In this podcast, I discuss the situation with Iran, comparing it to the moment our ancestors stood at the Red Sea – before it parted – with Pharaoh’s army quickly advancing upon them. G-d told the Jewish people to go forward! G-d is not going to part this sea for us this time. It is up to us. And it is time to go forward!
Archive for the ‘In the news’ Category
This week, we learned important moral lessons from national and international leaders. Unfortunately, we learned these lessons because of mistakes made by these leaders. Nonetheless, the lssons are ones we must all take to heart.
A private conversation between President Obama and French President Sarkozy in which the two leaders made disparaging comments about Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was captured on a live microphone (certainly not the first time important people have found themselves in such a situation!). Abe Foxman, the National Director of the ADL expressed concern over these comments, stating: ” we now have to worry to what extent these private views inform foreign policy decisions of the U.S. and France ˆ two singularly important players in the peace process.” The lesson we learn from this exchange is a lesson that lies at the core of Judaism: our words are like arrows – once they leave our mouths, like an arrow, they can’t be pulled back; the damage they do can’t be stopped; the harm they do can’t always be predicted because, like arrows, words go astray. The lesson: live our lives as if all of our words will be broadcast on the front page of the newspaper.
A much more disturbing lesson has been taught by what appears to be the shameful inaction of the administration of Penn State’s football team. As a result of this inaction, children were sexually abused. Responsible, respected, well-known adults ˆ leaders ˆ knew what was going on ˆ and, according to reports, they did nothing to stop it. Again, the lesson we learn from this tragedy is one that lies at the core of Judaism: Jews don’t simply believe, we act. It is not enough to know that something is wrong; when something is wrong, we must act to stop it. There is no alternative.
In Pirke Avot, we are taught “Who is wise? He who learns from every man.” We don’t ever want others to stumble. But, it happens. Just as we must learn from our own mistakes, we must learn from the mistakes of others. Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, once said that: “We shall learn from the historic mistakes of others in the same way as we learn from our own; for we are a modern nation and wish to be the most modern in the world.” In the same way, to become the best people we can be, we must learn from our own failures and the failures of others. This week, we have unfortunately had the opportunity to learn a lot. Hopefully, we have all incorporated these lessons into our lives and grown because of them.
Yesterday, President Obama dramatically altered longstanding U.S. policy regarding Israel’s borders and her security by calling upon Israel to pull back to the “1967 borders”. Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who is set to meet with President Obama today, quickly rejected the President’s call, asserting that such a withdrawal would jeopardize Israel’s security and wellbeing. In addition, the Prime Minister stated that he expected to hear the President reaffirm commitments made to Israel in 2004 by President George W. Bush and the Congress which made it clear that Israel would not have to withdraw to the “1967 borders.” President Bush’s commitments reaffirmed U.S. foreign policy that dates back to 1967 and President Johnson. At that time, it was widely understood that there would be no return the “1967 borders” as they were incapable of providing Israel with adequate defense.
It must be pointed out that there is no such thing as “1967 borders” between the Jewish State of Israel and the Palestinian State. Firstly, there was no Palestinian State at that time. Secondly, given that there was no Palestinian State, there was no official border. There was and is the “Green Line” which runs through the West Bank. This “line” is the 1949 Armistice Line that marked where Israeli and Arab forces stopped fighting at the end of the War of Independence (1947-1949). The War of Independence was a result of Israel’s Arab neighbors attacking the newly created Jewish State in an effort to destroy her. The Armistice Line is what people refer to as the “1967 border” since it served as the unofficial border between the Jewish State and Jordan until the Six Day War in 1967.
The Armistice Line, which cut Jerusalem in half and put the Western Wall under Jordanian control, was never intended to serve as an official international border. As was specified as early as the 1949 General Armistice Agreement between Jordan and Israel: “the line that was designated did not compromise any future territorial claims of the two parties, since it had been dictated by exclusively by military considerations.”
