Friday, February 17, 2017

Diversity and Dog Shows?

Yesterday afternoon on a road trip, I turned on the radio and fortuitously tuned into an NPR program about a prestigious dog show in Westminster, UK. I only caught the tail-end of the show, no pun intended.

A British reporter had been describing diverse techniques of dog-breeding, and how no two dogs are the same. At the dog show, she said, every little distinction is celebrated. One Irish setter might have a couple spots on this side, and one might have a different pattern of spots on the other side. At the end, she made a correlation to humans and commented on the lack of tolerance for diversity in today’s day and age. “If only broader society would embrace diversity as we do in dog shows…” she lamented.

I sat in my car stunned by her repugnant analogy.

Is that all that “diversity” amounts to?

Are we all like dogs at a dog show, being judged for our bodily and aesthetic appearance? Like an Irish Setter is assessed for his stack, gait, breed standard and type?

Is a human being valued based on his breed or grooming?

Is human diversity nothing more than variety in melanin in skin or hair, dimensions, fingernails, clothing choices, etc., like dogs differ in paws, spots or fur?

I understood the message she was attempting to convey, but the very notion of likening social diversity for humans to that of a dog show was offensive and reprehensible.

What about mutts or mongrels? Why doesn’t their genetic diversity matter in the world of dog breeding?

(Lots could be said about the very notion of dog shows, but that’s a topic for a different time…)

For the remainder of my drive, I contemplated that closing statement on NPR, how it reflected a skewed definition of diversity that afflicts much of our society today.

I gazed out my window at other drives and passersby, all of dissimilar appearances, features, stations in life, etc.

What does “embracing diversity” look like to you?

Does it mean not to judge someone based on the individual’s racial, religious or socioeconomic background? That sounds more like “tolerating” diversity. To embrace it would seem to be more than just tolerating it.

Does it mean that every bizarre hairdo, every possible natural or manmade human feature under the sun, has to appeal to me the same? But what if it doesn’t?

Does it just mean to celebrate the fact that we are different, have different tastes and make different choices? But what if I disagree with his choices?

Do I need to embrace a fellow’s multiple tattoos and body piercings and appreciate them? Do I need to applaud another individual’s revealing, scanty or suggestive clothing? If I regard such clothing as undignified, am I not “embracing diversity?”

Do I need to embrace a vulgar person’s vulgarity or promiscuous person’s promiscuity?

It’s not necessarily about judging anyone or assigning guilt. If someone is destitute and jobless, does that mean that I have to embrace his economic status and give it equal respect as I accord to one of a higher economic or professional status?

Does embracing diversity mean to appreciate the uneducated person’s lack of education or a tactless person’s lack of tact?

And what if an individual’s lifestyle runs contrary to my own belief system? What if it’s not only against my religion, but is also is at odds with the universal moral code of the Seven Commandments that I believe were enjoined on all Noah’s descendants?

Does “embracing diversity” mean that you ought to sanction his/her lifestyle or orientation even if you find it morally objectionable? If an individual rejects the biological definition of male and female (i.e. XX and XY) and adopts a new-age non-binary definition that you don’t agree with, are you not “embracing diversity?”

And if you refuse to use the pronoun of his or her choice, are you being intolerant?  If I believe that another religion(s) contains theological errors I refuse to validate or admire or even recognize, am I also intolerant of diversity?

The dog show comparison suggests that we ought to view every distinction between people as beautiful and worthy of celebrating. A spot here, a spot there…it’s all good.

In my opinion, this is a grave mistake. This is not social diversity, but a corruption thereof.

One who embraces all forms of diversity doesn’t stand for anything and has no absolute sense of right or wrong. Furthermore, he is being disingenuous, for he certainly has his own preferences which he needs to suppress or keep secret in order to truly “embrace” this distorted definition of diversity.

Here’s the real meaning of social diversity, and it has NOTHING to do with dog shows:

How do you value a human being? Better yet, how do you value yourself? What is your core worth? Does your hair/skin/eye color have anything to do with your core value? How about your education, skillset, profession or economic status? Do those contribute to your inner value as a person? And the virtuous choices that you make, or even your selfless acts of charity… do those define your basic worth as a human being?

The correct answer to all the above is no. Your true value is that you’re a reflection of your Divine Creator, a part of G-d from above, as it were. This gives you infinite and unfathomable value. Your hairstyle, skin color, waist-size, etc. are irrelevant, as are your religion, profession or economic/social class. Even your virtues and good deeds, or lack thereof, don’t add or detract from your core value, that you were handcrafted in the image of your infinite Creator. All the other aspects of you, your gender, your bodily features, your talents, etc., are rather peripheral and non-essential to your true, infinite value.

Now, your fellow also has that same infinite value, as he too is a reflection of the same One above. So his race, socioeconomic status, education, hairstyle, etc, don’t really affect his true value as a human being. Even poor choices he may have made don’t change his Divinely-significant status.

Consequently, I can respect him/her with awe and reverence for his/her true infinite value, irrespective of any tattoos or body piercings, poor clothing choices, skin color, physical oddities, or even of any behavior that I might consider inappropriate. The person is a walking, talking image of our Divine Creator! Any differences that might exist between us two are kind of irrelevant. We are both human beings, created in the image of the same One G-d. That is truly awesome!

The differences don’t need to be “embraced.” What needs to be embraced is the other person’s humanity. At that level, our dissimilarities fade away to obscurity.

