La importancia de la soledad en el crecimiento personal

Vaishlaj(Génesis 32:4-36:43)

Y Yaakov se quedó solo (lebadó) y un hombre luchó contra él hasta el amanecer…” (Bereshit 32:25).

Dice el Midrash1: “Dijo Rav Berajia en el nombre de Rabí Shimón: ‘Está escrito (en Yeshayahu 2:11) acerca del Santo, bendito sea: ‘Y Hashem fue elevado a solas (lebadó)’ y sobre Yaakov está escrito: ‘Y Yaakov se quedó solo (lebadó)’”.

Muy curiosa la comparación que hace el Midrash entre Dios y Yaakov: así como Dios es lebadó, así también Yaakov estuvo lebadó. ¿Qué nos quieren decir los sabios con esta comparación? ¿Cuál es la alabanza contenida en estas frases?

Yaakov no fue el único a quien los sabios compararon con Dios; también a Abraham lo compararon de manera similar: “Cuando Nimrod arrojó a Abraham al fuego, le dijo el ángel Gabriel a Dios: ‘¿Bajo a enfriar el fuego para salvar al tzadik? El Santo, bendito sea, le dijo: ‘Yo soy único en Mi mundo y él es único en su mundo. Lo correcto es que baje el Único a salvar al otro único’”.2

Abraham fue único (yajid) y Dios es único (yajid). Entendemos perfectamente por qué Dios es único, pero ¿en qué sentido Abraham lo fue? A Abraham se le llamó Abraham ha-ivrí, que literalmente significa “Abraham, el que está del otro lado” (ivrí, de me-ever, “del otro lado”), pues en la época de Abraham, la humanidad entera estaba subyugada bajo el rey Nimrod, a quien adoraban como si fuese un dios. Todos lo adoraban, exceptuando Abraham, quién creía en un sólo Dios y estaba por ello separado en sus creencias de las del resto del mundo. La humanidad entera estaba de un lado y Abraham estaba del otro lado. Abraham fue único en su mundo, pues sólo él creía en un solo Dios único.

Los sabios alabaron a Abraham por ser único —como Dios— y a Yaakov por estar a solas —como Dios.

Con respecto a Yaakov, no nos equivoquemos al creer que la Torá está simplemente dándonos una descripción del evento en el cual Yaakov quedó solo después de cruzar a su familia y a sus pertenencias al otro lado del río Yabok. Poco después que Yaakov quedó solo, lo atacó un ser con el que entabló un combate espiritual después del cual Yaakov recibió el nombre de “Israel”, un nombre que indica mayor grandeza espiritual que el de “Yaakov”.3 Yaakov recibió el nombre de “Israel” gracias a que logró un nivel espiritual comparable al de Dios: lebadó. ¿Qué significa ser lebadó? ¿Qué implica ser yajid?

Varios de los grandes momentos de la historia judía acontecieron a solas: Moshé estuvo a solas cuarenta días recibiendo la Torá de Dios, sin nadie que lo acompañase (ni siquiera Aarón); la Akedá involucró sólo a Abraham e Itzjak, quedándose su otro acompañante en las faldas del Monte Moriá. El camino espiritual es, frecuentemente, un camino solitario. De hecho, el Alter de Kelm (Rav Simja Zissel Broide, uno de los mayores exponentes del musar), señala que Abraham, Itzjak, Yaakov, Moshé y David eligieron la actividad de ser pastores para poder estar a solas en el desempeño de su ocupación, sin mayor contacto que el del Creador, que se manifiesta en la naturaleza (además que desarrollaban responsabilidad por las ovejas que tenían a su cargo).

Solamente en la soledad es posible estar en contacto con uno mismo con la honestidad suficiente para realizar una introspección adecuada; sólo en la soledad es posible desarrollar la sensibilidad suficiente para conectarse con Dios y con uno mismo; sólo en la soledad es posible tener la calma de espíritu suficiente para permitirse a uno mismo sentir una experiencia espiritual significativa. Aunque es innegable que también en la comunión con otras personas es posible tener experiencias espirituales, aún así se requiere de la soledad para digerirlas. Uno puede comer en compañía de otras personas, pero la digestión es independiente.

El ser humano es un ser social, y como tal, está expuesto a la influencia del entorno en el que vive. Lamentablemente, esta influencia no es siempre del todo positiva. En ocasiones, esa influencia previene el crecimiento personal y uno debe estar preparado a sus posible daños. Por ejemplo, a partir del momento que una persona desea crecer en alguna área de su vida, es casi inevitable que despierte resistencia de las personas que lo rodean. Si alguien desea ser más apegado a las leyes de la cashrut, muy posiblemente recibirá críticas de familiares y/o amistades. Si empieza a cuidar Shabat, habrá amistades que poco a poco se diluirán por el simple hecho que ya no podrá salir con ellos los viernes en la noche. Es normal que suceda y uno deberá enfrentar estos retos de la manera más consciente, responsable y armónica posible.