During the Six Day War in 1967, Israel was attacked by Jordan and other Arab neighbors. In self-defense, Israel pushed the Jordanians out of Jerusalem and all regions that lay to the west of the bank of the Jordan River – gaining possession of the region (now referred to as the West Bank) that lies on the east side of the “Green Line”.
In response to the Six Day War, the United Nations Security Council issued Resolution 242 which expressed concern with “the grave situation in the Middle East”. In addition, the resolution called for the “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” The Resolution states that the U.N. must “promote agreement and assist efforts to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement” between the involved parties. The Resolution does not call for Israel to withdraw from the entire West Bank and, thus, return to the “1967 borders”. Some have tried to twist the wording of Resolution 242 by asserting that it calls for the withdrawal of Israel armed forced from THE territories. But this is not the case. It has been widely documented by those involved in crafting the Resolution that the language used was intentional. There was never the expectation that Israel would return to the “1967 borders”. They were an artificial armistice line that provided no security to Israel.
The idea that, through negotiations, Israel would withdraw from PARTS of the West Bank and, in turn, define her eastern border was embraced by President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush. In 2005, President Bush stated that “any final status agreement must be reached between the two parties, and changes to the (“1967 borders”) must be mutually agreed to.”
Yesterday, President Obama changed U.S. foreign policy by stating that the United States believes that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” These words legitimize an artificial line that was never intended to define a border. While the President acknowledged the need for “mutually agreed swaps” of land, his words put “the 1967 lines” at the foundation of any future discussions between Israel and Palestine. This is not what the statesmen who crafted U.N. Resolution 242 intended years ago. This is not what previous Presidents demanded of Israel. And withdrawing to the “1967 borders” is not Israel’s idea of peace and security.
While on the surface President Obama’s words might seem like nothing new, they are. They give legitimacy to a border that endangers the Jewish State, cuts through the heart of Jerusalem – the capital of Israel and Judaism’s holiest city, and simply defines where a war stopped in 1949 – but never defined where the sovereign nation of Israel ended and where the sovereign nation of Palestine began. The President appears to be reinterpreting the purpose of the “1967 border”. Given that the President’s “reinterpretation” came hours before Prime Minister Netanyahu was set to arrive in the United States to meet with the President and speak before Congress, it appears that his words were meant to dictate what Israel’s borders will look like. The President’s timing suggests that he wants to undermine the Prime Minister’s vision and set preconditions for future peace talks. Israel, a friend and an ally who already has the challenge of negotiating peace with a “partner” that refuses to recognize her very right to exist and now includes Hamas, deserves to be treated better.
Sadly, the President seems to be following in the footsteps of other world leaders who have attempted to rewrite or tinker with the complexities surrounding Israel and her neighbors. It is time for those of us who love Israel to reach out of our President and let him know that his words are putting Israel in danger, delaying the possibility of a negotiated two-state solution and leading us all away from a true and lasting peace.
Osama bin Laden has been killed. Many are celebrating his demise. A few are confused – asking, do we celebrate the killing of this tyrant?
The Book of Proverbs teaches us: “at your enemy’s fall, do not rejoice.” (24:17) Related to this, the Talmud explains that when the Egyptians were swallowed by the Red Sea which had parted for the Israelites, the angels wanted to sing out in joy. God, however, intervenes, silencing the angels by saying: “My handiwork (the Egyptians) is drowning and you want to sing!?”
As G-d silences the angels, Moses and Miriam, having safely led the Israelites to the other side of the sea, lead their people in a celebration – singing the song we all know as “Mi Chamocha”. In joy, the Israelites sing out to G-d – saying who is like you G-d who has worked wonders and redeemed us from the evil of Egypt!? This celebration is acceptable to G-d. This song is still sung synagogues on a regular basis.
Why were the angels silenced while the Israelites were allowed to sing? The angels wanted to rejoice as they were watching the violent death of their enemies. Had they been allowed to proceed, this would have reduced the destruction of the evil Egyptians to a spectator sport. And this is not acceptable.
