Monday, 24 November 2014

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Huffington Post: Why We Shouldn't Call ISIS "Pure Evil"

We must be careful in the language we use in battling groups like ISIS. It is important that we make a point, not simply express our emotions and, even, disgust. I expressed my thoughts further on this in my latest Huffington Post blog: Why We Shouldn't Call ISIS "Pure Evil"

My original title for the post, btw, was 'Words' but it was changed by the editors. (I leave it to you to decide which title is better. I actually commented on the Huffington site because I had a problem with their title)

Please feel free to comment here or there.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Israel Antiquities Authority App

The Jewish Standard:

The Israel Antiquities Authority has released an app to help children learn about archaeology.

"Become an archeologist!" the app's description reads. "Use your iPhone or iPad as a tool to tap, dig, and explore Israel's past. Discover the Dead Sea Scrolls in an ancient cave, and piece them together to reveal their meaning! Dig up the 2,000 year old Lod Mosaic, then uncover its story in a fast-paced quiz game! You'll need skills, creativity, and smarts to become a great archaeologist and unlock all the rewards."

The games in the App are designed around real discoveries and archaeological artifacts and were developed in collaboration with the IAA's team of pre-eminent archaeologists, scholars and researchers. As they play, kids get a feel for what archaeologists do as they experience the excitement of discovery and the creativity and skills involved in solving mysteries from the distant past.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are among the oldest biblical manuscripts and are considered the greatest manuscript discovery of the 20th century.

The Lod Mosaic is one of the largest, best preserved Roman mosaics ever found and is currently touring the world with stops at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre, Waddeson Manor and the Hermitage.

The free app is available right now in iOS (for iPhones, iPods and iPads) and an Android version is next.

via JTA News

Kol Tuv,

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Mussar - Dismissing Dismissiveness

 originally published January 22, 2011

One great Jewish Leader confided with me, we Jews are entitled to our opinions of course, but the level of dismissiveness is IMHO too high; unacceptable.

I was debating parshanut with a former Orthodox scholar. I pointed to him that Onkelos supported my hypothesis that Rivkah induced Yaakov to usurp the Brachah al pi n'vuah.

He dismissed this as "what is Onkelos - a mind reader?"

Certainly we may object to Onkelos' take on any passuq. Rashi does so respectfully EG in P. B'shalach on the word "ozzy".

But this dismissiveness on the part of the former Orthodox scholar wasn't part of his adherence to some objective scientific methodology over obscurantist beliefs! This was disdain from a position of moral superiority in order to further an agenda of portraying Yaakov as a usurper, and Jewish Tradition is to be condemned for defending our Patriarch.

Is his dismissive attitude co-incidental to his abandonment of Torah-True Judaism. I think not. It is true that there is dismissiveness WITHIN the Orthodox world itself. To the extent that it fosters a dismissive atmosphere, they too must account for the trade-off


Friday, 21 November 2014

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Senseless Killing of Innocent Jews in Israel

Guest Blogger
R Pini Dunner:

Dear Members and Friends
Once again, and with a heavy heart, I find myself writing an email about the senseless killing of innocent Jews in Israel. This time the brutality and barbarity of the act, and its place of perpetration, defy our ability to absorb it, never mind react to it. Four Jews davening in shul, hacked, stabbed and shot to death by ruthless murderers, whose hatred enabled them to enter a sacred place and kill, kill, kill. Puddles of blood in a shul, with the dead and injured lying on the ground still in their tallit and tefillin, is a scene that we associate with the darkest periods of Jewish history, not with an era of Jewish prosperity and freedom in our own country.
The fact that Jews can be attacked by terrorists while praying in a synagogue, in an act planned by a terrorist group, and then widely celebrated by Palestinians across Israel, must force us to question whether it will ever be possible to find common ground with these people in any kind of 'peace' agreement. And for the news media to declare that Arabs are being provoked by 'settlement building' and Jews demanding the right to pray on Temple Mount, is beyond sickening. It is like saying that because someone built a non-permitted building near one's house it is then legitimate to go on a killing rampage in a church because one has been 'provoked'. If you don't like settlements, use peaceful methods of protest. If you feel that Jews ought not to have the right to pray on Temple Mount, use peaceful methods of protest. Killing is murder. Killing people with knives and meat cleavers and axes makes you a savage. It seems that 'savages' is becoming the most apt definition of the Palestinians. And by the way, I am not suggesting that praying on Temple Mount is the right thing to do - there is no doubt that it is halachically problematic. But to deny Jews the right to go there and pray, and to declare that the holiest site of Judaism must remain Judenrein, is simply unacceptable. It should be our choice, not the choice of Muslim bigotry.
But that is a discussion for another day. Today we must simply mourn and grieve the 4 wonderful men who lost their lives this morning, while praying in shul. Rabbi Moshe Twersky, formerly of Boston; Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky and Rabbi Kalman Zev Levine, both originally from the US; and Rabbi Avraham Goldberg, originally from Liverpool, and later London. All of them had emigrated to Israel. Their deaths leave 26 orphans.
There were also a number of men who were very seriously injured in this morning's attack. Here are their Hebrew names - please pray for them:
Shmuel Yerucham ben Baila
Chaim Yechiel Ben Malka
Avraham Shmuel Ben Shaina
Eitan ben Sarah
Aryeh ben Bracha
Finally, one of the rabbis killed this morning was Rabbi Moshe Twersky, son of the late Rabbi Isadore Twersky, who was the son-in-law of Rabbi J.B. Soloveichik, Rosh Yeshiva of RIETS at Yeshiva University, and the leading light of Modern Orthodoxy in the twentieth century. I feel, therefore, that it is apt to reproduce the following quote from Rabbi Soloveichik, written in the 1960s. It is particularly pertinent because the Rav was not a man who was considered extreme or reactionary:
"The fifth knock of the Beloved is perhaps the most important. For the first time in the annals of exile, Divine Providence has amazed our enemies with the astounding discovery that Jewish blood is not cheap! God did not seek honor and recognition. He wanted Pharoah, Moses' contemporary, to know that he must pay a high price for his edict that "Every male child born shall be cast into the river" (Exodus 1:22), His present desire is that the blood of Jewish children who were slain as they recited the eighteen benedictions of the daily [Amidah] prayer shall also be avenged. When God smote the Egyptians, He sought to demonstrate that there will always be accountability for the spilling of Jewish blood. At present, it is necessary not only to convince the dictator of Egypt [Nasser], but the self-righteous Nehru, the Foreign Office in London, and the sanctimonious members of the United Nations that Jewish blood is not cheap... A people that cannot defend its freedom and tranquility is neither free nor independent."
My friends – this morning our brothers, including Rabbi Soloveichik's grandson, were slain while reciting the eighteen benedictions of the daily Amidah prayer. Jewish blood is not cheap. In the same way that Israel exchanges 1000's of prisoners for one captured soldier, so too Israel must let the world know that when innocents are slaughtered it will make no compromises in ensuring the safety and security of its civilians, and of every Jew. We expect no less. God expects no less.
May the injured be healed, may the dead be avenged, and may we soon see the ultimate redemption of Moshiach, and the rebuilding of the Third Temple. Amen.
Rabbi Pini Dunner

Kol Tuv,

Five dead in Jerusalem synagogue attack

Kol Tuv - Best Regards