Sunday, 25 September 2011

Israel Matzav: The best of Abu Mazen

The best of Abu Mazen

President of the Palestinian National Authority Abu Mazen pretends to want peace with Israel. There is a difference between his spoken words and true beliefs. Watch a collection of the best sentences of Mahmoud Abbas against Israel.

Let's go to the videotape.

Israel Matzav: The best of Abu Mazen

Israel Matzav: Oops! Obama calls poor people 'do nothings'

Oops! Obama calls poor people 'do nothings'

How's this gaffe by The One at the Congressional Black Caucus dinner on Saturday. Stay alert around the 35-second mark (nothing to do with Israel except for our interest in seeing Obama defeated).

Let's go to the videotape (Hat Tip: Will).

The truth rises to the top?

Israel Matzav: Oops! Obama calls poor people 'do nothings'

Israel Matzav: The New York Times bows to political correctness

The New York Times bows to political correctness

And you never thought the New York Times would slam one of their own. Well, they have, but for the wrong reasons.

A week ago, I wrote a post criticizing self-hating Jew Max Blumenthal for writing an article in the Columbia Journalism Review castigating New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Ethan Bronner (pictured) for alleged improprieties relating to speaking engagements. For that piece, Blumenthal referred to me as an 'anonymous Israeli extremist.' (I expect to be called an extremist by people who get drunken kids to ham it up for the camera so that he can present them as 'extremists').

Incredibly, the Sunday Times says that their own reporter did nothing wrong, but it doesn't look right.
A close examination of the facts leads me to conclude that the case for an actual conflict of interest is slender. But the appearance of a conflict clearly exists, and that is a problem in and of itself. The Times’s “Ethical Journalism” guidelines state that staff members “may not accept anything that could be construed as a payment for favorable coverage or as an inducement to alter or forgo unfavorable coverage.”

Mr. Bronner has now severed his ties to the public relations firm. “In my view, it is all about appearances,” he told me. “I am not denying they matter. There is nothing of an actual conflict.”

The matter revolves around Mr. Bronner’s engagement, beginning in 2009, with Lone Star Communications, a firm operated by Charley Levine, a prominent public relations executive in Israel. Mr. Levine added a speakers bureau to his firm that year, and Mr. Bronner signed on to be represented by him.

The core of Mr. Blumenthal’s critique was that Mr. Levine is a figure of the Israeli right, who counsels prominent Zionists and serves as a reservist in the Israeli Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Unit. Mr. Blumenthal, a writing fellow at the Nation Institute, said it was improper of Mr. Bronner to have a business relationship with Mr. Levine while covering stories that Lone Star promoted.

In The Columbia Journalism Review article, Mr. Blumenthal never explicitly accused Mr. Bronner of providing favorable coverage as a quid pro quo for receiving speaking engagements from Mr. Levine’s firm. He objected that Mr. Bronner “takes paid speaking engagements from a firm that also pitches him stories.” Elsewhere in the article, he wrote: “On the one hand, it might be hard to cover Israel without stumbling across Lone Star’s many clients. On the other, however, that might be a good reason not to have a business relationship with the firm.”
As I noted in my original post, everyone who writes gets pitched stories. I get pitched stories and I will bet that Ethan Bronner gets pitched more stories and better stories than I do. But the standard they are espousing is unrealistic. If Bronner is not going to talk to people who do reserve duty in the army, he can't talk to anyone under the age of 45 who isn't a draft dodger. The army is part of our society. How is Bronner supposed to cover it without taking stories from our reservists?

But to see just how much of a tempest in a teapot this is, look at the story that Blumenthal pitched to the Times.
Mr. Blumenthal’s article enumerated six cases in which Mr. Bronner had written about, or at least mentioned, Lone Star clients. Mr. Bronner walked me through those cases. Of the six, he said, only one involved an instance in which he had received a pitch from Lone Star and, on that basis, decided to write about it. The article concerned the Jewish National Fund and was about a fortified play area for children in the Israeli border town of Sderot.

In the rest of the cases except one, he said, he did not receive a pitch from Lone Star and was unaware that the story involved a Lone Star client. The exception involved Danny Danon, a conservative member of the Israeli Parliament. Mr. Bronner said he has covered Mr. Danon but the coverage decisions were influenced not by Lone Star but by the prominence of Mr. Danon, who is deputy speaker of Parliament and chairman of World Likud.
What a terrible thing - Bronner wrote a story about Sderot, which, except according to Abu Mazen and Co. is not even 'disputed territory.'


