Friday, March 24, 2017

Shabbat and the Holy Temple: A Torah Thought for Parshat Vayakhel-Pekudai

By Moshe Feiglin

“And Moses gathered all the congregation of the Children of Israel and he said to them: These are the things that G-d commanded to do them. For six days you shall work and on the seventh day, it will be holy for you, a Shabbat of Shabbats for G-d, whoever does work on it will be put to death. You shall not burn fire in your dwellings on the day of Shabbat.” (From this week’s Torah portion, Vayakhel, Exodus 35: 1-3)

The commandment to observe the Shabbat is often woven together with the commandments of the Temple. What is the connection between the two?

The Temple is the royal palace. Its purpose is to make the Creator King over His world. The Shabbat also revolves around recognizing that G-d is King over His world: “It is an eternal sign for for six days G-d made the heavens and the earth.” G-d created man in His image. Man is like his Creator in his ability to create. Man can imagine a reality that does not yet exist and bring it into reality. No living being other than man has this ability. A bird can build a nest, but it is already burned onto its “hard disk.” The bird will never build a triangle nest, or paint it in psychedelic colors. Man imagines a five-pronged fork – something he has never seen – and produces it.

What usually happens then is that man decides that not only is he made in G-d’s image, but that he is god, himself. This danger is more pronounced in developed cultures; the type that produced Mozart and Tchaikovsky. This is where the Shabbat comes in. On this day, we do not produce anything. The 39 root categories of production that formed the daily service in the Temple are forbidden on Shabbat. This is our testimony to the way the world works; Who is the Creator and who is merely created in His image. It is no wonder that the culture that produced Mozart and Tchaikovsky attempted to destroy the Nation of Israel. For he who has already decided that he is the creator, the sanctity of life has no meaning and he can no longer live in a world with a nation that testifies to G-d’s existence.

Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Palestinians: Abbas's Empty Promises

By Khaled Abu Toameh

  • Notably, these calls in favor of an armed struggle against Israel were coming from the streets of Ramallah and not the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
  • Abbas can make all the promises in the world to the new US envoy. Fulfillment of any of them, however, is a different story altogether.
  • Abbas knows anyhow that he would never be able to win the support of a majority of Palestinians for any peace agreement he signs with Israel. No Palestinian leader is authorized to offer any concessions to Israel in return for peace.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (right) meets with US envoy Jason Greenblatt (left), in Ramallah, on March 14, 2017. (Image source: NTDTV video screenshot)
On the eve of US envoy Jason Greenblatt's visit to Ramallah last week, hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated in the city, calling on Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to resign. The protesters also condemned the ongoing security cooperation between the PA and Israel.
"Listen, listen to us, Abbas; collect your dogs and leave us alone," the Palestinian protesters chanted during what has been described as the largest anti-Abbas demonstration in Ramallah in recent years. They also called for the abrogation of the Oslo Accords with Israel, and denounced Abbas as a "coward" and an agent of the Americans.
It is not clear if Greenblatt had been aware of the large anti-Abbas demonstration, which came in protest against PA security forces' violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators in Ramallah a few days earlier.

Rav Kook on Parashat VaYakhel: Art and Creation

“Moses informed the Israelites: God has selected Betzalel... and has filled him with a Divine spirit of wisdom, insight, and knowledge in all craftsmanship.” (Ex. 36:30-31)

What exactly were these three gifts of wisdom, insight, and knowledge that God bestowed upon Betzalel? The Sages wrote that the master craftsman was privy to the very secrets of creation. Betzalel knew how to “combine the letters with which the heavens and the earth were created,” and utilized this esoteric knowledge to construct the Tabernacle (Berachot 55a).

We find that King Solomon mentioned the same three qualities when describing the creation of the universe:

“God founded the earth with wisdom; He established the heavens with insight. With His knowledge, the depths opened, and the heavens drip dew. (Proverbs 3:19-20)

What is the difference between wisdom, insight, and knowledge? How do they apply both to the Creator of the universe and to the human artist?

Chochmah, Binah, and Da’at

Chochmah (wisdom) is needed to design the fundamental structure. In terms of the creation of the world, this refers to the laws of nature which govern the universe. The intricate balance of natural forces, the finely-tuned ecosystems of life - this is the underlying chochmah of creation.

In art, chochmah fulfills a similar function, determining the work’s underlying structure. Using wisdom, the artist decides on the overall composition, the balance of light and shade, colors, perspective, and so on.

Binah (insight) refers to the future vision, the ultimate goal. The Hebrew word binah is related to the word boneh (‘to build'). The emphasis is not on the current reality, but on the process of gradually building and progressing toward the final, complete form. Therefore, Solomon ascribed chochmah to forming the earth, and binah to establishing the Heavens. The foundation of the earth - its current physical structure - is based on chochmah. Binah, on the other hand, corresponds to the Heavens, the spiritual content that reflects its final form.

What is binah in art? The spiritual aspect of art is the sense of wonder that a great artist can awaken through his work. Betzalel was able to imbue the Tabernacle with magnificent splendor, thus inspiring the observer to feel profound reverence and holiness. The great beauty of his work succeeded in elevating the emotions, as it projected a majestic image of God’s grandeur.

The third attribute, da’at (knowledge), refers to a thorough attention to detail. “With His knowledge... the heavens drip dew.” The rain and dew were created with da’at. They sustain every plant, every blade of grass, every creature. God created the universe not only with its fundamental laws of nature (chochmah) and spiritual direction (binah), but also with meticulous care for its myriad details - da’at.

Attention to detail is also important in art. The artist should make sure that the finest details correspond to the overall composition and heighten the work’s impact.

Betzalel knew the letters of creation, the secret wisdom used to create the universe. With his gifts of chochmah, binah, and da’at, Betzalel was able to ensure perfection in the Tabernacle’s structure, its vision, and its details. His holy sanctuary became a suitable vessel for God’s Presence, completing the sanctity of the Jewish people by facilitating their special closeness to God.

(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. II, pp. 263-264)

Faith in the Sages

By Rav Oury Cherki
Rav, Machon Meir
Rav of Beit Yehuda Congregation, Jerusalem

One of the forty-eight traits by which the Torah is acquired is “faith in the sages” (Avot 86:6). This is usually taken to mean that one of our basic elements of faith is that the Jewish sages do not make mistakes. But it is eminently clear that this interpretation cannot be right, for there is no person on earth who is completely immune from making a mistake. In fact, we have seen many cases where the sages admitted their mistakes. Who is greater than Moshe himself, about whom it is written, “And Moshe heard, and it was good in his eyes” [Vayikra 10:20]? Rashi explains, “He was not ashamed to admit that he had not heard this before.” The following also appears in the responsa literature: “The praise of the rabbis is that they admit their mistakes.” That is, the fact that the wise men admit that they were wrong is to their credit.

