Friday, June 29, 2012

A Deeper Reality

Here is a video made several years ago that summarizes much of what I have been writing about since March.  Enjoy.

Have a great Shabbat

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Does Air Have Weight?

Until the 17th century, this question would have been thought ludicrous.  Air was the symbol of "nothingness" and obviously carried no weight.  If it had any weight, people would be able to feel it.

Then came Galileo Galilei, who proved through experimentation that air does have weight.  Today we know that the weight of the entire atmosphere is some 5.1 x 1015 tons, and that the weight of the air pressing down upon our bodies every second is about 10 tons. Only because of a wonderfully complex system in which our bodies create internal pressure equal to this external pressure do we not feel the weight of the atmosphere bearing down upon us.

Furthermore, the atmosphere is not equally dense at all locations.  Cold air is denser than hot air.  When air is heated, it expands and weighs less per volume than colder air.  For this reason, hot air rises.  This is the principle behind aerostats such as hot-air balloons (Helium balloons, such as blimps, work on a related principle, in that helium gas is lighter than the surrounding oxygen).

These facts are crucial to our existence on Earth.  As the sun warms the atmosphere, hot air streams upwards in columns at different points on globe, while streams of cold air coming in from the sides replace it.  This atmospheric movement generates wind that carries rain clouds from their point of origin over the oceans towards inhabited lands.

Furthermore, the cloud formation also relies on the movement of air.  As low-density, hot air rises, vast quantities of water evaporate from the oceans, seas and lakes.  The vapor ascends until it reaches higher levels where the temperature is lower.  When the water-laden hot air meets the cold upper layers, it stops rising and condenses from its gaseous state to form a cloud.  When the cloud meets a layer of even colder air, more and more gas turns into the liquid, which eventually forms droplets that fall to earth as rain.

Why do clouds release their water in steady streams of rain, rather than in single burst (which could result in flooding and damage)?  The explanation lies in the fascinatingly complex system of changing temperatures, which causes part of the cloud to remain lightweight and aloft in its passage across the skies, while other parts condense and get heavier until they release their water as rain.

Another important question: Before Galileo made his significant discovery, how would the Torah Sages living 2,000 years ago have answered the question: How heavy is air and what does that mean in terms of the quantity of rain?
The Torah gives a simple, direct answer in a verse describing the wonders of creation: "He makes a weight for the wind, and metes out the waters by measure ..." (Job 28:25).

The great Biblical commentator, Rabbi Meir Lob Weiser (known as the Malbim), pointed out the obvious meaning of this verse: "He makes a weight for the wind" - The element air has weight and mass, which causes vapor to reach the clouds, due to the lower stratum of air, which is heavier than the lighter vapors. Because of this: "He metes out the waters by measure" – Hashem measures how much water stays in the clouds and how much drops down, not enough to flood the Earth.

Once again the wonders of scientific discovery is merely the effort, by trial and error, of finding the truth that has been known for thousands of years by those who just open up the "Handbook of the Universe."  We are in awe of Hashem's miraculous creation and we thank Him every day for teaching us all the details.  It is so much easier and more enjoyable than having to figure it out by ourselves.  I personally find it comical watching scientists struggle to discover what Hashem told us at Mount Sinai.  "There is nothing new under the sun."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Holiness in the Midst of the Community

Adapted from Ein Ayoh, vol 1, p 104

The Need for a Minyan

Judaism has an interesting concept called a minyan, a prayer quorum, special prayers sanctifying Hashem's name, such as the Kedusha (sanctification prayer) and Kaddish prayers, may only be said when ten men are present.  An individual may pray in solitude, but without a minyan, certain parts of the liturgy must be omitted.

The Talmud derives the requirement for a prayer quorum from Hashem's declaration. "I will be sanctified in the midst of the Israelites" (Vayikra 22:32).  What exactly does the word "midst" mean?

We Find the word "midst" used again when Hashem warned the people living nearby the dissenters in Korach's rebellion: "Separate yourselves from the midst of this eida [community]" (Bamidbar 16:20).  From here, the Sages learned that Hashem is sanctified within an eida.

And what is the definition of eida?  The Torah refers to the ten spies who brought a negative report of the Land of Israel as an eida ra'ah, an evil community (14:26).  So we see that Hashem is sanctified in a community of at least ten members.

The requirement for a prayer quorum, and the way it is derived, raises two issues that need to be addressed:

Prayer appears to be a private matter between the soul and its Maker.  Why should we need a minyan of ten participants in order to pray the complete service?

Why is the requirement for a minyan derived precisely from two classic examples of rebellion and infamy - the spies and Korach?

Perfecting the Community Holiness is based on our natural aspirations for spiritual growth and perfection.  However, the desire to perfect ourselves - even spiritually - is not true holiness.  Our goal should not be the fulfilment of our own personal needs, but rather to honor and sanctify our Maker.  Genuine holiness is an altruistic striving for good -- for its own sake, not out of self-interest.

