Category Archives: Current Events

The Jayvee Team

By now, it should be obvious that the real Junior Varsity team is not ISIS but instead occupies prime real estate in the White House. It is Obama and company who have been outsmarted, outmaneuvered and (willingly) been rendered irrelevant by Islamic terrorists across the globe when they otherwise haven’t been aiding and abetting Islamic terror, as in Iran. It has been more than a century since the United States has been perceived as so feckless and useless on the world stage, its leaders specializing in increasingly vacuous speeches that portray an alternate reality to the murder and mayhem that is sweeping the planet.

Nothing more typifies that alternate reality than memories of the Nobel Peace Prize bizarrely awarded Obama in 2009 for reasons yet unknown and in retrospect are quite risible. Can one recollect a winner of the Peace Prize who then presided over so much war, destruction, loss of innocent life, proliferation of evil and triumph of evildoers? Perhaps the Peace Price awarded in 1973 to Henry Kissinger and North Vietnamese negotiator Le Duc Tho for the Paris Peace Accords, for their role in “Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam.” At least then something had been negotiated – and at least Le Duc Tho had the integrity to refuse the award, perhaps anticipating that 18 months thereafter, South Vietnam would be defeated and would cease to exist.

The Jayvee team in the White House has made the world a much more dangerous place, with radical  Islamic terror spreading and with a complete inability and unwillingness on Obama’s part to even name the enemy, much less confront it (and this does not refer to climate change). Perhaps he would be wise to take to heart this news report that depicts the future of Belgium, Europe and is soon coming to a theater near us.

Frankly, there is an abundance of amateurish leadership around the globe, and Israel is no exception. Make no mistake: the Jewish victims of Arab terror in Israel are clear and bloody signs of Netanyahu’s failed leadership. Every day – every day – there are stabbings and shootings, dead and wounded, and every day there are powerful, evocative, emotional and heartfelt speeches about what will be done, speeches that invoke the strength and resilience of the Israeli people and their steadfastness in the face of the terror onslaught.

But speeches which praise the Israeli people’s vigilance and call on them to protect themselves against the guns and knives of the Arab enemy underscore the abject failure of this Israeli government in the primary function of government: to protect their citizens from harm. Everyone knows there are measures that can be taken that keep hostile Arabs away from their favorite crime scenes, and everyone knows that there are measures that can be employed to deter these wanton attacks on Jews. Everyone knows what they are and most – except for the loony left – would recognize and support these wartime measures as prudent and necessary.

Pre-emption is insufficient when the attacks require nothing more than a child with a knife or an adult with a gun or a car. That the effective deterrence is not undertaken leads to the inevitable conclusion that – as happens too often – too many official Jews are comfortable being in the position of victims than they are doing the difficult and sometimes nasty work of defeating the enemy. Israel suffers, like the rest of the world, in not having real, transformative leadership – individuals who wish to change a bad dynamic by being proactive and prescient. PM Netanyahu – who, we are told, naturally deserves support at this critical time, to rally around the flag, etc. – has benefited from that pattern. He is a classic run-out-the-clock politician, keeping the seat warm while ensuring that no one else – whom

he considers worse than and therefore unfit to lead – takes the position from him.

He might be right about that (he also might be wrong) but one cannot recall a single measure that he has utilized that has dramatically changed anything in Israel’s favor since he has been prime minister for almost seven years. Everything is defensive, everything is always on hold (including building in Judea and Samaria), everything is designed to ensure the survivability of his coalition just a little longer. Everything is designed to just kick the can down the road a little further. There is no long range plan, just the short-term attrition of Jewish life – more dead, more wounded, more terrorized, more empty streets and stores and the eager expectation of the next eloquent speech.

We have grown accustomed to the pervasive Western reluctance, and perhaps fear, of naming the enemy we are facing. Obama and his acolytes are masters at this obfuscation, labeling the enemy “violent extremism,” which might be a tactic of the enemy but is assuredly not the enemy itself. (Proof? I tried to research this “enemy” on Wikipedia, source of all modern knowledge. Strangely, it has no entry for “violent extremism.” So how is one supposed to fight an enemy that hasn’t even been identified on Wikipedia??)

Just like Obama is nebulous and euphemistic when it comes to identifying the enemy of civilization, PM Netanyahu also falls back on euphemisms and clichés. By every reasonable account, by his statements and his actions, Mahmoud Abbas is an enemy of Israel and a fomenter of terror against Jews. But Israel’s prime minister will never use that language, as it serves his purposes to prop up that preposterous evildoer.  That may serve Netanyahu’s purposes, but it doesn’t serve Israel’s purposes.

Henry David Thoreau said very insightfully (quote found at, a wonderful website) that “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” The world today is hacking at the branches of evil – focusing on capturing this terrorist or thwarting that act of terrorism – but studiously ignoring the root that continues to grow and spread and dominate.

The fear of giving evil its name did reach its farcical limits Monday night before the NFL football game. Robert Kraft, Patriots owner and proud supporter of Israel, was asked and agreed to have a moment of silence before the game in memory of young Ezra Schwartz Hy”d, the American yeshiva student gunned down in cold blood by an Arab terrorist last week at the Gush Etzion junction. And the moment of silence took place on national television.

It left me – forgive the Patriot pun – somewhat deflated. There was no mention that Ezra was Jewish, that he was murdered in Israel, or that he was murdered by Muslim-Arab terrorists. None of that. He was killed, like too many others, by terrorists, while “studying abroad,” the announcer said. The average American viewer must have thought he was murdered in Paris, or Mali, or some other place on the globe where last week Muslims killed innocent people.

Does it matter? Of course it matters. Netanyahu’s effort to link terror against Israelis to terror against Frenchmen and others has failed. The world doesn’t buy it, Obama/Kerry don’t buy it – not because it isn’t true but because they have convinced themselves, and Israel has failed to refute it well enough, that terror against Israel is justified – because of whatever – occupation, settlements, Temple Mount, Israel’s existence, etc. Terror in Paris, Mali, London, Madrid, New York and anywhere else is the unnamed evil against the purely innocent. In Israel, they would claim, both sides are wrong and engender not the murder of innocents but a “cycle of violence.”

It would have sent a powerful statement to announce the moment of silence “in memory of Ezra Schwartz who was murdered by Arab terrorists al Kiddush Hashem, Ha’am, v’ha’aretz,” but that would never happen. But why could it not be mentioned that he was murdered in Israel? This is where  trepidation mixed with political correctness renders good people incapable of confronting Islamic terror.

I can almost hear the discussions in Patriot land, from the lawyers and the PR people: “You can’t mention Muslims or Arabs for obvious reasons. You can’t mention that the victim was Jewish – too parochial. You can’t mention that the murder happened in Israel, because Gush Etzion is in disputed territory and the world doesn’t recognize it as Israel. You can’t say it happened in Palestine because…well, there is no such thing as Palestine and that would anyway tick off most Jews. So we will just say he died in a terrorist attack ‘abroad.’ ‘Abroad’ covers it. The Jews will be happy because they will read into it what they wish, and few else will know what the announcer is talking about, except that we are all against terror especially if we keep the source of terror conveniently amorphous.”

I assume that Kraft’s heart was in the right place and his intentions were noble, and suppose that even mentioning the word “terrorism” was the great breakthrough; nor should Kraft himself be criticized at all for the bland execution.  This is the world we live in, with even accurate sentiments diluted and sifted to eliminate the slightest offense to even the most evil of human beings.  This is the world that is the legacy of the Jayvee team in the White House that flies around the globe dispensing empty rhetoric, promoting a retreat from leadership, an acquiescence to terror, hollow displays of force and exhibiting sheer petulance when challenged. Perhaps in the rhetoric vs. action department, Obama and Netanyahu despise each other so much because they are so similar. Good people deserve better.