The very existence of the tractate of Horayot, which contains a list of mistaken rulings by the high courts, also shows that errors occur. In fact, the Torah has forbidden us to follow a halachic ruling if we are absolutely certain that the court has made a mistake. “We might think that if they tell you that right is left and that left is right that you should follow them. However, it is written, ‘to go to the right and to the left.’ They should tell you that the right is the right and the left is the left.” [Yerushalmi Horayot 1:1]. And when the Sifri instructs us to follow “even though they show you what you have seen in your eyes is right and tell you it is left,” this is referring only to matters of personal discretion.

This position, the feeling that our wise men are never wrong, is dangerous from two points of view. One aspect is simple, and that is that when a person encounters a mistake made by a wise man his entire spiritual world might crumble before his eyes. The second aspect is deeper, in that it attributes to a created entity a characteristic which is only true in reference to the Creator Himself. This is the meaning of what the Rambam wrote: “Only He is the truth” [Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 1:4].

What, then, is the wondrous trait of faith in the sages which is needed in order to gain possession of the Torah? Rabbi Yehuda Ashkenazi explains that it means to believe that the sages are wise. That is, their words are not pronounced in a chance or haphazard way. Therefore, if one thinks that it is necessary to reject their words, the idea that is being rejected must be scrutinized in great depth, because we can be sure that it is based on great wisdom and can teach us a great lesson. If the wise men taught us that “there is nothing that does not have its proper place” [Avot 4:3], this must certainly be applied to the words of the sages themselves.

While we commonly see a contradiction between admiration and free criticism, our sages have taught us that one of these traits enables the other one. They said, “Let your house be a meeting place for wise men, and you should roll around in the dust of their feet” [Avot 1:4]. Here is how this was interpreted by Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin: “the word ‘lehitavek’ is related to the word for a struggle. No student should ever blindly accept the words of his rabbi if he has questions about his approach, and there are even times when the student is right and not the rabbi. But while we have permission to bring evidence to prove our position, we must still maintain an attitude of humility – to be ‘in the dust of their feet.’”

Zionist Chassidism:Torah and Labor

By Rafi Ostroff 
Head of the Religious Council of Gush Etzion

In this week’s Torah portion the human operation of building the Tabernacle begins, following the Divine command in the previous portions. The Rebbe of Husiatyn decided to take advantage of the opportunity to discuss his views on the value of labor and workmanship in general.

The Rebbe felt that it is a direct mitzva to perform labor for the sake of heaven. He commented on the opening verse of the Torah portion: “And Moshe gathered the entire community of Bnei Yisrael, and he said to them: These are the things which G-d has commanded that they be done” [Shemot 35:1]. The Rebbe notes that there are two “things” that follow, the mitzva of resting on Shabbat which introduces the command of the Tabernacle, and the labor performed during the other six days of the week, which is also a mitzva.

* * * * * *

And this is what is referred to in the passage: “Love labor, for just as the Torah was given in a covenant, so labor was given in a covenant. As is written, ‘Labor for six days and do all of your work. And the seventh day is Shabbat, dedicated to your G-d.’ [Shemot 20:9-10].” [Avot D’Rebbe Natan 11a].

And that is what is written in the book “Ma’or Einayim” [written by Rebbe Menachem Nachum of Chernovil, a disciple of the Maggid of Mezerich – R.O.] in the name of the Baal Shem Tov: After 120 years, people are asked, ‘Were you faithful in your business dealings?’ (See Shabbat 31a.) A person is asked about his behavior in business and labor. And this factor is also a facet of holy labor and Torah – to see whether the person studies Torah in order to follow the ways of the Holy One, Blessed be He. For example, if he studies the Mishna which discusses exchanging a cow for a donkey, which is something that is very important to the Creator. And whether a person acts in this way and behaves according to the Torah is very important to the Holy One, Blessed be He. And also in performing labor, if he acts according to the Torah then he is involved in the Torah even while he performs his work.

* * * * * *

The Labor of the Tabernacle and Regular Work

The Rebbe thus teaches us a very innovative concept. We always thought that to study the Mishna about exchanging a cow for a donkey is a mitzva, while to act according to the Mishna is a secular activity, outside the bounds of the Torah. But the Rebbe teaches us that if I actually exchange a cow and a donkey according to the rules of the Mishna, or if I perform any other labor for the sake of heaven while I observe the halacha, then this labor itself is also a mitzva!

And at this point the Rebbe quotes another passage from Avot D’Rebbe Natan:

* * * * * *
In fact, the Holy One, Blessed be He, did not reveal His Shechina to Yisrael until they actually performed manual labor, as is written, “Let them make a Tabernacle for Me, and I will dwell within them” [Shemot 28:8].

* * * * * *
But we might still ask: What connection is there between weekday work and the labors of the Tabernacle? After all, this Midrash quotes the verse about building the Tabernacle to prove that the Holy One, Blessed be He, sends His Shechina within Yisrael only after they have begun to work. But isn’t this verse referring to the labors of the Tabernacle and not mundane regular work?

The Sanctity of the Tabernacle as Part of Practical Life

And therefore, the Rebbe teaches us another lesson from the book Ma’or Einayim. The purpose of giving the Torah to the nation of Yisrael was that they themselves would play the role of a Temple: “And I will dwell within them.” The labors of the nation during weekdays can be compared to the work on the Tabernacle, and the holy service on Shabbat is the secret of the building of the Tabernacle.

* * * * * *
That is what is called the labor of the Tabernacle – making a Tabernacle for the Creator of the entire universe using all thirty-nine types of secular labor. [That is, when work is done during weekdays and all thirty-nine types of labor that are forbidden on Shabbat are performed, a Tabernacle is made for G-d by installing Divine sanctity throughout the world – R.O.] That is, this includes earthly elements that are necessary for living, for it would be impossible for every Jew to spend all of his time learning Torah. As is written, ‘Many people acted in the manner of Rabban Shimon Bar Yochai, and they failed’ [Berachot 35]. [They tried not to do any work but only to learn Torah – O.S.] However, every person who performs his labors faithfully and honestly, with the intention of serving G-d and clinging to Him, is thereby participating in the construction of the Temple.

* * * * * *
I have written before that the Rebbe of Husiatyn draws his entire fund of knowledge from Chassidic writings. But in this case he spreads out before us the principles of “Torah and Labor” which was the motto of religious Zionism as it crystalized in Eastern Europe. He does not mention or even hint at the writings of the originators of these ideas, such as Rabbi Reiness, Rabbi Alkalai, or Shachal (Shmuel Chaim Lando).

Does modern religious Zionism continue on an ideal path of “Torah and Labor” which we see here is founded at least in part in Chassidic roots? Perhaps we should strive for both us and for various modern Chassidic sects to follow this path, which sanctifies weekday labor in order to impart the holiness of the Tabernacle to all segments of our lives.