The core of an elevated service of Hashem is when we fulfil His will by helping and uplifting society.  Therefore, the Kedusha may not be said in private.  Without a community to benefit and elevate, the individual cannot truly attain higher levels of holiness.

This special connection between the individual and society is signified by the number ten.  Ten is the first number that is also a group, a collection of units forming a new unit.  Therefore, the minimum number of members for a quorum is ten.

Learning from Villains

Why do we learn this lesson from the wicked?  It is precisely the punishment of the wicked that sheds light on the reward of the righteous.  If the only result of evil was that the wicked corrupt themselves, it would be unnecessary for the law to be so severe with one who is only hurting himself.  However, it is part of human nature that we influence others and are influenced by our surroundings.  Unfortunately, evil people have a negative influence on the entire community; and, it is for this reason that they are punished so severely.  Understanding why the wicked are punished clarifies why the righteous are rewarded.  Just as the former are punished principally due to their negative influence on the community, so too, the reward of the righteous is due primarily to their positive influence.  Now it becomes clear that true holiness is in the context of the organic whole.  And the Kedusha prayer sanctifying Hashem's Name may only be recited in a minyan, with a representative community of ten members.

I have mentioned it before but let me reiterate.  The higher spiritual level of the woman and the fact that they were not guilty of the crime of the spies is what releases the woman from the obligation of ten when praying.  Like Tefillin and Tallit, women are above these requirements and are not obligated.  When a woman wants to wear these items or insists upon being counted in the minyan, she has lowered herself to the spiritual level of a man which, in the eyes of Hashem, is a sin.  Hashem made men and women the way he wanted them --    to accomplish their individual missions and purposes within His creation.  Changing the pattern out of ignorance is very counter-productive and benefits nobody.  To state that man made up these rules is admitting to the ignorance since no man wants to lower his spiritual level but would prefer to be at the level of women (include me in that group).  Hashem knows what He is doing.  We need to understand His ways and use them to our advantage.  He loves us and did this all for us.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Outsourcing Life

A look behind the new phenomenon of mourners for hire and friends for rent.

The following story is completely outlandish – and true.

A congregant of a rabbi lost his mother. After the funeral, the man turned to his spiritual leader with a question. "I know that I am now supposed to sit shiva. I'm aware of my religious obligation to stay home and refrain from work for seven days. But this is really my busy season. I’m wondering if it’s possible for me to hire someone to sit shiva for me."

At first I didn’t believe the story, but after reading the remarkable new book by sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild, The Outsourced Self, I changed my mind. "Mourners for rent" is an outgrowth of the new reality of "personal outsourcing" that is gaining greater popularity and acceptance.

Yes, people today are hard pressed for time and are willing to pay for the privilege of having someone do things for them faster and better instead. I have no problem with people going to an accountant to file their taxes or to a manicurist to file their nails. Outsourcing these onerous tasks are well deserved benefits of being able to afford them.

But in addition to mourners for hire, the following intimate life services are now available: friends for rent, grandmas for rent, holiday gift buyer, photo album assembler, gravesite tenders, dog walkers, personal chefs, closet organizers, interactive motivators at parties, potty trainers, thumb-sucking specialists, dating service checkers, nameologists, wantologists and so much more.

What’s a nameologists? That's a specialist who will expertly guide you to the right name to give to your newborn child, which will save you from the difficult task of choosing a beloved ancestor whose memory you want to perpetuate. And what's a wantologist? That’s someone you can hire to help you figure out what you really want! (I'm not making this up.)

The common denominator in all of this outsourcing – from the personal to the commercial realm – is the tragic loss of the emotional component that ought to be the key to our relationships. The gift that I buy for a loved one because I chose it expresses my feelings far better than what my "holiday gift buyer" expert deems perfect because it's in fashion. The photos I put together in my album may not be the ones chosen by the “professional photo album assembler," but they will reflect the memories precious to me as I see them, not the ones I'm told to treasure by a stranger.

And the incredible category of "friends for rent" – have we lost all sense of the very meaning of the word friend? According to the ancient proverb, friends are one mind in two bodies. By the friend-for-rent standard, they are no more than a commercial transaction between a payer and a payee.

Transferring Emotional Involvement

Jewish law long ago set the parameters for when it is permissible to delegate a task and when personal responsibility trumps this possibility. There is the role of a “shaliach” in Hebrew, a personal agent that acts on your behalf in certain situations. A writ of divorce, for example, may be sent from husband to wife by way of a messenger. The goal here is merely to have something delivered.

But when the great 18th-century Rabbi Yechezkel Landau, known by the name of his greatest work Noda B’Yehudah, was asked why the Talmudic principle of "the agent of a person is like himself” wouldn't apply to delegating someone to perform a mitzvah on his behalf, he clarified the distinction by way of a simple concept: A responsibility predicated on personal and emotional involvement can never be passed over to another. The person must perform it himself.

