CNN Taken to Task

Israeli Ambassador REAMS OUT CNN for not reporting UN statement that says Hamas makes UN schools a target”
The Right Scoop
July 24, 2014

This sort of dressing-down is overdue.

I respect CNN’s efforts to demonstrate equitability in its coverage of a situation that is charged with emotion. The network has bent over backwards to avoid taking any stance that could be construed as pro-Israel.

But when the UN – an organization known to be ambivalent about Israel at best – makes a statement like this, it IS newsworthy, and failing to report it does hint at the possibility of latent bias toward Hamas, or at least against Israel.

If CNN is determined to fight Al-Jazeera English for ratings in Muslim countries, that’s a commercial decision, and I respect that. But it should not expect to do so and maintain a veil of objectivity on the Middle East.

The Washington Post Gets On Board

Hamas is playing a dangerous game with Gazan lives – The Washington Post. The editorial board of The Washington Post has made a laudable contribution to the global conversation about what is happening in Gaza: “The right response of the international community is not to surrender to Hamas’s despicable tactics but to continue insisting that it unconditionally accept the cease-fire proposed by Egypt.”

Fashioning a Heart

Ani ma-amin be-emuno sh’laymo
Sheboyray yisborach sh’mo
Yoyday kol ma-asay v’nay odom v’cho machsh’voysom, shene-emar:
Ha-yoytzayr yachad libom ma-mayvin el kol ma-asayhem

“I believe with complete faith that the Creater, Blessed is His Name, knows all of the deeds of human beings and their thoughts, as it is said, “He fashions their hears all together, He comprehends their deeds.”

I was reading through Rambam’s Thirteen Principles of faith the other day, and as I read number ten, a line seemed to jump off the page of the siddur and into my frontal cortex:

“He fashions their hearts all together.”

What grabbed me about this was the possibility that this means that all of humanity was created with a single, collective heart that Hashem has formed from a combination of each of our hearts. Could it be, I thought, that Hashem in his wisdom decided to create each of us bound heart-to-heart in an unbreakable web of love, compassion, mercy? Could it be that our job on Earth is to realize – and actualize – these pre-existing ties?

This is one of those moments where I feel the limits of my Torah scholarship. I have no answers. But this idea offers a great start to my next bout of study.

China and the Israel-Palestine Conflict

Why China Must Pay Attention to the Israel-Palestine Conflict
Mu Chunsan

The Diplomat
July 19, 2014

Mu Chunsan makes a fair point: the Beijing cannot ignore for long a foreign policy issue that is engrossing – and dividing – a growing percentage of the Chinese people.

What Mu misses, though, is that despite the growing influence of popular politics on Chinese foreign policy, there are other factors that weigh upon China’s decision to remain aloof from the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian terrorists. China has a complex relationship with Israel (see my article here), one that is disproportionate with the latter’s size. China has defense ties with Jerusalem, depends on a flow of innovations from Israel’s booming labs, and needs Israel’s support in its stance against the growing specter of  Islamo-fascism.

Yet China cannot directly incite its Muslim population, nor thumb its nose at the Islamist countries that are a growing part of its international influence and energy supply. Closer examination suggests that Beijing has managed to strike a delicate balance with Israel that has eluded other powers. A more explicit policy on the Mideast, no matter how it might calm a domestic argument, could undermine that balance to the benefit of no one.

Why there is no Palestine”, by Rachel Bresinger, The Jerusalem Post, May 26, 2014. If you are looking for a good debunking of the lies behind the Hamas propaganda campaign, this article is a superb place to start.

Taking Moral Responsibility

Moral clarity in Gaza
Charles Krauthammer,
The Washington Post,
July 17, 2014.

In an incisive op/ed in the WaPo, Krauthammer hits the nail on the head. You don’t have to buy into everything Bibi Netanyahu has done (I have real issues with the West Bank settlements,) but you must recognize that there is no moral equivalence in Gaza: Israel is fighting for its life here.

The Arab nations, if not much of global Islam, has chosen to play the role of Amalek and eradicate Israel, and then the Jews. They have chosen to do so by proxy because doing so with tanks, bombs, and infantry was not only spectacularly unsuccessful, it made them all look foolish AND it surrendered the moral high ground from 1947 to 1983.

In so doing, they have made the people of Gaza the cannon fodder in a worldwide propaganda war. If you want a bad guy in the deaths of Palestinian civilians, don’t look to Jerusalem: look to the cynical leaders of Hamas, of the Palestinian Authority, and of those national leaders who smile at Israel’s leaders for the cameras while they secretly write checks for Israel’s demise, and write off the people of Gaza as martyrs to a selfish cause.

The game has been the same since the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem called for the eradication of the Jews in 1926. All that has changed is the tactics.

I stand with Israel. I will bear the pain of its wrongs and fight to minimize them as I enjoy the triumphs of the good that it does and work to maximize them, because on the balance I know the scales tip heavily toward the good.