Meanwhile, the good people await today’s body count, and tomorrow’s, r”l.

On Resolve

I wish I had the confidence that France and the rest of Europe have finally awakened to the dangers posed by radical Islam and will fight the necessary battle to save themselves, their culture, their way of life and their children’s future. But I don’t. As sincere as France’s President Hollande sounds – “we are at war” – there is a difference between capturing and killing the Muslim perpetrators of the horrific massacres last week in Paris and fighting a war with all means at one’s disposal against a global enemy. The former focuses on the event itself, an iteration of pure evil that even its frequency fails to inure us to its horror. That particular event will be dissected, mourned, investigated and even find its closure. But the war involves a relentless struggle against an ideology that threatens – and in many ways has already succeeded – in undermining the foundations of Western civilization.

It is a war to the death, in which, fortunately, the Western world still has the upper hand in terms of armed strength, weapons and capability, but that advantage will soon dissipate as Iran, a terrorist nation, and ISIS or other terrorist groups creep ever closer to attaining a nuclear capability for themselves.

Part of the gloom comes from the realization that the West has grown so intellectually flaccid and saturated in materialism that it cannot fight a long term war. The French people, overwhelmingly decent in their reactions to the recent ghastliness, want to be able to enjoy their lives – work, drink, party, celebrate, etc. Europe has a long and sad history with hatred, and so Europeans have uprooted hatred – even hatred for evil – from their hearts, to a large extent. But you can’t fight bombs and guns with candles and flowers. Lofty rhetoric about love and liberty is always welcome but it cannot compete on the battlefield with a doctrine of suicidal madness and homicidal mania. Evil cannot just be wished away.

One even hopes that the good guys exercise no “restraint” or even “proportionality” in their response to Islamic terror, notwithstanding that those are two of the clichés always hurled at Israel in order to prevent Israel from prevailing in this war.

But much of the despair in the West is traceable to the decline and disappearance of American power and leadership under the catastrophic presidency of Barack Obama. Leave it to Obama to finally name the enemy of America, the free world, the West and all those who aspire to virtue and goodness – an enemy so vile, with an ideology so repulsive, that it must be singled out by name for exposure and derision. That enemy, to Obama’s mind, is not radical Islam, but… horrors… the Republican Party! Islam is uninvolved in any untoward activities across the globe, even if its “perverters” perpetrated a “setback” to Obama’s global vision of appeasement of radical Islam. Republicans are the enemy de jure because they nastily insist on pointing out the failures of Obama’s presidency, and they want only to fight evil overseas and close American borders to an influx of Muslims (and Mexicans). Republicans are so evil that they are not even worthy of negotiations, unlike more moderate adversaries of the US such as Iran, Cuba, ISIS and others.

Without American leadership – and American leadership is AWOL and Europe knows it – this war is going nowhere. We will become accustomed – again – to grandiose claims of success or “containment,” accompanied by videos of bombing raids that target facilities, training camps, and other empty buildings. This tactic is borrowed from the Israeli playbook of responding to Gazan terror by bombing empty buildings taken from the target bank, a bank that is so filled with such targets that withdrawals are always possible and real strategic gains are never made. Without the will to fight, success is impossible, and currently the people with the will are those who delight in murdering innocent civilians.

It is, of course, a coincidence that the week that ended with the dreadfulness in Paris began with the European Union decreeing that all Israeli products made in Judea and Samaria must be labeled as such in order to facilitate a boycott of those Jewish goods. One would think that Europe, of all places, would recognize the abomination of boycotting Jewish goods and the bad road down which that can lead. But, instead, the EU protested Israel’s comparison of this boycott to pre-Holocaust era offenses, claiming that such cheapens the legacy of the Holocaust. How ironic is it when the descendants of the perpetrators of the Holocaust dictate to the descendants of the victims of the Holocaust what precisely the lessons of the Holocaust should be, particularly in light of the singling out of the Jewish State for special treatment? Are there no other geographical areas of the world in dispute? Are those areas’ exports similarly labeled? The answers are yes, and no, respectively. It is another small act of appeasement to the Muslim world that will have no effect on the Muslim assault on Europe.

Count me among the Jews who find the moral preening of Europeans both tedious and tendentious.

There are reactions that are even worse than that. The American failure to respond appropriately to Muslim terror was typified by John Kerry’s ramblings this week, when he distinguished between the unconscionable and unacceptable attacks in Paris last Friday night and the assault on the Charlie Hebdo offices at the beginning of this year in which Muslim terrorists killed a dozen people. Kerry opined that the latter was “legitimate,” a word he quickly retracted, only to substitute that the latter had a “rationale” to it that the former did not.

In a normal world, such repugnant musings from a country’s lead diplomat would lead to his immediate termination. In essence he was suggesting that the assault on the journalists was understandable because they had provoked their deaths through their own insensitive misconduct. His words are nothing less than a justification for that and other future horrors; it excuses the delinquency of terrorists. It shows real contempt for Muslims, as if they are unable to control their passions as civilized people are habituated to do, and even more contempt for their innocent victims, as if they are not so innocent at all.

This might be construed as a slip of the tongue for a person notoriously awkward (if not a little pompous) in his speech patterns, but for this: Kerry pointedly did not mention the other terrorist attack in Paris on that same fateful Friday last January, the attack on the Jewish shoppers in the kosher supermarket that killed four Jews. Where, pray tell, do their deaths fit in the Kerry conception of terror? Was it an unjustified attack on innocents comparable to last Friday night in Paris, or did it also have a “rationale,” or was “legitimate” (wait, take that word back!) because the victims were Jews?

It is no stretch of the imagination to conclude that Kerry believes the latter. Attacks on Jews are never undeserved, in his mind, because of Israel, settlements, occupation, refugees, etc. It is why terror against Jews is never denounced unequivocally but always couched in the limp language of denouncing “violence on both sides” (as if there is an equation between the perpetrators of violence and those who attempt to thwart the perpetrators). That is why, despite PM Netanyahu’s best efforts, the Europeans and Americans fiercely resist the notion that they and Israel share a common enemy – radical Islam. It is why I fear that one result of the current crisis will be a renewed attempt to mollify the Muslim world by further weakening and eviscerating the State of Israel.

If that sounds preposterous, and I wish it did, note the remarks the other day of Sweden’s Foreign Minister, who attributed the attacks in Paris to the “desperate situation” that leads many Muslims to turn to violence, a lack of hope for the future, such as “the Palestinians” feel. What is the connection between the “Palestinians” and terror in Paris, aside from the fact that all are Muslim Arab terrorists? None – except it reveals that the secular mind (and Europe today, like Obama, possess only secular minds) cannot fathom religious violence because they have little understanding of religion. They do not understand its sources, motivations, or world view. They cannot understand why jihad is more attractive to many people than the right to party, and therefore they persist in believing that “poverty and deprivation” are breeding grounds for terror – and in some of the wealthiest countries on earth. They still cannot explain why, for example, Osama bin Laden, a multi-billionaire, was filled with grievances against the world.

As long as they cannot figure that out, the West will meander from one attack to the next, deliver one impassioned speech after another, and still wonder why their societies are collapsing and radical Islam is proliferating. It is why, sad to say, I fear the current resolve will soon dissolve into business as usual, with hand-wringing, pieties about Western values, refuges and Geneva Conventions, and attempts to assuage the “grievances” of the terrorists rather than give them something to grieve over themselves.

If there is one man who can reverse the tide, unencumbered by the faux moral pretensions of the Europe and the languid American president, it is Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Russia’s economic and military strength might be limited, but ISIS may rue the day it made an enemy of Russia. Ironically, that might be the best hope for the Western world.