The Israelites, while certainly relieved that the Egyptians were killed and, thus, unable to pursue them, were celebrating the incredible fact that evil had been crushed and freedom prevailed. The Israelites were not celebrating the actual destruction of the Egyptian soldiers – rather, they were celebrating the destruction of everything these soldiers stood for.
You might argue that there is no difference between what the Israelites were celebrating and what the angels wanted to celebrate. However, most of us, I would argue, who feel the urge to celebrate the end of Osama bin Laden, understand that there is a difference. We are overcome with emotion today because Osama bin Laden’s death is a symbolic end of a terrible chapter in our history. While his demise does not bring “closure”, in many respects, his death is the closest we will get to justice for the murder of our family members, friends and countless other souls. We are in awe of the strength and fortitude of our military and our security experts who tirelessly pursued this criminal. We are awestruck that evil has actually been quashed – good has indeed triumphed over bad!
The angels who were silenced by G-d at the Red Sea were spectators – cheering on the actual fall of the enemy. We saw similar cheering in 2001 as people in foreign lands celebrated as they watched the graphic images of the World Trade Center being destroyed on their TV screens. The only people who were witnesses to Osama bin Laden’s demise were our brave Navy Seals and they were not spectators. They were pursuing an armed terrorist who was evading justice by living in a fortified mansion. The reality is, pursuing evil often involves the use of deadly force.
Osama bin Laden’s death will not bring back those who have been murdered. His death will not stop the violence and chaos in the world. However, his death does insure that the horrific evil he was determined to continue bringing into this world is no more. The details of what happened, the images of the battle that will soon appear, the fact that so much violence has had to take place to get us to this moment – this is not what should be celebrated! Knowing, however, that the demise of this wicked man has eliminated some of the evil we on this earth are charged to overcome is reason to celebrate.
May the memory of all those who we have lost at the hands of this terrorist only serve as a blessing and may G-d bless the United States of America.
UPDATE: From JTA ARCHIVE, MAY 4 1945 – “Crowds of happy Jews gathered in Moscow’s synagogues last night after the announcement by Marshal Stalin that Berlin had fallen and the report that Hitler was dead. Around the aynagogue on Moroseike Street a throng remained discussing the news long after Moscow’s usual bedtime.”
Monday night, Pesah begins and we celebrate freedom! Freedom from Egypt, from slavery, from Pharaoh. Freedom to journey to Israel. Freedom to embrace Judaism. Freedom to make your own choices….Kind of.
Albert Camus wrote: “Freedom is dangerous; it is as difficult as it is exasperating.”
We simply need to turn to the turmoil in modern day Egypt and the greater Middle East to see the wisdom in Camus’ words. A few weeks ago, as Mubarak was tossed out of power, headlines proclaimed that Pharaoh was defeated once again. Freedom! Freedom? The violence in Tahrir Square has begun again. Egypt’s future is uncertain. Groups are struggling for power. Mubarak is gone. The tyranny is over. But what will replace it? Freedom is dangerous.
After leaving Egypt, our ancestors wandered in the desert. They desperately needed guidance and direction – which they would find at Mount Sinai. Here, they received the Torah – the rules and laws that have created the foundation of the Jewish community. Without these rules and laws, without the structure of the Jewish community – the total and complete freedom we experienced after Egypt might very well have been our downfall.
Monday night, we celebrate freedom. And when we do so, let us remember that absolute freedom is anarchy. The freedom we all cherish is freedom with limits, boundaries and self-restraint. This Pesah, as we gather to celebrate the exodus of our ancestors from Egypt, let us give thanks for the fact that we have the freedom to live in a country with rules that limit our freedom for the benefit of the common good. Freedom is wonderful. Absolute freedom is dangerous. Freedom within the confines of a democratic society governed by laws is a blessing.
This sermon (CLICK HERE FOR PODCAST) delivered by Rabbi Andrew Jacobs, focuses upon the Supreme Court’s 2011 ruling protecting the freedom of speech of Westboro Baptist Church. The Rabbi openly struggles with his support of American freedoms and his belief in the Jewish teaching that hateful speech can destroy the world. He asks his congregation how we can teach our children that bullying is wrong, when the Supreme Court empowered people to “bully”? Is protesting bullying? Where is the line between what freedom of speech and harassment? The sermon doesn’t resolve the issue at hand, but it gets people talking.