The fact that the Columbia Journalism Review would publish Blumenthal's piece in the first place speaks volumes to the bereft state of American Journalism and of Bir Zeit on the Hudson.

As to the Times, we've known for a long time that their ethics are crooked.

Israel Matzav: The New York Times bows to political correctness

Israel Matzav: Hmmm....


A report in Lebanon's Naharnet claims that Israeli commandos helped a Hezbullah minister to escape to Israel last month, implying that the man was an Israeli spy.
An Israeli commando force helped a top Hizbullah official escape to Israel a month ago, An Nahar said Sunday under the daily's 'Secrets of the Gods' tidbit but without saying that he is a member of the Shiite party.

“Abou Abed Ismail’s rank is similar to a Minister of Infrastructure in his party,” it said without mentioning Hizbullah. “The commando force helped him escape from Lebanon a month ago after meeting him at a border village.”

No other elaboration was made by the newspaper.

But on Friday, An Nahar quoted informed sources as saying that a man named Abou Abed Salim escaped to Israel a few days after Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech in June that CIA members at the U.S. embassy had recruited at least two Hizbullah members and the group was investigating whether the intelligence agency or another foreign agency recruited a third.

The sources said the third person is Ismail.

Israel Matzav: Hmmm....

Israel Matzav: Could Obama pull out of Presidential campaign?

Could Obama pull out of Presidential campaign?

Could Barack Hussein Obama become the first American President since 1968 not to run for reelection? Yes, says Democratic strategist Dick Morris.
As bad news piles up for the Democrats, I asked a top Democratic strategist if it were possible that President Obama might “pull a Lyndon Johnson” and soberly face the cameras, telling America that he has decided that the demands of partisan politics are interfering with his efforts to right our economy and that he has decided to withdraw to devote full time to our recovery. His answer: “Yes. It’s possible. If things continue as they are and have not turned around by January, it is certainly possible.”

Just looking at Michelle Obama’s unsmiling face during her husband’s recent speech to Congress triggered an insight: These folks aren’t having fun anymore.


Obama’s historic race to the top in 2008 was animated by huge margins and turnouts among four key groups: African-Americans, Hispanics, Jews and young voters. New polling data and the results of the Brooklyn-Queens Turner-Weprin elections suggest that his base is decaying, chunk by chunk.

· An analysis of the past three Fox News surveys indicates that Obama’s job approval rating among voters younger than 30 has declined to 44 percent. By combining the past three surveys, Fox News was able to accumulate data on 600 under-30 voters indicating a sharp decrease in the president’s approval from his former supporters.

· According to Gallup, Obama’s approval among Hispanics has also dropped to 44 percent. Aggregating data from recent polls, as Fox News did, Gallup concluded that the president’s ratings among Hispanics were not much higher than among the general electorate.

· The election of Republican Bob Turner in the single most Jewish district in America — one that had not gone Republican since the 1920s — shows the decay in Obama’s Jewish support. Alienated by his perceived anti-Israeli bias, Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews voted in massive numbers for Turner. Results in heavily Jewish areas reflected his desertion. But even such neighborhoods as Forest Hills, Queens, populated by Reform and Conservative Jews, showed the candidates running almost even.

Only the African-Americans remain of Obama’s 2008 coalition. Surveys show his approval among blacks at higher than 80 percent, indicating no diminution of his enthusiasm there.

Yet the entire campaign strategy of the Obama people is to move to the left, fanning class warfare, to elicit strong liberal support. Rather than compensating for his loss of liberals by reaching out to independents and traditional swing voters, he just doubles down on his appeal to the left, further alienating the middle.

But the kind of enthusiasm Obama kindled in 2008 cannot be ignited easily by negative appeals. Particularly if the Republicans nominate a more moderate candidate such as Mitt Romney, Obama will not be able to rely on partisan animosity to succeed where job approval has failed. And, given all that, he might not even run.

Israel Matzav: Could Obama pull out of Presidential campaign?

