The Fly in the Coffee Cup



What happens when a fly falls into a coffee cup? Here’s a list of responses:

The Italian  throws the cup and walks away in a fit of rage

The Frenchman takes out the fly, and drinks the coffee

The Chinese  eats the fly and throws away the coffee

The Israeli sells the coffee to the Frenchman, the fly to the Chinese, then buys himself a new cup of coffee and uses the extra money to invent a Device that prevents flies from falling into coffee.

The Palestinian blames the Israeli for the fly falling into his coffee, protests the act of aggression to the UN, takes a loan from the European Union for a new cup of coffee, uses the money to purchase explosives and then blows up the coffee house where the Italian, the Frenchman, and the Chinese, are trying to explain to the Israeli why he should give away his cup of coffee to the Palestinian

Isn’t it amazing how the United Nations is sponsoring “war crimes” against Israel because of their incursion into Gaza?

Yet, while all this is going on, the UNRWA schools continue to be used as military bases to attack Israel. The latest death of a four-year old Daniel Tregerman, who was killed by a Gazan rocket as he was playing in his living room is one of the newest deaths produced courtesy of Hamas and the United Nations.

The  IDF is reporting that the Hamas mortar that killed 4-year-old Daniel Tragerman today was fired from near an UNRWA school being used as a shelter in Gaza.

How strange it is indeed. One of the reasons why the United Nations was created was to ensure that no more genocides would ever occur in the world again. Yet, as the latest Gaza-Israeli war has shown repeatedly how the United Nations Relief & Works Agency for the Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has become an active combatant in the war to destroy all Jews living in Israel.

Rocket stockpiles have been found in many schools that is supposedly under their control. When the UN inspectors become aware of it, they hand the weaponry over to the local police. One would think they would confiscate the weapons and send them out of the country to be destroyed.

Their inept policies reveal a profound disregard for human life.

Then again, the war against Hamas has also demonstrated how the UNRWA supplies and building materials found in Hamas’s tunnel infrastructure, have been used to smuggle weapons and carry out terrorist attacks against Israel. When Hamas missiles backfire and blow up hospitals and schools, yet, Israel is to blame.

Way to go, United Nations. You’re batting a thousand!

To date, the UNRWA has yet hold any individuals or organizations responsible for placing the weapons stockpile within a children’s school.

And guess who is paying for the UNRWA? You guessed it, the American taxpayer.

President Obama’s animus toward Israel shows how lopsided his foreign policy has been when it comes to the battle against terrorism, a word that the President prefers not to have in his political lexicon.

It is time to acknowledge the simple and obvious truth. Whenever Hamas uses the United Nations schools in Gaza as rocket arsenals, the President says nothing. Whenever Hamas beast Gazans who try to escape after being warned by the IDF, the President says nothing, The IDF discovered that Hamas was planning a large-scale attack of Israeli kibbutzim on Rosh Hashanah, and yet,  the President says nothing.

Mayhem, mass kidnappings don’t seem to register on the Obama Richcter scale, Although he said many times that Israel has the right to defend itself, he really didn’t mean it. In the grand scheme of things, the UNRWA and the President are both enablers of Hamas.

No truce is going to solve this problem unless the UN and the Western Nations demand and supervise the demilitarization of Gaza once and for all. As it stands, the UN’s complicity makes it a primary accessory and is responsible for much of the mayhem that has occurred in this conflict.

Michael Brown: Judaic Perspectives on the License to Kill


I have been on vacation for the greater part of this past week. While I was away, I listened carefully to the news about a variety of social and international problems I will be addressing within the next several days.

As details of the Michael Brown murder become  known in the news, the race riots  continues in Ferguson.  One witness who was walking with Brown at the time said that the victim raised his hands in the air and did not struggle with or provoke the officer. He said that the officer then fired multiple bullets into Brown’s head and chest. Of course, we do not know all the facts of the incident and everyone deserves a presumption of innocence until the court determines what really happened. In the meantime, the subject is relevant from a rabbinical perspective. We will briefly discuss some of the issues that might be relevant to this case.

