Here is an article that was published in the Jerusalem Post. But first, some great news! In the previous post, I wrote about the need for a new weekly centrist Orthodox magazine that would feature women rather than criminals. One person wrote to me and said that he has the know-how and experience to make it happen, but not the resources. Another person wrote to me and said that he has the resources to make it happen, but not the know-how or experience. Voilà! I made the shidduch, and let's see what happens!
The Lion, the Jackals, and the United Nations The recent spectacular events at the United Nations with Nikki Haley and the State of Israel were not just a political drama. At another level, there has been a wildlife drama playing out.
In 1755, Voltaire attacked the authenticity of Scripture, referring to the account of Samson capturing three hundred foxes, tying them to fire-brands and setting them to the crops of the Philistines. Voltaire mocked the story, noting that it is impossible to find three hundred foxes at any one time. Foxes are solitary creatures; if one finds a fox, there will not be another anywhere nearby.
But Voltaire was making a fundamental mistake. The creatures that Samson captured were not foxes. The Hebrew word shu'al does not refer to the fox. Instead, it refers to an animal in the same family: the jackal. Whereas foxes are solitary animals, jackals band together in large groups. The reason for the mistranslation was that Biblical scholarship had moved away from the Land of Israel and into Europe, where there were no jackals and people were unfamiliar with them. The animals of the Bible are the animals of the Land of Israel. Translators and readers of the Bible always interpret its animal life in terms of the animals with which they are familiar; but if they are living in the United States or Europe, then the animals with which they are familiar are not necessarily going to be the right animals. It was not foxes that Samson captured, but rather a pack of jackals.
In 1981, the Democratic Senator Daniel P. Moynihan, a former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, wrote an article entitled "Joining the Jackals," in which he sharply criticized the Carter Administration for supporting an anti-Israel resolution in the UN. The title was borrowed from an earlier Washington Post editorial of the same title, which described the UN as a pack of jackals that shamelessly hounds Israel. Moynihan observed that the Carter Administration's downfall was brought about by a failed approach to the UN, which was in denial of the innate hostility of the UN towards both the United States and Israel, and which failed to stand up for true moral standards.
Three thousand years ago, Jerusalem became the capital of the Jewish nation of Israel, where it housed the Temple (though the Palestinians and UNESCO continue to deny this simple historical fact). Throughout the exile and dispersion, the Jewish people prayed for the rebuilding of this city, which finally happened with the modern State of Israel. The emblem of the city of Jerusalem is the lion, which appears in last week's Torah portion as the symbol of the tribe of Judah. Judah was the tribe from which the kings of Israel arose, and was therefore symbolized by the lion, king of beasts. The kings of Israel reigned from the capital city of Jerusalem, which the prophet Isaiah called Ariel, "lion of God."
When the United States—first Congress in 1995, and then President Trump and Nikki Haley last week—acknowledged Jerusalem as being the capital of Israel, they took on the lion's cause. And, when they stood against the condemnations of the world, they took on the lion's courage. Proverbs 30:30 declares that "The lion is the mightiest of animals, and does not turn away before anyone." The original Hebrew of this verse, velo yashuv mipnei kol, can perhaps more accurately be translated as saying that the lion does not turn away even before everyone. It is not just any individual animal of which the lion is unafraid; it is not even afraid of masses of animals together. Not even a huge pack of jackals. The United States has adopted the lion's cause, and, like the lion, it has stood unafraid of the jackals.
The Mishnah (Avot 4:15) states, in its common translation, "Be a tail to lions and not a head to foxes." Yet as with Samson, the animals being mentioned here are not foxes, but rather jackals. Be a tail to lions, and not a head to jackals—it is better to attach oneself to greater entities, even as an insignificant follower, then to be in a leadership position with lowly entities. Guatemala, in stating that it will follow America's lead and move its embassy to Jerusalem, has recognized this, and several other countries are poised to follow suit. Let us hope that other nations will recognize the wisdom and morality in following the leadership of the lion rather than joining the jackals.