The Individual and the Community in Yisrael and in the Other Nations

By HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

In our article for the Torah portion of Tetzaveh (Issue 1664) we discussed the paradoxical phrase, “There is one nation, scattered and dispersed” [Esther 3:8], and the explanation by Rav Kook – that externally the nation appears to bescattered, but that in reality it is one nation internally. In this article, we will discuss how Rav Kook views the essence of the unity of our nation.

Peace is an exalted value even in the eyes of the other nations, but the concept as seen by the nations is very different from our own idea. Rav Kook writes, “Peace is not an independent objective but it is rather a means to achieve what every person desires in his heart.” That is, it is a way to improve the conditions of a person’s life. However, for Yisrael peace has an intrinsic value of its own. We yearn for the appearance of the Shechina, “and G-d will not send the Shechina unless there is peace within Yisrael.” This implies another important difference: For the other nations the concept of peace is mainly relevant in the world of action, while for Yisrael it also refers to thought processes. “Every person must feel love for his brothers in his heart and in his soul.”

And this is the principle that is involved with collecting the Shekalim. A census of the nation was performed by taking half a Shekel from each person. This teaches us about the unity which is typical of Yisrael. In other nations, when individuals gather in the interests of unity, in essence their personal interest remains. When all is said and done, the final goal is to improve the lot of the individual, while the community acts as a “large group of mutual responsibility,” which can be thought of as a large national insurance company. Since it is impossible for every person to directly supply all of his own needs, it is necessary for his own comfort to gather into unified groups. All of this is not true for Yisrael, which in the end does everything it can for the benefit of the nation as a whole. “With respect to all the sanctity of the mitzvot and the service of the Holy One, Blessed be He, performed by Yisrael, the main objective of their labor is to generate justice and praise for the nation as a whole.”

And that is how Rav Kook analyzed the contents of the Grace After Meals. The first blessing was written by Moshe in thanks for the manna, food which gave nourishment to the individual bodies of the people. The second blessing was written by Yehoshua for Eretz Yisrael, based on nationalistic feelings. The third blessing was written by David and Shlomo. David had Jerusalem in mind, the nationalistic spiritual form, while Shlomo thought of the Temple, which has the ability to repair the bad ways of humanity. As Shlomo said in his dedication of the Temple: “... so that all the nations of the world will know that G-d is the Lord” [Melachim I 8:60].

“The common thread throughout all the pathways of the Torah is to connect the whole of humanity to all the individuals, so that the individuals will find their happiness within the whole... Therefore it is fitting that every person in Yisrael must recognize the value of his personal food, which lays down a single stone in the edifice of the world in general.” Even though the act of eating is in essence selfish, when a person from Yisrael starts to eat he sees before him the general need – and by this personal act he contributes his part in building up the edifice of nationalism and humanity in general.

And that is why every person in Yisrael donates the same amount, and that these coins were used to make the sockets in the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle is an indication of the sanctity of the whole, and the sockets are placed at its foundation, showing that “the desired root of all the individual service of G-d in Yisrael is the success of the whole nation.” Therefore it was established that the foundation of the service of the whole nation would be made up from the half Shekel that every individual from Yisrael contributed.

Light My Fire: Parshiot Vayakhel-Pikudai

By Rabbi Ari Kahn

In the aftermath of the golden calf debacle, in the wake of the destruction and death it caused, and after God agreed to forgive the nation and move forward, Moshe descends from Mount Sinai with a new set of Tablets. At last, Moshe has the opportunity to speak to the people. These same people had stood at Sinai and heard the commandments spoken by God Himself, but had “backslid,” and worshiped the golden calf. Now, Moshe is to transmit everything he learned at the summit of Mount Sinai. Where should he begin? As readers, we might imagine the crackle of expectation in the air: Moshe is presented with an unparalleled opportunity to educate and inspire the repentant nation, to transmit the Torah he has brought down from on high. How should he proceed?

This very particular moment, a moment laden with remorse, tinged with longing for the holiness that had been forfeited, awash in the desire to hear and obey the word of God, is where Parashat Vayakhel begins. Moshe gathers the entire nation, and he begins with Shabbat. Why was this his choice for the first and foremost lesson? The logic behind the selection of Shabbat may be seen from various perspectives: On the one hand, Shabbat may have been used as an antidote to idolatry. The people needed a refresher course, as it were, in Jewish theology, and as a lesson of God as Creator of the universe, Shabbat is an outstanding reminder and teaching aid. Additionally, Shabbat is more than a dry lesson in Jewish thought; it is a powerful and moving experience which, we might conjecture, people had been easily led astray by the thrilling, sensual extravaganza of idolatry: The food and drink and physical pleasure of Shabbat was intended to counter the very powerful experience of worshipping the calf.

We should note that this is not the first, the second, nor even the third time that Shabbat is mentioned in the book of Shmot. The first time was when the manna fell for six days, and desisted on the seventh. The people noticed that a double portion had fallen on the sixth day, and Moshe explained that this is what he had taught them (presumably at Marah) regarding Shabbat: No one was to go out on the seventh day to collect the manna. This was their first experience of Shabbat, and this single prohibition was later included in the larger corpus of the Laws of Shabbat. Indeed, the Torah tells us that there were those who violated Shabbat, even when there was only one single prohibition, going out with basket in hand with the intention of collecting the manna.

In Parashat Vayakhel, as Moshe begins to teach the people Torah, another prohibition is added, a second Law of Shabbat singled out: It is prohibited to light fire on the Sabbath day. Eventually, the corpus of Shabbat Laws will include 39 categories of creative work that are prohibited on Shabbat; these categories are derived from the Torah’s description of the creative work employed in building the Mishkan. These 39 categories are outlined by our sages in the Mishnah, as an extrapolation of the relevant passages from the Torah, with the notable exception of the two categories we have seen singled out and specifically prohibited by the Torah itself, namely: carrying objects between domains, as was specifically prohibited regarding the manna, and the use of fire, as we have seen in this week’s parashah.[1]

In a sense, these two categories of creative work stand at opposite poles on the spectrum of human endeavor; perhaps that is why they are singled out: Neither the kindling of fire nor the transport of objects from one domain to another fits easily into the formal categories that comprise the laws of Shabbat. These two categories represent two extremes as far as human creativity is concerned: Fire is the most elusive of the elements; in the more abstract, conceptual name we use to describe it –energy – it is the very symbol and essence of human creativity and ingenuity. We might say that all of technology is, in one way or another, man’s harnessing of energy, his use of fire for the advancement of humankind. Conversely, carrying objects is the least creative of the categories of “work” that are forbidden on Shabbat, as the object itself undergoes no transformation but is merely transferred from one location to another. However, these two “outliers” may convey a message that is far deeper than meets the eye.