No one can listen to the shofar for you. You would never personally experience its call to repentance. No one can sit in the sukkah in your stead. You would not gain the feeling of the frailty of the walls you count on to protect you and your total dependence on the heavens beneath which you dwell. No one can put on Tefillin – the phylacteries bound on hand and head – for you. It is the works of your hand and the thoughts of your mind that must be made subservient to the greater power of Hashem.

Mourning requires personal grieving. The tears must be our tears.

So too, the mourning process for our departed loved ones requires personal grieving. The tears must be our tears. They cannot be counterfeit products of purchase. Any mitzvah rooted in emotion demands that it not be delegated.

It’s a mistake to think that professionals who get paid will do everything better. When it comes to the most important relationships of life, the most meaningful expressions of what we believe, as well as the most powerful demonstrations of our spiritual values, Hashem has commanded us personally.
We are to be good parents.
We are to be faithful and loving mates.
We are to be supportive and grateful children.
Attaining the inspiration, elevation and refinement that comes through fulfilling the mitzvot can’t be done by proxy. There are no shortcuts to spiritual growth. We need to take the time and care to be personally engaged and perform these treasured tasks ourselves.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Greatness is Built Upon Our Seemingly Insignificant Daily Choices.

by Sara Yoheved Rigler

Early one morning Sean Levi was in his San Diego jewelry shop before opening hours. Roger, a diamond merchant, came in, eager to sell Sean some small diamonds. They haggled over the price. A volatile man, Roger stalked out, hurling venomous words behind him.

A traditional Jew, Sean always brought his Tefillin with him to work and would put them on and say, “Shema Yisrael,” and other prayers. That day, Sean took the Tefillin out of their boxes, and started to don the Tefillin of the hand when he noticed something shiny on the floor. He picked it up and saw that it was a large diamond, around five carats, probably worth $50,000. It must have fallen out of the diamond merchant’s pocket.

Sean decided he would call Roger as soon as he finished his prayers. He was not a thief. Keeping a diamond that didn’t belong to him was not even in his realm of choice. Sean proceeded to put on the Tefillin of the hand, wrapping the straps around his arm and fingers. Then he put on the Tefillin of the head and picked up his prayer book.

What would be wrong with letting Roger squirm for 15 minutes?

At that point his true choice hit him: How could he pray when he had property that didn’t belong to him in his possession? How could he commune with Hashem when another person must be in major distress searching for his missing diamond? On the other hand, Roger had treated him nastily that morning. Why should he interrupt his prayers just to calm Roger down? What would be wrong with letting Roger squirm for 15 minutes?

Sean knew the Biblical story of Abraham and the three nomads. Abraham was in the midst of a prophetic encounter, communing with Hashem, when he noticed three nomads passing. He interrupted his mystical experience in order to bring the nomads into his encampment, refresh them, and feed them. The lesson, explains the Midrash, is that it’s better to be like Hashem than to commune with Hashem.

Sean made his choice. He put down his prayer book, picked up the telephone, and called the diamond merchant. “I can’t talk now!!” Roger yelled crossly into the telephone. “I’ve lost a 5-carrat diamond that didn’t even belong to me. I’ll be paying it off forever!”

 “You have nothing to worry about,” Sean informed him. “I found the diamond in my store. It’s waiting for you right here, safe and sound.” Having delivered his message, Sean then turned his attention back to Hashem and recited his prayers.

The jewelry shop was open for barely a half hour when an unshaven old man wearing dilapidated clothes stopped in front and peered into the window. He beckoned to the salesgirl to come outside. The man looked like a homeless vagrant who couldn’t even afford a cup of coffee, let alone Sean’s least expensive piece. The salesgirl flashed Sean a look, but dutifully went outside and asked, “Can I help you?”

“How much does that necklace cost?” the old man asked, pointing.

Trying to suppress her laughter, the salesgirl replied, “That necklace costs $20,000.”

“And how much are those earrings?” the old man queried.

The salesgirl, playing along, replied, “Those earrings cost $10,000.”

“I’ll take them both,” the old man announced.

He entered the shop, and, reaching into a torn leather pouch he was carrying, counted out $30,000 in cash, as Sean and the salesgirl watched in shock.

A couple hours later, a bag lady came into the store. Wearing frumpy, mismatched clothing, she put down her bags and started browsing. She picked out a few pieces, totaling $20,000, bought them, and trudged out.

From these two unlikely customers, Sean sold $50,000 worth of jewelry within a few hours of returning the $50,000 diamond.

The Choice Box

The small choices in our lives are the rungs of the ladder of the high diving board from which big choices make their grand leap. The righteous gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust did not rise to their exalted level on the dark night when they heard a tremulous knock and opened their door to find a frightened Jewish family seeking refuge. The greatness of these heroes was formed gradually over the years — every time they were riding on a bus and got up to give their seat to an elderly or infirm person. By such repeated small choices to relinquish their own comfort for the sake of a needy person, they made themselves into the people who, when faced with the trembling Jewish family at the door, would say, “Come in. Yes, I’ll hide you.”