The Interview

RSP – It has been almost a year since the release of my latest book, “Tzadka Mimeni: The Jewish Ethic of Personal Responsibility.” Recently, Dr. Alan Brill interviewed me about two of my books and general thoughts on Torah and life as they emerge from my writings. The interview in large part is reprinted below, and can also be accessed here.

Alan Brill: Recently, I interviewed Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn about his new book. In that book, the only rabbi mentioned by Einhorn as his personal friend was Rabbi Steven Pruzansky. That, in turn, lead to this interview giving the world further insight into the Right Wing side of Modern Orthodoxy.

When asked about his Orthodox affiliation, Rabbi Pruzansky replied:

Labels are hard for me. The two primary rabbinic influences in my life – Rabbi  Chait and Rabbi Wein– defy easy labeling. I choose to fly solo, taking the best from a variety of different movements and when necessary distancing myself from those movements on certain issues. I’m happy to be RWMO, but that doesn’t fully categorize me either. I’m a voice in the RCA but not that influential… Most of the organizational and rabbinical politics accomplish nothing and, frankly, bore me…  I prefer to see myself as a “country preacher.”

Pruzansky’s down home preaching has made him both a role model for some and a problematic lighting rod of controversy to others. One of my former students, who currently serves as rabbi in a major Modern Orthodox pulpit, has a congregant who forever urges him to be more like Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, urging him to use Pruzansky as a role model. On the other hand, some consider Rabbi Pruzansky as a Jewish Jeremiah Wright (G-d forbid!- RSP) tainting all those who applaud his sermons.

My interview with Pruzansky, however, is not on his politics, his controversies, his view of President Obama, or his views of Open Orthodoxy. Rather, I turned to his books in order to understand his basic religious message.  He is the most articulate of the local Orthodox rabbis, and he has written three books:   A Prophet for Today: Contemporary Lessons of the Book of Yehoshua (2006),Judges for our Time: Contemporary Lessons of the Book of Shoftim (2009) and his latest, Tzadka Mimeni: The Jewish Ethic of Personal Responsibility (2014).

The Jewish Ethic of Personal Responsibility (2014) is a clearly written and direct work reflecting his sermons and preaching. The message is that we have to make proper decisions in our careers, marriages, child rearing, and financial dealings.  We have to take responsibility of our lives with its necessary challenges of career, marriage, and child rearing.  The book is a musar book emphasizing self-sufficiency, right choices, and a (very) strong Protestant work ethic. Even quotes from popular works like Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers belie a concern for the formula for success.

The work is a model of the implicit Centrist Orthodox critique of the Haredi life. One should plan for a career, not get married until one support a family, don’t let rabbis make your decisions, no learning while supported by others, and not to expect miracles in life or politics.

The country preacher’s thoughts on the book of Genesis show the importance of free enterprise, the necessity of the small state rejecting the state giving free handouts which make us into slaves, the importance of being anti-union, the fundamental importance of being pro-private property, and the necessity of gun ownership. The book is solid musar for Republican values – with some nativism and tea party ideas included.  The book surprised me in how much it was built on yeshivish musar works and not YU related works. But unlike those musar works, here we have a proud use of personal responsibility  for one’s worldly life.

Arguments on the topic of personal responsibility have been hot one in recent years. For example, there have been numerous shows on FoxNews by Bill O’Reiley among others on the topic of personal responsibility (herehere andhere),; Nicholas Kristof penned a response, Now, there is a recently released study by the political scientists Mark D. Brewer and Jeffrey M. Stonecash,Polarization and the Politics of Personal Responsibility (2015), which argues that the idea of personal responsibility is the fundamental divide in the US today between liberal and conservative and the notion of personal responsibility can be used to sort out the current divisions surrounding race, gender and religion.

The book is gold mine for an anthropological study of upper middle class Centrist Orthodoxy. If we want to compare Pruzansky’s message to an opposite work, I would recommend the works of Rabbi Avraham Twerski’s musar. Twerski also deals with the contemporary anxiety of making money and the struggles of family life, but Twerski does not stress responsibility, rather he stresses the importance of turning to God, seeking comfort in prayer, coping with stress, maintaining one’s self esteem by being part of community, and assuring his readers that God will extend his mercy to the unemployed like he helped the Jews in Egypt. A message like Twerski’s creates a very different religious anthropology than that created by Pruzansky’s message.

Pruzansky’s book can also be compared to the 16th century Polish Rabbinic homilies- by the Kli Yakar, Levush, Maharashal Maharal and others– on wealth, family, and responsibility as discussed in the still untranslated work by Haim H. Ben-Sasson, Hagut ve-Hanhagah (Jerusalem, 1959). Unlike the poverty of Rabbinic Jews in the 19th and early 20 th century, the upper middle class concern with making wealth of the 16th century  Polish city Jews deserves comparison to our own age.

The other volume discussed in this interview  Judges for our Time: Contemporary Lessons of the Book of Shoftim (2009) uses the book of Judges to understand contemporary Israel politics. Modern Israeli politicians are compared to the flawed ancient Judges, ethics are learned from the prophet driven battles, and the need to utterly destroy one’s enemy is learned from the battle against the Canaanites.  The volume makes use of many of the recent Israeli Religious Zionist commentaries produced in Hardal yeshivot on the book of Judges that seek to draw modern political messages from the early prophetic books.

I thank Rabbi Pruzansky. Read the interview, learn about this country preacher, one of the leaders of Right Wing Modern Orthodoxy.

The Jewish Ethic of Personal Responsibility.

1) What is your message of personal responsibility?

First and foremost, it means the assumption of personal decision-making about one’s life choices. Major issues in life must be decided by the individual and cannot be outsourced to others. Only in that way can the individual’s unique personality be expressed and realized. Add to that the importance of accepting responsibility for failures or mistakes, which builds character and deepens integrity, and provides a platform for learning from one’s experiences.

2) What is the need for self-sufficiency?

Ultimate decisions on choices of spouse, career, place of residence, etc. must be made by the individual (even after he or she consults and receives guidance from others); otherwise, the person is living someone else’s life.

No person, however, is ever completely self-sufficient. We rely on family, friends and community to provide us with the framework and infrastructure in which we can grow, live and thrive. But we should strive for self-sufficiency in terms of decision-making.

For some, the advantage to having another person make critical life decisions for a questioner is that it frees the questioner from having to take any responsibility for his decisions. For others, that might relieve them of the insecurity engendered by those very decisions. For most, I would think, it deprives them of the capacity to develop and enrich their personalities and to live as free people.

I note in Parshat Lech Lecha: “Individuality is not only a blessing but a fulfillment of God’s will in creation. We are allowed – even encouraged – to pursue our individual talents and destinies, all within a Torah framework. We may become Jewish doctors, lawyers, artists, musicians, inventors, scientists, businessmen, entrepreneurs and thinkers. To live in a box stifles creativity, and the attempt to produce cookie-cutter children grows stale…”

3) What is the esteem gained by being part of the Jewish people?

To be a member of the Jewish people is a privilege and a gift. In essence, it is to be entrusted with carrying G-d’s moral message to the rest of the world. One naturally should feel pride in the assignment, but that pride should not feed one’s ego. Rather it should be used as motivation to fulfill the mission that G-d granted us. Indeed, it should induce humility – the humility of the servant executing his tasks on behalf of the king and knowing that the sense of nobility he feels is not innate in him but a reflection of his role as servant.

4) Should people go to rabbis to make decisions for them?

A person should always consult others before making a major decision about which he is conflicted, just to hear other ideas and perspectives. But for a person to allow another person to make a major decision for him is abdicating one’s own humanity and living someone else’s life. That is essentially slavery (avdut), and the antithesis of the image of G-d (tzelem elokim) and right of free choice we were given. Rabbis can have greater insight at times, but I don’t subscribe to the notion that rabbis necessarily have divine inspiration and an unerring perspective on world affairs.