Let us return to the primary discussion of Shabbat, found in the Ten Commandments. The fourth commandment, as found in the book of Shmot, reads:

Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. You can work during the six weekdays and do all your tasks…. For God made the heaven and the earth [and] the sea, and all that is in them, in six days, but he rested on the seventh. God therefore blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Shmot 20:8-11)

On the other hand, in the parallel passage in the book of Dvarim, when the Ten Commandments are reiterated, there is a striking difference:

Observe the Sabbath to keep it holy, as God your Lord commanded you. You can work during the six weekdays, and do all your tasks… You must remember that you were slaves in Egypt, when God your Lord brought you out with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. It is for this reason that God your Lord has commanded you to keep the Shabbat. (D’varim 5:12-15)

The description of Shabbat in Shmot refers to the Creation narrative as the rationale for Shabbat observance: Through our cessation of creative work on the seventh day, we acknowledge and testify that God is the Creator. In particular, we should not overlook the fact that the very first act of Creation was the decree, “Let there be light.” So, too, according to a rabbinic tradition, mankind’s first foray into creativity was with the discovery and use of fire. In emulation of God, Adam’s first creative gesture was the use of fire when the first Shabbat drew to a close. For this reason, the prohibition against the use of fire on Shabbat is singled out; it is, in essence, the very heart of the matter, the very crux of the story of the Creation of the universe and of mankind’s place within it as a sentient being created in the image of God.

On the other hand, the Ten Commandments recorded in Dvarim memorialize the Exodus from Egypt: As we stress in the haggadah, God took one nation from the midst of another, carrying us out – quite literally, removing us from one domain to another, from the house of bondage to the wide open spaces of freedom.

We may say, then, that the two formulations of Shabbat, the two rationales for observing Shabbat that are recorded in the two accounts of the Ten Commandments, are reflected in the two prohibitions that were singled out: lighting fire, as a reflection of Creation, and transferring objects between domains, as a reflection of the Exodus. By honoring and cherishing Shabbat, we testify to both of these historic events and strengthen our commitment to our covenant with God. By desisting from creative work, and particularly from the two categories that were singled out, we take advantage of our weekly opportunity to emulate God and tap into the holiness of the seventh day.

The Secret of Zehut's Success

By Moshe Feiglin

​A short time ago, I was a guest co-host on Razi Barkai’s popular morning radio show on Galei Tzahal. Together we interviewed a representative of Former Defense Minister Bogi Ya’alon’s new political party, Oded Ravivi. I assume that Ya’alon tapped Ravivi, who is the mayor of Efrat, for this interview in order to boost his image as a moderate Right politician. After all, there are not many leftist voters anymore.

The interview proceeded more or less as follows:

Me: Mr. Ravivi, please tell us what Mr. Ya’alon is proposing.

Ravivi: He has not proposed anything to me.

Me (laughing): I mean what he is proposing to the Nation of Israel, not to you.

Ravivi: Honest leadership, no infighting, leadership that does not speak in clichés…

Me: But those are clichés! You are representing Ya’alon. Surely you have heard something from him on his economic plan, on education, foreign affairs – is there something you can tell us?

Ravivi: If I only knew, I would tell you…

Me: I have also established a new party. My party presents its proposals over the 312 pages of its platform. Perhaps you can tell me just one idea?

Razi Barkai: OK, we have to stop for the news.

This interview precisely reflected the shallow waters in which Israel’s politics tread. The Zehut party heralds a completely different spirit. Contrary to all the advice of the public relations experts, we do not blur our message. We say everything about everything. And wonder of wonders – more and more diverse sectors of Israeli society are connecting to us – despite the fact that not all of our messages speak to their hearts.

Zehut’s secret is that everyone can find his or her place with us:

The handicapped feel comfortable.

The religious feel comfortable with the secular.

The secular feel comfortable with the religious.

The Right feels comfortable with the Left and the Left with the Right.

The secret that makes this possible is the shared vision. 

In Zehut, everyone feels that they are part of a movement that is greater than the sum of its parts. When you are part of a broad movement that progresses toward a mutual goal, everyone has a place inside. Nobody is a threat to anybody else. On the contrary – everyone understands that we need everybody, that we need the diversity.

It turns out that the secret of unity is not the blurring of identity and the message, but rather, establishing them as the goal.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Shemot Draws to a Close

By HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Beit El

1. Genesis
2. Torah=Strength
3. Shabbat

The Book of Bereishit (Genesis) examines the creation of the world, in which the Holy One, Blessed-be-He reveals Himself as the Designer and Creator of this, the natural world. This is the story of the forefathers of our nation; their service of God came to them intuitively, prompting them to perform meticulously even rabbinically-ordained commandments. It was through their unique service of God that Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov served as vehicles for drawing God's presence into this world.

With the guidance and inspiration of the forefathers, the private family of Ya'akov became a nation. At the start of Sefer Shmot (Exodus), we read: "And these are the names of the Children of Israel..." The Book of Shmot, as its Hebrew name indicates, is a book that deals with names. A name reveals the inner essence of the bearer of the particular name. As Sefer Shmot opens, we are informed of the name of this nation-in-formation, "Bnei Yisrael" - the Children of Israel - and of the unique name of God: "El Shaddai" that guides them...

In the book of Bereishit, God appears as the ultimate Director of the natural world. This role of God matches the "natural style" in which our forefathers served God. In the book of Shmot, however, God reveals himself to the nation as a whole. It is in this context that a clearer, more explicit type of revelation is needed - a supernatural, miraculous one. The supernatural guidance of the world, unique to the Book of Shmot, starts with the ten plagues meted out to the Egyptians and later intensifies with the splitting of the Red Sea. It is there that even a common maidservant experienced Hashem more clearly than the great prophet Yechezkel did not at the height of his vision of the Divine Chariot. The climax of this acceleration towards the supernatural is no doubt the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. This was an event, our sages teach, during which the People of Israel heard God's voice boom from north, south, east, west, up, down, to the point where they asked, "What is the source of this wisdom?" The Children of Israel, like any other human beings, had until that time only experienced limited, human voices. At the giving of the Torah, God's voice revealed itself as being unlimited by space, direction, even language.

The giving of the Torah had a major impact not only on Israel, but also on the other nations of the world. Our sages teach us that when the gentile peoples heard the voices, the thunder, and the shofar at the time of Matan Torah, they trembled; turning to the sorcerer Bil'am, they asked: "Has God decided to bring another flood?" Does God wish to destroy the world once more? To this, Bil'am replied: "God will give strength to His nation, God will bless his nation with Peace." The term "strength" in this verse connotes Torah. Our sages teach us that when the Megilah states that, after the defeat of Haman, the Jews experienced light and happiness and joy.." - this "light" was actually Torah. The Sfat Emet thus asks why the Megilah did not simply say that the Jews "experienced Torah." His answer: "to teach us that Torah is light." Along the same lines, the verse did not say, "God will give Torah to His people," in order to teach us that Torah is a source of strength for our nation. Torah study and mitzvah performance unite our people, they give us a common goal - the rectification of the world through adherence to the Divine Will. This unity is a source of strength to us, and is esssential to internal, domestic, peaceful relations between Jews.