Before our engagement party we visit the beautiful Jewish sites in Prague
Eim Habanim Smeicha By Zelda Goldfield
It seems almost trivial and silly, but it happens again and again.
It is one of the most trying tasks I face when someone after weeks, months or years of illness dies. And it happened again last month, when Chani Weinrot a"h returned her holy soul to her Maker. After three years of davening for her, I find it hard to stop saying her name. I do it automatically, and as soon as her name pops out of my mouth, I try to swallow back the syllables. Then overwhelming sadness follows. I could just cross off her name from my little list in the siddur, but I cringe at so violent an act. Last year when a good friend died – also from cancer – I just rewrote the whole list and omitted her name. I hope she doesn't mind.
I only saw Chani once. It was on erev Rosh Hashanah, 5774, in a packed hall in a Jerusalem community center. My daughter-in-law, Miri, had told me that this inspiring woman writes a compelling weekly column in one of the Hebrew women's weeklies. At the last minute, Miri couldn't make the lecture, so I went alone. I was speaking to Miri on my cell when Chani confidently strode in, beaming her characteristic charismatic smile.
"This is Chani Weinrot?" I gasped over the phone. "She looks so good," I marveled as I closed my phone.
She was wearing a fashionable ensemble, her make-up was perfect and her wig was flowing and buoyant. Chani surveyed the surprised faces in her audience, and began her lecture/shiur/performance.
"I can read minds," she announced dramatically. "I know what you are all thinking right now. You are thinking, 'But she looks so good!!'" She paused and took a deep breath. "Please be informed that I have Stage 4 cancer. And in case any of you don't know – there is no stage 5…"
She then continued to entertain us with details of her preparations for chemo treatments. On her first visit to the ward she was shocked by the doleful atmosphere surrounding the patients and staff. Patients arrived dressed in downcast faces and pajamas. She decided that, henceforth, instead of viewing the day as one of mourning, she would use the opportunity to celebrate. The day before a treatment, she would dash out to Rabbi Akiva Street in Bnei Brak and buy herself something new to wear. In the morning, she would get all dressed up. Her husband would accompany her to the hospital, and after the treatment they would go out on a date. Chani asked her husband if she could perhaps say the shehechiyanu blessing on her new outfit. He laughed in response. "No way, Chani," he said, "you have so many clothes already." Mingled with laughter came the tears as she described the terrifying fear she endured every month before she opened the envelope with her latest test results. Would the markers go up, G-d forbid, or down, hopefully? It sometimes took her hours before she could muster the courage to open the envelope with the fateful numbers. Each time, it was like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur together. Would she be inscribed in the Book of Life? We in the audience sat in trepidation of the upcoming Days of Awe, yet Chani endured this apprehension on a regular basis.
Chani was diagnosed with cancer shortly after giving birth to her 3rdchild. She was 25. She recovered, but it came back when she was 27. The doctor told her that she had six months to two years left. "How does one live with that verdict?" she was asked. Her reply was that it is only then that one begins to really live. Two years is an eternity.
Initially, she reacted with rejection, anger and despair. She told her husband that all the words of comfort would not help. "You are healthy, but I am sick. You will live, but I will die. You will raise our children, but I will not." But when she internalized that her time was limited, much more so than for most human beings, she resolved to live as much and as well as she could in the years allotted to her. Chani became an international lecturer, began writing a weekly column, mentored support groups, accompanied and supported women with terminal illnesses, wrote three books, learned photography and chronicled her life in a photography exhibition. She accomplished more in the few years she had than most people accomplish in a lifetime. And, she would add with a wink, she beat the statistics and lived for nine years after the diagnosis.