Israel Matzav: John Mearsheimer comes out of the closet

John Mearsheimer comes out of the closet

John Mearsheimer, one of the co-authors of the notorious book The Israel Lobby, has come out of the closet and declared himself an anti-Semite. Jeffrey Goldberg is in shock.
Gilad Atzmon is a jazz saxophonist who lives in London and who has a side gig disseminating the wildest sort of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. He is an ex-Israeli and a self-proclaimed "self-hater" who traffics in Holocaust denial and all sorts of grotesque, medieval anti-Jewish calumnies. Here is a small sample of his lunatic thoughts.


Atzmon also believes that the Jews persecuted Hitler:


He has also suggested that Jews specialize in the trafficking of body parts.


Atzmon is quite obviously a twisted and toxic hater. His antisemitism is so blatant that activists of the so-called BDS movement (boycott, divestment and sanctions), which seeks the elimination of Israel, refuse to have anything to do with him. But Atzmon still has at least one friend among anti-Israel activists: The R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, and co-author of "The Israel Lobby," John J. Mearsheimer.

Rather unbelievably (or believably, depending on where you sit) Mearsheimer has written an endorsement of Atzmon's new book, "The Wandering Who?" Here is what Mearsheimer says about Atzmon:
Gilad Atzmon has written a fascinating and provocative book on Jewish identity in the modern world. He shows how assimilation and liberalism are making it incredibly difficult for Jews in the Diaspora to maintain a powerful sense of their 'Jewishness.' Panicked Jewish leaders, he argues, have turned to Zionism (blind loyalty to Israel) and scaremongering (the threat of another Holocaust) to keep the tribe united and distinct from the surrounding goyim. As Atzmon's own case demonstrates, this strategy is not working and is causing many Jews great anguish. The Wandering Who? Should be widely read by Jews and non-Jews alike.'
In this new book, Atzmon suggests, among other things, that scholars should reopen the question of medieval blood libels leveled against Jews-- accusations that Jews used the blood of Christian children to make matzo, and which provoked countless massacres of Jews in many different countries.
One of my contacts in England writes that Goldberg has given too much credit to the local BDS movement.
Although Goldberg points out that the BDS movement coldshoulders Atzmon because of his antisemitism, there are elements within the UK BDS movement that have failed to do so. The Reading Palestine Solidarity Campaign website in the UK regularly links to Atzmon's articles in its sidebar - there's one on there at this moment. That PSC group has a standing link to the Redress site, where Atzmon's articles often appear - Redress is notoriously antisemitic, yet the Reading PSC (and by extension the Aberystwyth PSC, which shares its webspace) blatantly pimps it.
Read the whole thing.

Israel Matzav: John Mearsheimer comes out of the closet

Israel Matzav: Bill Clinton reinvents history again

Bill Clinton reinvents history again

Former National Security Council member Elliott Abrams blasts former President Bill Clinton for reinventing history again (Hat Tip: Dan F).
As he did last year, Clinton once again offered his vulgar, pop sociology explanation of Israel: “you've had all these immigrants coming in from the former Soviet Union, and they have no history in Israel proper, so the traditional claims of the Palestinians have less weight with them. The most pro-peace Israelis are the Arabs; second the Sabras, the Jewish Israelis that were born there; third, the Ashkenazi of long-standing, the European Jews who came there around the time of Israel's founding. The most anti-peace are the ultra-religious, who believe they're supposed to keep Judea and Samaria, and the settler groups, and what you might call the territorialists, the people who just showed up lately and they're not encumbered by the historical record.”

Natan Sharansky, one of those Soviet immigrants “who just showed up lately” and who Clinton presumably thinks does not want peace, said in response: “I am particularly disappointed by the president's casual use of inappropriate stereotypes about Israelis, dividing their views on peace based on ethnic origins.” Presumably, if you disagree with Clinton over the necessary preconditions for peace, you are against peace entirely—and you need to be denounced. The implication that someone like Sharansky, because he is an immigrant from the USSR, is “not encumbered by the historical record” and is indifferent to Palestinian claims requires no refutation; Clinton should be ashamed of himself. Unlike Clinton, whose most frequent foreign visitor to the White House (13 times!) was Yasser Arafat, Sharansky has stressed the importance of human rights and democracy as a prerequisite for a Palestinian state. Clinton was apparently quite ready to allow Arafat to create a terrorist satrapy.

