Betrayal and Salvation

Here in Israel, Chanuka is a magical time, celebrated as a national holiday and for the best reason: it is a national holiday. One night, I attended the lighting of the Menorah at the Kotel (the Western Wall, the remnant of the ancient Temple) and it is an incomparable experience to be present at the very location where the miracle of Chanuka occurred, just footsteps away. The previous Chief Rabbi, Rav Shlomo Amar, presided, in front of a crowd of more than 1000 people. The plaza was illuminated, alive and bustling – and Chanuka was more than the seasonal, gift-giving, party holiday it has become in America but rather an authentic expression of Jewish history before our eyes that arouses a present yearning for the rebuilding of the Temple.

The miracles of Chanuka are also being commemorated this year at a time when Israelis (and thinking Americans) see the looming specter of an emboldened jihadist Iran on the horizon. Nearly 80% of Israelis believe that this agreement will not prevent Iran’s entry into the nuclear club. President Obama’s domestic failures pale before the breath-taking incompetence of his conduct of foreign affairs that has made the world an increasingly and frighteningly more dangerous place. And there is a simple way to understand just how the Obama-negotiated accords with Iran has betrayed allies and friends, weakened America and strengthened Iran.

In one fell swoop, Obama undermined and vitiated more than a decade’s worth of UN resolutions designed to pressure, constrain and debilitate Iran. For the first time, Iran’s uranium enrichment program was legitimized, and its pursuit of nuclear weapons thereby, in effect, approved. The sanctions regime that was painstakingly assembled – garnering even Russian and Chinese approval in the United Nations – was greatly weakened. Even assuming that Iran’s economy is suffering and that such matters (to dictatorships such as Iran, civilian suffering is inconsequential), the injection into the Iranian economy of billions of dollars will enable it to survive even a re-imposition of sanctions in the future. Like the many US laws that Obama simply chooses not to enforce – his own health-care law when it suits him, its waivers and carve-outs, drug laws, immigration laws, etc., simply because he always knows better – the President has simply overridden Congress and the UN’s application of sanctions, because he knows better.

This is not merely opinion. The clearest proof is not the reaction in Israel to Obama’s betrayal, or the disgust with which the Saudis and the Egyptians feel let down by the American government. The rejoicing in Iran should be enough to give Obama acolytes pause. As Arutz-7 reported last week, the Chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee boasted on Iranian television: “After ten years, we have emerged victorious over the west. They wanted to prevent us from acquiring nuclear technology, but we have reached that point…The Americans reached the conclusion that it would be futile to continue with their policy of confronting the Islamic Republic.”

As its centrifuges continue to spin, and its uranium continues to be enriched to weapons grade level, Iran edges closer to its cherished goal of acquiring a nuclear weapon that will transform it into the dominant power in the Middle East. Try imposing sanctions (“ratchet it up…crank it up” in Obama’s tired clichés) then on a nuclear Iran, and the world will learn the power of nuclear blackmail. The greatest change in US policy is that for the first time in almost 35 years, the United States has recognized the legitimacy of the Revolutionary Government in Iran – that same regime that held Americans hostage, killed hundreds in Beirut and across the world, and has been the leading sponsor of global terror in pursuit of the propagation of the “religion of peace.”

It is chilling that this agreement was negotiated largely by Wendy Sherman, whose prior negotiations with North Korea ended with the North Korean nuclear bomb, despite all her rhetoric, the signing ceremonies and the diplomatic pieties. Talk about “failing upward.” (Sherman’s professional training is as a social worker, apparently a most useful field of study when dealing with genocidal maniacs.) After the fiasco in her previous attempts at nuclear de-proliferation, promoting her to conduct the same negotiations with Iran makes as much sense as hiring a community organizer to be Commander-in-Chief of what was the world’s major power. But that happened as well, with predictable results.

Thus, Iran retains much of its nuclear fuel – for the first time, with Western acquiescence, can continue to enrich its uranium to a grade that permits easier enrichment to nuclear grade, and has delayed its program according to intelligence estimates by roughly…two weeks. It is even unclear whether all of its facilities have been revealed. Obama has chosen to rely on Iranian good-will in allowing complete inspections of its facilities, apparently unaware of the Islamic doctrine of takkiya, which permits lying to the infidel in order to promote jihad. And as if “inspections” have been effective in the past in halting anyone’s nuclear programs. That is deadly naïveté.

All is not lost. A visiting Israeli diplomat said last week that Israel possesses the capability to deal with Iran, although ideally several countries would act in concert. Iran’s military power is overrated, hence its quest for weapons of mass destruction. But it will not be easy, nor will it be pain-free.

Which brings us back to Chanuka. At the Kotel, Rav Amar noted that multiples of seven all celebrate aspects of the natural world. There are seven days of the week, two major holidays last seven days (Pesach and Succot) and the third holiday comes after the counting of seven weeks. Chanuka is our only eight-day holiday. It is beyond nature, super-natural. It is one of the special occasions during the years when we celebrate the divine miracles that have sustained us throughout history, until today.

And as he spoke, Rav Amar pointed to the ancient Herodian stones behind him that ringed the Second Temple and said that these stones are “witnesses.” They are witnesses to what happened on Chanuka (i.e., the stones beneath the Herodian ones), witnesses to the Jewish connection to this holy place, witnesses to our faithfulness throughout the long exile, and witnesses to our return to our roots and the place where the Divine Presence is most tangible.

At that time and at that place, it was impossible not to sense that our modern crisis will also be resolved, with determination and strength, and that salvation will come to us and our world, as it did to our forefathers in those days and during this season.