Of course I can now appreciate his different physical features. That’s exactly how G-d made him, just like G-d made me to look like me. Even if his socioeconomic status or education is lacking, that’s irrelevant and doesn’t affect my opinion of him as a human being. That’s the situation G-d put him into in life, and it doesn’t mean that his life is any less meaningful than mine. But even aspects of his persona that I consider negative are now overlooked too. We can simply agree to disagree about our ideological differences; I don’t need to embrace those, for it wouldn’t be honest. Plus, it wouldn’t be kind, because I truly feel that some of his vices are to his own detriment. So I could never make peace with them. But I can embrace his humanity and treat him with the very same reverence and respect that I ought to accord to every human being. I can simply choose to not focus on the negative and superficial, and instead see only the boundless positive, our shared core value.

I don’t have to agree with every lifestyle choice he/she makes, or with which pronoun he/she chooses, or with how he might sully his body with tattoos and piercings, or dress in an undignified way or sport outlandish hairstyles.

I don’t need to compliment those things or even acknowledge them. If asked, I can politely state my opinion, or decline to comment altogether. That is my prerogative. I am entitled to teach my children about modest, ethical and moral conduct, adherence to the Torah, which also enjoins us to respect and care for others irrespective of our differences or of the other’s non-compliance to Torah.

If I choose not to teach my young children about “alternative lifestyles” or “gender fluidity,” that does not mean I am “intolerant” of others who might make such choices, nor does it mean that I don’t embrace those individuals’ humanity.

If we don’t have a TV or have any exposure to prevalent attitudes and behaviors that dominate today’s society that we consider objectionable, that doesn’t mean we are intolerant of diversity.
To the contrary, it means that we can be truly tolerant, for even when others have views or behaviors that we eschew and choose not to be exposed to in our home, we can still respect and appreciate those individuals for their true value, ignoring some things that we may view as flaws. I am not perfect either. Others who claim to embrace diversity by condoning every behavior are not truly tolerant. They just don’t stand for anything in the first place, so there’s nothing to tolerate. Everything goes in the name of laissez faire social diversity.

True tolerance means that I don’t have to agree with him to be able to respect and value him as a person.

To summarize:
Physical, racial, sex or socioeconomic differences among humans cannot be compared to a dog’s different pattern of spots, as bodily or economic features are not what gives us value as humans, nor can any other dissimilarities. Even moral shortcomings or defective behaviors cannot be compared to variations at dog show either, because there is a fundamental distinction between humans and animals.

None of those superficial differences define a human being, or even affect his value in any way, like spots on a dog at a dog show might.

Embracing diversity means to appreciate that every single individual in our heterogeneous society is a reflection of his or her Divine Creator, and consequently is deserving of my respect.

We are all members of one human family and can learn to appreciate and value each other, along with or irrespective of our dissimilarities. We don’t need to hide nor flaunt our differences, nor do we need to force another to accept or approve of attitudes or behaviors he/she may disagree with. Life is not a dog show and you are not on display, vying for anyone’s attention or judgment. In G-d’s eyes, we are all first-place winners, and represent the very finest of His Divine handiwork.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

UN Hypocrisy and US Collusion

Does the "United Nations" have any credibility?

I’ve long struggled to understand how any rational
person takes the United Nations seriously.

And how citizens of the Free World tolerate their governments participating in this deplorable body.

Sadly, the so-called United Nations represents the very worst of humankind, the dregs of humanity if you would. Hypocrisy at it’s very ugliest.

Here we have a gang of despicable self-righteous thugs of nations that include the most incorrigibly compromised rogue states on earth, like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others, who themselves are guilty of  the most heinous abuses and crimes against humanity. Whether state-sponsored or just overlooked, horrific crimes are regularly committed in many of these dictatorship police states, like executions, stonings, beheadings, honor killings, subjugation of women, slave labor, corporal punishment that includes flogging, amputation and torture, just to name a few. Forget about freedom of press or freedom or religion. The concept of freedom doesn’t exist in countries like these.

And yet, the so-called enlightened Western Nations sit together in assemblies and councils with representatives from these rogue states, in a body called the United Nations, and have the unmitigated gall to shamelessly target Israel, one of the tiniest states on Earth and freest state in the entire Middle East, to placate the villainous goons that they have shamefully “united” with.

It is almost laughable that China, a nation that sits as a permanent member of the so-called United Nations Security Council, is in fact an authoritarian state, one that systematically curtails a wide range of fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression, association, assembly, and religion. A government that regularly imprisons and beats human rights lawyers or dissenting reporters, that compromised government has a permanent right to weigh in on what’s right and wrong for the rest of the world?

Who else sits on the UN Security Council? Egypt? A country where over 90% of women are victims of female genital mutilation, over 82% of which were perpetrated my state-recognized health-care professionals!? A country where gang rapes have been encouraged by the government to stop women from demonstrating in protest against corrupt government policies!? A state where political prisoners are regularly stripped and beaten to obtain forced confessions, where children are kidnapped and tortured by the government’s own security forces?

This very nation drafts a bill condemning Israel for building homes for its women and children on land their ancestors lived on for millennia!? And then 14 out of 15 members vote for it? And one abstention? This, coming from nations who claim moral and ethical clarity and superiority, yet in fact are morally bankrupt, or are in cahoots with nations who are morally bankrupt?

Can someone pinch me? Am I in the Twilight Zone, because that’s sure what it feels like.

Nations who are guilty of mass murdering their own civilians with weapons of mass destruction, who proudly sit in this Assembly… their heinous crimes get barely a mention, or at most, a symbolic slap on the wrist. But Israel alone is singled out for condemnation after condemnation.

Out of all 23 resolutions that the United Nations adopted in 2016, a whopping twenty resolutions condemned Israel, and only three for other nations. One for Syria, a regime that has murdered more than 200,000 of its own people, one for Iran and one for North Korea, both rogue police states that sponsor international terrorism.

