Friday, August 8, 2014

Laos slide show and ...It's not the thought that counts

Value Your Clothing

When putting on clothing, give thought to all the benefits you gain from your clothing.

Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz related that he once borrowed woolen gloves on a freezing winter day. While he frequently took gloves for granted, on that occasion he greatly appreciated them. The gloves were not worth a large amount of money, but it was a tremendous relief to wear them. From this he gained an appreciation for all the wool he saw.

Love Yehuda Lave

Media death count encourages Hamas to use human shields


 By emphasizing the comparative body counts without providing the
reasons for the disparity, the media plays into the hands of Hamas,
and encourages that terrorist organization to continue to pursue its
dead baby strategy.

 The media loves to count the dead bodies on each side of a conflict.
It's much easier to count that to explain.  Hamas knows this.  That's
why they employ what has come to be known as "the dead baby strategy".

Hamas' strategy since Israel left Gaza in 2005 has been exactly the
same.  The media response has been exactly the same.  And Hamas will
continue to employ a strategy that causes many Palestinian civilians
to die as long as the media keeps up its thoughtless body count.

 Here's the way it works: Hamas deliberately fires its rockets from
densely populated civilian areas, using hospitals, disability centers,
mosques and schools as launching sites.  This puts Israel to the
tragic choice of either allowing the rockets to endanger its civilians
or to destroy the rocket launchers, thereby risking civilian
casualties among Hamas' human shields.  Often Israel chooses to forgo
attacking military targets, so as not to put Palestinian civilians at
risk.  Sometimes it has no choice, because the rocket fire against its
civilians is persistent.  Palestinian civilians are killed despite
Israel's best efforts precisely because Hamas wants civilians to be
killed, especially if these civilians are children, women or the
elderly.  Hamas stands ready to parade these human shields in front of
the media which is eager to show the dead and count the bodies.

 Hamas could easily reduce the death and injury toll among its
civilians, by simply allowing them to go underground into tunnels and
shelters which abound throughout Gaza.  But Hamas has a deliberate
policy of refusing to allow civilians to enter the tunnels or
shelters.  They reserve these places of refuge for their fighters and
commanders, which explains why so few Hamas fighters have been killed.
If Hamas were to reverse its policy and allow civilians into the
shelters while requiring its fighters to stay above ground, the ratio
of civilians to fighters killed would dramatically change.  That is
why in each of the wars between Hamas and Israel there have been more
Palestinian than Israeli civilian deaths and injuries.  It is part of
Hamas' dead baby strategy and it works, because the media facilitates

 The media also emphasizes the fact that thus far no Israelis have
been killed by Hamas rocket fire.  Indeed some media and international
organizations seem implicitly to be condemning Israel for protecting
the lives of its own citizens, by repeatedly pointing out that none
have died, while Palestinian deaths have reached nearly 200.  The
reason there have been no Israeli deaths so far is because Israel
spends hundreds of millions of dollars trying to protect its
civilians, while Hamas spends its resources deliberately exposing its
civilians to the risks of Israeli counterattacks.  Israel has built
shelters all throughout the country and has spent a fortune on the
Iron Dome system.  The results have been impressive, though many
Israelis suffer from trauma, shock and the inevitable long term
consequences of being exposed to constant rocket fire.

 How many times have you heard, seen or read the body counts:  nearly
200 Palestinians dead, no Israelis dead.  This is usually accompanied
by an accusation that Israel is violating the international law
requirement of "proportionality."  This is a misuse of the term, which
has a precise meaning in international law that reflects a broader
morality.  Under international law, a nation has the right to attack
military targets.  Period!  It doesn't matter whether the rockets
coming from these launchers have as yet succeeded in their task of
killing civilians.  There can be no doubt under international law that
rocket launchers, and the fighters who employ them are legitimate
military targets.  Israel is therefore entitled to attack these
targets, even if no Israeli civilians have been killed, so long as it
can do so without causing disproportionate civilian casualties.

 This rule was not addressed to an enemy that deliberately uses human
shields to protect its military targets and combatants against
legitimate attacks.  Proportionality is not judged by the number of
civilians actually killed by Hamas rockets, but rather by the risks
posed to Israelis.  These risks have been diminished, but not
eliminated by the Iron Dome system.  They have also been considerably
diminished by Israel's counterattacks on the missile launchers and
those who employ them.  Without these counterattacks, it is highly
likely that more Hamas missiles would have made it through the Iron
Dome system which has been approximately 85% effective.  Israel has
every right under the rules of proportionality to attack these
military targets, so long as they take reasonable efforts to reduce
civilian casualties.  They have done so by leafleting, by calling, and
by other methods of warning civilians to leave target areas.  Hamas
leaders, on the other hand, have urged, and sometimes compelled, their
civilians to remain in harm's way as human shields.

 The media, by emphasizing the comparative body counts without
providing the reasons for the disparity, play into the hands of Hamas,
and encourage that terrorist organization, to continue to pursue its
dead baby strategy.  So the next time those in the media promote a
body count without explanation, they should point a finger at
themselves for contributing to this deadly count.

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Matot(Numbers 30:2-32:42)

It's Not Really the Thought That Counts

For the past several years, our brethren in Israel have faced terrorism of the most horrendous kind. Dozens of suicide bombings, numerous sniper shootings, thousands dead, thousands of serious injuries, thousands of "light injuries," thousands traumatized, a country living in fear, and there is no end in sight.

Jews worldwide have struggled to cope and to react, feeling helpless to do anything that could stop the madness.