9 responses to “Betrayal and Salvation

  1. The paragraph shown below is an exact quote from:
    Obama’s Iran Gamble, an article written
    by George Crowley in Geneva, which appeared in
    Time Magazine, 2013 December 9, page 32:

    The agreement, which trades temporary relief for
    Iran from international economic sanctions in return
    for limits on its nuclear program, lets Teheran off easy,
    Republicans and even some Democrats complain.

    “We have just rewarded very bad and dangerous behavior,”
    House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers told CNN.

    Republican Senator Mark Kirk said the deal “appears to
    provide the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism
    with billions of dollars in exchange for cosmetic
    concessions that neither fully freeze nor significantly
    roll back its nuclear infrastructure.”

    Spaces were added to the paragraph
    shown above to make it easier to read.

  2. After the first of the year..I fear that Obama will begin to bully Israel for major concessions..He still needs that signature accomplishment because he has made amess of everything else.

  3. Millions of Americans have looked to Barack Obama for hope and change. But it was known before the first election that he voted to leave babies to die – in the hospital – if they were born after a “botched” abortion.
    May the Jewish nation choose life in the Almighty. It is not to be found in Mr. Obama.

  4. This web site is obviously run by an Orthodox Rabbi; yet amazingly, it seems to attract many people who are not Jewish.
    Can anyone explain why?

    Experience has shown me that non-Jews who visit Jewish web sites are often motivated by a desire to convert Jews to Christianity; yet I sense that is not the motivation for the non-Jews who visit this web site.
    Would anyone care to enlighten me?

  5. This is a bull’s eye posting. The President is dangerously consistent. His feckless infidelity in foreign affairs parallels his betrayal to his country in “Health Care,” where we had “to read it to pass it,” without vetting, conversation, or informed consent. By allocating resources, poliitical agandae will determine מי ימות ומי יחיה מי בעיתו מי לא בעיתו. Politics, ie. how we run the polis/asylum, like Torah, is about moral weight, i.e. values.

    Thank God for the sanity of your post! Thank you for artiulatling this clear and present danger to our life and liberty.

    Alan Yuter

  6. `No one has a monopoly on common sense. Sadly, common sense is becoming an oxymoronic idiom. There are Jews and Christians who share a religious orientation based on traditional values. The wise person can learn from anyone.


  7. Mr. Cohen,
    I cannot answer for others, so I don’t know if this will be helpful. I don’t frequent other Jewish websites, so I can’t explain the difference that you see between those reading this and those reading other Jewish websites. Maybe it is a matter of tone, content or approach. You would best be the judge of that. I think that generally G*d doesn’t need my help converting those whom he thinks need conversion. I leave that up to him since I don’t know His thoughts on the matter. Other Christians believe they do and I cannot argue with them about that.

    As to why this blog, there are many Christians that accept as fact that Jews are God’s chosen people. For those of us that believe that, we just differ with Jews on whether the Messiah has come as described by the Prophets and what it means that He has fulfilled the Law. We often differ among ourselves on that as well. I find that from my Christian perspective, the Jewish writings I generally read are frozen in time. So my understanding is not much influenced by Jewish religious issues and trends. As a result, this blog seems to be in tune with my view of the teachings of the “Old Testament”.

    The discussions here of Jewish history. theology and current issues illuminate the difficulty of living as G*d requires. The points raised on this blog come from an orthodox perspective, are well written and insightful. They deal with universal questions of orthodoxy versus progressivism. What are my principles? Where do they originate? Which are principles and which merely opinions? How do I resist society’s pressure to conform to its norms when they are contrary to my principles? How do I act if my sect or denomination is following society’s norms and not what I perceive to be G*d’s will? I find the discussions here helpful as I work through those issues.

    Now, I have a question that I hope someone will help me with. Please correct me in any misunderstanding. Generally, I understand that Chanuka is a celebration of the re-consecration of the Temple after its desecration by Antiochus IV Epiphanes and of the light which burned until consecrated oil could be obtained. As I further understand prior to that, righteous Jews fled from Jerusalem ahead of the forces of Antiochus. Some of them were attacked on the Sabbath, refused to break the law and fight, and were slaughtered. Believing that not fighting on the Sabbath would lead to their destruction, others decided to fight against every man who came to attack on the Sabbath. The translation of 1 Maccabees that I have gives the practical reason (annihilation) for breaking the Sabbath (in their situation, I’m pretty sure I would have made the same choice). Generally, it seems to me that one of the principal lessons in the “old Testament” and in the “New” is that it is better to rely on G*d than on ourselves for our protection. (More honored in the breach by me than in the observance.) The story in 1Maccabes does not discuss any religious principle that would have permited breaking the Sabbath nor does describe any change in the relationship of the people with G*d that arose from breaking this commandment in these circumstances. Since Chanuka commemorates the results of the decision fight, I am sure there is some explanation, I just don’t know what it is. Can someone help me understand the lessons in this event or direct me to an appropriate source?

    • The short answer is that it was during the time of this revolt that the Sanhedrin formally codified that preservation of life overrides the Sabbath. The nuance added here was that this meant defending oneself and the land of Israel during wartime as well, when it is technically possible to avoid Sabbath desecration by surrendering. That surrender was deemed to be a violation of the Torah.
      Note that not everything recorded in the Book of Maccabees is authoritative, and there is no indication that they were necessarily Torah scholars.

  8. I think it comes from a yearning for Torah, especially its moral view, which resonates today with many non-Jews given the decadence pervasive in American society and culture.