Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Jewry Duty

It’s only a few steps from what passes for ‘normal’ in this corner of the world. The border isn’t clearly defined. But once you’re inside, you just know you’re there. Here live people who never heard about Louis Pasteur or Louis Armstrong (either one), people who don’t know the difference between Barchetta and bruchetta, many of whom never even ate meat - not only tenderloins and similar delicacies, but even pre-packaged Meal-Mart stuffed peppers. They never heard of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley or Pink Floyd; most oblivious even to Mordechai Ben David or Avrohom Fried. Many of them never traveled in a vehicle of any kind, most only rode buses. There are cars and cell phones, but technology stops pretty much there. Life here streams at a different dimension. And wonder of wonders, they don't become fatally ill from not watching the Sopranos, they do not expire of not knowing CO2 from H2O, and the fact that they are ignorant of recent world history doesn't turn them into monsters. Although they despise a culture in which the biggest promoters of smut become billionaires, they do not slam airplanes into buildings, and do not decapitate anyone. To the best of my knowledge, this abysmal ignorance hasn't brought them to die of hunger, epidemy, or to break out in tribal warfare. They do not slaughter each other, neither the adherents of different cultures and religions. There are many "open houses" here - houses in which anyone can step at any time, and will be fed and accommodated, no questions asked. They are peaceful people who spend most of their time learning, davening and engaging in simple craftsmanship or trades.

Yet, for some reason, these are among the most hated people on planet Earth. Not only by the secularist-communist kibbutz movement, but even by many torah-observant Jews. How can anyone call these people, despite their flaws and faults, “stormtrooping tsnius nazis” and similar epithets? Is it a subconscious recognition that authentic Judaism –inasmuch as such a thing exists today- lies within a two square-blocks area in Yerushalayim that generates such animosity?

The times when a majority of Jews had a clear idea about what Judaism really is, and actually practiced it, were unfortunately short, few and distant. To dismiss anything that doesn’t confirm to the strict confines of Old Jerusalem life would be foolish at best, yet denying that they carry the rest of the Jewish world on their shoulders – even if indirectly – is equally foolish. After all, their seclusion from modern life and its scientific and technologic advantages is largely possible because they themselves rely on it. Many of their supporters, suppliers and other providers of assistance are religious Jews living a very different life. The fact of the matter is, however, that any ideological deviance from the strict traditional consensus resulted in total severance from the Jewish nation. The Reform and Conservative movements today can be considered ‘Jewish’, only by strict racial definition – if at all. At their beginnings, these movements had no significant practical differences from the original national nucleus. But after a relatively short time, any semblance of Judaism was altered beyond recognition. It may sound as a vicious cheap shot, but sadly, it is hard to deny that Modern Orthodoxy and the Mizrahi movement are headed in a similar direction. And the general Haredi society is practically moving toward Modern Orthodoxy. Does this explain the rigid blockade and seeming detachment of contemporary Yeshivish leadership? Is it possible that they deem, for the long-term benefit of the klal, better to erect seemingly irrational walls around a minuscule lodge in order to protect its integrity? I can’t answer these questions. I can only theorize that just as an onion bulb has layer upon layer protecting the core, so too our nation has a core protected by numerous “layers”. At a certain point the layers become dry and brown – beyond that everything clinging to the onion is either dirt or parasites. Whether “true Yiddishkeit” inherently demands a strict Nietzschean “only the fittest survive” type of rule is debatable. Maybe in the times when the entire klal Yisroel lived on their land this was the case, as we find in the times of Chizkiyahu, that even young children were experts in hilchos tum’ah vetaharah, and the Jews were regularly castigated at every misstep. After the destruction it is perhaps impossible to achieve such levels, and our mere survival possibly relies on incorporating a more tolerant approach and a wider range of outlooks. There still is, however, a red line not to be crossed. Once Toraic principles are distorted or explained away, with all the good will, falsifiers have to be identified as such, and ties have to be severed with them.

Regardless of the segment one was born into or chose to adopt, it seems to me that denigrating and putting down the ‘purists’ who distance themselves from any other culture is self-destructive. There may well be a wide range of legitimate claims against this ideology/lifestyle – nevertheless, this should be done while bearing in mind that the precious core, small and fragile, is the reason for the “outer layers’” existence. The hurt over the “hesderniks’” death on the battlefield while others sit and learn in Yeshiva is legitimate and understood. However, if the reason for the soldier’s fall is to afford a secular, spoof-Western state with gay bars, rather than letting Jews sit in batei midrash, he not only died in vain, but for a bad and abortive clause.

