Breaking news: Close relatives of new Immigrants (4 years) to be let into the country and other Good opening news and No Closure, but a Few Lessons By David Suissa and Respecting Belief in Prayer and a Way of Life By Jerome M. Marcus and The Ethics of Epidemic: 5 Practical Lessons from the Coronavirus Outbreak By Rabbi Yonason Goldson and Why did God let Trump lose? By MAAYAN JAFFE-HOFFMAN and Parsha Toldot -A Blessing from Heaven
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement.
Family members of new immigrants to be allowed to visit Israel despite entry ban
MKs reach compromise with Interior Ministry to allow entry to close relatives of those in the country for less than 4 years; quarantine rules to apply; takes effect in 4 weeks
The Interior Ministry agreed Wednesday to ease coronavirus restrictions and allow entry into the country for first-degree relatives of new immigrants who have come to Israel within the last four years.
The measure, a joint proposal by MKs Yorai Lahav Hertzanu from Yesh Atid, Michal Cotler-Wunsh of Blue and White, and Likud's David Bitan, is set to be introduced in four weeks.
Speaking at the Knesset's Immigration and Absorption Committee, which he chairs, Bitan said Wednesday morning that he had received confirmation of the authorization from Population and Immigration Authority director Shlomo Mor-Yosef.
Currently, only Israelis and foreigners with a residency visa are allowed to fly into the country. Those landing from so-called "red countries" — those with high coronavirus rates — must observe a 14-day quarantine.
Additionally, a limited class of non-citizens, primarily first-degree family members, are allowed into Israel for lifecycle events such as births and weddings, with each case evaluated individually by the Interior Ministry.
At the same time, Israel continues to allow new immigrants into the country.
The quarantine period will also apply to family members of immigrants, Bitan said.
The ministry's agreement was reached after Bitan proposed a compromise between Lahav Hertzanu's initial proposal to allow entry for families of anyone who immigrated to Israel in the last 10 years and the immigration authority's preference of just two years.
Speaking to The Times of Israel after the announcement in the committee meeting, Lahav Hertanu thanked Bitan for "joining me in raising this important cause and reaching a compromise with the government offices,"
"Immigrants have fewer support systems here than I do, and I immediately realized the importance of finding a solution that would allow them a visit from their loved ones. I know that having my family here is a great source of strength for me through this lockdown, and I hope now that will be more available to new immigrants as well," he said.
Cotler-Wunsh, who also saw success in her previous push for family members to be allowed to visit for life-cycle events, welcomed the latest move and said it came "after raising the issue in every possible way and asking for a comprehensive and holistic solution that acknowledges the importance of aliya and the additional COVID-19 related implications for immigrants."
Expressing "disappointment" that the measure would only effect immigrants who have moved to Israel within four years, Coter-Wunsh added, "We will follow the implementation of these guidelines and continue to discuss and address this issue responsibly so that all immigrants can be reunited with their immediate families and loved ones, at this trying time more than ever."
The Portion of Toldot
A Blessing from Heaven
The days of Yitzchak (Isaac) are numbered. He doesn't know when the day of his death will arrive. He decides to bless his eldest son Esau. He asks Esau to go out to the field, hunt and prepare a meal for him just the way he likes it "in order that my soul may bless you" (Genesis 27;4).
Esau is commanded to bring food for his elderly father to eat. By doing this act of kindness for his father, it will be Isaac's soul which blesses Esau- not a regular blessing but a blessing of the soul.
The blessing did not come from Yitzchak- it emanated from G-d Himself who funneled it through Yitzchak, through his soul. As David wrote in Psalms (104;35) "Bless the Lord my soul".
And therefore at the end of the blessing "And it came to pass when Isaac finished blessing Jacob (Genesis 27;30), the letter "lamed" in the word "kila" (finished) is written in the form of a stick from top to bottom, thereby telling us that Yitzchak's blessing came from heaven and passed through Yitzchak on its way to Jacob.