Fascinatingly, these latter three resolutions passed with far fewer votes than the twenty lambasting Israel that passed with vast and sweeping majorities. In fact, there was even a resolution ordering Israel to cede the Golan Heights to Syria, the mass-murderous regime where over half a million are dead in the past few years!


Is anyone paying attention to this appalling hypocrisy?

Shame on the United States and all other Western Nations that sit on this lame assembly!

Is that whom you wish to be united with? Syria, Iran, North Korea, and their ilk?

Even worse, is this our outgoing president’s legacy? To collude with this villainous organization that has nothing else to do in the world than attack Israel, a nation surrounded by hostile enemies who wish to destroy her?

"Return to pre-1967 borders" is their mantra.

Does anyone bother remembering that in ’67, hostile Arab nations were announcing their plans to obliterate Israel in the same style of the Mongolian hordes who laid waste to complete cities in the Middle Ages? These militarized Arab states were planning for mass graves in every Israeli city they dreamed of conquering, in which to dump the bodies of all the Jewish men women and children they planned to slaughter and mass murder. Does anyone bother remembering the great existential threat that Israel found itself in then, and still does today?

Does anyone find it ironic or cynical that the very nations who perpetrated horrific atrocities against the Jewish people in recent history, whether fascist or communist, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox or Muslim, sit there self-righteously at 1st Ave and condemn Israel for defending itself against contemporary mass-murderous fascists and bloodthirsty fanatics? Nations who persecuted, dispossessed and banished Jews for millennia, dare lecture the descendants of their Jewish victims to not build homes for their babies in the Jewish People’s own ancestral homeland? Nations who are guilty of unspeakable historical crimes against humanity preach to the descendants of their victims about maintaining unsustainable “historic status quos?” Does anyone find this ironic?

No, of course not. Because it’s always Israel-Bashing season all the time in the UN. That’s the only agenda the Nations of the UN seem to be United on. I cannot think of a single organization on earth that has done more to discredit itself than the UN.

*                      *                      *

Words are important, and so are letters.

In fact, acronyms are meaningful too.

With regard to the U.N., the acrostic says it all.

That’s why they call themselves the UN, get it? Because “un” means “not,” or the opposite of.

For example, the UN Human Rights Council means “un-human rights.” It’s obvious that that's the case, since the 2017 UN Human Rights Council includes an all-star team of such notoriously egregious human-rights violators such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Venezuela, China, Cuba, Iraq, Burundi, Bangladesh and United Arab Emirates.

The UN Human Rights Council claims that their mission is the “promoting and protecting of all human rights around the globe.”

Huh? Did I miss something?

Are we now considering these scoundrels world experts and champions of human rights!? Have we put the wolf in charge of the hen house?

But now, it all makes sense. You just have to read it with the “un.” Their mission is really to un-promote and un-protect human rights around the globe.

For example, when UNESCO ridiculously rejects any historical Jewish ties to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, ignoring millennia of indisputable historical and archeological evidence, we can now understand why they’re called UNESCO. It’s not the “United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.” It’s the un-educational, un-scientific and un-cultural organization. Clearly, they’re anti-education, science and culture.

The UN Security Council is really the un-security council, because they are clearly set on further destabilizing an already deteriorating security situation in the Middle East and the world.

UN Peacekeeping is really about keeping the un-peace. That explains their appalling record, and why they hire criminals to be so-called “peace-keepers,” as was recently discovered in Burundi, for example. And that explains how Hezbollah terrorists could dress in UN uniforms and use a UN vehicle to kidnap and murder Israeli soldiers, and how the UN denied having a secret videotape of the kidnapping for many months.

UNRWA is an un-relief and un-working agency for the so-called Palestinian un-refugees, who are actually  un-Palestinian too. In fact, the UN’s cause celebre, the entire notion of Palestinianism has no sense of positive self-identity. It just means that one wishes Israel to not exist, and then to ethnically-cleanse the Levant of all Jews. There’s no positive pride in being Palestinian other than wishing to purge Jews and have an exclusively Islamic police state, like Hamastan (Gaza), Qatar, Saudia Arabia, and all the others. So in essence, Palestinianism is an “un-identity,” that is, a nationalist identity only toward the end of negating Jewish statehood, or any Jewish presence period.

That’s why it’s the UN’s most important project. Or should I say, their un-project?

Of course, that’s why incitement and demonization of Jews goes on unabated at UNRWA schools for Arab children. It’s not about relieving the so-called Palestinian’s plight. It’s about un-relief, and perpetuating their grief.

It’s all in the “un.”

Indeed, the UN’s record of accomplishing anything around the world is rather unimpressive.

UN Ethics Office is about un-ethics, because there are few organizations as unethical, un-balanced and untruthful as the United Nations.

That’s why the unstable “peace” they promote is unachievable, unfair, unreasonable and unsustainable.

That’s why their unhinged resolutions don’t resolve anything, but only ensure that things will remain unresolved, or worse.

Their efforts to help are unhelpful, and as peacekeepers they are unsuited, unqualified, unfit, unreliable, uninformed, untrustworthy and unproductive.

Not unsurprisingly, the UN’s sense of justice is unjust and unrepentant. Their skewed view of reality is unreal. Their unrelenting audacity is unthinkable, unimaginable and continues to go on unabated. The UN’s unceasing hypocrisy is truly unbearable, and the fact that the Western World has continues to support this is simply unbelievable, unjustifiable and unforgivable.

Our only consolation is that the Guardian of Israel, G-d Almighty, neither slumbers nor sleeps.