We rely on Jerusalem far more than we’d like to consciously admit. Whether going to see B.B. King in NYC, annihilating a gourmet meal or davening on Yom Kippur in shorts and T-shirts in Kibbutz Sa’ad, we tend to forget that the reason we can do all this with a relatively clean conscience and transmit Yiddishkeit to the next generation, is due to the hundred and one years old blind Yerushalmi who walks for over an hour from his phoneless apartment to shul - less than a thousand feet away - sits down, asks someone to read him the Gemore, corrects him if he misses a word in toisfes, and asks for another cigarette.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Appetite For Destruction

The Jewish bankers control world economy and suck the Christians’ hard earned riches and money. The Jews are responsible for the 1929 stock market crash, world communism, freemasonry, and control all medias worldwide. Jews drink Christian blood, have big noses and plot to overthrow governments. Rabbis hide CB’s in their beards and their tooth fillings, and are all child molesters.

So claim some of our best ‘friends’. Even more painful is when some of our own wayward kin make more subtle, albeit similar claims. The Karaites, Helenisers, Zionists, Jewish Communists, Reformers and others have used similar rhetoric, in either concealed or not so concealed terms. The authentic Jew has been vilified, persecuted and incited against even by his own creed. But the most gut-wrenching experience is to hear this contempt-filled incitement and enraged hatred from our very own ‘orthodox’ or pseudo-orthodox brothers.

The oral diarrhea spurting forth of some websites calling themselves ‘progressive Judaism’ or similar media-borrowed monikers spew their hatred with greater zeal and bigger success than all “white supremacist” organizations combined together. Packaged in endless caring and hope for downtrodden miserables or for the well-being of the community itself, these Jewish anti-Semites fancy that they can hide behind such frail veils. But they are very mistaken. Even their target audience often sees through their evil intentions. Every day a new topic emerges, and somehow the Orthodox community, and especially its leadership, is again besmirched, smeared and accused for all of the world’s ills. They detest true Judaism with all their hearts, all their souls, and all their being.

Criticism is necessary for the preservation of any society – and Jewish history is par excellence loaded with its greatest leaders being criticized and chastised at every turn. The stretch, however, from that to willful vilifying, slandering and inciting is very long. Even when the nucleus for their ‘criticism’ is a valid topic, they use it as an excuse to bark and roar like bloodthirsty hounds. The end result is invariably a haughty smirk or an outright spit in the face of authentic Judaism. Their reason for doing it is one and only: hate. Whether this uncontrollable flow of hatred pours forth because they can’t stand to see entire communities renouncing the material temptations that are at a hand’s reach and dedicate themselves to the ways of Torah, or for other reasons, I can’t tell. But it is obvious that just as they or their fathers have left that kind of life behind, they want to force us to do the same.

Even more distressing is that some of our own have tacitly and cunningly endorsed certain of these hatemongers and their rhetoric. But make no mistake – our enemies have proven to make us stronger while destroying only themselves. Like all the false ideologies that arose in the last three thousand years, they will be blown away by wind like the autumn leaves. And even the beneficial effect to their hate-ridden hisses – namely, weeding out the true evil from our midst and correcting our own wrongdoings – will not be credited to them.

© 2007 Joseph Izrael

Monday, January 15, 2007

Stairway To Heaven

I tried to avoid the EL-AL ban controversy for various reasons, first and foremost because it does not pertain to the purpose of this site, as well as time and energy constraints. I’m a full-time chef, entertainer and psychologist even when on vacation. I sometimes wonder whether heilige Darwin created evolved all those amazing species only to give my dear children another excuse to spend my time and money, or to create more jobs within another arm of the entertainment and bioscience industries. He was a hell of a capitalist, you’ve gotta give it to him.