Knesset okays opening of restaurants, zoos, strip-malls in 'tourist islands'
Committee's approval comes hours after legislation partially reopening resort towns goes into effect; ministers approve raising limit on customers in stores
Hotel along the beach in the resort city of Eilat, October 21, 2015. (Moshe Shai/ FLASH90)
The Knesset on Wednesday approved the reopening of zoos, restaurants, large outdoor strip malls and other attractions inside the so-called "tourist islands" in Eilat and the Dead Sea.
The approval came during a Constitution, Law and Justice Committee debate on the latest easing of restrictions approved by the cabinet.
The panel's chairman, Shas MK Yaakov Asher, also said he hoped ministers would approve an amendment to expand the cap on in-store shoppers around the country to beyond four customers, which they green lighted hours later. He said health officials were weighing a compromise that would raise the restriction for stores depending on their size.
The session was held hours after legislation to designate the Red Sea resort city of Eilat and hotels in the Ein Bokek area of the southern Dead Sea as "special tourist islands" went into effect.
Tourist entry to those areas will be allowed for those who underwent a coronavirus test during the preceding 72 hours and got a negative result. Residents of Eilat who wish to enter or reenter the city will have to present a test result from the preceding week or undergo a free, quick test at a facility that will be set up at the entrance to the city.
An aerial view taken on September 4, 2020, shows people at the shores of the Dead Sea at the resort district of Ein Bokek as Israel experienced its hottest recorded temperatures. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
While the legislation allows Eilat and Dead Sea resorts to partially reopen, other tourist sites across the country will remain closed for the time being.
Israel's tourism industry has been brought to its knees by the coronavirus, though it enjoyed a respite in the spring and summer as locals flooded Israeli hotels instead of traveling abroad. However, hotels were shut back down as part of a nationwide lockdown imposed in mid-September, which remains partially in place.
Both Eilat and the Dead Sea, which are heavily dependent on tourism, have seen unemployment skyrocket with hotels shut as part of a nationwide lockdown. Unemployment in Eilat remains over 40 percent, well above the national average, according to Walla news.
Later Wednesday, the high-level coronavirus cabinet agreed to ease restrictions limiting the number of customers in a store to four, with shops now permitted to have up to 10 patrons at a time.
Ministers also approved declaring the northern city of Arraba a "restricted zone," subjecting it to stricter limitations to contain the virus. Arraba currently has one of the highest per capita infection rates of any locality in the country, according to the Health Ministry.
In a year of chaos and uncertainty, perhaps it is fitting that we won't know for a while who won the presidential election. There are still plenty of votes to count in some key states, and perhaps plenty of legal wrangling to untangle the mess. It may get ugly. We don't know.
One thing we do know is that a widely predicted cakewalk for Joe Biden has turned into a nail biter. A nation on pins and needles before Election Day remains very much on pins and needles.
But while we wait for closure, it's worth asking a few questions, such as: How could all these polls be so wrong? And what did the media and the Democratic party miss?
"Tuesday was an abject disaster for Democrats in Washington," stated the influential Politico Playbook newsletter this morning. "To imagine the amount of soul searching and explaining the party will have to do after Tuesday is absolutely dizzying. The infighting will be bloody — as it should be. We fielded text after text from Hill Democrats Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning with existential questions about their leadership and the direction of their party."
From Axios AM, another influential newsletter:
"Recognize that we paid way too much attention to polls, which have even more limitations than we realized. It was a terrible night for polling. They were wrong, almost all of them, almost everywhere. Save yourself time and stop watching them so closely in elections… Understand that Trump's appeal was broader than believed. He actually found new voters. Many of them were the working-class, white males who are the base of his base. But there were more of them."
I know this is painful for many Democrats to hear, but there are a whole bunch of Americans out there who don't hate Donald Trump.
They may have plenty of issues with him, but they won't go as far as blaming him, for example, for the deaths of 230,000 Americans during the pandemic.
In fact, if I had to name one blunder in the Democrats' campaign, that would be it: Bashing Trump over the horrible pandemic death count.
Bashing is not a strategy. It doesn't tell people what you will do for them, or what you will do differently. If voters think you will impose more lockdowns and force them to wear masks and trigger a dark economic winter, science or not, how appealing does that look?