At the opening of this week's Torah portion, Moshe gathers the nation and commands it regarding the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and the observance of Shabbat. >From the juxtaposition of the passages, our sages learn that the 39 creative acts of labor required for the building of the Mishkan are the same ones that are forbidden on Shabbat. The work done during the period of the Mishkan's construction was no mere mundane labor. It was labor designated for a lofty purpose, the holy service of the Tabernacle. From these acts of labor, we derive the prohibition to perform "melachot" on Shabbat; the Sabbath is a Divinely-fashioned reality in which God bestows his beneficence on the world without our having to even lift a finger! Each week, we are bidden to refrain from work on the seventh day, in order to permit God to bestow His holy bounty upon us.

People are used to thinking that the six days of the week during which we work is our "natural state," and that on Shabbat, God prevents us from working. This perspective places the six weekdays as central, and Shabbat as peripheral, as a day in which man leaves his natural state as a worker and "tiller of the soil." This philosophy, however, is not a Torah perspective. In the eyes of the Torah, Shabbat is the culmination and pinnacle of the week, with the other days drawing their strength from it. In several places in the Torah we learn that, for six days of the week, "melacha may be done." In other words, Hashem gives us special permission to work during the week. On Shabbat, melacha is not prohibited to us, but rather the permission granted to engage in creative labors that applies during the week is not renewed for a 24-hour period . Shabbat provides man with an opportunity to just sit back and appreciate that "The Earth and everything in it is the Lord's.


Rabbi Dov Berl Wein on Vayakhel/Pikudei

The main lesson of this week's Torah reading, which may possibly be obscured by the wealth of Mishkan detail that appears in these closing chapters of the book of Shemot, is the basic Jewish concept of accountability. Moshe accounts for all of the work that was done in the construction of the Mishkan/tabernacle and for every shekel that was expended in that project. Moshe was troubled when he could not initially account for the one thousand shekels that were apparently missing and that did not allow him to balance the books fully. Only later when he was able to recall that the missing silver was used to fashion the hooks that held the curtains of the structure was his account complete and now fully accurate. In the last analysis of life, accountability is the main challenge and test that faces us. King Solomon in Kohelet informs us that all of our actions and behavior will be accounted for in God's system of justice. It is this concept of accountability that allows the basic axiom of Jewish life, namely, reward and punishment the temporal and eternal, to function. One of the great weaknesses of individuals and societies is that they somehow feel that they are not accountable for their errors, sins, omissions and failures. We live in a world where everyone and everything is entitled to a pass. One of the great weaknesses of our Torah–only educational system is that the older the student becomes and the higher the level and reputation of the institution thay he or she attends, the weaker the demands of accountability become. No system of testing, no realistic goals for scholarship demanded, all lead to the complete lack of accountability, which in the long run is destructive to the individual and the system itself.

In democracies, elections held periodically are meant to hold political leaders accountable. Though in practice this does not always work out, the theory of accountability is at least present in the society and the political system. In a dictatorship there never is any voluntary day of reckoning or demand for accountability. No one likes to be beholden to the judgment of others and therefore we see that in businesses, educational institutions, social agencies and religious institutions that mini-dictatorships abound. The prophets of Israel held the leaders and the people of Israel accountable to the moral teachings of the Torah and to God Himself, so to speak. Thus the prophets of Israel served as the necessary brake to an otherwise dictatorial, all-powerful monarchy. The rabbis of the Talmud were always careful to be aware that they were accountable for their decisions and behavior. Often times that sense of accountability focused on the presence of another individual rabbi to whom one somehow felt accountable. The great Mar Shmuel mourned the death of Rav by saying that the "person that I feared and was accountable to is no longer with us." The idea of accountability stretches over generations. We are all accountable for the past and for the future. And it is in that light that we will certainly be judged and that the accomplishments of our lifetime will be marked and assessed.

Shabbat - Our Personal Visit of the Divine

By HaRav Shaul Yisraeli zt"l

Our parasha opens with Moshe telling Bnei Yisrael what Hashem had commanded in regard to the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). However, first it reiterates the commandment to refrain from forbidden work on Shabbat. There was a similar linkage between the Mishkan and Shabbat in Parashat Ki Tisa, at the end of Hashem’s commandment to Moshe about the Mishkan (Shemot 31:13), but here Shabbat is mentioned before everything. 

Chazal (cited by Rashi, Shemot 35:2) learn from the linkage that despite the importance of the mitzva to erect the Mishkan, it did not justify desecrating Shabbat for that purpose. We can understand the philosophical significance of this halacha if we take into consideration the basic content of the mitzva of the Mishkan. According to several commentators, including Rashi, the mitzva originated only after the sin of the Golden Calf. The Seforno explains that originally Hashem just commanded, "An altar of earth erect for Me ... to every place that I shall mention My name, I will come to you and bless you" (Shemot 20:21); after the sin they would need kohanim to make the berachot.

Let us put this in broader perspective in the following way. There is a phenomenon of naming a specific place for service of Hashem and a specific tribe to be involved in it, but this was not what Hashem preferred. It would have been better with a simple altar, without gold and silver or special kohanim with their special clothes. Rather, every Jew would be a kohen, the whole Land would be a Mikdash, and Hashem’s blessing would come everywhere. After the sin, everything had to be more specifically chosen.

However, as much as the means through which one reached the goal changed, the goal itself did not, and that is: "and I [Hashem] will dwell in their [the people’s] midst" (Shemot 25:8). All the Mishkan did was to create a point around which they would focus, where they could act and learn how to incorporate Hashem into their lives. The public Mikdash is not to replace the private one. Heaven forbid, one should never think that what he does in the Mikdash protects him from a sinful life that he leads outside of it. That was a real danger that the prophets, including Yirmiyah (7:9-10), warned about.

For this reason, the Torah felt it necessary to stress with the building of the Mishkan the matter of keeping Shabbat. The people must know that Shabbat, the personal spiritual constant that applies to every Jew wherever he is, still fully applies. The building of the Mishkan will not change that. While it was enough for Hashem to mention Shabbat after the commandment of the Mishkan, Moshe was afraid that when telling Bnei Yisrael about the MIshkan, they might get so carried away by the excitement that they would forget what Hashem truly wanted. It is for this reason that the Torah started off with the warning to keep Shabbat.

The Shamrak Report: The Two-State Concept is the Path to War!

By Steven Shamrak.
It looks like Donald Trump has begun playing the same game as all Presidents of the United States before him, since the establishment of Israel.
Apparently, regardless of what he said publicly, he ignores those around him who tried to explain him that a two-state concept is not viable. He is talking now about making a deal, as a way of reviving the two-state solution from death. By doing so, he is setting himself for a failure, as most of the previous ‘ambitious’ occupiers of the White house.
He fails to understand, or pretends to, that the fake Palestinians and their leadership in particular have no intention to have peace with Israel or plans for creation their own state. Because the destruction of Israel is the agenda of the enemies of the Jews and they used the artificially created fake people as a tool to achieve it!
Quite soon, President Trump will learn that the so-called Palestinians will not become rational. They are not going to give up their dream of destroying Israel. Creating a new Arab Muslim state may not even be their intention. They will not submit to his powers of persuasion or will agree with Jared Kushner that Jews have a history and affiliation with the land. They do not care about the concept of sharing the land, and living side by side in peace with anyone. It is not in their blood - Muslims are not even able to do it among themselves, forget about Jews!
Abbas will tell Trump that he wants to live in peace with Israel on the 1967 lines with Jerusalem as the capital of a new Muslim state, where Jews will not be allowed to live. He will tell that if Israel agrees to that and to the right of return of millions of fake refugees to Haifa, Jaffa, Safed... there will be peace. 
All parties know that this is lie, and completely unreasonable and unacceptable demands. This would be suicidal for Israel to accept these conditions. But they still play the two-state stupidity game and Israel has continuously been humiliated in the process!
As the first step to self-destruction, Israel has to move over 400,000 Jews out of Judea and Samaria! It has been done before – Jews were removed from Trans-Jordan, to facilitate peace with Arabs in 1922; 8,500 Jews were forcefully removed from Gaza, in the name of peace, in 2005. As a result, there were more assaults from Arab/Muslim states, more wars and thousands of rockets were fired from Hamas controlled Gaza!
The PA is not going to take 300,000 ‘Palestinians’ living beyond the Green Line in Greater Jerusalem of course or 2,5 million Arabs residents of Israel. Why is it out of the question? 
At first they have been playing a victim game, after that a foot-hold is obtained over land which is not under Israel’s control, Gaza. Next step is to make more demands and unleash more terror. If Israel agrees to the PA demands, the Arab population will be eventually used to advance the agenda of Israel destruction through terror and intimidation.
Nobody cares that Abbas does not control Hamas and many other Palestinian terror groups, and that ISIS is moving in. The only thing that restrains them from killing each other is the common hate toward Israel and Jews! 
So far, most presidents have tried to make history, at the expense of the Jewish state, by attempting to create a Palestinian state on Jewish land! This has never worked! It has only created opportunities for a new escalation of violence or war.
Unfortunately, the government of Israel is weak. Netanyahu should unequivocally explain to President Trump that a two state solution is dead end, and is a curtain path to war and not peace. 
Ceding more of Jewish land to enemies is not an option. Israeli must exercise sovereignty over all our land! There are many peace options that can accommodate Palestinian independence ambition, if they have one. But they have not been seriously considered or even acknowledged. We can endlessly talk about them, but the main prerequisite to all of them to work is in the answer to a simple question – Do Palestinians want peace with Israel? At the moment, we can only say “Let wait and see” if he really has intention to “Drain the Swamp”! His first test will be on 2nd of June.

Via PayPal (including credit cards)  $10,  $18,  $36,  $72,  $100,  $180,  $260
FOOD for THOUGHT by Steven Shamrak
Before and after Israel removed Jewish families, using force, from Gaza there were no international objections and condemnations, although Israel was violating the Fourth Geneva convention which forbids “population transfer” under any circumstances! Since then terror attacks from Gaza escalated. Let be honest about the situation, so-called Palestinians are not victims - they are perpetrators of terror against the Jewish state. They are occupiers of Jewish land - it is time to end this travesty! 
Israeli warplanes struck several targets in Syria on Friday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the strikes targeted weapons bound for Lebanon's Hezbollah, and that the Jewish State would do the same again if necessary. "When we identify attempts to transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah and we have intelligence and it is operationally feasible, we act to prevent it. That's how it was yesterday and that's how we shall continue to act," he added.
The head of the United Nation’s West Asia commission, which comprises 18 Arab states, resigned, after what she described as pressure from the secretary general to withdraw a report accusing Israel of imposing an “apartheid regime” on Palestinians. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres insisted on the withdrawal of the report, UN Under-Secretary General and ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf said. “Based on that, I submitted to him my resignation from the United Nations,” Khalaf told a news conference in Beirut.
Israeli police shut down an office in East Jerusalem allegedly used by the PA to monitor land sales to Jews by Arabs. The office operated on behalf of the Palestinian security services in Ramallah, compiling the names of East Jerusalem residents suspected of selling their properties to Jews. 
Education Minister and Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett consented to a request from Coalition Chairman MK David Bitan (Likud) to postpone a vote in the Ministerial Legislative Committee on imposing Israeli law on the city of Ma’ale Adumim, some 4 miles east of Jerusalem in Judea and Samaria. Bennett made clear that the postponement is only for one week, and not, as Bitan originally requested, three months.
A survey shows that one third of Palestinians believe that the occupation will continue for at least another 50 years, 64% believe that Mahmoud Abbas should resign and 51% oppose the two-state solution, but despite the pessimism, the majority believe that God is standing with them. 37% believe that armed resistance is most effective means of achieving an independent state. (Israel must end occupation of Jewish land - only by removing enemy population from Jewish land will Israel be able to end the terror and prosper!)
The world’s largest and highest valued semiconductor chip maker Intel Corporation is purchasing Mobileye, an Israeli technology company that develops vision-based advanced driver assistance systems providing warnings for collision prevention and mitigation, for an estimated $15 billion.
The Egyptian army has destroyed six underground tunnels connecting the Sinai to the Gaza Strip, from Feb. 21 to March 13. In 2014, Egypt established a buffer zone along its border with the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip, to prevent it from collaborating with ISIS-affiliated Islamist gangs which have been attacking Egyptian army and police in the Sinai. (It is not just Israel having problems with ‘Palestinians’ - Nobody cares if Muslims kill other Muslims!)
A UN agency report published on Wednesday accused Israel of establishing an "apartheid regime" targeting Palestinians, prompting outrage from Washington. Israeli officials swiftly decried the report "The attempt to smear and falsely label the only true democracy in the Middle East by creating a false analogy is despicable and constitutes a blatant lie," said Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon. (It is ridiculous that an UN agency which has Syria and Sudan as members preaches morality to the State of Israel - the only democracy in the Middle East!)
Terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, notorious for leading the brutal massacre of 37 Israelis in 1978 is lauded by PA leaders as a role model, on the March 11 anniversary of the most lethal attack in Israel's history. Fatah Central Committee Secretary Jibril Rajoub presents honorary plaques and praised terrorist Mughrabi as "prime among" female "Martyrs," and suggested that Palestinian Arab women of today let themselves be inspired by Mughrabi and the female plane hijacker Laila Khaled. (Israel must stop negotiating with terrorists - most self-respecting nations don’t!)
Quote of the Week:
“If the world isn’t furious at Israel, Israel is failing to protect itself. The world bitching about the rotten Israelis is a good thing. Being unpopular is a pretty small price to pay for staying alive, especially when you’d be unpopular anyway. I hope Bibi and the rest learn from this. Strength is the only thing the world respects, or fears!” – a FaceBook comment.
by Smadar Perry
(So far, Israel has been used as a ‘ball’ in the global international anti-Semitic game. Let wait and see if Trump is different! The test will be on 2nd of June – will he sign another six months extension, as all his predecessors since 1995 or let the US law prevail and move the embassy to Jerusalem?)
In his belated first phone call with the Palestinian leader, the new US president sent out a clear message: If you really are committed to peace, stop running around international institutions, do your part and I'll handle Netanyahu.
The first conclusion: The new US administration managed to exasperate Abbas. The Palestinian Authority insisted on keeping score: 49 days since entering the White House, Trump has called Netanyahu twice and warmly welcomed him to Washington, with the two of them looking like a couple of lovebirds. Trump has also called all of the other players in the region, who are keeping the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at arm's length: Jordan's King Abdullah II, with whom the American president also met, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Saudi King Salman and the three rulers of the Persian Gulf kingdoms. Abbas found himself last on the list...
The second conclusion: Until further notice, we can expect only meaningless platitudes. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed reports that Trump invited Abbas to Washington very soon. Meanwhile Palestinian officials described the phone call as "excellent" and "serious and pleasant," while the Palestinian leader said he was looking forward to work with the new president. 
This was only a short phone call, with both sides saying only what is expected of them: Trump claims he made a decision to restart the talks without trying to impose solutions, while Abbas stressed he would be committed to any effort that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel. 
In other words: Trump kicked the ball to Ramallah's court. Abbas wants a Palestinian state? Ahlan Wasahlan, no problem. Come to Washington, you'll be welcomed with a red carpet, and we'll think together how to restart the process. This, on the condition you realize in advance that not all of your demands will be met. Just don't try to sell me tales about the Palestinian public opinion...

