Wisdom from the Septuagint: Do Not Blaspheme Gods

Translations of the Bible often reveal more about a translator’s world view than they do about the actual text. Once we decipher the context, a translation reveals something that is hidden to the reader.

This is especially the case with respect to one of the more straightforward passages pertaining to the laws of blasphemy found in this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Mishpatim. The verse that is relevant to this passage reads, “You shall not revile God… (Exod. 22:28).

Blasphemy, you say? Blasphemy laws have been out of vogue for centuries. The U.S. Constitution as defined by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press . . . .”

Just imagine what our country would be like if critics of religion like Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Cristopher Hitchens had not offered their sharply worded barbs against religious and iconic people and the institutions they represent.

Arguably, blasphemers may actually provide a necessary public service in helping us correct the excesses of religion. If nothing else, the critics of religion keep us honest and accountable. Lampooning religious beliefs whether in the press or at gatherings is considered fair game. Anyone attempting to limit free speech is guilty of censorship. Moreover, this applies to all faiths. The government has no right to get involved in cases involving real or imagined attacks upon any given religious doctrine.

Yet, as straightforward as this position might be, Jewish history has sometimes taken a different perspective. Toward the beginning of the Common Era, Jews found themselves living in a world that was full of graven images; their neighbors believed in a pantheon of deities. The scholars who translated the Septuagint deliberately subverted the biblical law.

Their textual reading reflected a very different understanding about the nature of blasphemy—one predicated upon a philosophy of expedience and Jewish survival “You shall not revile gods…”

Not only is blaspheming God a sign of extreme disrespect, so is blaspheming the gods of other peoples. Anyone reading this might wonder: Wait a minute, the Bible is famous for its polemics against paganism and idolatry. How can the translators of the Greek Bible ignore this fact?

Philo offers an important explanation, “Since the entire inhabited world is full of statues and images, and similar constructions, it is most prudent for us to refrain from speaking insultingly of these national deities, lest any of Moses’ disciples fall into the habit of treating lightly the name “god” in general, for it is a title worthy of the highest respect and love. Philo was not the only one who felt this way. The first-century Jewish historian Josephus echoes Philo’s words, “Let no one blaspheme gods whom other cities believe in, nor rob foreign temples, nor take a treasure that has been consecrated to some god.”

Why did these thinkers take a view that almost inverts the meaning of the biblical verse? We know from the story of Purim how dangerous anti-Semites can be to a Jewish community struggling to survive in the Diaspora.

Any Jew disrespecting a pagan belief not only endangered himself, he also endangered other members of the Jewish community. In Alexandria, during the first century, over 50,000 Jews were murdered by anti-Semites. Jewish life in one of the most dynamic and ethnically rich ancient cities proved dangerous at times.

Jewish history bears witness to this sad historical reality—even as we see it today unfold in our communities.

When we think about the recent vandalism that we have witnessed in Jewish cemeteries, threats to blow up JCC’s in our country, Jews in the United States have been complacent for a very long time. We have enemies on the far right, as well as enemies who are on the far left. Hating Jews has become fashionable in some circles.

Whether from the right, or from the left, Jews still have plenty of enemies who seem to be coming out of their hiding places. Hating Jews, Zionists, and Israelis seem fashionable in certain places—especially on the university campuses.
As the vanguard of Western democracies, Jews often meet stiff resistance from those on the political right. In hard times, everyone loves a scapegoat—enter the Jew.

A week ago, the Forward featured an article about the comedian Sarah Silverman who on more than one occasion said, “I hope the Jews did kill Christ…I’d F_cking do it again in a second.” Granted Silverman is a comic, and a mediocre one at best (in my opinion), but her thoughtless comments can infuriate certain Christians who may have a latent hatred toward the Jew.

As a minority people, we have had more than our fair share of enemies threatening to kill us and complete the job started by Hitler in the early 20th century.

As Jews, we have often been our own worst enemies. Pogo famously said, “We have seen the enemy and he is us.”

Anti-Semitism is a lot like a virus; it may remain dormant, but sooner or later it will awaken and explode. The words of the ancient Jewish thinkers of the first century offer us some practical advice. Don’t exacerbate hatred by making thoughtless insults about another person’s religion. In addition, the laws against blasphemy remind religious people not to behave in a manner that inspires hate, ridicule, and revulsion.

Judaic wisdom from the Hellenistic era offers a sober prescription for the modern world.

*
Rabbi Samuel is spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Shalom in Chula Vista.  He may be contacted via michael.samuel@sdjewishworld.com

Trump’s Missed Opportunity…

Image result for pictures of president trump inauguration

 

This past Friday, the world witnessed a peaceful transition of power in our country. Indeed, it is the kind of event we ought to be celebrating regardless how we may feel about the new President being elected.

In North Korea, Muslim theocracies, and in other totalitarian regimes, the citizenry can only dream of having an open democratic election. The clergy certainly added a rich evangelical flavor to the program, as church choirs that might have made a number of people of other faiths feel awkward.

Many colleagues of mine do not feel comfortable when a minister invokes “…In Christ’s name, let us say ‘Amen’” and I would imagine that Muslims probably felt uncomfortable not seeing an Imam add his prayers in Allah’s name. A Buddhist, Hindu minister might have given a broader appeal to the event.

It is true, many Evangelical Christians helped to propel Candidate Trump to victory, and in all probability, President Trump is appealing to his religious base. I think it is also a sign that he plans to move the country in a more traditional religious direction where it will no longer be politically incorrect to wish somebody in December, “Have a Merry Christmas…”

In many ways, I think the politically correct culture (a.k.a. PCC) is responsible for the ascent of President Trump. Political correctness reigned supreme for the past eight years and a sleeping giant arose in this past election that finally proclaimed, “Enough already!” Whether you like it or not, President Trump is President Obama’s legacy.
Still, regardless of our political orientation, I do think President Trump deserves a chance. As Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said in his invocation, “All of us should pray for [Trump’s] great success, because his great success means our great success.” I am certain that many liberal-minded Jews probably felt Hier was endorsing Trump was wrong. Still, we need to see how he is going to govern. Many conservatives had to accept the results of Obama’s election results, and that is how a democracy works in our country.

Hope springs eternal—even in politics.

Nevertheless, I wonder: Why didn’t any Muslim Imam or spokesperson participate in the preliminary prayers? It is true, some members of CAIR objected to Reverend  Franklin Graham, who has a been an outspoken critic of militant Islam. Perhaps a number of Imams might have been asked, but they refused. To some degree, I can understand their reluctance.

