Agudath Israel Statement on Today’s Tragic News from Israel

Agudath Israel of America joins Jews and civilized people the world over in anguish and agony over the news of the vicious murders of the three boys kidnapped on June 12, Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, Hy”d.

This horrific act is, in the end, not a crime against Israel or Jews alone, but against humanity – in both senses of the word. It bespeaks the deepest and most revolting inhumanity imaginable, the seizing of innocent, idealistic young people and the casual snuffing out of their lives and futures.

Hamas and its allies, which now include the Palestinian Authority, are ultimately responsible for these premeditated, heinous murders. The hatred and incitement that have characterized so much of the campaign to establish a new Arab state alongside Israel are what have yielded these young lifeless bodies, and all the death and destruction born of Arab terrorism over the years.

There are those who believe that all people are, deep down, good. Hamas and its friends, along with other terrorist groups and rogue nations like Iran, give the lie to that lovely but naïve fantasy.

It is our hope that the nations of the free world and their leaders … Read More >>

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Supporting Him, Supporting You

By Alexandra Fleksher

Just before Shavuos, women in Cleveland, Ohio, got together to attend a panel discussion entitled, “Supporting our Husbands who are Working: Supporting him, Supporting you.” The panelists, in their 20s and 30s, were diverse, representing working women, stay at home moms, wives of men who learned full-time for years, wives of men who never learned in kollel, ba’alos teshuvah, and Bais Yaakov graduates. Their goal was singular: to provide personal insights into what it means to support our husbands who spend most of their day at work in the outside world, yet who make time for Torah study.

Girls are well prepared to marry boys who are learning. From Bais Yaakov to seminary, the ultimate “Torah life” espoused is one that is immersed in the kedusah and growth-oriented atmosphere of the kollel lifestyle. “Good girls” date and marry boys who are in yeshiva and “good boys” are immersed in full-time study. Yet while the highest ideal may be to marry a man with aspirations to learn Torah full-time for as long as possible, the reality is that most of these men do not continue to learn long term. Most leave the precious halls of the beis … Read More >>

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America’s Got Chillul Hashem

by Dan Butler

The various news and social media have been crowing about the “modern Orthodox” 12-year-old who appeared last night on AMERICA’S GOT TALENT. This little caricature of the caricature “Jacob”-a painfully embarrassing and seldom funny woman playing a bar mitzvah boy on Saturday Night Live-told a few foul “jokes” to the utter delight( tinged with shock) of the crowd. By any objective standard, neither the kid’s delivery nor his material would have made the grade if he were not a 12-year-old wearing a KIPA. Getting prominent play for how supportive they are, his father- also sporting a yarmulke on stage, and his mother, who could not have appeared more delighted if she were at her son’s medical school graduation, were just so obviously proud. It would have been a cringe- worthy display under any circumstances. But, assuming that they are not just very savvy Gentiles(and bad parents), who just used the device of a yarmulke to get a leg up on the competition, I find their identification as “modern Orthodox” appalling.

I am modern Orthodox.

Want to know what that means in my world? It means we adhere to an age-old tradition with as little compromise … Read More >>

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The PCUSA and the Banality of Evil

Most who voted for the PCUSA divestment are not anti-Semitic, but the action itself clearly was. … Read More >>

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Driving Lesson

The article below appeared earlier this week in Haaretz (under a more incendiary title).

Back in the day, before contoured bucket seats became de rigueur in cars, the front seat of family vehicles – especially larger ones – was once a couch-like affair that could, and often did, comfortably seat three adults across. The scene: Mr. and Mrs. Weisskopf, citizens of a certain age, are driving somewhere. The missus is upset, and her husband asks what’s wrong.

“Do you remember,” she says, wistfully but with unmistakable resentment, “how we used to sit so near one another on our drives? Look at us! We’re at totally opposite ends of the seat!”

The man is puzzled, as well he might be. “But dear,” he replies, looking across at her, his hands firm on the steering wheel, “I’m driving!”

The chestnut comes to mind upon reading some of the reactions of Reform leaders to the election of Ruby Rivlin to Israel’s presidency.

