Thursday, September 4, 2014

Hidden Jewish pride

Out of the grim savagery of another brutal execution by ISIS, comes a most inspiring tale. As has been widely reported, Steve Sotloff observed some Jewish traditions and rituals during his time of captivity, even while hiding the fact that he was Jewish.

When everyone was praying to Mecca he turned inconspicuously to face Jerusalem and recite the Shema.  Steve even managed to fast last Yom Kippur by feigning illness! As noted in the very popular London Daily Mail headline "Heroic Steven Sotloff feigned illness so he could still fast for Yom Kippur." Talk about a Kiddush Hashem – what a sanctification of G-d's name!

If Daniel Perl reminded us, by the heroic way he died ("'My father's Jewish, my mother's Jewish, I'm Jewish,'") of the unbreakable bond between the Jewish Neshama (soul) and Hashem (G-d), then Steve Sotloff taught us how to LIVE like a Jew, under any circumstance!

How courageous and how inspiring your observances are, Steve, to me and my children.  How free and liberated you were, Steve, even while you lived your last year of life in chains. How perverted and pathetically shackled are your evil captors, even while brandishing those potent weapons.

To my fellow community members; together let us proclaim the "New Orleans Sotloff Initiative", where EVERY Jew in New Orleans, whose health allows, fasts this Yom Kippur. Fasting on Yom Kippur is about being a little elevated from the mundane for one day, allowing us to fully focus on our relationship with G-d.

Our dear brother Steven, may Hashem avenge your blood. From our part, we will never forget you. This Yom Kippur, as we work on our relationship with G-d, as we resolve to be better people, it is you who will serve as our guiding light!

May we quickly merit a world of redemption and Moshiach, when we will be reunited with Daniel and Steve, and we will then finally merit the better world they both so aspired to.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Avoiding casualties

Excerpt from a talk by the Lubavitcher rebbe July 1982

There is no need for even one solider to enter in deeper (into Beirut) because even simple people see with their physical eyes that they (IDF) can make a pile (of ruble) from the entire are (of Beirut) (and they) are notified 5 minutes (before the invasion) not 26 hours. There is ample time in these 5 minutes for all those that are there (in Beirut) to evacuate from this area in Beirut or to leave Beirut (entirely) and no one will disturb them.
Those that appose this . . There are a few that are noisemakers and the 2-3 people that have he power to carry this out in one moment . . And in a way that would not cost a single Jewish wounded pero an, and certainly this would avoid even one single casualty. And more so it will avoid even a single wounded and casualty from the 2nd side (Arabs). If they will see that they (the IDF) are sincere (and serious). It's depended on their neck (it's up to the IDF to act seriously)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Israel, Gaza, and proportional force

There has been much accusation flung about during this latest conflict
accusing Israel "disproportionate force" in her air attacks against missile
caches, command and control sites for the missiles, as well the operators
and members of the command chain for said missiles.

Clarity of language is often the first non-human victim of a deeply
emotional conflict, and the present Israel –Hamas conflict is no different.
I deeply believe that laws are to be lived by and must be accessible and
reasonable to any somewhat educated person.  This is my attempt to share a
reasonable interpretation  of international law regarding Israel's choices
with regards to defensive action against the deadly rain of rockets coming
from Gaza

Disproportionate force under international law is the use of more force
than necessary to accomplish a legitimate military objective

Here is a definition given in a ruling by the International Criminal Court
(italics mine): *"Under international humanitarian law and the Rome
Statute, the death of civilians during an armed conflict, no matter how
grave and regrettable, does not in itself constitute a war crime.*

International humanitarian law and the Rome Statute permit belligerents to
carry out proportionate attacks against military objectives, even when it
is known that some civilian deaths or injuries will occur.

A crime occurs if

A)   There is an intentional attack directed against civilians (principle
of distinction) *(Article 8(2)(b)(i))*,

·         Or an attack is launched on a military objective in the knowledge
that the incidental civilian injuries would be clearly excessive in
relation to the anticipated military advantage (principle of proportionality*)
(Article 8(2)(b)(iv))*.

