Friday, February 23, 2007



Rabino Pinchas Winston


G-d told Moshe, “Tell the Children of Israel that anyone who desires to bring to Me an elevated-offering should do so.” (Shemot 25:1-2)

There are few Hebrew words that can be used to refer to a “gift”, but when it comes to the procurement of the materials for the construction of the Mishkan in this week’s parshah, the Torah uses the word “terumah”, which means “elevated-offering”. Giving to the construction of the Mishkan wasnot only about making a gift of it, it was about elevating the gift to a higher level of sanctity so that it can become worthy of being used for the Mishkan.
The truth is, just by designating something for Temple use is enough to change its halachic status. One moment you can be drinking from a glass cup without having to think twice, and the next moment a person can be guilty of misappropriation of Temple property if in-between sips he giftedthe glass to the Temple. Same glass, different owner, and more importantly, a different level holiness.
In fact, we could look at all of this differently. It would seem that the goal was to build a Mishkan, and that the terumot were just a means to do so. But, maybe it was the other way around. Maybe the goal was to give terumot, and the Mishkan was just the means for doing that. After all, the Mishkan was only the response to the golden calf, and as the commentators point out, had it not been for the calf, each and every Jew would have been his own Mishkan.
“They shall make a sanctuary for Me so that I may dwell among them.” (Shemot 25:8)
Why does the posuk say, “so that I may dwell in them” and not, “so that I may dwell in it [the Mishkan]?” Rav Chaim Volozhin says that the Mishkan was a prototype for what a person should be: a temple in his own right.
However, when we allowed the golden calf to come into existence, we lost the right to be our own temples, and it was transferred to an actual building, the Mishkan.
Had we become our own temples, then we would have been responsible for using our terumot for that. And, we certainly would not have had to build all the various different elements about to be described in the upcoming parshiot. Then what would have been the terumot and how would we have given them? What would we have “elevated”?
Our da’at — our perception of G-d and reality. And that translates into what we give to G-d, or what we should be trying to give to G-d. We are told that G-d does not need sacrifices. Then why do we have to bring them? On one level it is for a tikun of the four elements of Creation that Adam’s sin blemished. By using salt with the sacrifice, we rectified the mineral world. By using wood to burn the sacrifice, we rectified the world of vegetation. The animal itself was to help the animal world achieve rectification, and by consuming the sacrifice, man became rectified as well.
However, the deeper purpose of the sacrifice was to affect the da’at of the person bringing it. The actual sacrifice was a means to achieve that result, because human beings need to see things or experience them before they can truly comprehend the reality of them. The experience of bringing a sacrifice with all of its parts and details was a powerful way to snap into reality and reach a higher level of awareness, and only once that was achieved did the person actually give to G-d what He was waiting for: an elevation of da’at, the true terumah, and the real “Elevated-Offering”.

After all, what does G-d want from Creation? As the Arizal explains at the beginning of Otzrot Chaim,
G-d made Creation so that someone would exist who would call Him “Master”, or so someone would exist to whom He can be merciful or gracious to, and therefore be called “Merciful” or “Gracious”.A king without a kingdom is not a king at all, so G-d made a kingdom over which He could be King.
But, explains the Arizal, not for His own good, but for our good. He doesn’t need to be called “king” or “merciful”, or anything else for that matter. It is our opportunity, not His, to recognize Him, and to “see” Him in life. That’s all He wants us to be able to do, to see Him. That, of course, is always a function of da’at, and the more elevated one’s da’at becomes, the greater a terumah it is.
G-d said, “My spirit that is upon you and My words that I have placed in your mouth…” (Yeshayahu 59:20)
What exactly is da’at?

It all depends on which level you are talking about. On the simplest level, it just means knowledge. On a more complicated level, it means perception. With regard to the simplest level, it is already there regardless of whether or not you take the time to learn it. However, perception is something that is built, based upon knowledge that comes either from learning or actual experience.
However, human beings are not computers. When computers build their “da’at”, they simply accumulate and organize information. For the most part, they can only relate to facts as facts, being unable to sense nuances of ideas or deeper levels of interconnectivity. They can be programmed to relate to information on this level somewhat, but they certainly can’t “feel” the truth or falsehood of an idea, as human can.

On the other hand, they can’t reject an idea for emotional reasons either. There is no such thing as “cognitive dissonance” when it comes to computers. Whatever I “teach”, my computer faithfully accepts without scrutiny, and when I ask it to retrieve what I “taught” it, it does so faithfully without corruption. But then again, computers don’t go to the World-to-Come.
Recently, I gave a many-part presentation of material that is the basis of my own perception about the events of current history, the goal being to motivate people to see outside of their box in order to take a more active role in the redemption-process. When I do this, I am strict about not using my own personal opinion to gain leverage with my audience, and instead I try to stick only to the relevant sources and let them speak for themselves.
Granted, I get worked-up about them. Granted I present them in a way that underlines my goal in sharing them with others. However, I still believe that I leave plenty of room for those listening to evaluate the merit of the ideas on their own, in a way that they can choose to accept or reject them.
It must be true, because when the presentation was all said-and-done, one participant told me, “Though most of what you've said was new to me, I still remain skeptical about what you've said. I have cognitive dissonance,” he explained. He added, to justify his c.d., “When Group A made their fantastic claim about Moshiach, what happened in the end? He died. No Moshiach…”
“True,” I tried to explain to him, “but there is a fundamental difference between accepting opinions, no matter how many there are, about the greatness of another human being and his role in history, and taking the time to appreciate sources that are not only acceptable, but they are mainstream.”
The debate didn’t last long, because it was clear to me that he wasn’t open to changing his opinion, and the only walls I try to talk to these days is the Western one in the Old City. Furthermore, when someone volunteers that he has cognitive dissonance, that is usually a banner that reads, “Don’t bother trying to convince me. The store’s closed.” Cognitive dissonance is not a rare intellectual disease. We are all plagued by it on some level. Any time a person refuses to accept theimplications of an idea, or at least pursue the veracity of an idea that appears to be true, he is in a cognitive dissonant way. This is especially true if the idea happens to be sourced somewhere in a mainstream Torah work, even if other opinions exist to the contrary.
For, every piece of intellectual information we come in contact with, especially if it comes directly from Torah, it is part of an ongoing dialogue with G-d. It is like playing chess, where one person sits around planning his next move while the other person sits there making his at the same time. Sometimes it even seems as if each person is playing his own game and the two just happen to be sharing the same board.
While we learn something new and chart the course of our lives, G-d is already planning to give us our next piece of information. Many people look at it as if it fell from the sky like debris from the space station, and have no problem shrugging it off as if there is no meaning in seeing it. In fact, it is G-d’s latest move on the board, aimed at us, and aimed at intellectually vanquishing to His side of reality, for our own good, not His.


The sacrifices of G-d are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O G-d, You will not despise. (Tehillim 51:17)
Not only do I speak for G-d, but we ALL do. Although, listening to the way some people talk, it is hard to believe that G-d has anything to do with their mouths. However, that is precisely why they are punishable for what they say: they “force” G-d, for free-will purposes, to be involved in such profane matters.
However, when it comes to divrei Torah, then for sure G-d is behind the words, even if the person speaking them seems far from being any kind of prophet. However, if G-d can speak to us through the mouths of our enemies, He can certainly talk to us through the mouths of our friends, especially those who mean well and want to share what they have learned with others.
And, He does this because He always wants us to build up our da’at, as part of an ongoing process to enable us to better relate to Him. As the Rambam says, to know G-d is to love G-d. And, to know better His plan for Creation is to be better prepared to help out, and to become the partner with G-d man was created to become. You’re either with G-d or against Him; there is no neutral ground, except that history has shown how easy it is to think that you are with Him when in fact you are tragically against Him. Hence, the ultimate “Elevated-Offering” is an elevated da’at. What seemsso obvious on a Pshat-level becomes less so on the levels of Remez, Drush, and Sod. The opposite is true as well: what seems so abstract from a Pshat - level becomes increasingly clearer and logical as one moves from Remez to Drush to Sod. And, as one’s mind moves from level to level, a person is given the free-will choice to move with it, resulting in the ultimate sacrifice and gift-offering man can make:
The sacrifices of G-d are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O G-d, You will not despise. (Tehillim 51:17)
What! G-d is not happy unless we walk around broken and in emotional upheaval? We were made in the image of G-d, and expected to live that way, and that is not the way G-d lives, so-to-speak. Then what can it mean, except that G-d waits for us to learn truth and then we subjugate ourselves to it? The “broken spirit” to which Dovid HaMelech refers is our ability to change our course in life when we find out that we are wrong about what G-d wants, and also go where history is in fact going. It is, in fact, our willingness to overcome cognitive dissonance and face the truth as it stands, so that we can learn to march to the beat of G-d’s drum.
That is the real terumah that we can offer, and a good lead-in to next week’s parshah: Parashat Zachor.