“He may be open-minded on a variety of issues,” Uri Regev, a Reform rabbi who now heads the “religious pluralism” organization Hiddush, pronounced about the president-elect, “but his mind was made up” about Judaism’s definition. He is “the same … Read More >>

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Andrew Dice Clay on Josh Orlian

If there’s ever someone you wouldn’t expect to be praised on Cross-Currents, it would have to be Andrew Dice Clay. He was banned for life by MTV and from many radio and television programs for his use of foul language and “politically incorrect humor” — one of the cast members of Saturday Night Live refused to appear during the episode in which he made a guest appearance. In terms of “defining deviancy down” when it comes to language and references in the media, he exceeded even Howard Stern.

But he provides an interesting footnote to the appearance of Josh Orlian on America’s Got Talent, as previously discussed by both Rabbi Adlerstein and myself. In contrast to Howard Stern, who I have since been told has a non-Jewish mother, Andrew Clay Silverstein grew up in a Jewish family in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn.

On Shabbos I mentioned Josh Orlian’s AGT appearance, and my reaction to it, while speaking at a Kiddush. I was seated across from a corporate entertainer and comedy magician named Avi Frier, who is also the former publisher of the Florida Jewish News. Honestly, I didn’t know the “corporate” part or what … Read More >>

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AGT or YGK?

Virtually the entire Jewish community was united last week in its concern for Eyal, Naftoli and Gilad. It took a kippah-wearing twelve year-old shocking the judges on America’s Got Talent to give us back the Jewish dissension we can’t seem to do without. Josh Orlian’s debut as a stand-up comedian was only as strong as his act was salacious, which was risqué enough to charm the judges – and set off a fire-storm of disagreement. Should we embrace Josh for making Orthodox Jews so very much a part of the American mainstream, or curse the parents that laughed at his humor, rather than forcing him to wash out his mouth with (kosher) soap?

We should not forget a third option – at least for those who sensed that this was no kiddush Hashem, to put it mildly – which is to pinpoint just what was objectionable about his performance. We are at a teachable moment; the lesson is one that is part of the mission statement of the Jewish people.

Let’s first turn to the counterargument: as off-color as his humor was, it was tepid stuff compared to what American adults – and kids – deal with all the … Read More >>

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The World Comes Looking for President Obama

Were he capable of admitting, much less learning from, past mistakes, President Obama might now be contemplating the limits of “Don’t do anything stupid” – i.e., avoid all foreign interventions – as a sufficient guide for foreign policy. If you are still the president of the country with primary responsibility for maintaining international order, events in places you would prefer to ignore have a way of coming after you.

Sometimes an ounce of prevention in time can spare the need for incomparably more expensive and less effective interventions later. Had the United States aided Syrian rebels sufficiently when the rebellion against Bashar Assad’s government was still a largely non-jihadist operation, for instance, Syria might not today be a primary training ground for global jihadists or have spawned the ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which is now marching on Baghdad and Shiite holy cities, after having captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.

With the capture of Mosul, the ISIS imposed strict sharia law on the city. No more cigarettes or alcohol; thieves to have their hands cut off; and women only permitted to leave their homes in case of emergency. Just in case anyone doubted their seriousness, they executed thousands of captured Iraqi soldiers and other potential opponents in gruesome fashion, including decapitation. No wonder half a million people fled Mosul in advance of their takeover. By seizing nearly $500 million of gold bars from the vaults of the Mosul central bank and the American-supplied equipment left behind by the fleeing Iraqi Army, the ISIS also became overnight the richest and best-armed jihadi force in the world.

FOUAD AJAMI ANALYZES OBAMA’S contribution to the disaster that is today’s Iraq in the Wall Street Journal (“The Men Who Sealed Iraq’s Disaster in a Handshake”). When Barack Obama came into office in 2008, Al Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor of ISIS, had been nearly decimated by the Awakening movement of 90,000 Sunni tribesmen armed by the United States in the surge designed by General David Petraeus – a surge that then Senator Barack Obama denounced as folly.

After the success of the surge, Iraq conducted an election in 2010 in which a non-sectarian, anti-Iranian Sunni-Shiite coalition headed by Ayad Allawi captured the majority of the parliamentary seats. But Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite with already evident authoritarian tendencies, refused to acknowledge the result and disqualified a number of Allawi’s candidates. And the United States government let him get away with it, brokering a power-sharing agreement that Maliki subsequently ignored.