(Moreno-Ocampo, Luis <> (9
February 2006), *OTP letter to senders re Iraq*
, International Criminal court <>.)

II.  Let us analyze this carefully in seven steps, doing so in the light of
the incontrovertible facts regarding the present conflict:

1) Hamas has launched over 1000 rockets against entirely civilian areas of
Israel. Each of those rockets, if it hit a populated building or market
could kill hundreds. It is only through much help from Providence that this
has not happened. Meanwhile, having to live 15 seconds from death and
running to shelters all the time is in itself a crime against humanity with
all the negative medical and psychological effects of stress, especially
for children.

2) Hamas has hidden its arsenal in and among civilian dwellings and builds
shelters in these areas, not for civilians to hide, but to hide its weapons
of terror (they have no conventional military use).

3) The only way to neutralize these weapons –an absolute military necessity
is to hit them where they are, before they are fired.

4) Israel does give as much warning as it can through phone calls and
pre-strike firing of empty warheads – so called "door knocking"- both
levels of attempts at mitigation of civilian casualties engaged in by no
other nation in the history of warfare.

This behavior by Israel is in line with a classic ruling of Judaic law (one
seen as having its roots in the Biblical period) that demands that if an
army besieges a city or area, anyone not desiring to be caught up in the
conflict be offered an opportunity to leave by not entirely closing the
siege lines around a city.

Jewish law is driven more by ideal and ethical constructs than by
precedent, so I suppose (whether deliberately or by "cultural osmosis")
these tactics of the Israel Defense Forces are the modern version of this
principle as applied to the highly dynamic and multidimensional modern

5) Hamas orders people not follow these warnings and incites them to form
human shields -thereby Hamas is once again putting civilians in harms way

6) Since this is the only way to stop the rockets threatening Israel's
people, her  military response is proportionate to their military goal,
which is to end Hamas' practice of attempting, by rocket fire,  to murder
civilians in an indiscriminate manner.

There is no other way to neutralize rockets, their commanders, and their
firers, when the rockets are both stored and fired from an incredibly
densely populated civilian area. All civilian deaths are a result of Hamas'
breathtakingly immoral and irresponsible criminal behavior

7) All civilian deaths in Gaza are therefore entirely within the laws of
proportional responses, and entirely the fault of Hams. Hamas alone bears
the moral responsibility for every single civilian death in Gaza. Even if
the harm was perpetuated by the physical agency of Israeli ordnance, the
moral agency and crime against humanity, is entirely that of Hamas

Any thinking person can understand that all of the outrage against the
deaths of children and other civilians in Gaza, ought to be directed
completely at Hamas and its utter callousness to all human life.

It is my hope and prayer that by doing so, we begin to restore our
shattered world's commitment to the sanctity of each and every human life.

(Rabbi) Shlomo Yaffe,

Dean, Institute for American and Talmudic Law

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Parshas Balak Poem

If you only believed what you actually saw,

Scientists out there would be awfully poor.

To deny the fact that we have a brain,

Just because we can't see it – is completely insane!

If we only trusted what we ourselves heard,

There'd be no need for newspapers to recount what occurred.

If I didn't hear it from the president first hand,

Doesn't mean I can't follow the officer's command!

If we only accepted what our mind understood,

We'd never achieve the best that we could!

To label a mathematical problem unsolvable,

Just because it's too hard – is laughable!

The wisdom of man lies in his ability to see,

How much is happening beyond the "me".

On that note, Bilaam, the sorcerer was a fool,

He couldn't perceive what was invisible.

When his donkey drove him off the road three times,

He failed to recognize that G-d was sending him a sign.

Bilaam embarked to curse the Jews,

His donkey kept veering when it would choose,

Because a sword-bearing angel stood in front of his spot,

Which the donkey could see, yet Bilaam could not.

First time – the donkey turned into a field,

Bilaam whipped it and angrily reeled.

Then the angel appeared in an area that was small,

The donkey moved aside and Bilaam's leg crushed to the wall.

The third time this happened in an even tighter space,

The donkey just halted, frozen in place.

Yet Bilaam *still* couldn't read between the lines,

And he hit his poor donkey for the third time.