We hope and pray that Israel remains unabashedly undaunted, undeterred, unafraid, unintimidated, and most of all, unaffected by this nonsense. Indeed, the bond between G-d and Israel is unbreakable and unassailable.

The UN is undeniably an unambiguous reminder that the world is still unredeemed. We need to understand just how badly the world needs Moshiach.

But enough talking about them and how un-acceptable they are. Let’s talk about us

That’s right, the United States, the US, that spells us! Collusion with the UN is so un-American and so unbecoming for us. We stand higher. What has happened to us!? The US, us, colluding with the lowly UN? It’s so UNlike US!

The UN might go under, but Israel will surely prevail.

To all my fellow Americans, it’s time for us to undo the damage and hold our outgoing president accountable. Time for us to be on the right side of history.

G-d bless America. We stand with Israel.

Am Yisrael Chai. Peace!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Chanukah and the recent UN resolution

Am I the only one fascinated by the alignment of the last day of Chanukah and beginning of the new secular year?

Do you know that 2017 has nine calendar days for Chanukah? Today, January first, and then again for eight days in December. So 2017 is unquestionably the "Year of Chanukah!"

Of course, Chanukah never really ends. Rather, the awesome message of this year's Chanukah has been gained and added to our treasure trove of experiences. It continues to enrich us and empower us, even long after the eight-day festival is over.

Sadly, this year's Chanukah was marred by a rather unsettling event (pun intended), a typically-vicious anti-Israel resolution at the UN, and an unprecedented US abstention.

Ironic, because Chankuah is all about the triumph of light over darkness. But this year, darkness seems to have prevailed over light, and ignorance over reason.

In a stunning move, the fanatically biased United Nations condemned Israel for allowing Jews to live in their ancient capital, Jerusalem, or even from praying at the Western Wall, and the US abstained.

Even worse, it appears as though our president colluded with the UN in drafting and promoting this resolution!

Even more shocking is the date in which it transpired, the day before Chanukah, the day that the Maccabbees reasserted Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem and the Temple Mount and drove out the Hellenist invaders.

So along comes the UN and negates thousands of years of uncontested Jewish sovereignty in one fell swoop, and the United States tacitly approves.

I think it’s fair to assume that most Americans consider this a cataclysmic failure in US foreign policy, while some erroneously think that this might somehow pressure Israel to make more concessions that might somehow jumpstart peace talks again.

But everyone realizes how absurd it is to disassociate Jerusalem from the Jewish People.

Jews lived in Jerusalem longer than the English lived in London or the Spanish lived in Spain, or the Romans lived in Rome. In fact, Jews lived in Jerusalem long before the English or Spanish even existed, and even well before the Romans even existed.

A Jew is a walking relic from the past, and Jerusalem is his ancestral home for most of recorded history.

The Jew has been persevering  to maintain his Holy City for millennia. Every foe who succeeded in conquering Jerusalem from the Jews ultimately faded away and disappeared behind the cobwebs of history.

The Seleucid Empire is a perfect example.

In fact, they were the villains of the Chanukah story, the very reason we have been celebrating for the past eight days.

Many people are mystified or outraged by the UN’s and President Obama’s timing in issuing this preposterous resolution.

Was that an idea of a cruel joke? People wonder. A Chanukah gift to the Jewish People, many of whom voted for him in two elections and voted for the candidate he had recently endorsed?

How many American Jews are now shaking their head in regret and dismay? I personally know many who are, and I’m sure you do too.

Other Jews, who distrusted Obama from day one, are angrily beating their chests! How dare he perpetrate such a dastardly deed, just days before Chanukah, the holiday in which we celebrate the Jewish liberation of Jerusalem! The time we celebrate that Jerusalem is once more in Jewish hands!

Was he trying to be like the proverbial Grinch who stole Chanukah?

I humbly disagree.

My dear friends, what I am about to say might sound like hyperbole or fantasy. But it is not.

Please don’t get all riled up. Just hear me out.

The UN and Obama just gave us all a lesson about Chanukah. Actually, this lesson was taught in the Talmud Bavli some 1,500 years ago.

Let’s read it together:

The Talmud (Shabbat 22b) asks:

מאי חנוכה? What is 'Hanukah? The rabbis taught: On the twenty-fifth day of Kislev 'Hanukah commences and lasts eight days, on which lamenting and fasting are prohibited. When the Hellenists entered the sanctuary, they defiled all the oil that was found there. When the government of the House of Hasmoneans prevailed and defeated them, oil was sought to kindle the Menorah in the Temple and only one vial was found with the seal of the high priest intact. The vial contained sufficient oil for one day only, but a miracle occurred, and they lit the Menorah with it for eight consecutive days. These eight days were the following year established as days of joy, for Hallel praise and thanksgiving.”

Fascinatingly, there is no mention of the miracle of the war, of the miraculous liberation of the city. The Talmud simply states that Chanukah is so called because of the miraculous way the Temple was rededicated, with the lights that lasted for eight days.

Herein lies the crux of the Chanukah. It’s not about “us” and “them.” It’s not like “They oppressed us, they occupied our land, they restricted our freedoms. We fought back. We won. Let’s eat!”

It’s that the site of the Holy Temple, atop the Temple Mount, was rededicated as a House for G-d in a miraculous way that clearly demonstrated that it was what G-d wanted.

The war, few prevailing over many, liberation of our city and our land, renewed Jewish independence and sovereignty, etc… that is all secondary. That’s why it was called “Chanukah,” dedicating the Temple, and not “Independence Day” or “Jerusalem Day” or something like that. Even the apocryphal reference to חג האורים, the festival of lights, recalls the miracles of the lights, not the miracle of the war, as the major theme of the holiday.