Rav S. R. Hirsch spoke of the tzelem elokim as man’s capacity to be a free-willed being. A failure to exercise that capacity is essentially dehumanizing. Of course, it has to be exercised with care. Man not only possesses a nefesh hasichli – spiritual and intellectual inclinations – but a nefesh habehami – animalistic tendencies – as well. One must be careful to use his gift of the image of G-d (tzelem elokim) to promote the former and harness the latter.

5) You define the goodness in matriarch Sarah’s life as successful. How is the Torah’s goal success? 
   Faithfulness to Torah certainly does not guarantee wealth, but why would we define “success” by the size of one’s bank account? Sadly, too many people are afflicted with that mentality. Chazal spoke of the virtues acquired through poverty, although they didn’t of course recommend it. The poor and the rich are both in challenging situations, and that is the basic test of man: to be able to serve G-d under all circumstances, and we are all therefore placed in different circumstances. But faithfulness to Torah produces success as we should define it – being a proper servant of G-d, at peace with G-d and man, blessed with family, and an absence of any sense of deprivation. etc.

6) When is it OK to blame the victim – such as Dinah- for not showing personal responsibility?
   We don’t blame the victim enough in our society. Usually the victim plays some role in his victimization – usually but of course not always. It is the concept in torts of contributory negligence, which is perfectly logical but rejected by most people when it comes to their personal lives. Distinctions are necessary – of course, im ain deah, havdala minayin? (without knowledge, how can we make distinctions?) – and not all cases are identical. Even in torts, contributory negligence is adjudicated by percentages, 1% to 99%, and everything in between.

That being said, no person has the right to harm, molest, assault or otherwise take advantage of any person, even if the victim is responsible for his bad choices. The onus of guilt remains on the perpetrator. Thus, contributory negligence is a matter of civil, not criminal, law. A criminal cannot excuse his crime by saying the victim should have known better than to walk in a dangerous neighborhood. Chazal were clear that Dina went out looking for trouble and found it – but that is a moral lapse. It did not give anyone the right to attack her.

7) How does revelation on Sinai connect to the value of responsibility?

If man was created as a free-willed being capable of being held accountable for his actions, part of Creation has to entail the revelation by G-d of His will and morality to mankind.

That is how the Jewish people enter world history, never to leave it. We were liberated from Egypt in order to be free-willed beings who can receive His Torah, serve G-d and transmit His morality to others. The Torah is misplaced if it is given to human beings who are not responsible for their actions. We have to use our minds to understand G-d’s will as best we can and control our bodies – rein in our impulses – to serve him as well.

8) Why and how do people need limits on their lives?

It’s this week’s sedra – כִּ֠י יֵ֣צֶר לֵ֧ב הָאָדָ֪ם רַ֖ע מִנְּעֻרָ֑יו. (“Man’s inclinations are towards evil – i.e., instinctual gratification – from his earliest youth.”) Man’s animalistic tendencies will emerge unless they are constrained and redirected elsewhere. Man left unchecked – by Torah, law, conscience, society, etc. – will naturally try to consume, abuse and torment others. Man left unchecked lives a pure animalistic – animal soul nefesh habehami existence, seeking only to gratify his physical needs as best and as frequently as he can. That is why we were given the Torah and the nations limited by the Noahide laws.

9) What do you say to someone poor and born into a cycle of poverty with lack of models for responsibility? 
Personal responsibility includes responsibility for others, especially the needy or downtrodden. Far better than the handout is the personal involvement in their lives – mentoring, guiding and, when necessary, easing them through and out of financial hardship. But we do not believe that circumstances define a person. Hillel “obligated the poor” (mechayev aniyim) to achieve and lift himself up as he did, (Yoma 35b). If it is done by one, it means it can be done by all.

Nonetheless, growing up in hardship – whether the inner city or the Pale of Settlement – makes it more difficult, and that’s where character and values are indispensable. What ails society today is not the dearth of money but the dearth of values. So many people have money and still have corrupt values.

10) The approach in the book has little on mizvot, ritual or Torah, almost everything on marriage, finances, child-rearing, career, and stress of life. What does this say about the community and its issues? What does it say about your approach to the rabbinate?

Nothing! We are defined as a people of mitzvot but that was not my intention in writing. There are many books that deal with the technicalities of Jewish observance. But one can be a Shomer Mitzvot – and be corrupt, even have idolatrous leanings, and not at all feel a connection with G-d. Those are greater focal points for me, because I assume observance of Mitzvot.

11)  If this is the Torah perspective, then why have there been so many rabbinic scandals- both financial and sexual- in the last few years?

It seems like a lot, but in actual numbers it is not that many in real terms. More than 3% of Americans are either in prison or on parole. What percentage of rabbis are miscreants? Far less. Of course that is small comfort when even one is too many. That being said, the Torah is perfect, not the Jews and certainly not the rabbis. A depraved person who learns Torah is lambasted by Chazal, because he will eventually use the Torah for his depraved purposes. Sadly, none of this is new.

12) Where do books you seem to have used like  Thomas Sowell and Frederich Hayek on economics, Frank Chodorov on libertarianism,  and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers fit into a Torah perspective?
In a general sense I am a big believer in “believe there is wisdom among the gentiles” “chochma bagoyim taamin.” If non-Jews have a particular insight into the world, or they frame a Torah concept in an especially enlightening way, then I am delighted to learn from them and use it. But “don’t accept that there is Torah among the gentiles” “Torah bagoyim al taamin” – they do not have a divine system through which they can sustain and transmit those ideas.

13) Is it just coincidence that the perspective in your book in favor of the small state, anti-union, pro-private property, pro free enterprise, and the importance of gun ownership is very similar to certain Republican platforms. If one is already a Republican with these positions, then why do I need Torah?

What’s the cart and what’s the horse? The Torah always has to be the foundation of all our ideas and values. To the extent that Torah ideas coincide in certain aspects to the Republican Party, I am gratified – for them. Good for them, but it doesn’t really affect us. In any event, the ideas and values in the Torah are of divine origin; the Republican Party platform? How shall we say it? Less so.

The puzzle then is why so many Jews are practicing Democrats – and the answer is that overwhelmingly they are not practicing Jews.    But when the Republican Party deviates or would deviate from the Torah, I would not hesitate at all backing away or repudiating that part of the platform. Bear in mind that politics in America is inherently secular but that Republicans are much more likely to be churchgoers and religious than are Democrats. That itself certainly plays a role in explaining the symmetrical aspects of the conservative philosophy and the norms of Torah.

14) Should shuls have gun clubs? What role does the gun club play in your shul?

The gun club is not officially part of Congregation Bnai Yeshuran  but most of its members are somewhat affiliated with the shul. We did offer (off premises) firearms training years ago for those interested many years ago. We also hosted karate for many years, which I consider quite similar. Self-defense is important for all Jews, a basic Torah requirement. We need not be squeamish about the right to defend ourselves. I do not believe we have any hunters in shul!

Judges for Our Time: Contemporary Lessons from the Book of Shoftim

  1.       What is your concept of a national leader based on your book?

The ideal leader is a righteous autocrat who is wise, honest, humble and devoted to the welfare of his people. It is no coincidence that this models the philosopher-king; it should. The problem is that the theory is great but it is hard to find such people in reality, at least not in a sustained way. The failure of Jewish leadership in ancient times – and the accounts of the few exceptions – is the story of Jewish history.

  1.       How is the leader to bring national solidarity?

National solidarity, for Jews, comes from a shared sense of commitment to G-d’s service and therefore our national destiny. We all have the same mission but we were all given different roles in that mission. The task of the leader is to actualize the fulfillment of the national mission by facilitating the performance of the individual roles.

