Monthly Archives: August 2005

Hurricane Katrina Relief

Donations to help victims of Hurricane Katrina can – and should – be sent to the United Jewish Communities Hurricane Fund or to the American Red Cross.

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Rabbi Shalom Gold ‘Confronts’ Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein

Rabbi Shalom Gold has attempted to answer Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein’s open letter (PDF download) to Rabbi Avraham Kahane Shapira concerning Disengagement.

Rabbi Gold’s main point is the circumstances have changed since Rabbi J.B. Soleveitchik (Rabbi Lichtenstein’s father-in-law and teacher, often-quoted in Rabbi Lichtenstein’s letter) ruled land could be ceded for reasons of pekuakh nefesh (to save lives). But what Rabbi Gold fails to make clear is Rabbi Kahane Shapira is opposed to ceding land even for reasons of pekuakh nefesh. Further, Rabbi Kahane Shapira’s ruling contains internal contradictions as noted by Rabbi Lichtenstein. Rabbi Gold disengenuously does not address these issues, and therefore his ‘answer’ is no answer at all.

It should be noted that Rabbi Kahane Shapira has himself refused to answer these questions as well, perhaps because in truth there is no answer that is acceptible halakhicly (in Jewish Law). Rabbi Kahane Shapira and his followers have illegally elevated shleimut ha’aretz (unity of the land) to the position of a cardinal mitzva (Divine commandment), a mitzva that overrules all others including pekuakh nefesh. This is akin to idolotry. Worse yet, it is strikingly like the theology of the zealots of the Second Temple whose zealotry lead to the Temple’s destruction and almost 2000 years of exile.

Rabbi kahane Shapira owes all of us a clear response to Rabbi Lichtenstein’s letter, one that addresses all points and answers all questions. Until he does so, Rabbi Kahane Shapira should not be viewed as anything other than a zealot whose zealotry has led him astray.

[UPDATE: For an understanding of what PM Sharon is trying to achieve, see the article by Victor Davis Hanson linked in the post immediately below.]

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Why Sharon Was Right?

Victor Davis Hanson writes on why Sharon was right to leave Gaza.

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Christopher Hitchens On Metzitza B’Peh

Christopher Hitchens has written a provacative rant in Slate magazine against metzitza b’peh:

…Where to start with this? I could wish that Bloomberg were always so careful about keeping out of other peoples’ business: He has made it legally impossible to have a cigarette and a cocktail at the same time, anywhere in the city. But I’ll trade him his stupid prohibitionist ban if he states clearly that it is the government’s business to protect children from religious fanatics. Female genital mutilation, for example, is quite rightly banned under federal law, and no religious exemption is, or ever should be, permitted. The Mormons were obliged to give up polygamy and forcible marriage before they, or the state of Utah, could be part of the United States. A Christian Scientist who denies urgent medical treatment to his or her children may well be hauled up for reckless endangerment, as may those whose churches teach redemption through violent corporal punishment. The First Amendment does indeed forbid any infringement of religious freedom, but it is not, as was once said, part of a suicide pact, let alone a child-abuse one.

Let’s by all means hear from Rabbi David Niederman of the United Jewish Organization in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, who emerged from his meeting with Bloomberg to inform us that: "The Orthodox Jewish community will continue the practice that has been practiced for over 5,000 years. We do not change. And we will not change." You can preach it, rabbi, but you have no more right to practice it than a Muslim imam who preaches the duty of holy war has the right to put his teachings into effect. And Rabbi Yitzchok Fischer, the 57-year-old man who ministered to the three boys in question, is currently under a court order that forbids him from doing it again—pending an investigation by the health department. What "investigation?" If another man of that age were found to be slicing the foreskins of little boys and then sucking their penises and their blood, he would be in jail—one hopes—so fast that his feet wouldn’t touch the ground. If he then told the court that God ordered him to do it, he would be offering precisely the defense that thousands of psychos have already made so familiar. Preach it rabbi. Preach it to the judge.…

Jewish babies exposed to herpes in New York, thousands of American children injured for life after the rape and torture they suffered at the hands of a compliant Catholic priesthood, prelates and mullahs outbidding each other in denial of AIDS … it’s not just your mental health that is challenged by faith. Anyone who says that this evil deserves legal protection is exactly as guilty as the filthy old men who delight in inflicting it. What a pity that there is no hell.