La soledad posee otra ventaja, más acorde a nuestro tema: permite a la persona verse a sí misma tal como es, minimizando la percepción de sí misma producto de las percepciones ajenas. Es casi inevitable que una persona incorpore dentro de sí la percepción de lo que la sociedad espera de ella: vestimos lo que la sociedad nos indica, escuchamos la música que está de moda, albergamos los valores que la sociedad posee. En ese sentido, nosotros dejamos de ser nosotros mismos para convertirnos en lo que la sociedad espera de nosotros. Los costos son altos, pues rara vez logramos cumplir las expectativas sociales: ¿cuántos de nosotros podemos tener el físico que la sociedad ve como ideal? ¿Cuántos de nosotros podemos poseer los recursos de aquellos a quienes la sociedad admira?

Yaakov era una persona que estaba en el nivel espiritual de lebadó. No que necesariamente era una persona solitaria, sino que su definición no dependía de la definición de los demás, y además, no se dejaba influenciar por su entorno: pese a que vivió al lado de su suegro Labán, quien era un individuo increíblemente malvado, Yaakov siguió siendo fiel a sus principios morales.4

Abraham también fue una persona yajid, ‘único’, capaz de colocarse en el otro lado del mundo si así lo consideraba necesario para llevar a cabo su misión en la vida.

La enseñanza para nuestra vida es clara: para poder llevar una vida de espiritualidad que muchas veces implica nadar contra la corriente social, es necesario incorporar dentro de nosotros mismos las virtudes que caracterizaron a nuestros patriarcas: ser yajid y lebadó, dos virtudes que afirman nuestra independencia moral frente a las exigencias sociales que nos alejan de nosotros mismos y de lo que Dios espera de nosotros.

La mayor parte de este artículo está basado en un ensayo de Rav Yerujam Levovitz, en Daat Torá, página 205.


Bereshit Rabá 77:1.

Pesajim 118a.

Bereshit 32:28-29. El nombre de “Israel” implica que pudo prevalecer incluso contra seres espirituales.

4 Bereshit 32:5, con el comentario de Rashí.

Según tomado de, http://www.aishlatino.com/tp/s/la-personalidad-humana/La-importancia-de-la-soledad-en-el-crecimiento-personal.html

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¿Qué opina el judaísmo del dinero?

¿Qué opina el judaísmo del dinero?

La visión de la Torá sobre dar caridad, respetar la propiedad ajena y hacer negocios con honestidad.

por Rav Aryeh Kaplan

Un extracto del libro Handbook of Jewish Thought (Manual del pensamiento judío), de Rav Aryeh Kaplan.

El amor que uno siente por Dios debe ser superior al amor que uno siente por las cosas materiales. Nos fue ordenado: “Ama a Hashem tu Dios… con todos tus medios” (Deuteronomio 6:5), lo que significa que debemos amar a Dios incluso si el costo de hacerlo es toda nuestra riqueza. Por lo tanto, hay ocasiones en las que la persona debe estar dispuesta a sacrificar todas sus posesiones por Dios, incluso si no se le exige que de su vida.

Si uno vive un lugar en el cual es imposible respetar nuestra religión, entonces deberá mudarse a un lugar en donde sí sea posible, independientemente de cuál sea el costo.

Uno debe sacrificar todas sus posesiones antes de violar de forma activa cualquier mandamiento negativo de la Torá…

Por lo tanto, uno nunca debiese hacer negocios en un lugar en el cual Shabat es el día principal de comercio, porque podría sucumbir a la tentación de obtener un beneficio extra en Shabat…

A pesar de que uno debe empobrecerse antes de pecar activamente, esto no es necesario cuando se trata de hacer acciones positivas. De los dos diezmos agrícolas aprendemos que Dios no quiere que usemos más de un quinto (20 por ciento) de nuestros medios con propósitos religiosos. Por lo tanto, no hace falta que uno gaste más de un quinto de su dinero para realizar un mandamiento positivo, incluso si jamás tendrá otra oportunidad de hacerlo. Por ejemplo, uno no necesita gastar más de esa cantidad para adquirir talit o tefilín, una sucá, un etrog o matzá para Pésaj.

La distribución de la caridad

De la misma forma, un quinto del ingreso se considera una contribución generosa a caridad y uno no debiera excederse por sobre esa suma. Está prohibido empobrecerse por medio de distribuir todas sus posesiones a caridad, y quien lo hace es contado entre quienes son tontamente píos que traen destrucción al mundo. Sin embargo, en su testamento uno puede dejar hasta un tercio de su patrimonio para caridad.

De todos modos, un mínimo del 10% del ingreso de la persona le pertenece a Dios y debería usarse para caridad u otros propósitos religiosos. Esta es una medida que aprendemos de los Patriarcas, como Yaakov mismo le dijo a Dios: “De todo lo que me des, separaré un décimo para Ti” (Génesis 28:22).

Similarmente, el Talmud aprende que debemos dar un décimo de nuestro ingreso a caridad del versículo “Honra a Dios con tu riqueza y con el primero de los frutos de todo lo que produces” (Proverbios 3:9).

Si hay una necesidad urgente de caridad o de cumplir cualquier otro mandamiento, uno debe sacrificar un quinto, o al menos un décimo, de todas sus posesiones. Sin embargo, después de ese momento, uno sólo necesita dar diezmo de su ingreso anual. De todos modos, quienes son muy ricos deberían dar tanto como sea necesario.

Una persona que da menos de un décimo de su ingreso a caridad es considerada miserable.