Clinton also spouts off about the 2002 “Arab Initiative,” saying, “The King of Saudi Arabia started lining up all the Arab countries to say to the Israelis, ‘if you work it out with the Palestinians ... we will give you immediately not only recognition but a political, economic, and security partnership.’ … This is huge.... It's a heck of a deal."

That “deal” was adopted at an Arab League summit attended by only 10 of the 22 Arab leaders of the day, and among those not in attendance were the king of Jordan, the president of Egypt, and Yasser Arafat—suggesting that support for this proposal may have been quite limited. Moreover, it was a take-it-or-leave-it offer, never proffered as a basis for negotiation. This “heck of a deal” required “Complete withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the 4 June 1967 line and the territories still occupied in southern Lebanon.” In other words, go back to the indefensible 1967 borders, give up every settlement bloc, and give up every square foot of Jerusalem, including the Western Wall. Not quite as “huge” an offer as President Clinton recalls.

“The two great tragedies in modern Middle Eastern politics, which make you wonder if God wants Middle East peace or not, were Rabin’s assassination and Sharon’s stroke,” Clinton said. I can think of some others: The fact that a terrorist and thief, Yasser Arafat, led the Palestinian people for decades; the fact that he turned down Israeli peace offers at Camp David; the fact that the Palestinians turned down Ehud Olmert’s even more generous peace offers in 2008; the fact that thousands of Israelis were wounded or killed in the first and second intifadas; the fact that no Palestinian leader has ever spoken with candor to the Palestinian people about the compromises they will need to make in any peace agreement; the fact that for the last two and half years the Palestinian leadership has adamantly refused to come to the negotiating table.
Read it all.

Israel Matzav: Bill Clinton reinvents history again

Israel Matzav: Erdogan gets his apology

Erdogan gets his apology

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan finally got his apology. But not from Israel. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon apologized for a violent assault on Erdogan by a UN security officer who attempted to keep the Turkish Prime Minister out of Abu Mazen's UN speech.
"I'm afraid there was an unfortunate incident," the Turkish prime minister was quoted as saying by Ankara's daily newspaper Sabah. Erdogan did not elaborate on the incident, saying only that he was kept out of the General Assembly Hall during Abbas' speech by security guards.

The Turkish media underscored the fact that Ban offered his personal apology to Erdogan for the incident because his assailant was a UN Guard officer.

Minister of Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein, who witnessed the attack, described it as a "very violent incident. Like a scene out of a movie."
Boo hoo. The Turkish Prime Minister was not hurt.

The rumor going around Manhattan on Friday was that someone tried to kill Erdogan. Not quite. But what a whiner.

Israel Matzav: Erdogan gets his apology

To Those Always Wrong About the Middle East and Who Never Lose A Gram of Arrogance or A Moment of Sleep Over the Tragedies They Create

To Those Always Wrong About the Middle East and Who Never Lose A Gram of Arrogance or A Moment of Sleep Over the Tragedies They Create