Every day each of us is faced with seemingly small choices:
  • To yell at an errant employee (or child) or to wait until you calm down.
  • To put your change in the tzedaka box by the cashier or to pocket it.
  • To tell that juicy piece of gossip by the water cooler or to keep silent.
  • To call back the person you told, “I’ll call you back,” or to run off because you’re late for the gym.
  • Whether or not to say, “thank you” to the driver as you exit the cab or bus.
  • Whether or not to let in a car inching in from a side street.
  • Whether or not to pick up and dispose of a piece of litter on the street even though you didn’t drop it.
According to Judaism, Hashem controls everything in the universe except our moral choices. “Free will” refers to that area beyond heredity and environment where you can go either way. Whenever you feel an inner push-pull (“I really should pick up that litter, but I don’t want to get my hands dirty.”), you are in the realm of your own free choice, known as your Choice Box.

Everyone has an individual Choice Box. Some people would not anguish over whether or not to lend $500 to an out-of-work friend. If you would never consider doing it, it’s above your Choice Box. If you would do it as a matter of course, with no hesitation, it’s below your Choice Box. If you would struggle with, “He really needs the money to pay his rent, but chances are he won’t be able to pay me back, and there goes my pool membership for the next season,” then you are within your Choice Box.

Every choice we make creates us.

Your Choice Box is like an elevator. The button you press will determine whether you go up or down. The decision you make about whether to lend your friend the $500 or keep it for your pool membership will either catapult you to a new level of generosity or fling you down into a new level of self-absorption. Every choice we make creates us.

Small choices are significant because if you never put your change in the tzedaka box and you throw out every charity appeal that comes in the mail, then lending your friend $500 for his rent will never even enter your Choice Box.

Sean was not faced with The Big Choice whether to pocket a $50,000 diamond or return it. Keeping the diamond was below his Choice Box. Sean was faced with A Small Choice: whether or not to pray first and delay returning the diamond till afterwards, letting someone who had yelled at him squirm in the meantime.

Whatever we do, Hashem shadows our actions, as the psalmist says, “Hashem is my shadow on my right hand.” By reporting the lost diamond before praying to Hashem, Sean was in effect saying, “Hashem sees me. Hashem doesn’t want my prayers while I have this diamond in my possession.” Therefore, Hashem responded by sending Sean the two unlikely sales totaling the amount of the diamond as Hashem’s way of saying to Sean, “I see you.”

Hashem notices our small choices. Isn’t it time that we notice them too?

Sara Yoheved Rigler is the author of the new G-d Winked: Tales and Lessons from My Spiritual Adventures. She also leads “The Ladder,” a weekly teleconference group for single women who want to grow spiritually. For more information, see her website

Sunday, June 24, 2012

World Leaders Ignore International Law

Jewish Settlements in Judea and Samaria are Perfectly Legal and Legitimate

June 08, 2012 |
Eli. E. Hertz

The U.S. Administration, the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia's decision to rewrite history by labeling the Territories 'Occupied Territories,' the Settlements as an 'Obstacle to Peace' and 'Not Legitimate,' thus endowing them with an aura of bogus statehood and a false history.  The use of these dishonest loaded terms, empowers terrorism and incites Palestinian Arabs with the right to use all measures to expel Israel.

The Jewish People's Right to the Land of Israel

The "Mandate for Palestine" & the Law of War

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, United States President Barack Obama, and the European Union Foreign Affairs Chief Catherine Ashton became victims to the 'Occupation' mantra their own organization has repeated over and over in their propaganda campaign to legitimize the Arab position.

Continuous pressure by the "Quartet" (U.S., the European Union, the UN and Russia) to surrender parts of the Land of Israel are contrary to international law as stated in the "Mandate for Palestine" document, that in article 6 firmly call to "encourage ... close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes." It also requires, under Article 5 of the Mandate to "seeing that no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of the government of any foreign power."

Any attempt by the World Leaders to negate the Jewish people's right to Palestine - Eretz-Israel, and to deny them access and control in the area designated for the Jewish people by the League of Nations, is a serious infringement of international law, and as such - illegitimate.

International Law - The "Mandate for Palestine"

The "Mandate for Palestine" an historical League of Nations document, laid down the Jewish legal right under international law to settle anywhere in western Palestine, the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, an entitlement unaltered in international law. Fifty-one member countries - the entire League of Nations - unanimously declared on July 24, 1922:
"Whereas recognition has been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country."
On June 30, 1922, a joint resolution of both Houses of Congress of the United States unanimously endorsed the "Mandate for Palestine":
"Favoring the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.
"Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled.  That the United States of America favors the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which should prejudice the civil and religious rights of Christian and all other non-Jewish communities in Palestine, and that the holy places and religious buildings and sites in Palestine shall be adequately protected." [italics in the original]
Law of War - Arab Unlawful Acts of Aggression in 1948

Six months before the War of Independence in 1948, Palestinian Arabs launched a series of riots, pillaging, and bloodletting. Then came the invasion of seven Arab armies from neighboring states attempting to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state in accordance with the UN's 1947 recommendation to Partition Palestine, a plan the Arabs rejected.