Dar caridad es un mandamiento positivo, como declara la Torá: “Abre tu mano generosamente y bríndale [a tu hermano en necesidad] todo crédito que necesite para ocuparse de sus necesidades” (Deuteronomio 15:8). El mínimo que uno debe dar para cumplir este mandamiento es un tercio de shekel por año. En estas líneas, está escrito: “Hemos aceptado sobre nosotros mismos donar un tercio de shekel por año para el servicio de la casa de nuestro Dios” (Nejemia 10:33). Incluso los más pobres de los pobres deben dar dicha cantidad, ya que de otra manera violarían el mandamiento de caridad. Sin embargo, una persona de clase media que da menos de un diez por ciento de su ingreso a caridad es considerada miserable.

Si alguien está acostumbrado a usar su diezmo sólo para caridad, no puede usar este dinero para ningún otro propósito religioso. Sin embargo, puede usarlo para comprar artículos religiosos y libros que también les prestará a los pobres, siempre y cuando estén claramente designados para ese objetivo.

Embelleciendo las mitzvot

Dios nos exige que cumplamos Sus mandamientos de la mejor y más bella forma posible, como declara la Torá: “Este es mi Dios y yo Lo glorificaré” (Éxodo 15:2). Por lo tanto, siempre que sea posible, uno no debería utilizar los artículos religiosos más baratos, sino que debería gastar hasta un tercio más para obtener artículos de mejor calidad. Cuando uno tiene la opción de elegir entre dos artículos, debería gastar un tercio más para comprar el mejor de ellos. Por ejemplo, en lugar de comprar un talit barato, uno debería gastar un tercio más por un talit mejor.

A quien gasta más que el tercio extra que es requerido para embellecer su observancia de los mandamientos Dios le asegura que lo recompensará ampliamente aquí en la tierra. Por lo tanto, cualquier ingreso inesperado debería ser utilizado para este propósito.

Uno siempre debería dar lo mejor de sí para Dios, como aprendemos del siguiente versículo: “…el sebo (lo mejor) es para Hashem” (Levítico 3:16). Entonces, cuando una congregación construye una sinagoga, debería hacerla tan bella como sea posible, como insinúa la Torá: “Nuestro Dios nos ha hecho un favor… para elevar a lo alto la Casa de nuestro Dios” (Ezra 9:9). En un edificio dedicado a la Torá de Dios no debería haber señales de pobreza, intentos vanos de economizar ni escatimaciones. Sin embargo, esto nunca debe hacerse a expensas de otras obras caritativas ni negándole la afiliación a quienes tienen menores ingresos.

Los lujos y la suntuosidad debiesen ser dictados por la estética y el buen gusto.

Sin embargo, incluso en lo referente a cosas sagradas, los lujos y la suntuosidad debiesen ser dictados por la estética y el buen gusto, y no por la ostentación y el deseo de gastar dinero. Por ejemplo, uno no debería usar oro cuando la plata sería igualmente bonita.

Nuestros sabios nos enseñan que la Torá se preocupa por nuestro dinero y que no deberíamos desperdiciarlo. Encontramos esto en el caso de una casa que estaba siendo afectada por una plaga, en cuyo caso fue declarado: “El cohén deberá ordenar que la casa sea vaciada antes de que [cualquier] sacerdote venga a ver la marca, para que todo lo está en la casa no se vuelva impuro. Sólo entonces irá el cohén a ver la casa” (Levítico 14:36).

Similarmente encontramos que Dios hizo milagros no sólo para salvar nuestras vidas, sino que también para salvar nuestras posesiones, como cuando hizo que el agua brotase en el desierto tanto para los israelitas como para su ganado.

No desperdicies

Está prohibido destruir inútilmente un objeto útil, como aprendemos del mandamiento: “No destruirás los árboles [de la ciudad]” (Deuteronomio 20:19). Quien destruye muebles o utensilios, desgarra ropa o desperdicia comida sin motivo alguno, es culpable de violar este mandamiento. Más aún, si lo hace enojado se considera que ha cometido idolatría. Uno no debería destruir nada sobre lo que pueda ser dicha una bendición, como está escrito: “No destruyas [la parra] porque la bendición [sobre el vino] está en ella” (Isaías 65:8).

Toda destrucción de este tipo sólo está prohibida cuando no tiene ningún propósito. Si hay una razón lógica o una utilidad para ello, entonces está permitida. Más aún, si hay una preocupación por salud, obviamente es mejor destruir las posesiones que el bienestar.

De la misma manera, está prohibido dañar o destruir la propiedad ajena, o hacer cualquier cosa que pueda causar un daño de manera directa. Si uno causa un daño debe restituirlo, como está escrito: “Y el que hiera mortalmente a un animal deberá retribuirlo; [el valor de] una vida por otra vida” (Levítico 24:18).

Estafar y robar

Está prohibido robar, hurtar o conservar ilegalmente propiedad o dinero, como nos fue ordenado: “No robarás… no conservarás [injustamente] lo que le pertenece a tu prójimo. No hurtarás” (Levítico 19:11, 13). Debemos ser extremadamente cuidadosos de no tomar posesión ilegal de ningún dinero o propiedad de ninguna forma, independientemente de lo trivial que sea su valor, ya sea de un adulto o de un niño.