I can't prove this, but here's what I think: The Democrats focused so much on the pandemic in order to connect the darkest year in recent U.S. history directly to Trump, hoping that voters would blame him for, or at least associate him with, the disaster. But for all of Trump's mistakes and stumbles, for many voters that was a bridge too far. Would fewer Americans have died in 2020 under a President Biden? Trump haters may believe so, but plenty of reasonable people didn't.
The hatred of Trump, in other words, may have gone so far as to backfire on some of the haters.
Trump-hating Democrats conveniently looked the other way when their own side went too far, when violent protestors called to "defund the police" or when the mainstream media showed its blatant anti-Trump bias. They assumed that if they closed ranks and kept mum on what they knew was wrong, it would help them take Trump down.
Thus, they could rarely bring themselves to give him credit for anything, which further hurt their credibility. Anything bad was his fault; anything good was someone's else's doing.
More than anything, the extraordinary, unequalled four-year assault on one man came back to haunt the Democrats. I understand the assault. Many reasonable people really do believe that Trump is a threat to America, to our democratic norms, to our sense of decency and to our future. If you believe that, why not engage in an all-out assault?
For starters, that's not the way to win big. The combination of contempt for Trump and self-righteousness blinded many Democrats to different views and different people. They forgot to look in the mirror and see how they might come across to "deplorables" whose votes they might need one day.
They looked at the polls and figured they could pull off an easy victory without doing any soul searching. Who wants to do soul searching when you don't have to?
Here's the crazy thing. Four years ago, we were having a similar conversation. The shock of Trump's victory led to honest conversations in the media about the need to learn more about Trump voters—about their genuine grievances and genuine concerns.
That soul searching lasted about five minutes.
Now we're back to where we started: A democratic electorate that is utterly befuddled that so many Americans can vote for this man.
If there is one lesson Democrats can take from this election, it is humility. They ought to stop acting as if anyone who won't vote like them must be a racist, a bigot, a fool or an ignoramus.
Just as Trump haters are disgusted with Trump, many Trump voters are disgusted with Trump haters. All these voters see is an intolerance for their side, a suffocating cancel culture, constant attacks on the police and a maligning of America as an irredeemable, systemically racist country.
It's ironic that one reason the polls were so wrong is that many Trump voters are afraid to admit their allegiance, lest they be cancelled or ostracized. What does that tell us about leftist intolerance or the state of free expression today?
Here's another irony: If Biden pulls out a victory, that will pretty much guarantee the absence of any soul searching, and the hardening of the walls between our two Americas.
On second thought, I take that back. If the Democrats refused to look inward when they lost to Trump four years ago, perhaps they will do so now if they beat him.
After all, this is 2020, the year when anything can happen.-
As we approach this week's story about Abraham's immediate compliance with God's command that he provide his son as a burnt offering, we would do well to contemplate a large group of Jews who, in their own minds at least, are following God's commands in a way that seems to us so dangerous as to be irrational.
Much ink has been spilled over the last several months by Jews proclaiming their inability to understand the haredi response to COVID-19 restrictions imposed in the United States and Israel. That failure to understand is a failure on our part (and by "our," I include myself, the Modern Orthodox community in which I live, and anybody else who isn't a haredi Jew.) Here are the essential points that those of us who are not haredim should acknowledge:
Haredim don't hate science or disbelieve in science. They go to hospitals when they're sick, as anyone who's ever been to a hospital in New York or in Jerusalem can attest. They use computers and cell phones—not in the same way as the rest of us, by they do use them; they don't pretend that such things do not exist. They don't generally want to become scientists because they believe that for a man, studying Torah is more important than learning biology or how to code, and that the highest use of a woman's time is to make and fill a home. But that's not the same as not believing that there is such a thing as science.
They know what an infectious disease is. The knowledge that there is such a thing as an infectious disease is not a chiddish ("innovation"); it's not something discovered in the last 100 years. In the Middle Ages, people knew that the plague and various other highly communicable diseases were spread by close contact, and plenty of Jews faced with such threats took precautions to minimize such contact. Haredim are not failing to comply with government edict about social distancing because they believe in magical thinking.