So now let’s consider the main points of the recent UN resolution:
  1. The UN is declaring all and any Jewish presence in Jerusalem and Judea Samaria as settlements, and therefore, as illegal.
  2. The UN declares that all this settlement activity is an obstacle to peace.
  3. The UN demands that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities
  4. The current status quo is not sustainable or acceptable. The current “one-state” reality is not viable.

Obviously we understand the malicious intent of the hypocritical Jew-haters at the so-called United Nations. They would like Israel to cease to exist, G-d forbid. Of course, a so-called “Palestinian State” means a Judenrein fascist police state, like Gaza currently is, that is sworn to the mass-murder of Jews everywhere. “Two-state solution” is one step toward a “Final Solution,” heaven forfend, לא תקום פעמיים צרה. So it must be opposed in the strongest of terms, with or without a US veto.

But as our sages observed, לב שרים ומלכים ביד ה' (“The hearts of officers and kings are in the hand of G-d” – based on a verse in Misheli 21:1)

If you consider these statements objectively, the message is undeniably true and aligns with the essence of Chanukah.

The UN declares that all Jewish presence in the Holy Land is but a mere settlement! That’s right, if you were ousted from your home but you’re camping out in your backyard, you’re just pitching a tent. You’re not living in your true home, as a true resident does. Why aren’t you clamoring to re-enter your home? Why are you “settling” for a tent in the backyard? Hmm, sounds suspicious, the United Nation reasons. You must be occupiers.

That’s correct. Chanukah reminds us that it’s not about “our land,” or “our” independence. It’s about dedicating a house to G-d. And G-d only has one Home, in one place. The same place it’s been ever since 870 BCE.

It’s about rededicating that Holy House by kindling His Holy Menorah with pure oil, as prescribed in His book, the Torah.

It’s not about us. It never was about us.

That’s why if you read the “V’al hanissim” prayer chanted in the Amida and in Birkat (grace) each day of multiple times each day of Chanukah, you will not find the pronoun “us” or “we” used even once, except in the very beginning where it refers to the miracles that You, G-d, performed for our fathers. And then the entire prayer invokes G-d as “You” in second person.

“(Thank you) for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty deeds, for the saving acts, and for the wonders which You have wrought for our ancestors in those days, at this time—

“In the days of Matityahu, the son of Yochanan the High Priest, the Hasmonean and his sons, when the wicked Hellenic government rose up against Your people Israel to make them forget Your Torah and violate the decrees of Your will. But You, in Your abounding mercies, You stood by them in the time of their distress. You waged their battles, You defended their rights, You avenged the wrong done to them. You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton sinners into the hands of those who occupy themselves with Your Torah. You made a great and holy name for Yourself in Your world, and You effected a great deliverance and redemption for Your people Israel to this very day. Then Your children entered the shrine of Your House, cleansed Your Temple, purified Your Sanctuary, kindled lights in Your holy courtyards, and instituted these eight days of Chanukah to give thanks and praise to Your great Name."

Holy smokes! I counted a whopping total of twenty-three “You’s,” and not one single “We” or “Us.”

Here’s the other important prayer we chant each night of Chanukah after kindling the menorah. It’s called “Haneirot Halalu”:

“We kindle these lights [to commemorate] the saving acts, miracles and wonders which You have performed for our forefathers, in those days at this time, through Your holy priests. Throughout the eight days of Chanukah, these lights are sacred, and we are not permitted to make use of them, but only to look at them, in order to offer thanks and praise to Your great Name for Your miracles, for Your wonders and for Your salvations.”

Yes, we are kindling lights, but they are not for us or our use. They are only for us to gaze at, in order to offer thanks to You, for Your miracles and Your wonders, etc.

What does that teach us? That Chanukah is not about us. It’s about G-d, but not about “Him.” Rather, it’s about feeling G-d’s presence, and consequently about talking with G-d as “You.”

So how can I truly celebrate renewed Jewish life in our ancestral land while You G-d are still homeless, as it were? And if You are homeless, then so are we. Your Home lies in ruins, while Your children, the ones You so dearly wish to kindle Your holy lamp in Your house, can’t even ascend upon Your Holy mount, to gaze upon the desolate site of Your home?

How dare Jewish leaders brazenly lie and claim that the Western Wall is the holiest site in Judaism! What utter falsehood!

Where do you feel most at home in your property? In your back ally? Front yard? Outside the walls of your home? Of course not. It’s inside the walls where you truly feel at home. Your own sanctuary, your home base.

The Western Wall is just an outer Wall, and a mere fragment thereof. And that’s why it’s called the Wailing Wall. It’s not the holiest site in Judaism. It’s the saddest site in Judaism that we are able to visit, and wail. If you are happy with that status quo, if you settle with being outside in the back ally while your home is hijacked or in ruins, and you are barred from entering altogether, then you are just a settler, by your own self-definition. You don’t really belong there.

So the UN declares, the current status quo is unacceptable! Stop settling!

It’s time to fish or cut bait.

If it is indeed your home, then go build your home. And if it isn’t your home, then stop camping out in the backyard!

But Jews are kind-hearted and benevolent people. How can we displace the Arabs who are currently there? What about their shrine or shrines? Shall we not honor the fact that they’ve been there for the past numerous centuries?

So here’s where Chanukah comes in. It’s not about us. It’s about dedicating a home for G-d.

Perhaps I ought to stop thinking about myself, and what kind of person I wish to be viewed as. G-d wants a home, so let me go dedicate it. And if I cannot dedicate it at present, then I ought to start clamoring and demanding for G-d’s home to be rebuilt and rededicated. I’ll start showing that I’m no settler, but a son or daughter of the true Owner of the property whose home tragically burned down twice but will soon be rebuilt and re-inhabited, by His own children, the way HE wants it. Just like HE demonstrated with the miracle of the eight days of Chanukah over 2,100 years ago!