Está prohibido robar bromeando, incluso si la intención es devolver el objeto inmediatamente. En estas líneas, el profeta dijo: “Si un hombre malvado… paga lo que robó” (Ezequiel 33:15), de lo que aprendemos que quien roba es considerado malvado incluso si siempre tuvo la intención de pagar o reemplazar el artículo robado.

Dios nos comandó a devolver cualquier propiedad que se encuentre ilegalmente en nuestra posesión, como dice la Torá: “Él deberá regresar el objeto robado, el dinero retenido, el artículo que le haya sido confiado y el objeto perdido que haya encontrado” (Levítico 5:23). Si el artículo robado está disponible e intacto, debe ser devuelto; si no, la restitución debe hacerse de acuerdo a su valor en el momento del robo. Si el propietario se ha mudado a una ciudad lejana, no estamos obligados a llevarle el artículo robado hasta allá, pero sí debemos informarle que lo tenemos para que venga a buscarlo. Si el propietario muere, la restitución debe hacerse a sus herederos.

Quien le roba o engaña a la comunidad no tiene a nadie para hacer la devolución y nunca puede rectificar su crimen.

Quien le roba o engaña a la comunidad no tiene a nadie a quien pueda pagar su deuda para rectificar su crimen. Sin embargo, deberá intentar trabajar para el bienestar de la comunidad y asistir las necesidades comunitarias para que las personas a quienes les robó se beneficien indirectamente. Si puede, debería hacer una confesión pública y pedir perdón.

Está prohibido comprar un artículo robado, ya que al hacerlo uno se convierte en un cómplice del robo y alienta al ladrón a robar más. Respecto a esto está escrito: “Quien comparte con un ladrón odia su propia alma” (Proverbios 29:24). Asimismo está prohibido usar un artículo robado o derivar todo tipo de beneficio de él. Por lo tanto, uno no debiera comprar nada que probablemente haya sido robado u obtenido con deshonestidad. Quien trata con propiedad robada es considerado como quien le roba al público, y su arrepentimiento es extremadamente difícil.

Las posesiones de los demás

Tomar prestado sin pedir permiso se considera igual que robar. Por lo tanto, está prohibido usar las posesiones ajenas sin permiso. Esto es cierto incluso cuando se está seguro de que el permiso sería obtenido de inmediato.

Si nuestro abrigo, u otra posesión, es intercambiado accidentalmente en un evento público o en una fiesta, debemos devolver el artículo a su propietario original incluso si el artículo propio no se podrá recuperar jamás. De la misma forma, si recibimos la ropa de otra persona en la tintorería (o en cualquier situación similar) no deberíamos usarla en el intertanto, sino que debiésemos hacer todo lo posible para devolvérsela a su dueño.

No debiésemos aceptar nada que la persona entregue por estar en una situación difícil o por vergüenza. Aceptar un regalo que no es dado de todo corazón es similar a robar. Respecto a esto nos fue advertido: “El sediento de ganancias destruirá su propia casa, pero el que odia las dádivas vivirá” (Proverbios 15:27). Por lo tanto, no deberíamos comer en una casa en donde no hay suficiente comida ni donde la invitación no es sincera, como nos fue enseñado: “No comas el pan de un hombre avaro” (Proverbios 23:6).

Está prohibido desear la propiedad ajena, como nos fue comandado: “…no codiciarás la casa de tu prójimo, su campo, su siervo, su sierva… o todo lo que pertenezca a tu prójimo” (Deuteronomio 5:18). Si uno fuerza la situación en donde un artículo no está a la venta y convence al propietario para que lo venda en contra de su voluntad, también es culpable de violar el mandamiento paralelo: “No codiciarás la casa de tu prójimo… ni nada que sea de tu prójimo” (Éxodo 20:14). Ambas leyes están en los Diez Mandamientos y aplican incluso cuando no hay ninguna deshonestidad involucrada.

Transacciones comerciales

Está prohibido ser deshonesto o engañar en una transacción comercial, como nos fue ordenado: “Cuando vendan… o compren [propiedad] de su prójimo, no se estafen uno a otro” (Levítico 25:14). Mantener estrictamente la honestidad en los tratados comerciales es equivalente a respetar toda la Torá y es lo primero por lo seremos juzgados en la corte celestial.

Mantener la honestidad en los negocios es lo primero por lo que seremos juzgados en la corte celestial.

Tal como está prohibido ser deshonesto con nuestro prójimo judío, también está prohibido robar, engañar o hurtar de un no judío en cualquier manera. En muchos casos, hacerlo es peor que robarle a un judío, ya que le da a nuestro pueblo una mala reputación y es una profanación del nombre de Dios.

La honestidad debería ir mucho más allá de los meros requerimientos de la Ley y todos los tratos deberían ser hechos con absoluta integridad y justicia para todos. En todos los aspectos de la vida, uno debería estar consciente de que está siendo constantemente observado por Dios y actuar en consecuencia. De acuerdo a esto nos fue ordenado: “Harás lo recto y lo bueno ante los ojos del Eterno” (Deuteronomio 6:18).