By Barry Rubin
On the occasion of your supporting Palestinian unilateral independence despite the dangers this presents for Israel while simultaneously criticizing Israel for not giving massive concessions in exchange for nothing. On the occasion of the world groveling before Mahmoud Abbas, a ruler of a mere one million people who is in partnership with an explicity genocidal terrorist group, is dependent on Western hand-out, refuses to negotiate or compromise, and has cancelled elections at a time when democracy is supposedly the big thing in the Middle East.    
On the occasion of your ignoring the fact that Turkey is ruled by an Islamist party engaged in massive repression and the transformation of the country into a dictatorship, holding that regime up as a model for other Muslim-majority states as it arrests dissidents on a massive scale and keeps them under lock and key while threatening war with Israel.  The U.S. government chooses this regime as its co-director in the most important new international counter-terrorist initiative and as its manager of the political transition in Syria. 
On the occasion of your whitewashing revolutionary Islamism andglorifying anti-Western forces that will yield a harvest of bloodshed and misery in future.
And most of all on the occasion of your ridiculing, censoring, or ignoring far more accurate assessments of the situation.   
Here’s the record
You were wrong about Iran’s revolution.
You were wrong about Saddam not invading Iran.
You were wrong about Saddam becoming moderate and wrong about him invading Kuwait.
You were wrong about the 1990s peace process (me, too, but I learned real fast in 2000).
You were wrong about the unilateral withdrawal from southern Lebanon.
You were wrong about the promise that you’d support Israel if it took risks for peace and then things got bad.
  Early 2000s
You were wrong about the rise of a stealth Islamist regime in Turkey.
You were wrong about Islamist terrorists attacking America (ridiculing the idea before September 11)
You were wrong about Iran’s nuclear program (during the initial years, you said it wasn’t happening when Israel was warning about it).
You were wrong about letting Hamas participate in the Palestinian election even though it didn’t qualify.
You were wrong in thinking Fatah would win the Palestinian election.
You were wrong in not supporting moderate force in Lebanon and strenuously opposing the power of the Iran-Syria-Hizballah alliance there.
You were wrong in encouraging or even participating in a massive campaign of slander against Israel.
You were wrong in encouraging or even participating in a massive campaign of slander against the United States.
  Obama Era
You were wrong about the Egyptian revolution.
You were wrong about Turkey (being Islamist).
You were wrong about Iran again (engagement).
You were wrong about Syria (being winnable from Iran).
You were wrong about Lebanon (not being taken over by Iran, Syria, Hizballah).
You were wrong about Obama (sorry, I only get 800 words total here).
You were wrong about Israel, (a country you never understand).
You were wrong about Islamism (understanding what it’s all about—revolution, not hurt feelings).
You were wrong about Pakistan (helping in a war against terrorism when it sponsors terrorism).
You were wrong about Obama’s policy in the Middle East making America popular there.
You were wrong about flattering Islamists into becoming moderate.
You were wrong about the whole settlement freeze mess (including the wrong claim that it would win moderate gestures from the Arab world).
You were wrong about throwing a tantrum regarding east Jerusalem construction which you’d already agreed was okay to continue.
You were wrong in not throwing a tantrum about the Turkish regime’s sponsoring terrorists on the Gaza flotilla, sabotaging sanctions on Iran, an creating a virtual state of war with Israel.
You were wrong in opening the door to the Taliban in Afghan politics.
You were wrong in opening the door to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptian politics (saying the United States had no objection to its being in government without anyone even askin).
You were wrong about moving away from Israel making Arabs and Muslims more moderate and pro-American.
You were wrong to waste almost a year by not dealing with the Palestinian unilateral declaration of independence strategy.
You were wrong in sabotaging any possibility of America becoming more energy independence.
You were wrong in not pressuring the Palestinian Authority to negotiate seriously with Israel.
You were wrong in not giving Israel strong support when it has faced broken agreements, a massive terrorist onslaught, and the rejection of peace in response to its concessions.
 That’s just a partial list.
And now you want Israel to risk its future existence on the basis of your advice, leaving aside also the fact that you’ve never confessed error, rethought the basis of these mistakes, and then formed an alternative policy and worldview?
You dare to suggest that you know better the interests of Israel and how it will survive than its people, voters, and leaders?  And yet you are ignorant about Israel itself, its experiences in the last two decades, and the situation it faces! 
 Then your smug media, your arrogant false experts, call us dummies and ridicule our arguments—acts and arguments you don’t dare to confront directly in serious debate? We’re supposed to be impressed? Persuaded? Ashamed? Americans in general and Jews in particular are supposed to ignore the people who have actually lived the experience, know the facts, fought the wars, and taken the risks?
And besides, what about the people  of Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran who are horrified by their current governments yet who can expect no real help or understanding from you.  How about Saudi Arabia and Jordan, whose strategic plight you ignore. How about the people of Egypt and very possibly Libya and Tunisia who may be facing a tidal wave of repression, economic disaster, and shattered hopes partly due to your mistakes?
The answer is, “No, thanks.”
 All I can add is, Take it away, Bob Dylan:
 “I just want you to know
I can see through your masks….
You play with my world
Like it’s your little toy….
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher….”
–Bob Dylan, “Masters of War”



by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin HaKohen Melman

Nitzavim is always read prior to Rosh Hashana. It is a plaintive plea, nay warning, by Moses to the Jewish People, that they have before them a choice in life, between life and death, before good and evil, and that they should choose life.