Thank you to the United Nations and to Barack Obama for reminding us of what we all know in our heart of hearts to be true, but can’t articulate it.

Let’s stop "settling" for less, when we can achieve the Dream of Dreams, an eternal home for the Divine on this earth! We must cease and desist from living this “settler” existence in Exile at once!

The Golus-settlement status quo is unacceptable and not viable. It’s illegal for a Jew to be in Exile, or for G-d to be in exile. It’s a violation of G-d’s law.

Let’s go build Your house, G-d. The Third Holy Temple. And let’s dedicate it to You with pure oil, just like Your holy priests, the Maccabbees, did in times of old.

And then, there will be true and lasting peace, a peace that all nations of the world, including Arabs, will come to cherish and appreciate.

But so long as we’re mere settlers, our “settling” is an obstacle to peace, to the ultimate peace.

The current “state” of Israeli “statehood” is not a lasting solution, because it does not recognize the need for G-d to have His home. If you’re homeless, how does it help to have a state? And if you’re willingly homeless, do you even deserve a state?  Have a state without having a home is also a settlement of sorts.

The very notion that a Jewish “state” is a consolation to Jews for the millions of lives lost in the Holocaust in an anathema and morally objectionable.  It might be true that the current state is necessary in order to prevent future Holocausts, heaven forfend, from the surrounding hostile enemies. But in no way does it somehow justify or reconcile the atrocities of the past, nor even the suffering and injustices of the present.

The only consolation to the nearly two millennia of Holocausts, Crusades, Pogroms, massacres, expulsions and inquisitions, etc., is the true and complete Redemption through Moshiach, the climax of which will be the re-dedication of G-d’s home on the Temple Mount, and the return of all G-d’s children from the far-flung corners of the earth, followed by the resurrection of the dead.

Amen. May it be speedily in our days.

But until that time, let’s mobilize now to bring it about, and not just wait passively. And remember: it's not about me. It's about something infinitely greater and more awesome than me. It's about You.

PS:  the "You" theme of Chanukah is also eloquently expressed by King David in Psalm 115 (that we currently recite for the Rebbe's years, and that was also recited each day of Chanukah in Halel): "לא לנו ה' לא לנו -- Not for us, O G-d, not for us... but for Your name give honor, for Your kindness and for Your truthfulness. Why should the nations say, 'Where is your G-d?'..." Indeed, it's not about us, but about You. And therefore, "ישראל בטח בה' עזרם ומגינם הוא -- O Israel, trust in G-d. He is their help and shield..."

Friday, November 11, 2016

Time to Rethink our Presidential Election

I propose we make a much-needed constitutional amendment!

Nope, I’m not referring to electoral college.

I propose we move the elections to a nice warm time of year, like midsummer.
That way, if you’re upset with election results, you can just chill and go to the beach, or go hiking, camping, or some other fun, outdoor activity. You can even go to Disney. Mickey Mouse can help take your mind off your post-election misery. (But maybe you should avoid Donald Duck for obvious reasons).

This time of year is a tough time for people who are struggling to cope with the reality of the loss of their candidate and an incoming president whom they revile.

On a very serious note, I became concerned for the welfare of a dear friend and member of our community yesterday. He sounded depressed and not well, and I feared that he harbored thoughts of harming himself. It was late at night, so I called the police department to discuss.

A police officer was at my door within two minutes. I described my concern. He told me that they are receiving numerous calls like this since the election, but also because of the recent time change (significantly earlier sundown) and weather change. He said that those two factors are significant triggers that can push someone over the edge. They sent police over to our friend’s house within minutes, and made sure he was safe and that all was well. My friend later called me to thank me, and that he appreciated the warm and friendly policemen’s visit.

Parenthetically, I am grateful for our devoted police department. It was the first time that I saw a law-enforcement officer helping others in that context, not just enforcing a law or reporting a crime, or just ensuring highway safety. These officers showed me a new side of law enforcement, one that shows genuine concern and care for an individual’s welfare and state of mind, to make a wellness checkup and a friendly visit, giving the fellow a warm smile, hope and encouragement. The police are awesome!!

So back to my original point, were the elections to be held in a happier and warmer time of year, perhaps all would benefit. Imagine the benefit of a late-summer election. That way, if we are despondent about the election results, we can go to shul and pray our hearts out, because Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur would be right around the corner!

On second thought, maybe it could be spring or early summer. That way, we wouldn’t have to waste our precious summers on these unpleasant and stressful campaigns that no one enjoys.

Just a thought.

Tired of Post-Election Rhetoric

Friends, this is getting ridiculous. Please stop denouncing other voters. 

Everyone has the right to their own opinions. This is a democracy.

Please don’t deplore half the country. It didn’t work for Hillary’s campaign and it won’t work for you.

(To be accurate, it was a quarter of the country. Nearly half don’t vote at all, but that means that they’re okay with a Trump presidency, because if they weren’t they’d have voted, one would hope. So please don’t deplore three quarters of the country and a vast majority of states).

We may protest stated policies of the winning candidate. We may mobilize to remind our representatives in Congress that we expect healthy checks and balances to keep the incoming president in line.

Please stop saying that this is the end of our country as we know it, or that we just elected Hitler. Because it simply isn’t true. I understand your frustration and the benefit of hyperbolic ranting, but please be mindful of your rhetoric.