Do people have a license to kill a potential slayer?

Let us consider the following case:

  • If a thief is found breaking in, and is beaten to death, no bloodguilt is incurred; but if it happens after sunrise, bloodguilt is incurred. (Exodus 22:2-3)

The laws of breaking and entering go back to ancient times. In days where there was minimal artificial lighting in peoples’ homes, the sound of someone breaking into a house in the middle of the night was bound to create anxiety in the hearts of a family. Since the homeowner could not discern the intent of a thief, he was forced to assume the worst. When a homeowner hears a person breaking into his home, he does not have the luxury of time or light at his hands. He must act to protect his family, his property and himself. The fact the intruder used such an unconventional means of entering his house is proof that his intentions are ominous. Fearful of whatever harm may befall his home, the owner is allowed to take whatever means to prevent the intruder – even murder.

  • Philo’s Perspective

One of the first Jewish thinkers to weigh in on this matter is Philo of Alexandria, who lived in the first century. His insights are exegetically and philosophically sound:

  • If anyone is so crazed with passion for other people’s wealth, sets out to take it by theft and, because he cannot easily manage it by stealth, breaks into a house during the night, using the darkness to cloak his criminal doings. The owner is justified, if he caught him in the act before sunrise, in killing the trespasser in the very place where he has broken in. Though actually engaged on the primary but minor crime of theft, he is prepared if need be to commit the major though secondary crime of murder. If anyone tries to prevent him, he will defend himself with the iron burglar’s tools that he carries along with other weapons. But if, after the sun has risen and is shining upon the earth, any one slays a robber with his own hand before bringing him to trial, he shall be held guilty, as having been guided by passion rather than by reason, and as having made the laws second to his own impulses. I should say to such a man, “My, friend, do not, because you have been injured by night by a thief, on this account in the daylight yourself commit a worse theft, not indeed affecting money, but affecting the principles of justice, in accordance with which the constitution of the state is established.”[1]

In other words, according to Philo, two wrongs do not make a right. Even though the homeowner has been robbed, he is not allowed to take the law into his own hand. Justice must prevail.

  • The Targum’s Interpretation of Exodus 22:2-3

According to the Targum Neofiti (which predates Onkelos by nearly 400 years):

  • “If a thief is found breaking in and is struck and dies, there shall be no sin of shedding innocent blood for him. If the sun has risen upon him, there is for him the sin of shedding innocent blood.

The Torah did not sanction killing the thief during broad daylight was because the thief purposely chose a time when he knew the homeowner would be away at work; nor he did not expect to be apprehended nor did the thief ever have the intention to kill the homeowner for that same reason.[6]

Following in the footsteps of the Mekhilta and Onkelos, Rashi rendered the verse as “If the sun shone on him, there is liability for his blood,” he explains that this passage also has a metaphorical meaning as well.  One scenario includes the case where witnesses surprise the burglar prior to the owner’s arrival. Alternatively, it may refer to a scenario where witnesses warn the owner not to kill the thief, but does so anyway. Since there are witnesses that the burglar has no intent of taking human life, it is obvious he will not kill the property’s owner. If the homeowner knows “as sure as daylight” that his intruder has peaceful intentions, e.g., his father happens to be the burglar or vice versa, then killing the intruder is considered an immoral act. In the event this occurs, the homeowner is culpable of murder.