Nefesh HaChaim, Ch. 21
Thus, it is with man, that if he is involved with Torah for the proper reasons, in order to protect and uphold all that is written within it, then his entire being is purified. This is as the rabbis learn:Why is “tents” juxtaposed with rivers? Just as rivers purify a person from spiritual impurity, so too do tents elevate a person from demerit to merit. (Brochot 16a)They expressed the same idea through a comparison of purification in a mikvah, about which it says “all your flesh in the water...” In other words, just as the entire body is purified by the water, so too is the entire body elevated through Torah. (The rabbis specified a volume of one amah by one amah by three amot in height, corresponding to the three worlds, Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshamah, or action, speech, and Torah thought.)
Furthermore, just as the entire body of a man is purified through involvement in Torah and mitzvot, so too are the Worlds, which are set up like a man, as I wrote in Chapter Six. They also become refined, purified, and elevated.
A proper and true servant of G-d does not allow himself to become distracted during his service of G-d, even to elevate and purify his body and soul. Rather, he intends with a pure mind and directs his thoughts Upward to rectify and purify the holy Worlds.
This was how our Forefathers served, and the early Righteous individuals, who fulfilled the Torah before it was given, as the rabbis learn from the verse, “From a pure animal...” (Bereishit 7:8), commenting that from here we learn that Noach learned Torah. Regarding Avraham, they said, “Avraham fulfilled the entire Torah (Yoma 28b). (The same thing is found in Bereishit Rabbah, Parashah 14, and in Midrash Tanchuma, Parashat Behar, and in Midrash Tehillim, Mizmor 1.)
It wasn’t that they were commanded and that they did so as a matter of obligation. For, if so, they could never have even considered violating the command of G-d, G-d forbid, even if the Root of their Neshamah saw a need to, such as in the case of Ya’akov who married two sisters, and Amram who married his aunt. Rather, they acted as a result of their pure minds which grasped the rectification that results from each mitzvah in the Worlds, the Upper and Lower Forces, and the tremendous damage and destruction that results, G-d forbid, when the mitzvot are not fulfilled. Noach specifically offered a pure animal because he saw and understood the Force and Root inherent in each animal. The ones whose Root emanated from holiness he offered; the animals whose Nefesh was from the side of impurity and the Other Side, he did not choose to offer to G-d because he knew that they would be unacceptable.
This is the meaning of the words, “And Chanoch walked with G-d” (Bereishit 5:24), and “With G-d Noach walked” (Bereishit 6:9), and, “G-d, with whom my fathers walked” (Bereishit 48:15); for, the word “Elokim” means the “Master of all Forces.” In other words, they grasped the concept of the Upper and Lower Forces, the order by which the world is run, and the interconnections and joinings that result from the actions of men, and each one of them accustomed himself to act accordingly, based upon what he saw and understood according to the Root of his Neshamah, about the upper rectifications.

Therefore, when Ya’akov Avinu understood that, based upon the Root of his Neshamah, a great rectification of the Upper Worlds would occur by marrying the two sisters, Rachel and Leah, and that from the two of them the House of Yisroel would be built, he made great effort and worked hard so that they should be married to him. This was also why Amram married Yocheved, his aunt, from whom came Moshe, Aharon, and Miriam. This is also one of the reasons why the Torah was not given to Noach and the holy Forefathers. For, had they received the Torah, then Ya’akov could not have married two sisters, nor Amram his aunt, even if they had known through the Root of their Neshamot that this would accomplish good, and that in truth, this would have built up Bait Yisroel, the “Treasured Nation,” and that it would have rectified the Upper and Lower Worlds. This is also the idea behind the statement, “And if you want to say that Kayin married his sister, then, ‘A world of kindness You built’ (Tehillim 89:3).
Have a great Shabbat,


"The Great Redemption"

Rabino Yaakov Feldman

"The Great Redemption"
The Rectified World: Ch. 5

This has been a very, very long and arduous exile for us indeed, which hasn't escaped anyone's attention. In fact, the idea that our people have seemingly been left to its own devices for all these many years has caused people to doubt G-d's plans for us. The more cynical have taunted, "TheirG-d must be asleep!" (Esther Rabbah 7:12), and we ourselves have asked Him plaintively, “Why do You stand so far away, G-d? Will You hide Yourself in times of trouble (like this)?” (Psalms 10:1), because we've almost lost hope. And those sorts of attitudes tend to embolden the side of unholiness.

But just as we're told that “G-d looked upon the people of Israel and ... knew (their plight)” (Exodus 2:25) at a crucial point in the first exile, He'll certainly do the same for us. But with a distinct difference that's aside from the ones we've learned about until now.
"I still have to explain a certain mystery" Ramchal adds here in relation to what will set this final redemption apart from that first one. It's the fact that the greatest event to come about in the days of the Moshiach "will be the emendation of the body". Which is to say that the universe will be so rich with radiance then that even what had been earthy, mundane, and ordinary would teem with holiness. In fact, "much of the world’s emendation" itself will depend on "this ... very important principle". "After all," Ramchal adds rather matter-of-factly and cryptically, "wasn’t the soul sent to this world to emend the body?"

So he starts to lay-out the relationship of the body and the soul in this world to help us understand the significance of all this. We learn that "the body had been corrupted by Adam’s sin" in the Garden of Eden, and that all the other losses and downfalls that humankind has experienced since then has "followed in its wake". Ramchal adds though (and quite frustratingly), that "since these things are (already) known to those who know the truth," and "inasmuch as I spoke about it a lot elsewhere, Iwon’t delve into it at length here". So let's take a quick look at some of what he'd already said about this.

As he'd explained at length in "The Way of G-d" and elsewhere, humankind was originally to have been an equal mix of the spiritual (soul) and the material (body), and had Adam and Eve not eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, the soul would have dominated the body forever and ever, and humanity would have achieved perfection in short order. For spirit would have so purified matter that the two would have partaken of the ultimate reward right in this world.
But the damage was done, and the body was charged to endure death while the soul was made to separate from it in the Afterlife as a consequence. As a result of the Great Redemption, though, body and soul will be rejoined (in the course of the Resurrection of the Dead, which will follow the Great Redemption), and all will be primed for the ultimate perfection (in The World to Come, which will follow the Resurrection of the Dead).

It's in the course of The World to Come then that the soul -- which would have been emended already to a great degree in the Afterlife and The Resurrection -- will come to fruition and will emend the body and thus fulfill its raison d'être in this world, as Ramchal said above.
Ramchal explains the subtle and transcendent process of body-emendation elsewhere in great detail, but suffice it to say for our purposes that all of that will begin to occur in the course of the Great Redemption.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Hamas leaders

Hamas leaders comment on the Mecca Agreement and the demands of the Quartet
The following are quotes by Hamas leaders since the signing of the Mecca Agreement with regard to the demands of the Quartet:

Ahmed Youssef, Adviser to Premier Haniyeh:
Interview to Reuters, 10 February 2007:
The issue of recognition was not addressed at all in Mecca, Ahmed Youssef said. "In the platform of the new government there will be no sign of recognition (of Israel) regardless of pressures the United States and the Quartet would exert."

b. Interview to Al-Jazirah TV, 10 February 2007:

... He noted that the political guidelines for the next government do not include the recognition of Israel. This was clear with regard to them, and what is written in the Mecca agreement is also clear, despite attempts by some to include the recognition of Israel in the agreement. He reiterated that they wanted to be "as clear as the midday sun" that there would be no recognition of Israel and that the matter was outside the scope of the document of national consensus. Therefore all talk about it or any European pressure in that direction (is rejected), we say that there is no recognition of Israel by Hamas as a movement and this has been made clear in talks with the Europeans".

c. Al-Hayat, 11 February 2007:
He estimated that the USA would maintain pressure to the last moment to extract acceptance of the three conditions of the Quartet: recognition of Israel, of the agreements with Israel and the cessation of violence. Youssef revealed that the Europeans would ignore the condition of recognizing Israel."

2. Ismail Radwan, Hamas spokesman
Interview to AFP, 9 February 2007:

"The agreement reached at Mecca does not mean recognition of the Israeli entity... The position of Hamas is firm and well known and it is one of non-recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity... Hamas is one thing, the government is another, but the government is based on the document of national consensus which does not recognize the Zionist entity... The government is not required to recognize Israel; the PLO did, and that is its concern."

Khalid Mash'al, Head of the Hamas Politbureau
a. Al-Hayat interview 10 February 2007:

"The question of recognition did not arise in the discussions held. Nobody asked us to do so. We agreed on the guidelines for this government and we are part of the government like the other groups and we are obligated to the understandings stressed in the document of national consensus, to the letter of appointment we accepted as a government, these political guidelines are shared by all the Palestinian factions, but each faction retains its own political ideas."

b. Interview to Tareq Abbas, journalist, Jeddah 11 February 2007:
"We have no complexes about dialogue with any country in the world including the USA- except the Zionist entity."
Interview to Al-Akhbariya TV, Saudi Arabia, 12 February 2007:How do you describe Hamas’s lack of recognition of Israel and the reality of the situation that would require meetings with Israeli officials as well as contacts?"Every movement in the Palestinian arena has its own view program and specifics, and has total freedom to adopt the political program that it is convinced of and believes in. This is what we agreed upon, that each faction has total freedom. However, the Palestinian government is a national unity government and as long as it is a national unity one in which all Palestinian factions are participating in, naturally its political program will not be one of a particular faction. Not Hamas’s and not Fatah’s and not any other program, but the government will be based on a political program that is the common denominator among all factions and this is what we agreed upon. The national accord document is a unanimous national program that all Palestinian agree on. Regarding the letter of designation, Hamas and Fatah agreed on its language and content to be, along with the national accord document, a program for the national government that we aim to form."

Musa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas Politbureau
a. Interview to "Al-Arabiyya" 12 February 2007:"

"It is not necessary that the basis for founding a Palestinian state should be mutual recognition, because it is an absolute Palestinian right. The basis (for relations) between states is not just a matter of recognition or non-recognition. There are various sorts and the matter will be discussed after the founding (of the state) and recognition of that Palestinian right."

b. Interview to Hamas website 17 February 2007:
Q: What were the concessions made by Hamas to ensure success at the Mecca talks?
A: I stress again strongly that Hamas wishes to strengthen national unity, but what Hamas agreed to at Mecca was no different from the agreements in Damascus. There were thorough debates about the words "respect" and "obligation" (with reference to documents signed by the PLO) and it was clear to all that Hamas could not agree to anything that was not covered by its political positions.
Q: Does this mean that Hamas made concessions about the distribution of portfolios but not with regard to political matters?
A: Politically Hamas was very flexible, and made no concessions regarding Palestinian principles. Hamas reached the limits of its flexibility and cannot go further politically. At the Damascus talks between Fatah and Hamas, I think Hamas went as far as it could politically, and could not go further. Neither side gave way when it came to concessions. Both sides made concessions for the sake of the Palestinian people, and it was Abu Mazen who agreed to the use of the word "respect" in the letter of appointment, thus enabling agreement to be reached.