They do, however, actually believe in prayer. Many of us who are not haredim claim to believe in prayer, too, so we should not lightly dismiss this, no matter what our private doubts may be about its efficacy. More seriously, the Jewish canon teaches us explicitly and repeatedly that national calamity is a function of our moral lapse. The entire book of Jeremiah says that. The entire tractate of Taanit deals with the problems of drought and illness and death, why they come when they do, and what effect can be had on God's decision to send such things by prayer or fasting (hence, the name of the tractate—a taanit is a "fast"). We sophisticates may roll our eyes about this, but it's a serious issue. Those of us who pray regularly—or pray at all, or even go to synagogue where other people are praying and we just sing along—all have an obligation to take this seriously.
Haredim are hostile to governments. That's not because they're fools who are under the misimpression that they still live in Poland in the 17th century, and who don't realize that the Poland of the 17th century was a malevolent place, while the United States or Israel of now is not malevolent. It's because they don't want to be governed by a secular government at all. They think it's akin to idol worship, which our canon calls not "idol worship" but Avodah Zarah, perhaps most accurately translated as "service to, or submission to, something strange—i.e., to something other than God." That explains why the haredi world had such a hard time wrapping its head around the establishment of the State of Israel when that establishment was carried out (as far as most of us know) other than by the command of God and without the establishment of a government that is itself bound by the Torah.
Our siddur puts this sentiment into our mouths multiple times every day; those of us who are not haredim, and who see nothing wrong with obeying the edicts of a secular government or even participating in the formulation of those edicts, do so in the teeth of these words. I refer here not only to such general formulations as the warning in Psalm 146 not to trust princes. I refer to the words in the Amidah that we are supposed to say three times a day: "Return our judges to us, and rule over us, You, God, all by yourself." "We have no king but You," we say, not just when we recite Avinu Malkeinu, but six Maariv prayers a week (at least if we're outside of the Land of Israel).
The Jewish canon teaches explicitly and repeatedly that national calamity is a function of our moral lapse. The entire book of Jeremiah says that.
The difference is that the haredim actually believe this. Hence their antipathy to governments—any governments, even governments run by Jews (Jews who don't actually believe this). They have that antipathy towards secular governments not because they don't know what century they're living in or because they don't realize that Western governments do not, and are not, likely to conduct pogroms. They have that opinion about secular governments because those governments are not following the Torah and not animated by or even sensitive to the value system according to which haredim build their lives. They do obey their rebbeim in the same way that Jews generally obeyed the Council of the Four Lands, which governed the internal affairs of Eastern European Jewry for about 200 years. It's not "authority," per se, that they reject. It's authority other than that of God.
Neither are haredim indifferent to the harm their conduct causes other people. We know this because they lead insular lives spent almost entirely within their own community—and that means that the vast majority of people affected, and infected, by their COVID rule-breaking are other haredim. One would have to be stupid not to know that their conduct will have this immense effect on their own community, on their own aged parents and teachers. They're not stupid; they know this. It is a cost they choose to bear because they think they are commanded to live the way they live—for men to study all day and to daven in a minyan; for Jews to have lots of children, to make three Shabbos seudos ("meals") every week, to dance before brides and to accompany the dead. If you believe you are commanded to do something by God, then you do it. As Queen Esther said when she realized that she really did have to go confront King Ahasuerus: "If I lose my life doing what's required of me, then I lose my life."
The Talmud in Eruvin tells the story of Rabbi Akiva sitting in prison, where he was visited each day by one of his students, who would bring him water and bread. One day the Roman guard decided the student had brought too much water and made the student pour some of it out. Only a little was left. When the student presented his teacher with the water and bread, Rabbi Akiva used the water to wash his hands and then ate the bread. The student was shocked: You need the water, he said to his teacher; why didn't you drink it? Rabbi Akiva answered that the Torah commanded him to use the water to wash before he ate bread. He lived to fulfill the Torah's commands. Whether he died on a particular day of thirst because he hadn't drunk the water, or on another day somewhat later because he had, was less important than whether he did what the Torah (i.e., God) told him to do.
Those of us who aren't haredim claim to value very highly the duty to respect "the Other"—to respect the way other people think even if it's not our way. We should bear that in mind when we think about our haredi brothers and sisters insisting on going to shul, making weddings and attending funerals, and keeping their yeshivahs open.
The Ethics of Epidemic: 5 Practical Lessons from the Coronavirus Outbreak
George Santayana famously taught that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Friedrich Hegel less famously taught that the great lesson of history is that no one learns from it.
We are now living through possibly the worst pandemic in modern history. What lessons should we be learning? Here are a few suggestions.
#1 Everything you do matters
Authorities believe that the coronavirus originated from a wet market in China's Wuhan province. These unregulated marketplaces offer a bizarre menagerie of creatures not conventionally found on the menu, including donkeys, foxes, badgers, bamboo rats, hedgehogs, and snakes, many of them traded illegally. This allows for easy transmission of viruses from animals to human hosts.
So here's the question: if I want to go shopping to make bat stew for dinner, what's wrong with that? I'm not hurting anyone else. Probably not… unless I unleash a global pandemic. Private actions can have very public consequences.
That's why personal ethics and moral discipline are so important. If you don't set standards for yourself, even in private, the fallout from your actions can seep into the world, and you may set in motion destructive events you never intended or imagined. Conversely, the more you refine your personal conduct – especially when no one is watching – the more naturally you will make a positive impact on the people who share your world.
#2 Don't expose yourself to unhealthy people
Jim Rohn observed that you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Character traits transmit like viruses. You absorb attitudes from those around you, until eventually you become just like them.
Associate only with ethically healthy companions. That's the best way to protect yourself from contracting debilitating moral infections. And preserving your own ethical health will help keep your work, family, and community environments healthy as well.
#3 What you don't see can hurt you
Before Louis Pasteur discovered germ pathology, scientists refused to believe in anything they couldn't see. Now we know better. But the danger to our well-being isn't limited to microorganisms.
A cruel word, a thoughtless remark, or a disdainful glance causes real harm to those around you. Gossip, sarcasm, misinformation, slander – these are the pathogens of modern society that break down your ethical immune system and leave you vulnerable to the influence of immoral people. Just because we can't measure how words affect us, we still have a responsibility to anticipate the impact they will have on us and on others.
#4 We need one another
The ease with which technology allows us to connect with strangers has left our connections shallow and unfulfilling. Now we are left with nothing else, as we're told to keep our distance and self-quarantine.
We can't live with others, but we can't live alone either. Retreating behind closed doors has created a whole new constellation of problems as commerce grinds to a halt and livelihoods are threatened by a paralyzed economy. Experience teaches that when we don't appreciate what we have, it's often taken away from us – and that includes genuine human relationships and interaction, as well as the economic health of our society.
#5 Don't wait for the next crisis
We will make it through this. But the best way to prevent a future crisis is to learn from the last one. Aside from whatever medical safeguards we end up putting in place, we will serve our own best interests by learning the lessons of personal responsibility and discipline, surrounding ourselves with people of ethical quality, becoming more aware of how our words and actions affect others, and making time to preserve and deepen our relationships with friends and family.
In his Psalms, King David praises those who have clean hands and a pure heart. The actions that define our lives – the work of our hands – cling to us persistently and creep into our hearts, changing us either for better or worse.
We need more than soap and water to stay clean. We need a genuine commitment to a life of ethical idealism. We need awareness that our moral health affects others and is affected by others. We need to know and believe with all our hearts that the world needs us to make it better, and that we benefit from living in a world we make better by leading ethical lives.
Why did God let Trump lose?
Trump would not be the first pro-Israel president to be "cursed" by God.
Has God cursed Donald Trump, the man who claimed to bless Israel more than anyone else? Just days before the election, Trump sought to reawaken and harness the love of his Evangelical Christian constituency for Jerusalem by removing political limitations on research cooperation between the United States and Israel and allowing Americans born in Jerusalem to choose to put Israel on their passports.R
He brokered three normalization agreements in just over a month between Israel and Arab countries. But it seems that contrary to the biblical verse "I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you" (Genesis 12:3), God will not put the president back into the White House.On Saturday night, the media announced that Democratic candidate Joe Biden had defeated Trump and would become the 46th president of the United States.