  • Maimonides’ Guidelines

Maimonides writes in his famous legal code that the owner that since the thief is prepared to kill the owner if he should resist him, the Torah considers the thief to be a “pursuer” (“rodef”) and the owner is legally justified in killing regardless of the thief’s age or gender.[2]

Elsewhere Maimonides writes:

  • The thief’s intention is obvious from the outset. The thief knows that if the house-owner should tries to prevent him from stealing his property, he is prepared to kill him. Therefore, it is lawful for the house-owner to kill him.  The law would be the same whether the thief enters by the way of the court, or roof, rather, the Torah mentioned only one kind of scenario because of its frequency.[3]

However, in v. 3, the license to kill is not carte blanche for if the breaking and entry occurred during the daytime, it is much easier to make a clear determination as to whether the intruder’s intentions are benign or dangerous. In addition, by calling out to his neighbors who are awake to assist him in preventing the crime from occurring.[4] The Targum of Onkelos also seems to have supported this reading. If a thief broke into a house during the daytime hours, there were witnesses “whose eye fell upon him,” i.e., the witnesses warned the owner not to kill the thief, and he still went on to kill the intruder, the witnesses could testify in a court against the homeowner who would be tried for unlawful homicide.[5]

However, Maimonides limits this metaphorical perspective and argues that the law permits the homeowner to kill  the burglar applies even if the homeowner did so in the daytime. [7] This case assumes that the owner was acting only in self-defense. As one might expect, issues pertaining to self-defense and the use of force are not always so obvious. Maimonides adds that if the homeowner used excessive force and killed the intruder, the owner may even be guilty of murder![8]

Given the numerous complex scenarios that could unfold, Maimonides also noted that if the homeowner killed the thief as he was leaving the scene with his property, or if he fled without taking anything, the homeowner is guilty of murder. Similarly,  if a person broke into a garden, or a field, or a pen or corral, the intruder may not be killed   – even if the intruder was still located within the vicinity which he broke into – in all of these cases, if the homeowner killed the intruder – there is bloodguilt and he will be tried for homicide.[9]

Maimonides further adds:

  • Different rules apply with regard to a thief who stole and departed, or one who did not steal, but was caught leaving the tunnel through which he entered the home. Since he turned his back on the house and is no longer intent on killing its owner, he may not be slain. Similarly, if he is surrounded by other people, or by witnesses, he may not be killed, even if he is still located within the domain that he broke into. It is obvious that if he is brought to the court, he may not be killed.[10]

The rational for Maimonides’ decision is clear. If a thief  broke into the house, he knows that the owner has a reasonable chance of capturing him. Therefore, to prevent his capture, the intruder is prepared to kill him. This is not the case when the thief breaks into an open enclosure such as a corral to steal cattle or sheep. The thief knows that the owner will have little chance of apprehending him. In such cases, it is clear the thief did not come with the intention to kill.[11]

Lastly, Maimonides specifies the particulars regarding how someone ought to handle someone who is deliberately endangering the life of another person, one is required to give the victim a verbal warning.

  • If the pursuer was warned and continues to pursue his intended victim, even though he did not acknowledge the warning, since he continues his pursuit he should be killed. If it is possible to save the pursued by damaging one of the limbs of the pursuer, one should. Thus, if one can strike him with an arrow, a stone or a sword, and cut off his hand, break his leg, blind him or in another way prevent him from achieving his objective, one should do so. If it is impossible to ensure precise accuracy, then the defender is entitled to slay the pursuer, even though he has yet killed his intended victim. The reason for this is because the verse plainly states, “When two men are in a fight and the wife of the one man, trying to rescue her husband, grabs the genitals of the man hitting him, you are to cut off her hand. Show no pity” (Deut. 25:11-12).  There is no difference whether she grabs “his private parts” or any other organ that imperils his life. Similarly, the pursuer may be a man or a woman. The scriptural passage makes it clear that whenever a person intends to strike a colleague with a blow that could kill him, the pursued should be saved by “cutting off the hand” of the pursuer. If this is unavoidable, the victim should be saved by taking the pursuer’s life, as the verse continues: “you must show no pity.”[12]

  How any of these details will pertain to the Michael Brown murder remains to be seen, but Jewish tradition has grappled with problems like the one we are observing in Ferguson, Missouri.




[1] Philo, Spec. Laws 4:7-9.