5. Bassem Naim, PA Health Minister
Interview to Mustafa Amarah, Al-Zaman, Cairo, 12 February 2007:
"Hamas will not recognize Israel, that we have said repeatedly, we shall not give up our principles and we shall pragmatically respect the signature of the PA on its agreements with Israel."
"The Palestinian government does not have to recognize Israel - the PLO already did so".
"Hamas does not accept the existence of Israel and will not negotiate with Israel."
"As for the Quartet's and other international demands may I state that from the beginning the Hamas delegation to Mecca declared that they do not recognize Israel and would not bow to those demands."
Usama al-Mazini, senior Hamas official
Interview to Radio Sawt al-Arab 19 February 2007:
"We shall not agree to any concession regarding our eternal national rights, we shall not recognize the state of that entity, we shall not yield on the refugees, Jerusalem or our heroic prisoners. We shall not abandon our principles no matter what pressures may come."

7. Usama Hamdan, representative of Hamas in Lebanon
From an extensive interview to Al Manar TV:

Regarding the establishment of a national Palestinian unity government he said:
"We can try to change this structure from the role that others may have expected it to play, to another one so that it can be part of the (armed) resistance, and we said we could do that."
The Oslo agreements were an historic error – "All treaties with the occupation were historic errors because they implied recognition of the legitimacy of occupation and opposition to further resistance."
He said they had not halted the resistance nor promised to stop it. "Everyone knows that one of the conditions for recognition of the government and opening the flow of money to it was to be the end of violence and resistance. We said resistance would continue and we have carried out actions such as capturing the Israeli soldier Shalit, as well as other actions against the aggressive occupation."
"I think that Hamas still sees resistance as a strategic option and will not make any concessions until - if Allah wills it- we shall be victorious in Palestine."
"There is no doubt that nations that surrender will die. Surrender will determine life or death for us. A nation may be wounded but if it refuses to surrender it will not die."

8. Khalil Abu Leila, member, Hamas politbureau
Interview to BBC in Arabic 16 February 2007
"I believe that Mecca was a success, because the aim was reached, but as far as the principles of Hamas are concerned, Hamas maintains its positions for the higher Palestinian interest. It continues to reject and defy the demands of the Quartet."
"The government does not have to recognize Israel. We must learn from the past. The PLO fully recognized the Zionist entity and abolished paragraphs in the Palestinian Covenant referring to Israel but nothing was achieved. The Zionist entity is procrastinating and has the support of the West and the European community."
The reorganization of the PLO was designed to let all Palestinian factions in, that was important, the PLO must be reunited, the Covenant must be redrafted to reflect the highest interests of the Palestinian people, and then we shall all come as members of the PLO, to reexamine what the PLO did in the Oslo Agreements, and all the negotiations with the Zionist entity, and we shall see if it at all matches the higher interests of the Palestinian people. If there is no conflict, then we can go down that route, but if we find that there are contradictions we shall have to reevaluate and say: Stop, the agreements must be reexamined."
Q: What you are saying seems to contradict the Mecca agreements, where Hamas said it would accept or respect agreements made by the PLO.
A. Only as concerns matters that do not contradict the higher interest of the Palestinian people. That is important. We as Palestinians can negotiate with the help of our Arab brethren and say: "Where then is the higher Palestinian interest? If we can agree, we shall act according to that agreement. I say that the way of the previous government, based on Palestinian unity, was in the right direction, for the higher Palestinian interest. If we can find that interest in the agreements (signed by the PLO) we shall abide by them. But if the interest lies elsewhere we must get rid of them (the agreements) and return to jihad (war) with the oppressive Zionist enemy."

9.Fawzi Barhoum, spokesman for Hamas
Hamas website 14 February 2007

"The national unity government was based on the document of national consensus signed by all factions. Basically it was the "Prisoners' Text", only amended."
He said the government would not recognize the occupying state and would maintain armed resistance.
Following, for your reference, are two quotes from the document of national consensus, amended 28 June 2006, regarding resistance:

a. para 3:
"The right of the Palestinian people to resist and to uphold the option of resistance of occupation by various means and focusing resistance in the territories occupied in 1967 in tandem with political action, negotiations and diplomacy whereby there is broad participation from all sectors in the popular resistance."

b. para 10:
"To work on forming a unified resistance front called the "Palestinian Resistance Front" to lead and engage in resistance against the occupation and to unify and coordinate resistance action and work on defining a unified political reference for the Front."

Tzippi Livni

Jerusalem, 20 February 2007

Israeli Foreign Minister Livni discusses the Palestinian Issue
with Visiting Latvian Foreign Minister Pabriks
(Communicated by the Foreign Ministers' Bureau)

Today (20 February, 2007), Israeli Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzippi Livni met in Jerusalem with Latvian Foreign Minister Mr. Artis Pabriks. During their meeting, Foreign Minister Livni made the following statements regarding the recent 'Mecca Agreement' on the formation of the Palestinian unity government and the trilateral meeting held yesterday in Jerusalem between Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, US Secretary of State Rice and Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas):
Regarding the 'Mecca Agreement' on forming a Palestinian Unity Government

"The understandings recently reached between the Hamas and Abu Mazen are a disappointment for all those who supported the process aimed at isolating the Palestinian extremists from the moderates and creating an alternative leadership for the Palestinian Authority. This agreement does not fulfill the three principles stipulated by the Quartet."
"Any recognition of a Palestinian unity government which does not recognize these three principles endangers our ability to promote the two state solution."

Regarding the prerequisites of the international community:
"The Quartet's principles do not present an obstacle to peace, but rather they are the key to get the process moving. These principles are the foundation of the whole peace process and as such, they must not and cannot be compromised."

"For Israel, these three principles are non-negotiable: Israel's right to exist, the essential need to fight terror and the acceptance of agreements signed as a result of negotiations."
"The test is the same for every Palestinian government. Israel will not recognize a Palestinian government that does not agree to the Quartet's three principles."

On continuation of talks with the Palestinians:
"The Prime Minister and Abu Mazen agreed on the continuation of bilateral meetings between them. The intention is that at these meetings, they will discuss means for improving the living conditions of the Palestinian population, the implementation of Phase I of the Roadmap and most importantly, the Palestinian war on terrorism."

We made it clear to Abu Mazen that our ability to continue our dialogue with him is dependant upon his willingness to separate himself from the Hamas in both word and deed. On the declaratory level - to support the two-state solution, to recognize Israel, to adhere to the Roadmap and to the Quartet's principles. And regarding his concrete actions - to secure the release of Gilad Shalit, to stop the Kassam rockets from being fired into Israel and to stop the smuggling of arms and ammunition."

Regarding the position of the international community:
"The international community must continue to be decisive with regard to the three principles. A lack of international pressure on the Palestinian government and any agreement to vague formulations will only weaken Abu Mazen and the Fattah in relation to Hamas. Without international pressure, Abu Mazen and Fattah will find it difficult to contend with the Hamas."
"It is especially important at this time that the international community clearly and demonstratively enunciates and adheres to the Quartet's three principles."

Ehud Olmert

Meeting of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
with the Foreign Press in Israel
February 21, 2007

Prime Minister Olmert:
Distinguished members of the foreign press in Israel,

I vividly remember the last such meeting that took place in precisely the same room as this one. I guess since then I had several meetings in this room, the last one was two days ago, so let me start, perhaps, by referring to this meeting, and then I'll make two other short comments and afterwards I'm sure that you may have one or two questions for me.

The trilateral meeting which took place Monday here was a very serous meeting, and I think it was very candid. I said what I had in my heart, the President of the Palestinian Authority shared with me what he has in his heart and we heard also, of course, the opinion of the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. We appreciate very much the American efforts to keep the momentum of contacts between us and the Palestinians. I think this is very important for all, and Secretary of State Condi Rice is playing a very positive role in creating the necessary environment, which is very helpful to both sides. I think it's well known and everyone understands that we were very unhappy with the reconciliation agreement that did not explicitly recognize the Quartet principles. And I shared my view with President Abu-Mazen, and I also shared it with President Mubarak, but in a different telephone call, and it was clear that Israel will not be able to maintain any kind of formal or practical contact with a government that will not accept explicitly the principles of the Quartet. That was said by us, it was said by the Americans, it was side by the Quartet members on the 2nd of February, and immediately following the announcement of the agreement it was said again by all the Quartet members and I believe that it will be repeated today at the conclusion of the meeting of the Quartet members in Europe. However, at the same time, I made it clear that I will not cut my contacts with Abu-Mazen. I will continue to maintain the bilateral track, I will meet with Abu-Mazen, my staff will meet with his staff on a regular basis, hoping to create the necessary environment that will be helpful for the relations between us and them. We want to contribute to the quality of life of the Palestinian people living in Gaza and in the West Bank. We believe that however mistaken their leadership come sometimes be, people don’t have to suffer from the mistakes of their leaders, and inasmuch as we can contribute to the upgrading of the quality of life, under the present circumstances, we'll make these efforts, and if necessary, in cooperation with Abu-Mazen. And also we expect Abu-Mazen to make exceptional efforts to stop the terrorist attempts and the suicide attacks against Israelis. What may have happened yesterday is just a reminder to all of us of how dangerous and serious terror can be and how easily it can break up every pattern of cooperation that we are trying to build. So I believe that this bilateral track will continue. I believe that the Secretary of State will continue to play this positive role in inspiring these contacts between us and the Palestinians, and I want to believe, and I hope, that if indeed a new government of the Palestinians will be established, this government will be explicitly, publicly and officially committed to the principles that were adopted by the international community, to the Roadmap, and to the Quartet principles.