Yes, it’s true that DT had some shady supporters (like white “supremacist” groups), but HC had her share of shady supporters too (like rogue Islamic terrorist-sponsoring states). DT didn’t do enough to distance himself from his unsavory donors, but neither did HC. It’s just that you didn’t hear too much about the shady donations to her campaign, because the media is much more sensitive to right-wing extremists than they are to Islamic extremists. Both candidates were compromised, perhaps one more so than the other, but even that is debatable and impossible to know for sure.

Many voted for DT simply because they feared a nuclear Iran far more than they do David Duke. That does not mean they are willing to tolerate persecution of minorities.

Remember that politicians are opportunists and often make bold statements to rally support and get elected.

There is nothing that DT said that is even remotely fascist, although the media did a good job as showcasing his statements as though he were.
He may not have been my choice or your choice, but he was our country’s choice, so he most likely will become our new president. Accept that fact, because it’s reality.

You may call for a constitutional amendment for popular vote, but it will not change the present reality.

Also, here’s an important thing to bear in mind:

The presidential election is a bit like a sports game. If the team you root for won or lost, YOU haven't really won or lost anything. YOU are NOT the Red Sox or Patriots. They don't even represent you. They are merely making a living like everyone else. It’s just that YOU voluntarily decided to identify as a fan of theirs. That is your choice that you can change at will. You can choose to identify however you prefer, but that doesn't really change reality. Likewise, you are NOT a dem, rep, rino, dino, or otherwise. You didn't win nor lose the presidential election. The country as a whole elected a new president.

Neither you nor your team really won anything. The winning candidate is now going to govern the country, thanks in part to your vote (if you live in a state where your candidate won, or in Maine or Nebraska). But he is just a politician who said whatever he had to say to win your vote. Whether he is going to deliver is an entirely different question. So instead of celebrating, you ought to be planning your next steps, like how are you going to hold the candidate to his campaign promises? Likewise, if he is out of line or his policies are wrong, then how are you going to speak out in protest? He’s not your team that you need to be loyal to. It’s your country that you ought to be loyal to.

Same is true for those who voted for the losing candidate. YOU haven’t lost anything. You may be concerned for the welfare of the country, and perhaps rightfully so. You ought to be planning your next steps, like how will you as a citizen impress upon your representatives in government to maintain healthy checks and balances to help keep the new president in check.

So please stop deploring fellow American voters. And please stop categorizing them by race or education in a demeaning or disparaging way. That's prejudice. Lots and lots of women and people from other racial backgrounds voted for him, and lots and lots of white males vote for her. Some of the most brilliant and educated people I have ever met voted for him, while some of the least educated and uninformed people I have ever met voted for her. And vice versa. This is silliness.

Let’s move on. Just my two cents. Peace.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Torah Thoughts for Post-Election 2016

Dear Facebook Friends who are celebrating the results of yesterday’s election:

Here are two relevant teachings of our Sages from Pirkei Avot (4:18), written some 1,800 plus years ago. Please read & share with your friends:

“Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar would say: Do not appease your friend at the height of his anger; do not comfort him while his dead still lies before him; do not ask him about his vow the moment he makes it; and do not endeavor to see him at the time of his degradation.

“Shmuel the Small would say: "When your enemy falls, do not rejoice; when he stumbles, let your heart not be gladdened. Lest G‑d see, and it will be displeasing in His eyes, and He will turn His wrath from him [to you]" (Proverbs 24:17-18).”

Here is a link if you’d like to study it in depth:…/…/jewish/Chapter-Four.htm

This election has been unnerving enough. There is no need to taunt or denounce anyone, regardless of whom he or she voted for. It is not helpful.

Here are the obvious directives from the above-mentioned teachings:
  1. Your fellow American who voted for Hillary is probably very angry right now. Respect that.
  2. Don’t try to appease or comfort him. Let him grieve. If he wishes to rant, let him and be quiet.
  3. If she vowed to move to Canada, don’t remind her or ask her about it. Understand that it was hyperbolic.
  4. Do not rejoice over her grief or loss. Just be happy over the election of the candidate you think will be best (or least bad) for the country. No need to revel or gloat on social media in a way that is disparaging to others. Be humble (like Shimon the "Small"). If it helps, try to remember back to 2008 or whenever when your candidate lost, and have some empathy.
  5. Do not say anything to make another person feel bad. Don’t rub it in. This goes for sports too. If you’re a Red Sox fan, for example, don’t taunt or insult a Yankee fan in a way that will really make him feel bad, unless both of you mutually understand that it is in good spirit. The Torah calls this “אונאת דברים.” It is forbidden to hurt another person with your words, spoken or written.

This goes the other way too. The same law also applies to those who are incensed over yesterday’s election results. Grief, anger, despair, regret, etc., is all fine. But please do not disparage other Americans who voted for the winning candidate. They do not necessarily approve of: misogyny, xenophobia, sexual assault, adultery, or anything else their candidate has been accused of. Nor do they even necessarily agree with all his stated policies.

Perhaps she voted for him because she feared the alternative more. Maybe he is a single-issue voter, like a jobless coal-miner in the rust belt, and the only thing that matters to him is his ability to put food on the table. Or maybe she fears a nuclear Iran more than anything else in the whole world, and feels that a misogynist, tax-evading buffoon is preferable to a perhaps-more refined and experienced candidate whom she fears is more likely to tolerate a nuclear Iran. Maybe for her, it’s a matter of life and death. Let’s stop judging each other and stop looking it in terms of US and THEM.

Peace to all. G-d bless America (and Israel too).


Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Most Important Election Ever...

This is undoubtedly the most consequential vote you will ever cast.

For whom will you vote?

Your fate, the fate of your family, community, nation, and the entire world, literally hangs in the balance! The fate of Israel too, believe it or not, will be forever affected by the outcome of this crucial election.