The Jewish state not only survived, it came into possession of territories - land from which its adversaries launched their first attempt to destroy the newly created State of Israel.

Israel's citizens understood that defeat meant the end of their Jewish state before it could even get off the ground. In the first critical weeks of battle, and against all odds, Israel prevailed on several fronts.
The metaphor of Israel having her back to the sea reflected the image crafted by Arab political and religious leaders' rhetoric and incitement.  Already in 1948 several car bombs had killed Jews, and massacres of Jewish civilians underscored Arab determination to wipe out the Jews and their state.
6,000 Israelis died as a result of that war, in a population of 600,000. One percent of the Jewish population was gone.  In American terms, the equivalent is 3 million American civilians and soldiers killed over an 18-month period.

Israel's War of Independence in 1948 was considered lawful and in self-defense as may be reflected in UN resolutions naming Israel a "peace loving State" when it applied for membership at the United Nations.  Both the Security Council (4 March, 1949, S/RES/69) and the UN General Assembly (11 May, 1949, (A/RES/273 (III)) declared:
"[Security Council] Decides in its judgment that Israel is a peace-loving State and is able and willing to carry out the obligations contained in the Charter ..."
Arab Unlawful Acts of Aggression in 1967

In June 1967, the combined armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan attacked Israel with the clear purpose expressed by Egypt's President: "Destruction of Israel."  At the end of what is now known as the Six-Day War, Israel, against all odds, was victorious and in possession of the territories of Judea and Samaria [E.H., The West Bank], Sinai and the Golan Heights.

International law makes a clear distinction between defensive wars and wars of aggression.  More than half a century after the 1948 War, and more than four decades since the 1967 Six-Day War, it is hard to imagine the dire circumstances Israel faced and the price it paid to fend off its neighbors' attacks.

Who Starts Wars Does Matter

Professor, Judge Stephen M. Schwebel, past President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) states the following facts:

"The facts of the June 1967 'Six Day War' demonstrate that Israel reacted defensively against the threat and use of force against her by her Arab neighbors.  This is indicated by the fact that Israel responded to Egypt's prior closure of the Straits of Tiran, its proclamation of a blockade of the Israeli port of Eilat, and the manifest threat of the UAR's [The state formed by the union of the republics of Egypt and Syria in 1958] use of force inherent in its massing of troops in Sinai, coupled with its ejection of UNEF."
"It is indicated by the fact that, upon Israeli responsive action against the UAR, Jordan initiated hostilities against Israel.  It is suggested as well by the fact that, despite the most intense efforts by the Arab States and their supporters, led by the Premier of the Soviet Union, to gain condemnation of Israel as an aggressor by the hospitable organs of the United Nations, those efforts were decisively defeated.
"The conclusion to which these facts lead is that the Israeli conquest of Arab and Arab-held territory was defensive rather than aggressive conquest."

Judge Sir Elihu Lauterpacht wrote in 1968, one year after the 1967 Six-Day War:

"On 5th June, 1967, Jordan deliberately overthrew the Armistice Agreement by attacking the Israeli-held part of Jerusalem.  There was no question of this Jordanian action being a reaction to any Israeli attack.  It took place notwithstanding explicit Israeli assurances, conveyed to King Hussein through the U.N. Commander, that if Jordan did not attack Israel, Israel would not attack Jordan." 
"Although the charge of aggression is freely made against Israel in relation to the Six-Days War the fact remains that the two attempts made in the General Assembly in June-July 1967 to secure the condemnation of Israel as an aggressor failed.  A clear and striking majority of the members of the U.N. voted against the proposition that Israel was an aggressor."
Israel Has the Better Title to the Territory of  Palestine, Including the Whole of Jerusalem

International law makes it clear: All of Israel's wars with its Arab neighbors were in self-defense.
Professor, Judge Schwebel, wrote in What Weight to Conquest:
"(a) a state [Israel] acting in lawful exercise of its right of self-defense may seize and occupy foreign territory as long as such seizure and occupation are necessary to its self-defense;
"(b) as a condition of its withdrawal from such territory, that State may require the institution of security measures reasonably designed to ensure that that territory shall not again be used to mount a threat or use of force against it of such a nature as to justify exercise of self-defense;
"(c) Where the prior holder of territory had seized that territory unlawfully, the state which subsequently takes that territory in the lawful exercise of self-defense has, against that prior holder, better title.
"... as between Israel, acting defensively in 1948 and 1967, on the one hand, and her Arab neighbors, acting aggressively, in 1948 and 1967, on the other, Israel has the better title in the territory of what was Palestine, including the whole of Jerusalem, than do Jordan and Egypt."
"No legal Right Shall Spring from a Wrong"

Professor Schwebel explains that the principle of "acquisition of territory by war is inadmissible" must be read together with other principles:
"... namely, that no legal right shall spring from a wrong, and the Charter principle that the Members of the United Nations shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State."

Simply stated: Arab illegal aggression against the territorial integrity and political independence of Israel, cannot and should not be rewarded.