The later Moses, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, aka Moses Maimonides, aka the Rambam, teaches that we should see ourselves, and the world, as hanging equidistant on the scales of justice, as being suspended evenly between the twin poles of evil and righteousness. Just one meritorious deed, or mitzvah, on our part, can mean the difference between personal salvation and world redemption, on the one hand, and personal ignominy and a world swept away in chaos, on the other.

Maimonides discusses repentence:
"What constitutes complete repentance? He who is confronted by the identical situation wherein he previously sinned and it lies within his power to commit the sin again, but he nevertheless does not succumb because he wishes to repent, and not because he is too fearful or weak [to repeat the sin]. How so? If he had relations with a woman forbidden to him and he is subsequently alone with her, still in the throes of his passion for her, and his virility is unabated, and [they are] in the same place where they previously sinned; if he abstains and does not sin, this is a true penitent" (Mishneh Torah, "Laws of Teshuva," 2:1).

Of course, to attain such a degree of mastery of one's self requires a certain amount of reflection and intense introspection. It requires us to, in a sense, "look back," at the evil we had committed.
Looking back and reflecting on our past deeds is part and parcel of the process of Teshuvah, and
yet, there is an earlier biblical precedent very much related to our parsha, which seems to suggest just the opposite!

In Genesis, parashat Vayera, Lot and his family are rescued by the archangel Raphael from the imminent destruction of Sodom and Gemorrah . They are warned specifically not to look back when fleeing from the evil cities (Gen19:17). In Genesis 19:26, we are informed that Lot's wife did indeed look back, and she was turned into a pillar of salt ("vatehi NETZIV melach"). This hidden reference in the first verse of our parsha to the previous flight from sin is joined by a quite explicit reference to the same story just 13 verses later in Deut19:22, where our fate would be joined to that of the overthrown cities, should we not forsake our evil ways.

This usage of the same word netziv in Genesis as well as in the opening verse of this week's portion ("you are standing here this day") seems to suggest that as they are collectively standing at the portal to the promised land, they are figuratively looking back at all the evil they had confronted and overcome in their journey up to this point. Janus-faced, they are facing imminent redemption awaiting them in the land even as they are seemingly mired by their dwelling upon the past. The text seems to be suggesting that it will take a renewal of the Covenant for them to finally point themselves forward, and not be immobilized by wallowing in their past.

This also begs the question. Should we therefore not look back at the evil we are trying to leave behind, following the lesson of Lot's wife? That would seem to contradict Maimonides' definition of teshuvah, of avoiding the same deeds while in the same conditions, advice which is seemingly only achieved through a process of self-reflection on one's past misdeeds.

A resolution of this seeming contradiction can perhaps be found in the same Genesis narrative,
where Lot exclaims (Gen 19:19),

" ...(and I cannot escape to the mountain), lest evil overtake me and I die.

"...pen tiDBaKani haRa'ah veMati."

The word in the Hebrew for "overtake me" is tiDBaKani, literally meaning "stick to me," as the word DeVeK in Hebrew means "glue." It is related to the term, devekut, which in Hasidic philosophy connotes the idea of clinging, or attaching oneself to G*d. But here the reference alludes to sticking not to G*d, but quite oppositely, to evil itself! Hasidic thought revolutionized Jewish thought by using the very weapons of the forces of evil instead for good. In other words, the forces of evil cause depression in the soul by causing one to immerse oneself in the mire of one's old ways. Your evil, sordid past clings to you like mental glue, seemingly preventing any chance of escape, of liberation.

By making the effort to consciously cling to G*d we can thus free ourselves from the muck and mire of the evil forces that strive to drag us down into a soul depression. G*d is throwing us a life line. "Cling to me instead," He is saying.

Resolving the seeming contradiction, whether to engage in reflection on one's past as a necessary step to moving forward to Teshuvah, or not to look back, so as to avoid the fate of Lot's wife, entails this use of devekut. Just as G*d created Torah as the antidote to evil, so too we should cling to G*d as our "teflon" lifeline even as evil is trying its utmost to cling to us. But know that with G*d you will always prevail against evil, as long as you hold on and cleave to Him. We cleave to G*d through prayer, through Torah study, and through the conscious performance of mitzvoth.

