Friday, September 23, 2011

Who shall live...

We are fast approaching the Holy Day of Rosh Hashannah. Although the observance of Rosh Hashannah extends for two full days (in Israel as well as the Diaspora), we refer to the Jewish New Year as one "long day".

What happens exactly on Rosh Hashannah?

Every human being, as well as every nation, receives a judgement for the year.

In one of the most moving stanzas from our Rosh Hashannah prayers, we recite:

"On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed, and on Yom Kippur will be sealed, how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by upheaval, who by plague, who by strangling, and who by stoning. Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer, who will be impoverished and who will be enriched, who will be degraded and who will be exalted."

Today, a lifetime terrorist leader, the mastermind of countless Jewish murders, and now the dictator of the Palestinian Authority, Machmoud Abbas, will address the United Nations.

He intends to ask the nations of the world to bolster his attempt to destroy the Jewish homeland.

The jihad against the Jews has little to do with Judea or Samaria. It is a purely ideological fight. It is an insult to the jihadists honor that any non-Muslim enjoys sovereignty in the Middle East.

Ideally, these terrorists seek worldwide allegiance to fundamentalist Islam. However, they are practical enough to accept this goal in stages. Stage one is full domination of the Middle East.

This fight continues here in Akko. A demographic war is being waged against our city. This city, nowhere here the so-called "disputed territories", is in danger of falling to a growing number of non-friendly Arab Muslims.

Ultimately, we must realize that G-d will decide our future. It is no accident that this UN provocation comes right now, as we are about to be judged for the year.

Will the nation of Israel live or die? Will the city of Akko enjoy tranquility, or suffer?

More importantly, what can we do to improve our annual judgement?

In the very next line of the same Rosh Hashannah reading, we recite together:

"...but Repentance, Prayer, and CHARITY, cancel the severe decree!"

Will you stand with us, at this auspicious time?

Will you help to insure for us, and yourself, a sweet judgement?

Will you contribute to strengthening the Jewish people?


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Response to Shaun Wolfe

Check out the comment thread on the previous blog post. Shaun Wolfe posted a few comments, the latest of which deserved (by my estimation) its own blog post for my response. Shaun wrote:

" If you can take whatever action is deemed appropriate based on your beliefs regardless of secular constraints, then why can't others -- as long as they are genuine in their belief?"

In short - 'cause we're right and they're wrong. :o)

Again, the source of Western morality is Torah. We, in the Western world, take for granted concepts like "life is sacred above all else"

In Islam, as well as many Asian traditions, honor is more sacred than life.

Kamikaze pilots in World War II, suicide bombers in Israel, Muslim fathers killing their disobedient daughters in the U.S., these people aren't crazy. They just have a different value system.

If we take the secular view, then we truly can't say that any value system is inherently superior to any other.

I don't subscribe to that view. I say that we (of Judeo-Christian civilization) are right and everyone else (to the extent that their values contradict ours) is wrong.

I don't have the exact quote in front of me, but I heard Mr. Jillette say something in an interview, something about how he respects those with religious conviction much more than those in liberal churches (synagogues). He can say to them "you're dead wrong" and they can say to him "you're dead wrong", but at least they can have a dialogue and present arguments for each side.

Without an anchor, without an objective value system by which to live, we have no justification to tell anyone else that any given action is "right" or "wrong".

So, that's why it's wrong for people to hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings, even if they think they are serving some higher power by doing it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Response to Penn Jilette and his new book "G-d, no!"

For those of you who may not know, Penn Jillette is one of the greatest magicians alive today. Along with Teller (yes, that IS his full legal name), Penn performs in Las Vegas several times a week, usually to a packed house.

Penn is famous for his personal views as well as his professional acumen. He advocates for Libertarian politics, including free-market capitalism and a repeal of laws against "victimless crimes".

Penn is also an atheist. This is the topic of his most recent book "G-d, no!"

[He doesn't use the hyphen in his book title. It is our policy not to write the Creator's name, in any language, in this forum, because of a prohibition to casually use Hebrew names for G-d]

I have great respect for Mr. Jillette. He does not attack religious people, and in fact encourages them to continue dialogue with the rest of the world. He has said things like (not an exact quote), "Please, pray for me, if you think it will help!"

It is only because Mr. Jillette seems to be sincere in his quest for knowledge, (including religious knowledge), that I care to respond to the opening of his book. He starts out by asking:

"If G-d... ...told you to kill your child, would you do it? If your answer is no, in my booklet you're an atheist"

First I will answer Penn's question. Then I will challenge his assertion, according to a basic tenet of Judaism.

If G-d told me to kill someone, first I would check existing Jewish law and see what it says.

Jewish law says that I must kill someone if he/she is an immediate threat to my own life or the life of another. It also has provisions for war. The Bible mentions capital punishment for certain deeds, but capital cases can only be judged by a specific type of Jewish court that does not currently exist.

So if G-d told me to kill someone, but Jewish law says I can't, I wouldn't do it.

This certainly does NOT make me an atheist. Here's why.

G-d revealed His Law to our people, the Israelites, on Mount Sinai. We received the Written Law (The Scriptures, what Christians call the Old Testament), and the Oral Law, (later codified as the Mishnah, expounded upon in the Talmud, and clarified in volumes upon volumes of rabbinic discourse)

Before the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, if a person received some kind of Heavenly communication, the proper response was to listen. If that dream or vision included a command from On High, then one was supposed to follow that command.

Once the Law was given, it takes precedence over all other sources of information. In fact, G-d even warned us about this, after we received the Law.

"If a prophet arises in your midst, or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, and then he speaks to you, saying: 'Let us go after other gods, which you have not known, and let us serve them' - you shall not listen to the words of that prophet, or to that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your G-d is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul.
(Deuteronomy 13:2-4)

It is easy to love G-d and follow the Law when you're standing at Mount Sinai, witnessing the greatest event in human history.

When the excitement fades, and you're back to normal, everyday living, and then someone comes along with an amazing "sign" or "wonder"; then what are you going to do? Will you stick to the Law that you know came from G-d, or will you be lead astray?

This is THE ultimate test of life. Every moral dilemma that we face comes down to this: Follow G-d, or follow something else.

So you see, Mr. Jillette, I strive everyday to develop a deep, close, personal relationship with my Creator. Understanding G-d's Infinity means realizing that, unlike us mortals, G-d has no need for the backspace button. The all-powerful, all-knowing King of the Universe never makes a mistake, and certainly doesn't need to appear to me in a dream, or a vision, and tell me to violate the Law.

Please comment below - I would love to get a conversation going here.