Keeping Your Word: Rabbi Asher Jacobson, CIJR, Sept. 22, 2015 — One of the finest virtues we can ever achieve in our lives is when our word is our bond.
What Chapter Will We Write in the Book of Life?: Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Arutz Sheva, Sept. 22, 2015 — In 1888, Alfred Nobel, the man who invented dynamite, was reading his morning papers when, with a shock, he found himself reading his own obituary.
Driven Across Dark Seas and Hostile Lands: The Muslim Refugee Problem and Europe: Frederick Krantz, CIJR, Sept. 21, 2015— There are two key, related, and little-remarked dimensions of the current Middle Eastern migration crisis.
The Modern Left’s Moral Rot: Evelyn Gordon, Commentary, Sept. 22, 2015 — Israeli journalist Amira Hass has finally explained a mystery that long puzzled me: how the European Union manages to reconcile its policy on the Middle East with its self-image as a champion of morality, human rights, and compassion.
This Yom Kippur, We Face Apocalyptic Times: Pini Dunner, Algemeiner, Sept. 21, 2015
The Day of Renewed Partnership – Yom Kippur: Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 21, 2015
Why Do Muslims Flock to The "Evil West"?: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Sept. 22, 2015
Rabbi Asher Jacobson
CIJR, Sept. 22, 2015
One of the finest virtues we can ever achieve in our lives is when our word is our bond.
I will never forget when the business of one of our dear members deteriorated. He had the opportunity in civil law to declare bankruptcy but refused; instead, he ensured that every one of his creditors was paid in full. Understandably, his family opposed his decision, it took him six years to discharge his debts, and he suffered much loss–but his word was good as gold, and his integrity shone through.
Years later, at his funeral, the accolade showered upon him with much admiration by each of his children and grandchildren was that he was a man of true honour, a man of his word! Sadly, there are too few such great individuals today, and the inability of people to keep their commitments is a great weakness of our generation.
The Torah declares, "You must fulfill what has crossed your lips and perform what you have vowed" (Deut. 23:24). Maimonides explains, "By this injunction, we are commanded to fulfill every obligation that we have taken upon ourselves by word-of-mouth”. This is why in Jewish law a committed word is equal to a signed contract.
The most famous Biblical example of keeping a long-standing word was Moses’ taking Joseph's bones with him at the Exodus from Egypt. Centuries earlier, Joseph had extracted an oath from his brothers, saying, "When G-d will surely remember you, and you shall bring up my bones from here and take them with you.” On the day the Jews left Egypt, Moses kept the commitment to Joseph that had been made not by him, but by his ancestors; nonetheless, the Bible tells us "he (Moses) took with him the bones of Joseph"(Exodus 13:19)
In life, when we make a verbal commitment, we must abide by it. Moreover, we should not say the opposite of what we feel. The Talmud teaches that among those whom G-d hates is "one who says one thing with his mouth, while meaning another thing with his heart.” (Pesachim 113b) It is rare that we see the construction “G-d hates”. What is it about lying and being hypocritical, that elicits such a reaction? The Kabbalists understood words not as dictionary definitions, but as living entities: every word we utter is a creative force that stands with or against us.
In Genesis, we learn that all of creation was brought into existence through the power of words, (“B`asara Mamorot Nivra Haolam”) Chazal teaches, “The seal of G-d is truth” (Yoma 69b), all of life is therefore sustained by words of truth. When a person who is made in the image of G-d and is given powers that resemble the powers of the creator utilises words in falsehood, that is not only abuse of the gift but an affront to the very words that are sustaining that individual’s life.
Rabbi Yosi ben Judah said, “Let your ‘yes’ be yes, let your ‘no’ be no”. In other words, let your yes be honest, but let your no be honest too. (Bava Mazia 49a)
The virtue of keeping our word must begin when we are small children. The Talmud says one should not promise a child something, and then not give it to him, because, as a result, the child will learn to lie. (Sukkah 46b) When unfulfilled promises occur often enough, our children will eventually conclude that this is how the real world works, that even when we assure someone we're going to do something for them, there's no need to follow through on our word.
There is a great legend in the Talmud that describes a conversation that every soul has with God before descending into this world, "Tehee Tzadik Ve al Tehee Rasha", We give our word to G-d that we will strive to be righteous and not be wicked.
At this upcoming Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur let us make a resolution to keep sacred the words and commitments that we have given to our loved ones, business associates and friends. Let us learn so to lead our lives that we fulfill our pledges and vows, especially the one that our soul gave to G-d when being granted the gift of life, so that we can say, with honor, that our word was our bond.
Lieba and I and the entire Jacobson family wish for all of our members and friends to be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life and granted G-d`s favor for good health and prosperity.
Shana Tovah Umetukah
(Rabbi Jacobson is the spiritual leader of Congregation Chevra Kadisha B’nai Jacob in Montreal)
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Arutz Sheva, Sept. 22, 2015
In 1888, Alfred Nobel, the man who invented dynamite, was reading his morning papers when, with a shock, he found himself reading his own obituary. It turned out that a journalist had made a simple mistake. It was Nobel’s brother who had died.
What horrified Nobel was what he read. It spoke about “the dynamite king” who had made a fortune from explosives. Nobel suddenly realised that if he did not change his life, that was all he would be remembered for. At that moment he decided to dedicate his fortune to creating five annual prizes for those who’d made outstanding contributions in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace. Nobel chose to be remembered not for selling weapons of destruction but for honouring contributions to human knowledge. The question Yom Kippur forces on us is not so much “Will we live?” but “How will we live?” For what would we wish to be remembered?
On this day of days we are brutally candid: “Before I was formed, I was unworthy, and now that I have been formed it is as if I had not been formed. Dust I am in my life, how much more so in my death.” Yet the same faith that inspired those words also declared that we should see ourselves and the world as if equally poised between merit and guilt, and that our next act could tilt the balance, for my life and for the world (Maimonides, Laws of Repentance 3: 4). Judaism lives in this dialect between our smallness and our potential greatness. We may be dust, but within us are immortal longings.
Yom Kippur invites us to become better than we were in the knowledge that we can be better than we are. That knowledge comes from God. I remember as a student hearing a witty put-down of a brash business tycoon: “He is a self-made man, thereby relieving God of a great responsibility.” If we are only self-made, we live within the prison of our own limitations. The truly great human beings are those who have opened themselves to the inspiration of something greater than themselves.
“Wherever you find God’s greatness,” said Rabbi Johanan, “there you find His humility.” Yom Kippur is about the humility that leads to greatness: our ability to say, over and over again, “We have sinned” and yet know that this is not a maudlin self-abasement, but rather, the prelude to greater achievement in the future, the way a champion in any sport, a maestro in any field, reviews his or her past mistakes as part of their preparation for the next challenge, the next rung to climb.
Jews had a genius for spiritual greatness. Even Sigmund Freud, hostile as he was to religion in general, could not but express admiration in the last book he wrote, Moses and Monotheism, for the way Judaism produced not one charismatic figure but generation after generation of them. The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, even more ambivalent about his Jewish ancestry, wrote in his notebook in 1931, “Amongst Jews ‘genius’ is found only in the holy man.” Jews had this genius not because they are better than others – sometimes, reading the prophets, you get the impression that the opposite was sometimes true – but because they worked harder at it. The Hebrew word for serving God, Avodah, also means “hard work.”…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
CIJR, Sept. 21, 2015
There are two key, related, and little-remarked dimensions of the current Middle Eastern migration crisis. These are, on the one hand, the almost complete economic and political collapse of the Muslim societies and states furnishing the millions of desperate refugees. The second dimension of the phenomenon is the immense strains the millions of Moslem refugees are putting on the European Union countries and the notion of a unified Europe and, indeed, on the much-vexed question of a ”European” identify itself.
The migrants are coming above all from a disintegrating Syria, but also from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Eritrea, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, and other countries. Millions of refugees are already in under-funded camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, and hundreds of thousands of people fleeing Muslim failed states are risking their lives to reach Europe. For the latter (generally with more money than the refugee camp residents) their first stops after Turkey are in southern Europe (Greece, Italy, southern France, followed by journeys to points northwest(through Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Hungary to the promised lands of Germany, Sweden, and Austria. (Another route winds from Libya to France to Belgium, the Netherlands and (via Calais) to Great Britain.)
These desperate people—almost 440,000 so far this year, according to the UN–, largely young adult males but also including whole families and young couples with infants, cross treacherous waters from Turkey and North Africa to reach Italian, Greek and French ports, on flimsy boats and inflatable dinghies, often capsizing before reaching safety (almost 3,000 have already died this year). Western consciences, long dormant in regard to the refugees—in Syria, the civil war and its refugee tide is, after all, now in its fifth year–have finally been touched by the recent, tragic pictures of Ayan Kurdi, the three-year-old who drowned off Turkey with his five-year-old brother and mother.
The European Union states, wholly unprepared for the onslaught and without a common policy or enforcement mechanism, are overwhelmed. UN refugee funding this year is only 37% of the estimated $4.5 billion need; its World Food Program is 63% underfunded, and available monies for Syrian relief are only 43% of requirement; the World Health Organization stands at only 27% of need. These figures are somewhat offset by Germany, which has said it would budget $4.5 billion in 2015, and by the EU, which is asking member-=states to allocate $1.1 billion for 160,000 refugees. Even so, needs are immense and increasing, and total available funds are scarce.
Already concerned with ever-increasing and partially unassimilated domestic Muslim populations, all but Germany and Sweden have resisted taking in additional tens of thousands of migrants. (The recent emergency European Union conference, called by Angela Merkel, to spread responsibility around by assigning shared quotas to all EU states, has failed over Hungarian-led eastern European resistance.)
Remarkably, Germany, the major exception, initially announced it would admit over 800,000 migrants this year alone (1% of its population). Berlin’s motives are variously attributed, to an inherited, compensatory guilt over the Nazi period, to a sense as Europe’s most powerful state, of economic and political noblesse oblige, to an aging population’s less-than-replacement rate and desperate need for young skilled and semi-skilled labor.
Indeed, Germany’s readiness to violate the EU’s “Dublin regulations” for the orderly processing of refugee claims (registration, processing, and internment in the first country of refuge) was denounced by Prime Minister Orban of Hungary. Quickly putting up razor-wire fences to block access to the tens of thousands of migrants, even as he pronounced the need to preserve Hungary’s (and Europe’s) “Christian heritage” from being swamped by the Muslim tidal-wave, Orban blamed Berlin’s open-door policy for creating the crisis in the first place.)
While the total world refugee population has been estimated at ca.37 million, Europe currently is looking at a potential flow of several million predominantly Muslim people annually (currently, Syrian refugees constitute the lion’s share, 51%, with Afghans second at 15%, followed by Iraqis and others). When tens of thousands piled up in and around Budapest, the conservative-nationalist regime there built its razor-wire walls to shut off the flow across its territory to Austria. (Now Croatia, which initially announced it would allow transit, connecting the flow to Slovenia and hence to northern Europe, has also reneged and closed its borders, creating a crisis in the formerly “borderless” (Schengen Agreement) European Union.
Some years ago French-Jewish scholar Bat Ye’or wrote a study of Muslim immigration to France and Europe called "Eurabia". She argued that a kind of deal, explicit and implicit, between Western states and Arab regimes—acceptance of large-scale Muslim immigration in Europe in return for Western investment in the Middle East states—would change the face of the Old Continent. The result would be increasingly culturally mixed, and increasingly antisemitic and anti-Israel, European societies.
That vision has largely been realized, and in some ways even Bat Ye’or probably could not have envisioned. Who could have foreseen the total failure of the so-called “Arab Spring”, and the terrible ensuing, and ongoing, civil wars in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, and Somalia (not to mention conflicts in Nigeria [Boko Haram], Mali, Kenya, Algeria, and so on)? And how have predicted the further destabilizing impacts of the American pull-out from the region (engineered by Obama, Kerry and Hillary Clinton, and concretely sealed by the recent nuclear “deal” with Iran); of the Russian intervention in support of Assad in Syria (now radicalized by the introduction of jet fighters and tanks); and of Iran’s intervention in Syria (using Hezbollah proxies) and in Yemen.
What is truly remarkable in all this, and again rarely remarked upon, is the evident attraction of Western secular (and formally/formerly Christian) Europe to the Muslim-world migrants and refugees. It is largely the relatively educated and fairly comfortable Syrian and other middle-class migrants, who have the money for travel, food, illegal smugglers, and the cellphones which keep them in touch with one another and the families left behind…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
(Professor Frederick Krantz is Director of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)
Commentary, Sept. 22, 2015
Israeli journalist Amira Hass has finally explained a mystery that long puzzled me: how the European Union manages to reconcile its policy on the Middle East with its self-image as a champion of morality, human rights, and compassion. In one short sentence, she neatly encapsulates the moral rot at the heart of the modern multicultural left: “We don’t rate suffering.”
The great European mystery is the fact that the Syrian conflict remains far below the Palestinian-Israeli one on Europe’s foreign policy agenda, even though on both moral and practical grounds, the Syrian crisis clearly deserves precedence. Not only has it killed more than 10 times as many people in four years as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has in seven decades, but it’s currently flooding Europe with refugees and creating, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted, an even greater threat to European unity than the euro crisis.
Nor can this order of priorities be excused by claiming Western helplessness in Syria: Pundits as ideologically diverse as Commentary’s Max Boot and the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof agree that no-fly zones could enable most Syrians to remain safely in their homeland. Enter Hass, a Haaretz columnist, red-diaper baby, and disciple of hard-left theory who is best known for her radical pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel views. Two weeks ago, she published acolumn that compares and contrasts the Holocaust and the Palestinian Nakba, a term she uses to mean everything Palestinians have suffered due to their conflict with Israel for the last 70 years. She graciously acknowledges that the two aren’t equivalent, inter alia because the Nazis perpetrated genocide while Israel has done no such thing. But then she explains why this non-equivalence doesn’t really matter:
No one has the right to compare in any way the suffering of peoples and human beings, or to quantify it, rank it, calculate it … We don’t quantify. We don’t rate suffering. This, in a nutshell, is the moral abdication at the heart of today’s multicultural left: In its ostensibly noble desire to ensure that no suffering goes unnoticed or unattended, it has abandoned the very essence of morality – the ability to draw distinctions, which is essential to make moral choices.
In an ideal world, all suffering would be alleviated. But in the real world, with its finite resources of time, energy, and money, choices must be made. And there’s no moral way to decide which causes deserve priority without doing precisely what Hass deems morally untenable – rating suffering. Essentially, it requires a moral version of triage: Suffering we can alleviate merits greater attention than suffering we can’t; suffering that’s more intense or widespread merits greater attention than suffering that’s less intense or widespread; the suffering of innocents merits greater attention than the suffering of the guilty; and when these three indicators don’t all point in the same direction, they must be weighed against each other as well.
On the most basic level, we do this instinctively: If, for instance, a cop saw an attempted murder and an attempted robbery happening simultaneously, we’d expect him to focus on preventing the murder rather than the robbery. But at any level more complex than that, intellect comes into play. And the intellectual principles of the modern multicultural left dictate that, “We don’t rate suffering.”
But if so, then we have no moral obligation to alleviate the greater suffering rather than the lesser one, because we can’t determine which is which. And thus the left can justify resorting instead to a criterion whose immorality ought to be patent, but which has the virtue of being easily determinable: not how much suffering is caused, but who caused it. No moral person would deem an individual murder more or less important based solely on whether the perpetrator was, say, French or British. But it has become completely morally tenable in Europe to consider wartime deaths more or less important depending on whether they can or can’t be blamed on Israel (or America).
Since we can’t rate suffering, it’s completely reasonable for millions of Europeans to demonstrate against a war that killed 2,000 people in Gaza last summer but not against a war that has killed 250,000 in Syria. Since we can’t rate suffering, it’s completely reasonable for the Reykjavik municipality to decide last week that it will boycott Israel but not Syria or its Russian and Iranian enablers. Since we can’t rate suffering, it’s completely reasonable that when the EU’s top foreign policy official addressed the European parliament last week, her office’s website billed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as her top agenda item while the Syrian conflict didn’t even make the list. And on, and on.
In a fascinating article in The Spectator this weekend, veteran leftist Nick Cohen described “Why I’ve finally given up on the left,” sickened by the moral rot epitomized by the Labour Party’s new leader, Jeremy Corbin. But leftists like Cohen can’t combat the rot in their own camp without understanding why it has set in – the fundamental abandonment of moral calculus so aptly summed up by Hass. As a very different Israeli leftist, Amos Oz, presciently warned in June, “Anyone who cannot rank different degrees of evil may end up a servant of evil.”
CIJR wishes you an easy fast and meaningful Yom Kippur Holiday!
This Yom Kippur, We Face Apocalyptic Times: Pini Dunner, Algemeiner, Sept. 21, 2015—More and more, I am beginning to feel that we live in apocalyptic times.
The Day of Renewed Partnership – Yom Kippur: Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 21, 2015 —On Yom Kippur, we will all stand in synagogues; all of us together – but also each and every one of us individually.
Why Do Muslims Flock to The "Evil West"?: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Sept. 22, 2015—"The tragedy of the Palestinians," Jordan's (late) King Abdullah wrote in his memoirs, "was that most of their leaders had paralyzed them with false and unsubstantiated promises that they were not alone; that 80 million Arabs and 400 million Muslims would instantly and miraculously come to their rescue."