So the idea is that we should look back, but only just enough to be temporarily and momentarily saddened by the idea that we sinned and went off the right path, so as to effectuate a true Teshuvah. But to allow oneself to be mired in sadness over one's past by dwelling on the past only prevents one from making that connection with G*d that has the power to lift one up from depression. We are told again and again that the path to G*d is only through joy, that sadness only blocks one from attaining that bliss which only comes from knowing and feeling close to G*d.

In just last week's parsha, Ki Tavo, we are warned that our lives will become cursed only because we did not serve G*d with happiness (Deut 29:47).

"...tachat asher lo avadeta et Hashem Elokecha b'SIMCHA."

It seems rather obvious, but sadness leads to sorrow, and sorrow leads to depression, and depression robs a person of the will to live. One becomes one of the walking dead.

As a practical suggestion for moving forward into Teshuvah, let us especially not dwell on others' past mistakes. Although perhaps well-meaning, it is often counter-productive, and causes feelings of depression which make it even harder for that person to break free of his old patterns because he then begins to lose hope. In losing hope, he loses joy, and thus again falls victim to his old ways.

I always used to chafe at the requirement to rise in the morning prayers upon reciting Psalm 100, beginning with the words, Mizmor LeTodah. After all, it is very short, but a paragraph in all, and by the time one has stood up one already has to sit back down again! But as short as it is, it is also the most powerful, and most deserving of respect, for it carries within the secret to life itself:

"Ivdu et Hashem b'Simcha!"
"Serve the Lord with Joy/Happiness!"

To paraphrase the sage Hillel, "all the rest is commentary."

Shabbat Shalom!
Good Shabbos!
Shanah Tovah!
A Goot Yor!

© 2000 - 2011 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman



By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

Torah Reading: HA-AZINU, Deuteronomy 32: 1-52


Some songs are happy, some are sad. Some are for entertainment. Some come to tell a story or teach a lesson. Some express the inner heart and soul. Unique among all songs is the song of Moses in our parshah. HA-AZINU is the song of G-d's perfect Justice -- the ultimate reproof to man.

The Hebrew word for song, SHIRAH, is related to the word SHER, which means a chain or necklace. A song is a chain, thread or structure that connects various particulars together in order to make a meaningful order. As the very climax of the Torah, Moses' song of HA'AZINU gives order and meaning to the history of the people of Israel with its great highs and terrible lows. Everything comes to show the faultless, inexorable justice of G-d. "The Rock -- His work is perfect, for all His ways are Justice, the G-d of faithfulness in Whom there is no wrong, He is righteous and straight!" (Deut. 32:4).

This may be easy to say, but it is very hard to actually know and believe in our heart of hearts. Nevertheless Moses challenges us to join him in this song of testimony, so that we too will know and declare G-d's justice. The song is "interactive": Moses chants, calling upon us to respond. "For I will call upon the Name of HaShem -- ascribe greatness to our G-d" (ibid. v. 3). This verse is the Torah source for the prayer leader's call to prayer and the congregational response, both in the synagogue -- BAR'CHU -- and at the table introducing the blessings after eating bread -- NEVORECH (Brachos 45a). HA-AZINU challenges us to respond: to wake up, see and acknowledge G-d's truth and justice, and to respond in the proper way, by repenting. HA-AZINU is such an important expression of the essence of Israel's faith and destiny that some communities had the custom of reciting it daily in the morning prayers together with SHIRAS HAYAM ("Song of the Sea") (Rambam, Laws of Prayer 7:13). In the Temple, successive portions of HA-AZINU were read every Shabbos in a six-week cycle as part of the service accompanying the Shabbos additional offering (Rambam, Temidim Umusafim 6:9).

"Listen, O heavens, and I will speak. Hear, O earth, the words of my mouth" (Deut. 32:1). Moses calls upon the heavens and earth, G-d's impassive, unwaveringly obedient servants, as his witnesses. For mortal man is too devious and full of ploys to be a valid witness -- he has a vested interest: he wants to justify himself. "Why did this happen to me? It isn't fair." Moses confronts us -- the latter generation that he is addressing -- with independent testimony that cannot be denied: the actual history of the people of Israel from the very beginning to the very end, for it is all encapsulated in HA-AZINU. "Remember the days of the universe, understand the years of generation after generation; ask your father and he will inform you, your grandfather and they will tell you..." (v. 7). What has happened in the past and what is happening now to Israel is of significance to the entire world. For Israel is at the very center. "When the Supreme gave the peoples their inheritance, when He spread out the children of man, He established the boundaries of the nations according to the number of the Children of Israel..." (v. 8).