Now it is true that in the National Prayer Service that took place soon afterwards on January 21, Imam Mohamed Magid took his place among other faith groups at Washington National Cathedral at a service in honor of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.  His credentials are impressive. Magid is the executive director of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center and former executive director of Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

But as the respected Clarion Project noted, of all the Muslims to speak at this event, Magid (a nice Jewish name!) was the wrong Muslim to offer his prayers. As Meira Svirski observed:

  • In September 2014, Magid endorsed a letter opposing the Islamic State terrorist group’s tactics, but endorsed sharia governance’s brutal hudud punishments, the recreation of a caliphate and the Islamist doctrine of gradualism. The letter also implied that journalists that are viewed as dishonest are acceptable targets for violence.  Declassified FBI memos reveal that ISNA was identified as a Brotherhood front as early as 1987. A 1988 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood document states ISNA is part of the “apparatus of the Brotherhood.”  A 1991 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood document, which says “its work in America is a kind of brand jihad in eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within,” lists ISNA as the first of “our organizations and the organizations of our friends.”

And just in case you may not know, the Muslim Brotherhood is an international terrorist group that is the creator of HAMAS and has murdered thousands of Coptic Christians in Egypt.

Simply put: President Trump made a strategic error and chose the wrong Muslim.

As a far better alternative, he might have chosen Dr. Zudhi Jasser who has advocated a separation of mosque and state and spoken against the ideology of “political Islam” or Islamism. Jasser has written for prominent newspapers such as The Dallas Morning News, The New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Times.

Better still, Dr. Tawfik Hamid is an author from Egypt. He used to be a member of the militant  “JI” (al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya of Egypt) with Dr. Ayman Al-Zawaherri who later became the second in command of Al-Qaeda. After being radicalized in the JI (approximately thirty-five years ago), he had an awakening of his human conscience, recognized the threat of Radical Islam, and started to teach modern peaceful interpretations of classical Islamic core texts. He is famous for saying, “By faith I am a Muslim; by spirit, I am a Christian; by heart, I am a Jew, but above all, I am a human being.”

Dr. Tawfik Hamid is also a personal friend of mine on Facebook. We briefly spoke about the omission, and I asked him what he thought of my observation that this was a missed opportunity. He wrote back to me:

  • MLS: Hi there, I think President Trump made a mistake not asking you or Zudi Yasser  to give the benediction. It would have made a very powerful statement to the world. The world needs to hear that there are champions of Islam who wish to see democratic change where civil rights and democratic principles are respected.
  • Do you have any thoughts on this?
  • TH: I agree with you…fully!
  • MLS: I hope Trump welcomes President Al-Sisi to speak to him about the changes he is trying to make in Egypt. He has called for a Muslim Reformation
  • TH: I hope too! I believe a lot of things will happen….I pray for President Trump to lead the US and the World to the better…He is a great man and Al-Sisi is also a great person….Many thanks for sharing your thoughts with me.

Imagine how the Muslim world would have responded… This might have been one of Trump’s finest moments, but it was not meant to be—at least for now.

Although this was a missed opportunity, I believe when President Al-Sisi comes to the United States to speak with President Trump, this meeting could set in motion the Muslim Reformation that Muslims really need. The world is counting on President Trump to help shepherd the world in this positive direction.

*
Rabbi Samuel is spiritual leader of Temple Beth Shalom in Chula Vista, California.  He may be contacted via michael.samuel@sdjewishworld.com



[1] http://www.clarionproject.org/analysis/trump-chooses-wrong-imam-natl-prayer-service

[2] http://www.mzuhdijasser.com/about/

[3] http://www.tawfikhamid.com/

Rediscovering Philo of Alexandria Vol. 5 on Deuteronomy–Book Review by Rabbi Israel Drazin

 

Rediscovering Philo of Alexandria: A First Century Jewish Philosopher
Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel has made a significant contribution to philosophy in general and Philo of Alexandria in particular. Samuel knows Judaism well and is an expert on the first-century philosopher Philo. This is his fifth very informative volume on the pioneer philosopher Philo. With this book, he has completed his collection of Philo’s ideas on all five books on the Pentateuch.

His series on Philo is a much needed contribution to the understanding of the Bible. Samuel drew Philo’s ideas from the wealth of this philosopher’s exegetical comments and arranged them according to biblical verses. He gives readers a very readable translation of Philo’s own words and adds extensive easy to read explanatory notes, which frequently include opinions about the subject being discussed from modern scholars, the writings of rabbis in rabbinical literature, Christian theology, Greek, Roman, Jewish, and non-Jewish philosophers and historians such as Plato, Aristotle, Maimonides, and Josephus. As a result, readers get a multi-dimensional understanding of the biblical text.
He includes an informative sixteen-page introduction to Philo’s life and thought, about the book of Deuteronomy, a general discussion of how Philo treats this fifth book, the structure of Philo’s Special Laws, thoughts on when Judaism began to actively proselytize, the Jewish temple of Onias vs. the temple in Jerusalem, and much else. Who was Philo?
Philo (about 20 BCE to about 50 CE) of Alexandria, Egypt, is one of Judaism’s great philosophers. The noted scholar Harry Wolfson wrote in his book Philo that Philo was the first Jewish philosopher who “contributed anything new” to Jewish-Greek philosophy.

Philo’s philosophy is based in large part on the somewhat mystical opinions of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato (about 428 to about 348 BCE). About forty books that Philo wrote still exist. His books are, in essence, a collection of intelligent sermons and commentaries in which he explains the Bible very frequently from an allegorical perspective.

Philo was convinced that the Bible should be understood on two levels. The first level contains its literal or plain meaning: words mean what they say. The second is an underlying or allegorical layer, which requires alert intelligent readers go beyond the obvious and delve deeper into the text. Philo used allegory to interpret virtually everything in Scripture, including names, dates, numbers, and events. Philo’s opinion of allegory was that although parts of the Torah are not literally true, they should be understood metaphorically or allegorically, and they transmit truth by these methods, often truths that can be applied to other situations.
In this book, for example, commenting upon the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments), Philo explains why the last command prohibiting coveting is the most grievous and harmful passion to oneself and others. Samuel tells us of the numerous scriptural references that support Philo’s point: David’s covetous desire of Bathsheba, Ahab’s of Naboth’s vineyard, the prophet Elisha’s servant Gehazi who desired a handsome reward for Elisha’s healing of Naaman, and more; and Samuel compares these biblical teaching with the Greek myth of Tantalus, gives the teaching of Ecclesiastes, Maimonides, Abraham ibn Ezra, and much more, all on this one issue.
Samuel tells us about Philo’s explanations of the divine names, how the Greeks handled divine names, how the Jews copied the Greeks in translating God’s names in the Bible, the discussion on the subject by the scholar Harry A. Wolfson, and more.

He informs readers about the Greek Historian Hecataeus who visited and wrote about the Temple of Jerusalem around the fourth century BCE. We read also the understanding of Philo, Maimonides, Josephus, and others opposing augury (divination); and Samuel includes a fascinating story about a Jew Mosollamos who proved that augury does not work. Samuel tells Philo’s explanation on how Moses could have written about his death and compares Philo’s idea to the one in the Talmud. He explains why the order of the Ten Commandments is different in the Greek translation called Septuagint and in Philo than in the Hebrew Bible. He gives the metaphorical interpretations of the Shema in Philo, Rashbam, ibn Ezra, and biblical scholarship.
These few examples show the scholarship contained in Samuel’s book, scholarship presented in easy-to-read English, information that will fascinate and inform Samuel’s readers.

The Downfall of Abimelech and Hillary Clinton

Image result for Abimelech in Judges death images

 

The Book of Judges speaks of a time of great social chaos in the generations leading to the formation of the ancient Israelite monarchy. The author of Judges bluntly says, “In those days there was no king in Israel and every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 21:25). Although we view each of the judges in a favorable light, there is one judge in particular, whose ruthless will to power stands apart from all the rest.

His name was Abimelech, the son Gideon and his Canaanite concubine (Judg. 8:31). His father Gideon was a remarkable leader, respected by everyone. The people even offered him the opportunity to become monarch, and like George Washington would later do after him, he refused.

But Abimelech was different—different indeed! After the death of his father, Abimelech (with his mothers’ help) killed his seventy brothers by hiring thugs to execute his closest of kin. Only Gideon’s youngest son, Jotham, survived, but the people of Shechem made Abimelech King of their community (Judg. 9:1-6). After a peaceful reign of three years, the author of Judges pointed out that God did not allow Abimelech’s numerous crimes to go unpunished. Autocratic dictators like Abimelech will always attract men like himself, who will do anything to quench their bloodlust for power.

Abimelech’s men split from him and pledged fealty to a man named Gaal, and asked him to take over as their leader, while Abimelech was absent. Fortunately for Abimelech, his commanded Zebu managed to repell the revolt against Abimelech’s authority.  Meanwhile, in another nearby battle where Abimelech and his men were attempting to conquer the city of Thezbez, something totally unexpected happened.

  • Abimelech came up to the castle and attacked it. As he approached the entrance to the castle to set fire to it, a woman threw a millstone down on his head and fractured his skull. He called hurriedly to his young armor-bearer and said, ‘Draw your sword and dispatch me, or men will say of me: A woman killed him.’ So the young man ran him through and he died  (Judg. 9:52–55).

The Book of Judges often loves to show how God ironically  shapes the events that unfold in its stories and historical narratives. In ancient times, the millstone was used to grind corn. This ordinary household kitchen appliance was not unlike today’s toaster.  Abimelech realizes the humiliation he has endured, “What could be worse than be killed in battle by a woman?” So he does his best to save face, and he orders one of his own men to kill him. Nevertheless, his downfall is preserved in Israel’s sacred memory.

Abimelech’s political ambitions remind me much of Hillary Clinton’s political will to power. Often described as a Teflon politician, fewer people in modern American history have been able to dodge as many pitfalls and scandals like Hillary Clinton. Her willingness to use any means to obtain political power is reminiscent of Abimelech. Mysteriously, many of her critics and potential adversaries miraculously died before they could bring her any political harm.

Like the robot from the first Terminator movie, Hillary Clinton is relentless. This past week alone, we learn how CNN fired Donna Brazile, the interim Democratic National Committee chairwoman for allegedly sharing questions with the Clinton campaign before a debate and a town hall during the Democratic primary, and has accepted her resignation. CNN said they felt “completely uncomfortable” with hacked emails showing that former contributor. Despite the countless scandals listed in the WikiLeaks, nothing seems to deter her.[1]

Readers should not forget how Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was fired as the head of the DNC  because she and her cronies sabotaged the Sanders campaign[2]. After the Wikileaks exposed her, she resigned immediately afterward. Within a day, Clinton hires Wasserman-Schultz was hired to work in her campaign. Rarely do we see in society such unethical behavior rewarded, unless your name happens to be Hillary Clinton. If Hillary is willing to resort to foul play and sabotage the congenial Bernie Sanders, what do you thing she would do to her enemy Donald Trump?

The real question I find myself asking: What won’t she do to achieve her objectives?

Oct. 18th, two top Democratic strategists left the presidential campaign after explosive undercover videos showed them conversing about voter fraud and their roles in planting paid agitators at campaign events for Republican candidate Donald Trump. Robert Creamer, founder of Democracy Advocates and the husband of Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky, Illinois Democrat, both stepped down from the campaign Tuesday,[3]  one day after Scott Foval was fired from his post as national field director of Americans United for Change. Note that Creamer met with President Obama during 47 of those 342 visits, according to White House records. Creamer’s last visit was in June 2016.[4] Just in case you did not know, Creamer is a convicted felon.

If a man is judged by the company he keeps, what does that say about our President and Hillary Clinton? This is obviously embarrassing to the President and Hillary for good reason. What we see is a culture of corruption that is systemic and needs to be condemned by all people who believe in the integrity of our democratic elections.

Relentless, Hillary is so close to winning it all, she will not let anything get in her way. “Not now, not ever”

Then out of the blue, the ignominious Anthony Weiner, perhaps out a desire to either protect himself from Hillary’s fabled wrath; or out of a desire to get even with his wife Huma for divorcing him, produces over 650,000 emails that nobody expected existed. Whatever may have been on these files forced FBI Director James Comey to reopen the case given the gravity of the case against Hillary and her loyal legionaries.

But wait, there is still more!

The hacking group,  “Anonymous” promises they have many more new revelations that will keep our nation entranced as we watch the latest episodes of the Clinton Soap Opera, Season 2.

Does this story have the same irony as the biblical Abimelech story of Judges? Who would imagine that man named Weiner, a disgraced politician and suspected pedophile, might bring down the invincible Hillary Clinton. The story has an element of paradox, does it not?

What both stories illustrate is one important theological point worth remembering. God often uses weak and fallible people to achieve His purpose in punishing wayward and unethical and ruthless individuals. If Hillary indeed loses the election, Antony Weiner may well go down in history as the man who changed the course of American history.

You could even say, it is Hillarious.

Does God have a sense of humor? In both Yiddish and German, there is an old Jewish proverb, Der Mensch trachtet und Gott lacht. (דאָס עפּעלע פֿאַלט ניט ווײַט פֿון ביימעלע)”– Men plan and God laughs, or as the comedian, Woody Allen expressed it, “If you want to make God laugh tell him about your plans.” I personally prefer, “What man proposes, God disposes.”[5] This aphorism may well be a fitting epitaph for the political career of Hillary R. Clinton.



[1]  http://www.politico.com/blogs/on-media/2016/10/cnn-severs-ties-with-donna-brazile-230534#ixzz4OmUta1nY

[2] http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2016/07/debbie_wasserman_schultz_fired_as_dnc_chair_on_eve_of_philly_convention.html#ixzz4OmZfj5KI

[3] http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/oct/18/undercover-video-shows-democrats-saying-they-hire-/

[4] http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/10/19/robert-creamer-okeefe-investigation-fame-visited-obamas-whitehouse-340-times/

[5] Thomas à Kempis,  The Imitation of Christ by the German cleric Thomas, Book I, chapter 19.

A Rabbinic Commentary on Trump’s Tallit

Image result for trump wears Tallit image

 

This past weekend, Detroit pastor Bishop Wayne Jackson draped a tallit around Donald Trump’s shoulders at service. What was the Jewish reaction? Well, that takes us to the rest of the story that I am about to tell you.

Most Jews I know are probably confused about seeing Donald Trump wearing a tallit. Some of my congregants said, “He looks ridiculous!” Another said, “Non-Jews are not supposed to wear a tallit!” One old friend of mine from San Francisco reacted with righteous indignation: How dare these Christians co-opt our religious symbols and heritage!

One Conservative Rabbi, named Danya Rutenberg twittered: “You guys, a Jewish prayer shawl–a tallit–is a ritual garment. Meant to be worn only by Jews. This is the worst kind of appropriation,” Conservative Rabbi Danya Rutenberg wrote on Twitter. She also called the move “disrespectful” in subsequent tweets. “Yes, my people also suffer cultural appropriation,” Twitter user Andy Rivkin added.

Let us flip this question on its proverbial head: What if Bishop Jackson had given the tallit to Hillary, or Barak Hussein Obama to wear? Would our reaction as a community be the same? In all candor, Rabbi Rutenberg would probably qvell and wish Hillary or Obama a hearty, “Yashar Koach” with  raucous applause–especially if she were in the picture!

One question that most people haven’t asked yet is, “Why do some Christian evangelicals insist upon wearing a tallit in the first place?” Some Christian evangelical ministers I know have told me that they wear the tallit because Jesus wore a tallit in the first century during his ministry.

Interestingly, one of the oldest references to the wearing of tsitsit outside the Talmud or Midrashic literature can be found in the Book of Matthew, where Jesus criticized some of the Pharisees of his day, “They perform all their actions to be seen by men. They broaden their phylacteries; they wear outsize tassels” (Mat 23:5). Yet despite Jesus’s criticism of what he felt was a gaudy display of religious piety, Jesus wore tsitsit (Mat. 9:20). Evangelicals often feel that more of their people should try to practice the Judaism that Jesus practiced in his day, so that they may become more like him. A lot of evangelical ministers actually sound the shofar at the beginning of their services.

Frankly, that’s not a bad idea.

Their motivation in my view is not a sign of disrespect, but actually a sign of respect that we should all admire. Evangelicals believe that by blessing the people of Israel, they too will be blessed:

 Those that bless you I will bless,

those that curse you, I will execrate.

All the families on earth

will pray to be blessed as you are blessed.’

(Genesis 12:3).

The phenomenon of Christian Zionism has proven to be a tremendous source of moral and financial support for our brothers and sisters living in Israel. Orthodox rabbis like Shlomo Riskin heaps praise upon the Evangelical community every Christiams. Palestinian merchants too are glad to see these Christian pilgrims as well. During the war with Hezbollah, one of my Reform colleagues from Illinois felt deeply moved when he saw the number of Born-Again Christians and evangelicals travel to Israel in the middle of the war to assist the country any way they can.

Are they not infinitely superior to the self-righteous Presbyterians, Methodists, and  the United Church of Christ who often demonize the State of Israel in their weekly Sunday services?

Beyond that, in praise of the Evangelicals, I will go one-step further.

It is this writer’s opinion, if Christians wish to observe certain Jewish customs, they have every right to do so, moreover such a view is actually well-attested in traditional rabbinic sources.

Now some of you might be surprised to know that the Talmud speaks about Gentiles following Jewish traditions.

In one Talmudic passage, the King Arteban of Persia one day sent a gift to Rabbi Judah.  The gift was an exquisite and quite expensive pearl.  The king’s only request was that the rabbi send a gift in return that was of equal value.  Rabbi Judah sent the Persian king a mezuzah. King Arteban was displeased with the gift and came to confront the rabbi.  “What is this?  I sent you a priceless gift and you return this trifle?” The rabbi said, “Both objects are valuable, but they are very different.  You sent me something that I have to guard, while I sent you something that will guard you.”[1]

What kind of protection was Rabbi Judah alluding to? The divine Name Shaddai is written on the back of every mezuzah. Shaddai is an acronym “Shomer Dalatot Yisrael” “Guardian of the Doors of Israel” and not people like King Arteban!

One might wonder: What good is sending a mezuzah to a Gentile King who is not a member of the “Jewish tribe”? Yet, the Talmud seems to suggest that just because a non-Jew is not obligated to observe Jewish rituals, if he did observe Jewish rituals, he certainly receives a reward for doing so! Non-Jews are not necessarily excluded from observing Jewish traditions–contrary to Rabbi Rutenburg.

Maimonides makes a remarkable point in his Mishnah Torah, for he writes: We do not prevent a non-Jew who wishes to perform one of the Torah’s mitzvot in order to receive a reward for doing so—provided that he performs it properly.[2] Unfortunately, Maimonides was not always consistent in this regard, for Torah study is meant for Jews only—not non-Jews.[3] He also felt the same about non-Jews wishing to observe the Sabbath.[4] Despite some old rabbinic attitudes that prohibit non-Jews from studying Torah, in practice most rabbis will probably acknowledge that non-Jews (often along with their Jewish spouses) are certainly permitted to study Torah in a synagogue class.

In practice, most Jews are open-minded when it comes to inviting non-Jews to a Passover Seder, a Bar Mitzvah, or a Shabbat service. Even Chabad invites gentiles to light a menorah during Hanukkah!

Perhaps most importantly, how can perspective proselytes know how to observe the mitzvot if we do not grant them access to much of our sacred traditions?

In short, during the medieval world, positive and respectful Jewish-gentile relations were rarer than they are today. When Trump received the tallit from Bishop Wayne Jackson, instead of getting irritated, we should feel proud that Trump gladly donned the tallit. We should feel the same whenever anyone in the non-Jewish community wishes to show respect to our faith and heritage.  Sometimes in our zeal to be “self-righteous” we often demonstrate a lack of broad-mindedness and generosity of spirit.  Only God knows what is in the hearts of mortals, and we would be wise to recognize that everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt.

 


[1] JT Peah 1:1; 15d.

[2] MT Hilchot Melachim 10:10.

[3] BT Sanhedrin 59a. Cf. Tosfot on BT Hagigah 13a s.v. Ein.

[4] MT Hilchot Melachim 10:9.

We Need an Islamic Reformation–NOW!

Credit: Catholic Charities/Jeffrey Bruno (CC BY 2.0).

Reformations are good for the soul. They keep the religious leaders and faiths in check. In the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, people began to read the Bible critically for the first time without having the local priest spoon-feed it to  them while they sat on their Church pews. Of course, the spread of literacy made a huge difference—thanks to the Gutenberg’s printing press. It impacts these technological innovations can probably be compared to the impact that computers and digitalization of literature are having on our society today. The Reformation underwent numerous schisms. Lutherans, Calvinists sprouted up everywhere, and the Baptists were not far behind. Pietist movements, Reformers created enormous conflict—even wars between the Catholics and the Protestants, as recorded in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, written by John Foxe in 1563; he narrated the tortures Catholics and Protestants did to one another in lurid detail.

Yet, Europe managed to survive its birth pangs of a new and more tolerant Christianity. The Catholic Church no longer dominated people’s lives. People wanted not just the freedom of religion, but also yearned for the freedom from religion.
While Orthodox Jews lament the birth of the Reform Movement in Judaism, the Jewish Reformation led to many significant changes that even the Orthodox movement benefits from having. For example, the Bat Mitzvah is one example of a change (introduced by R. Mordechai Kaplan of the Reconstructionist Movement) that is widely observed even in some of the most Orthodox Jewish communities—all over the nation. Often, young women will read to a mixed audience from the Megillah on Purim, or from Megillat Ruth on Shavuoth. These are dynamic changes we have witnessed in our time. The emergence of woman scholars in Halacha threatens to expand the discussions concerning traditional Jewish texts such as the Talmud. A woman’s voice is not only heard at the traditional Orthodox Shabbat tables or at the young women’s yeshivot, women are adding their voice to the formation of modern Halacha.

So what about Islam? Is Islam ready for a Reformation within its own ranks? As outsiders, do we have the right to encourage and even demand that Muslims consider this option and take the steps to implement it?

President Sisi of Egypt is a remarkable man in the Arab world.  He says it best last December when he urged reform of Islamic discourse and called on Islamic scholars to send Christmas greetings to Christians. In the televised speech to Islamic scholars, President Sisi stated, “We talk a lot about the importance of religious discourse… In our schools, institutes and universities, do we teach and practice respect for the others?” He continued, “We neither teach or practice it.”
Egyptian Streets quoted President Sisi during the speech, stating, “God did not create the world for the ‘ummah’ [Arabic for ‘nation’ or ‘community’] to be alone. [He didn’t create it] for one community, but for communities. [He didn’t create it] for one religion, but for religions.” President Sisi continued, “Can I impose upon someone pressure, physically or morally, to change their religion? Would God accept this?… What are we afraid of? Are we custodians of people’s minds or choices? No, we are not. In religion specifically, no. Each of us will be judged independently… and [people] will have to answer [for their choices and what they choose to believe].” [2]
To admit that Islam needs a Reformation might sound like heresy, but without it, not only will Islam as a religion completely implode, it may implode the rest of the civilized world along with it.
While there have been relatively peaceful relations between Islam and the West, there have been atavistic forces within Islam that wish to relive the good old days of the 7th century.
In Europe, we are witnessing retrogressive religion at its worse attempting to bring back the burqa, rape squads, sexual slavery advertised on the Internet and Twitter of thirteen year-old girls. The violence of atavistic Muslim young men who enslave and gang rape young girls continues to be ignored by the press. If you turn on your television, chances are you will not see progressive women march down the streets of Berlin or Paris, Stockholm or London protesting in mass against the seventh-century male mentality that defines considerable part of today’s Muslim world, who wish to make Sharia the law of the West.
Many Muslim countries are very concerned about the radical Islamicists that promote Sharia and ISIS, and a host of other arcane early 7th century Muslim practices—such as child weddings, female circumcision, stoning married women who cannot produce four witnesses that she was raped.
The apathy  or moral indifference of these crimes against humanity stem from their craven fear of being labeled “Islamophobic.”
There is nothing “racist” in criticizing the origins of religious intolerance in Islam, for Islam—like Judaism and Christianity—are predicated upon a belief system and is not based upon color.

The bully pulpit of the Presidency is remarkably silent whenever it comes to criticizing Islamic abuse of women and religious minorities faced with genocide. Yet, the progressive voices who could make a difference are deliberately silenced.

Sister Diana Morneka is probably a name you have never heard of before. She is a Catholic nun from Iraq who wanted to come to the United States to speak about the persecution of women and religious minorities of her country. One would think that the United States of all countries would allow this courageous champion of human rights to come and speak to our Congress, yet, inexplicably, our State Department will not give her a visa.
“Sister Diana represents tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians, forced to convert or die or flee their homes. She’ll tell us the truth about what’s happening,” U.S. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) told the Catholic News Agency (CNA) May 7.  “Like thousands of other Christians in the region, Sister Diana is a victim of ISIS,” Collins said in a May 5 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry. “She has devoted her life to helping other victims and advocating for them.”
Ayaan Hirsi Ali has won numerous human rights awards for speaking up for women’s rights in Muslim countries. In 2004, she collaborated with the artist  Theo van Gogh (before some radical Muslims killed him) who produced a film called, Islam, which documents the oppression of women living under Islam. She is one of many moderates calling for a Reformation in Islam. Ali has also won numerous awards in various European countries. Yet, she has yet to be invited by the Congress or by the President.
If we want Islam to embrace a 21st religious sensibility, then it behooves us to add our voices demanding that such a change take place. Denying the voices of progressives who have lived or grown up in Muslim countries only serves to keep Islam locked up in the shackles of the 7th century.
Isn’t it about time that our President start inviting progressive voices like Zahudi Yasser, President Sisi, Ayann Hirsi Ali, or Sister Diana to the White House to help present an image of Islam that is introspective and self-critical? These are the kind of voices our country needs to hear, instead of gangster rappers, or people like GloZell, who eats cereal out of a bathtub.
As moral people concerned about the human condition, we need even at the risk of being called “politically incorrect,” to address the issue of modern day Islamo-fascists threatening Christians, Yazidi, and Jewish lives in the Middle East today. Just the other day, an Iranian general boasted how Iran has over 100,000 missiles aimed at Israel.
Why in the world would we ignore their threats to complete the job started by Hitler?
Yes, we need an Islamic Reformation—and we need it now!

*

Rabbi Samuel is spiritual leader of Temple Beth Shalom in Chula Vista.  He may be contacted via michael.samuel@sdjewishworld.com. Comments intended for publication in the space below MUST be accompanied by the letter writer’s first and last name and by his/ her city and state of residence (city and country for those outside the United States.)

God is NOT Fixing this ….

 

It isn’t every day I come across a theologically provocative new story headline like the  New York Daily did this morning in the terrible aftermath of the mass shooting that took place in San Bernardino, California—which claimed the lives of fourteen people, while injuring over twenty.

The headline said, “God isn’t fixing this,” which referred to the many lawmakers who offered up their prayers for the victims, but failed to act when it came to enacting stricter gun control laws. The article listed a number of tweets from the various GOP presidential candidates, where each of them “offer their prayers for the victims.” The article neglected to mention how President Obama himself, offered his prayers for the victims and their families.

Gun violence is a complicated issue.

I have always felt that some of the gun laws need tightening. More psychological background screening is a good thing, provided it can prevent unhealthy people from obtaining firearms—especially weaponry such as the Kalashnikov AK-47, which is more of a military weapon used in the battlefields. The idea of a homeowner utilizing such a weapon in the home has always seemed rather odd to me. For someone like Rambo, well that’s different. To the President’s credit, he ceded that these changes will not prevent every act of gun violence, but it may prevent some incidents from occurring. Ethnic profiling here in this case might have also prevented Syed Rizwan Farook  from obtaining the weaponry he used. It certainly works for Israel, and it can work for our country too.