Continue reading → The World Comes Looking for President Obama

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From The Mouths of Secularists

“…To this very day, if you ask for my religion, I say ‘Orthodox Hebrew’ – in the sense that the church [sic] I’m not attending is that one. If I were to go to a church, that’s the one I would go to. That’s the one I failed. It doesn’t mean I’m something else…”

Those are the words of the famous physicist and Nobel laureate I. I. Rabi (1898-1988), quoted in the book “Rabi, Scientist and Citizen.” He was born into an observant family in Galicia, and was still a baby when his parents immigrated to the United States.

Although he eventually lost his connection to Jewish observance, he confided toward the end of his life that “Sometimes I feel I shouldn’t have dropped it so completely”; and, as his earlier words above testify, he rejected the idea that Judaism could ever be anything other than what it always has been, or that he – or any Jew – could ever be anything other than an Orthodox Jew – whether or not he chose to live like one.

A similar sentiment was voiced several years ago by then-Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin, the man elected last week to be … Read More >>

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Defining Deviancy Down

With Dad’s advice and encouragement, and young man introduced himself as a stand-up comic — and then proceeded to deliver a series of truly filthy jokes… while wearing a kipah. How should we respond to this? … Read More >>

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Marriage: Not to be Taken for Granted

Rachel Ginsberg’s feature “Frayed Beyond Repair” in last week’s Mishpacha about the rise of middle-age divorce among couples married two decades or more — many of whom appeared to have had perfectly stable, functional marriages — probably shocked many readers, especially those, like my wife and I, who do not count any divorced couples among their close friends.

The question I asked myself was: Does “Frayed Beyond Repair” also have anything to teach those for whom the word “divorce” has never crossed their lips, or even entered their thoughts? Can those who attribute everything good that has ever happened to them as adults to one good decision made long ago and can no longer imagine what course their life might have taken without their life partner still learn anything from Mrs. Ginsberg’s account?

I think we probably can. If I took away one lesson from the feature it was: Marriages need nurturing. Just as HaKadosh Baruch Hu is mechadesh the world every moment by infusing it with new energy, as it were, so do we need to continually think about how to mechadesh the partnership upon which everything depends by infusing it with new energy. It’s never a good … Read More >>

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A Beautiful Response To Some Odious Suggestions

In the pain we all share in the uncertainty over the Shvuyei Tzion, some have been moved to publish suggestions that are silly, obnoxious, and reprehensible. Unless, of course, they were made by genuine prophets. But we remember what the gemara says about the incidence of prophecy in modern times…

The following by Rav Shlomo Aviner, Rosh Yeshiva of Ateret Yerushalayim, struck me as particularly well-thought out and expressed:

In the wake of our great pain over the kidnapping of the three innocent teens, a desire has arisen within the Nation to understand why this had happened. The desire to understand is good and upright, but – at the same time – we need the humility and intellect to realize that we do not know everything.

Some claim that this has happened because the government wants to draft Yeshiva students. Others claim that it is on account of anti-religious legislation. But what we should say is: We do not know.

We must be very careful, since it is quite possible that in assigning guilt one violates the prohibition of “Ona’at Devarim” (distressing others). As the Gemara in Baba Metzia (58b) says, one may not speak to one who is … Read More >>

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A Prediction Fulfilled — Sadly

Exactly one year ago, in a piece entitled “Yair Lapid Sets Back the Clock,” I predicted that Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party would reverse a decade-long trend toward greater chareidi integration in the broader Israeli society. The Marker recently confirmed the accuracy of that prediction with respect to the number of chareidim seeking higher education and enlisting in the IDF.

An unidentified official in the Council on Higher Education termed the registration for the start of the upcoming academic year among chareidim as a “catastrophe.” According to the best estimates of the head of the council, Professor Manuel Trachtenberg, there will be a 20 percent decline from the chareidi registration for the 2013-14 academic year. The decline has been particularly dramatic among male students

The decrease in the number of chareidim registering for academic programs comes at a time when government support — in the form of student loans and grants — for chareidim in academia has greatly expanded. Avraham Feldstein, the director of Kemach, which offers tuition stipends for chareidi students, notes “the absurdity that at the very time the government is investing significant funds to encourage chareidi higher education, it has created a public atmosphere … Read More >>

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A (for now) Final Post About Jewish Authority

I received much feedback concerning a piece I posted here several weeks ago (here) and a follow-up on my personal website (here), about second-guessing or disparaging the decisions of Jewish religious leaders.

