A Talmudic Scholar’s Appreciation of the American Constitution

Sept. 5 2017

Orthodox Jews in the United States remember Moses Feinstein (1895-1986) as a preeminent halakhist who brought his immense erudition to bear on the thorniest questions of Jewish practice. But when, in March 1939, America celebrated the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the Constitution, he delivered a sermon displaying a rarely noted political awareness. As Elli Fischer observes, his encomium to the wisdom of the American system of government must be read in the context of rising Nazi and Communist threats to Jews and to the world in general. Herewith, quoted by Fischer, the sermon’s key passage:

Every superstition and every nonsensical opinion in the world claims to bring light to the world and creates beautiful things to deceive and win over adherents. However, since many do not espouse [these beliefs, their followers] compel anyone they can, with sword and spear, to adopt their views. This is true in all times, with respect both to matters of faith and to matters of ideology, past and present, and especially in Russia and Germany. . . . Ultimately, all that is left is wickedness, not the ideology it was fashioned to support; what need do they have for [ideology] once they have swords and spears? . . . In the end, only the sword and spear remain, while the light is completely extinguished, as we see in the extremes of Germany and Russia.

Therefore, no sovereign power should accept one single faith or one single ideology, because ultimately only the power will remain, without an ideology, and this leads to destruction, as we see with our very eyes . . . . Rather, [a regime] must only serve its function, which is to see that no one perpetrates injustice against another, steals, or murders, for, [as the Talmud states] if not for the fear of the regime, people would swallow one another alive. However, with regard to opinion, religion, and speech, everyone shall be free to do as he wishes.

Therefore, the United States, which established in its Constitution 150 years ago that it will not uphold any faith or any ideology, rather, that each person shall do as he desires, and the regime will see that people do not molest one another, is carrying out God’s will. It is for that reason that it has succeeded and become great in our times.

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: American Judaism, Judaism, Moses Feinstein, Religion & Holidays, Totalitarianism, U.S. Constitution


In Pursuing Peace with Saudi Arabia, Israel Must Demand Reciprocity and Keep the Palestinian Question off the Table

Nov. 22 2017

The recent, unprecedented interview given by the IDF chief of staff to a major Arabic news outlet has fed the growing enthusiasm in Israel about the prospects of a peace treaty and mutual recognition between Jerusalem and Riyadh. Mordechai Kedar urges level heads and caution, and puts forward ten principles that should guide any negotiations. Most importantly, he argues that the two countries normalize relations before coming to any agreements about the Palestinians. To this he adds:

The most basic rule in dealing with the Saudis and their friends is that Israel must not feel that it has to pay anything for peace. . . . If the Saudis want to live in peace with us, we will stretch out our hands to offer them peace in return. But that is all they will get. Israel [has] been a state for 70 years without peace with Saudi Arabia and can continue being a state for another 7,000 years without it. Any desire for a quick peace (as expressed in the disastrous slogan “Peace Now”) will raise the price of that peace. . . .

[As part of any agreement], Israel will recognize the House of Saud’s rule in Mecca and Medina—even though the family does not originate from the Hejaz [where the holy cities are located] but from the Najd highland—in exchange for Saudi recognition of Israel’s right to Jerusalem as its historic and eternal capital city. Israel will recognize Saudi Arabia as an Islamic state in exchange for Saudi recognition of Israel as the Jewish state or a state belonging to the Jewish people. . . .

Israel will not allow incitement against Saudi Arabia in its media. In return, the Saudis will not allow anti-Israel incitement in Saudi media. . . .

It is important to keep the Americans and Europeans away from the negotiating table, since they will not be party to the agreement and will not have to suffer the results of its not being honored—and since their interests are not necessarily those of Israel, especially when it comes to the speed at which the negotiations move forward. The Americans want to cut a deal, even a bad deal, and if they are allowed into the negotiation rooms, they will pressure Israel to give in, mainly on the Palestinian issue.

Read more at Israel National News

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia