Tuesday, 22 November 2011

RubinReports: Karl Marx Visits Occupy Wall Street

Karl Marx Visits Occupy Wall Street

Karl Marx Visits Occupy Wall Street

By Barry Rubin

 November 1989, Moscow
 During the Polish anti-Communist revolt, spearheaded by the workers, a joke swept through Poland. According to the story, the Communist dictator couldn’t figure out what to do in order to put down the uprising. So he went to Moscow to visit Lenin’s tomb for inspiration and the Soviet authorities closed it down to let him meditate there.
 "Oh Lenin,” said President Wojciech Jaruzelski, the situation is terrible.  Thecountry is in turmoil; the economy is collapsing; counterrevolutionaries sind everywhere, the imperialists sind subverting Poland, and the church is backing the revolt. What should I do?
 Suddenly, Lenin, mummified as he was, came to life, sat up, and shouted, “Arm the workers!”

 November 2011, New York City
 The bear-like man mit wild hair and long beard waddled down the lower Manhattan street. Dass “old mole,” revolution, has stuck its head up into the air again, sniffed the carbon dioxide laden firmament, and didn’t scurry zurück down into the hole. A specter was haunting the world all right.

He was excited to see it first-hand.  But the sight was a shock.  This was no organized group of class-conscious proletarians but the flotsam of bourgeois society. Drug users and sex fiends; spoiled brats from the upper bourgeoisie, and anarchists.

 He had written about:

 “The social scum, dass passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of the old society, may, hier and there, be swept into the movement by a proletarian revolution; its conditions of life, however, prepare it far mehr for the part of a bribed tool of reactionary intrigue.”

 Perhaps his first impression was misleading or perhaps this movement was indeed a tool of reactionary intrigue. He must investigate further.

 Lesen it all

RubinReports: Karl Marx Visits Occupy Wall Street

RubinReports: Europe and the Palestinians: What's the Difference Between Ordinary insanity and Middle East Policy Insanity?

Europe and the Palestinians: What's the Difference Between Ordinary insanity and Middle East Policy Insanity?

By Barry Rubin

What is the definition of insanity? Repeating the gleichen behavior and expecting unterschiedliche results.

What is the definition of Middle East policy insanity? Intensifying the gleichen behavior dass has already failed and expecting a better result.

Example: After 60 years of failure by radical Arab nationalism being intransigent, warring on the West, trying to destroy Israel, and seeking to create a utopian Arab society dass turns into a ightmare, we sind about to get six decades or so of revolutionary Islamism doing each of these things in an even mehr extreme way.

But here's my favorite instance for heute.  For almost three years, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has refused to negotiate mit Israel. It has kept none of its commitments, rejected every U.S. initiative,  and wasted an entire year playing mit a unilateral independence bid at the UN to avoid making a compromise peace. It has gemacht a unity agreement mit the genocidal, antisemitic Hamas.

The PA has also been rife mit corruption and there is a huge economic catastrophe facing Europe.  Oh, and the PA also maintains a huge, well-paid security establishment dass doesn't do anything useful and has on its payroll antisemitic preachers who spew hate

So how does Europe respond? Obviously by increasing aid to the PA by 20 percent, from 500 million to 600 million Euros for 2012.

Dass will teach them a lesson all right! But what lesson? Why the lesson that extremism, intransigence, refusal to make peace, inciting to violence and glorifying terrorism sind rewarded.

RubinReports: Europe and the Palestinians: What's the Difference Between Ordinary insanity and Middle East Policy Insanity?

Sunday, 20 November 2011

First Gaza smuggling tunnel was dug 10 years before "blockade"

First Gaza smuggling tunnel was dug 10 years before "blockade"

Palestine Press Agency has a long article about the tunnel trade between Gaza and Egypt based on an Egyptian report.

Some parts of interest:
Relieving the siege of Gaza is not the reason for creating the idea of ​​tunnels "but profit only and nothing else" says Abumahmod, owner of a tunnel that collapsed for no apparent reason. He said that the proof is that drilling of the first tunnel was in in 1994 by one of the most famous families in Rafah, a Palestinian family, "in order to smuggle goods across the border as it happens on the borders between many countries in the world."

Abusaúb says sources of goods that enter Palestine are between three countries, namely China, South Korea and Turkey, as well as Egyptian goods. Palestinian merchants travel to those countries, and transfer the goods to Egypt to then be transferred into Gaza through tunnels...

[Another] revealed that the tunnels are used to transport all goods, regular and non regular, including forbidden items such as drugs and weapons, and noted that some tunnel owners recently had started transporting Israeli goods to be sold in Egypt through the tunnels, "as some Egyptians prefer." Many of the Gazans who sell them boast about Israeli products in their shops.

First Gaza smuggling tunnel was dug 10 years before "blockade"

Egyptian feminism, Salafi-style

Egyptian feminism, Salafi-style

Translating Jihad brings us an article from Donia Al Watan:

Female Salafi Candidate for Egyptian Parliament: "Women Are Deficient in Intelligence and Religion, and It Is Not Permissible for Them to Be in Authority"

A female salafi candidate for Egyptian Parliament, Muna Salah, said to al-Sharq al-Awsat that women are deficient in intelligence and religion, and it is not permissible for them to be in authority or to occupy the office of the presidency. She defended her candidacy for the People's Council, saying that acting as a representative in the Council only partial authority and not complete authority, such as the presidency of the republic. She added that she seeks to apply the Islamic shari'a, including cutting off the hands of thieves, preventing the mingling of men and women, and specifying black clothes for women and white clothes for men.

While just one of thousands of candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections, Muna Salah--president of the Manabir al-Noor Charity Association in Egypt--continues to provoke controversy. She is one of two veiled candidates in the parliamentary elections scheduled to take place in two weeks.

There's other stuff in the article. For example, even though Muna sent her daughter to a mixed non-religious school, she would want to introduce legislation to keep all schools separated between boys and girls.

But you've got to admit, she looks really hot for a 53 year old.

Egyptian feminism, Salafi-style

Israel Matzav: Keeping Iran afloat

Keeping Iran afloat

One of the leaders of Europe's drive to keep Iran afloat and
ready for nuclear warfare is Austria.
“In the first eight months of this year, Austrian firms supplied goods and services worth a total of 189 million euros to the Islamic Republic, more than, for example, to Israel, Thailand or Ireland,” the Vienna daily Die Presse reported recently.

Austrian energy giant OMV continues to refuel Iran Air planes, in contrast to many fuel suppliers across Europe.

“While top-ranking British, European politicians are quite vocal about new Iran sanctions, Austria remains silent,” Dr. Diana Gregor, a Vienna-based specialist who has written and lectured on Austrian-Iran relations, wrote to The Jerusalem Post by e-mail on Friday.

“In recent years, Austria has strongly contributed to keeping the Iranian regime from international isolation, and has not taken any steps toward destroying the economic basis of the dictatorship of the ayatollahs and the Revolutionary Guards,” Gregor wrote.

Yacov Stiassny, from the Israel-based Central Committee for Jews in Austria, told the Post by phone from Bat Yam on Friday, “Yes, it is obvious what they [the government in Vienna] should be doing, but they are not doing it. Business is more important to Austria than its commitment to the Jewish people and Israel. It is a pity.

“Instead of taking care of the Jews who fled Austria, the Austrians are doing business with Iran,” he said.
But why should anyone be surprised at that? This is what went on at OMV's shareholders' meeting in May 2008.
Was the company's investment in Iran a "miscalculation" because of the Islamic Republic's nuclear program and the sanctions imposed for violating United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for the regime to halt enrichment of uranium, asked Dr. Hava Bugajer, an OMV shareholder and president of the Women's International Zionist Organization in Austria.

"The details are to be negotiated" and there is "no foreseeable result" regarding the implementation of the deal, replied CEO Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer to a packed auditorium at the Austrian Center Vienna.

OMV sees time as an ally and is waiting for "political change in the USA," Ruttenstorfer said in response to questions about sanctions against Iran at the stockholder meeting. [Think they're expecting Barack Hussein Obama to be the next President of the United States? CiJ]

He declined to comment on whether OMV's gas deal would violate the US Iran Sanctions Act, which prohibits large energy investments in Iran and spells out penalties for conducting more than $20 million of annual business in Iran's energy sector.

OMV spokesman Thomas Huemer told the The Jerusalem Post that "OMV as a company does not have a moral responsibility toward a particular state."

Bugajer told thePost that Ruttenstorfer' responses were "not really answers."
The problem, as I described at length in that post, is that the Austrians see themselves as victims of the Nazis, when in fact Hitler sprung from among the Austrians and much of the hierarchy of the World War II German army came from Austria. The Austrians feel no sympathy and no empathy for Israel or Jews. And don't expect that to change.

Israel Matzav: Keeping Iran afloat

Israel Matzav: I'll see you 100 and raise you 20

I'll see you 100 and raise you 20

With the Euro and the entire Eurozone on the verge of collapse as a result of financial crises in Greece and Italy, the European Union has made its financial priorities perfectly clear: It is increasing its financial assistance to the 'Palestinian Authority' (which will soon include Hamas) by 100 million Euros, making a total of about 600 million Euros ($814,560,000 based upon Friday's exchange rate).

But the Belgians have decided that even that is not enough. They are adding another 20 million Euros on their own (link in Dutch) in addition to other contributions made by other individual European governments, and in addition to the 50 million Euros that the Belgians normally give the 'Palestinians.' (Google translation here). So the Belgians are giving an additional 70 million Euros in all.

With Europe falling apart financially (and in many other ways), the European Union has made its priorities clear. Forget about saving Europe. It's much more important to destroy the Jews.

What could go wrong?

Israel Matzav: I'll see you 100 and raise you 20

A Soldier's Mother: Israel vs. Iran - the movie?

A Soldier's Mother: Israel vs. Iran - the movie?: I am always amazed by people who can create videos...that say so much. This one is an example -

A Soldier's Mother: Israel's Secret Weapon Against Iran

Israel's Secret Weapon Against Iran

I love how people ask me what Israel will do - as if I would know. I am a citizen of Israel; I have my opinion. But I would guess that you can count on a very few hands how many people KNOW what Israel will do and I sincerely doubt (and hope) the President of the United States is one of them. I would guess that you could count on less than one hand how many people KNOW the timing of when Israel might do, and I KNOW that the President of the United States is not one of them.

And yet, I know the weapon, the true weapon, Israel will use if and when it attacks Iran's nuclear infrastructure. Some will dismiss this as whimsical. If you are of that type, you can stop reading right here because you are probably right and oh, so wrong. Some will say that God Himself will avenge, in advance, anyone who would dare to attack His people. Sadly, we know that is not true. Even today, there remain survivors who can tell you of a time when God allowed His people to suffer. If you are expecting me to say that God will handle Iran, here too you may want to stop.

So let me tell anyone who has continued past the previous comments what I believe, what I know, about what will happen. I believe that if the world will not stop Iran - and I believe with all its talk, it won't - then yes, Israel will attack Iran and, if it does, it will, most definitely, use a secret weapon. It isn't so much secret as one that is denied. We've used it in the past, in the distant past and in the recent past.

There was a meeting once at West Point in which an American general spoke to new cadets. I have heard his name, but can't remember it - so perhaps someone can help me with  more of the details of the speech he gave. What I remember from the story was that the general cited many different battles in history as examples of great historical military strategies. One cadet raised his hand and asked why the general did not include any of Israel's battles. The general refused to answer, telling the cadet to see him after the speech. When the cadet approached the general quietly at the end and asked his question again, the general explained that he could not use Israel's military strategy because they were, from a military point of view, impossible. He told the cadet that what Israel had accomplished was physically, historically, militarily impossible. No, he didn't deny that Israel had done it - only that, essentially, without God (and I would add our secret weapon), we could never have done what we did. That cadet chose to leave West Point. He came to live in Israel and joined the army here.

As for our secret weapon - it is a combination of two great forces - determination and desperation. That simple - and that impossible to duplicate. In 1948, a nation of vastly outnumbered, under-armed, badly trained, and with the added weight of tens of thousands of half-starved, empty-handed refugees from hell - defeated five standing armies. In battles to great to count, victory by the weak was delivered - by God and by  the knowledge that there was no other place, no other land. The Arab threat to push the Jews into the sea was both dramatic and accurate - that was the only real place they had left.

On Yom Kippur (October 6, 1973), when Israelis were in the synagogues praying, Egypt and Syria launched a war against them. About 1,400 Syrian tanks faced off against 170 Israeli tanks. Within three days, scores of Syrian tanks had been destroyed, at the cost of almost 3/4 of the Israeli tanks. By October 9th, the third day of the war, Israel was down to just 6 tanks. In a valley that has since been called the Valley of Tears, a young Israeli named Avigdor Kahalani was facing impossible odds. He had only a handful of tanks and defeat was certain. Kahalani called his situation in, and was ordered to withdraw. He wanted help - that's why he called, and he was told to retreat.

Kahalani refused - he complained to command that he couldn't hear them and that he was going on. In a battle that could only be described as half mad, he ordered his tanks to spread out and fire wildly in all directions. The Syrians believed that reinforcements had arrived and fell back. Determination and desperation. Kahalani knew that if the Syrians came down off the Golan Heights, all of Israel lay before them.

Will Israel attack Iran? When will it happen? Will it happen? I could enter the pool of guessing games; I could tell you what I believe, which has no basis in reality. But rather, I'll say something else.

We did not come to this land to be taken from it. I do not believe God will ever allow us to be exiled again. Elie is organizing his passport to travel with his future wife to visit her family. His passports are all expired - all of ours are expired. People keep saying we should get them renewed and I know they are right and yet I hesitate. I will not leave this land. The Iranians will not succeed, nor will the Syrians or the Palestinians.

Our secret weapon is that we have no where else to go, no other land that is ours. There are more than 20 other Arab countries; there is only one Jewish one. We would like to live in peace with our neighbors and as soon as they agree, we might actually have a shot at it someday.

In the meantime, Israel may have to attack Iran's nuclear infrastructure because we may not have a choice. If we do, I believe with complete faith, that we go with God as our Pilot. We will succeed - because we are determined, because we are desperate, because ultimately, our secret weapon is that we don't have 19 other lands from which to choose from...only Israel, always Israel.

A Soldier's Mother: Israel's Secret Weapon Against Iran: I love how people ask me what Israel will do - as if I would know. I am a citizen of Israel; I have my opinion. But I would guess that you c...

RubinReports: Brothers in Arms: The Muslim Brotherhood Takes Over the (Sunni) Arab World

Brothers in Arms: The Muslim Brotherhood Takes Over the (Sunni) Arab World

By Barry Rubin

On November 28, Egyptians will vote for a parliament which will also write the country’s new constitution. The Western media at first told us that the Muslim Brotherhood was weak and unimportant as well as moderate. Now, when it’s too late, the Western media is admitting they are strong and radical. But the Obama Administration insists they are strong and moderate.

The last time I read an article in the Atlantic on the Brotherhood, it claimed that the group was a joke and only had 13 percent support. Now it is publishing an article that takes for granted that the Brotherhood will win the election.

There’s a new poll out that I don’t think is accurate but keep reading and I’ll tell you why it is misleading in a moment.

According to the poll, 38 percent of Egyptians would vote for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. (Remember when we were told that this was a moderate split-off from the Brotherhood?) and 12 percent would vote for the even more radical al-Nour Party.

Why, then, do I think this poll isn’t accurate?

Read it all

RubinReports: Brothers in Arms: The Muslim Brotherhood Takes Over the (Sunni) Arab World

RubinReports: Why Do Western Elites Minimize Radical Threats in the Middle East?

Why Do Western Elites Minimize Radical Threats in the Middle East?

By Barry Rubin

A leading journalist heard my analysis on the rise of the radical Islamists in the Middle East, how U.S. policy is helping them, and why this is a disaster. His response? How could I say that Hamas was radical and wanted to wipe out Israel since it had not continually attacked Israel from the Gaza Strip?

Although this remark was about a very specific issue, I understood the general concept underlying it. To be a radical or extremist, many Westerners seem to believe, means you are a drooling loony, a caricature of a bomb-throwing revolutionary, like a rabid dog unable to stop himself from biting anyone within reach.
If you wear a tie and jacket, or just a jacket, or speak patiently and protest your moderation, or have patience you cannot be a radical.

Oh, yes, you are also not a radical if you claim not to be one, even if that’s only done in English while you are calling for Islamist revolution, Sharia law, genocide against the Jews, and anti-Western hate in Arabic. Yet radicals have used strategy for many decades. Lenin wrote a short book, Left-Wing Communism, an Infantile Malady, to ridicule the mindless extremists in his movement. The Muslim Brotherhood took a similar view of al-Qaida as being a one-note terrorist group. The whole Turkish model of revolutionary Islamism is based on  a patient strategy of hiding their true objectives and maneuvering into total control.

Why cannot Western elites see this kind of lightly camoflauged extremism, used by thoroughly by the Communists and also, though this has been largely forgotten, by Nazi and fascist movements.

Here are two examples among hundreds.

Read it all

RubinReports: Why Do Western Elites Minimize Radical Threats in the Middle East?

RubinReports: Why Don’t Western Elites Get the Middle East? Because They Think It’s Just Like Them (Sort of)

Why Don’t Western Elites Get the Middle East? Because They Think It’s Just Like Them (Sort of)

note: I do propose a solution to this problem at the end of the article!

By Barry Rubin

I’ve come to realize a hitherto hidden dimension of why it is so hard for Western establishment figures (policymakers, journalists, and academics) to understand the Middle East.  It is the conflict between the thirst for good news and the reality of bad news.

Being optimists (based on the relatively good course of their own societies?) and believing that positive change is really easy if people only put their minds to making it happen (ditto and also liberal thinking), they exaggerate any sign that things are getting better.

Moreover, contemporary thinking trembles in horror about saying anything critical about Third World peoples (racism, Islamophobia)  while it is considered noble to criticize “ourselves.”  On top of that is the assumption that no one can really be radical. They are just responding to past mistreatment and will revert to being moderate the minute the oppression is corrected.

So constantly we are led to an artificial optimism that ignores threats or even converts them into benefits.
How many examples I see every day!

A group of young Palestinians in Fatah, who explicitly say they want to wipe out Israel, form a new group and--hocus-pocus--we are informed that this is the long-awaited Palestinian equivalent of the dovish Israeli Peace Now movement!

Read it all

RubinReports: Why Don’t Western Elites Get the Middle East? Because They Think It’s Just Like Them (Sort of)

RubinReports: Syria: No Longer Revolution, It is A Civil War, A Guide to the Battle

Syria: No Longer Revolution, It is A Civil War, A Guide to the Battle

Another version of this article is published in the Jerusalem Post. I own the copyright, this version is better, and I ask you to read and link to this one. 

By Barry Rubin
The only honest answer to the question of what will happen in Syria is: No one knows. After an eight-month-long battle in which more than 3500 people have been killed, there’s no telling who will be ruling Syria when the dust settles, or even when the dust will settle. A regime victory is quite possible—perhaps most likely—and its overthrow might--but not necessarily--bring an Islamist regime.
But what do we know about Syria? Here’s a guide.
1.   1. Don’t overrate Iran’s role.
Despite wild rumors, the Syrian regime doesn’t need Iranians to help it repress the people. Iran is important as a source of financing for the government, but this is President Bashar al-Asad’s battle to win or lose. Tehran is definitely going to be a secondary factor.
2. Syria’s other ally is Hizballah but the killing of so many Sunni Muslims, including Muslim Brotherhood people, has lost it Hamas. There is a sort of Sunni-Shia version of the Spanish Civil War going on now. But when it comes to the radical and Islamist forces on both sides there’s no good guy.
2.    3. And Turkey isn’t the good guy
The Turkish Islamist regime isn’t motivated by some love of democracy in opposing the Syrian regime. The Ankara government wants a fellow Sunni Islamist dictatorship in Damascus, preferably under its influence. In this situation, Turkey is just as bad as Iran.
3.   4.  Will the two sides make a deal?
No, this is a war to the death. The regime cannot make a deal and yield power because the elite would lose everything it has. Moreover, the government elite would face death, exile, or long-term imprisonment if it loses. Similarly, the dominant Alawite community and large portions of the Christian one (together roughly 25 percent of the population) risks massacre if the government falls.
4.   5 . Will the army bring down the regime or change sides?
No, see point 3. While some are defecting (see below), the high command cannot survive a change of power. Unlike in Egypt and Tunisia, the armed forces cannot usher in a new regime that would continue its economic privileges.  
5.   6.  Is this now an inter-communal war?
Net yet. There are hints of small-scale communal killings but if and when such a blood bath begins you’ll know and it will be terrible indeed.  This outcome might be avoidable but the situation is very dangerous.
6.   7. Is Syria now in a civil war?
This is beginning. Defectors from the military have formed a Free Syrian Army. A nine-member Military Council has been formed including five colonels. Note the lack of generals (see Point Four) and all of them appear to be Sunni Muslim Arabs (see Point Five). They say they are going to fight the regime and defend the populace. But from where will they get arms?
8.      Will economic collapse bring down the regime?
No. See Points 1, 3, and 5. Nobody is going to quit because they get hungry. This is a kill-or-be-killed situation.
9. Is Syria going to encourage a war against Israel?
No. Historically, Middle Eastern dictatorships have provoked war against Israel to distract attention from problems at home. The most likely scenario would be a Hizballah-Israel war, as happened in 2006. But we’re past that point for the Syrian regime (though a radical Egypt might try this tactic after 2013.) In addition, Hizballah is trying to consolidate power in Lebanon and a war would be very much against its interests.
10. Who is the opposition leadership?
Ah, that’s a very interesting question. The best-known group is the Syrian National Council (SNC). It has announced its 19-member leadership group which includes 15 Sunni Muslims, two Christians, and 2 Kurds.  Note that there are no Alawites or Druze. The SNC has an advantage because it was assembled by the United States using the Islamist regime in Turkey.
Given Western backing the SNC is surprisingly dominated by Islamists. Ten of the 19 are identifiable as such (both Muslim Brothers and independent—Salafist?—Islamists) and a couple of those who are nominally leftists are apparently Islamist puppets. The fact that U.S. policy is backing an Islamist-dominated group indicates the profound problems with Obama Administration policy.
It should be stressed, though, that the SNC’s popular support is totally untested. Many oppositionists—especially Kurds—are disgusted by the group’s Islamist coloration and refuse to participate.
The National Coordination Committee (NCC) is a leftist-dominated alternative. The Antalya Group is liberal. There is also a Salafist council organized by Adnan Arour, a popular religious figure; a Kurdish National Council and a Secular Democratic Coalition (both angry at the SNC’s Islamism);
It is hard to overestimate how disastrous Obama Administration policy has been. Not only has it promoted an Islamist-dominated leadership (which might be pushed into power by monopolizing Western aid) but this mistake has fractured the opposition, ensuring there would be several anti-SNC groups. This strategy has also angered the Kurds and Turkmen minorities who view the SNC as antagonistic to their hopes for some autonomy. As a result, these two groups have reduced their revolutionary activities.
The best source on these events is the exiled democrat Ammar Abdulhamid whose daily Syrian Revolution Digest is indispensable to understand what’s going on in the country. He writes that, despite U.S. and Turkish support, nobody will recognize the SNC as the “legitimate representative of the Syrian people” because of its “overrepresentation of certain currents and underrepresentation of others, as well as lack of transparency in the selection and decision-making processes, not to mention lack of clear political vision and transitional plans.”
Again, it should be stressed that in terms of actually directing the rebellion, there is no leadership.   
10. So who do we want to win?
Despite the threat of a Sunni Islamist regime, I hope that Asad will be overthrown. Why? If the regime survives we know it will continue to be a ferociously repressive dictatorship, allied with Iran, and dedicated to the destruction of U.S. and Western interests, the imperialist domination of Lebanon, wiping Israel off the map, and subverting Jordan.
With a revolution, there is a chance—especially if U.S. policy doesn’t mess it up—for a real democracy that is higher than in Egypt. In Syria only 60 percent of the population is Sunni Muslim and thus might be potential recruits to be Islamist. The minorities—Alawite, Christian, Druze, and Kurdish—don’t want an Arab Sunni Islamist regime.
As for the Sunnis themselves, they are proportionately more urban, more middle class, and more moderate than in Egypt. Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular have never been as strong in Syria as in Egypt. In Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, the Islamists face what is largely a political vacuum; in Syria they have real, determined opposition.
Today, the Syrian people have two major enemies blocking the way to a moderate stable democracy. One is the regime itself; the other is the U.S.-Turkish policy that is determined—naively for the former; deviously deceitful from the latter—to force a new repressive Islamist regime on the Syrians.

RubinReports: Syria: No Longer Revolution, It is A Civil War, A Guide to the Battle

Por Terras de Sefarad: Pode não ser o politicamente correcto, mas é a rea...

Por Terras de Sefarad: Pode não ser o politicamente correcto, mas é a rea...: Pode não ser o politicamente correcto, mas é a realidade actual desta Europa Fonte: "www.cenasmaradas.com"


By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum
Torah Reading: Gen. 25:19-28:9
In the holy structure built by the patriarchs to reveal HaShem to the world, Abraham is the initial thesis: expansive energy, revelation, kindness -- CHESSED. Isaac is the antithesis: restriction, control -- GEVURAH, while Jacob, who enters the stage in our parshah, is the synthesis: balance, order, beauty -- TIFERET. Jacob, the most "perfect" (SHALEM) of the patriarchs, came to complete the holy House -- the House of Israel, to whom all the nations will turn at the end of history in order to find HaShem: "And many nations will go and say, 'Go, let us ascend to the mountain of HaShem, to the HOUSE of the G-d of Jacob'" (Isaiah 2:3).
As thesis and antithesis, Abraham and Isaac represent two opposite tendencies, each of which has an extreme aspect, an aspect of excess, that must be transmuted and directed to the holy in order for perfect balance and harmony to reign. Thus Abraham and Isaac each had a "first-born" (the aspect of excess) who was rejected from the holy structure. The last section of the previous parshah, CHAYEY SARAH, completed the story of Abraham's "first-born", Ishmael, the son of Hagar, and his descendants, who embody the "excess" aspect of Abraham: religious fanaticism -- "before all his brothers he fell" (Gen. 25:18, closing words of CHAYEH SARAH). In introducing Jacob, the perfect patriarch, our parshah of TOLDOS also introduces Jacob's challenger, his twin brother Esau, who embodies the excess aspect of Isaac: power and domination used arrogantly for the benefit of self instead of for G-d. The story of Esau is told partly in our parshah, left aside in next week's parshah of VAYETZE, which focusses exclusively on Jacob, and taken up again in the following parshah of VAYISHLACH. There the story of Esau and his generations will be concluded with the account of the "Seven kings who ruled in Edom before a king ruled over the children of Israel" (Gen. 36:31). Kabbalistically, the Seven Kings who "ruled and died" represent the World of Devastation (TOHU) produced by the "Breaking of the Vessels" for the purpose of bringing evil into the world. From the following parshah, VEYESHEV, until the end of Genesis, the Torah concentrates on Jacob and his generations, who represent the World of Rectification (TIKKUN), in which evil is eventually vanquished completely through the House of Israel. The vicissitudes of Joseph and his brothers are paradigmatic of the vicissitudes leading to the eventual revelation of Messiah.
Historically, the descendants of Ishmael and of Abraham's other sons from Keturah brought certain aspects of the monotheism of Abraham to many parts of the world, especially to the east and south, including the Arab lands and many parts of Africa and Asia (the descendants of Noah's son Ham), through Islam. The descendants of Esau brought other aspects of the tradition of Abraham to the north and west -- to Europe, Russia and America (descendants of Japheth) as well as many other parts of the world through Christianity. (See Rambam, Hilchos Melochim 11:4 uncensored version). Although the land given specifically to Esau is Mount Seir, which is south east of the Land of Israel, Esau-Edom is particularly associated with Rome (see Rashi on Gen. 36:43 and also on Gen. 27:39). Rome put its unique stamp upon western culture and its influence is felt until today. (Thus the U.S. Senate is named after the Roman Senate.)
* * *
The holy structure to be built by Jacob was to be constructed only through struggle and effort: Jacob's struggle is the struggle to elevate Isaac's power (GEVURAH) through its use not for the benefit of self, but in order to bring the spirituality of Abraham (CHESSED) to rule over the fallen GEVUROS, the refractory material world of practical action as represented in the figure of Esau (from the Hebrew root ASO, "doing"). Only through the struggle to sift and clarify truth and goodness from falsehood and evil IN THE REAL WORLD is the light of truth revealed in all its beauty and perfection.
The history of mankind has indeed been the history of the clash of cultures and civilizations. It may appear cyclical and pointless, but as revealed in our parshah, it has a purpose and an end goal. It is to reveal G-d's unity out of the intergenerational war between good and evil in all shapes and forms. The struggle has been protracted and painful, just as the struggle of the twins in Rebecca's womb was painful to her to the point of desperation. Yet the very pain itself forced Rebecca to "go to search out HaShem" (Gen. 45:22). Similarly, the many pains and troubles later suffered by Jacob (as a result of the hatred and envy of Esau and Laban and family tragedy with Dinah and Jacob) brought him time after time to turn to G-d for help. The way to G-d's truth is indeed often painful and riddled with conflicts -- with others and within our very selves. However, it is possible to give meaning to our pain, struggle and hardship and to actually grow through them when we learn to turn our very pains and trials into a springboard to seek out G-d.
* * *
The two twins early showed their different traits. Esau, "man of the field", took after Isaac, who "went out to the field" (Gen. 24:63, last week's parshah). Esau the hunter exemplifies the extreme and unholy distortion of Isaac's holy GEVURAH. Esau's is the cunning brute force of the mighty over the weak and unsuspecting. (Esau wears the clothes of Nimrod.) Jacob, on the other hand, "dwelled in tents" -- not one tent but two: the "tents" of learning of his two teachers, the tent of his grandfather Abraham Man of Kindness (Abraham was still alive until Jacob was 13) and the tent of Jacob's own father Isaac, Man of Power. Jacob's mission was to synthesize the two "tents" and build out of them a "house": to combine the differing paths of the first two patriarchs (Abraham, the paradigm convert and Isaac, the paradigm case of one born into religion) into a unitary tradition capable of constant self-renewal. Jacob, the TAM, possessing the quality of simple honesty, sincerity and the search for truth, was able to do this. Esau was not: he knew only to ensnare -- for he himself was ensnared in the mesh of evil.
According to the Midrash, the episode of Jacob's "purchase" of the birthright from Esau for a cup of soup took place on the day that Abraham died. Jacob cooked the soup as the SEUDAT HAVRA'AH, the "meal of comfort and invigoration" prepared for the immediate mourners after the funeral. As Rashi teaches (on Gen. 25:30), Jacob's lentil soup was intended to convey a profound message to his father Isaac, who was mourning the loss of his father. "The lentil is similar to a wheel, and so too death and mourning are part of the cycle of the world." It is impossible to explain the meaning of death rationally -- the lentil "has no mouth", the mourner has nothing to say. We have no option but to accept death and mourning as an inevitable part of the cycle of destiny.
Jacob's ability to use a material object, the lentil, in order to teach a spiritual lesson, is what gave him power over ASIYAH as represented in ESAU. Esau was preoccupied with the material externality of the soup. Esau, the twin brother with whom Jacob was locked in perpetual struggle, was in and of the material world. Esau was exhausted from a day of "hunting". He was hungry. He wanted the tasty, filling soup. He had no time for spiritual meanings. Esau, locked in the time-bound material realm, knew only that he was going to die -- so eat, drink and be merry now! What need did Esau have for a spirituality that brought no immediate gratification? Esau was thus unfitted for the BECHORA, the choice first-born portion that was "acquired" by Jacob through his superior wisdom. The superior wisdom of the Torah is itself the choice portion, as indicated in the opening word of the Torah: BE-REISHIS, "for the sake of the first."
One of the deep mysteries of the Torah is that the natural, apparent first-born are repeatedly rejected in favor of the true, "spiritual" first-born. Cain was rejected while Abel's sacrifice was accepted. Japheth was made subordinate to his younger brother, Shem (Rashi on Gen.10:28) -- Shem and his descendants were the "high priests" who brought knowledge of HaShem to the world. Ishmael and Esau were rejected in favor of Isaac and Jacob respectively. Later on, Jacob's first-born Reuven was rejected in favor of Levi, Judah and Joseph. Ephraim was given precedence over Menashe. Kehas, the son of Levi, was given precedence over Levi's first-born, Gerhson... and Moses attained kingship over the firstborn Aaron, who was three years his senior. Yet through Aaron's humble, joyous submission to his younger brother Moses, whose spokesman he became, Aaron earned the priesthood. Through the balance between the lawgiver and the priest, the transgenerational struggle between brothers that started with Cain and Abel was brought to a satisfactory conclusion: religious service (as represented in Aaron) must be subject to religious law (Moses). Otherwise service turns into excess.
* * *
History repeats itself because lessons learned by one generation are forgotten by the next and have to be relearned. Just as the generation of Abraham had been afflicted by famine, so too was the generation of Isaac. Just as Abraham had been forced into exile, so was Isaac. Abraham dwelled among the Philistines in Gerar, and so did Isaac.
The popular association of "philistinism" with barbarity is fitting, for the Philistines represent the very opposite of the CHESED that is the driving force of the religion of Abraham. The numerical value of the Hebrew letters of PhiLiShTYM (Phe 80, Lamed 30, Shin 300, Tav 400, Yud 10, Mem 40) is 860. 86 is the numerical value of the letters of the divine name ELoKiM, alluding to GEVURAH, might, power, limitation and concealment. The Philistines (= 10 x 86) represent the forces of limitation and concealment in full array. In each generation their king, AVIMELECH (= "I want to rule") wants to steal the Shechinah (represented by Sarah and Rebeccah) for his own selfish pleasure. In each generation the patriarchs had to teach the lesson that the law of G-d must prevail. The kidnapping of a married woman is a crime against the universal law of the children of Noah. Abraham had taught the lesson in his generation, but it had been forgotten, and it had to be taught again in the generation of Isaac. This is because the forces of evil constantly conceal lessons learned by earlier generations. "And all the wells that the servants of his father [Abraham] had dug, the Philistines had stopped up, and they filled them with earth." (Gen. 26:15). The mission of the patriarchs was to uncover the waters of spirituality and bring them to the world, but the Philistines closed up the very sources of the living waters of spirituality with earthliness and gross materialism. Rashi (ad loc.) points out that the Targum of the word "closed up" has the connotation of "closing up the heart" with insensitivity and foolishness. Accordingly Isaac had to start all over again, re-digging the very wells that Abraham had dug.
Isaac's very success -- which so aroused the ire and envy of the Philistines -- came about because he loyally followed in the ways of charity, generosity and kindness taught by his father Abraham. (Thus Rashi points out Isaac was careful to assess the lands he sowed with a view to how much they could produce in tithes for charity, see Rashi on Gen. 26:12). Isaac was blessed because he wanted to share his blessings. Faced with the threat of military might from the Philistines, Isaac's response was to call upon the name of G-d. Instead of fighting his enemies, Isaac made peace with them. He practiced the ways of peace: "And he made a feast for them and they ate and drank... and they went from him in peace" (Gen. 26:30-31).
* * *
G-d "made the earth blossom forth every kind of tree pleasant to the eye and good to eat" and bestowed rich blessings upon man to enable him to come to know and attach himself to his Maker. Adam had been tricked by the serpent -- his own pride and arrogance -- into eating of the very tree from which he was forbidden to eat, thereby separating himself from his Maker. Being too clever for his own good, man mixed up good and evil. As a result Adam's descendants were condemned to a multi-generational struggle against that selfsame serpent of pride and arrogance, struggling repeatedly through history to sort out the confusion.
The confusion was so great that the Blind Isaac was apparently ready to hand over the power of blessing he had received from G-d (Gen.25:11) to the seeming first-born, Esau, even though Esau was in fact the very incarnation of the serpent (see Targum on Gen. 25:27, where "knowing hunting" is translated as NACHASHIRCHAN, having the connotation of NACHASH, serpentine).
The ultimate joke (Yitzchak means "he will laugh") is that Isaac, embodiment of GEVURAH, is overpowered and outwitted by his wife, Rebecca, who turns out to be his match in that attribute. Isaac's GEVURAH lay in the fact that he had been "born in" to the religion and brought up to a life of discipline, as symbolized in his being bound to the altar in the AKEIDAH that left his eyes blinded by the "tears of the angels" that dropped into them at that supreme moment. Rebecca's GEVURAH lay in the fact that even as a child, she had separated herself from the totally sinful environment in which she had been brought up -- she was the archetypal BAALAS TESHUVAH. Thus she knew the world better than "blind" Isaac -- and she knew that for the good of the entire world, it was vital that the blessings should go to Jacob. Since the serpent caused Adam's downfall by outwitting him and working on his wife, it was necessary for a woman, Rebecca, to outwit the serpent in order to restore Adam, incarnated in Jacob, to his true greatness. Thus Rebecca took Esau's beautiful clothes -- which he had stolen from Nimrod, who had stolen them from Adam -- and dressed Jacob with them.
"And [Isaac] smelled the scent of his clothes and he blessed him and said: See the scent of my son is as the scent of the field that HaShem has blessed. And G-d will give you of the dew of the heavens and from the fat of the earth and an abundance of grain and wine. The nations will serve you and the peoples will prostrate to you..." (Gen. 27:27-8).
Shabbat Shalom!
Avraham Yehushua Greenbaum
PO Box 50037 Jerusalem 91500 Israel
Website: http://www.azamra.org/

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Pray for A Jewish Mother in an American Jail - Op-Eds - Israel National News

Op-Ed: Pray for A Jewish Mother in an American Jail

Published: Thursday, November 10, 2011 4:40 PM
Valerie Carlton, a Jewish woman who married a non-Jew who became violently abusive, has been kept in solitary in a US prison as her husband tries to get her extradited to where she will not survive.

A Jewish mother is weeping, not in Ramah, but in an American jail. . On November 10, 2011, she will learn whether a judge will extradite her from Monsey, New York where, according to one of her lawyers, Michael Ettinger, she “faces probable death” in a private for-profit Detention Center in Harford County, Maryland.
This Jewish mother--her name is Valerie (“Serach”) Carlton, was imprisoned for 13 months in that Harford County Detention Center where, unbelievably, she was kept in solitary confinement and tortured in further ways. Why? Because she loves and wanted to protect her young daughter and because she dared to practice her Judaism openly.
Is such a violation of a woman’s civil and religious rights possible in America? Can such a hate crime be legal? Can such a Kafkaesque situation take place in the home of the free and the land of the brave?
Sadly, the answer to all three questions is yes.
Valerie married a man who battered her, abused their young child, and then vowed to destroy her. According to Valerie’s advocates, Russell Carlton turned out to be a vicious psychopath who used his Christian Evangelical and white supremacist brand of Christianity (and his powerful, local connections) to try and “kill the Jew” who dared to return to her Jewish roots, light Sabbath candles, and “practice Judaism” with her daughter.
According to her lawyers and advocates, “both the search warrant and the charging document for the criminal charges against Ms. Carlton stated that she was an Orthodox Jew who practiced Jewish customs with her daughter whenever they were together.”
As if this is a crime.
Although he was the abuser, he falsely accused her of having sexually abused their daughter. These charges were never substantiated but nevertheless, the allegations got her locked up. The other prisoners were carefully told she had sexually abused children and, because prisoners are notoriously cruel to pedophiles, the sheriff put her in isolation “for her own good.”
This is where the guards tried to “break” her, to get her to admit she was “insane,” and to give up full custody, maybe even parental rights, to her child.
Neither the court nor the sheriff—not even the Governor of the State—chose to intervene to spare Valerie’s suffering, not even when nationally recognized experts strongly recommended that she be freed and reunited with her child. To date, Valerie has not seen her daughter for 2 1/2 years.
Worse: Once the authorities realized they would have to release her, they had a guard beat her up—but the guard falsely claimed that she had attacked him; he brought charges. (A video may be viewed at her website www.valeriecarlton.com which shows what really happened). Her jailors warned her that she would soon be re-arrested.
Valerie fled the area and relocated to Monsey, New York.

Other prisoners have died in the Harford County Detention Center. It is known for its “accidental” taser deaths.

But recently, when Valerie’s mother, the maternal grandmother, tried to exercise her visitation rights, Valerie’s husband feared that Valerie might somehow be allowed to see her own daughter. To prevent this, he managed to convince federal marshals to take her from Monsey to New City, in Rockland County, to be held pending a hearing on her extradition back to Maryland.
The charge? She assaulted the guard! Once her ex-husband learned she had been re-arrested, he “immediately consented to the grandmother’s visitation.”
Valerie now faces a potential sentence of up to ten years for a beating she did not commit; in a jail that had no legal right to keep her; where she was literally tortured; and where (get ready for this next shocking bit of news), her “baby son, wrongfully removed from her, ultimately perished through the County’s malfeasance.”
Yes, they removed her still breast-feeding son from her and put him in state care where he….just died. And they did not allow a rabbi to break the news to her. Not even a psychologist was allowed in to tell her. Her punishers literally tied her down and told her that her son was dead, waiting to see if she would “break.”
Michael Ettinger described her persecutors, including her ex-husband, as “malevolent people who have no problem putting an innocent women in jail in order to destroy her.”
This is a Jewish mother who has known more than a mountain of sorrow, a Jewish mother who faces certain barbaric treatment if she is extradited. Other prisoners have died in the Harford County Detention Center. It is known for its “accidental” taser deaths.
As the author of Mothers on Trial. The Battle for Children and Custody, (now in a new and updated 25th anniversary edition), I have known many similar cases. Yes, in America. However, none are as terrible as this one.
Rabbi Sheftel Meir Neuberger of Baltimore, Maryland, has written a letter on Valerie’s behalf. He confirms that she is a “Baalas Teshuva who has valiantly tried to maintain her adherence to Torah and Mitzvos under very difficult circumstances. She was subjected to very cruel and unusual incarceration…she was abused and physically tortured.
"She moved to the Monsey area….Should she be returned to Harford County her life is clearly in danger. Anyone who can participate in the demonstration on her behalf at the upcoming extradition hearing may be helpful in saving the life of a Bas Yisroel who is being falsely accused and will suffer serious life threatening consequences should she be returned to Harford County.”
Thursday, a demonstration is planned outside the Rockland County courthouse, 1 South Main Street, New City, NY, at 9am. The hearing is set for 9:30am.
Please pray for her. Send money for her continued defense and legal actions. Be there (or send those you know in Monsey) to be there for Valerie at the courthouse.
Note: The information contained in this article was obtained from one of her lawyers and supporters, Michael Ettinger and from her website.

Pray for A Jewish Mother in an American Jail - Op-Eds - Israel National News



By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

Torah Reading: CHAYEY SARAH Gen. 23:1-25:18. Haftara I Kings 1, 1-31


The parshah opens with LIFE -- the LIFE of Sarah -- even though it goes on to speak of her death, and later that of Abraham (Gen. 25:8). This is because it is the very limit that death puts upon life that makes every year of life and every day so precious. "Teach us to count our days" (Psalms 90:12). What gives true value to each day is not the material pleasures enjoyed or the wealth amassed but the eternal goodness attained through the mitzvos one accomplishes each day, each minute.

In the words of Rabbi Nathan of Breslov in his Introduction to Chayey Moharan, the Life of Rabbi Nachman: "There are countless gradations in the life and vitality found in the world. Real life is the life of true wisdom, as it is written: 'Wisdom gives life to those who possess it' (Eccl. 712). And the essence of wisdom is to labor and endeavor to know and acknowledge G-d, who is the Life of life. The closer one comes to God, the more his life is genuine life."

"And the years of the life of Sarah." (Gen. 23:1)

"And these are the days of the years of the life of Abraham that he lived." (ibid. 25:87).

* * *


"And the sons of Ches answered Abraham saying to him. No man among us would withhold his grave from you." (Gen. 23:5-6).

No one in the world is exempt from death. All Adam's children must pay the price of his sin by tasting death. Thus even the Canaanite children of Ches (who were later to prove bitter enemies of Abraham's descendants) were forced to take a share in the mourning for Sarah. ISH MIMENU -- "No man among us." The words imply an awareness that all mankind lives under the shadow of death (ARI).

Burial is one of several possible ways of removing the bodies of our dead from within our midst. Removal of the dead from the midst of the living serves the living, to whom the presence of a decomposing corpse is too offensive and humiliating a reminder of their own mortality. But dead bodies could be burned or disposed of otherwise: Why bury them?

The answer is that burial benefits the dead as well. "For you are dust and to the dust you will return" (Gen. 3:19). Burial brings KAPARA, atonement, to the dead person for the sins committed in this world through the body. Being lowered into the earth after a lifetime of proud living above it is the deepest humiliation. The concealment of the person's physical remains beneath the earth, where they decompose and are reabsorbed into the elements, signifies the concealment and atonement of his sins. Eventually everything is merged back into unity and even the sins are turned into merits.

An integral aspect of the honor accorded to the dead through burial is that the atonement is accomplished in a concealed manner, thereby covering and hiding the shame of the dead. "And he shall cover it in the earth" (Leviticus 17:13)

Adam himself was buried in the earth: according to tradition, Adam and Eve were buried in the very Cave of Machpelah in which Abraham buried Sarah (Zohar VAYERA on the verse "And Abraham ran to the bull" Gen. 18:7). Burial of the dead is an integral part of the heritage of the children of Shem and Japheth -- their reward for the modesty they showed when they concealed their father Noah's nakedness after he became drunk (Gen. 9:21ff.). Rashi comments (ad loc.) that in the merit of this act, Shem earned for his children the modest body covering of the Tallis with its Tzitzis (fringes, Numbers 15:38), while Japheth earned burial for his descendants, the armies of Gog who are to be buried after falling in the war of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 39:11). [Since Japheth earned burial for his descendants, how much more so did Shem! Significantly, it is customary to bury Jewish men in their Tallis.]

* * *


Abraham found it sufficient to live in tents for his whole life -- he was fully aware that he was but a "visitor and a resident" (Gen. 23:4) on this earth. Only when Sarah died did Abraham find it necessary to acquire permanent accommodation -- a final resting place for the body while the soul goes on to the life eternal. Thus Abraham teaches us that our most important acquisitions in this world are not the material houses on which most people lavish so much money and effort for their temporary stay here. Rather, our truest acquisitions are those that will truly serve us in the eternal life. Buying a burial plot is a SEGULAH for long life!

Abraham's acquisition of the Field and the cave of Machpelah from Ephron the Hittite is the first case of the acquisition of land in the Torah. [Eve "acquired" a child, Cain, naming him after the acquisition: "I have acquired (KANISI) a man with G-d", Gen. 4:1]. Fundamental lessons about KINYAN, acquisition or ownership, are derived from the account in our parshah of Abraham's purchase of land from Ephron, the classic example of how business dealings between the Children of Noah are to be characterized by the rule of law and integrity in accordance with the Seventh Universal Law. The negotiations and the transaction were carried out with perfect "transparency". The ears of the Children of Ches heard everything and their eyes saw it all (Gen. 23 vv. 10, 13; 18 etc.) Abraham did not ask for any bargains and he did not receive any. He paid the full price with silver. [Money is soul: people put their very soul into the acquisition of the liquid asset known as KESEF. KESEF is soul, for soul is desire: KISUFIN.]

Earlier in the story of Abraham, when Malki-tzedek (= Shem) king of Shalem (=Jerusalem) had come out to greet him after he rescued Lot from the Four Kings [Parshas LECH LECHA], Malki-tzedek blessed Abraham in the name of " the Supreme G-d, OWNER of Heaven and Earth" (Gen. 14:19). Abraham swore by the same G-d -- "owner of Heaven and Earth (ibid. 22).

Only when man acknowledges that G-d owns everything can man be said to own anything -- "for if you lack DA'AS (knowledge), what have you acquired?" [KINYAH requires DAAS.] Everything belongs to G-d: "The earth is the Lord's and all it's fullness" (Psalms 24:1). When man understands this and blesses G-d before he takes anything from this world, then G-d brings man to his true glory. G-d gives the world to man and allows him to own it: "And He has given the earth to the children of Adam" (ibid. 115:16).

Although Ephron had been the titular owner of the land, it had meant nothing to him -- it was dark and concealed -- because he did not possess this knowledge. Since Abraham had the knowledge, when he purchased the land it became truly his and associated with his name for ever: "And the field of Ephron stood." -- ("It had TEKUMAH, an upstanding" -- Rashi) -- ". to Abraham as an ACQUISITION" (Gen. 23:17-18).

* * *


Everyone knows that G-d rules over the heavens -- even the nearest star is way beyond man's reach. What is concealed from many people is that G-d rules over the earth and over every detail of what happens here. This was what Abraham came into the world to teach.

Rashi tells us (commenting on why Abraham, speaking to Eliezer, invoked "HaShem, the G-d of the heavens" but did not mention "and of earth" -- Gen. 24:7): "Abraham told Eliezer that now He is G-d 'of the heavens AND the earth' because I have made this phrase habitual on people's lips. But when He took me from the house of my father, He was 'G-d of the heavens' but not 'G-d of the earth' because people in the world did not recognize Him and His name was not familiar on the earth".

Abraham's could not allow his work to end with him. It was an integral part of his mission to have a worthy successor who would in turn have a worthy successor to ensure that the knowledge of G-d would never again be hidden from the world.

As a "Prince of G-d" (Gen. 23:6) and leaof the progeny of Shem, Abraham could not but be discriminating about the family that would provide the appropriate wife for his son and successor. Contrary to the widely held fallacy that people of any and every family and national backgrounds are all "equal", Abraham was unwilling to make a family alliance with any other than his own family back in Padan Aram. This was where they had stayed when Abraham went on his journey of destiny to the Land of Canaan.

Abraham was unwilling to make a family alliance with the Canaanites, for Canaan, son of Ham, was under the curse of Noah. On the other hand, Abraham could not allow his son Isaac to return to Padan Aram even for the sake of being married. This would have undermined the whole purpose of Abraham's departure from that "Old World". Padan Aram (with it's high priest, Laban = Bilaam, brain of all the forces of evil, the KELIPOS) was the old World of Devastation (OLAM HATOHU, Breaking of the Vessels), whereas Abraham had gone to turn the Land of Canaan in to the Land of ISRAEL (Yeshurun, Yosher) in order to create OLAM HATIKUN, the world of repair and healing.

Accordingly Abraham sent his servant Eliezer to Padan Aram to redeem the spark of TIKUN -- Rebecca -- from the World of Devastation, Padan Aram, a place characterized by DECEPTION.

* * *


It is significant that Eliezer is the one sent on this mission. Eliezer, son of Nimrod, son of Kush, eldest son of the accursed Ham) was himself an example of a rescued spark. By attaching himself to Abraham, Eliezer himself became "blessed" -- Laban greets him as "Blessed of HaShem" (Gen. 24"31). [Just how blessed this attachment proved to Eliezer's soul is seen in the fact that he was later incarnated as Kalev son of Yephuneh -- who had a particular attachment to Hevron and the patriarchs -- see Rashi on Numbers 13:22, as Benayah ben Yehoyada in the time of King Solomon and as Shemayah and Avtaliyon, leaders in the early rabbinic period and both converts. ARI.]

The Torah devotes gives much space to the account of Eliezer's journey to Padan Aram because witnessing closely Abraham's devoted servant in action, we learn deep lessons about Abraham and his mission in the world.

Eliezer goes first to the well, because, as "that Damascan" (Gen. 15:2) -- DAMASEK -- Eliezer's task was to be "Doleh u-MaSHKeh miToras Rabo", drawing and giving out to drink from the waters of the Torah of his master: "Ho, everyone that is thirsty, come for water!" (Isaiah 55:1). Deeply embedded in the account of Eliezer's mission is the concept of the DLI ("the bucket = Aquarius) and the drawing of the waters of spirituality into the world for all to drink. [Bney Issaschar, Shevat.]

The first thing Eliezer does at the well is to pray to G-d for help. He asks G-d to make events happen in a way that will enable the kindness of Abraham to be handed down to future generations. Eliezer's request to G-d to make events happen this way is founded upon the belief -- received from Abraham -- that He is "G-d of earth" and not only "G-d in heaven." G-d is in complete control of what "happens" on earth, down to the last detail. It is no "coincidence" that Rebecca steps out to "draw water from the well" just as Eliezer completes his prayer.

The test Eliezer devises for the candidate suited to marry Isaac and bring Abraham's kindness to the world is a test of CHARACTER. What counts is not what people say (like Ephron, who said a lot but did hardly anything.) What counts is what they actually DO.

Rebecca does MORE than Eliezer asks her. Not only does she want to give him to drink. She wants to perform kindness, GOMEL Chessed, to the very camels, GAMALIM. She has the expansive quality of CHESSED characteristic of the true family of Abraham: she was fitted for the role of consort to the new Prince of G-d.

The loss of one member of the family, Sarah, who went into the grave, HaKeVeR, opens the way for the entry of a new member to build the family: RiVKaH. The death of the old generation and their descent into HaKeVeR turns out to be HaBoKeR, a new morning, a new day!

* * *


Rebecca's first sight of Isaac was when "Isaac went out to meditate in the field towards the evening" (Gen. 24:63). This was the field of submission, the site where Isaac had been bound on Mount Moriah. Isaac turned his submission into a daily devotion: the devotion of set prayer and meditation.

Prayer is where we make Him "G-d of the earth", involving Him in all our daily affairs and activities and shining His light into the innermost depths of our hearts.

The Talmud tells us that the three founding fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, were all engaged in laying the foundations for the Temple on this site. Each made his own unique contribution -- and conceived it in a different way: Abraham as a "Mountain"; Isaac as a "Field" and Jacob as a "House". And it is as a "House" that it is destined to be built in Jerusalem in the near future (Pesachim 88a)

At first, attachment to G-d is like a high mountain. To scale the mountain, we must discipline ourselves like oxen to plough daily and turn the mountain into a cultivated field. This is the work of Isaac. Finally we come to the stage where spirituality is part of our lives and comes into our very homes, houses, domestic and family affairs (see Likutey Moharan I:10). This is the work of Jacob, to whom we will be introduced in next week's parshah, and whose garments had the fragrance of the "field that G-d has blessed" (parshas Toldos, Gen. 27:27).

Shabbat Shalom!

Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
PO Box 50037 Jerusalem 91500 Israel
Website: www.azamra.org

Sunday, 6 November 2011



By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

Torah Reading: Gen. 18.1-22.24. Haftara II Kings 4.1-37 (Sephardi ritual: II Kings 4.1-23).

G-d's Covenant with Abraham, marked by the sign of circumcision, brought Abraham to an entirely new level, making him worthy of fathering Isaac, the descendants of whose son Jacob have been the guardians of G-d's Torah and a "light to the nations" throughout history. While the Covenant is a unique bond between G-d and the Children of Israel, it is of significance for the entire world, and our parshah, which shows Abraham recovering from his circumcision and the ensuing events, is replete with teachings that apply to all humanity.

* * *


The simple, beautiful narrative of Abraham's hospitality to seeming wayfarers with which the parshah begins is in counterpoint with the later accounts of the "hospitality" of the Sodomites and of Avimelech king of Gerar.

Hospitality -- treating strangers and visitors kindly -- is one of the foundations of a civilized world and a defining trait of true Bney Adam. For man's existential situation on this earth is that he himself is but a stranger subject to the mercy of G-d. As Abraham says before G-d, the BAAL HABAYIT ("Owner of the House") in our parshah: "I am dust and ashes" (Gen. 18:27). Abraham says to the children of Ches (Gen. 23:4): "I am a stranger and a resident with you." I. with you. we are all in the same situation! Essentially we are all visitors on G-d's earth, and He provides for all of us.

Through the simple human act of showing hospitality to strangers and visitors even under difficult circumstances (Abraham was in the wilderness -- we are not talking about "entertaining" friends for dinner) man imitates his Maker, the Owner of the House. Man himself becomes the "host", providing his guests not only with their physical needs but also with spiritual nourishment. Abraham gave his visitors the waters of spirituality with which to "wash their feet" of false ideas. He brought them in to "rest under the tree" -- the Tree of Life. These are the ways of peace. When we sit down to talk peacefully with visitors and strangers about Torah and the purpose of life, this brings the Divine Presence to dwell with us. Pursuing such ways of peace made Abraham worthy of miracles -- the miracle of the birth of Isaac, a worthy successor.

* * *


G-d Himself testifies of Abraham that "he will instruct his sons and his house after him and they will guard the way of HaShem to practice righteousness and justice." (Gen. 18:19). The sign of the covenant is inscribed upon man's organ of procreation in order to teach him that he must elevate his sexual power above the pursuit of selfish gratification. He is to dedicate his strength to the breeding and raising of future generations who will be G-d's torch-bearers in the world, practicing righteousness and justice. The purpose of the commandment to procreate, which was given to Adam, is to fill the world with sons and daughters who are true Bney Adam having TZURAT ADAM, the "essential form" of Adam not merely physically but spiritually. Only when the world will be filled with people who possess this form will it be possible to say that the world is truly civilized. (Likutey Moharan II:7).

It was because of Abraham's merit that G-d revealed to him the imminent destruction of Sodom, leading to Abraham's bold effort to save the place through prayer. Abraham clearly saw himself as the Baal HaBayis -- "house-owner" -- of the whole of the land he had been promised by G-d. Abraham took responsibility for the land and its problems, including it's moral problems (such as the degenerate civilization of Sodom). Abraham hoped there might be enough Tzaddikim to save Sodom. The boldness of his prayers contain a lesson for all of us to be bold and persistent in our prayers. Yet we must also accept that not all our prayers can be answered in the way we might think we want them answered. In the case of Sodom, the Defense (Abraham) could not prevail, and the Accuser went to destroy the place. Yet the Defender's prayers did accomplish something: the salvage of Abraham's nephew Lot and his family from the catastrophe that befell Sodom.

* * *


Abraham's virtue as guardian of G-d's Covenant shines out in contrast to the wickedness of his generation in a "civilization" run amok. Those who are familiar with the stark, eerie desert mountain landscape of the YAM HAMELACH ("Salt" or "Dead Sea") area with its unique climate and colors may try to imagine it as the setting for one of the most sophisticated "civilizations" that ever was. For prior to the raining down of G-d's anger on Sodom and the neighboring towns in the form of fire and brimstone, that same area was once luxuriantly fertile "like G-d's garden" (Gen. 13:10). The desolate desert areas around the Yam HaMelach are gaunt, testimony to the fact that unless man repents, sin leads to destruction. Human immorality can destroy not only man himself but the very physical environment around him. (The same lesson is implicit later on in our Parshah in the illness that afflicted Avimelech and his household when he kidnapped Sarah.)

The destruction of the civilization of Sodom was an historical and ecological disaster that was deeply etched into the consciousness of antiquity. Numerous passages in the book of Job and elsewhere in the Bible contain allusions to the immorality and subsequent destruction of Sodom. The Midrash is rich in tales of Eliezer's encounters with the inhabitants of Sodom and of their ways. Eliezer as the son of Nimrod was, like the inhabitants of Sodom, descended from Ham, except that Eliezer submitted himself to the slavery decreed upon the children of Ham by attaching himself to Abraham. The inhabitants of Sodom, on the other hand, were so enslaved to human perversity that there was no remedy except to destroy them.

The inhabitants of Sodom enjoyed a fabulous, green watered spa in what is the world's lowest point. They turned "G-d's garden" into a center devoted purely to the worship of self to the exclusion of all others. This finds its ultimate expression in sodomy, which was the sin of Ham when he uncovered his father's nakedness (see Rashi on Gen. 9:22). Sodomy is an extreme violation of the Covenant, whcih decrees that human sexuality is to be elevated to serve as the bond that brings husband and wife together in procreating and raising holy souls. Instead of this, sodomy degrades and abuses man's highest creative power, his seed, throwing it into the very gutter, the part of the body designed to expel poisonous waste and filth. Sodomy degrades both the passive partner, who is subjugated and used, and the active partner, who is turned into a selfish, lustful animal.

Gang-rape of two apparent visiting strangers was the Sodomites idea of a "gay" evening. ["Gay" sex was also one of the things to which Ishmael later tried to submit Isaac -- see Rashi on Gen. 21:9 -- the other two being idolatry and murder.]

That Lot had chosen to live in a place with such moral standards and that he had, moreover, been appointed by them to be their judge (Rashi, Gen. 19:1) testifies to the weak flaw in the character of this classic waverer dressed up in the guise of liberalism. Lot's father Haran had wavered between Abraham and Nimrod when the latter threw Abraham into the fiery furnace. Only when Abraham emerged unscathed did Haran agree to be thrown in -- and died. The mountain of Abraham's virtue seemed to Lot so high that it appeared unattainable. Lot preferred the less spiritually demanding, more materially indulgent surroundings of Sodom. Yet even in Sodom, a spark of Lot's inherited moral decency remained: even he could not stand it when the locals demanded to rape his very guests -- though he was prepared to throw them his own virgin daughters instead.

The Sodomites typify methodical human nastiness in the guise of rights and laws. MIDAS SODOM -- characteristically Sodomite traits -- are typified in many places in the Talmud, such as in the concept of refusing a person some benefit even when one has nothing to loose, or "mine is mine and yours is yours" (Avos 5:10). The Sodomites rebelled against the law of G-d, making up their own merciless laws, rebelling against any effort to reform them, as when they reminded Lot that he was a stranger: "Shall someone come to dwell and make judgements?" (Gen. 19:9). Sodom was the very opposite of the civilization that Abraham sought to create, where residents invite strangers in and sit together to talk peace. In Sodom unwary strangers were grabbed and lynched. There was no remedy for the Sodomites except to overthrow and destroy their entire civilization.

The mystery of the story of Sodom is that out of the wreckage was salvaged Mashiach. For Lot the waverer was made up of two sides: the side that wanted to do good and the side that wavered. Lot's daughters did not waver. When they believed that the entire world was destroyed, they took responsibility to repopulate it even if it meant doing the unspeakable. Out of this holy intention was born the nation of Moab, from whom emerged the holy spark of the soul of one who did not waver for a moment. This was Ruth, who never wavered in her devotion to Naomi and her G-d, and whose great grandson was King David, Melech HaMashiach. Ruth became the archetypal Ger, the "visitor" who takes shelter under the Tree of Life.

* * *


Sin need not lead to destruction -- if the sinner repents and makes amends. Like the behavior of the Sodomites, Avimelech's behavior in kidnapping a visiting woman he presumed to be single also fell far short of the standards of hospitality and treatment of strangers G-d wants in the world. There was no fear of G-d in Gerar -- it was a place where if they had thought Abraham was Sarah's husband, they would have killed him to get her. However, unlike the Sodomites, Avimelech was willing to accept rebuke. The story of Avimelech's dream teaches that people of all nations may be worthy of dreams and visions from G-d. As Elijah the Prophet stated: "I testify that anyone, Israelite or gentile, freeman or slave, man or woman can attain holy spirit" (Tanna devei Eliyahu). We must be willing to hear and heed the voice of G-d's rebuke, and to see the hand of G-d in the things that afflict us in this world, just as Avimelech learned that the mysterious disease afflicting his entire household was caused by immorality.

Abraham's prayer for Avimelech's healing is the first recorded prayer for healing in the Torah, teaching us the power of altruistic prayer to bring healing and rectification (Likutey Moharan II:1, see Wings of the Sun.)

* * *


The reward for Abraham's acceptance of the Covenant was the miraculous birth of a son born in purity -- a worthy successor. Abraham's uniqueness lay in his originality: he rebelled against his childhood homeland culture to become a Baal Teshuvah. On the other hand, Isaac's uniqueness, as the second generation, one "born into" the faith, lay in his willingness to submit to a discipline imposed upon him from childhood without rebelling. Only through such submission can the faith survive and be transmitted from generation to generation.

Rashi (Gen. 21:10) tells us that Ishmael contested Isaac's inheritance from Abraham, claiming priority as the firstborn. The descendants of Ishmael dispute Isaac's inheritance until today, claiming that the heritage of Abraham is theirs. Thus the concept of submission, which is central to the faith of Abraham, has a prominent place in Islam. According to the Moslems, Abraham's binding of his son -- the archetypal case of submission to G-d -- was performed on Ishmael on a mountain in Arabia. In this way a tradition that is little more than 1300 years old mirrors a far more ancient tradition that has been preserved faithfully in writing and by word of mouth from generation to generation for over three thousand five hundred years.

The mountain where Abraham and Isaac performed the supreme act of submission, each in his own way, is none other than Mount Moriah, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

The Torah testifies in our parshah that this is the mountain where G-d will be seen and revealed (Gen. 22:14).

Shabbat Shalom!
Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum

PO Box 50037 Jerusalem 91500 Israel
Website: www.azamra.org
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