A pertinent Mishneh that I didn’t cite – for the simple, unfortunate reason that I hadn’t remembered it – was part of the page of Talmud studied by Daf Yomi participants shortly thereafter. It is in Rosh Hashana, 25a. And it may well be the single most important statement about the topic.

The Mishneh tells of how Rabban Gamliel accepted two witnesses’ claimed sighting of the new moon (which affects all of the Jewish world’s calendar and holidays) that seemed to fly in the face of all logic, since the new moon was not evident the next night. Rabbi Dosa ben Hyrcanus pointed out the seeming impossibility of the witnesses being correct, and Rabbi Yehoshua, a student of Rabban Gamliel, felt compelled to concur.

Rabbam Gamliel, however, reprimanded his student for that fact and insisted that Rabbi Yehosua appear before him with his staff and coin-purse on the day that, according to Rabbi Dosa and all reason, should have been Yom Kippur. R’ Yehoshua was … Read More >>

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The Agudah Dinner – The More Important Issue

Great attention has been paid to the recent Agudah Dinner, an unusual circumstance arising from the publicity given to the speech of the Novominsker Rebbe and the failure – if that is an appropriate term – of Mayor de Blasio to respond to the Rebbe’s criticism of Open Orthodoxy and the non-Orthodox movements.  We have been treated to a barrage of anti-charedi bigotry, beginning with The Forward and continuing more importantly to Michael Powell of the New York Times who with regularity utilizes his column as a vehicle to attack religious Jews.

There are good reasons to protest Powell’s bigotry, starting with his frequent use of the term “ultra-Orthodox,” a term that I believe is both sociologically inaccurate and fraught with hostility.  It is of note that in writing about other ethnic and religious groups, a number of which have front and center adherents whose extremism dwarfs by a great deal anything that can be found among the Orthodox, the term “ultra” is never applied.  We are once more the chosen people in the New York Times and elsewhere, chosen for contempt and even worse.

But for all of the understandable discussion of what happened or did not happen … Read More >>

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Guess Who Came to Dinner?

Did a Frothing Press Help Serve the Truth?

According to those in the know, Mayor Bill de Blasio was to have delivered his greetings and departed with his press entourage before the Novominsker Rebbe, Rav Yaakov Perlow, rose to address the assembled at Agudath Israel’s 92nd annual dinner. Instead, the mayor was running late, Rav Perlow’s speech was moved up, and both hizzoner and his press ended up with front row seats. And in a departure from his norm at the annual dinner, the Novominsker chose to address an urgent Inyana D’Yuma instead of delivering more general remarks.

To judge from the coverage that resulted, one could be forgiven for thinking that Rav Perlow had ascended the podium and called for open warfare.

The press reached into its bag of stereotypes and pulled out a familiar caricature of “angry” charedim, though the antipodal video is available for all to see. The Forward said that Rav Perlow’s “fiery” speech “stunned” the dinner, and quoted an anonymous “Jewish leader” as claiming the comments of the Rosh Agudath Israel were “divisive,” along with other adjectives which would besmirch the Rebbe’s kavod to even repeat. [What sort of “leader” … Read More >>

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Of Peoples… and People

Commuting to and from Manhattan daily on the Staten Island Ferry brings me into the vicinity of many a tourist. The boat sometimes resembles a United Nations General Assembly debate, without the translators.

When I hear German or a Slavic language spoken, I can’t help but recall the wry words of the late New York City mayor Ed Koch as he led the Ukrainian Day parade one year. He told the parade’s grand marshal: “You know, if this were the old country this wouldn’t be a parade, it would be a pogrom. I wouldn’t be walking down Fifth Avenue; I would be running… and you would be running after me.”

And I’m reminded, too, of the sentiment of my dear father, may he be well, who spent the war years first fleeing the Nazis and then in a Soviet Siberian labor camp. When I asked him many years ago how he feels when he meets a German non-Jew, he told me that any German “has to prove himself” to be free of the Jew-hatred that came to define his people. My father’s “default” view of a German (or, for that matter, Pole or Ukrainian or Romanian…) is “guilty,” or … Read More >>

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An Evil Report

My D’var Torah this week made a rare crossover into current events, in a way that I thought appropriate for Cross-Currents.

In this week’s reading we learn about the spies sent to look at the Land of Cana’an. As is clear from the consequences, their evil report, and the Children of Israel’s reaction, became their greatest sin in all their time in the Sinai desert — and it was initiated by “leaders of the Children of Israel” [Num. 13:3]. Even among the Generation of the Desert, those who heard the Voice of G-d at Mt. Sinai, those who set this in motion were on an exalted spiritual level. How could this have happened?