[2] Rashi went even further in his commentary than Maimonides “This is not considered murder. It is as if he (the thief) had already been dead. Here the Torah teaches: if someone comes to kill you, kill him first. This thief came with the intention of killing you for he knows full well that man cannot control himself while seeing his property being taken from him, and remain silent. Therefore, it is foregone conclusion that most people will do anything within their power to resist—even slay the burglar, if need be ( BT Sanhedrin 72a). Rashi seems to imply that when the Torah says the intruder who breaks in at night, the Torah considers it as though  “he has no blood,” i.e., he is already considered dead. Maimonides does not seem to have accepted that opinion for even in such a case, it is not a foregone conclusion that the owner should kill the intruder, but rather he may kill him.

[3] Maimonides, Commentary on the Mishnah, Tractate Sanhedrin 8:6.

[4] As noted by Ra’avad (Abraham Ibn Daud). This view has been championed by Rashbam; Ibn Ezra; and Saadia Gaon. See Nachmanides’ interpretation of Onkelos.

[5] R. Tzvi Meclenburg argues that Ibn Daud is not necessarily contradicting the view expressed by the Mekhilta, rather, he maintains that the simple meaning of the text does have practical Halachic significance.

[6] Ibn Daud’s gloss to Maimonides, MT, Hilchot Genevah 9:10.

[7] Maimonides, MT, Hilchot Genevah 9:12.

[8] Maimonides, MT, Hilchot Genevah 9:10.

[9] Maimonides, MT, Hilchot Genevah 9:12.

[10] Maimonides, MT, Hilchot Genevah 9:11.

[11] Maimonides, MT, Hilchot Genevah 9:7.

[12] Maimonides, MT, Hilchot Rotseah u’Shmirat Nefesh  1:7-8.

Moral Confusion in the White House


In a number of recent news reports, we have heard the White House blast Israel for flagrantly killing children, mothers, and the sick. This past Sunday, Face the Nation featured the senior White House advisor Valerie Jarrett said that Israeli attacks on Gaza schools and hospitals were “indefensible.”

“This is why the ceasefire is so important,” Jarrett said. “It’s a devastating situation. Israel absolutely has the right to defend itself, and we are Israel’s staunchest ally. But you also can’t condone the killing of all of these innocent children.” “I think everyone involved is frustrated,” Jarrett said. “But you can’t let your frustration get in the way of trying to be a constructive player here, and that’s what [Obama’s] determined to do.”

These tunnels extended well into Israeli territory, and confessions of many of the captured Hamas Jihadists spoke about a 9/11 type of massacre scheduled for Rosh Hashanah, where thousands of Hamas terrorists would capture as many Jewish children and families, as they inflict a crippling blow to Israel. John Kerry reminds me of a Rodney Dangerfield personality. He gets “no respect” from Israel. Could that be because he said that Hamas is allowed to keep their terror tunnels?

Who is designing our country’s foreign policy? Kafka?

One would think that Janet Garret would have said, “Indefensible!” but this was hardly the case. Still, as we speak, the US Embassy has canceled tourist visas for Israelis coming to the United States. For all the 75% or more members of the Jewish community, do you not see anything wrong with this kind of stigmata the Obama Administration has imposed?

While there are about 30-40 tunnels, each of these tunnels costs about one million dollars each. Obama just sent to Gaza forty million dollars. No, he didn’t send food or medical supplies, he sent money. Ask yourselves an obvious question: How does he expect Hamas to spend that money? Does anyone really think Hamas will spend it on theme parks or museums and more hospitals?

Hamas has converted the entire country of Gaza into one colossal human shield. Why doesn’t Obama or Kerry ever condemn the United Nations for allowing their buildings and schools to be transformed into arsenals?  Why are the President and his quislings taking a “neutral” stand regarding this conflict? Why don’t they say, “Beating innocent civilians to remain as human shields instead of leaving their homes is morally indefensible?”

Obama’s DHS has members of the Muslim Brotherhood serving in the US government. You can be sure that the Muslim Brotherhood is doing their best to help their followers in Gaza, who all admire the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS.

Then again, what about the numerous ballistic reports that prove that many of the hospitals have been hit by Hamas missiles that misfired into the hospitals and schools?