Today is the last day that was designated by the international community and by the UN Security Council Resolution 1737 for the adoption of the parameters of cooperation by Iran with IAEA, with regard to their attempts to acquire nuclear capacity. It appears that up until now the Iranians did not respond in a manner that all of us wanted and therefore the international community will have to think of additional measures in order to influence the Iranians to change their basic position. My personal view is that the sanctions that were already applied and other measures taken by the international community, including financial measures, are effective. They influence and they make an important contribution to what may eventually appear as a new perception of opportunities and realities for the Iranians. It's not enough. A lot more has to be done. But I think that the Iranians are not as close to the technological threshold as they claim to be and unfortunately, they are not as far as we would love them to be. So there is a lot that still can be done and ought to be done, and the sooner it will be done, the better it will be. If there will be a concerted effort by the international community, both diplomatic, economic and political effort by the international community, I think that there are serious chances that it will have an impact that may change the Iranian attitude. And so I think that this is the main area of focus that should engage us. I personally believe that this can be a productive way and I urge all the international community, particularly in light of the refusal of the Iranians officially to extend their cooperation with the IAEA to stop the efforts for enrichment, that additional resolutions – effective resolutions – will be adopted and applied in this area of economy, financial measures, diplomacy.

And finally, since we didn’t meet for such a long time, I want to take this opportunity to also report to you of what I think was the record, historic record year for the Israeli economy. I don’t know how many of you are aware of the fact that this last year we had, in spite of the fighting through July and August, we had a very remarkable growth of our economy of over 5 percent, inflation rate in Israel last year was minus 0.7, which is quite unusual for the economy to grow so rapidly and at the same time to have such low inflation. We had last year a record export, first time that our balance of payment was positive and we sold overseas more than we bought, and the surplus was more than 6 billion dollars. We also had – and we still have – record of our stock exchange, which I think is an expression of the confidence of investors, both in Israel and outside of Israel, in the Israeli economy. Another indicator of confidence in the economy was the highest ever foreign investments in the history of the State of Israel. Last year we had 23.2 billion dollars of foreign investment, of which more than 12.5 billion dollars were in tangible assets, in Israeli properties and industries. The other part was financial investments. And of course, the interest rate of Israel is one full point below the American prime rate, which is certainly something quite unusual, which I think, again, reflects the strengths of the Israeli economy and the confidence of the international community in the economy of the State of Israel. And so we were not surprised that people like Warren Buffet thought that Israel is a target for their investments. First time that Warren Buffet ever invested outside of the United States of America, he chose to invest 4 billion dollars in one of the leading Israeli industries, the Iscar Industries, and he never even visited the State of Israel. When he finally came to see what he bought, and he was so gracious to come and see me, he told me: I have never seen any such place in the world. I am going now to go everywhere to speak so highly of the enormous and unbelievable achievements of your economy and your industries, and I think that this is a very positive indication. Coming in the same year that Intel decided to invest 5 billion dollars in new facilities, manufacturing facilities and research facilities in the State of Israel, I think it is a very strong signal of the successes of our economy last year, and our anticipation is that this year, the year 2007, will also be a year of growth in our economy and continued foreign investments in Israel. So we are looking forward with great hope for the coming year and of course we will make every possible effort that every other front of our lives will be as successful as this.

Thank you very much.

Questions & Answers

Q: Jackie Roden from A-Jezeera. Prime Minister, what would Israel be willing to give up in territorial terms in exchange for a lasting peace with Syria?

PM: I think we first have to start negotiations and then we will find out precisely how much and what kind of territories we want to give up. I think it's a little bit too early. It is true that President Assad talked about starting a peace process with Israel, and I think I said several times – and this is our position – that we would be very happy to make a serious, genuine, credible and trustworthy peace agreement with the Syrians. But for the Syrians to want to make peace is not only just to say that they want to talk with Israel in order to make peace. They have to stop their daily involvement in encouraging terror, in smuggling arms to Lebanon, in assisting the terror in Iraq and in assisting the brutal actions sponsored by the Iranians in our part of the world. Just to say that you want peace and at the same time to sabotage the legitimate government of Lebanon and to continue the assistance to Hizballah to smuggle arms and to provoke all kinds of terrorist actions, is not a genuine signal that can convince Israel that they are really ready for a peace agreement. If there will be a positive change, they will find Israel ready, and when we will sit to the table of negotiations, I am sure that they will find out exactly what are the kind of compromises that we are ready to make.

Q: BBC. Two questions. First of all, President Ahmadinijad in Iran has reportedly repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel. What red line do the Iranians have to cross before you would carry out a military strike against Iran? And secondly, when the Israeli public voted you into office a year and a half ago, it was on your promise to withdraw from large parts of the Occupied Territories. Why are you still building in the West Bank?

PM: I think I've outlined what I think should be the strategy to deal with the Iranian thereat. There is a genuine threat by Iran. The fact that a leader of a nation of almost 80 million people, which is a member- State of the United Nations, can stand up publicly and openly and threaten the very existence of another nation, which is a member-State of the United Nations, this in itself is totally intolerable. The fact that this leader is doing it and at the same time is trying to build up nuclear capacity for his country and delivery systems that could use this capacity in order to destroy another nation, is totally unacceptable. And I think it is incumbent upon the international community not only to take practical measures to stop this threat, but also to take practical measures that will indicate the extent of the disapproval of this language, of these attitudes and of these approaches, as spelled out by President Ahmadinijad of Iran. No country in the world, which is a member of the United Nations, can hesitate or contemplate its position about it. Every nation has to take a very strong stand against anyone who threatens the annihilation of another nation. And that's what we expect the international community to do. I believe that the coordinated effort, the diplomatic and the economic and financial measures, can cause the result that we are looking for. And therefore I'm not defining any other thresholds or timetables. I believe that the goal that we have set for ourselves can be achieved in this way, and naturally this is my priority.

Is it already a year and a half since I was first elected to Prime Minister? I think the elections took place on March of 28th, so we are slightly less than a year. Anyway, it is true that I said that I want to reach a new agreement, preferably that will allow the Palestinians to have their State alongside the State of Israel. This is my vision. This is the vision of the United States. This is the vision of the international community, and I share this vision entirely. I am in favor of the creation of a Palestinian State that will live in peace and security alongside the State of Israel, which has the same right to live in peace and security. As you know, unfortunately, some of the circumstances that developed over the last year did not make it any easier. Just in the Palestinian front – we pulled out entirely from Gaza, we disengaged, no one can claim that we hold one inch of territory which is claimed by the Palestinians in the south part of the country. And yet there was not one single day since the disengagement from Gaza in which the Palestinians did not shoot rockets on innocent Israelis living in the south part of the country. Now we have agreed on a cease-fire with the Palestinians in Gaza in November. Since then, again, there was not one single day they didn’t violate this agreement. And we didn’t respond up until now. So I think that there is no basis whatsoever to come to the Israeli side and to argue: why haven't you yet not accomplished everything that you wanted to do after less than one year, with all these violations that were committed by the Palestinian side, and I haven’t yet even started to talk about the brutal abduction of the Israeli soldier Corporal Shalit and the numerous attempts of suicide attacks, the last one was yesterday, by the Palestinians against the State of Israel. And on top of it, of course, the divisions amongst the Palestinians, the fact that the Palestinians keep fighting against each other. They have appointed a government which is boycotted by all the international community because they are not prepared to make pace with Israel and are not prepared to recognize the State of Israel. And as I already said at the beginning of this talk, unfortunately, the agreement signed between the Fatah and the Hamas does not promise any change in the basic position of the Palestinian government with regard to the basic principles of the Quartet, which are the guidelines for any future agreement. So these are the main obstacles for the fulfillment of the vision of a two-state solution, and unfortunately it takes more time as a result of this. But the strategy has remained the same and I haven’t changed my vision and I haven’t changed my commitments, and I'm going to do everything in my power to continue to build up bridges between me and Abu-Mazen that will allow both of us to move forward on this direction that I have set forth for my country when I ran for the election. There is not any violation of the basic Israeli commitment that there will not be any building outside of the existing settlement limits as they were. So there is natural growth and everything that was done was done within the framework of the existing settlements as a result of natural growth. There is not any government building, there is no policy of building, there are no government investments in the territories, certainly not in the last year.

PM: I will answer and refer to the questions. So the first was how long will you restrain your responses to the terrorist attempts and the shooting of Qassam rockets against Israelis? The last two Qassam rockets just landed now in the south part of Israel. So the answer is that we are not going to restrain ourselves forever, and I made it clear to Abu-Mazen when I met with him and I think that the Palestinians know very well. However, I'm not going to give you now any specific timetable or dates of when we are going to respond, but it is clear that the patience of Israel is being tested only too often and I think that it is a terrible mistake by the factions in Gaza that are stretching and challenging the Israeli patience for such a long time. At the end, we will respond and we will reach out for those who are responsible for the threats and for the shooting against innocent Israelis.
The other question was about the appointment of the new inspector-General. There is not yet an appointment, there is a proposal by the Minister of Police, this proposal will have to be examined by a special committee according to the formal requirements, and then and only then will it come to the approval of the cabinet. When it comes to the cabinet, it will be reviewed by the members of the cabinet. I think that right now it will not be appropriate that I will pass any personal opinion before a committee is requested to review this proposal and to pass its recommendation to me and to the cabinet members.