He ignored the stop signs along the way,

"Go back" - the message G-d tried to convey.

His terrible misfortune was all he could see,

Didn't bother to contemplate – what is G-d telling me?

It's the disease of two dimensional perception,

The inability to grasp the larger situation.

And to recognize that nothing happens by chance,

There's a flaw in those plans you made in advance.

So when you feel your life driving you off the road,

Or crushing you under a burdensome load,

Ask yourself, "Why did G-d plan this to be?"

"What secret message is He communicating to me?"

G-d is talking to us through natural events,

There are all different clues that He constantly presents.

But are we listening to the instructions of where we should go?

Or are we opting to turn the volume to low?

Open your eyes to see the G-dliness around,

Open your ears to its magical sound.

Unlock your mind from its limiting clasp,

It's the wise that recognizes how much he can't grasp.

There's a good reason for everything. That's a fact. For sure.

*Can you see the beauty, or is your eyesight too poor?*

I have been kidnapped!


There are literally no words that can accurately describe the profound loss
we feel this week.

For 18 days, I checked the news first thing each morning to see if the boys
had been found. Eyal, Gilad and Naftali have been in our hearts and on our
minds virtually non-stop. We prayed fervently and wholeheartedly that our
boys would be found alive. I listened to Eyal's grandfather pray at a rally
with 10,000 people. When I heard him scream from the depths of his heart, I
was sure the heavens would pierce open.

But after 18 days we received the shocking, brutal news that Eyal, Gilad
and Naftali had been shot dead in cold blood just hours after they were
abducted. We were brought to tears when Rachel Frankel, Naftali's mother,
cried, "Rest in peace, my dear son,"

We also finally heard the phone call Gilad placed shortly after entering
the car. He was able to call the police and whisper, "I've been kidnapped."
In the background are Arab voices screaming, "Put your heads down!" and
then shots are fired, which is when the boys were most likely killed.

But the police center did not react. They thought it was a prank call. The
call should have created an emergency alert, mobilizing every Israeli
agency from the Shin Bet to Shabak, the IDF to the police. Instead, it was
ignored. Every single person involved in security should have been woken
and put on alert, but alas, the call was ignored and the kidnappers had a
10 hour head start, resulting in an 18 day manhunt and the kidnappers are
still at large.

In this week's Torah portion the Jewish nation is likened to a lioness,
crouching in the field, ready to pounce. Often we lie dormant, but when the
call comes, we wake up and pounce.

While Gilad wasn't able to initially mobilize the police force, he was
certainly able to mobilize the global Jewish community. There are rare
moments in life where we get "that call" - a call to action. This was one
of them. "I have been kidnapped." The call of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali
grabbed hold of us, shaking us to the core, refusing the loosen its grip.
And even though we, as a nation, disagree sharply on so many things, this
call mobilized us as a single unit. We responded as one nation, with one
heart. One family. We prayed, studied Torah, lit Shabbat candles, put on
tefillin and committed to keeping new mitzvot in their merit.

For 18 days it didn't matter if you live in Japan, South Korea, Alaska,
America or Israel. It didn't matter which branch of Judaism you identify
with or which community you belong to. The truth became abundantly clear -
we are all Jewish and we are all in this together. Eyal, Gilad and Naftali
awakened us and we pounced.

The unity that prevailed is unprecedented. The immense power of social
media enabled us to connect with one another, pray together and cry
together. And then tragedy struck. But that does not mean we should abandon
the call. No, instead, we should listen and internalize it.

We read in the Torah this week, that the Jewish people are a "nation that
dwells alone." We saw that too, over the last 18 days. Nobody cares about
us like we do, but the love and care we have for each other stretches
across the entire globe. Let's make a concerted effort to continue what
Eyal, Gilad and Naftali started - unparalleled love and unity through all
segments of the Jewish population. When we are truly united, nothing can
stand in our way.

We continue to demand from our dear Father in Heaven #bringbackourboys,
bring Moshiach and redeem us from this bitter and dark exile, when we will
be reunited with Eyal, Gilad and Naftali.