  1.       Why do we need pragmatic thinking in politics and to accept less than ideal judge who make  mistakes?

    I don’t think we have to “accept” poor leadership but the reality is that we have to endure it and overcome it. There is mediocrity in every field, so leadership is no exception. Personally, I think we are too hard on leaders who make mistakes. As long as they accept responsibility and have learned from them, they probably have an advantage over leaders who think they are infallible. In American politics today, there are no second acts. But Israel – and many other countries – has a habit of recycling leaders who have been rejected before. In fact, almost every prime minister in the last three decades has been booted out of office at least once and then restored – if not to the top job then to other top positions.

The world is divided into righteous and wicked, but most people are entrenched in that third category, the intermediates (beinonim). They will usually know what is right but lack the will to see it through.

  1.  What is the concept of the degradation of community?
    Often during the period of the Judges, when just part of the nation was attacked the tribes that were unaffected felt no need to join in the battle because they lost a sense of nationhood.. Too often, the Judges went to battle with just a small number of tribes, and even then participants had to be solicited. This happened to Gideon, Yiftach, and Shimshon’s case – when he had to fight alone – stands out even more. The sense of community – of nationhood – was lost, and as we saw, only a king governing from a new national center – Yerushalayim – could restore that unity.
  2.  In your opinion, why should Jews (or Israel) ignore the Geneva Conventions and other human rights conventions?

I am not saying Israel should categorically ignore the Conventions, which have a value even if they have changed over time. It does purport to regulate the conduct of war between nations, and does it successfully except when it does it spectacularly poorly (such as when a nation chooses to breach it and suffers no consequences – Syria, 2013). Nor did it help Jews during the Holocaust.  But if one side in a conflict vitiates the Conventions, then it is foolish to abide by them and give the enemy the advantage. E.g., an enemy that hides behind civilians, that attacks civilians, that does not fight in military uniform, etc. – in that context, the Conventions should not apply. Indeed, most of the world would not similarly restrict themselves, and so Israel should not be subject to that double standard.

  1.       Your position seems very different than those Roshei Yeshiva who teach that human dignity and human rights are never removed from a person. Do you have any thoughts on why you see things differently?

Not at all. I believe very strongly in human dignity and human rights because all human beings are created b’tzelem elokim. But I believe as well, and would be surprised if the other Centrist rabbanim did not, that human beings can so tarnish their image of G-d (tzelem elokim) that it is gone. That happens when a person becomes an animal, completely under the sway of the animal soul (nefesh habehami). Nazi murderers were in that category, like prehistoric man who did not possess an image of G-d.

I can’t believe that other Orthodox leaders would perceive them as human beings like the rest of us, just sinners. Those who wantonly stab innocent people because of their lust for Jewish blood are in the same category. Their image of G-d is so corroded that it is gone. That is why society executes those people.

Indeed, the executed prisoner is called the cursed of G-d. G-d had a certain plan for human beings when He created us and gave us an  Image of G-d. These murderers forfeited that and leaving them hanging from a tree is an “embarrassment” to G-d whose plan went awry. So hang them and take them down right away.

  1.  How and why do we use the prophets  of Navi for guidance?

If we can’t learn from it, then there would have been no point in recording it for posterity.  I make this point in the introduction to the book on Yehoshua: “The Jewish people had many prophets…so why are only the words of 48 prophets and 7 prophetesses recorded? Only the prophecy that was needed for future generations was written down, and that which was not needed for future generations was not written down (Megilah 14a).”

In Rabbi Wein’s approbation (haskama) to that book he wrote that it is “an excellent piece of work and scholarship. The danger in it and the criticism that you will undoubtedly receive is in your attempt to fit event and insights from Sefer Yehoshua to the present-day Israeli scene. Many of the leading rabbis of our time have warned against attempting such comparisons.” Wein continued his words: “However, this is not a unanimous opinion for otherwise what is the purpose of studying Tanach…”

Those are the two sides. My efforts were along those lines: to extract from Yehoshua and Shoftim – the books that describe the initial conquest and settlement of the land of Israel – all the lessons that we can apply to the modern conquest and settlement of the land of Israel. The similarities are eerie. And if we can’t gain this wisdom from the Navi, “what is the purpose of studying Tanach?”Actually, we do not learn halacha from Navi but only from Chazal, but this is a different quest.


The Resolution

The RCA statement on women’s ordination was both timely and tardy.

It was timely because waiting longer would have further greased the slippery slope towards a complete abandonment of Torah and Mesorah. In the absence of a formal resolution decreeing that the institution of female Jewish clergy is beyond the pale of Orthodoxy and insisting rabbis not hire nor shuls retain such clergy, in another few years  dozens of such clergywomen would have been ensconced in left-wing Orthodox synagogues. That would have created a schism in the Torah world that we can ill afford. Invariably, most Orthodox Jews would have shunned such synagogues, which would be the natural reflection of such a rift in the Torah world.

But the resolution was also five years too late, because, in many respects, the schism has already taken place. Previous resolutions were bland or toothless enough that it had little impact on proponents of the move, something I suspect contributed to the blandness of the statements in which proponents had a hand. But now the lines are very clearly delineated as to what is within the world of Torah and what is outside that holy framework. Once clarity has been obtained, then people can make their own decisions, but they cannot say they were not forewarned about the predictable costs of treading that well- worn path.

The resolution was necessary if only because the deviations have expanded over time, not receded. Parents warn their children not to play in the street and to watch for oncoming cars, and no one accuses parents of redundancy when these admonitions are issued every time the children leave home. Rabbis are not parents in this sense nor are the intended audience of this resolution to be construed as daydreaming children. But rabbis are guardians of the Mesorah, and the resolution is nothing less than a cry from the heart – a shriek of “Gevalt!” (for the Yiddishists) – that the road these women are merrily traveling on, with their supporters in tow, leads towards a cliff. They may not want to acknowledge that – may not? They certainly don’t – but that is the reality as seen from this perspective.

If rabbis cannot warn Jews that certain steps are deleterious to their spiritual futures, to the sanctity of the Jewish home, or to the proper observance of Torah – then who can? And who should? Much of the recent deviations from Torah have been fueled by the Western-inspired rejection of any objective authority. “Don’t tread on me! And I have the right to worship G-d in the way I choose!”

Indeed that is so – just don’t call it Orthodox. There needs to be a modicum of intellectual integrity in the pursuit of innovations. Integrity would demand an admission that the advocates recognize that they have strayed from the traditional path of Torah, are mimicking some of the deviations of the traditional non-Orthodox movements, and that what they are doing may be new and attractive to some, but it just is not Orthodoxy.

That the RCA and the Moetzet of Agudah should issue similar statements within days of each other should be cause for at least a second thought on the part of the proponents herein. To be sure, the advocates and feminists will dismiss it as a sign of Orthodoxy’s “turn to the right,” that hoary but meaningless cliché. Could there be another possibility, maybe, just maybe? Can you consider, just for a moment, that maybe these rabbis and spiritual leaders – representing the overwhelming majority of the Orthodox world – genuinely consider these deviations as heresy? Perhaps proponents – and certainly the fence-sitters – should entertain that possibility.

As I have said for years, one of the considerations that make such statements painful for our side is that so many of the proponents of heterodoxy are nice people, they mean well, and are sincere in their pursuit of change within the Torah world. They have much passion and enthusiasm for what they do and for what they believe, and passion and enthusiasm are precious commodities in Jewish life. Feelings are wonderful sensations, but the strongest feelings do not change the substance of the policies or programs. They remain outside the Torah framework. The founders of the non-Orthodox movements were also passionate people, sincere in their belief that their “modernization” of Jewish law would save generations of Jews from assimilation. That they failed miserably in that quest should concern the proponents of “Open Orthodoxy,” who seem to be doing the exact same thing the non-Orthodox did a century ago and hoping this time for different result (remember Einstein’s dictum…).