Here are your choices:

One candidate embodies selfless virtue and sacrifice toward a greater cause. The other candidate stands for greed, self-aggrandizement and narcissism.

One candidate promotes love, truth and respect of one’s fellow, irrespective of our differences.

The opponent promotes hate and party politics, pits you against your own family members just because they’re different from you or have differing opinions.

One candidate inspires moral courage and fortitude, while the opponent is a fear-monger, trying to make you feel unsafe and vulnerable. These insidious tactics often incite reactionary aggression from among this candidate’s followers, who get easily sucked into their candidate’s angry rhetoric.

One candidate insists on honesty, integrity and accuracy, and does not tolerate any untruths. The contender’s campaign is fraught with lies and falsehoods. Every single statement uttered by this devious candidate needs to be thoroughly fact-checked. In fact, based on past performance, it’s reasonable to assume that every one of this candidate’s arguments are a thinly-veiled attempt at misleading gullible listeners and misrepresenting the facts.

In addition, this candidate likes to bring attention on the other’s flaws or shortcomings while conveniently ignoring his own. This candidate encourages others to spread malicious reports just to breed resentment and ill will.

This candidate teaches adherents to rant and rave, often shouting vulgarities or intimidating others, whereas the other candidate require that her adherents speak firmly but respectfully at all times.

This candidate believes that the entire Land of Israel belongs to Jews, and encourages every Jew to take possession of what is rightfully his/hers. The other candidate feels that Jewish homes are “unhelpful,” and that Jews ought to kowtow to world opinion and secular agendas. This candidate might claim to support Jewish causes, but only to further the sinister agenda that ultimately calls for the dismantling of everything Jewish, G-d forbid!

Needless to say, this candidate is NOT good for the Jews, but shockingly, a vast number of Jews (including Orthodox Jews) are enamored by the false assurances and empty promises that this candidate continues to offer.

One candidate exemplifies compassion and empathy, but prioritizes that compassion on victims, not the victimizers. According to the other candidate, however, victims ought to be blamed and their victimizers pardoned and enabled to continue preying on others.

One candidate bears no secrets but just says it as it is, while her opponent has secret pacts with the Dark Side, taking bribes, clandestine funding and phony donations. Suspicious individuals with ties to organized crime have been found to have numerous dealings with this candidate. That’s why the candidate’s platform promotes an agenda that ultimately will lead to violence, misogyny, misandry, lawlessness and a complete breakdown of society. And that’s the real agenda, to take away your freedom.

Indeed, that’s why this candidate has so many crooked and disreputable supporters, while there are so few people who are brave enough to speak out in favor of other far more virtuous candidate.

It is deplorable, but there is overwhelming media and celebrity bias in favor of the compromised candidate, because they are influenced by the same debased powers that be. Naturally, they also endorse this candidate’s dissolute and irreverent policies.
It’s amazing that although this candidate has such a scandalous history, people are still fooled by her self-professed innocence.

This candidate repeatedly sought to evade justice by denying past misdeeds and shady dealings, and even attempted to delete evidence after being ordered by Court to bring it forward. Of course, this is rather foolhardy, because in truth, EVERY single message, speech or deed does its damage and gets recorded forever, somewhere out there in cyberspace or elsewhere. It’s only a matter of time before it will all be public knowledge, and ultimately justice will be served. Do you wish to vote for a candidate who will be under investigation and ultimate indictment for breaking laws!? Do you wish to submit to such defective leadership?

One candidate is committed to defending your rights but also holds you to your obligations, thereby preserving your dignity and self-esteem. The opponent beguiles the electorate to become freeloaders and shirk all sense of personal responsibility. Of course, this is an attractive option to lazy people who would rather get free lunch than exert effort.

This candidate gloats over evading one's civic and communal duties, stiffs workers, and defrauds unsuspecting investors. While the opposing candidate personifies humility and responsibility, this candidate never acknowledges any guilt whatsoever.

This candidate claims to have more seniority and lots of worldly wealth, and consequently deserves to call the shots. However, it is no secret that the candidate has declared bankruptcy on more than one occasion, and is in fact morally bankrupt. The opposing candidate, however, may be younger in years and with far fewer worldly assets, but is rich in wisdom and moral values.

The older candidate claims to have lots of experience, but in fact is just maintaining status quo to keep the same corrupt villainous forces in power. However, if you vote for the younger candidate and grant her executive powers, the glass ceiling will be broken wide open and we will soar to unprecedented heights!

For whom will you cast your vote?

Don’t think that your vote doesn’t matter. It does!

In fact, your vote will literally decide who will be the next commander-in-chief! It is your vote that confers that awesome power!

So please vote. And vote wisely.

Location and time for voting is right here and right now.

No, I haven’t been discussing the Novermber 8th US presidential elections. My apologies if you were confused.

The two candidates I’m referring to are the Yetzer Tov and the Yetzer Hara. Your G-dly soul and your animal soul. Yup, the two are vying for executive power inside of you. It is you who casts the only vote, with every decision you make. Whose voice do you heed?

Hope you elect the right candidate!

G-d forbid, if you made the wrong choice and voted for the wrong candidate, don’t worry! You can demand a recall and vote again.

It is never too late to turn back the clock and do teshuva!

And when you elect the right candidate, that will empower others around you to correctly elect their own winning candidate, and together, we break the glass ceiling of exile and usher in the glorious Redemption and the coming of Moshiach!

PS: the Animal Soul claims seniority as it was in you since the day you were born. The G-dly Soul, your higher self, isn’t completely manifest in you until you became bar or bat mitzva.