Thursday, 31 March 2016

Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu Banned From Campus Over Israel Criticism

From RRW

"Ultimately, groups like Minnesota's JCRC, the right wing fringe group Zionist Organization of America, and the increasingly embarrassing Anti-Defamation League, who have all attacked Tutu for his criticism of Israeli policies, will face the consequences of smearing Tutu -- a hero to millions and leader of a movement that was known for the massively disproportionate involvement of numerous South African Jews."
Comment: notice how ZOA is characterized as a Right Wing Fringe Group......

Monday, 28 March 2016

On the Political Stupidity of the Jews » The Tikvah Fund‏

From RRW
"This contradiction between the two ways of thinking is a problem for American politics, since Smith’s perspective frequently clashes with that of Burke within the Republican Party. It is obviously, and very dramatically, a problem for Israeli politics, where those who have an appreciation for the importance of freedom frequently have difficulty understanding the role played in a healthy society by tradition, and vice versa.
Yet oddly enough, Adam Smith and Edmund Burke were friends who admired each other’s writings and, to the best of our knowledge, did not see them as being in conflict or fundamentally contradictory. Moreover, throughout the nineteenth century, conservatives in Great Britain had no problem regarding them with equal respect. How did they manage it?"

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Mussar: Re: One's Money

first posted January 12, 2013

Courtesy of Derech Emet Group.

Chovot HaLevavot, Shaar Avodat HaBitachon, Intro, page 360:

...he [a person with correct trust in G_d] views it [his money] as a deposit that he was commanded to use in specific ways and for specific purposes for a limited time.

If it stays with him a long time, he will not become arrogant because of it [or sin rebelliously because of it] and he will not remind the people who he was commanded to donate to [the recipients of his kindness] about. his goodness [that he gave to them], and he will not seek repayment or thanks or praise, [because he was only doing his job by helping others].

Instead, he thanks his Creator for having made him an agent [literally, cause] of kindness.


Chovot HaLevavot was written around year 1040 of the Common Era by Rabbi Bachya ben Yosef ibn Pakuda, who lived in Saragossa, Spain.

Chovot HaLevavot was written in Arabic. and later translated into Hebrew.

Best Regards,

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Mechiyat Amalek: Choice in Destruction

Originally published 3/18/11, 9:58 am.
This article originally appeared in Nishma Update, March 1992 and is also available on the Nishma website.

Choice in Destruction

In Sefer HaMitzvot, Mitzva Asseh 187, Rambam, when describing the command to destroy the Seven Nations that inhabited Canaan, uses the verb le'harog, to kill. The Chinuch, Mitzva 425, is similar. Yet both authors in describing the mitzva to destroy Amalek apply a different language. The command is to destroy the zerah, the progeny of Amalek and, what seems to be even of greater significance, to eradicate any memory of Amalek from this world. In Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 5:5, in codifying this law, Maimonides only mentions this latter part although in the Sefer HaMitzvot he mentions the first. What significance is there to this change in language? What is the actual essence of the mitzva

To answer these questions, at least according to the view of Rambam, it is necessary to look at a most controversial law that Maimonides codifies in Hilchot Melachim 6:1-4. According to Rambam, the Jewish nation's obligation to make peace before going to war applies even to battles with the Seven Nations and Amalek. How does this reconcile with the mitzvot regarding the destruction of these nations? The language of the Kesef Mishna is most revealing. While Ra'avad and others state that this agreement of peace must include the observance of the Seven Noachide Laws on the part of these nations, the Kesef Mishna presents a most interesting reason why - " for if they accept the Seven Noachide Laws they leave the category of the Seven Nations and Amalek and they are like bnei Noach ha'kesharim, righteous non-Jews". In terms of the Seven Nations, the mitzva is now fully understandable. The command is to kill the members of these nations, as Rambam states in Sefer HaMitzvot, they are the root of idolatry. Once someone accepts, however, the Noachide Code, they are no longer a member of these nations that are the root of idolatry and therefore there is no command to kill this individual (in fact, this would be prohibited just as it is prohibited to kill any non-Jew ). How, though, does one understand the mitzva regarding Amalek? 

On the surface the answer seems to be simple - the command regarding Amalek should be similar. The language in the Mishneh Torah and Sefer HaMitzvot however must lead to a different conclusion. Regarding the Seven Nations, the command is to kill them. If, however, the Seven Nations do not exist, because of something such as acceptance of the Noachide Code, then this mitzva cannot be performed. Encouraging the members of the Seven Nations to accept the Noachide Code may be praiseworthy and a part of the command to first reach out for peace, but it is not part of this mitzva - the language is clear. Regarding Amalek, however, the command is to destroy its memory, its progeny, its essence - its name. It would seem that any transformation of someone out of the category of Amalek would fulfil this mitzva of destroying this entity. I would argue, though, that the mitzva can only be fulfilled if the member of Amalek converts to become a Jew. While acceptance of the Noachide Code takes someone out of the category of Amalek and, as such, there is no command to destroy this individual, this acceptance would not utterly destroy the Amalek concept from this world. A subsequent rejection of the Seven Noachide Mitzvot, it would seem, could lead to this individual being re-classified as Amalek. Acceptance of the Noachide Code would simply, as in the case of the Seven Nations, mean there is no command to destroy this individual while he is in this state of a kosher Ben Noach. Amalek, however, is not fully destroyed. Becoming a Jew and receiving that classification, however, is irrevocable. As Maimonides writes in Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 13:17, even if a convert returns to idolatry, this person is still classified as a Jew. Conversion would destroy the Amalek name and as such would seem to be a method to fulfil this mitzva