Professor Julius Stone, a leading authority on the Law of Nations, stated:
"Territorial Rights Under International Law.... By their [Arab countries] armed attacks against the State of Israel in 1948, 1967, and 1973, and by various acts of belligerency throughout this period, these Arab states flouted their basic obligations as United Nations members to refrain from threat or use of force against Israel's territorial integrity and political independence.   These acts were in flagrant violation inter alia of Article 2(4) and paragraphs (1), (2), and (3) of the same article."
Thus, under international law Israel acted lawfully by exercising its right to self-defense when it redeemed and legally reoccupied Judea and Samaria, known also as the West Bank.

Legalities aside, before 1967 there were no Jewish settlements in the West Bank and for the first ten years of so-called occupation there were almost no Jewish settlers in the West Bank.  And still there was no peace with the Palestinians.  The notion that Jewish communities pose an obstacle to peace is a red herring designed to blame Israel for lack of progress in the 'Peace Process' and enable Palestinian leadership to continue to reject any form of compromise and reconciliation with Israel as a Jewish state.

Friday, June 22, 2012

What is a Good Person?

The human quest "to be good" drives virtually everything we do.  In order to maximize pleasure in life, we must distinguish between "material good" and "spiritual good."

We all want to be good, but it's not easy.  If you ask an evil person and a good person the same question: "Are you a good person?," who do you think is more likely to say, "I'm good"?  The good one or the evil one?

The evil one!  He could kick his own mother in the stomach and still think he's good.  You say, "That's terrible!  How could you do such a thing?"  He rationalizes and says, "You don't understand.  She asked me to take out the garbage.  If I do it, who knows what else she'll ask for next?  This could go on forever!"

As for the good person, he takes out the garbage.  But if you would then tell him, "I see you're a good person," he says, "No, I'm really not so good.  Didn't you notice that while I was taking out the garbage I kicked my mother in the stomach?"

"What are you talking about? I was watching and you didn't kick your mother in the stomach!"

"Well, I didn't actually kick her.  But I was grumbling as I carried out the garbage.  I wanted my mother to feel bad.  I was in the middle of a good book, and if I don't register my protest, who knows -- she might ask me to do it again tomorrow!"

Do you see the difference?  The evil person will always say he's right.  He doesn't bother trying to be good, so he never feels a struggle.  He just assumes he's good.

Whereas, the person who really tries to be "good," knows how tough the job is.  And he's always striving for a higher level.

There's a third type: The fully righteous person, the Tzaddik.  He takes out the garbage and says, "It's my pleasure, Mom.  You work so hard to take care of us.  So thank you for the opportunity to express my appreciation!"


The struggle to do good stems from the two conflicting inclinations in every human being.  A person has two hearts: one that loves to do the right thing, and one that prefers to be selfish.  You need to develop an awareness of the struggle going on inside you. For example:

- You want to use your time effectively, versus you feel like procrastinating.- You want to eat healthily, versus you feel like chocolate cake.
- You want wisdom, versus you feel like watching TV.

One heart loves to do the right thing; the other prefers to be selfish.

"Want" is for permanence.  It is rooted in reality.  "Desire" is for the moment, with little regard for future consequence.  It is an escape.

This conflict is between your body and your soul.  Your eternal soul seeks permanence.  It wants to do all the right things: to love humanity, seek justice, be altruistic, sensible, honorable and responsible.  Your soul strives to fulfill its potential.

Meanwhile, your body, which is destined for the grave, seeks satisfaction for the moment.  Drawn by comfort and effortlessness, it wants to eat, to sleep, to lust.

You know it's not right to refuse to take out the garbage, and your heart really wants to be good.  But your other heart, the heart of desire, would rather stay inside where it's warm, reading a book in comfort.

Even as you're reading this, your soul is nudging you: "Pay attention -- this will make me great!"  But your body contradicts: "All this hard work and concentration is too painful.  I was doing just fine the way I was before!"

With every decision, the two hearts clash and create a dilemma.  To be triumphant in the battle to be good, you have to focus on your innate desire to be good.  Remind yourself each morning that you want to be good, and don't let that consciousness lay fallow.  Make it part of your mindset, and you'll see an observable effect throughout your day.  You'll make more mature and effective decisions.


It can be very confusing to sort out that which we desire from that which we want.

Ask someone: "Which is more important to you - happiness or money?"

 "I'd rather be happy. Just give me basic food, clothing and shelter -- and then I'll gladly take a lot of happiness!  After all, what kind of fool wants to be a miserable millionaire?"

"Okay, give me a week and I guarantee to show you how to be happy."

"Well, that's an interesting offer... Maybe one day I'll consider it."

"Okay, I'll make you a deal: After one month, if you've increased your happiness, I'll give you a bonus of $10,000."

Now watch that guy run to you!

Why?  Which is more important to him - happiness or money?

Of course, happiness is more important.  But that's just the intellectual understanding of the soul.  On the other hand, the body is distracted by the sight of those green stacks of bills!