Está prohibido usar dinero deshonesto para caridad o para cualquier otro propósito religioso, como Dios le dijo a Su profeta: “Porque Yo, el Eterno, amo la justicia, odio el robo” (Isaías 61:8). Similarmente, el salmista nos enseñó: “Pues el malvado se vanagloria del deseo de su corazón… y [al hacerlo] menosprecia a Hashem” (Salmos 10:3). Asimismo, quien tiene deudas excesivas debería pagarlas antes de contribuir exageradamente a caridad.

Es una bendición que la persona pueda ganarse sus propios medios y que pueda de esa manera disfrutar de los frutos de su propia labor, como escribe el salmista: “Comerás el fruto de tu esfuerzo, estarás feliz y te irá bien” (Salmos 128:2). Sin embargo, la carrera o el negocio siempre deberían considerarse actividades secundarias a las obligaciones hacia Dios. Quien le da a las consideraciones materiales precedencia ante su servicio a Dios estará violando el mandamiento de amar a Dios por sobre todas las cosas.

Del libro Handbook of Jewish Thought (Manual del pensamiento judío) Vol. 2, Maznaim Publishing. Reimpreso con permiso.

Según tomado de, http://www.aishlatino.com/judaismo/filosofia/filosofia-judia/Que-opina-el-judaismo-del-dinero.html?s=feat

Tojajá y Teshuvá

Tojajá y Teshuvá

Todos enfrentamos una elección personal que tiene repercusiones globales.

por Rav Zave Rudman

Lectura requerida: Deuteronomio, capítulos 28-29

Todos enfrentamos una elección personal que tiene repercusiones globales: ¿Seremos parte del esfuerzo constante para acercar al mundo a la perfección ética y moral mediante la conexión con Dios en la vida diaria, o viviremos una vida sin un sentido profundo, desconectados de lo eterno?

Como nación, el pueblo judío enfrenta la misma elección. ¿Seremos una luz para las naciones, o seremos una nación como cualquier otra, sin una conexión singular con Dios y con la historia?

Y, ¿qué hace la nación a la cual se le dio la misión de ser una luz para las naciones cuando no cumple su propósito, sino ignorar la dimensión eterna de este mundo?

La última parte de Deuteronomio es bastante aterradora. Desde el capítulo 28 en adelante, hay descripciones de las aflicciones que afectarán a los judíos si se desvían de su conexión con Dios: “Devorarás el fruto de tu vientre, la carne de tus hijos e hijas que Dios te haya concedido, en el asedio y el tormento con los que tu enemigo te atormente” (Deuteronomio 28:53), y el apocalíptico “Azufre y sal quemarán toda la tierra” (Deuteronomio 29:22).

¿Por qué la Torá finaliza de esta manera? ¿Cuál es el objetivo de estas aterradoras profecías?

Deuteronomio es el testamento y última voluntad de Moshé para el pueblo judío. La primera parte del libro repasa las leyes que aprendieron durante los últimos 40 años en el desierto. En la segunda parte Moshé profetiza sobre el futuro de la nación. Sin embargo, como los humanos tenemos libre albedrío, la historia no puede predecirse con precisión. En cambio, Moshé le dice a los judíos las opciones que tienen ante sí: Si la conexión con Dios permanece fuerte, eso los guiará y los fortalecerá para que afecten a todo el mundo para bien. Pero de lo contrario, los resultados serán catastróficos. (De todas formas al final el pueblo judío se reconectará a Dios). En su monólogo final, Moshé intenta guiarnos para que elijamos el camino correcto a lo largo de la historia.

Esas partes de la Torá se conocen como la tojajáTojajá normalmente se traduce como “reproche”, pero su significado verdadero es “brindar pruebas”. El objetivo de la tojajá es ser un paso previo a la teshuvá, el regreso a Dios y a uno mismo. Para que una persona pueda retornar, primero debe reconocer que estaba perdida. Pero los seres humanos tienen una propensión a negar sus fallas, por lo que la tojajá es como sostener un espejo que prueba irrefutablemente lo que uno es. Y en realidad ese es el único reproche que es efectivo.

Este es el mensaje de la última parte de la Torá: los desafíos y las consecuencias de las elecciones, además de la siempre presente oportunidad de alcanzar la perfección tanto personal como universal.

Nos enfocaremos en algunos aspectos del proceso recién descrito:

  1. ¿Cuál considera la Torá que es la causa de la decadencia de la humanidad?
  2. ¿Cuál es la manera adecuada de estudiar esta sección de la Torá sin deprimirse por las profecías aterradoras?
  3. ¿Cómo funciona la teshuvá?

La causa

En Deuteronomio 28:47 la Torá parece identificar la razón central de todos esos castigos: “Porque no serviste a Dios con alegría y un buen corazón cuando todo era abundante”.

Este reproche parece ser demasiado duro. Después de todo, el versículo no dice que transgredieron las mitzvot. Nos dice que sí sirvieron a Dios, pero que incluso cuando Dios proveyó bondad abundante no se alegraron en su servicio Divino. ¿Por qué eso es un problema? Si cumplo con mis obligaciones básicas, ¿qué diferencia hace en qué estoy pensando? ¿Cómo puede ser que cumplir con todas las leyes de como resultado un amargo exilio?