Sadly, political correctness may have contributed to this terrible tragedy.

What was the gun merchant really thinking when he sold Syed Rizwan Farook the weaponry he used? The careless gun merchant contributed to the unlawful and criminal violence that occurred. The Torah emphatically stresses, “You shall not insult the deaf, or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but you shall fear your God. I am the LORD” (Lev. 19:14). As Martin Buber notes, “The fear of God” is not the fear of punishment. Whenever the “fear of God” is used in Scriptures, it always denotes the reverence for life. Every gun merchant should have this biblical passage enshrined on the walls of his shop.

While I strongly believe the President has every right to use the bully pulpit to promote new laws concerning gun control, it is important that even more important that  the President walk his talk for justice demands consistency and fairness. Operation “Fast and Furious” scandal is a grim reminder that providing guns to Mexican drug cartel leaders proved to be a dubious and dangerous operation, which ultimately led to the deaths of Mexican civilians as well as the death of the United States Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed December 2010 with these weapons. This affair was so scandalous that the Justice Department demanded documents related to the scandal from Attorney General Eric Holder, who refused to cooperate, resulting in Holder becoming the first sitting member of the Cabinet of the United States to be held in contempt of Congress on June 28, 2012. The President himself, embarrassingly, invoked executive privilege for the first time in his presidency[1]  over the same documents.[2]

Of course, banning such weaponry does not necessarily prevent a person from getting one. As we have seen in the past, where there is a will, there is also a way. Although I find myself differing with the President on most of our country’s national and international issues, I think there is room for a creative compromise for everyone to compromise.

From the theological perspective, Paul Tillich teaches us a valuable lesson worth considering. Too many times, we imagine that God is a “Cosmic Bellboy,” or “Santa Claus (in keeping with Christmas spirit of the season), who bestows all of our wishes and desires. According to Tillich, nothing can be farther from the truth.

Jewish prayer concurs with Tillich’s point.

Jewish mystics teach us that, “Blessings from above descend never descend into a vacuous space” (Zohar I, Genesis 88a). In other words, everything we ask for from God demands that we make a corresponding vessel to receive that blessing.

If we wish to prevent gun violence, we must find ways to tame the human spirit. Passing laws for, or against gun control will mean very little, unless we also make an effort to distant ourselves from violent thoughts, violent words, and violent deeds. While the Hollywood community tends to be outspoken about the importance of gun control, it is counter-productive for these same actors and actresses to promote violent films that enshrine violent attitudes with images that show no reverence for human life.

Prayer in Jewish tradition is not merely a rote recitation of words; it is contains a recipe and a prescription on how we must manifest God’s mercy and justice in the world. Kabbalists have often said that the shapes of the four letters of  God’s Name “YHWH” resembles that of a human being. The image of God that our Creator has endowed each of us with is a reminder of how each of us participates and partakes of God’s divine nature and Being.

Ergo, “God isn’t fixing this” may be a more appropriate name for a headline than the writer might have imagined. However, the word for “prayer” “Tefilah” actually derives from the word to be “self-reflective.”

None of us is so high and mighty to take these issues to heart and in the spirit of shalom, find compromises to a vexing problem that everyone can live with. Maybe then, we will prove worthy enough for God to answer our prayers.



[1] Jackson, David (June 20, 2012). “Obama claims executive privilege; Holder held in contempt”. USA Today. Retrieved June 22, 2012.

[2] John Parkinson,. (June 20, 2012). “Committee Votes Attorney General Eric Holder in Contempt of Congress After Obama Asserts Executive Privilege”. ABC News. Retrieved June 22, 2012.

Why Liberal Jews Should NOT Ignore the Genocide of Christians and Yazidis….

A distraught father in Syria holds the lifeless body of his decapitated daughter, executed by milita

Recent discussions on the Internet deal with the moral question concerning asylum for Syrian refugees. This issue is especially a matter of concern for the European countries as well.

More specifically for Jews, is the comparison between Syrian of today and the German Jewish refugees analogous? In 1938, Jews of Europe had a horrific time trying to gain entry into the United States, which feared the new Jewish refugees might take jobs away from Americans who were just starting to recover from the Great Depression. With today’s struggling economy and dwindling wealth, we hear similar arguments as well.

Some politicians and segments of the population even feared that the Jews might be secretly working covertly for Hitler—of all people! Many Americans did not realize there was a genocide in Europe that the Nazis had initiated. Bear in mind, the world did not have the benefit of Facebook or Twitter, or other media outlets as we do today.

Advocates for the Syrian refugees claim that this xenophobia exists today. President Obama  argues this past week in Manila, “When candidates say we should not admit 3-year-old orphans, that’s political posturing,” he said. “When individuals say we should have religious tests, and only Christians, proven Christians, should be allowed, that’s offensive and contrary to American values.” I think the American people know more about “political posturing” than the President realizes…

From this writer’s point of view, I concur there is a real need for us bring Syrian refugees over to the United States. In fact, the analogy to the 1938 racial laws that existed in the United States may be a fair analogy—at least superficially. Understandably, Jews have a long memory for the discrimination our parents and grandparents experienced. That is fine and good.

The problem with this observation is that for the few years, the Jewish community has been remarkably blind, deaf, and dumb to the genocide of Yazidis and the Christians who are being massacred for rejecting Islam. The Yazidis are one of the oldest religious communities of the Middle East, whose faith includes elements of Zoroastrianism and some forms of the ancient Mesopotamian religions that probably preexists Islam by at least a thousand years.

In one CNN interview reported later by Catholic Online, a Chaldean-American businessman named Mark Arabo, reports “ISIS have beheaded small children and placed their heads on a stick and have them in the park.” He has begged the White House and American politicians to rescue the Chaldean-Christian and Yazidi communities, numbering at least 300,000 people who have tried to flee the ISIS invasion of their country.

We have seen ISIS instruct their children how to play kickball with Christian and Yazidi severed heads. Sometimes ISIS will starve a mother for several days, and give her a lavish meal made from the bodies of her children.

Radical Islam “almost” makes Nazism look civilized; whereas the Nazis believed they were the “master race,” Radical Islam believes they possess the “Master Religion.”

Now this is a comparison that resembles the Holocaust of 1930s and 1940s. Yet, I have not heard the demand from American Jews to do something to bring these people to safety.

So, I ask you the reader—why do you think this is so? Such a probing question is bound to elicit a number of uncomfortable responses. Perhaps many Jews don’t know what is going on in the areas controlled by ISIS. Is it possible that many of our most liberal-minded Jews don’t care to address this problem since our President has refused to come to the aid of these Christians? In other words, liberal Jewish fealty to the current Administration is more important that saving the Chaldean  and Yazidi lives. Perhaps some of our brethren do not wish to confront the dark side of Radical Islam. Denying it a name means denying it a reality. Hence, we will look the other way rather than choose to act ethically.