Although Trump has not given up – and his statements have indicated that he is still going to take legal action over alleged election fraud – by nearly all indications, Trump is to become the first incumbent president to lose re-election since Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992. Now, the question is: How will these Evangelicals, many who said they heard from God Himselfthat Trump would win a second term, come to terms with his likely loss?The rocks are about to move and Trump will be president no matter what you hear," said Evangelical "prophet" Kat Kerr in an interview with Elijah List's Steve Schultz. "He will sit in office for four more years and God will have His way in this country."Some Evangelical leaders, however, understand that this might not be the case.
Still, they say that their faith in God and their support for the land and people of Israel is unwavering."I absolutely believe in the principle laid out in Genesis Chapter 12," said author Joel Rosenberg. "Yet, it is important to remember that God has multiple objectives that are going on simultaneously… Only He knows which ones He is going to elevate at a single moment."Rosenberg cited the Book of Job, in which the main character is described as a righteous and upright man, yet God afflicts him with pain and suffering."That suffering was also a part of God's objective: to show Job how much he was loved by God and that he could trust God even when things were very difficult and going another way that he did not want. God was still sovereign and trustworthy," he said. "God is never wrong. People can be wrong."
TRUMP WOULD not be the first pro-Israel president to be " cursed" by God. Warren G. Harding, America's 29th president, was a champion of Zionism. He signed the Lodge-Fish Resolution in September 1921 that endorsed the 1917 Balfour Declaration in support of a Jewish national home in the Land of Israel."The signing of the resolution epitomized Harding's deeply-held conviction that the Jewish people would inevitably return to the land of their ancestors," explained Michael Freund in an article published last weekend in The Jerusalem Post. In August 1922, he sent out Rosh Hashanah greetings to the Jewish people in which he wrote that this year the Jews would receive "definite assurance" that "their long aspiration for re-establishment of Jewish nationality in the homeland of this great people is to be definitely realized."Harding died less than a year later, on August 2, 1923. Before him, Abraham Lincoln, the country's 16th president, fought strongly against antisemitism, reversing an order in 1862 by Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant calling for the expulsion of all Jews from a wide swath of the South."I do not like to hear a class or nationality condemned on account of a few sinners," Lincoln said. Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865.
"God changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others," Daniel 2:21 says. "He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning."PASTOR TREY GRAHAM, head of the dynamic First Baptist Church Melissa in north Texas, cited this verse in Daniel and said that God is bigger than any political race."He is never surprised by the results from a race. He raises up leaders in His time, according to His plan," Graham maintained. Graham said that Christians believe that God has a plan for America, and Rosenberg added that "a terrible president might be God's plan."In the Book of Exodus, God calls Pharaoh his "servant."According to Rosenberg, God was using Pharaoh to prove his power to the nation of Israel and to show them that He loved and cared for them. Likewise, God raised up King Nebuchadnezzar, who God also describes as "my servant" and then used the king to destroy Jerusalem and send the Jewish people into exile – "a punishment," according to Rosenberg, which was for the Jewish people's own good.
"God can use a range of leaders to accomplish some good things and some not so good things," he said. Trump was a most unlikely winner in 2016. But Christians believed he was elevated into his role as president by God.Now they feel the same about Biden.For example, Rosenberg said that Biden might be able to persuade the Palestinians to come back to the negotiating table, which would pave the way for a peace treaty between Israel and Saudi Arabia."I am not sure Trump could do that," he said.It is unlikely that Evangelical support for Israel will shift, as their support is rooted in theology and not politics."Trump did very good things for Israel and that is why he was favored by many Israelis," Graham said. "But all Mr. Trump did was to reinforce the promises God already made to Israel."He does not believe it is coincidental that the US announced normalization agreements in the last few months of Trump's presidency.
If America remains Israel's best friend, then Israel is in a great position politically and diplomatically. On the other hand, if America changes course, then Israel is now in a better place to lean on others.A change in the White House does not change God's covenant, the Evangelicals understand."We voted for president," said Graham, "not for King of the Universe."