guilty of many false accusations is an outright falsehood. 
This article does not deserve the OU haskamah. 
Elliot B. Pasik
Long Beach, New York

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

MK Shuli Muallem works to increase sanctions against recalcitrant husbands, but not wives. Why the discrimination? Muallem refuses to say.

Jewish Home Knesset faction chairman MK Shuli Mualem, together with the Emunah women's movement, is promoting a bill to mandate stricter sanctions against recalcitrant husbands in divorce cases. But what about fractious females? On this topic Muallem becomes uncommunicative.

The Knesset yesterday approved the first reading of the law to deprive recalcitrant prisoners of privileges granted to observe religious life, including billeting in the Torah wing, study and keeping books, attending Torah classes and access to holy books. In addition, the objector will not be allowed to get special kosher meals.

The explanatory annex accompanying the bill clarifies that it is intended to bring pressure to bear upon male objectors. "A person who chooses to live according to Jewish law can not decide on the parts he accepts and those he rejects," Muallem said. "Judaism encompasses the fundamental principle of 'Love thy neighbor as thyself'."

More female recalcitrants than male

Arutz Sheva asked MK Muallem if she would promote sanctions against recalcitrant women. This in light of data recently published by the management of the Rabbinical Courts that indicate that there are more female recalcitrants - that is, women who refuse to accept divorce from their husbands - than recalcitrant husbands.

According to the court management, unlike male objectors, female objectors are not sent to prison. Whenever they maintain their refusal, they are still entitled to receive alimony, if not working. While husbands of recalcitrant wives may get "permission of one hundred rabbis" to remarry, as opposed to refused women, these permits are rare.

MK Muallem told us that she does not want to answer our question.[...]

The macabre trial of Prof. George Bensoussan: Verdict today

Update: He was acquitted!

Times of Israel  In their ruling, the tribunal said the plaintiffs failed to substantiate the hate speech charges and concluded that Bensoussan merely “misspoke” in quoting Laacher without intention to incite hatred, AFP reported.

The trial pitted anti-racism activists against one another, including within LICRA. One of France’s most revered thinkers, the philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, resigned from its honorary board in protest over what French media called “l’Affaire Bensoussan.”

Long frustrated over what they regard as politically correct censorship, right-leaning French Jews reacted with outrage over Bensoussan’s prosecution.
Arutz 7
George Bensoussan also is a highly reputed authority in the specialized area of Jewish communities in Arab countries. He is a hard-working, productive academic who has contributed significantly to humanitarian causes.

Observing the current macabre-trial-in-progress, one cannot help but think of just two possibilities regarding the incomprehensible, completely irrational behaviour of both French organizations and the juridical authorities: either the Dreyfus Affair mentality is still thriving in the country of the officer who was utterly loyal to his country but had ‘sinned by default’ - that is, by being born Jewish; or French society's way of life in the 21st century makes it prone to a recurrence of the one of the most shameful episodes of French history.

The resurrection of the Dreyfus Affair seems to be perceived by much of the French public and juridical institutions with shocking enthusiasm. In fact, since October 2015, France has been galvanized by what is known as the Bensoussan Trial.[...]

The chronicle of distinguished historian George Bensoussan is in the public domain. To recapitulate briefly, in October 2015, Bensoussan, head of of the Memorial de la Shoah editorial department, was invited by famous French philosopher and member of the French Academy Alain Finkielkraut to participate in a radio program and discussion. In the course of the discussion, Bensoussan, who was born in Morocco and knows the reality of life in the Arab world first-hand, referred to remarks made by Algerian-born Professor Smain Laacheron of Strasbourg University on the topic of anti-Semitism among the Arab families in France, in a film shown on French TV3.

In his portrayal of the anti-Semitic atmosphere which has become the norm in the Arab milieu of France, but is still regarded as an unspoken taboo in France, at least publically, Laacher described extensively the phenomenon of what he called ‘domestic anti-Semitism’ in Arab families, with such details as “one of the parents’ insults to their children when they want to reprimand them, is to call them ‘Jews.'“ Laacher also said on the record, in the movie broadcast on French TV3, that “anti-Semitism in Arab families is first of all domestic (...), it is in the air that one breathes” – all this according to the transcript of the film.

In the radio program discussion which caused the entire brouhaha, George Bensoussan praised professor Laacher for his bravery, and said, re-phrasing Laacher: “ as Laacher very bravely said ( ...), in France, in Arab families ( ...) anti-Semitism is imbibed with one's mother’s milk.”

It took only three days for a group of pro-Islamic activists to bring their claim against George Bensoussan to the French media watch-dog, CSA, accusing the historian of propagating "biological racism.” The absurd accusations snowballed with maddening energy and speed. The absurd does have the characteristic of multiplying in no time, as George Orwell could tell you.

The pro-Islamist organization Le Collectif Contre l'Islamophobie en France (Collective Against Islamophobia in France, CCIF) wasted no time in bringing the case against George Bensoussan to the Paris prefecture which, in a surprising move, decided to prosecute.

That, in our view, was and is the essential point of yet another shameful public trial in France, astonishingly similar to the Stalin show-trials.

There are many organizations involved by now in the Bensoussan Affair, and the French public is also able to observe the intensifying battle within French Jewry, itself divided on what its position should be regarding the senseless witch-hunt of a distinguished Jewish historian.

But in our opinion, these are not the essential things to concentrate on, because the story is hardly surprising.

The core of the matter goes back to November 2015 and the hurried decision of the Paris prefecture to prosecute the distinguished historian in criminal court for paraphrasing another academic. Not only France, but the rest of the world must become familiar with the name of the prosecutor and anyone else who contributed to the Kafka-like realities that occurred in Paris in late January 2017 when the trial took place. George Bensoussan himself, most perceptively, named it ‘intellectual terror.’

It is chilling to admit that George, his friends and people in similar positions in France are living in a literally Kafkian reality.

Remarkably, the film, in which sociologist Laacher gave a long tirade explaining the roots of the current anti-Semitism in Arab families in France, was publically aired in France back in 2015 two weeks after George Bensoussan talked about it, without any consequences for Laacher. Moreover, Laacher published several articles in the leading French media, including Le Monde, both before and after the radio program in which George Bensoussan mentioned him, with no reaction from any of those enthusiastic organizations and activists, and no prosecutor’s interest in him at all.

In the process of the public defense of Bensoussan, several well-known academics of Arab origins were named, men who analyze the phenomenon of anti-Semitism in Arab families in their works and who expressing the same opinion, facts, and analyses publically as did Bensoussan; none of them had ever become the subject of any punitive action or reprimand.

The court hearings in Paris at the end of January 2017 were surreal, with witnesses for the prosecution stating that ‘anti-Semitism, indeed, is rooted in many Arab families in France, but not in every family’; with experts issuing delusional opinions like ‘while Arab families indeed call their children Jews, it is not regarded as an insult, but rather a normal part language and life.’[...]

The supposed justification for prosecuting him, a distinguished historian with an impeccable record of academic research and many books to his credit, a man of high international reputation - boggles the mind. Charged in criminal court for a metaphor? Why should George Bensoussan now have a criminal record? What about his and his family's nerves, health, and emotions? What about the moral consequences of this ongoing witch-hunt, persecution and trial? [...]