I have been following some very disturbing events taking place on college campuses both here in Florida and across the country. The events involve an organization known as the Muslim Student Association (MSA). Anyone with a child on a college campus today must be aware of the MSA and the impact that this organization has upon our college students and the communities that they are a part of.
A little history…In 1963, the Muslim Brotherhood (the same organization linked to terror and jihad that you have been hearing about in Egypt) created the Muslim Students Association (MSA) at the University of Illinois in Urbana, Today, MSA chapters are present on many college campuses across the country. I encourage you to watch this video in which a MSA leader offers the MSA’s “pledge of allegiance”, an oath that is based upon the beliefs of the Muslim Brotherhood. If you watch the video, you will see for yourself the organizations commitment to jihad and the willingness of MSA members to die to establish Islam.
The links between the MSA and the Muslim Brotherhood have been well documented as a result of the 2007 United States vs. The Holy Land Foundation trial – the largest terrorism financing trial in U.S. history.
Today, at the University of Central Florida, Imam Siraj Wahhaj — who was an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a character witness for Abdel Rahman, known as the Blind Sheik — was invited by the Muslim Student Association to speak on campus. TODAY!
A few months ago, on November 4, also at UCF, the Muslim Student Association invited Jamal Badawi, a former board member of the Muslim Brotherhood and a current board member for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to speak. CAIR, as many of you know, was created by the International Muslim Brotherhood in 1994 and is widely reported to have ties to Hamas. CAIR was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2007 Holy Land Trial. In 2004 Badawi issued a fatwa (Islamic legal ruling) for “Islamonline”, detailing when a wife can be beaten as a result of her bad habits. Furthermore, Badawi was involved in another 2004 fatwa which explained that it was a religious “duty” for all able-bodied Muslims to wage jihad against the American military. In 2006, Badawi justified Muslim suicide bombings, saying they were legitimate tactic of jihad. In the summer 2007 Holy Land trial Jamal Badawi was listed, along with CAIR, as an unindicted co-conspirator.
Last February, at the University of California Irvine, 11 members of the Muslim Student Union (an organization associated with the Muslim Student Association) were removed from a lecture given by the Ambassador of Israel, Michael Oren, after disrupting the lecture, attempting to shut it down and violating the UC Irvine’s free speech policy. Watch it here.
UC Irvine disciplined the students. However, upon learning of the planning that went into the disruption created by these students, the local District Attorney filed misdemeanor charges against them. Many, including the ACLU, are outraged that these students are being charged and they are protesting – saying that the freedom of speech of the 11 MSU members was violated. What about the freedom of speech of Israel’s Ambassador?
It is important to point out that a man who asked a challenging question, during a question-answer session, to Mr. Badawi at his November appearance at UCF was forcibly removed from the lecture by uniformed police. The ACLU has not challenged this man’s right to freedom of speech.
What’s going on here?
Clearly, there is a major problem going on our campuses. The attacks against Israel, the presence of speakers with ties to terrorism, and the increasing support of Muslim student groups at the expense of Jewish student groups is on the rise on our campuses. Our kids are at risk. We need to educate them and ourselves. Imagine what it is like to be a Jewish kid, a kid who supports Israel, to be on a campus where pro-Israel voices can be suppressed while voices with connections to terror can be heard loud and clear! We have a problem!
Given this, I am happy to announce that on April 13th at 7:00PM, we invite all of you, any of our college students who are around and our high school students to a special viewing of “Crossing The Line” – a film that deals with the struggle college students face when it comes to supporting Israel and the values we hold dear. This is not to be missed.