Some time ago a Moshe Feiglin article caught my attention as being the most witty and interesting among all that has been said and written on the subject. Here’s a short summary of his ideas (but reading the whole article is very strongly recommended):

…"[Y]ou are the one with the greater interest that the State should supply the atmosphere of Jewish identity. Both of us want our children to retain their Jewish identity. But your children will need a generally Jewish environment in order to retain their identity much more than my children."
"O.k., I understand," he said, "but what does that have to do with El Al?"
"The Shabbat is one of the foundations of Judaism," I answered. There is no Judaism without Shabbat. Shabbat is very important to me and that is why I prefer to have the people with the greatest interest in its preservation decide. I don't want to decide if El Al should fly on Shabbat. I want you to decide.
"That's right. You! I don't want religious parties or religious legislation. The more religious parties and religious legislation that we have in this country, the less Jewish identity we have. The majority of the public wants to preserve our Jewish identity. Why turn it into coercion and push the large traditional sector into the waiting arms of the small anti-religious minority? I want to break out of that cycle. I want you to take responsibility for your Jewish identity. We are both on the same side. I don't want the job of coercing you into anything. I completely rely on you. You can decide if El Al should fly on Shabbat.
" …

Despite the strong arguments and interesting angle of presenting the subject, I respectfully digress. Besides for Israel having been created as the Jewish state, and as such having an evident obligation to preserve at least a bare minimum of symbolic adherence to Jewish tradition, the argument itself is fallacious. Applying self-discipline to the legal system is a script for anarchy and abolition of the rule of law. So why not abolish all fiscal laws and penalties in order for people to be able to self-define their moral discipline and integrity? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if theft and robbery were thwarted solely by the people’s honesty instead of the fear of sentencing? Unfortunately, reality teaches us otherwise. And so too, even though within democracy’s parameters we’d be hard pressed to prevent Israelis from desecrating Shabbos, we must however prevent this from happening via something that represents the state which, in the eyes of many –justifiably or otherwise-, symbolizes Judaism.

The true approach came through the lens a Mishpacha magazine reader in the letters to the editor:

“I respectfully but vehemently disagree with your explanation of the El Al issue. You refer to their decision, when they flew on Shabbos, to “slap this community in the face”. You mention their lack of “any sensitivity to our feelings”, and so on. While there’s a lot of truth in your words, I think they slightly, but significantly, miss the point:
The early days of the Battle for Shabbos in fledging Israel, waged in Kikkar Shabbos and at the Edison’s Theater, saw some of “Jerusalem’s finest” fighting with their heart and soul and sacrificing their bodies for kedushas haShabbos. But their screams were more than outrage; they were cries of pain accompanied by tears for
Yiddishe neshamons straying away from hachayim v’hatov. They cried for Hashem’s Shabbos and for Hashem’s children, not for their own sensitivities.
Today, one struggles to hear, under the war cries of “Shabbos!” on Bar Ilan Street, any echoes of those earlier convictions. As in many areas, we mimic the actions we saw our elders doing, but we’re lacking the pnim. That same “
Shaaaabbbooossss!” that once arose out of our ahavas Hashem – and, yes, even out of ahavas Yisrael – today seems to come from a source of pure contentiousness, if not animosity. It’s as if the “struggle for Shabos” has degenerated into a soccer match: Shomrei Shabbos vs Mechalelei Shabbos; let’s see who’s stronger.
Perhaps this is just another manifestation of the unfortunate fragmentation within Israeli society in which everything is seen in terms of “us” and “them”. Perhaps the secular media is to blame for that. Perhaps it’s the inevitable outcome of a system of coalition politics, where everything comes down to
miflagtiyut, party lines. But shouldn’t we be above that? Is it really our Shabbos or Hashem’s?
The attitude of “they can’t trample a community like ours” has a ring of black power ballyhoo. Similarly, the increasingly prevalent attitude of chareidim demanding their rights as a powerful consumer bloc is more is more benefiting a consumer union dedicated to financial benefit than those who claim more rarified ideals.
Did El Al insult us when they flew on Shabbos? Did they disrespect our feelings? Did they “deal a ringing slap in the face of their most loyal customers”? Yes, yes, yes.
But more importantly they desecrated
Hashem’s Shabbos. To focus elsewhere is to miss the point entirely.”
Shloimi Kolko

© Joseph Izrael 2007

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Thin Line Between Love And Hate

An Arab woman disagrees with an anonymous Jewish blogger; I am talking about the one who refuses to acknowledge that he is an anti-Semitic hatemonger and incites brothers against each other, mourns for a brutal dictator, calls his execution a miscarriage of justice, and hints at Simon Wiesnthal being a revengeful maniac. Sad but true.

For those of you whose "mame loshen" is Hebrew, this person speaks a very clear and eloquent Arabic, and even if you don't speak that language you will be able to understand many words and some sentences. (Just in case that the aforementioned blogger claims that the video was edited by right-wing fundamentalists and the subtitles forged.)