After they went through the land of Cana’an, these great men came home very discouraged. They knew that the Children of Israel had sinned previously, especially with the Golden Calf. They saw that the inhabitants were giants, and it would take open miracles for Israel to be victorious. So they concluded, erroneously, that Israel was no longer worthy of that level of protection — that G-d’s promise was not unconditional, that they would lose.

So what did they do when they returned? Did they go to … Read More >>

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In Brief:

A New Look at Tehillim 144

-- 3:23 pm

Contributed by Doron Beckerman

לְדָוִד בָּרוּךְ ה’ צוּרִי הַמְלַמֵּד יָדַי לַקְרָב אֶצְבְּעוֹתַי לַמִּלְחָמָה:

(1) To David. Blessed is Hashem, my Rock, Who trains my hand for battle, my fingers for war.

[Every victory I accomplish in war does not come from the strength of my hand, for Hashem is He who trains my hand in war (Metzudos). May this strength and prowess be dedicated to the fulfillment of His will. It is solely for this purpose, and not out of vain lust for fame, that I cultivate these skills (Hirsch).]

חַסְדִּי וּמְצוּדָתִי מִשְׂגַּבִּי וּמְפַלְטִי לִי מָגִנִּי וּבוֹ חָסִיתִי הָרוֹדֵד עַמִּי תַחְתָּי:

(2) My loving-kindness [whatever skill and achievement I can call my own is all a generous gift of His loving-kindness (Hirsch)] and my fortress; my tower and my deliverer. My shield, and in Him do I take shelter; He who flattens nations beneath me (Radak).

ה’ מָה אָדָם וַתֵּדָעֵהוּ בֶּן אֱנוֹשׁ וַתְּחַשְּׁבֵהוּ:
אָדָם לַהֶבֶל דָּמָה יָמָיו כְּצֵל עוֹבֵר:
ה’ הַט שָׁמֶיךָ וְתֵרֵד גַּע בֶּהָרִים וְיֶעֱשָׁנוּ:
בְּרוֹק בָּרָק וּתְפִיצֵם שְׁלַח חִצֶּיךָ וּתְהֻמֵּם:
שְׁלַח יָדֶיךָ מִמָּרוֹם פְּצֵנִי וְהַצִּילֵנִי מִמַּיִם רַבִּים מִיַּד בְּנֵי נֵכָר:
אֲשֶׁר פִּיהֶם דִּבֶּר שָׁוְא וִימִינָם יְמִין שָׁקֶר:

(3-7) Hashem! What is man that You should know him? A son of mankind that You should grant him significance? Man is like vapor! His days are as a passing shadow! Hashem, bend Your heavens and descend. Touch the mountains and let them smoke! Flash lightning and scatter them! Send your arrows and stun them! Stretch forth Your hands from on high. Deliver me and save me from many waters, from the hand of alien peoples. Whose mouth utters falsehood, and their right hand is a right hand of mendacity.

[Please Hashem! Do not save us through hidden miracles, such that it gives the impression that man fights in the manner of war and is saved by fortress and shield. Save us with no intermediaries, so that everyone will recognize that the hand of Hashem has wrought this! Why should this vapor deny You? … They deny your hashgachah and say it is all happenstance (Malbim).

In view of the basically degenerate character of the enemy nations, however, their defeat by human hands, even though they were the hands of David, protected and strengthened by Hashem, is still not sufficient to bring more than temporary peace. Please grant us Your direct Divine intervention… for the enemy is perfidious, and only his utter destruction can bring about a state of peace that is truly permanent… It is impossible to make a dependable treaty of peace, for their word is deception and their handclasp is falsehood (Hirsch).]

אֱלֹקים שִׁיר חָדָשׁ אָשִׁירָה לָּךְ בְּנֵבֶל עָשׂוֹר אֲזַמְּרָה לָּךְ:
הַנּוֹתֵן תְּשׁוּעָה לַמְּלָכִים הַפּוֹצֶה אֶת דָּוִד עַבְדּוֹ מֵחֶרֶב רָעָה:
פְּצֵנִי וְהַצִּילֵנִי מִיַּד בְּנֵי נֵכָר אֲשֶׁר פִּיהֶם דִּבֶּר שָׁוְא וִימִינָם יְמִין שָׁקֶר:

(8-11) Hashem, I will sing to You a new song, I will sing to You with a ten-stringed lyre. He Who grants salvation to kings, Who delivers His servant, David, from the evil sword. Deliver me and save me from alien nations, whose mouth speaks falsehood and whose right hand is a right of mendacity.