Bodily desire confuses our thinking.  Materialism can look so attractive that we become deluded into thinking that's what we really want!

Unless you make the effort to distinguish between your wants and your desires, and to clarify which aspect is influencing your actions, then you're likely to lose valuable opportunities to accomplish your goals.

Get in touch with what the conflict is by asking two simple questions: What do I want to do, versus what do I feel like doing?  What you want to do is usually the right thing, whereas what you feel like doing is often what is the most comfortable thing.

The alarm clock goes off in the morning.  You want to get out of bed and start your day.  But you probably feel like hitting the "snooze button," and sleeping late.  It's a tug of war.  Getting out of bed becomes a moral dilemma!

Whether you win and or lose depends upon which voice is the loudest at the moment of decision: the voice of want, or the voice of desire.

Once you're aware of the conflict and remember that you're struggling, you're able to listen more carefully to the voice of the good heart, and dismiss the voice of the selfish heart.


A proper definition of "good" is the starting point of everything you do in life.  Obviously you can't just invent your own defini­tion of what "good" is.  You have to investigate reliable sources, and then analyze which one best describes the human condition and reality.

Be careful!  If you don't work out the definition for yourself, you'll end up with someone else's idea of good! You don't want to be 20 years down the road and realize you bought a bad package.

Unless you work out the definition, you'll end up with someone else's idea of good!

In Gaza, the definition of "good" may be someone who's willing to strap a bomb to his belly and detonate it in a crowded Israeli market.

A common Western definition of "good" is financial success.  People become pulverized by depression because they're not successful.  "What's wrong with me, I can't get a job!  I must be bad.  Get me a therapist!"

This feeling carries into the way we consume.  Our CD collection, our carpets, our fancy cars are one part convenience, two parts status.  We want to show off that we fit society's idea of "good." (Politely, of course, so people shouldn't think we're barbarians!)

Always ask yourself: Am I defining "good" as that which looks good to the fast-food-cable-TV-Hollywood segment of society, or am I defining "good" as that which has real meaning, a deep message, and makes a valuable contribution to society?

If we don't keep up our guard, then we could end up like those rich-and-famous who are hooked on drugs and plagued by depression.  Why is the typical image of a movie-star one who is embroiled in legal disputes, can't keep a marriage together, and spends countless hours in psychoanalysis?

In Judaism, the definition of good is found in the Torah. It spells out how a good person acts toward his friends, family, and society as a whole.

So keep your definitions straight.  And be careful.  Society's definition could end up being your death sentence.


Once you get your definition down, then you have to stick with it wherever you go, no matter what you do. Others will always try to change your definition of "good," especially when it makes them feel bad about them­selves.  But you must stand by your own definition, even when others mock you for doing so.

Why does someone play Russian roulette?  Because he's afraid of being jeered, of being called a coward.  But who's the real coward?  The one without the courage to stand up to those jeers!  In the end, instead of living as a coward, he dies as a coward!  The ultimate irony: perception defeats reality!

Don't let go of what you know.


Imagine you're a successful surgeon.  You're famous, you're rich, you have a beautiful spouse and marvelous kids.  You're president of your synagogue, and you've just been nominated to receive an honorary doctorate from Harvard University.  Life is grand!

Now you're traveling through the Far East with some friends.  One night, while your friends are out at a movie, the Secret Police come to your hotel room and say, "Your friends have been identified as dangerous spies.  Tell us where they are - or we'll kill you!"  Uh-oh.  What do you do?

Of course, turning over your friends is a terrible thing to do.  On the other hand, you don't want to die - and nobody will ever know you finked on your friends.  (The Secret Police certainly won't advertise the episode!) You can still be a successful surgeon, still have your beautiful family, still be rich and famous - and still make it home in time for the Harvard graduation!

Nobody will ever know you finked on your friends.

What do you do?

Now let's up the ante.  What if the Secret Police asked you to kill 1,000 children?  "Kill 1,000 children and you can go back to the States to your beautiful life."  Do you think you'd ever be able to do such a thing?
No.  We simply don't have what it takes to be evil.  (And even if you could bring yourself to kill the children, you'd probably go back home and shoot yourself.)

This scenario reveals something very deep in the makeup of every human being: Being good is so important that we'd even be willing to die for it.

Even though this scenario is a bit extreme, it elucidates a crucial principle: If you are willing to give up your life to be "good," then there can be no higher goal in living than being good!

Now go out and live for it!  Harness that force within you!

Pursue wisdom to understand how to be good.  Make goodness your goal in living.  Be willing to give up everything.  Others might call you a fool, but you always win when you do the right thing.  You're not doing anyone any favors by being good, you're simply doing what the "inner you" wants.


Our desire to be good is really just the tip of the iceberg.  Actually, all of us strive to go beyond "good" - and become "great."

Nobody wants to be average.  Try saying, "I want to be a mediocre." You can't get the words out!  Because we want to be great, not just good.

Would you want to be the person to discover the cure for cancer or eliminate the threat of nuclear war?  Of course!  We would all love to rid the world of its problems and unite humanity in peace and harmony.  That is the Jewish concept of the Messiah.  He will put the world back together.