HaRav Nachman Kahana: The Power of National Service; Laboring vs. Serving; and The 20 Percent

Parashat Vayak’hel 5777
HaRav Nachman Kahana

The Power of National Service

The last four parshiot of Shemot deal with the first national project of Am Yisrael – the holy Mishkan (Tabernacle) – that embraced all segments of the nation’s population.

Three monetary “endowments” were required: one half shekel with which to purchase the animals and other items for public sacrifices; another half shekel from which were formed the base supports for the Mishkan’s ten amot (five-meter-high) wooden planks; and an open donation for all the other articles required for the Mishkan’s construction and sacrificial activities.

A national project of Am Yisrael that required the heart, soul, and physical efforts of every Jew.

Laboring vs. Serving

Pirkei Avot (1,2) quotes Shimon Hatzadik:
על שלשה דברים העולם עומד על התורה ועל העבודה ועל גמילות חסדים.
The survival of the world is dependent on three things: Torah, Labor, and Good Deeds.

Torah refers to the intimate connection one achieves with the Creator when delving in intellectual Torah study. It can be roughly compared to an electronic receiver activated by a transmitter when both are tuned to the same frequency.

Labor refers to the activities performed by the Kohanim and Levi’im in the Bet HaMikdash.

Good deeds are the minute by minute social interactions with one’s fellow Jew in accordance with the letter and spirit of the verse: “Love thy fellow Jew as yourself”.

As a Kohen, the concept of “Labor” in the Bet HaMikdash is especially intriguing.

Whenever I perform any of the functions incumbent upon a Kohen in our time, like the daily blessing of the congregation or a pidyon haben (redemption of a first born male child), including all the manifold functions in my mind’s eye that I and my fellow Kohanim will perform in the rebuilt Bet HaMikdash, the words “labor” or “work” are the furthest from my mind. When the Bet HaMikdash will again be built on the Temple Mount, we will not labor, nor will we work. We will serve.

Indeed, the word “lechahen” (to function as a Kohen) means to serve – not to labor.

I recall my wife once asking our son, who is a senior officer in Tzahal, how many hours a day he works. He replied: “Imma, I don’t work. I serve”.

On the conceptual level what he was saying was that when one is involved in spiritual matters – Torah study, mitzvot -the most lofty being defending Jewish lives (which defers even Shabbat and Yom Kippur), one does not work or labor, but rather one serves HaShem, as a child serves a parent.

In a wider sense, we in Eretz Yisrael, notwithstanding one’s profession, serve HaShem and the Jewish nation. This is the meaning of Moshe’s message when he informed Am Yisrael that HaShem had declared them to be:
ממלכת כהנים וגוי קדוש
A kingdom of Kohanim and a holy nation

That even though Kohanim make up about 5% of the nation, in Eretz Yisrael where we all contribute to HaShem’s mandated goal of fashioning a God centered society through agricultural halakhot, industry, medicine and road paving, we are all ascended to the status of Kohen, for here we all serve HaShem.

A friend from Bnei Brak once told me the following incident involving his teenage daughter. She was normal in every way, until with no apparent reason, she suddenly became extremely introverted. After many failed attempts to persuade the girl to disclose the reason for her changed behavior, she finally revealed the reason for her despondency.

She never knew what her father’s profession was. Until one day when traveling from Petach Tikva to Bnei Brak, she saw her father paving the road. She described her profound embarrassment because her friends also saw her father – a common laborer.

He then told his daughter the following: “True, I am not a rosh yeshiva nor am I a talmid chacham, however, on the road that I am paving, many thousands of people will travel. The vast majority will be going to perform a Torah mitzvah, each in his own way. As a teacher or student, a soldier, a son or daughter going to see a parent, or the myriad activities that make up one’s life. In the world to come when they calculate my mitzvot, I will have a share in every one of the mitzvot from all the millions of cumulative kilometers traveled on the road I helped build by people who will be implementing the Torah in their lives in Eretz Yisrael.”

His daughter’s eyes opened widely. She kissed her father and begged for forgiveness for not understanding that in the holy land whatever ones does, is by definition an act of holiness.

The 20 Percent

The other day, on the 19th of Adar, our grandson Shai, son of our youngest daughter Shulamit and her husband Uri, was inducted into the tank corps of Tzahal, where his older brother Amir is already serving. Shai is named for my father Harav Yechezkel Shraga Kahana, who was born in Tzfat in 1904. What has transpired in the 113 years since my father’s birth, when Eretz Yisrael was under domination of the Ottoman Empire, until the day when Shai became part of a Merkava 4 tank unit, defies the imagination. But one thing is clear, nothing could have happened had it not been for HaShem who loves, aids and abets those Jews who sacrifice in order to serve Am Yisrael.

At this time, so close to Pesach, we should recall that only 20 percent of the Jews merited to leave Egypt. They were the ones who felt compelled to serve HaShem; while the other 80 percent died there because they chose to serve themselves.

Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5777/2017 Nachman Kahana

Monday, March 20, 2017

Are the Hard Leftists Aligned with Radical Islamists?