[I wish to sing to You in my lifetime of universal perfection: “He has relieved me of the necessity to wield the sword, that evil in the history of nations.” I gladly forego the blood-stained laurels of military victory, and all my prayer is, “Deliver me!” Without such intervention, I am compelled to be ready at all times to wield the sword and to practice the skills of warfare, for the neighboring nations are perfidious foes (Hirsch).

Who delivers His servant from the evil sword of Goliath, which was solely for evil, with no political benefit. Deliver me, so that my enemies should not arise and rebel after they surrender. Their mouth speaks falsehood when they accept taxation and subjugation, and their right hand, as they sign the terms of subjugation, is mendacity (Sforno).]

אֲשֶׁר בָּנֵינוּ כִּנְטִעִים מְגֻדָּלִים בִּנְעוּרֵיהֶם בְּנוֹתֵינוּ כְזָוִיֹּת מְחֻטָּבוֹת תַּבְנִית הֵיכָל:
מְזָוֵינוּ מְלֵאִים מְפִיקִים מִזַּן אֶל זַן צֹאונֵנוּ מַאֲלִיפוֹת מְרֻבָּבוֹת בְּחוּצוֹתֵינוּ:
אַלּוּפֵינוּ מְסֻבָּלִים אֵין פֶּרֶץ וְאֵין יוֹצֵאת וְאֵין צְוָחָה בִּרְחֹבֹתֵינוּ:
אַשְׁרֵי הָעָם שֶׁכָּכָה לּוֹ אַשְׁרֵי הָעָם שֶׁה’ אֱלֹקיו:

(12-15) For our sons are as saplings, grown in their youth. Our daughters are as corners, chiseled in the form of the Sanctuary. Our pantries are full, giving forth all species. Our sheep multiplies by thousands and tens of thousands in our open areas. Our oxen are laden. There is no breach, none who go out, and there is no outcry in our streets. Praised is the nation who has it so! Praised is the nation whose God is Hashem!

[We are worthy of salvation because our sons are free of sin, since they are raised to fear sin from their youth. Our daughters have no shade of immodesty. We are therefore worthy of all this bounty and tranquility (Metzudos).

We give of our crops to the poor. No one breaches the words of the Torah. No one harms the other. No one shouts at the other, for all submit to the law. Praised is the nation whose deeds are such, who recognizes its Creator and prays to Him (Sforno).

Our primary praise is that Hashem is our God, for all this comes by virtue of Hashem’s presence in our midst, and He is our God and we are His flock (Malbim).]

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The Punker’s Lesson

-- 12:22 pm

A Tisha B’Av-themed piece appearing in the Forward can be read here.

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Daven For the Asir Tziyon

-- 11:58 am

Lt. Hadar Goldin’s chasuna is scheduled to take place before Rosh Hashanah.

Daven for him. Hadar ben Chedva Leah.

Daven for a quick end to the unimaginable pain of his parents and siblings.

Daven to end the tears of a kallah who is waiting

photo (1)

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“Of Public Record” – 2

-- 10:58 am

A second offering of interesting quotes from recent days’ media reports can be seen here.

For future such postings, occasionally check out rabbiavishafran.com

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A New Look at Tehillim 140

-- 5:16 pm

Contributed by Doron Beckerman

Psalm 140 May Have Never Been More Apt

למנצח מזמור לדוד:
(1) To the conductor. A song of David.

חלצני ה’ מאדם רע מאיש חמסים תנצרני:
(2) Extricate me, O Hashem, from a wicked person. Protect me from a man of depravities.

אשר חשבו רעות בלב כל יום יגורו מלחמות:
(3) Who scheme evil in their heart; every day they have war within their dwelling places (Rashi).

שננו לשונם כמו נחש חמת עכשוב תחת שפתימו סלה:
(4) They sharpen their tongue as a snake; venom of vipers is constantly under their lips (as they foam at the mouth spewing their rhetoric; Radak).