Rav Simja Bunim de Peshisja (cuyo nombre, Simja, significa felicidad), explica la profundidad de este versículo (1). La Torá está tratando de llegar a la raíz de la enfermedad. ¿Por qué los judíos rechazarían la Torá? Por una falta de vitalidad en la conexión. Una persona siente alegría cuando sus acciones se conectan con su esencia. Esto provoca que esas actividades sean realizadas de forma completa y correcta. Pero cuando falta alegría, las acciones se vuelven descuidadas. Por lo tanto, la Torá dice que es fundamental tener alegría en el servicio Divino. De lo contrario la falta de alegría y su subproducto —la observancia sin entusiasmo— provocarán que sea necesario recibir consecuencias correctivas.

Ahora bien, desde el punto de vista práctico, ¿cómo podemos sentir alegría al servir a Dios? El Séfer HaJinuj (2), señala que muchas de las mitzvot reflejan el comportamiento humano natural. Por ejemplo, hay un mandamiento de casarse y tener hijos. Esto es algo que por lo general las personas desean y hacen por sí mismas. De forma similar, Shabat canaliza nuestra necesidad natural de una recarga física, y la mitzvá de jésed (ser bondadoso) también es un instinto natural.

Al reforzar las partes naturales de la vida de la persona y hacer que sea una mitzvá, Dios nos permite servirle naturalmente con alegría. La idea es que a medida que la vida se vuelve satisfactoria, todo el servicio a Dios se llevará a cabo con alegría.

Responsabilidad mutua

Hay otro versículo en esta sección que parece ser crucial para entender la historia judía. Deuteronomio 29:9 describe la responsabilidad mutua que tiene un judío con otro. No basta con decir: “Yo estoy bien, y lo que pase fuera de mi casa, comunidad, etc., no es problema”. En el Monte Sinaí los judíos asumieron responsabilidad mutua los unos por los otros. Estuvimos dispuestos a unir nuestro destino no como individuos, sino como nación (3).

Hay una plegaria cabalística especial para antes de ponerse los tefilínque dice: “Estoy cumpliendo esta mitzvá para mí mismo y para todos los judíos”. Ninguna persona puede cumplir todas las mitzvot. Algunas son para mujeres y otras para hombres. Un erudito de Torá puede estudiar, pero un granjero es quien separará diezmos. Hay mitzvotque sólo puede hacer un cohén, y mitzvot que no queremos hacer, como las leyes de duelo. Sin embargo, la Torá es la suma de todas las acciones del pueblo judío. De esta forma mis acciones se suman a las del resto de la nación para crear una Torá completa.

Al igual que en cualquier organización para alcanzar el bien común se requiere interacción y trabajo en equipo, lo mismo ocurre con el pueblo judío. Por eso es que, en los momentos de crisis nacional, los más grandes eruditos de Torá son considerados más responsables, por su obligación hacia la comunidad (4).

Este sentido de responsabilidad mutua fue el secreto judío a través del largo exilio: si bien estamos esparcidos por todo el mundo, permanecemos juntos como una nación.

Por ejemplo, observa a la comunidad etíope. Un grupo con costumbres judías muy diferentes decidió que había llegado el momento de unirse a la tierra judía y hacer aliá. Todo el mundo judío se unió para posibilitarlo. Este sentido de destino compartido es lo que ha mantenido unido al pueblo judío durante la historia.

Amor correctivo

El objetivo del castigo no es lastimar, sino guiar y dirigir. De acuerdo con el pensamiento judío, el castigo no sólo es acorde al crimen, sino que además da una enseñanza sobre este. A partir del castigo mismo debemos entender los factores que causaron las malas acciones y, más importante aún, lo que debemos hacer para corregir los problemas.

En Deuteronomio 29:9, Moshé le dice al pueblo judío que a pesar de que durante los últimos 40 años cometieron terribles errores (rechazar a Dios con el Becerro de Oro, muchas quejas y aceptar el reporte negativo de los espías sobre la Tierra de Israel), “continúan erguidos aquí, listos para entrar a la Tierra”. A pesar de todo lo ocurrido, recibimos un mensaje muy poderoso y alentador.

Luego, al final de esta sección (30:2), se nos dice: “Y volverán a su Dios”. El objetivo de las expulsiones y el exilio es reconectar al pueblo judío con Dios. Todo el reproche emana del amor, no de un deseo de venganza. La teshuvá es el gran final del proceso. Este es el mensaje final de la Torá.

Esta misma idea se encuentra en el que probablemente es el libro más pesimista de la Biblia: Eijá (Lamentaciones). Este libro fue escrito por el profeta Jeremías durante la destrucción del Primer Templo, y hoy se lee en la sinagoga en Tishá Beav, el día nacional de duelo judío. Eijá se lee sentado en el piso, con un tono de lamento y las luces atenuadas (5). Sin embargo, su final es triunfante y toda la comunidad lo lee en voz alta: “Dios, haznos regresar a Ti y volveremos. Renueva nuestros días de antaño”. Este es el final del exilio. Lo que pedimos no es gloria ni riqueza, sino la redención y volver a estar cerca de Dios.

Al internalizar lo que hemos perdido, podemos articular lo que realmente deseamos. Este es el método de las consecuencias, el cualnos permite aprender la enseñanza que Dios nos está dando.