Many of us are numb to any and all tragedies now. Can anything move us anymore? Do we still know how to cry? Do we hear about the latest bombing, ask where, when, how many, and take our next bite of dinner? Yes, we think about how terrible "the situation"' is and we sigh, but are thoughts enough?

How can we regain our sensitivity? How can we learn to cry again? What can we do facing the greatest crisis for the Jewish people in recent history? A lesson from this week's Torah portion, Matot, can help.

The opening section of Matot discusses the laws of making and annulling vows. One law mentioned is that a husband has the right to annul his wife's vows if she makes vows that affect their relationship negatively.

Rashi (30:6) describes the following case: "The verse says, 'God will forgive her.' This is describing a case in which a woman took a nazarite vow (no wine, haircuts, or becoming defiled from the dead) and her husband annulled it for her. She was unaware though that it was nullified and she violated her vow by drinking wine and becoming impure from the dead. She needs forgiveness even though her vow had been annulled. And if those whose vows were nullified need forgiveness, how much more do those whose vows have not been nullified."

The woman is being told that she needs atonement and forgiveness for merely intending to commit a transgression without actually committing one. This leads us to a perplexing question. Doesn't this contradict a statement from Talmud Kiddushin 40a, "God does not take evil intentions into account if they were not carried to fruition"? This being the case, why does God hold the woman's evil intentions against her? The fact is that she did not violate her vow, since her husband had annulled it. Why does it matter if she was unaware of his annulment or not?

We derive from the solution of this quandary a fundamental lesson for Jewish living. Actions are what count, not merely thoughts. If you think about murdering someone but never do anything to act upon it, then you've done nothing wrong and God holds nothing against you. But if you make concrete plans to kill, you prepare the weapon, the getaway, and the alibi, but the gun is broken and the shots are not fired, then while it is true that you haven't murdered anyone, it is also true that you will be prosecuted for attempted murder.

"God does not take evil intentions into account if they were not carried to fruition" only applies if the evil intention remained solely in the realm of thought. But if any solid and definitive actions were taken to bring the evil to its realization, the perpetrator needs forgiveness and atonement. Albeit, the atonement will not be as difficult to achieve had the action been carried out just as a criminal gets less jail time for attempted murder than for actual murder.

Actions are what count, not merely thoughts. This applies to performing good and positive deeds as well. Let's face it, does anyone really believe that "it's the thought that counts"? If you get yet another tie for Father's Day, do you really feel that "it's the thought that counts," or do you think that if the person really cared they would have put more effort into finding a more appropriate and meaningful gift? Is it enough to tell your spouse that you thought about calling them during the day, or do you need to actually call for it to be consequential?

Why are actions so important? Why aren't thoughts enough?

Sefer HaChinuch (circa 1300) addresses the issue (paraphrased): "Why did God bind us with so many commandments? Know that a man becomes who he is based on his actions. Thoughts of his heart, and his intentions, always follow the lead of his actions, whether for good or evil. Even a very wicked person, who decides to suddenly perform good actions, will transform quickly into a righteous individual. The same is true for a righteous person who carries out evil actions. He will become evil."

There are other sources that praise the powerful effects actions can have upon a person. Professor William James once wrote: "Action SEEMS to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together. By regulating action, which is under the more direct control of will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not. Thus, the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our spontaneous cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there. If such conduct does not make you cheerful, nothing else on that occasion can. So, to feel brave, act as if you are brave, use all of your will to that end, and a courage fit will very likely replace the fit of fear."

The classic mussar (ethical) work, Mesilat Yesharim, by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, circa 1700, (Chapter 7, Chelkai Zerizut -- Steps Toward Enthusiasm) put it this way: "The man whose soul burns in the service of God will certainly not become lazy in the performance of His commandments, but his movements will be like that of a rapid fire. He will not rest or be at ease until the deed is completed. In addition, just as "zerizut," enthusiasm can result from an inner burning, so too it will create one. This means that one who perceives a quickening of his outer, physical movements in the performance of a commandment causes himself to experience an inner flaming movement as well, through which longing and desire will continually grow. If, however, he is sluggish in the movement of his limbs, the movement of his spirit and soul will die down and become extinguished. We all know this from experience."

The feelings of empathy we experience for our brethren in Israel must be attained, but they cannot remain mere feelings. They must translate into actions. We have all, most likely, accepted something upon ourselves and improved spiritually during these tumultuous and tragic times. The question though is whether we have been consistently successful in maintaining our commitments. We must re-assess our status in our new acceptances. And if we find that we have failed, we should reduce them or change focus to another area we find more manageable. In this way, we don't allow our strong, spiritual, compassionate feelings to dissipate without becoming attached to a more permanent and meaningful action. (See Kol Yaakov, ACT, DON'T JUST REACT

Actions are what count, not merely thoughts.

If we cannot naturally cry anymore when we hear of bombings and horrific tragedies in Israel due to our numbness, we must not surrender to what, in effect, becomes apathy. As hard as it has become for us, we must dwell on the tragedies, read of the details, read of the victims, put ourselves in their position, imagine the suffering they have gone through, and cry.

This is our responsibility as Jews to "feel the burden of our colleagues and friends" (Avot 6:6). And what if after all this, we still cannot bring about the pain and tears?

At such a point, we must make ourselves cry, even artificially. We could begin to think of some tragic event that could occur in our lives that might bring us to tears. If this brings us to grief, we can then re-apply our tears to the tragedies in Israel. By externally producing tears, we will affect our deadened internal feelings to a soulful flame of passionate and sincere sadness for the situation in Israel.

Published: June 29, 2002

Subject: This is a MUST, extremely powerful, please listen to the end. It is NOT in French but in clear precise English & well worth watching & listening.



Just pass it on to all your friends overseas!!