All I ask in return is that anyone who buys into Hamas propaganda, who stands with terrorists, similarly bears the moral responsibility for their actions, goals, and atrocities.


Rabbi Menachem Creditor is Done Apologizing for Israel

I’m Done Apologizing for Israel”
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

The Huffington Post
21 July 2o14

Rabbit Menachem Creditor and I are at variances about a lot of political issues, but he and I stand together on this one. I, too, am done apologizing for Israel. I too, am done trying to apologetically explain Jewish morality, or for my Jewish existence, and for all the same reasons.

I ask the enraged critics of Israel’s defensive responses to Hamas: Would you have us not respond to this monstrosity? Do you think it’s not worth losing the PR battle to retain our humanity and save as many lives as possible? What country would stand by when thousands of terrorist missiles assault its citizens? I, a Jew, have lost 20 of my sons in the last three days, because I will not lose my humanity and stage a careless ground war in Gaza that would cause mass casualties.

Please read his post.

Day by Day

For me, the hardest part of loving Hashem is the challenge I face every day in overcoming my baseless insecurity and learning to love my fellow man – even when my fellow man is at his worst. Maybe it is coffee. Maybe it is age. Either way, I have shown a disappointing lack of love and understanding of late, and I will put up with it from myself no longer.

When I went to Jewish summer camp in the 1970s, we sang the the song “Day by Day” from the musical Godspell. I never realized as a kid that song was from a play based on the Gospel of Matthew. All I knew was that camp more than anything else cemented by Judaism, and that song was an inexorable part of it. So to me, it is a Jewish son.

So I think of that song today, as I make my pledge to myself and Hashem to be better.

To see you more clearly: I will look into the eyes of my neighbor, and try to see more deeply into his or her heart;

To love you more dearly: I will treasure even the worst foibles of each person as an unconscious tribute to the mothers and fathers who brought them into this world;

To follow you more nearly: I will turn to Torah when I am vexed, and not lash out at those around me or allow my frustrations to fester.


“If words are the pen of the heart, then song is the pen of the soul.”

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi

Mohammad Zoabi: A Brave Arab Israeli. May G-d keep and protect this brave young man from any and all harm. I am humbled by his courage, and I am heartened by his love for his fellow man. Is this young soul not the definition of a chassid umot ha-olam, a person who is pious among the nations?

Sympathy for the Hobby Lobby

“Why Hobby Lobby Isn’t Anti-Semitic”
Yair Rosenberg
October 4, 2013

In all of the anger and resentment that has surrounded Hobby Lobby of late, I missed Yair Rosenberg’s short but thoughtful piece asking us to reconsider whether either the Hobby Lobby organization or its CEO David Green are, in fact, anti-Semitic.

As Rosenberg points out:

Undoubtedly, some Jews might feel comfortable hawking baby Jesuses during the holiday season, while others might not. Both are very real, very human positions. Surely we can extend the same empathy and understanding to non-Jews with similar perspectives? This doesn’t mean one has to agree with Hobby Lobby’s decision. But it does mean we should refrain from tarring its ownership as bigots.

This is a sentiment with which any tzaddik might agree. But I think the real issue goes deeper than just Hobby Lobby.

The paradox of living in a society wherein virulent anti-semitism is either latent or non-existent is that we become increasingly sensitized to anything that offers the least hint of hatred. Our threshold lowers, and we justify that on the grounds that we must be vigilant, lest the sentiment spread and become dangerous. After all, we think, the Jews of Germany were like the proverbial boiling frogs, adapting to increasing levels of anti-Semitism right up to the point that they were herded into gas chambers.

At some point, though, we run the risk of seeing something that we think might be anti-Semitism, and it might not be, but we err on the side of caution because of we fear the consequences of adapting to any level of Jew hatred in society.

Rosenberg’s point is that we may have crossed that threshold, that we may be seeing anti-Semitism in the reflection of an orthodox Christianity that is, understandably, uncomfortable selling Judaica. In this case, until we can look into the heart of another, I am prepared to give the Hobby Lobby team the benefit of the doubt. But more broadly, it may be time to start a wider discussion about where we, as Jews, should draw the line between a possible misunderstanding of intent and clear-cut anti-Semitism.

The yetzer hara is so predictable. And yet, he still fools us.


Could it be that we are so predictable?

“Judaism did not remain static after the period covered by its Sacred Scriptures, or even after the emergence of Christianity; to the present day it continues to evolve in response to changing historical circumstances and in interaction with surrounding cultures.”

Norman Solomon
The Talmud: A Selection

“Religion has adjusted itself to the modern temper by proclaiming that it too is the satisfaction of a need. This conception, which is surely diametrically opposed to the prophetic attitude, has richly contributed to the misunderstanding and sterilization of religious thinking.”

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
Insecurity of Freedom

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