All the while she focused on instilling her children with all the wisdom and happiness she could bequeath to them. She recalls the time she made cookies with her daughter Naomi on her birthday, and went with her to the oncology department to distribute them. The patients were delighted with their young visitor and heaped blessings on her. One man insisted that she remember always that good health is absolutely the most important thing in the world, and that surely her mother had taught her that. Naomi was uncomfortable with the man's words, yet hesitated to contradict an adult. When Chani encouraged her to speak her mind, Naomi told the man that she thinks the most important thing in the world is simcha…
Chani worried how she could etch her being in her children's memory. She threw herself into baking more cookies, going on more outings, giving them even more quality time. She even wrote books chronicling her struggle and challenge to live her days as fully and as conscientiously as possible. Then she realized that all this was not necessary. All she had to do was relax and be herself with them – and cherish every moment.
"It isn't fair," Chani complained to Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi, who came to visit her in her final days in the hospice. "I am surrounded by flowers and chocolates and friends, even you! Do you know how many people here with broken bodies and souls are all alone? Why have I been singled out for such love and devotion?" Such was Chani's gratitude for all the goodness that Hashem had showered upon her.
Chani brings to mind her namesake Chana, the valiant and G-d-fearing mother of seven sons who chose death rather than bow down to the idol of the Greek King Antiochus in the Chanukah story. According to the Gemara (Gittin 57), when Chana's soul rose to heaven, a bas kol greeted her with the words, "Joyful is the mother of the sons." Chani, too, will be remembered by thousands of us as a jubilant and rejoicing mother and mentor in our nation.
K A H A N E
The magazine of the Authentic Jewish Idea
March-April 1989 Adar-Nissan 5749
Arrogance of Ignorance
In day days when men were humble enough to know what they were – and what they were not; what they knew – and what they did not, the ignoramus knew his place. Whatever arrogance existed was the province of those who were, at least, nominally scholars. And so, while ignorance and arrogance are both attributes to be shunned, their separation was at least a small favor for which to be grateful. But, times have changed and we are today, victims of the ultimate curse – the arrogance of ignorance. The unabashed and haughty readiness to display one's abysmal and absurd ignorance before people and congregation is the symbol of our wretched times.
The latest exhibitionist of sheer nescience is one Yitzhak Ro'eh, a leftist writer for the Histadrut Daily Davar. What prompted his latest outburst of superficiality was anger. Mr. Ro'eh is angry.
And why is Mr. Ro'eh angry? Because, following an attempt by four Arab terrorists to infiltrate into Israel and murder Jews, the Israeli Army superbly met them and eliminated all of them. And then – and this is what causes the blood to rise in Mr. Ro'eh's head – and then, photographers were allowed to snap photos of the dead terrorists who had sought to murder Jews.
"Gevald!" shouts Mr. Ro'eh who – as we will soon see, is a very moral person. What an outrage against decency and morality to rejoice and exhibit the bodies of four people who attempted to murder Jews and were killed by the Jewish army. Or in his words:
"Every person and his own associations. When I saw the large color photos of the four terrorists who were eliminated in Lebanon, the following line from the Passover Hagada, began to ring in my ear: 'The work of my hands are drowning in the sea and you sing?'"
And Mr. Ro'eh then spends the next four paragraphs detailing all the things that were outrageous about those photographs, and concludes: "All this adds up to a growing insensitivity, a deepening dulling of the senses… The one who wrote 'do not rejoice when your enemy falls,' would, probably, agree with me: When your enemy falls do not be photographed with him.
One hardly knows where to begin to plough through this trash heap of utterly foul ignorance and arrogance. But we shall try. To begin with, the words, "the work of My hands are drowning in the sea…" do not appear anywhere in the Hagada but are to be found in the Babylonian Talmud (Megila 10b and Sanhedrin 39b), an area of Jewish knowledge that remains for Ro'eh the ignoramus, a dark, exotic, virgin area, untouched by him or his study. Indeed the utter superficiality of the man leads one to wonder whether, when he writes "the one who wrote 'do not rejoice,' etc…," does he really know who did write it.
