Sunday 28 February 2016

Huffington Post: What Comes First: Society Or Government?

When Ben Carson was asked about the seemingly absence of Christian values in Republican domestic policy, he responded that the issue is not the necessity of caring but the role of government in such a process. The people in society should care without the structure of government. But what if society does not so respond on its own

While not actually referring to Halacha, my latest Huffington Post blog had Halacha in mind in responding to Mr. Carson's perspective. Please see What Comes First: Society Or Government?

My original title for the post, btw, was 'But What Must Come First?' but it was changed by the editors.

Please feel free to comment here or there.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Tuesday 23 February 2016

New RBH Series in Toronto

Conflicts and Overlaps
at Adath Israel, 37 Southbourne Ave
Sundays at 9:00 a.m.

Fourth Series: Human Rights and Freedoms

February 28 - April 10

February 28   What is a human right? Do we really have rights?
March 6        Liberty - Are we really free? In what was, now and before?
March 13       Restrictions on Liberty - Valuing when we are not free and why.

No class March 20

March 27       Freedom of Conscious - How far do we really get to think?
April 3            Freedom of Religion - What about the Torah’s attitude to idolatry?
April 10          Freedom of Speech - When is too much and when is not enough?

Thursday 18 February 2016

Passing of Antonin Scalia‏

The OU and RCA just issued this press release on the passing of U.S. Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia. In a world that more and more seems to limit the right of freedom of religion in the evaluation of conflicting rights, Judge Scalia's voice will be sorrowfully missed.

OU/RCA on the Passing of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia
"A Dedicated Public Servant...Contributed Much to Expanding Religious Liberty in the US"

(Feb 15, 2016) Today, the leaders of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America - the nation's largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization - and the Rabbinical Council of America - a membership body representing 1,000 Orthodox rabbis, issued the following statement with regard to the death of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia: 

The leadership of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and the Rabbinical Council of America was saddened to learn of the passing of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. Justice Scalia was a towering intellect, passionate architect of American law and dedicated public servant. Of course, as a member of the high court, Justice Scalia shaped so many areas of the law, but for the American Orthodox Jewish community, among the issues dealt with by the court, one of the most important to us is that of religious liberty. Through his opinions in many cases interpreting the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, (with the notable exception of his majority opinion in Employment Division v. Smith), Justice Scalia moved the jurisprudence of that topic away from an extreme view of strict separationism and back to a principled approach of government neutrality toward and equality among religions.

On the whole, Justice Scalia contributed much to expanding religious liberty in the United States and we are thankful for his service. We extend our condolences to his beloved wife, children and grandchildren.
* * * * * 

Tuesday 16 February 2016

New RBH shiur on Koshertube: Defending Oneself and Defining Oneself

One is always called up to defend oneself against enemies. What happens in many societies, though, it that the very definition of the society is then defined by this battle. Leaders are identified by their ability in the fight against the enemy. Is this also the way of Torah or is it, within Torah, that we choose to define ourselves outside consideration of the

In his latest Koshertube shiur, Nishma's Rabbi Hecht discusses this issue. We invite you to view Defending Oneself and Defining Oneself at