The irony in this approach to the command is that attempting to do the mitzva in this way, through gerut, would seem to be a full rectification of the original mistake that led to the creation of Amalek. In T.B. Tractate Sanhedrin 99b, we are told that the creation of Amalek was a punishment in that our Avot, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaacov, did not accept Timna, the mother of Amalek, as a ger. Is it not a Divine paradox in that we may fulfil a mitzva through the conversion of her children? 

The major problem with this approach, however, is the Mechilta, Shemot 17:16, which declares that gerim, converts, from Amalek are not to be accepted. The Mechilta actually seems to imply that even a process of conversion would be inapplicable for David killed the Amalekite convert - a member of Amalek simply cannot convert. Rambam, however, does not codify this law when he discusses those who can or cannot convert in Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah, chapter 12. Maimonides' non-acceptance of the Mechilta is further substantiated in that in Hilchot Sanhedrin 18:6 he refers to the case of the Amalekite convert as an example of the Jewish king's power of summary judgement. The major issue with the Mechilta actually arises from T.B. Tractate Gittin 57b and Tractate Sanhedrin 96b which declares that the descendants of Haman ( who is considered an Amalekite) learned Torah in B'nei Brak. If Amalekites cannot convert, how could Haman's descendants have become Jews? While some commentators reconcile the Mechilta and the Talmud through maintaining the bar on Amalekite conversion, there are others who declare the Mechilta's position not to be universal. See Torah Shelaima, Parshat Beshalach, section 185 and, for greater detail, Sefer Ner L'Meah. It would seem that Maimonides would be classified within the latter. While converting Amalek may not be an option in fulfilling the mitzva to all, it would seem to be a feasible method according to Rambam, and one that many may find more tenable.

Purim Torah -- Massechet Obama Batra / Perek HaDonald

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

United with Israel: And the Descendants of Haman Studied Torah in Bnei Brak

The defeat of evil was, perhaps, not best expressed in the deaths of Haman and his sons. It was, perhaps, better expressed in that descendants of Haman eventually learned Torah in Bnei Brak. In regard to this, please see my latest post in the United with Israel blog at

I am sure this will also be up on the UWI Facebook page in the near future. Please feel free to comment here or on one of the UWI sites.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Christopher Plummer Searches for a Nazi in ‘Remember’‏

From RRW
Review: Christopher Plummer Searches for a Nazi in ‘Remember’

In Atom Egoyan’s psychological thriller, two men realize they were both at Auschwitz and plan revenge against a camp official.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Donald Trump at AIPAC

From RRW

The response of some to Donald Trump's presence at the AIPAC conferance. What do you think -- of his presence and these responses to his presence?

Rabbis organize boycott of Trump’s speech to pro-Israel group

Protest Is Planned for Donald Trump’s Speech Before Pro-Israel Group
Donald Trump at AIPAC: Join Us in Standing Up Against Divisive Rhetoric | URJ‏

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Nishma-Parshah: Vayikra and Parshat Zachor

Take a look at what's on
for Parshat Vayikra and Parshat Zachor

P. Vayiqra - Shemen for M'nachot and the Mystery of the Pach Shemen

P. Vayiqra - Lirtzono, Kofin Oto ad she'omer "Rotzeh Ani

P. Vayiqra - Two Mussar Maxims from Torah T'mimah

Vayikra: Progression and Regression

Parshah: Vayikra, "Leviticus, Sacrifices, and Dialectic"

Parsha: Vayikra, "Catholic Israel"

P. Vayiqra - The Torah on Infallibility

  P. Vayiqra - "Qorbon

Parshat Zachor: Choice in Destruction

Re: Is Parshat Zachor d'Oraitto? - 2

Is Parshat Zachor d'Oraitto? - 1

Leining: Is it zeikher or zekher?

Zachor: Zeicher vs. Zecher 5

Zachor: Zeicher vs. Zecher 4

Zachor: Zeicher vs. Zecher 3

Zachor: Zeicher vs. Zecher 2

Zachor: Zeicher vs. Zecher 1

Parshah Ki Teitzie 9/11, Amaleik, Honesty and Anti-Semitism


Documentation Vindicate Trump’s Claim of 9/11 Muslim Celebrations

From RRW
Post 9/11 Celebrations‏

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Dear Ted Cruz -- Part 4

Please first See  
Dear Ted Cruz -- Part 1
Dear Ted Cruz -- Part 2
Dear Ted Cruz -- Part 3


 From RRW

My comments, on the above, in outline form:

1. The terms Jewish, Christian, and Judeo-Christian are essentially "red herrings" or "strawmen" terms....

2. R Gruen‎wald's positions seems to be identical to that of the Progressive / Liberal. They typically take their cues - as do most liberal Jews - from the NY Times, etc. And not from the Torah. It is Jewish in the sense that most Jews in the USA actually profess Progressive Liberalism.   Dennis Prager, among others, has protested this phenomenon

3. Ted Cruz and R Poupko do share a common value which I will call "Traditionalism". This movement is best articulated by Edmund Burke and his followers. Those values include patriotism and resistance to radicalism, EG the Jacobite‎s of the French Revolution

4. There are common Jewish-Christian values EG the sanctity of human life. 

NB:  There are differences in details, EG between the extreme Roman Catholic position against all abortion vs. the highly nuanced position of Orthodox Judaism. Both sides see life as sacred and manifest their policies by weighing several key factors differently.


Monday, 14 March 2016

Dear Ted Cruz -- Part 3

Please first See  
Dear Ted Cruz -- Part 1
Dear Ted Cruz -- Part 2


The essence of these two articles is actually, simply, a disagreement over moral perspective. One sides with Ted Cruz's moral perspectives and one doesn't. But thrown into this mix is the use of the term "Judeo-Christian" with the extension of the argument becoming an implication, through the use of this term by Ted Cruz, that Judaism is in agreement with Cruz's views. The Rabbi who disagrees with Ted Cruz thus is further upset because Cruz is presenting views with which the Rabbi disagrees but also is doing so in a manner that implies the Rabbi's inherent agreement as a follower of Judaism. The Rabbi who favours Cruz, alternatively, finds solace in Cruz's use of the term for, thereby, his personal position is strengthened for he is not just one in agreement with Mr. Cruz but is further seen as abiding by his own Jewish values. What the two articles really show, though, is not only the problems in the use of the term "Judeo-Christian" but the very problem in the modern use of the very term "Jewish" (and the term "Christian" although that is not our issue").

Let me first state that I have always had problems with the term "Judeo-Christian". It is, in my opinion, a misrepresentation, implying some common base for Jewish and Christian values. In fact, if there is an overlap between Jewish and Christian values, it is simply because Christians, in their break from Judaism, decided to maintain some Jewish values in their new faith. It is not some common organic root. In presenting their new perspective, Christianity also expressed other values contrary to Judaism. Furthermore, even in regard to the values Christians maintained from their Jewish roots, they offered new understandings reflecting their new faith. There may be points of overlap but that should not be seen as reflecting some common perspective or base as implied in the term "Judeo-Christian". This is untrue and misleading. There may be points of convergence but to assume a common base has, to me, always been problematic.

This would seem to imply that I would be strongly supportive of Rabbi Gruenwald's article. In fact, on the simple issue of the term "Judeo-Christian", I am basically in agreement. Rabbi Gruenwald's real objective, however, is to critique Ted Cruz's values, further strengthening his argument by challenging any connection between them and Judaism. In response, Rabbi Poupko's argument, and his use of the term "Judeo-Christian", is thus really to show that Cruz's views actually do connect with Judaism and there is reason to support them because of this. What all this actually shows, though, is our avoidance of confronting the modern lack of clarity of what is meant by the term "Jewish". (Let me make it clear; in this regard, I am speaking solely in terms of language, not authenticity.) Different people have different meanings in regard to the term "Jewish", even as they perceive the term to only have one meaning. It is for this reason that I advocate for the use of adjectives in conjunction with our terms for Judaism. See, further, my Adjective and Non-Adjective Jews at The fact that I would describe Rabbi Gruenwald's values as reflecting Conservative or Reform Judaism does not mean that I am in agreement with him or validate his view. It is helpful to do so, though, because I can then explain my Orthodox values with better clarity. I can respond to his arguments by stating that he is applying his definition of Jewish which is not mine and is not universal. I can then honestly describe Mr. Cruz as expressing views that are somewhat in accordance with certain understandings of certain forms of Judaism but not in accord with others. He then can't challenge Cruz for attempting to connect with other perspectives of Jewishness.

This takes us back to the term "Judeo-Christian". Rabbi Poupko's response is really to challenge Rabbi Gruenwald through promoting the fact that those values with which Rabbi Gruenwald has problems actually flow from Jewish values, i.e. Orthodox Jewish values. But why not just say this directly. The fact is that Mr. Cruz's values which may overlap with Orthodoxy still flow from Christianity and, as such, really have a different base. Even as there may be a good amount of convergence, I am still sensitive to the points of divergence. The challenge of Rabbi Gruenwald should not be, then, the Jewishness of Mr. Cruz's viewpoints but the more honest retort -- that there is a divergence in moral opinion within the Jewish world -- which we also actually try to avoid. There is not one Judaism and one perspective of Jewish values. We disagree. The challenge against Rabbi Gruenwald should then be to stop implying a monolithic vision of Jewish values with which everyone agrees. This is a challenge that could be voiced against many. The issue is not whether Cruz uses the term "Judeo-Christian" or not. It is that Rabbi Gruenwald is incorrect in presenting his values as the singular perspective of Jewish values.