Understand it well, people. This is how we look to the non-Jewish and non-Orthodox world. MBP is only done because the Talmud believed it promoted healing. We now know this is not true, and that MBP exposes infants to risk of disease and death. To continue doing it because "we will not change" is criminal. 

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Filed under Bio-Ethics, Crime, Haredim, Jewish Leadership

Rabbi Meir Kahane “Vindicated” By National Geographic

Rabbi_meir_kahane_fist

Not much to argue with in this article from Arutz 7. Rabbi Kahane’s murder was the first act of jihad on American soil.

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The Future Be Told?

Settlers_burn_israeli_flag_in_homesh_2   Neteuri_karta_flag_burning_montreal_1

A prescient Pini Dunner six months ago wrote in the Jerusalem Post:

…Over recent months a new group has emerged that seems to uncannily echo the stance adopted by Natorei Karta. Its adherents use religiously charged language to besmirch the democratically elected government of Israel. They seem to have no respect for the rule of law and their verbal assaults on those who oppose them are increasing in tempo and aggression.

The group I am referring to consists of those among the religious settlers and their supporters who will continue to oppose the Gaza disengagement whether or not there is a referendum.

This group – a minority, it must be said – has decided unequivocally that the Greater Israel ideal is of such enormous significance that no kind of pragmatic compromise with reality can possibly be reached.

And make no mistake: This group is not about to roll over and give up its cause for the sake of Jewish unity. Should the disengagement take place, as it seems certain it will, adherents of this group will become sworn enemies of the State of Israel, equal in scale and virulence to the Natorei Karta.

But while Natorei Karta has no history of violence, the uncompromising proponents of non-disengagement have already proven themselves violent and, worryingly, most of them have military training. The idea that rational, democratic, sensible measures – such as a national referendum – would in any way defuse the fire of their extremism is both na ve and dangerous.…

It is time for the leaders of religious Zionism, rabbis and political leaders alike, to take a deep breath and announce to their followers that although they can continue their conscientious objection to the Israeli government’s sell-out of their theological worldview for the sake of pragmatism, this must coincide with the acceptance that they will have to put their utopian dreams on ice. It is what Menachem Begin did after the Altalena. It was what Agudat Yisrael haredim did after the 1947 UN decision. And it must happen again now. Otherwise we will have to contend with a settler Zionist Natorei Karta group whose existence will be a threat to us all.

On reflection, I am not sure that the Natorei Karta analogy is entirely correct. Perhaps a better analogy would be with the Second Temple zealots who defended Jerusalem against the Romans, killing anyone who hinted at compromise or surrender.

Ironically, our survival as Jews was contingent on the subterfuge of Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai, who smuggled himself out of Jerusalem in a coffin and struck a deal with the Roman leader so that the inevitable destruction of Jerusalem would not lead to the disappearance of Judaism.

The miracle of Jewish survival has always been the result of pragmatism and practicality, not extremism. It is a lesson that the fanatical Greater Israel land-cultists would be wise to learn.

I would only add that the blame for this lies squarely with Rabbis Avraham Kahane Shapira, Mordechai Eliyahu, Yitzchak Ginsburgh, and the late Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

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New Orleans Hurricane Reading

New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf Coast will be in in the news for the next several weeks in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The best two books to get a flavor of what New Orleans’ unique lifestyle is like are both novels. One is Patty Ann Friedmann’s Second Hand Smoke; the other, John Kennedy Toole’s Pulitzer Prize-winning A Confederacy of Dunces. Both are brilliant, qirky romps through the Big Easy (and both are ‘rated’ a hard PG for a small number of sexual references). By the way, Friedmann’s brother is a rabbi and a Jewish family plays a minor role in Toole’s book.

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