Please call Ramat Shalom for more information (954-472-3600)
When it comes to the crisis in Egypt, Israel is the problem. So says George Soros a well-known and very controversial Jewish philanthropist. “The main stumbling block is Israel,” writes Soros in Thursday’s Washington Post, claiming that Israel’s refusal to embrace change and accept the new democratic regime that will step into power in Egypt will undermine the chance of freedom in the Middle East. It is all Israel’s fault. This coming from a Jew, a powerful one, whose voice is heard across the globe.
Soros’ anti-Israel stance is nothing new. He has gone so far as to blame Israel for the rise of global anti-Semitism. His comments in the Washington Post capture how absurd his position is. Since 1979, Israel has been at peace with Egypt. If this peace were to disappear, the nightmare that could replace it would be disastrous.
There are many who are standing in solidarity with those taking to the streets against the Mubarak government and certainly many of the protestors deserve our support. However, we cannot overlook or downplay the role that Muslim extremists are playing on the streets of Egypt – particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is not a moderate, democratic, freedom loving organization. On the contrary, it is an organization that is committed to spreading Islamic law through jihad. It is represented by and connected to radical, anti-Semitic xenophobes who are often associated with terrorist groups like Al Qaeda. Many do not realize that the Muslim Brotherhood was linked to the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat who made peace with Israel. The Muslim Brotherhood is not interested in peace with Israel. Just the other day, Rashad al-Bayoumi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader, said that “after President Mubarak steps down and a provisional government is formed, there is a need to dissolve the peace treaty with Israel.”
Israel is no stumbling block. She is, like the rest of us, a bystander. Plus, she is a neighbor. And she is watching the crisis in Egypt escalate. There is no one in charge of this country. And if the extremists get their way, the new government will seriously jeopardize the safety and security of Israel. If Israel expresses concern it is not because she is refusing to embrace change – it is because she is committed to the well-being of her people.
To accuse Israel of hindering change in Egypt, as Mr. Soros has done, only fans the flames of anti-Semitism that are already burning throughout the Middle East.
Last week, 400 of my colleagues signed a letter sponsored by the Jewish Fund for Justice condemning a controversial talk show host for his use of Nazi images to describe George Soros. The letter, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal, left some of us in the Jewish community baffled. Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, the Vice-President of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, an organization that is quoted in the letter and appears to lend its support to the letter, responded earlier this week, writing:
“This absurdity and the fact that these rabbis have never seen fit to comment on Mr. Soros’s support for entities that have harmed Israel and Jewish interests (and in my view, Western interests generally), force me to speak out…I…know that in my 30 years of participation in large-scale annual commemorations I have yet to meet a survivor who expressed support for Mr. Soros.”
I do hope that my colleagues who signed the letter in support of Mr. Soros take a firm stance against his dangerous words about Israel. I for one find his words reprehensible. By all means, I support the creation of democratic government in Egypt – but not at the expense of Israel – the Jewish state and the only democracy in the region. This doesn’t make me a stumbling block. This makes me a Jew.
So Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances, and all the people answered in unison and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” Exodus 23:3
Last week, we read the Ten Commandments that were given to our ancestors by G-d at Mount Sinai. This week we read the additional laws, rules and ordinances that were given at Mt. Sinai. We also read the verse above which captures the moment our ancestors committed themselves to G-d’s laws. Certainly there have been times when we have questioned and challenged this commitment. Yet, we have continued to honor it for thousands of years.
In today’s world, commitments are easily broken. If promises and obligations that we were once morally and/or legally responsible to fulfill become too challenging, we often find excuses to back out of these promises and obligations. Certainly, there are times when doing so is valid. Sadly, most of the time, we do so simply because we are selfish: living up to our responsibilities requires us to behave in a manner that benefits the commitments we have made as opposed to benefiting ourselves. When it comes to committing ourselves to someone or something, selfishness has no place. Commitment requires placing a relationship above individual needs and wants. Commitment requires us to ask, “what is best for us” as opposed to “what is best for me”.
Given all of this, I was inspired by a rather unlikely source of inspiration – American Idol. If you haven’t seen this, you must take a moment to watch it. It reminds us what true commitment is all about.