שמרני ה’ מידי רשע מאיש חמסים תנצרני אשר חשבו לדחות פעמי:
(5) Keep me, Hashem, from the hand of an evildoer, protect me from a man of depravity; those who scheme to make my steps falter (and fall into their traps; Malbim).

טמנו גאים פח לי וחבלים פרשו רשת ליד מעגל מקשים שתו לי סלה:
(6) The haughty have set snares before me, and cords. They have spread out nets on the pathways on which I tread. They have incessantly placed stumbling blocks before me (even after multiple failures, they try again and again – Metzudos).

אמרתי לה’ אלי אתה האזינה ה’ קול תחנוני
I say unto Hashem, You are my Almighty! Hearken, Hashem, to the voice of my supplication!

אלקים ה’ עז ישועתי סכתה לראשי ביום נשק
(8) The Almighty, Hashem, is the strength of my salvation. You have provided a shield over my head on a day of armaments. (On the day they attack me with lances, arrows, and all manner of weaponry, You are a helmet of salvation over my head; Radak.)

אל תתן ה’ מאויי רשע זממו אל תפק ירומו סלה
(9) Do not grant, Hashem, the desires of the evildoers. Do not allow his plots to come forth; may they elude him forever!

ראש מסבי עמל שפתימו יכסמו
(10) The leader of those who surround me, may the toil of his lips engulf them.

ימיטו עליהם גחלים באש יפלם במהמרות בל יקומו
(11) May coals rain down upon them; may it cause their downfall in fire, in deep ditches from which they will never arise. (The ditches themselves will be full of fire, from the coals that rain down on them from above – Malbim)

איש לשון בל יכון בארץ איש חמס רע יצודנו למדחפת
(12) A man of evil tongue shall not have a foothold in the land; evil will hunt down a man of depravity for endless jostling.

ידעתי כי יעשה ה’ דין עני משפט אבינים:
(13) I know that Hashem will maintain the cause of the poor, uphold justice for the destitute.

אך צדיקים יודו לשמך ישבו ישרים את פניך:
(14) Make haste! (Rashi) The righteous will give thanks to Your Name; the upright shall sit before You (as they appreciate and recognize Your Hashgachah Peratis – Malbim).

(Readers of the original Hebrew may have picked up on the passage’s keyword – [חמס[ים)

Rabbi Doron Beckerman contributes from time to time from where he says Tehillim in Israel.

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Knesset Speaker to the US: Do More to Prevent Civilian Casualties in Iraq

-- 2:20 pm

It didn’t really happen this way. But perhaps it should. A reader who must remain anonymous for professional reasons contributed this analysis:

Yesterday, US State department spokesperson, Jan Psaki expressed concern over the high civilian death toll in Gaza during the latest round of hostilities. She said that Israel can do far more to protect civilians than it has done to date. There were no specific suggestions offered, although Israel would certainly welcome any advice on how to further reduce civilian casualties. In addition to warning civilians to evacuate before targeting a specific area, Israel has called off bombing missions with targets already locked in sights, out of fear of harming civilians who at times were deliberately led there by Hamas.

Now, let’s see how the US measures up to Ms. Psaki’s expectations. According to Palestinian sources, 80% of the 248 people killed during the first 10 days of fighting were civilians. That would mean – even if true, which was never the case in the past – 198 civilians were killed in 10 days. While estimates of civilian casualties in Iraq vary greatly depending on the source, the official Iraq War Logs of the US Army put the number at 66,081 in 6 years of war That breaks down to 30.17 civilian deaths per day or 302 in 10 days. Iraq’s population density is 160 per sq. mile, vs. 9,713 for Gaza. That makes it 60.7 times more likely for a civilian in Gaza to be unintentionally killed in warfare than in Iraq. Extrapolating from the American experience in Iraq, we would have expected 18,331 civilian unintentional civilian deaths in Gaza in the ten days of operations.

We are not sure whether Jan Psaki needs a bit of help better understanding the parameters of the Hamas War, or just some help with arithmetic. It is important that she not continue to misrepresent the more sensible views of the American public, which supports Israel by a large margin in a poll of just a few days ago.

If it is understanding numbers that is the problem, we can recommend some excellent remedial help, in both Iraq and Gaza. She can choose where she will feel safest.

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COJs, not OTDs, may be our bigger problem

-- 12:50 pm

An article I wrote about “Cultural Orthodox Jews” in the Forward can be read here.