Traer al Mesías

Es interesante que aquí no sea mencionado el Mesías. ¿Acaso uno no esperaría que la escena profética final de la historia judía, después del exilio y el sufrimiento, incluyera al Mesías?

La respuesta a esta pregunta se relaciona con que el Mesías es un descendiente del Rey David. Un análisis de la genealogía del rey David y de su vida nos llevaría a pensar que allí debe haber algún error: cada aspecto parece ser incorrecto y estar en contra de la ley judía.

  • Iehudá, el patriarca de la tribu de la que proviene David, durmió con su nuera sin saberlo (6).
  • Rut, la bisabuela de David, desciende de Lot, quien se emborrachó y durmió con sus hijas (7).
  • Shlomó, hijo y heredero del Rey David, nace del casamiento de Bat Sheva y David. David pudo casarse con Bat Sheva sólodespués de arreglar que su marido Uria fuera enviado a una misión suicida.

¡Es sorprendente pensar que el sagrado Mesías viene de esta familia! ¿Cómo se puede explicar?

La respuesta es que en cada una de estas circunstancias, hay tojajá y luego teshuvá. Piensa:

  • Iehudá es enfrentado por su nuera embarazada. Ella no lo acusa de manera directa, sino que sólo menciona que él sabe quién es el verdadero padre del bebé. Iehudá podría haber negado fácilmente su asociación, pero en cambio se arriesgó a avergonzarse en público y aceptó por completo su responsabilidad (8).
  • Aunque Lot no hizo teshuvá por sus acciones, de él desciende Rut, el arquetipo de los conversos judíos. En medio de grandes dificultades, ella se apegó completamente al pueblo judío. A pesar de lo que podría haber sido visto como una mancha en su linaje, Rut fue aceptada como la matriarca del reino de David y finalmente del Mesías (9).
  • Después de la muerte de Uria, David fue confrontado por el profeta Natán. David podría haber hecho lo que hicieron los reyes durante toda la historia: “deshacerse del sacerdote entrometido”. En cambio, David aceptó la tojajá, asumió la responsabilidad por sus acciones y dedicó su vida a la teshuvá(10).

Al final de cuentas, todos estos episodios generan la energía de teshuvá de la que surge el Mesías.

Ahora podemos responder nuestra pregunta original: ¿Por qué esta porción profética no menciona al Mesías? La razón es que el Mesías es alguien que viene como resultado de nuestras acciones y de nuestra teshuvá, no alguien que desciende del Cielo. Por lo tanto, en lugar de hablar del Mesías, se nos enseña sobre las acciones que lo generarán.

Esta es la enseñanza del final de la Torá. La teshuvá es una elección personal, con repercusiones globales. El logro del objetivo de la humanidad (una sociedad ética y santa) surgirá de las elecciones individuales de cada persona. Por lo tanto, asumir la responsabilidad personal es la clave para perfeccionar al mundo.


Notas:

(1) “Kol Mevaser” (Parashat Ki Tavó)

(2) Mitzvá 488

(3) Midrash Tehilim 8:4

(4) Talmud – Shabat 55a

(5) Oraj Jaim 559:3 con Mishná Brurá 14; basado en Eijá 3:6

(6) Génesis 38:18

(7) Génesis 19:31-38

(8) Génesis 38:25-26

(9) Rut 4:18-22

(10) Samuel II, 12:7 y Salmos capítulo 51

Según tomado de, http://www.aishlatino.com/judaismo/la-tora/temas-principales/Tojaja-y-Teshuva.html?s=feat

What Are Jewish Values?

By Tzvi Freeman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, we live in a thriving world of over seven billion people, with fewer casualties of war, less poverty, longer and healthier lives than ever before in recorded history. Technology and medical breakthroughs continue to press forward, along with global commerce and communications.

But this progress is possible only because of humanity’s common values. And it is good only when we stick to those values. We value medicine only when we value life. Commerce benefits everyone only when people keep their word. Technology is beneficial only when we use it to build a kinder, fairer world with greater freedom and opportunities for all. And global communications is of value only when we want to share our ideas and collaborate with one another.

Here are some examples of Jewish values that contribute to a better world:

In G‑d’s Likeness

It’s a very big world, and yet no two people are alike. No two people think alike, look alike or live the same life. Yet the Jewish Torah declares something very radical: that every human being is created in the likeness of G‑d.

Adult or child, man or woman, rich or poor, capable or handicapped, a member of your tribe or a foreigner—the Author of the Universe breathes within each one of us. Each human being is a representative of the Creator within His creation, each in his or her unique, irreplaceable way. Which means that the life of each person is sacred.

The Jewish sages taught: “Anyone who takes a single life, it is as though he has destroyed the entire world. And anyone who saves a single life, it is as though he has saved the entire world.”

That is the only measure we have of a human life: Each one is worth the entire world.

Human Dignity

A city is under siege and the enemy declares, “Give us one of you, and we will leave you alone.”

What is the right thing to do?

The Jewish sages taught that we are not permitted to hand over an innocent life, even to save many more lives. Why? Because the Torah does not permit us to take an innocent life, even for the benefit of many.

For much of the 20th century, world powers were locked in struggle. It was not just a struggle for power; it was a struggle of ideologies.