Historically, we made the same kind of moral mistake when we failed to confront Roosevelt for not letting Jews come in to the United States. In WW 2, we had great heroes who stood their ground and openly challenged the President to act morally.  Rabbi Eliezer Silver (1882-1968) proved to be one the greatest rescuers of European Jewry during the Holocaust. He is credited with saving many thousands of Jewish lives. Early on in 1939, Silver was one of the founding fathers of the Vaad Hatzalah (Rescue Committee), where Silver was appointed as its president. He was instrumental in rescuing the cream of European rabbinic leaders, who along with Rabbis Aaron Kotler, Abraham Kalmanowitz marched up Pennsylvanian Avenue on October 6, 1943.

While standing in front of the White House, the large Jewish entourage of over two hundred rabbis recited the Psalms and announced, “We pray and appeal to the Lord, blessed be He, that our most gracious President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, recognizing this momentous hour of history and responsibility that the Divine Presence has laid upon him, that he may save the remnant of the People of the Book, the People of Israel.”

Shortly afterward, the Jewish delegation met with Vice President Henry Wallace and a congressional delegation to make their case for European Jewry. Later, at the Lincoln Memorial, a special memorial prayer was said on behalf of the martyred Jews.  Finally, the five rabbis went to the White House to meet with the President, where the President made his famous backdoor exit rather than meeting with them. Although they did not meet with the President, the publicity of the march led to the eventual formulation of the War Refugees Board, which opened the doorway to over 100,000 Jews. When one considers how many of these survivors went on to have children–not to mention grandchildren–Rabbi Silver really saved millions of lives!

Today’s liberal Jews would never think of challenging Obama for similar reasons. And for this reason, we need responsible Jewish leaders to demand that the Chaldean Christian and Yazidi communities be granted rescue given the imminent threat of danger they face.

I feel ashamed to say that some of my rabbinic colleagues havet taken the cowardly way out. Meanwhile, the ISIS film all of their latest atrocities, adding to their heinous legacy of murder; now, they even harvest the organs while their victims are yet alive, to raise income for their murderous cause. Radical Islam is the new and improved Nazism of our time and I believe we as a Jews have a moral obligation to help the Chaldeans and the Yazidis.

Otherwise, history will remember us for the moral cowards we really are. Not only did we fail to learn any wisdom from the Holocaust, we have repeated the same mistakes made by Europe and the United States in the turbulent years of WWII.

With respect to the Syrian refugees, our first priorities ought to be directed toward, and then the women and small children. The young Muslim men need to wait their turn. They are not endangered because of religious persecution and genocide. We should follow Canada’s course of action and allow only the most vulnerable members of the Muslim Syrian population for the time being.

More importantly, we cannot allow one of the oldest Middle Eastern religious communities to be savagely slaughtered.

Purim Then and Purim Now

 

One of the interesting facets of the Purim story is the tradition of giving a Purim Torah talk during the holiday. “Purim Torah” is a humorous and often satirical way of using biblical and Talmudic narratives in a manner that is creative and imaginative—but always funny, if not carnivalesque. Purim Torah expositions may be simple or elaborate.

On one occasion I received from a friend a Purim Torah written as if it came from a page of the Talmud dealing with the debate Israelis had whether they should leave Gaza or not—replete with all the names of the political leaders written in classic Aramaic script! Like a good old April Fool’s joke, only afterwards do you  do you realize that you have been taken by surprise.

My Purim story began a couple of days ago when I had a conversation with a good friend who runs an electronic Jewish publishing company named Alex. As we were conversing, we started talking about the Purim story and attempted to find parallels to today’s drama concerning Israel and Iran, President Obama and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. The entire conversation involved considerable tongue-in-cheek humor.

Despite the comical way the Purim story is narrated, its message is deadly serious. The Jewish people have always been a vulnerable minority to immoral leaders—past and present.

My friend Alex began his exposition of Purim with the incident of Mordechai and Haman. When Haman became the viceroy, he insisted that everyone bow down to him, yet as we read in the Book of Esther, that Mordechai refused to pay any kind of homage to Haman (Esther 3:1-9). One reason given by the Midrash suggests that Haman was wearing an idol around his neck and Mordechai refused to bow lest he guilty of idolatry.[1] This might suggest that Mordechai and Haman were enemies long before Haman became the Prime Minister of Persia.

Ibn Ezra raises the obvious question: How could Mordechai endanger himself and the Jewish people for this breach of etiquette? Surely, he could have requested that the Queen transfer him to another part of the King’s Gate so that he would not run into Haman again! Alex deduced that Netanyahu behaved a lot like Mordechai, while Haman behaved much like Obama, whose Administration indicated there could be a serious chilling effect if Netanyahu wins the election that could affect Israel’s security, or the Palestinian quest for Statehood that the State Department might endorse.[2]  According to some Arab and European  newspapers, it was rumored that Obama threatened to shoot down any Israeli planes attempting to bomb Iran[3], a point that the State Department officially denied.[4]

Of course  the analogy breaks down. Obama is not threatening to kill eight million people in Israel. True, his error in judgment could indirectly lead to that result, but the real threat comes from the heirs of ancient Persia—Iran!

Perhaps Netanyahu ought to be compared to Queen Esther, who at one point breaks with the royal protocol to meet with the King in order to save her people’s lives. (I could just imagine Netanyahu dressing up in a Queen Esther Purim costume.) This exposition has some potential validity. Netanyahu also felt that the situation demanded that he go and speak on behalf of his people before the President’s agreement with Iran became a fait accompli.

Some people I have spoken with suggest President Obama might resemble the Persian King Achashverosh. In his naiveté, the king believed everything that Haman had spoken to him about the problematic Jews. This comparison is striking because President Obama appears willing to accept the Iranian claim that “using nukes goes against the teachings of Islam” [5]  despite the fact the Ayatollah Khamenei has threatened “to wipe Israel off the map.”  Former Clinton envoy Dennis Ross candidly said  that the Obama administration needs “to explain why the deal it is trying to conclude actually will prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons for the lifetime of the agreement and afterwards.” [6] Yes, Congress has a right to know, as do our Arab allies.[7]

Should we take these threats seriously? If you’re a small country like Israel, whose memory of the Holocaust is still fresh—you must take these threats seriously. One does not need nuclear centrifuges to make peaceful electricity, but one certainly needs it to make a nuclear bomb. This is alone serious enough of a problem for us to have grave doubts—the same kind of doubts that the Arab countries have expressed.

One of the 20th century’s premiere Modern Orthodox thinkers, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, was quoted as once saying  “A madman rose and articulated his intentions to destroy the Jewish people. The miracle was that we didn’t ignore him, we didn’t excuse him, and we didn’t seek to reinterpret him. The miracle was that we actually believed him and sought to do something about it, The Purim story teaches us to recognize that we have been in this situation before. So it was in days of old, so it will be today.”[8]

This exposition resonates with what we need to remember as Jews, we are sometimes oblivious to the world around us. We cannot imagine why the anti-Semites wish to destroy us for being different—whether in the past, or in the present day.

As of today’s writing, Haman’s successor, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was reportedly hospitalized and is listed in critical condition. How intriguing! Stalin also died on Purim in 1953.[9]

A Purim synchronicity? Possibly.