Q: Jonathan Ferziger from Bloomberg News. You've said that you conveyed your concerns about the Mecca agreement to Abu-Mazen. What's the point of keeping up the appearance, the process, if you don’t expect any substance to come out of a joint government with Hamas? And how many more trips will Condoleezza Rice have to make here? Aren’t you just spinning your wheels?

PM: Jonathan, I'll never lose my desire to talk with every Palestinian that I will find a genuine potential partner for peace with the State of Israel. How many do I have to want not to meet with Abu-Mazen? Unfortunately, there are not too many, and I personally think that we have to realize that the Palestinians are divided. I will not speak with Hamas, I will not speak with Mashal, I will not speak with Haniyeh, I will not speak with a government which does not accept the very right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state as it is. But if the Palestinian President, who was directly elected by the people, shares these basic commitments and repeats it publicly and formally, do I have to also say to him: I will not talk with you? I will not try in every way to find ways that together we can work towards peace? I think it would be a mistake. So I don’t ignore the complexities, and of course the reluctance of the majority of the Palestinian members of the national council now, who are members of Hamas, to recognize Israel and to negotiate with Israel, and therefore we will not coordinate any efforts with a government which is not obliged to these basic principles. But Abu-Mazen is different and he is not afraid of spelling out his difference, in spite of the agreement, and I think that I have to maintain that link between us and the Palestinians in order to be able to continue this dialogue, and hope that one day, perhaps, the promise of this dialogue will be stronger than the fears and the threats and the hatred and the viciousness of Hamas and its supporters.

Q: Mr. Prime Minister, Ahmed Budeiri from BBC Arab Service. Obviously everybody knows here or maybe some know, that you were actually the Mayor of Jerusalem for many years. The question, sir, Israeli Antiquities Authority said a couple of days ago that there is actually a room under the Mugrabi Gate there and that they have hid this evidence from the public. Now the Turkish team is going to come to the region soon. Why, sir, you are hiding the evidence in this delicate, sensitive issue? Second question, sir. Israeli people actually voted you to do the Realignment Plan, and this was the campaign of Kadima. Are you still committed to this in a sense that there is no final status negotiations with the Palestinians? Are you still committed to Realignment? Thank you very much.

PM: First of all, I want it to be clear. Israel doesn’t work at all on Temple Mount. There are not any kind of works by the Antiquities Authority of Israel in the Temple Mount, and the fact that so many are using the Temple Mount to describe what we do is false, is untrue, is part of an attempt made by the most radical anti-Israeli Islamic group in Israel to stir the emotions and to provoke violence between us and Arabs. I repeat again – the walkway is entirely outside of the Temple Mount. That's number one. Now, everything involved – everything involved – all the information was shared in advance by the Antiquities Authority with all the interested parties, including the Waqf and others inside and outside the State of Israel. There was nothing new that was not revealed in advance by the Antiquities Authority. Now I can only say one thing, that I'm very proud that we are such a democracy that even the most extreme, fundamentalist, radical groups of the Islamic movement within the State of Israel can express their positions and their provocations in our democracy. I just suggest that we will not be carried away too much by their false statements and their provocations.
Finally, when I met with the Prime Minister of Turkey, Mr. Erdogan, and he certainly showed some concern because what he knew was based on what he heard on some of the reports, which were not accurate, to put it mildly. I suggested to him that his ambassador will come to visit the site, as did so many other ambassadors that were invited by us, and he suggested that maybe with his ambassador he will send a special representative, one or two of his own. So I said: why not? Everything is in the open, everything is exposed, actually there are television cameras that broadcast live everything that happens there and if you want to send more than one person you can send, but of course, there is no inspection committee, there will not be any inspection committee, there is no need for any inspection committee, but we always welcome everyone that wants to come and look around and see everything, and I believe that after such a visit will take place by the Turks or by others, they will report to the Prime Minister of Turkey, and he will do precisely what he said he wants to do, which is to say that everything is alright.
You also asked me about the Realignment plan. What I said before the elections, and I kept saying all along the way, is that we have the same vision, as America and many others, which is a two-state solution. The Realignment is a process. The vision is a two-state solution. Now, the most important part, of course, is the substance, or what is the vision. What is the final permanent situation that we envision for the Palestinians and ourselves? And I am absolutely loyal to the same position that I expressed before the election, that there should be a two-state solution and that the Palestinians will have a contiguous territory in the West Bank and that they will be able to live their own secured, independent lives in their own State. And this has not changed. How to come about it, how to accomplish it, how to carry out this plan depends on circumstances. I hope that the circumstances will allow us to reach an agreement with a Palestinian government that will recognize the Quartet principles and will accept the right of Israel to exist as an independent State. And in that case, this will be the best possible way in which I will be able to carry out my commitments.
Question not clear.

PM: We knew exactly in July that there is no government that we can talk with. Now, we want to talk with our enemies, but the pre-requisite for such talks ought to be that they will agree to talk to us. And I'm sure that you heard what the real leader of Hamas said, Khaled Mashal, that he will never talk to Israel, will never make peace with Israel, and will never recognize a two-state solution, so I think that this question of when will you talk to your enemies, should not be put to us. We are ready to talk with our enemies, but there must be a basis for such talks, and the basis which was accepted by all the international community is the Quartet principles. We accept the Quartet principles. Everyone that will share with us this acceptance will be a partner of negotiations.

Q: Danish media. There's been a lot of talk about international agreements and whether to accept them and who accepts them and who does not accept them. As far as I remember, the international agreement with the Palestinians was done between the Israeli government and the PLO. Could you explain to us why do you insist now on the recognition by a government that we apparently all understand will not recognize Israel for the time being. Why do you not, as the Palestinians suggest, go into further negotiations with the head of the PLO, Mr. Abu-Mazen, who you're meeting already and you say to us that you want to meet? Are you going to engage with him in negotiations? And I just want to add an extra question because I think both the Palestinian side, and if I'm not wrong also the Israeli side, the public is dead tired of politicians who seemingly don’t do what the people want, make peace. I know it seems and maybe sounds a bit simple, but that's the basics. If you go into the Palestinian areas, they are sick and tired of Fatah and they are sick and tired of the Hamas, and I won't tell you who they are sick and tired of in Israel. Thank you.

I am sure that you know what the basis that you have to speak for the Palestinians and for the Israelis at the same time is, for the public. I'm not certain that there is one voice in our country. We are a democracy, there are many voices, and I am afraid that also there are quite a few voices amongst the Palestinians. Now, what you ask me to do is to speak with the body which does not represent the majority only because the majority is against talking with me. But a body which does not represent the majority today amongst the Palestinians will not be able to actually carry out any commitment that will make any such talks valuable and meaningful. Let's not bypass the issue. The fact is that indeed the majority amongst the Palestinians voted for people who don’t want to make peace with Israel, and without a change amongst the Palestinians it will be very difficult to accomplish this. What you suggest is that we will be talking as if the 13 years or 14 years that passed since the Oslo Agreement did not exist and that we will go back into 1993. But we live in 2007 and there is a certain reality in 2007 and the only way to deal with this reality is to look into its eyes openly and seriously and to deal with it. What you suggest or some may suggest is that we will ignore all of this. So it's good when you want to fool yourself, but we don’t have this privilege. We have to take care of the problems every day and when a party says not only that we don’t want to make peace with you, but we will continue our efforts to commit suicide attacks and to shoot rockets on your cities, I am not certain that ignoring this can be of any help to the creation of a real and sustainable peace process between us and the Palestinians.

Q: Walid el-Omari, Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel. Mr. Prime Minister, you mentioned Abu-Mazen more than six times, that you are ready to negotiate with him and you want to meet more with him, but in the last meeting that you held with Abu-Mazen here in this hall, you accused him that he deceived you in this Mecca agreement. This on the one hand. On the other hand, Abu-Mazen existed before the Palestinian elections, before the winning of Hamas, and in that time, he was the President, and Israel refused to negotiate with Abu-Mazen around the disengagement from Gaza and now you're going to choose your counterpart with whom you want to negotiate with the Palestinian side. How do you want the Palestinians to respect the result of the negotiations if you want to negotiate only with 50%, if you neglect 50% of the Palestinians, which mean the Hamas people? Why didn’t you negotiate with the Palestinian leadership from the Hamas and from the Fatah together?

PM: I never accused Abu-Mazen of deceiving me. And I don’t remember that you were in this very intimate meeting that I had with Secretary Rice and with Abu-Maze. There was no one else there. There was only an interpreter and I'm certain that this interpreter didn’t tell you this because it never took place. I never accused Abu-Mazen of deceiving me. I accused him of making an agreement which, unfortunately, is not productive and is not constructive and is not helpful in creating the necessary environment for an agreement and the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian government. That I said, and I regret very much that Abu-Mazen was not more consistent on this issue. But at the same time, as I said before, I know of no other person that has any kind of authority amongst the Palestinians who is a better candidate for a dialogue with me and therefore I want to continue to meet with Abu-Mazen. I never said that this will be easy, nor did I say that it will be simple. It will be difficult and it will be complex. It will require the utmost patience by me and by him from his respective point of view, which I can understand even if I disagree with, and we will have to work together and meet and meet again and again and again. What we can't do, of course, is to…
End of first side of tape

PM: And of course, I don’t accept the legitimacy of his position. But I think it will be fair to say that he is more sincere than you. Why don’t you accept the fact that Khaled Mashal says openly, publicly and formally in every platform in the world, that he doesn’t want to negotiate with Israel and he doesn’t want to make peace with Israel? That's what he says. It's regrettable. It's sad. The fact that the leader of more than 50% of the Palestinian electorate openly says that he will do everything to destroy the State of Israel is very sad. But why don’t you accept that this is the reality and why do you come to the Israeli side and blame the Israelis for not wanting to sit with someone who is aiming a gun at your head and says: if you come close, I'll kill you?