Monday 15 February 2016

American Orthodox Jews will miss Scalia, their great defender‏

From RRW

American Orthodox Jews will miss Scalia, their great defender

Religious Americans of all creeds will feel the loss of The Great Scalia, but his passing is a blow for the Orthodox Jewish community, who saw the justice as protecting their right to stand apart.
Seth Lipsky
Scalia was the speaker in 2008 at the annual banquet in New York of the Agudath Israel, which filled a vast ballroom at the Hilton Hotel. At one end is a dais of four tiers, along which sat more than 100 of the great rabbis dressed in black and wearing long beards. And there among them sat Justice Scalia, flanked by the Novominsker Rebbe, Yaakov Perlow, and the city’s police commissioner, Raymond Kelly.
It was a glorious sight, and Scalia delivered the sort of remarks for which he is so widely appreciated by religious Americans. His key point was the Founders of America had not intended the First Amendment to exclude religion from the public square. He also told a wonderful story, which I have related many times (including in recent hours) about a teacher, Father Murray, at Xavier High School in Manhattan, where Scalia studied as a lad.
Scalia, imitating Murray’s Boston accent, related the teacher’s explanation that when one studied Shakespeare, it wasn’t the Bard who was on trial — it was the students. And that is how Scalia himself viewed the relationship of judges to the authors of the Constitution. He felt a burden to study their words to divine what they had originally intended and then to act accordingly, which led to one of his most famous dissents.
The case was called Lemon v. Kurtzman, in which an atheist, Alton Lemon, himself a constitutional lawyer, sought to bar the Quaker State, Pennsylvania, from using public funds to reimburse church-affiliated schools pay for help teaching secular subjects. The court sided with Lemon and over-ruled Pennsylvania. It said the wall of separation between church and state wasn’t absolute, but it set up what became known as the “Lemon test.”
It was a complex formulation to test when Congress had violated the prohibition on passing any law respecting an establishment of religion. Scalia hated the Lemon test’s hostility to “an excessive government entanglement with religion.” In a subsequent case, Scalia likened it to “some ghoul in a late night horror movie that repeatedly sits up in its grave and shuffles abroad, after being repeatedly killed and buried” and “stalks” our jurisprudence, “frightening the little children and school attorneys.”
In 2013, Scalia came to Yeshiva University here in New York for a symposium on “Synagogue and State.” He appeared on stage with the Modern Orthodox star Rabbi Meir Soloveichik and the constitutional lawyer Nathan Lewin, another giant in the struggle for religious freedom. Scalia had recently been mocked in the press for confessing he believed in the Devil.
When his interlocutor sneered a question about what the Devil was up to now, Scalia had replied: “Getting people not to believe in him or in God.” At Yeshiva, the justice warned against a misreading of the first clause of the Bill of Rights, which says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Why was it worded that way, Scalia asked.
After all, at the time the First Amendment was ratified, a number of the states had religious establishments, meaning laws establishing an official church in the state. What the Founders feared, he suggested, was not only the establishment of a national church but the disestablishment of the state churches. He suggested we are now in an era of Establishment clause “incoherence.”
How his view will be missed as all this is sorted out. When a Catholic charity known as Little Sisters of the Poor filed its appeal to at the Supreme Court, where the nuns are seeking protection from the Obamacare birth control mandate, the first friend-of-the-court brief filed was from a group of rabbis who understood that if the Little Sisters can be pushed around, the rest of us can, too.
Their case now looks in doubt. Because they lost in the 10th Circuit, they need a majority of the nine justices to win their liberty. Hobby Lobby, a company owned by religious Christians, won its case, involving similar questions, by the narrowest margin, five to four, with Scalia in the van. Predicting high court decisions is a dangerous game, but it’s at least possible that religious Americans may begin feeling the loss of The Great Scalia even before a new justice is confirmed.
Seth Lipsky is editor of The New York Sun. He was a foreign editor of The Wall Street Journal, founding editor of The Forward and editor from 1990 to 2000.

Who Are The Palestinians? What And Where Is Palestine?

From RRW

Thursday 11 February 2016

Jewish American Victims Treated Differently‏

From RRW

Seeking Justice for Victims of Palestinian Terrorism in Israel   

Learn more at http://Oversight.House.Gov

Tuesday 9 February 2016

How honest are Israelis? Watch to find out‏

From RRW

How would you react if someone mistakenly gave you more money than they intended? This social experiment captures Israelis' reactions when stopped by a "blind" man asking for help changing cash. You…


Saturday 6 February 2016

Mussar: Still a Man Sees what he Wants to See, and Disregards the Rest‏

From RRW
Breslover Research Institutes Book On Esther
The Relativity of Theory

"And it all depends upon what our ears are attuned to hear and what are eyes are trained to see. And on a deeper level, it all depends on what we really WANT to see. So non-believes see what they want, because they've decide beforehand what they will see. "

"...But only when we look for inspiration will we find that inspiration. If we predecide to mock, we will find a pretext to do so."

Thursday 4 February 2016

Crime & Punishment in the Gaza Strip‏

From RRW

Crime & Punishment in the Gaza Strip
We finally got a rare glimpse of the embattled Gaza Strip and a chance to see what life was like under the rule of Hamas. In 2007 we tried and failed to get into Gaza through the Israeli-controlled…
Added on 10/07/2012