The last custom of the Purim holiday is to imbibe enough wine so we do not know the distinction between “Blessed is Mordechai” and “Cursed is Haman.” It would seem that for many American Jews, they cannot distinguish between a hero like Netanyahu who is trying to warn the Western world—along with most of the Sunni countries of the Middle East, against signing an inferior agreement with Iran. The political landscape has left many of us confused. We have become so intoxicated with the good life in the United States, we can no longer think what is in our people’s own best interest. The Holocaust seems for most Jews like a distant memory, as are its lessons. We tend to put too much trust in politicians from both parties rather than take responsibility for the situation of our brethren in Israel.

 

[1] Esther Rabba 7:6.

[2] http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.639832

[3] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2015/03/02/how-a-rumor-about-shooting-down-israeli-jets-caught-fire-in-conservative-media/ cf. http://english.pravda.ru/news/world/04-03-2015/129960-obama_israel_fighters-0/ See also

[4] http://www.timesofisrael.com/white-house-denies-obama-threatened-to-down-israeli-jets/

[5] See the Obama video at http://www.westernjournalism.com/obama-dont-worry-iran-nuke-religion/#vvzO7R2gePAkrv04.97

[6] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2015/03/05/dennis-ross-worried-arab-leaders-panicky/

[7] http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/26170/Default.aspx

[8] http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/02/25/why-religious-jews-see-a-parallel-between-the-netanyahu-obama-rift-on-iran-and-the-bibles-book-of-esther/

[9] http://unitedwithisrael.org/soviet-jews-saved-from-stalins-genocidal-plans-on-purim/

From Hans Christian Anderson to Barak Obama — The Emperor’s New Clothes — Redux

 

Hans Christian Anderson’s famous parable, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” tells a story about two swindling weavers who promised to make an Emperor a new suit of clothes that is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. After the swindlers present him with his suit, the Emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that he doesn’t see any suit of clothes until a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”

After the child said what was obvious to everyone but to the Emperor, the rest of the crow chimed in, “Why, the Emperor hasn’t got anything on!”  So, the Emperor shivered as he realized that everyone else was correct. However, he thought, “This procession has got to go on.” So, he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all.”

Anderson’s parable can certainly apply to what is going in the Middle East today as the United States desperately tries to conclude an agreement with Iran over its use of their nuclear program. The whole world knows fully well that Iran hasn’t a shred of moral or religious integrity. At one joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Obama addressed his ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran. According to the Supreme Leader of Iran, said Obama, “it would be contrary to their faith to obtain a nuclear weapon.”[1]

I can only imagine what the German audience must have been thinking. . .

Yes, just as the Emperor has no clothes, and neither does President Obama’s plan to make an agreement with Iran “have any clothes” either.  The agreement is nothing more than a legal fiction intended to deceive Iran’s many enemies into thinking that their thousands of nuclear centrifuges are designed solely for peace.

The Democrats’ behavior is reminiscent of the Emperor’s subjects who are too terrified to cross their foul-tempered President, who remembers every infraction or sign of disloyalty to his political reign.

I wonder: does he really expect the world to think that Iran is a shining example of a nation that adheres to the positive values of Islam?

  • Women are routinely raped and stoned  for adultery if they don’t have four witnesses to attest to their innocence.[2]
  • Christians are persecuted if they try to publically speak about their faith.[3]
  • Homosexuals are stoned on almost a daily basis.[4]
  • Iran has sentenced several juvenile offenders to death.[5]
  • The Mullahs have no respect for killing infidels like the Americans who fought in Iraq, only to be blown up by their IED roadside bombs.[6]
  • Blowing up Jews across the world in Argentina is perfectly acceptable civilized behavior for the Mullahs of Iran.[7]
  • Hezbollah leader said: “If they [the Jews] all gather in Israel it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide” and “They [Jews] are a cancer which is liable to spread at any moment. . .”[8]

If President Obama thinks we can accept the Iranian mullahcracy to promise that they will not use nuclear bombs, then we are as foolish as the Emperor who believed he was wearing a special suit—even though he was stark naked. We are also just as morally cowardly as the Emperor’s subjects who lacked the integrity to recognize the fraud that the Emperor’s assistants perpetuated against the kingdom.

Like the child of our original story, Bibi Netanyahu is the only political leader in the Western world who is not afraid to say it the way it is. Obama’s disdain toward Netanyahu was evident, as was Obama’s contempt for the people of Israel when he refused to speak to the Israeli government at the Knesset. Despite not wishing to influence the Israeli election, Obama has sent many of his minions to do precisely that—influence the Israeli elections.

The entire world owes Netanyahu a huge debt of gratitude. Let us hope that Congress—and not the President—has the ultimate say whether this proposed agreement with Iran is worth signing.

Interestingly enough,  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has considerable supportive in  Saudi Arabia. According to the Saudi daily newspaper Al-Jazirah on Monday, columnist Dr. Ahmad Al-Faraj called Netanyahu’s appearance before Congress under such circumstances “unprecedented in US political history.”

  • I am very glad of Netanyahu’s firm stance and [his decision] to speak against the nuclear agreement at the American Congress, despite the Obama administration’s anger and fury,” wrote the Saudi. “I believe that Netanyahu’s conduct will serve our interests, the people of the Gulf, much more than the foolish behavior of one of the worst American presidents. . . .Obama is the godfather of the prefabricated revolutions in the Arab world, and…he is the ally of political Islam, [which is] the caring mother of [all] the terrorist organizations,” he wrote, suggesting that any deal struck by this particular American president could simply not be trusted.

For everyone else living in the Middle East, they know exactly what is at stake here. If allowed to act with impunity, the world will see a new nuclear arms race in the Middle East that can engulf the entire world in perpetual nuclear warfare.

Our politicians who think that Netanyahu is motivated by politics, I would say, “What politician isn’t motivated by political concerns?” If that were a crime, every politician would be arrested. However, I personally believe that Netanyahu is correct here to bring this up before the final agreement with Iran becomes fait accompli. The Israeli PM is correct, “Thy enemy’s enemy is still thine enemy.”[9]

We would be wise to remember that.

[1] http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2015/02/09/obama_according_to_irans_supreme_leader_it_would_be_contrary_to_their_faith_to_obtain_a_nuclear_weapon.html

[2] http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/03/world/meast/iran-stoning/

[3] http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/Iran-Rouhani-UN-Christians/2014/03/21/id/560965/

[4] http://www.jihadwatch.org/2014/03/new-moderate-iran-executes-two-gay-men-and-hands-down-death-sentence-for-insulting-the-prophet

[5] http://www.hrw.org/news/2010/10/09/iran-saudi-arabia-sudan-end-juvenile-death-penalty

[6] Blair warns Iran over Iraq bombs”. BBC News. 2005-10-06.

[7] “Iran, Hezbollah charged in 1994 Argentine bombing”. Daily Jang. October 25, 2006.

[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hassan_Nasrallah

[9] http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/26160/Default.aspx