Q: NHK, Japanese Public TV. I'm very interested in your opinion about Israeli Arabs. First of all, would you tell me what kind of significance do you see of the appointment of Mr. Majadleh as a first Muslim Arab minister? And second, what kind of role would you expect Israeli Arabs to play in the context of a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians? Thank you.

PM: The fact is that Raleb Majadleh is the first Israeli Arab who was appointed to be a member of the cabinet. So this in itself is an historic turning point which no one can ignore or disregard. I think it's very symbolic, it's very important. It's one more step in a long and painful process that will have to take place between the Israeli citizens who are Arabs, both Muslims and Christians but mostly Muslims, who are 90% of the Israeli Arabs, and the other citizens of the State of Israel, mostly Jews. The Israeli Arabs, I am sure, many of them, the majority of them, are torn between their natural emotional identification with other Arabs and Muslims in the neighboring countries and between their commitments to the State of Israel, of which they are a part as equal citizens in our country. And this is a source for a very painful emotional conflict which characterizes their lives. Now, I think that what we need to do is to find the pattern that will allow them to resolve this conflict without violating their commitment to the State of which they are citizens and at the same time not to entirely dissociate themselves of their emotional connections to the people that they identify with, and this is something that we have to invest a lot of energy in and a lot of effort in, and we are doing it. It's not simple. The fact that we have reached a point that in spite of the complexity of this conflict which characterizes the Israeli Arabs, there is an Israeli Arab member of the cabinet, is a very significant step forward. It's not a solution, it's not the only thing which has to be done in the build up of a better understanding and tolerance between us and the Arabs living in Israel, but I think that this is a step forward. The fact that we have 10 members, Arab members in the Knesset who can, almost on a continuous basis, on a daily basis, speak out their heart and mind, which happens to be completely, wholeheartedly against the consensus of the vast majority of Israelis, I think is a testament to the strength of the Israeli democracy, of which we are so proud.
Question not clear.

PM: I hope that the relations that will be built and will be improved all the time between the Israeli Arabs and the Israeli Jews will help create the appropriate environment that will encourage the upgrading of our dialogue with the Palestinians.

Q: I would like to ask you about the hint you gave last week concerning the release of Gilad Shalit, which could maybe change your attitude towards the Palestinian unity government. Would you please clarify on that, and I would like also to ask more in general, which place on the Israeli priority list does the release of kidnapped soldiers still posses today?

PM: I don’t remember any particular hint that I gave last week about Gilad Shalit. Now, certainly, Abu-Mazen said all the time that the first requirement, the pre-condition for the creation of a national unity government, will be the release of Gilad Shalit. So if indeed such a government is about to be formed and if Abu-Mazen is a part of this effort, then I hope that the first condition that he set for such a government would be fulfilled, which is the release of Gilad Shalit. But I never said that the release of Gilad Shalit can come in exchange or instead of the acceptance of the Quartet principles. There is no way that we can make a trade-off here between the principles of the Quartet and the release of Gilad Shalit. Gilad Shalit has to be released, unconditionally, immediately! As, by the way, the two abducted soldiers in Lebanon ought to be released immediately, because this was the first demand of the 1701 Resolution of the United Nations Security Council. Now, the release of Gilad Shalit does not mean that we then are going to ignore all the other basic principles, which are the necessary foundation for any future negotiations between us and the Palestinians.

Q: Mr. Prime Ministers, Steven Erlanger from the New York Times. The other day in parliament before a committee, army intelligence officer, Mr. Baidatz, testified that he thought Hizballah was stronger today than it was before the war, and your Defense Minister, Mr. Peretz, said: no, no, no, that's not really true. Their potential is to be stronger, and that was an unusual debate. I'm curious to ask you, as the head of the government, whether Hizballah is stronger now than it was before the war, and if that is true, is that a failure of Israel's campaign this summer?

PM: Since the answer is no, I don’t think I have to go into the second part. I think that Hizballah is weaker, much weaker, than they were. It is true that they are trying to smuggle arms into Lebanon. It is true that they are making efforts in order to rearm themselves to the level that they had before the war, but it is also true that the south of Lebanon now is filled with 30,000 or 25,000 soldiers of the army of Lebanon and of the international force, which make the life of Hizballah almost intolerable in that part of the country, and the fact is that since August 14th, there was not one case that a Hizballah soldier surfaced in uniform and with guns in the south of Lebanon, and when it happened, by the way, then they were killed by the Israeli army when they were present there. And when they try to surface now, they are disarmed and arrested by the international force and the Lebanese force. So I think the fact that all along the Israeli border there are not any more bunkers of the Hizballah, that they don’t have the same freedom of movement that they had, that there is an international force in the south of Lebanon together with the Lebanese force, has changed dramatically the basic situation in the south of Lebanon and has definitely weakened the options of Hizballah in comparison to what it was. Now, I can only say to you that the newly appointed Chief of Staff, General Ashkenazi, today said the same thing, that according to his assessment, the assessment that was made by one of the officers of the intelligence, or what was attributed to him because I never heard him so I have to be very careful, what was attributed to him, I think was incorrect. The Hizballah is still a major obstacle to an important change in Lebanon. They are the allies and partners of Iran and of Syria. They are making every possible effort in order to destabilize Lebanon and to continue to service the Iranians' ambitions in this part of the world. And therefore, we have to have a very close look at what they are doing and to make sure that they will not be able to rebuild the same kind of fortresses which were in the south of Lebanon under their command prior to the 12th of July. I don’t think that the situation today is what it was. I think it is much better. I'm not certain that they have any appetite to fight with Israel again and I think that there is still a lot to do so that the threat of Hizballah will be removed entirely. It has not been removed entirely, but it has changed in a very significant way, and I think that therefore the result of the war in Lebanon, or the fighting in Lebanon, in this respect, was very important, but we still have a way to go.

Q: Mr. Prime Minister, Joel Greenberg from the Chicago Tribune. A question about Syria again. You've argued, and you argued again today, that the problem with talking with Syria now despite their rhetoric is that they actively support terrorist groups, Hizballah radical groups in Damascus. The question is: isn’t that the point of the negotiations? In other words, wouldn’t it be wise to check their intentions and through that, to get them to stop their activities? Isn’t that the logical way to proceed in order to get them to stop the activities you say are blocking negotiations? Aren’t negotiations the key to stopping this activity?

PM: This is a very dangerous distinction that you have drawn, which must be clarified. The purpose of negotiations is to make peace, if they take place, not to find out that the other side that you are negotiating with is not interested in the main thing which is the driving force for you, which is peace. So as I said, we are interested in peace, not in the "industry of peace". We are interested in peace, not in the process of peace. We are interested in peace with Syria, not in helping Syria pretend that it is now a peace-loving country and therefore it has to be released of all the efforts made by the international community to establish an international tribunal to inquire the assassination of the former Prime Minister of Lebanon and of the violent Syrian involvement with Hizballah in Lebanon. In other words, if the Syrians are really interested in genuine peace with the State of Israel, they can't at the same time be actively involved in making the opposite against the State of Israel, and in order to find out what they are doing on a daily basis, I don’t have to negotiate with them. I can see and you can see and everyone can see, they are assisting terror in Iraq, they are assisting the Hamas in their terrorist attempts against the State of Israel, they are assisting the Islamic Jihad. The attempt yesterday, which, almost by an extraordinary chain of circumstances, was prevented, was coordinated by the Islamic Jihad whose headquarters is in Damascus. So what the Syrians are doing we know. If they want to make peace, at some point they have to stop it. Then we will still have a long way to go in order to accept the terms of peace. But how can you try to make, sit and negotiate with someone who at the same time is preparing your assassination from the backside?

Thank you very much.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Do Vazio Intelectual: mito e poder dos media

André Veríssimo.

Presidente KOah. Dir. CEIMOM

A Paulo Ferreira da Cunha, com grande respeito e admiração

Fazer tzedakah é igual a todas as outras mitzvoth. (Bava Basra 9a)
Poderíamos dar com um sorriso… e também oferecer palavras amáveis. Persuadir os outros a dar como tal é mesmo uma das maiores mitazvah. (Hilchos Matnas Aniyim 10:13).

Antes de tudo gostaria de glorificar a única fé, que no nosso entender, ultrapassa toda a mitologia: o judaísmo.

Que entendemos por mito? O mito está ligado ao primeiro conhecimento que o homem adquiriu sobre si mesmo e o seu meio. Na sua composição de vida, o mito afirma-se como forma natural do homem ser-no -mundo. O homem toma parte da natureza como aquele que a ultrapassa e que tudo questiona. Ao passo que os animais e as plantas fazem parte do mundo, o homem une-se ao mundo por vínculos de inúmeras possibilidade. A simplicidade do homem primitivo tem sido imaginada pelo homem civilizado como sendo marcada por uma íntima amizade entre homem e natureza. Mas a todo momento essa harmonia reaparece como destruída.

O homem primitivo reconhece-se no conflito com a natureza e integra-se nela: vê o mundo como si mesmo e outorga às forças da natureza a sua personalidade; atribui uma alma às coisas do mundo; inventa divindades à sua imagem e semelhança, atribuindo-lhes virtudes e defeitos humanos. Daí as características antropomórficas e antropognósicas do mito. A própria existência do mundo está aí, para confirmar o mito que dá conta da sua explicação. O mito é vivenciado, pré-reflexivo e, no momento em que é tratado como algo que pode ser contestado, deixa de ser mito. A preocupação mitognósica do mundo é uma apreensão da realidade total que se faz a partir do vivido, isto é, do conhecimento não meditado e é essa conotação afectiva que possibilita ao mito ser controlado e manipulado facilmente. Podemos citar como exemplo, nesse sentido, os sacerdotes que usavam, para controlar o povo, a mitologia egípcia e o poder da palavra aí implícito. Por isso defende Roland Barthes (…) – “certamente que a imagem é mais imperativa que a escrita, impondo a significação de um só golpe, sem a analisar, sem a dispersar. Mas não se trata de uma diferença constitutiva. A imagem torna-se uma escrita, desde que seja significativa: como a escrita, ela faz apelo a uma lexis”. (Barthes, R., Mitologias, Ed. 70, Lisboa, 182).

O mito em Barthes aparece também como sistema semiológico ligado à fala. O autor faz um recurso à ciência dos signos em Ferdinand de Saussure que além disso se repercute noutros campos como a psicanálise, o estruturalismo, a psicologia eidética, certas tentativas inovadoras de crítica literária. A semiologia dá conta duma significação mas não é totalizante. O estatuto destas ciências segundo Roland Barthes é que elas são ciências que têm agrupados valores. Longe da factualidade a semiologia é algo que vale por. A semiologia é assim uma ciência das formas estudando as significações independentemente do seu conteúdo. O que quer dizer que as estruturas e formas relevam a ciência com o que ela tem de extraordinário, a análise, a metodologia e a linguagem que engloba a mitologia como parte da semiologia e da ideologia – assim diz Barthes: E conclui: “A semiologia, colocada nos seus limites, não é uma ratoeira metafísica: é uma ciência como as outras, necessária mas não suficiente. O importante é ver que a unidade de uma explicação não pode dever-se à amputação de esta ou aquelas das suas abordagens, mas, em conformidade com a expressão de Engels, à coordenação dialéctica das ciências especiais que nela estão implicadas. O mesmo se pode dizer da mitologia: ela faz simultaneamente parte da semiologia como ciência formal e da ideologia como ciência histórica: ela estuda as ideias-em-forma.” (Barthes, R., 1997: 184). Neste contexto Barthes indica certos materiais semiológicos e acima ritos comunicativos da sociedade de massas (publicidade, da grande imprensa, da rádio, da ilustração, aparências sociais, moda, …) quando nas margens do social temos uma galáxia de materiais semiológicos: bandeiras, dísticos, cartazes, roupas, falas, silêncios, … que renovam o contexto das mensagens anteriores e redobram o seu significado, um mar surge perante nós e se agiganta.

Filósofos e filólogos como Spencer e Max Müller empregaram as suas teses e análises como ponto de partida para teorias duma afinidade entre linguagem e mito. “A ideia de que o nome e a essência se correspondem numa relação intimamente necessária, que o homem não só designa, mas é também esse mesmo ser, e que ele contém dentro de si a força do ser... são algumas das suposições fundamentais dessa consciência elaboradora de mitos, suposições que também parecem ser aceites pela mitologia filosófica e científica. O que, no espírito do mito, actua como convicção vivente e imediata converte-se num postulado do poder reflexivo, para a ciência da mitologia; esta impôs, assim, como princípio metodológico, a intima relação entre o nome e a coisa, a sua latente identidade”. (Cassirer: S/D, p.7). “A ortodoxia dos fundamentalistas [que tomam a coisa pelo nome] de todas as versões de fundamentalismo (e elas existem em todos os domínios da vida) é normalmente medo e cegueira. Ou então, mais meandrosamente ainda, apenas o tributo amargo que a certa imagem de virtude presta o vício de se não ter convicções, mas sempre sentido da oportunidade, e do poder (P. Ferreira de Cunha, Heterodoxia e autenticidade, in O Primeiro de Janeiro)”.

Para Max Müller, o mito não era nem transformação da história em lenda fabulosa, nem uma fábula aceite como história. Na realidade, para ele, o mito é algo condicionado e proporcionado pela actividade da linguagem; é o resultado de uma deficiência linguística e debilidade inerente à linguagem. Toda a denotação linguística é, essencialmente, ambígua e, nessa “paronímia” das palavras, está a fonte de todos os mitos. Foi apenas no século XX, que os estudiosos ocidentais passaram a reconhecer a originalidade radical do mito, que passou a ser conhecido na história verdadeira, extremamente preciosa pelo seu carácter sagrado, exemplar e significativo; uma história que fornece modelos para a conduta humana, conferindo significação e valor à existência. É nesse momento que o mito deixa de ser confundido com “fábula”, “invenção” ou “ficção” e passa a abrigar a noção narrativa, ou ainda é a criação de uma história ficcional que estabelece parentescos entre realidades diferentes para captar parcelas de sentido do mundo, da mesma forma, todo o texto literário encerra aspectos místicos pelo concurso da imaginação que desafia a lógica existencial. A partir duma alusão ao mito, Lévi – Strauss (Lévi Strauss, 1978) indica que a separação entre mito e história se tornou um dos problemas mais significativos no mundo ocidental, nos séculos XIX e XX. Os mitos resultam das experiências colectivas dos homens, que não se reconhecem como produtores desses mitos, já que não têm consciência da projecção do seu eu subjectivo para os elementos do mundo. Por isso, o pensamento mítico não deve ser compreendido como mera ilusão ou patologia, mas sim como uma forma de objectivação da realidade mais primária e de carácter específico.

Hoje, como podemos imaginar e testar o que sobrevive do mito? Entre o amiticismo e a mitofagia como tenta a sociedade contemporânea criar e afirmar uma mitologia que pensa adequada à sua realidade? Do meu conhecimento temo que os discursos e a sua utilização para finalidades díspares podem ser vistos em diferentes campos de estudo e aplicação como na filosofia, direito, política, na psicanálise, na literatura e no jornalismo como um discurso persuasivo mas não convincente como é o caso comum dos editoriais do «dn», do «jn», da lógica “esclarecedora”, melhor, efabulativa dos directórios partidários, que estou seguro, valerão apenas para um auditório particular e não transmitem necessariamente algo que pretenda obter a adesão de todo o ser racional. Perelman e Olbrechts-Tyteca afiançam a existência “de uma argumentação, que não seja nem coerciva nem arbitrária confere um sentido à liberdade humana” e, “ se a liberdade fosse apenas adesão necessária a uma ordem natural previamente dada, excluiria qualquer possibilidade de escolha” – e assim – “reduzir-se-ia a uma decisão arbitrária actuando num vazio intelectual” Perelman, Chaïm, Olbrecthts-Tyteca, Lucie, Tratado da Argumentação: a Nova Retórica, S. Paulo, Martins Fontes, 1996, p. 581). Mas será possível escolher hoje? Tem hoje o jornalismo uma finalidade social relevante? Não, a não ser a caricatura de jornalismo efabulativo que engoda e regala o olhar turvo, tipo «O Eixo do Mal», reality shows, discursos de estadistas e estrelas de oratória do star-system e quejandos que mesmo assim ampliam o seu efeito hipnótico junto do iletrado «homo videns». Vale a pena indagar, reindagar, analisar, criticar, autocriticar, especular? Sim. Todavia, a apreensão imediata da imagem e do saber por ela proporcionado numa escala exponencial, minimiza a capacidade do ser humano pensar abstractamente e compreender conceitos. Estamos hoje no fim da etapa alfabética e naquilo que Giovanni Sartori depreende como Homo Videns (Sartori, Giovanni, La Sociedad Teledirigida, Madrid, Taurus, 1998).

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Parashat Mishpatim

Hamaayan / The Torah Spring

Edited by Shlomo Katz
Mishpatim - Shekalim
Volume 21, No. 18
29 Shevat 5767
February 17, 2007
Sponsored by
Elaine and Jerry Taragin
on the yahrzeits of
Mrs. Shirley Taragin a"h,
Mr. Irving Rivkin a"h,
and Mrs. F. Rivkin a"h

Bobbi and Jules Meisler
in memory of his mother, Anne Meisler a"h

Robert and Hannah Klein
in memory of his father
Milton Klein (Meyer ben Kalman a"h)
The Katz family
on the yahrzeit of uncle
Avraham Abba ben Avigdor Moshe Hakohen a"h
and on the yahrzeit of Yitzchak Zvi ben Chaim Hakohen a"h

Today's Learning: Sotah 1:2-3 Daf Yomi (Bavli): Megillah 10 Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Eruvin 15

Molad: Shabbat A.M. 11:17 + 17 chalakim

In every non-leap year, this week's parashah, Mishpatim, is read together with the special reading known as Shekalim. This is not coincidental, writes R' Moshe Avigdor Amiel z"l (1883-1945; ChiefRabbi of Antwerp and Tel Aviv). He explains: Our parashah opens, "And these are the mishpatim / laws that you shall place before them." Our Sages understood that "placing" the laws before Bnei Yisrael demanded more from Moshe than just "teaching" them. Moshe had to be, and was,wholly devoted to his responsibility to communicate the laws to Bnei Yisrael. And, unlike many lawgivers, Moshe actually practiced the laws that he transmitted.

Moshe is considered the father of all prophets. We read about one of the prophets -- Avraham -- "So shall you do as you have spoken" (Bereishit 18:5). This is the common denominator among the prophets; they speak, but they also do. Indeed, this is why Hashem chose as a leader someone (Moshe) who had a speech impediment -- to downplay the role of speech and emphasize the importance of action.

