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Friday, July 03, 2015

Justice Clarence Thomas, OBERGEFELL v. HODGES and Rabbi Kook

I saw something interesting today in SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas' dissenting opinion on the OBERGEFELL v. HODGES case. This is what he wrote:
Perhaps recognizing that these cases do not actually involve liberty as it has been understood, the majority goes to great lengths to assert that its decision will advance the “dignity” of same-sex couples.The flaw in that reasoning, of course, is that the Constitution contains no “dignity” Clause, and even if it did, the government would be incapable of bestowing dignity.

Human dignity has long been understood in this country to be innate. When the Framers proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” they referred to a vision of mankind in which all humans are created in the image of God and therefore of inherent worth. That vision is the foundation upon which this Nation was built.

The corollary of that principle is that human dignity cannot be taken away by the government. Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.

This reminded of one of Rabbi Kook's ideas:
The difference between a slave and a free person is not merely a matter of social position. We can find an enlightened slave whose spirit is free, and a free man with the mentality of a slave.

True freedom is that uplifted spirit by which the individual — as well as the nation as a whole — is inspired to remain faithful to his inner essence, to the spiritual attribute of the Divine image within him. It is that quality which enables us to feel that our life has value and meaning.

A person with a slave mentality lives his life and harbors emotions that are rooted, not in his own essential spiritual nature, but in that which is attractive and good in the eyes of others. In this way, he is ruled by others, whether physically or by social conventions.

Vanquished in exile, we were oppressed for hundreds of years by cruel masters. But our inner soul is imbued with the spirit of freedom. Were it not for the wondrous gift of the Torah, bestowed upon us when we left Egypt to eternal freedom, the long exile would have reduced our spirits to the mindset of a slave. But on the festival of freedom, we openly demonstrate that we feel ourselves to be free in our very essence. Our lofty yearnings for that which is good and holy are a genuine reflection of our essential nature.

Do you think that Justice Thomas is familiar with Rabbi Kook's writings?

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

It's Time for Jews to Leave the U.S.A. for Israel

I really do think that the time has arrived. Actually, the minute that it was possible to get on a plane or a boat and come to Israel, almost every Jew that puts spirituality before materialism should have gotten up and left. But in light of the decision of the SCOTUS regarding so called "marriage equality" a decision which flies in the face of the Seven Noahide Laws, all 50 states are obligated to tolerate and facilitate this abomination. Even though the gentiles have not been diligent in keeping the Noahide Statutes (see Bava Kama 38A), this decision, as I wrote, is particularly anti-Noahide and as such anti-God.

Now that evil rules from sea to shining sea (along with Hawaii and Alaska), it is worthwhile reviewing the words of our great master and teacher, Maimonides:

It is natural for a man's character and actions to be influenced by his friends and associates and for him to follow the local norms of behavior. Therefore, he should associate with the righteous and be constantly in the company of the wise, so as to learn from their deeds. Conversely, he should keep away from the wicked who walk in darkness, so as not to learn from their deeds.

This is [implied by] Solomon's statement (Proverbs 13:20): "He who walks with the wise will become wise, while one who associates with fools will suffer." Similarly, [Psalms 1:1] states: "Happy is the man who has not followed the advice of the wicked."

A person who lives in a place where the norms of behavior are evil and the inhabitants do not follow the straight path should move to a place where the people are righteous and follow the ways of the good.

If all the places with which he is familiar and of which he hears reports follow improper paths, as in our times, or if he is unable to move to a place where the patterns of behavior are proper, because of [the presence of] bands of raiding troops, or for health reasons, he should remain alone in seclusion as [Eichah 3:28] states: "Let him sit alone and be silent."

If they are wicked and sinful and do not allow him to reside there unless he mingle with them and follow their evil behavior, he should go out to caves, thickets, and deserts [rather than] follow the paths of sinners as [Jeremiah 9:1] states: "Who will give me a lodging place for wayfarers, in the desert."

There are many righteous gentiles in the United States who deplore this decision. My heart is with them, and I hope that they will be able to remove this blight from their nation. As for those Jews that are still loyal to God's Torah, I ask, what more has to happen to make them abandon the fleshpots? As for those Jews of the SCOTUS that contributed to this scandalous decision, I bring a verse from the prophet Malachi,
"For, behold, the day cometh, it burneth as a furnace; and all the proud, and all that work wickedness, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall set them ablaze, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch."
In order to end on a good note, here is the continuation of that prophecy:
"But unto you that fear My name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in its wings; and ye shall go forth, and gambol as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I do make, saith the LORD of hosts."

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Expulsion From Gush Katif and the Sin of the Spies

Most of this week's Torah portion deals with the "sin of the spies". It's been almost ten years since the expulsion from Gush Katif. In my mind, the expulsion was in many ways a repetition of that ancient sin, a sin which our sages view as being the seed of the destruction of the Temples and the exiles that we the Jews as a nation have suffered. I believe in the power of Teshuvah, that it is possible to learn from mistakes and that by doing so, we can make ammends for the bad deeds that were perpetrated. Of course, the first step is realizing that a mistake was made!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Preparing to Receive the Torah

Here are some thoughts on the upcoming holiday of Shavuot that I heard/learned from others:

Tonight is the night that we will complete the counting of the Omer. But it is not enough to count the Omer. You have to make the Omer count! The period between Peisach and Shavuot is a time that one should prepare himself to receive the Torah.

The Torah that we learn, the Mitzvot that we perform, and the acts of loving kindness that we do are like glue that help us to cling to the Creator. If you want to glue two surfaces together, you have to make sure that they are clean before you apply the glue. Dirt will prevent the glue from sticking. Similarly, if we want to cling to God, we have to clean ourselves from transgression.

Humility is also a precondtion to receive the Torah. The Torah is compared to water. Just like water always flows to lower places, the Torah is acquired only by those who are humble.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Redemption Comes Little By Little

This is a good thing to remember today, the 48th anniversary of the liberation of East Jerusalem and the reunification of our holy city. Things are happening here, but one needs to be sensitive to notice. Here is an example:

This a picture I took not too long ago of the Romema neighborhood near the western entrance to Jerusalem. Do you see what I see? Two new apartment buildings being built where previously smaller structures previously existed, if my memory is correct. Jerusalem's population continues to grow. The old vessels are simply too small to contain the blessing! Bigger ones are being built all over. Little by little the redemption is taking place before our eyes. But to see it, your eyes have to be open.

Happy Jerusalem Day!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Attempted Anti-religious Coercion in Rehovot Fails

Recently I came accross the following article by a fellow who goes by the name of David Suissa:
With the Celebrate Israel Festival coming up this Sunday at Rancho Park, I thought it’d be an ideal time to write a love letter expressing my unabashed and unconditional attachment to Israel. But as much as I’d still like to do that, that column will have to wait for another week, because right now my mind is too upset about something that happened recently in the holy land.

It’s a little story that barely made the news, but it speaks to a growing cancer inside the Jewish state, the cancer of religious intolerance.

I smell somebody with an axe to grind! The article continues:
It was brought to my attention two weeks ago when I had lunch with Yitzhar Hess, who runs the Masorti (Conservative) movement in Israel.

In a nutshell, this is what happened: A Charedi mayor of an Israeli town decided to cancel a planned bar mitzvah ceremony for four boys with autism because the ceremony would be taking place in a Conservative, rather than an Orthodox, synagogue.

This special program for boys and girls was launched about 20 years ago by the Masorti movement, and it was introduced last year to the Lotem School in Rehovot, a school run by the municipality that accepts special-needs children from all religious backgrounds. Masorti trains the kids for months in preparation for the big day when they are called to the Torah.

Most of the kids trained in the program have severe autism, so the program developed creative ways to help them recite blessings, such as by pressing buttons on a tablet that plays a recording of the individual blessings. Needless to say, being able to have such a ceremony is an incredibly moving experience for the kids and their families.

But in Rehovot this year, just days before the ceremony was scheduled to take place, the mayor, Rahamim Malul, cancelled it by prohibiting the staff at the school from participating in the event. According to Hess, it was a chain reaction that began when a Charedi mother at the school (who did not have a child in the Bar-Bat Mitzvah program) complained to the Charedi head rabbi of Rehovot (Rabbi Simcha Hakohen Kook) who called Charedi MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) who then called Malul.

Read the rest. As is typical with such agenda driven dribble, the author does not bother to present the other side of the story. Why bother seeking the other side of the story when the author is obviously interested in presenting the event as an example of the "growing cancer inside the Jewish state, the cancer of religious intolerance"?

Through the wonders of Google I was able to find the other side of the story (in Hebrew). It turns out, according to the Rehovot Municipality, that we are dealing with a case of anti-religious coercion. The school in question provides education to children with special needs from Rehovot and its surroundings. The students in the school in question come from secular, religious, and ultra-Orthodox homes. There were parents that objected to this "Bar Mitzvah" ceremony taking place in a non-Orthodox synagogue, as this would prevent their children from participating. A meeting was held where it was agreed to by all the parties involved, including the parents and representatives of the Conservative Movement, that the ceremony would take place in a synagogue that is located inside one of the city's schools. The CEO of the Conservative Movement in Israel rejected the compromise that was reached.

That's the story in a nutshell. If there is a party-pooper here, it is the CEO of the Conservative Movement in Israel. Chazak Uvaruch to Rahamim Malul, the mayor of Rehovot, and to the parents to standing up to such coercion.

As an aside, it's no secret that the Conservative Movement is imploding in the United States. They are not having too much success here in Israel either, and that's an understatement.

An additional aside: Apparently the rabbi of the Conservative synagogue where the ceremony was supposed to take place is openly gay.

This case is a typical example of why one should here both sides of the story before forming an opinion.

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