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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

Hamas’s Dangerous Escalation in Gaza

June 22 2018

As Hamas has stepped up its attacks on communities near the Gaza Strip—using incendiary devices attached to kites and balloons—Israel has begun to retaliate more forcefully. In response, the terrorist group has begun firing rockets and mortars into Israel. Yoav Limor comments:

What made Wednesday’s rocket salvo different is that ‎unlike previous flare-ups on the border [since 2014], this time it ‎was Hamas operatives who fired at Israel, as opposed ‎to Islamic Jihad or the ‎rogue terrorist group in the coastal enclave. ‎Still, Hamas made sure the attack followed most of ‎the familiar “rules”—only [firing] at night and only at the ‎ communities in the vicinity of Gaza, and apparently while also ‎trying to minimize any casualties, to avoid further ‎escalation. ‎. . .

The first reason [for the shift in tactics] is Israel’s own change of policy ‎with regard to kite terrorism. It took Israel far ‎too long to define the incessant waves of incendiary ‎kites sent over the border as actionable acts of ‎terror, but once it did, the IDF began ‎systematically countering them, including firing ‎warning shots at terrorist kite cells and targeting ‎Hamas assets in Gaza in retaliation.‎

The second reason is Hamas’s own frustration and ‎distress in Gaza. Since the border-riot campaign was ‎launched on March 30, some 150 of its operatives ‎have been killed and the Israeli military has ‎carried out over 100 strikes on Hamas positions in ‎the coastal enclave, all while Hamas has nothing to ‎show for it. ‎In this situation, Hamas is searching for [some sort of victory] by declaring that “bombings will be ‎met with bombings,” as Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum ‎said Wednesday, in order to portray itself as defending Gaza from ‎Israel.‎ . . .

Hamas is banking on Israel opting against a military ‎campaign in Gaza at this time so as not to split its ‎focus from the [developments in Syria], but it is sorely ‎mistaken if it thinks Israel will simply contain ‎kite terrorism or shy away from action given the new ‎equation it has presented. ‎At some point, Israel’s patience will expire.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security