Much of the reaction has been typical of the ideological true believer, doubling down on their approach without the slightest bit of introspection. In some circles, it has been distinctly modern, if not a little childish – appeals to Facebook, social media, satire, scorn, obloquy, and maledictions. (Are there people who really believe that Facebook “likes” and petitions are part of the methodology of psak?) To accuse rabbis who reject female ordination of being “sexist” is, to say the least, both unsophisticated and unbecoming. Surely proponents can do better, and it might help if they looked a little beyond themselves and even beyond the secular, progressive feminist narrative that seems to animate many of them. No more proof of that assertion is needed than merely noting that non-Orthodox female rabbis have been honored guests at the Maharat ordination ceremonies.

No one on our side of the divide, as far as I know, has ever responded to these issues without careful consideration of what is permitted and forbidden, what is desirable or undesirable. It should worry advocates that the Torah world – both men and women – vehemently oppose what they are doing. It should worry advocates that Nechama Leibowitz z”l would have been disgusted and horrified by what they are doing, not to mention the Rav z”l. This whole issue is viewed by many through the prism of feminism. They sit in judgment of the Torah itself and adjudicate what comports with feminist doctrine and what must be discarded. How sad. I was a student of Nechama Leibowitz (and not a very good one, I concede) in the 1970’s, and not because she was a woman. When I open her sefarim these days, it is not because she was a woman. Both were because she was a teacher of Torah who had something magnificent to contribute to the world of Torah scholarship. But when the Torah – and Jewish law, and Jewish life – are seen only as vehicles to further a narrow agenda, such a movement is bound to fail.

Obviously there has been too much defensiveness over the last few years among too many rabbis in articulating the truth of Torah, as if we should be embarrassed by any Torah doctrine – as if we have achieved a level of piety and scholarship at which we can sit in judgment of the Torah itself, G-d forbid. That is one cause of the official reticence that has bedeviled the ModOs for years already.  Some purported leaders were intimidated into silence. But the core division today in Jewish life is between two groups, one that loves the Torah and sees it as perfect (temima, in King David’s locution) and one that doesn’t love the Torah as is, nor as perfect, and wishes to change it to conform to their contemporary moral predilections. In a free society, they are certainly entitled to do that, even if the loss of Jews to the Torah family is distressing to the rest of us. Just don’t call it Orthodox.

Some have argued that the resolution causes a schism in Jewish life. Indeed, the opposite is true; the goal is to avert a schism. The schism was caused by those who decided to repudiate the Mesorah and challenge the nature of rabbinic leadership that has existed since Sinai. So, who exactly is being divisive – the adherents to tradition or those who have gone their own way?  Others have maintained that the resolution did not go far enough; undoubtedly, some voted against the resolution on that basis. A peculiar argument has been adopted by some who said they are opposed to women’s ordination but voted against the resolution because it was repetitive. Of course, the RCA also passed “overwhelmingly” this year a resolution (that has already disappeared into the ether) decrying the BDS movement – an exact repetition of past resolutions on the same subject. So why vote for that redundancy? Oh, well, consistency is so limiting.

And others have stated that there is a great battle going on for the hearts and minds of today’s young people who are enamored with innovation, suspicious of authority, and averse to any type of restrictions imposed on them by an external system. Sadly, those who embrace this attitude are already lost. There are reasons why the population of the Jewish people has not grown in 2000 years, and religious persecution is only one reason. There is another – the persistent lure of heterodoxy and other heretical ideas that mislead Jews into thinking that what they are being taught is also Torah. By the time they realize it is not, if they do, they have already left the reservation, in effect rejecting something – Torah – that they never really possessed or understood. And this happened regardless of how well meaning the teachers, proponents, and even rabbis were of these novel approaches to Torah. To read some of the heresies emanating from various promoters of the new faith – rejection of the binding nature of halacha, rejection of the divine origin of Torah, a disparagement of Chazal, et al – one shudders at the realization that this cannot end well, and we as a people will be repeating the same pathetic mistakes of the past.

Many of us still harbor the hope that the deterioration can be arrested, that some needed soul-searching can be done by the men and women who see themselves in the vanguard of this new movement, and they can remain within the camp of Torah.

But, until then, they should really stop calling themselves Orthodox. I appreciate the aspiration, but I appreciate truth and clarity even more.


A New Low

“Kill the Jews, tra la la la la.”

That could be the headline of recent article in the New York Times (it was sent to me; why any Jew would subscribe to or read the NY Times escapes me) that described in graphic detail the music that “Palestinians” are producing, singing, and selling in the land of Israel. It is no longer possible to be shocked by the Arab culture of blood lust, violence and hate. It is deeply rooted in that society, and feeds off similar dysfunction across the Arab world. It is not fair to say it can never change; but it is reasonable to predict that it will not change for the foreseeable future, and not until there is a revolution of morality and decency in the Arab/Muslim world.

What is shocking – maybe it shouldn’t be? – is that the NYT reported this vile display of Jew hatred and genocidal fantasy dispassionately and amorally. Songs such as “Stab, Stab,” “Jerusalem is Bleeding,” “Run Over, Run Over the Settler” are treated almost whimsically, as if they represent some proud cultural achievement, as if they advance a positive agenda, objective or aspiration for Arab society. The Times writers – one of them a Jew, as no one should be surprised to learn – included not one word of criticism of the songwriters, singers, sellers, or the abhorrent content of the songs.

Is there another group in the world whose genocide could be celebrated in song and garner the same placid response from the august American media? Would KKK music achieve the same renown and would the lyrics be featured by the Times, along with the videos? Would the Times similarly gloat over Jewish music that threatened death to Arabs, necessary to safeguard the Land of Israel? Of course the Times wouldn’t – and not because such a concept would be unthinkable to Jews who, as John Adams wrote two centuries ago, “have done more to civilize man than any other nation.” (Apparently, we have not become completely successful in that quest – not in Arabia, not in Europe, and it seems not in much of America).

It is because the Times – which has always harbored a special animus for Jews and Israel going to back to when it was a Jewish-owned newspaper (it no longer is) – has reached a new low in singling out Jews as the only people in the world whose murders can be celebrated in song. This is merely an extension of traditional NY Times reporting that has always equated the deaths of the Jewish victims of Arab terror and the Arab terrorist who murdered them. As in, “Three Die as Violence Erupts,” when the eruption of violence was solely the murderous rage of suicide bomber who killed two Jews alongside him. That repugnant headline is actually benign compared to other headlines seen across the world that describe how “Israelis Shoot Palestinian to Death!” that gently omitted the relevant fact that the Palestinian shot to death by the Israelis was in the process of stabbing Jewish babies and their mothers in the neck.

In the genocidal war being waged against the Jewish people, the New York Times is an accomplice. Now is not the time to lament the death of journalism or the absence of journalistic ethics in modern media, but to make a simpler point. In the war between the civilized and the uncivilized, the NY Times and other media are on the side of the uncivilized. It would be understandable if they subtly acknowledged the hypocrisy and fear that leads them to condemn the virtuous and laud the evildoers, but it is absolutely intolerable that – good writers that they are – they make it seem as if they are sincere or even-handed, as if they are just reporting the news.

What are civilized people dealing with? Watch this, a video of an interview on Arab TV with a mother whose son was killed while in the process of stabbing Jews. Note her boasts about his achievements, her sorrow about the young man not taking his mother with him to shaheed-land, her heartfelt desire that all her sons should become martyrs while murdering innocent Jews, and the finale, when she reveals the flinty side to her own personality and how she sees herself making a future contribution to the world.

There is something that is normal, human, maternal and decent that is just missing from that woman, maybe more than something.

Of course, it would be unthinkable that the NY Times would feature that woman whose barbarity is on display for all, and whose lack of concern about the welfare of her children would, in civilized countries, attract the attention of the local Division of Youth and Family Services. She could use an intervention, to say the least. But why would the Times ignore her, if they have? She shares the same goal as the songwriters and singers. Is she less entertaining, and therefore undeserving of a Times platform? Is it that she has not set her rant to a catchy tune? Or is that her primitive rage would strike such a nerve in the average reader that they might, Heaven forefend, feel some sympathy for Israelis and come to respect a shoot-first, ask questions later approach to Arab terrorists?

It would be enough to state that the Times should be ashamed, but it is not clear that their reporters and editors are left with a sense of shame. Basic human instincts just do not register. There is a pronounced inability to move beyond even the trite expressions of even-handedness (would that there would be evenhandedness!) and observe the reality of an Arab world that has breached all norms of civilization, for whom the Geneva Conventions are a farcical sign of Western weakness, and whose violent rage is stoked by the fecklessness of the Western media, the American president, and the world’s diplomatic elitists.

Those songs incite violence against Jews. The NY Times reported those songs without a word of moral reproach, but with an abundance of empathy, indulgence and tolerance. That Arab society (to a large extent) is pathologically sick – most of the victims of Arab violence are still Muslims – is a given; that enlightened Westerners should lend it credence, support and sympathetic coverage is, on balance, even more sick. Westerners were raised with an antipathy to genocide and an appreciation for basic human rights. Those rights, in the Times’ view, do not apply to Jews, whose deaths are encouraged and celebrated through songs.

And the Jews then support the Times, so that they – the Jewish readers – effectively subsidize the promotion of even more articles that will call for their own deaths, and, of course, pardon the murderers of any responsibility for those deaths.  It was Lenin or Marx who said that the Communists will hang the capitalists with the rope they sell them. Jews who read the Times with their morning coffee should know they are helping their enemies destroy themselves. Not a cheerful thought to contemplate while downing a Danish.

But those are our enemies and their songs. Now, a few words from the good guys. While Arabs sing about murdering Jews, Jews sing about life, virtue, service of G-d and happiness. Could that infuriate our enemies even more?

In a world of good and evil, good will prevail.



The Inanities of John Kerry

It would be unfair to think ill of John Kerry because he is the grandson of an apostate Jew, who changed his name from Cohen to Kerry and pretended to be an Irish Catholic, even if such a pedigree has inevitably shaped Kerry’s views towards Israel. After all, you cannot choose your parents, grandparents or any relative. But he can be ridiculed and lambasted for making one of the dumbest comments in recent history, one that if analyzed shows either intense animus towards Israel and Jews, a warped view of life and personal responsibility or all of the above.

Intruding where he is unwelcome, has nothing to offer and can only prop up another aging anti-American dictator, Kerry is trying to “calm” tensions in Israel. He offered this gem: “We continue to urge everybody to exercise restraint and restrain from any kind of self-help in terms of the violence, and Israel has every right in the world to protect its citizens, as it has been, from random acts of violence.”

Forgive the run-on sentence (this is an administration populated by people who don’t speak intelligibly outside the four ells of the teleprompter) and parse the words themselves.

We continue to urge everybody to exercise restraint…”  Surely Kerry must know that asking the attackers and the defenders to exercise restraint is a certain formula for a massacre if the aggressors choose, strangely, not to heed Kerry’s importuning and the attacked, foolishly, comply. He must be able to intuit, on some level, the repugnance implicit in the moral equivalence of the violence used by the barbarians to stab and shoot innocent Jews and the violence used by the civilized to thwart them. The equation alone is so monstrous that only malevolent, spiteful minds  – of which the world, clearly, has many – could utter such drivel and presume it sensible and reasonable. It is tantamount to saying: “Jews, die! And don’t kill anybody while in the process of dying.”

This inversion of morality placates and emboldens the evildoers – a clear Obama administration goal transparent in its dealing with Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and the Palestinian Authority – and can even be understood as evidence of the world’s corrupt double standard towards Israel and the Jewish people. It doesn’t make it right – in fact, it is very wrong and abhorrent – but not atypical enough to warrant any attention. But Kerry continued to call on all sides – but he meant the Jews – to “restrain from any kind of self-help in terms of the violence…” Before scrutinizing this breathtaking inanity, it is only fair to include Kerry’s succeeding clause, in which he conceded (reluctantly?) that “Israel has every right in the world to protect its citizens, as it has been, from random acts of violence.” How gracious of him.

Doesn’t Israel’s right to “protect its citizens” negate Kerry’s call for restraint on all sides? How can a nation defend its citizens by exercising restraint, unless the true defense that Kerry is seeking – one that will end all conflict – is Israel’s surrender to its enemies? That would, at least in his mind, end the cause for violence, notwithstanding the minor detail that Jews were savagely massacred in Hebron in 1929, across the land of Israel in 1936-1939, and victimized by Arab terror in the 1950’s and 1960s – in the former cases long before there was a Jewish state and in the latter cases long before the ”settlements” became the “obstacle to peace.” So the unctuous call for restraint, i.e., do not kill the attacker nor harm him in any way, is nothing more than a bland acquiescence to the mass murder of Jews. There is no quantity of liberal Jewish palaver about how great to Israel a friend Kerry is, was, or will be that can reverse the implications of his call to shackle the innocent so the murderous can have free reign. His moral compass is askew.

Even the phrase “random acts of violence” – the same gibberish uttered by Obama after Jews were massacred in a kosher supermarket in Paris earlier this year (where’s the last place one would think to find Jews? Obama: A kosher deli, of course) – understates the problem and does not properly assign blame to the perpetrators of these murders and attempted murders. The acts of violence might be “random” in terms of victims selected for carnage but they are not “random” in the sense of being haphazard or unsystematic. The Arab enemy is attacking innocent Jews and trying to slaughter as many as they can because of the blood lust for Jewish life, the cult of death and glorification of martyrdom that permeates the world of radical Islam, and their rejection of any semblance of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel or even any non-Islamic  sovereignty over any territory claimed for Islam.

That is not “random” at all, but rather a focused effort to rid the Middle East first and then the world of any Jewish national and perhaps even individual presence. This is genocidal jihad, and the hackneyed response of liberal Jews and peaceniks has always been to attack anyone who points this out and exposes how foolishly misguided they have been. In the alternative, they seek reasons for the violence that rationalize and even justify Arab terror. Those pretexts always include the lack of a peace process, the building of settlements, the attempt to change the status quo on the Temple Mount, the lack of rainfall, etc. (For all the false clamor about Israel’s desire to change the status quo on the Temple Mount, I really wish they would.) Those who think that the genocidal jihadists can be placated – like Obama, Kerry and their acolytes, even some in Israel  – should really not be allowed near a microphone or in any building where the crafting of foreign policy is taking place. They are dangerous people.

All of which leads to the one of the dumbest statements of the year, a year in which a healthy competition for that title is ongoing. He urged all sides to “restrain from any kind of self-help.” In context, Kerry must have been urging Israelis to ignore their government (the same government that he conceded has the right to “protect its citizens”), as that government has urged all Israelis who possess firearms to bear them in the streets and with them subdue and/or eliminate any terrorist who dares to raise his hand against an innocent person. In essence, “Israel” has the right of self-defense, but not the “people of Israel.” Huh?

But who in his right mind would ever demand that someone not engage in “self-help”? Answer: only a person on the political left who feels that government is responsible for everything in the lives of the citizens. It reminded me first of Ronald Reagan’s quip: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” But Kerry’s sentiment is worse than bizarre: Who ever tells people not to help themselves? New Jersey is the only state in the Union where citizens are not permitted to pump their own gasoline, and that too is peculiar. Who would tell someone not to defend his own life but to wait for someone else to come along and defend it for him? And if it’s too late, tsk tsk tsk, and we will shed crocodile tears and call for an end to the cycle of violence. That is beyond bizarre. Underneath that nice head of hair, what is Kerry thinking?