In any event, one more thought before disposing of the arrogant ignoramus. I am always impressed by the intellectual fraud that is an inevitable part of all the secular haters of Judaism of observant Jews. They are blessed with an amazing ability to selectively choose what they wish from the very same books of Judaism that are filled with verses, sayings, concepts and laws that run counter to the most basic things in which they believe. The very same religious books they despise for "racism," "cruelty," "barbarity" and "obscurantism," suddenly become proper repositories of truth when they spy in them a thing that apparently agrees with their own warped concepts. Intellectual honesty was never the strong suit of the schizophrenic secularists, leftists and Hellenists who lack the courage to entirely drop the Jewishness they so desperately despise.
In any event, back to Mr. Ro'eh, so that we can dispose of him before the same people and congregation in whose presence he so arrogantly displayed his naked ignorance. The need to do this is compounded a thousand times over by the fact that the ignoramus Ro'eh is joined not only by so many semi-ignorant others, but worst of all – by so many tortured Moderdox types who cannot bear to accept the stark truth of authentic Jewish values
As always, the Ro'ehs (and others) of the world selectively and very partially quote the Talmud. The selection they bring down really begins with R. Yeshoshua ben Levi starting his lecture on Megilat Esther with the verse "As the L-rd rejoiced over you ("sas") to do you good, so the L-rd will rejoice over you ("yasis") to cause you to perish." (Dvarim 28). And the Talmud asks: Does the Almighty then rejoice over the fall of the wicked? And to prove that he does not rejoice, the story of the angels asking to sing praise is brought. And this is where Ro'eh, the ignoramus, stops. But there is more. The Talmud continues with answers as follows:
"Rabbi Elazar said: it is true that He does not rejoice, but he causes others to rejoice."
Ah, what a difference. And a clear answer to the obvious question: If G-d does not want us to rejoice and praise Him when our enemy falls why in the world does it say: "Then Moses and the children of Israel sing this song unto the L-rd…?" (Shmot15)
And a clear answer to why the rabbis say: (Mechilta, B'shalach, II): "The L-rd shall perform for you miracles and glories and you will stand and do nothing? Said Israel unto Moses: What are we to do? Said he unto them: You will glorify and praise and give song and glory and greatness to the One to whom wars belong."
Of course the Almighty, the totality of compassion, the Father of all, grieves for His children – all of them. He does not sing. His angels, who are not of this world, do not sing. But the Jews do. Not only are they allowed to, they are commanded to… For the very same reason that the very same Almighty, though He does not sing, does destroy the work of His hands because they are evil.
Yes, of course He grieves. He grieves that those who were made in His image have so perverted and destroyed the greatness of that image. That those who were made in the image of good, were so evil. And so, He grieves for the perversion of His purpose in making the world, for His works that have so gone astray. And in His grief He does not have pity: He destroys them: He knows that evil and He cannot share the same world, as our rabbis say: "As long as the wicked rule in the world, the Holy One Blessed be He, so to speak, cannot sit on His throne." (Yalkut Tehilim, Chapter 47).
And so, because the arrogance of the enemy of the Jewish people, their brazen persecution of the people of G-d with no fear of G-d, is the very essence of Hillul Hashem, the Almighty in wrath destroys them and the Children of Israel must sing and glorify G-d. And thus do the rabbis declare (Shmot Raba 23): "then did Moses and the Children of Israel sing," this is what is meant by the verse (Psalms' 9): "The L-rd is known by the judgment He executes." This speaks of Egypt whom G-d smote at the Red Sea."
The seal of the Almighty is truth and only that truth will emerge from His lips and His teachings. One imagines the agony of the soul that Ro'eh must endure every Purim as all the misguided and insensitive and sense-dulled Jews celebrate, rejoice and drink to the death of their enemy, Haman. One sees the lonely Ro'eh the lost of the Just sitting gloomily alone in his apartment, bemoaning the spiritual fall of the Jew and the spread of Kahanism among us all. Even as the Jewish people rejoice on Purim. Mr. Roe'h sits with the following ringing through his ear: "The work of My hand…"
Donkey, Immoral Moralist, Arrogant Ignoramus. He opposes rejoicing over the death of those who would destroy us. The Donkey of Morality – Yitzhak Ro'e