I once asked a class, "Tell me honestly, in the secret, innermost part of your heart, do you harbor the desire to be the Messiah himself?"

The entire class raised their hands.

Now here's a deep spiritual secret: The soul, the divine spark within each of us, craves to be united with the source of all life - the Almighty.  And for that reason, every human being, underneath it all, would not even feel satisfied being the Messiah.  Our soul desires to be like Hashem Himself.

So why don't we aim for it?

Not because we don't want to change the world.  But, because the effort seems too great.

The Torah, our Instructions for Living, provides a way to work toward this.  One of the 613 mitzvot is to be like Hashem, to emulate His ways.

We each have the potential to make a significant contribution to society.  The Sages teach that everyone is supposed to say, "The whole world was made for me!"  This does not mean that you can plunder the property of others.  Rather, every individual is responsible for the world.  Act ac­cordingly - you're here to straighten it out.

It's a lot hard work.  But, it's what we truly seek.  And in the process, you're going to become not just good, but great!


Ask any young person today:

 "What are the chances of a worldwide atomic war within the next 20 years?"

You'll get a range of answers. Some will say 90%, some 20%.

How horrifying!

So what are you going to do about it?

"Me? What can I do about it?  The president is in charge!  But I'm only one person.  Who am I?"
In Judaism, we say that if you knew the Almighty Himself was helping you, what would you do about it?


Well, here's good news: Hashem is behind you.  Hashem says, "If you try, I'll help you.  I want you to straighten out the world."

Judaism says it's an obligation to become great.  That is our national mission of "Tikkun Olam," of repairing the world.  If we shirk our responsibility, we'll have to answer for it one day.

In Judaism, there's no giving up.  You want to be great, you can be great, and you have to be great.  So get out there and slug.  Harness your powerful desire for greatness.  It's leading you whether you like it or not.
Make the right effort, and Hashem will certainly help you achieve.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Supernal Outflow that Gives and Maintains Life

Rabbi Chayim of Volozhin (1749-1821) wrote as follows about the continual existence of the creation:
"... Hashem's ways are not like man's. For example; when a person builds a house out of wood, he does not create or invent [the wood] by himself. ..he takes ready-made trees and shapes them into a house. After he has arranged them as he planned, the house remains standing, even without his support.  However, just as Hashem originally created the world ex nihilo, using His infinite power. .. so too, since that very beginning, the order and existence [of creation] depends solely on His continuous, willfu1 input, which bestows it with new light ("energy") and strength, each moment of every dayIf Hashem were to withdraw that energy and influence for even a single instant, the world would immediately plunge into chaos and nothingness.  The Men of the Great Assembly, in formulating the daily prayers, put it this way: " His goodness, He renews daily, perpetually, the work of creation."  That is, always, at every moment, as it is said: "To Him that makes the great lights, for His mercy endures forever" (Psalms 136:7). The text states "who makes" and not "who made." (Nefesh Ha Chayim, Gate 1, Chapter 2).  This concept is explained further, in the notes to this chapter of Nefesh HaChayim.  Kabba1ah teaches that the letters of the Hebrew alphabet are the tools with which Hashem created the world.  The four letters of the Tetragrammaton are the basis of the creation.  By rearranging these letters and substituting alternative vowels, 1080 different permutations can be formed, which correspond to 1080 parts of an hour. Now, each day has its own permutation, as does each hour, and within each hour, there are 1080 permutations that Hashem continually generates.  These automatically energize and sustain the world's existence for that fraction of time.  Thus, no two days have been the same, because from the beginning of creation, the spiritual light flowing down from Hashem has never been the same. See the book Hatzofen by Zamir Cohen (Bnei Brak: Hidabroot, 2007) for an in-depth exposition of the spiritual significance of the Hebrew alphabet (soon to be released as The Cipher).

This secret underlies the concept of tikkun ha-olam - the rectification of the world - which is accomplished through the fixed prayer service, despite the fact that the words are repeated almost identically each day.  For when Hashem emanated the world, using the Hebrew letters, He left it up to people to activate these letters and reveal the Divinity underlying creation.  By praying with intention (especially the Kabbalistic intentions), the letters of creation become illuminated, and the very same words prayed yesterday illuminate a new moment of time - a new hour, a new day - which never existed before and will never exist again.  (This is because the creation of time was dependent upon the creation of matter, as Einstein explained in his law of relativity.  However, well before Einstein, the Ramban commented upon the verse from Genesis (1:5): "And Hashem called the light Day ... "Meaning, that time was created." That is, with the creation of light on the first day came the creation of time.) Thus, if a person fails to recite a particular prayer, he has lost a once-in-eternity opportunity to reveal Hashem in the world.  About such a person, the verse states: "That which is crooked cannot be made straight" (Ecc1esiastes 1: 15); that is, what is lost cannot be regained.  This subject is explained at length in Nefesh HaChayim, Gate 2, chap. 13