Self-help is the foundation of personal responsibility. The very suggestion that one should “restrain from any kind of self-help” is paternalistic, and when the self-help is actually defending one’s life it is downright cruel, and in this context, nothing less malicious. It is clear from the reaction in the Arab world and their fellow travelers in the West that they are distressed that the Arab attackers  in the recent wave of Arab terror have mostly been killed while trying to kill Jews, rather than being captured, arrested, tried, convicted, incarcerated and then shortly thereafter released in a prisoner exchange – a pattern to which they became accustomed and mostly enjoyed. Maybe that is the change in status quo that has them all riled up.

Kerry’s musings show his evil intent, and his offensive ramblings prove his irrelevance to the protection of both Jewish life and Western civilization. Israel needs a stronger hand, and it needs more – not less – citizen involvement in self-defense and taking the war to the Arab terrorists.

Kerry, for his own good and for the good of the world and the Jewish people, should just go to Iran and help them build their nuclear weapon. If his engineering skills are as keen as his proficiency in diplomacy and his coherence in thought, the world will be able to rest easily for decades.



On the car radio the other day, I listened to an interesting debate between Dennis Prager (on his show) and someone named Jay Michaelson who writes for the Forward and other liberal organs. Michaelson had lambasted Dr. Ben Carson, Republican candidate for President, for articulating his support for the Second Amendment  in this way: “The likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if people had been armed.” Dr. Carson later added: “Basically, what I said is when tyranny occurs traditionally around the world, they try to disarm the people first.”

For these truthful and eminently reasonable statements, Michaelson attacked Dr. Carson for his “rant,” called him “ignorant,” and thoughtfully added that Dr. Carson’s declarations are “profoundly anti-Semitic, immoral and disgusting.” And of course the conservative candidate was then assailed for invoking the Holocaust.

It is difficult to escape the sense that liberals are threatened by the Carson candidacy as it might tend to diminish the support of a voting bloc whose near unanimous voting patterns in the past are again being counted on heavily by the Democrats. Carson’s life story is so compelling – raised in a broken, one-family home in a dangerous part of an inner city, only to be saved by the determination and will of his mother, and who becomes an acclaimed neurosurgeon – that it imperils many liberal shibboleths, especially the ones that demand government intervention in every aspect of life and diminish the role of family and personal responsibility in an individual’s destiny. The liberal fear is palpable, as Dr. Carson’s intellect, integrity and humility (three qualities not often seen in politics, and certainly not in tandem) make him a formidable candidate and challenge their world view. The attack even sounds, to me, a bit racist…

No people invoke the Holocaust more than people who criticize others for invoking the Holocaust. It is as if a group of Jews (usually, liberal journalists) have assumed the responsibility of being guardians of the legacy of the Holocaust and only allow it to be used on their terms. For example, Mr. Prager pointed out that the former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, recently invoked the Holocaust in urging European hospitality to the hundreds of thousands of migrants from Syria and comparing them to European Jews who found no haven before the Holocaust. (The differences are staggering, of course. The Syrian exodus seems to be disproportionately young people who have chosen – perhaps wisely – not to fight for their country, they have bypassed several countries on their way to Europe, and (who knows?) might harbor in their midst an untold number of jihadists capable of wreaking havoc on the European continent or in the United States. None of that was applicable to European Jews.)

Asked whether he considered Rabbi Sacks’ statement a similar exploitation of the Holocaust, Michaelson stammered, couldn’t answer, conceded the point and tried to change the topic. In other words, invoking the Holocaust is appropriate when it suits a favored political goal but not when it supports a disfavored political goal. There is more than an element of hypocrisy in that.

But on the substance, can it be plausibly argued that Ben Carson was wrong?  The facts are that Jews were disarmed before the Holocaust, that Jews in Europe who wished to fight were severely handicapped by a lack of weapons, and the most frequent request from partisans was not for sympathetic editorials or eulogies in liberal publications – but for weapons, the more the heavier the deadlier, the better. Can anyone reasonably assume that the Nazis would have been able to round up Jews in town after town, city after city, with little resistance, if Jews had been armed? It is so obvious that it beggars the imagination that any reasonable person could challenge it.

Would an armed Jewish community have been able to prevent the Holocaust? Probably not, although it certainly would have changed Hitler’s calculus. That, too, is obvious; if it would have made no difference to him, he would not have made the effort to disarm all Jews. And all Dr. Carson said was Hitler’s ability to accomplish his goals would have been “greatly diminished.” Exactly which part of that is “anti-Semitic, immoral and disgusting”? Indeed, one can cogently argue that, given our history, advocating for gun control that limits the access of Jews to weapons for self-defense is “anti-Semitic” and “immoral;” others can decide whether it is also disgusting.

In essence, Michaelson attempted to underscore his support for gun control by invoking the Holocaust – and Godwin’s Law – beating to the punch anyone who would try to draw lessons from the Holocaust about the elementary right of personal self-defense. That is as exploitative of the Holocaust for personal and political use as anything that has evoked the same criticism.

In the end, the radio conversation veered into a general discussion of gun control because Michaelson was unable to show that Dr. Carson’s contention was “anti-Semitic” (itself a bizarre accusation), “immoral,” or “disgusting.” He was game enough to be interviewed and take the heat, but without apologizing for his vitriol or hyperbole. (He should also retract the contention in his article that the Second Amendment does not protect individual gun ownership. Not only did the drafters perceive such but the Amendment’s long legal history has also vindicated that reading, to the chagrin of liberals. Try to amend the Amendment, if you wish, but don’t read into it what is not there.)

On that note, Michaelson tried to invoke the Israel experience where gun ownership is widespread but much more regulated than in the United States. One need only look at the recent Arab savagery in Israel and the number of Jewish civilians armed with weapons who are first responders at the scene of Arab terror to realize gun ownership is both widespread and useful. (Of course, Israel could really benefit today from “knife control” legislation, as knives kill and maim, and little is done to prevent their proliferation among the Arab population. After all, it’s never the people who are responsible for their actions, it’s the weapon, or the sellers of the weapon…)

Michaelson got a fair hearing and, of course, is entitled to his opinions. Would that he granted the same to others!  But Jews should not be so promiscuous in flinging accusations of Jew hatred against people they despise for their conservative politics, or really anyone who is not an actual Jew hater. So, too, not every invocation of the Holocaust merits rebuke or we will not be able to learn anything from or apply any lessons of the Holocaust. That itself – the tendency to deny the relevance of the Holocaust to anything – is itself a form of Holocaust denial. Of course, Holocaust references can be abused, and the Holocaust is sui generis as an historical event, but the Holocaust can also be instructive as to man’s capacity for evil, the dangers of passivity in the face of that evil, the relentless hatred of Jews that persists in many quarters, basic human rights including the right of self-defense (a right that, even today, makes much of the world and many liberal Jews extremely uncomfortable when practiced by Jews) and man’s responsibility towards his fellow man.

Too much time and energy are wasted on trying to prevent the last Holocaust, when our efforts should focus on preventing the next one right now in the planning stages in Iran, among the jihadists and other enemies of Israel.

To criticize Dr. Carson – a lover and keen supporter of Israel and the Jewish people – on these grounds is outrageous and deserves repudiation. He wrote yesterday in the Jerusalem Post: What I do know however, beyond any shadow of a doubt, is that I never intended for my words to diminish the enormity of the tragedy or in any way to cause any pain for Holocaust survivors or their families.” What his political opponents – and this is what it is all about – are touting as an apology is nothing of the sort but actually just an expression of his elementary decency as a human being.

It is just one of the characteristics that those same political opponents – especially including Jews – would do well to learn from him.