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Letter in Today’s NYT

-- 10:29 am

To the Editor:

“A Damaging Distance” (news analysis, Sunday Review, July 13) may well be right that the reduced interaction between Arabs and Israelis is lamentable. But to attribute Israel’s erection of a barrier wall between Palestinian land and Israeli land to “the common wisdom that the two nations needed not greater intimacy but complete separation” ignores something rather important.

The wall was built for one reason: to prevent terrorism. In the three-year period after its erection, only a handful of murderous attacks were carried out in Israel. In the three-year period before it was built, 73 such attacks took place, and 293 Israelis were murdered as a result.

(Rabbi) AVI SHAFRAN
Director of Public Affairs
Agudath Israel of America
New York, July 13, 2014

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AIA Statement on Ground Action in Gaza

-- 6:18 pm

With the news that a ground invasion of the hornets’ nest known as Gaza is underway, Agudath Israel of America calls on all Jews to pray for the safety of the soldiers and the citizenry of Israel, and to undertake meaningful acts of kindness, charity, Torah-study and special observances to help merit Divine protection of our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisrael, on the front lines and everywhere else.

As has been the practice in many shuls over past years, in response to the call of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, the recitation of Tehillim (Psalms) 83, 130 and 142, followed by the tefila of Acheinu, is recommended. But our every prayer should include entreaties on behalf of our fellow Jews.

May our tefillos be received in mercy by Hakodosh Boroch Hu, and help usher in days of peace and security.

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Agudath Israel Statement on Hamas Cease-Fire Rejection

-- 12:47 pm

Today’s news brought the report that Hamas has rejected an Egyptian-brokered cease fire, while Israel’s cabinet has expressed its willingness to abide by its terms. Once again, Hamas has shown what it truly is — a terrorist organization bent on wreaking death and destruction, not only upon Israel, but upon its very own people. Its aim is to reject peace and coexistence and its violence is intended to take Israelis and Palestinians further from the negotiating table.

We express our deep appreciation to President Obama for his strong support of Israel during this difficult and desperate time. The U.S.-funded Iron Dome defense system has proven to be invaluable asset and has saved countless lives. The close military cooperation between the U.S. and Israel that has taken place over these past years has clearly played a critical role in assisting Israel in responding to the terrorist threat it faces now and on an ongoing basis. As both Americans and Jews, we are proud that our country remains a stalwart friend of Israel.

In light of Hamas rejectionism, we urge President Obama to strengthen even further American resolve in dealing with the terrorist threat it poses. We should make clear to the world that the consequences of continued fighting for Gaza and its civilian population rest squarely on Hamas’ shoulders. We should make clear to President Abbas that a Palestinian Authority that includes Hamas is not a partner for peace. And we should make clear that Palestinian violence will have a detrimental affect on American support — both diplomatically and financially.

Only through the strong and unequivocal support of the U.S. for Israel will Palestinians realize that peace, nonviolence and coexistence are their only options.

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ונגש הכהן ודבר על העם

-- 1:52 pm

Read with pride the letter of Colonel Ofer Winter, Commander of the storied Givati Brigade, sent to his troops as they massed near Gaza, poised to enter.
Givati chizuk

[Hat-tip to Harvey Tannenbaum, Efrat]

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Gratitude and Fortitude — Agudath Israel Statement

-- 12:34 pm

As enemy missiles continue to rain on Jewish communities in Eretz Yisroel, and many are intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, it is incumbent on all Jews to feel hakaras hatov, “recognition of the good,” toward the United States of America, which has funded the system over the years of its development. We are reminded, at a time like this, how America has made a major contribution to the defense of Israel, for which we must be deeply grateful.

At the same time, we must remember that Im Hashem lo yishmor ir, shov shokad shomer – “If Hashem will not guard the city, for naught does the guard stand vigilant” (Tehillim, 127) – and that it is therefore to Hashem that we must focus our entreaties with special intensity at this critical time.

Our prayers should include entreaties for the wellbeing of our fellow Jews under attack, as well as for those who are risking their lives to defend them and defeat those who wish us harm.

As has been the practice in many shuls over past years, in response to the call of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, the recitation of Tehillim (Psalms) 83, 130 and 142 after Shacharis, followed by the tefila of Acheinu, is recommended.

Torah-study on behalf of our beleaguered brethren is also deeply appropriate, and should be intensified.

May our teshuvah, tefilla and tzeddaka prove worthy merits for future days of peace and security.

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