© Joseph Izrael 2007

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Sin After Sin (Israel Syndrome Pt. III)

(loosely continued from part II
includes refernces to part I)

Yossef sees his very own brothers before his eyes, after an absence of twenty-two years. Instead of jumping in their arms, he starts a seemingly cruel charade of confusion and obscurity. The most dazzling part in this familiar story, in my very humble opinion, is that the scriptures never actually tell us why Yossef had to harass his brothers at such lengths. If admission of the brothers’ guilt was the objective, it was right there after the first accusation was made. But it seems that Yossef wanted more than that.

Rashi points out that the one who found the money pouch in his pack is Levi, based on the word “the one”, referring to his being the single one remaining of a pair. It is not clear whether Rashi himself intended to hint to it, but it seems that this was no mistake; the posuk states: “ויפתח האחד את שקו לתת מספוא לחמרו במלון, וירא את כספו והוא בפי אמתחתו - And the one opened his sack to give fodder to his donkey in the inn, and he saw his money, and lo, it is in his pack’s mouth.” The verse gives a lot of seemingly unnecessary information, namely the location of the occurrence, the reason for opening the pack, and the location of the money in the pack. The last detail repeats itself when the other brothers open their own sacks at home: “והנה איש צרר כספו בשקו - …and each one’s money bag is inside his sack…” Presumably, each had to feed his donkey at one point or another on the road. Yet none found it in the mouth of his pack (אמתחת), rather inside their sacks, while emptying them. Did Yossef intentionally plan for Levi to find his moneybag on the road? Was it intended to signal them to come back to him while still not too far (not more than one donkey's "tankful" away)? And if yes, why?

In his initial encounter with the brothers, Yossef uses the word “Elokim”, in all probability not the most frequent expression in idolatrous Egypt. This sure should have lit a red light, especially after three days of captivity. Upon their second encounter Yossef acts even more weirdly – feasting with them, seating them according to their birth dates, giving them presents, and again mentioning “Elokim”. Even in Yehuda’s final argument, it seems that Yossef didn’t actually plan to ‘out’ himself at that point. Was he begging for them to recognize him? Or to admit and acknowledge something beyond their guilt in selling him?

After Yaakov’s passing, for no apparently valid reason, the brothers, suspect that Yossef still harbors ill-feelings against them, and come with a fabricated plea from their father for Yossef to forgive them. But Yossef never explicitly forgives them: he only states that he is not G-d’s representative, and that his transfer to Egypt was beyond their control.

By his peculiar antics and strange behavior, Yossef was probably trying to get his brothers to admit their initial mistake regarding their original dissent. It is possible that he tried hinting to them that their view of having status of Ovos like their forefathers was ultimately proven wrong. By singling Shimon and Levi out, he may have been trying to hint to them that just as they had judged the citizens of Shchem for their distorted ideology of agreeing to injustice (i.e. accepting Hamor’s behavior and reasoning), - so too they should renounce their own mistaken belief.

It seems that both the brothers and Yossef stuck to their initial beliefs until their deaths, and there was no definite solution to their machlokes. Yossef’s dream of a definitively united and bound nation never materialized, and he possibly held his brothers culpable for it, as it depended mostly on them.


Note another parallel, or at least similarity, between Yaakov and Yitzchok: both blind before their passings, and in somewhat similar ways, exchange the firstborns with their juniors.

In the baker’s dream the birds freely peck at Pharaoh’s pastries, without being chased away. At the bris bein hab’sorim, Avrohom chases the buzzard (or whichever bird of prey it was) away. According to Rashi the bird symbolizes David who tries to defeat Israel’s enemies, but is prevented by Heaven from doing so. In the baker’s dream, the verse uses the word “ והעוף - the bird”; the simple meaning is just a general reference to birds, an oft-occurring expression, (although anywhere else this expression is used without a ‘heh’/”the”) yet can be interpreted as the specific bird. In our case, probably a heavenly intervention to keep Yossef from realizing his dreams the way he saw them.


© Joseph Izrael 2007

Monday, January 01, 2007


Dead men - tell no tales
Gangland – where jailbirds die

“Gangland”, Iron Maiden, (The Number Of The Beast, 1982)

Michael Savage was just speculating that the hasty execution after the lengthy trial was to prevent the butcher from spilling the beans on several high-profile political figures in the EU and the USA. Who knows what was going on there between the oligarchs.
So far all we know is that amnesty is underway for some twenty million illegal invaders, who in turn will import their extended families and cause us to lose what little is left of our sovereignty, borders, language and culture.

© Joseph Izrael 2007