If we want to be honest about war, there has seldom ever been a war where innocent people don’t die. Just ask the Japanese in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Just ask the Afghani people immediately after 9/11, when the United States imposed a media blackout as American planes destroyed over 5000 innocent Afghanis.

No, the Israeli army’s moral standards towers above our own country here in the United States.

Does Israel have a right to defend itself? You better believe it. If President Obama and Janet Garret led the Allies against the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese army, you can be sure that the bad guys would have won.

War is not for the squeamish. Its cost in human lives is horrific so that bellicose nations will think twice about waging war in the future.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other moderate Arab countries are sick and tired of seeing Hamas out of control. They are worried about ISIS and Iran. As we speak, we are watching a dramatic realignment of regional powers, where once warring nations with Israel have paradoxically become allies (in an unofficial manner).

How should the President act? He should look at Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as an example of a leader whose moral compass is intact. Harper said, “Self-defense is “not merely an Israeli right” to be exercised only in the abstract, but an “Israeli obligation” that must be defended by all Western nations.” He added further, “Canada calls on its allies and partners to recognize that these terrorist acts [by Hamas] are unacceptable and that solidarity with Israel is the best way of stopping the conflict. . . Canada mourns the death and suffering of innocent civilians in Gaza. Responsibility rests solely with Hamas and its allies, who launched and continue to feed this crisis,’’ he said .

Harper also rejects outright calls coming from both the White House and the UN that Israel must agree to a negotiated ceasefire with Hamas. “Not only should Israel not agree to a ceasefire, says Harper, Israel should continue her offensive until the Iranian-backed terror group is ‘massively degraded,’ if not eliminated entirely. Indiscriminate rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel are terrorist acts, for which there is no justification.”

That is how an ally of Israel ought to behave.

PS, Happy Birthday Mr. President. Please use this new year of your life to do what is right and noble–defend Israel.

Frankenstein’s Monster Redux: The Creation of a Muslim Caliphate

Maimonides raises a relevant question about the nature of repentance in his famous halachic tract, The Laws of Penitence, “How do we know whether a person has truly achieved repentance?  If a person finds himself in the same situation where he now has the ability to sin in the same exact manner he did earlier, but he consciously refrains from doing so—not because of fear or ability,  but from conviction—that person has truly repented. For example, if a man had an illicit sexual liaison with a woman, and later, they found themselves at a private place, in the same country, feeling the same sexual chemistry—but he refrains from giving in to his desire, this person has repented.[1]

As Jews, the American Jewish nationalist, Meir Kahane (1932-1990) famously coined the iconic phrase, “Never Again!” and this saying has become a part of every Jew’s lexicon. The State of Israel in particular, lives by this motto as well. Jews will never allow themselves to go like lambs to the slaughterhouses again.

My father, Leo Israel Samuel (z”l) was a Holocaust survivor and he once told me about conversation he had with Amon Leopold Goeth (the infamous villain of Schindler’s List), the  commandant of the Kraków-Płaszów, Poland. He told some friends, “The Germans taught the Turks how to kill the Armenians . . . .” My father was there while they had this conversation; he worked for a short time as his tailor; and he asked Goeth, “Who were the Armenians?” Goeth sneered, “The Armenians were a type of Jew . . .”

Goeth’s sardonic remark ought to remind us that when it comes to the genocide of any people—“We are all Jewish,” in a manner of speaking.

As the world watches the never-ending saga of the Israeli and Gazan conflict, civilized countries of the world are looking away from a very serious genocidal attack that is taking place in one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, the Assyrian Christian population of Mosul, Iraq, which is now controlled by ISIS. A couple of weeks ago, the Islamic Jihadists issued the following ultimatum: If they did not leave by July 19th, they would all have to convert to Islam, pay a fine, or face death by the sword. Within a few days, 3000 of the Assyrian Christians fled, while the Jihadists began their systematic destruction of all the ancient Christian relics that the country proudly kept on display during the Hussein era. A statue of the Virgin Mary outside of one of Mosul’s churches was destroyed and was later replaced with a black flag. This Christian is one of the last left in Mosul, as most others have fled, many leaving with only the clothes on their backs.

Jihadist Islam’s behavior is consistent with what Jihadists have done many times in the past. In Jerusalem, the Mufti routinely destroys any archaeological relics regarding ancient Israel’s past. In 2001, the Taliban destroyed 1,700-year-old sandstone statues of Buddha with anti-aircraft and tank fire in Afghanistan. There is a good reason for their destructive actions: they wish to permanently change the narrative of the non-Muslim peoples; like the prescriptions found in the Bible, where Moses orders the Israelites to destroy every remnant of Canaanite culture, the Jihadists are a lot like ancient Israelites on steroids. Hegel once said that “Islam was Judaism gone mad,” and while we may find this language somewhat politically incorrect and provocative, I would qualify Hegel’s remark, “Jihadist Islam was Judaism gone mad.” Nobody has a problem with law-abiding and ethical Muslims who go about their business in a responsible way; the world’s problem is with the Jihadist strand of Islam—and its followers are legion. Heads of Christians are literally rolling down the streets of Mosul and other cities. Unfortunately, the moderate Muslims of the world are a quiet breed; they fear to speak out because of the dangers their families would face.

What is happening in the ISIS controlled sections of Iraq and Syria is a template for other countries where Jihadists threaten the “Sunday people” in addition to the “Saturday people.” General Sisi saved the Coptic communities of a similar fate in Egypt, when the Muslim Brotherhood—a kissing brother of the Hamas—threatened to wipe out one of the oldest Christian communities in the world going back nearly 1900 years.

Why should Jews be concerned? What is happening to the Christians can easily happen to the Jews if the United States, the Vatican, and the Western countries fail to stand up to the newest incarnation of Nazism of our time—fueled by the some of the most fanatical passages of the Koran, who interpret their scriptures quite literally.

When the President asked for 500 million dollars to support the Syrian Rebels, maybe somebody forgot to tell him that the Syrian rebels have joined forces with ISIS.

Obama’s support of the Rebel/ISIS coalition in Syria ought to make us wonder: Why would anyone in the White House want to see a new Islamic caliphate emerge in the Middle East? The President has several members in his DHS who are members of the Muslim Brotherhood,[2] a known terrorist organization that is also the godfather of Hamas. One of the DHS senior advisers is a man named Mohammed Elibary, who is also a member of the Muslim Brotherhood (a Sunni movement) who supports the emergence of a new Muslim caliphate[3] in the Middle East.[4] I suspect that his advisors encouraged the President to allow the ISIS (another Sunni movement) to arise so that it might serve as a counterweight to the Shiites of Iran. These two groups would be in a perpetual state of war with one another. While tactically, this might be the case, it is also a reckless policy could just as easily backfire against everyone. Why? One reason is that there are unintended consequences that we must anticipate. Dr. Frankenstein wanted to find a way to help people overcome death, but in his zeal for success, he created a monster. We may well be watching a similar story unfold in the Middle East today.

In the meantime, the moral and political leaders have a role to preserve the precious and peaceful Christian communities who have always lived in peace with their neighbors. We owe history much for their existence and preservation. As Jews, can we watch another genocide take shape and  say or do nothing about it? I hope we will show the world that we will not stand by the blood of our fellow Christian neighbors as the fanatical Jihadists assault civilization and return us back to the decadent centuries of an early Islam.

[1] Maimonides, MT Hilchot Teshuvah 3:1.

[3] In one tweet, Mohamed Elibiary, a controversial figure and member of DHS’s Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC), discussed what he described as the “inevitable” return of a Muslim caliphate Friday on Twitter. “As I’ve said b4 inevitable that ‘Caliphate’ returns,” Elibiary tweeted in response to a question about the terror group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (also known as ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham), which is currently seeking to overthrow the Iraqi government and instate strict Sharia law in the country. See