By Najat Al Saied 

  • The leftist media and other American liberals insist on portraying President Trump's position as a fight against Islam and Muslims. In fact, most moderate Muslims are not offended by the phrase "radical Islam," because they are very distressed by the fact that their religion has been commandeered by the radicals and transformed from a religion of peace into a more radical version.
  • I just wonder where those feminists and John Kerry were when millions of Egyptian women needed their support when they marched against the Muslim Brotherhood, asking for America's help. Where were they when thousands of Syrian and Iraqi women were enslaved and raped by radical ISIS militants?
  • While not a single voice among these liberal feminists spoke out against these inhumane acts perpetrated against Muslim women by radical Islamists, a Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer, Linda Sarsour, co-organized the anti-Trump Women's March on Washington. What's worse, these liberal feminists want Sarsour to represent all Muslim women, while in fact she speaks for nobody except herself and those who fund her.
In a recent interview on MSNBC, Linda Sarsour, a Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer, said that in the United States, Muslim children are being executed [a lie], and Muslims are prohibited from practising their faith [a lie]. Pictured above: Sarsour is interviewed in a Seriously.TV video.
Since the presidential campaign began, and then right up until the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on February 24, 2017, President Donald Trump has kept saying the same thing: that the United States is at war with radical Islam, mainly represented by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Yet, the leftist media and other American liberals insist on portraying his position as a fight against Islam and Muslims. In fact, most moderate Muslims are not offended by the phrase "radical Islam," because they are very distressed by the fact that their religion has been commandeered by the radicals and transformed from a religion of peace into a more radical version. Unfortunately, instead of the leftists giving a voice to and supporting these moderate Muslims, a kind of leftist-Islamist alliance has emerged.
Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, a Saudi columnist for pan-Arab newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat, said in 2004:

The State Department – a Systematic Blunderer

By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

entire video-seminar:

1. In 2011, the Department of State welcomed the Arab Tsunami, which has displaced millions of people and murdered hundreds of thousands – and keeps raging - as an Arab Spring, youth revolution, Facebook revolution and a transition towards democracy.

2. In 2011, the State Department recommended the toppling of Gaddafi in Libya, in spite of Gaddafi's transfer of Libya's nuclear infrastructure to the US in 2003, and irrespective of his fierce battle against Islamic terrorism. The toppling of the ruthless Gaddafi transformed Libya into the largest, lawless platform of Islamic terrorism in the Middle East, spilling over into Africa, Europe and the rest of the world, severely undermining the US national and homeland security.

3. The State Department has severely misperceived the Palestinian issue as if it were a core cause of Middle East turbulence, but none of the volcanic events from Iran to Mauritania are related to the Palestinian issue. The State Department considers the Palestinian issue a crown-jewel of Arab policy-making, but most Arab policy-makers shower Palestinians with talk, but not walk, considering the Palestinian leadership a role-model of treachery, back-stabbing, intra-Arab terrorism and corruption. Palestinian leaders are welcome in Western capitals by red carpets, but in Arab capitals by shabby rugs. In 1991, Kuwait expelled almost 300,000 Palestinians due to their collaboration with Saddam's invasion of Kuwait.

4. In 1993, the State Department endorsed Arafat as a Nobel Laureate, embracing him as a messenger of peace, in defiance of Arafat’s 40-year-old trail of terrorism against Jews and mostly Arabs in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Kuwait, and regardless of Arafat's status – from the 1970s - as a role model of anti-Western international terrorism.

5. In 2016 the Department of State embraces Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) as a messenger of peace, in defiance of his track record: a graduate of KGB training, who coordinated PLO ties with the Soviet Bloc; expelled from Egypt (1955), Syria (1966) and Jordan (1970) for subversion; co-planned the murder of eleven Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympic Games; collaborated with Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which triggered the First Gulf War; a 70-year-trail of terrorism against Jews and mostly Arabs; a repressive and corrupt rule of the Palestinian Authority, exacerbated by the establishment of an anti-Israel, anti-US and anti-Semitic Palestinian hate-education, which is the most effective production-line of terrorists.

6. During the 1980s, the State Department considered Saddam Hussein an ally in the confrontation against Iran, ignoring the fact that the enemy of my enemy could also be my enemy. Until the August 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Iraq received from the US dual-use commercial and defense technologies, $5BN loan guarantees and vital intelligence, assuming that a well-fed Saddam would be less of a threat.

7. On July 19, 1990, on the eve of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the US ambassador to Baghdad, April Gillespie, told Saddam Hussein: "an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait would be considered, by Washington, an inter-Arab issue," providing a green light for the invasion of Kuwait, and planting the seeds of the first and second Iraq Wars and their devastating ripple effects.

8. In 1981, the US Administration punished Israel for the bombing of Iraq's nuclear reactor. Ten years later, then Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, thanked Israel publicly "for eradicating the Iraqi reactor in 1981, which spared the US a calamitous nuclear confrontation in 1991."

9. During the late 1970s, the State Department was actively pursuing the downfall of the pro-US Shah of Iran, supporting Ayatollah Khomeini, who was perceived as a human-rights warrior in defiance of an oppressive ruler. Thus, the Department of State facilitated the transformation of Iran from "the US policeman of the Gulf" to the worst enemy of the US, terrorizing pro-US Arab regimes, sponsoring global Islamic terrorism, collaborating with North Korea in the pursuit of nuclear and ballistic capabilities, supporting anti-US countries in Latin America, and brainwashing Iranian youth to fight "the modern-day arrogant crusader, the Big American Satan."

10. In 1977, Israel and Egypt conducted direct negotiation, focusing on Israel-Egypt issues, in defiance of State Department's pressure to join a futile international peace conference, which was supposed to focus on the Palestinian issue and Jerusalem. Following a futile pressure, on Israel and Egypt, to abort direct negotiation and join an international conference, the US jumped on the successful Israel-Egypt peace bandwagon.

11. Until 2011, the State Department considered Hafiz, and then Bashar, Assad reliable leaders, pressuring Israel to concede the historically and militarily critical Golan Heights. Syria's track record, in particular, and the tectonic Arab Tsunami, in general, highlight the recklessness of the State Department.

12. In 1948, the US State Department was convinced that the establishment of the Jewish State would trigger a war, which would result in a second Jewish Holocaust; that the Jewish State would be a strategic burden upon the US, and it would join the Communist Bloc. In order to dissuade Ben Gurion from declaration of independence, the State Department convinced President Truman to threaten Ben Gurion with economic sanctions, and to impose a military embargo on the region, while Britain supplied arms to the Arabs.

13. In 2016, the State Department plays an active role in Israel-Palestinian negotiation, prejudging the outcome, by pressuring Israel to reckless retreat to a 9-15 mile-wide sliver along the Mediterranean, over-towered by the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria. The State Department's involvement has radicalized the Palestinians who expect the US to extract more concessions from Israel.

The failed track record of the State Department, in the Middle East, does not warrant adherence to its proposals.

14. The next video will address the question: Is the Palestinian issue a core cause of regional turbulence?