The attitude of Moshe and his fellow prophets stands in contrast to the attitude promoted by the yetzer hara. We are taught that the Torah's laws may be divided into several categories: there are chukim / laws with no obvious reason, and there are mishpatim / rational laws. The yetzer hara ridicules the chukim, while of the mishpatim, the yetzer hara says, "If they had never been written, they would need to be written." The yetzer hara acknowledges that mishpatim should be written, but he does not advocate practicing them.

But practicing the laws is not enough. Much of Parashat Mishpatim teaches us how to judge monetary cases. Then we read Parashat Shekalim to teach us the proper attitude toward money. The mitzvah of giving a half-Shekel applies to the rich and poor equallyand thereby teaches the rich man not to view the poor man as lesser than himself. This does not mean that the Torah promotes socialism, but it is meant to make us think about the situation of others.
(Derashot El Ami p.561)

"V'aileh / And these are the mishpatim / laws that you shall place before them." (21:1)

Rashi comments: "Wherever "aileh" / "these are" is used, it separates the preceding section from the section that is being introduced. Where, however, "V'aileh" / "and these" is used, it addssomething to the former subject. This is the case here: `And these are the laws.' Just as the Ten Commandments [in last week's parashah] were given at Sinai, so the laws in this parashah were given at Sinai. Also, why is this section dealing with the `civil laws' [as well as criminal laws] placed immediately after the verses commanding the making of the altar [at the very end of last week's parashah]? To tell you that you should seat the Sanhedrin / Supreme Court in the vicinity of the altar."

R' Yechezkel Yaakovson shlita (Rosh Hayeshiva of Yeshivat Sha'alvim) asked: Would I have thought that the civil and criminal laws, which after all are part of the Torah, were not given by G-d at Sinai? Also, why indeed should the Sanhedrin be located in the Bet Hamikdash?

He explained: Both of Rashi's comments are meant to teach that man's ability to grow in his relationship to G-d ("bain adam la'Makom"), represented by the revelation at Har Sinai and by theTemple, is dependent on his respect for the property rights and other rights of his fellow man ("bain adam la'chavero"). The Sanhedrin, the supreme arbiter of civil law and property rights belongs in the Temple because these two aspects of Torah are inseparable. This is illustrated by a remark of the Chafetz Chaim when he saw a man immerse himself in the mikvah in preparation for Shabbat and then dry himself on a third person's towel without permission. The Chafetz Chaim told that man, "You may have immersed in the mikvah, but you have not purified yourself for Shabbat; in fact, you are dirtier now than you were before."

There is a deeper message as well. We read in Tehilim (147:19-20) and recite in our daily prayers: "He tells His word to Yaakov, His chukim / religious laws and mishpatim / civil laws to Yisrael. He did not do this for any other nation, and mishpatim -- they do not know." Is this true? I would understand if the verse said, "Chukim / religious laws -- they do not know," but don't all societies have civil and criminal laws?

R' Yaakovson explained: Among societies, civil and criminal laws exist to promote social stability. In the absence of property rights etc., societies could not function. However, that is not the purpose of the mishpatim in our parashah. The mishpatim do not exist to protect your neighbor, but rather to promote your own spiritual growth. That is, indeed, a type of mishpat (singular of mishpatim) that the nations do not know.

For example, halachah says that a burglar must, in certain circumstances, pay double what he stole. Not so an armed robber, who pays at most the equivalent of what he stole. Isn't an armed robber a bigger threat to society than a burglar, since the former is ready to kill, while the latter avoids confrontation? Maybe, but that is not the concern of the mishpatim.
Mishpatim view a burglar as a greater sinner, for a burglar, who steals stealthfully, seems to fear man more than he fears G-d. Not so an armed robber; he may not fear G-d, but at least he does not place man on a higher plane than he places G-d.

(R' Yaakovson added parenthetically: This of course does not mean that the Torah is unconcerned with society's well-being. That is why there is a mitzvah to appoint a king, for halachah gives the king the power to legislate for society as he sees fit.)
(Heard from R' Yaakovson 24 Shevat 5767)

From the Haftarah . . .
"Yehoash did what was proper in the eyes of Hashem all his days as Yehoyada the Kohen horaihu / taught him." (Melachim II 12:3)
R' Moshe David Valle z"l (1697-1777; Italian kabbalist) observes: The pasuk does not use the most common term for "[he] taught him" -- i.e., "limdo" -- but rather says, "horaihu." The reason is that "horaihu" connotes the most effective form of teaching -- that of an instructor who takes a parental attitude towards the student. ["Parents" = "horim."]
(Kisai Nachon)
[The above verse can also be translated:
"Yehoash did what
was proper in the eyes of Hashem all his days that Yehoyada
the Kohen taught him" -- but not after Yehoyada died.
Our Sages explain that after
Yehoyada's death, the servants of
King Yehoash reminded him that he had spent the first eight
years of his life hiding in the attic of the Temple's Holy of
Holies after his grandmother, Ataliah, attempted to
assassinate all males from the house of David.
Yehoash's servants argued that a mere mortal could never have lived in
so holy a place, and that Yehoash therefore was divine. How did Yehoash acquiesce in this logic if Yehoyada had taught
Yehoash so effectively?]

Commenting on Yehoash's error, R' Moshe Chaim Luzzato z"l (Ramchal; 1707-1746) warns us:

"Another deterrent to humility is keeping company with or being served by flatterers, who, to steal a person's heart with their flattery so that he will be of benefit to them, will praise and exalt him by magnifying to their very limits the virtues that he does possess. [Thereafter,] he is sometimes praised for attributes that are exactly the opposite of his real attributes. Since, in the finalanalysis, a person's nature is weak, so that he is easily deceived (especially by something towards which his nature inclines) when he hears these words being uttered by someone in whom he has faith, the words enter him like a poison, and he falls into the net of pride. A case in point is Yehoash, who acted virtuously all the days that he was taught by Yehoyada Hakohen, his mentor. When Yehoyada died, Yehoash's servants came and began to flatter him and magnify his virtues until, after they had virtually deified him, he paid attention to them. It is evident that most men in a position of influence, regardless of their level, stumble and are corrupted by the flattery of their subordinates.

(Mesilat Yesharim Ch.23)

R' Yechezkel Sarna z"l (Rosh Hayeshiva of the Chevron Yeshiva in Yerushalayim; died 1969) elaborates: Even a person who knows that it is wrong to flatter others is likely to have trouble protecting himself when others flatter him. Furthermore, although giving flattery is similar to stealing, for it demonstrates a desire to profit from dishonesty, accepting flattery is far worse. The greater a person is, the worse it is when he believes his flatterers, for when a great person stumbles, he drags others down with him. No one is immune, as we learn from the experience of Yehoash. Thus, no matter how much a person has accomplished in his Divine service, he must always watch out for this most basic of errors.

Forgotten Festivals

Once again, we present an excerpt from Megillat Ta'anit / The Scroll of Fasts, one of the earliest written halachic works - dating from long before the Mishnah was set down in writing. Notwithstanding its name, Megillat Ta'anit is not a list of fast days, but rather of days on which fasting and/or eulogizing were prohibited because of miracles that occurred to our ancestors. The Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 18 & 19 discusses whether these prohibitions remain in effect today, and concludes that, for the most part, they do not. As a result, most of the festivals mentioned in Megillat Ta'anit have long since been forgotten.
The anniversary of one festival described in Megillat Ta'anit was yesterday (Friday). We read:
On the 28th [of Shevat], King Antiochus was taken away from Yerushalayim. He had been persecuting the Jewish People and intended to destroy Yerushalayim and annihilate the Jewish People. The Jews could not come and go during the day, only at night. Then he heard bad news [i.e., that his land had been invaded (Eishel Avraham)]. He departed, and died there [i.e., in battle defending his homeland].The day that he left [Yerushalayim] was declared a holiday.
[The commentary Eishel Avraham says that the villain of this account was the King Antiochus II. According to other sources, it refers to Lysias, regent for Antiochus V, the infant son of AntiochusIV of the Chanukah miracle.]

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is"

Rabino Daniel Travis

"Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is"

And after these events God Tested Avraham... (Bereshith 22:1)

A person may profess strong ideologies, but this does not necessarily mean that he is living up to those ideals. God tests a person in order to push him to actualize his potential. He thereby shows the world, and the person himself, that he is not just espousing lofty ideals, but rather that he lives by what he says (1). God tested Avraham with ten trials; the final and most difficult one was the Akeidah, in which Avraham was commanded to offer his son as a sacrifice to God.

Although God does not present us with challenges as great as the Akeidah, we are nonetheless obligated on a daily basis to show that our actions are consistent with our beliefs. One of the ways we do this is during the morning and evening prayers when we mention the Exodus of the JewishPeople from Egypt and all the miracles which accompanied that event, and immediately afterward we recite the Amidah prayer. Since the Exodus from Egypt and all of the miracles that surrounded it are an expression of Divine Omnipotence, when we mention all that God did for us then, we areaffirming our faith. In order to demonstrate the authenticity of our belief, after mentioning the Exodus in our prayers, we immediately turn to God in prayer (2).

This concept is further strengthened in the actual phrasing of the prayer from Al haRishonim to Ga’al Yisrael in which the word emeth is repeated six times, corresponding to the six times that the word emeth is hinted to in the creation narrative (3). Since this prayer is preparing us to demonstrate that our beliefs are substantiated by our actions, the more we internalize the reality of these events, the stronger our faith will be as we approach God in prayer. Therefore our Sages saw fit to mention the word truth so many times at this point in the liturgy.


1. Ramban.
2. From the commentary of Rabbeinu Yonah on Brachoth 4b.
3. Bereshith 1:1, 1:4, 1:21, 1:27, 1:31, 2:3. See the essay “Signs of Truth I,” (Page 9).