The history of Israel is the history of Adam writ large. Adam was created out of dust and nothingness and placed in G-d's sublime garden, but he quickly rebelled and sinned, causing G-d to punish and chasten him, in order to make him repent and to cleanse him. Similarly, G-d "found" the Children of Israel in a wild, desolate land and built them into a nation, giving them to ride on the high places of the earth -- the land of Israel and Jerusalem. But their very good fortune and prosperity became their undoing. "And Yeshurun became fat and he kicked" -- causing G-d to let loose all the evils and terrors of persecution and oppression that have plagued the people of Israel for thousands of years. Only when we internalize the message that rebellion leads to nothing but pain in the end, and that we have no recourse except in G-d -- only then will G-d relent and swing everything around to goodness and blessing -- VE-ZOT HABRACHAH (the closing parshah of the Torah).

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We cannot escape from G-d and His Covenant, with its privileges, responsibilities and its terrible sanctions. The stark severity of the message of HA-AZINU may cause discomfort among those in today's obese, irreverent world who seek a sweet, undemanding spirituality that complements and enhances contemporary lifestyle without causing any radical upsets. People are bewildered by the war, terror, crime, disease and other scourges afflicting us, but would like to see them as mere aberrations that should be able to be eliminated if only we could apply sufficient human ingenuity. HA-AZINU teaches the futility of trying to overcome these G-d-sent scourges without confronting the rebelliousness and deviousness in our own hearts. For G-d always has the upper hand. "For I am He, and there is no god with Me: I kill and make alive, I struck the blow and I will heal, and none can save from My hand" (v. 39).

"If only they would be wise and apply their intelligence to this, and understand their latter end. How could one chase after a thousand and two put ten thousand to flight if not because their Rock sold them and HaShem delivered them?" (vv. 29-30). How could it be that small groups of Nazis were able to uproot thousands from their homes and towns and lead them literally like lambs to the slaughter? How could it be that today a people that is not a people have the whole world dancing to their tune, while small cells of terrorists torment and demoralize the entire population? How can this be if not that it is G-d's doing?

If it is true that our sins as a nation have brought us great suffering, it must also be true that the stirrings of Teshuvah in our hearts will also prove to be the channel for abundant blessing and peace. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov taught that when Israel accepted the Torah, their essential wisdom lay in their willingness to throw away their own sophisticated wisdom and humbly submit themselves completely to G-d's superior wisdom. Rabbi Nachman brings proof from Onkelos' Aramaic translation of the verse in HA-AZINU: "O foolish people and not wise" (Deut. 32:6) -- "O nation that received the Torah and were not sophisticated" (see Likutey Moharan I:123).

We cannot redeem ourselves with sophisticated ploys but only through taking the ancient, unglamorous path of Teshuvah -- honest self-scrutiny, remorse, contrition, owning up to the foolishness and evil in our own hearts and taking ourselves in hand in order to better fulfill G-d's commandments. HA-AZINU calls to repent with all our hearts and come home to G-d as we stand before Him in prayer during these Days of Awe. Repentance -- Teshuvah -- is the hallmark of the true savior, Melech Mashiach, as personified in David, the messianic king of Israel. David came to complete the work of Moses in rectifying the original sin of Adam. The striking fact about David is that he sinned. His greatness lay in the fact that he had the courage to acknowledge it, and to repent. The true messiah is not a flawless, superhuman saint who rides on clouds of glory. He is one who -- on his level -- knows sin and knows the devices of man's heart. And he knows that only G-d can rectify.

"Cleanse me of my sin and purify me from my transgression... O G-d, create in me a pure heart and renew within me a proper spirit... I will teach sinners Your ways and transgressors will return to You" (Psalm 51).

As soon as we learn that there is no other way but to repent, we will be redeemed. And then: "Sing aloud -- O you nations -- of His people, For He does avenge the blood of His servants and render vengeance to His adversaries, and will make atonement for the land of His people."

Shabbat Shalom! Shanah Tovah! Gmar ChaTimah Tovah!

Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum

PO Box 50037 Jerusalem 91500 Israel
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