On the one side were those who believed that the good of the state overrides the rights of the individual. A person could be stripped of all he had, and entire communities could be exterminated if that benefited the state.

On the other side were those who believed in the right of every person to life, to justice, to ownership of property, and to decide how and where to live.

The experiment of the 20th century has shown clearly that the Torah way is indeed the only way that society is sustainable.

Read: Humanity, Humanism, Holocaust

Social Justice

Abraham, father of the Jewish People, believed so strongly in justice that he even took G‑d to task over it. G‑d informed him that He was going to destroy the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham argued, “What if there are some righteous people in those cities? Shouldn’t you save the cities for those righteous people? Will the Judge of all the earth not do justice?”

Justice is really G‑d’s job. He created the world, and it’s up to Him to ensure it runs fairly. And so it is a great privilege that He makes us partners in this divine and vital task.

“Justice, justice, you shall pursue!” G‑d commands us in the Torah. And as the Jewish sages taught, “The world endures because of three things: justice, truth and peace.”

To a Jew, seeking justice is a way of seeking G‑d. On the morning of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Jews read from the prophet Isaiah what G‑d requires of them: “to loosen all the bonds that bind men unfairly, to let the oppressed go free, to break every yoke. Share your bread with the hungry; take the homeless into your home. Clothe the naked when you see him, do not turn away from people in need.”

Fixing Up the World

Can human beings make the world a better place?

For most of history, wise people laughed at this notion. Many considered this world a dark and cursed place. No one imagined that we could make permanent and lasting change. Everything, they said, goes in cycles. Sometimes good prevails, sometimes evil.

But the Torah of the Jews sees all of time as a story, working towards an era of peace and wisdom here on earth. It is the duty of every person to leave the world behind better than he or she found it. All of us, in our actions, are builders of a world to come.

Jews call this idea tikun, which means to fix up the world—to make it even better than its Creator made it.

G‑d created this world out of love. He loves this world, and He sustains all its creatures with love. And the greatest gift of love He can give us is the opportunity to partner with Him in the creation of the world, by setting it straight and bringing it into harmony.

Learn more: What Is Tikkun Olam?

The Land of Israel and the Global Community

Israel is the land of the Jewish People. It was promised to them by G‑d as an everlasting inheritance. The books that all Christians and Muslims consider holy concur on this point.

Yet at the same time, G‑d also told the Jewish People that they must respect the stranger among them. Even if that person does not keep their rituals and is not a member of their tribe, the stranger must be treated with dignity, and Jew and non-Jew alike are responsible to keep the basic laws incumbent upon all human beings.

In the 16th century, Europe was torn by wars of religious intolerance. People thought that those who disagreed with their beliefs were heretics and must be converted or killed. It wasn’t until they looked back into the Torah—the Hebrew Bible—that they realized this is not the way. G‑d wants us to make peace with one another, and that is only possible when we accept each other’s differences.

Among Jews, there are always many different opinions. Jews love to debate important issues. They know from long experience that only through a wide variety of views and lively debate can we find the truth. Indeed, the Talmud, one of the most studied Jewish texts, and (along with the Bible) the foundation of Jewish law, is a compilation of arguments of the sages.

People must keep the law of their country, and accept that there is one final authority, the Author of the entire world. But to force everyone to be the same runs counter to G‑d’s plan for a diverse and beautiful world.

Moral Monotheism

What difference does it make whether people have one G‑d, many gods, or no god at all? Can’t we rely on human reason and instinct to guide us to live in peace with one another?

To this question, history provides a resounding “No.”

This is especially so after the 20th century, when the most educated nation on earth, one that prided itself on its achievements in science, culture, philosophy and ethics, committed the most horrific crimes against humanity. They did so not out of a fit of insanity or revenge, but with the rationale of what they considered pure science. Millions of innocent people were worked or gassed to death, simply because they were considered inferior.

Human nature and human reason are not inherently evil. Human beings naturally care for one another and are outraged by injustice. Human reason has produced a wealth of wisdom.

But the human mind is easily bribed. When morality becomes inconvenient, we find ways to dismiss it. When ethics get in our way, we find reasons to change the rules of the game. And when it comes to people who are outside of our clan, tribe or society, we simply determine that they are not human like us, and everything is justified.

That is why it is vital, especially today in a global society, that we accept a single Authority, one who is neither human nor elected by humans, and whose word is eternal and immutable.

Learn more: The Origin of Jewish Beliefs

World Peace

Is peace better than war?

It’s hard to believe, but not long ago most people thought war was a great enterprise. It was the way men showed their strength and nations demonstrated their power. People who protested war were generally considered foolish crackpots.

But more than 2,600 years ago, the Jewish prophets Isaiah and Micah prophesied of a time when nations would choose never to go to war again and the world would be filled with peace.

Indeed, for Jews, peace, Shalomis not just a word. It is a name of G‑d.

It wasn’t until the close of the First World War that people began to understand that humanity, with its vast new arsenal of technological weapons, could no longer afford to go to war. After the Second World War, the nations of the world built a great structure—the United Nations— where they would sit and discuss peace instead of war.

On a wall in the United Nations Headquarters complex are engraved the words of Isaiah and Micah: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift the sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

May that time come very soon, sooner than we can imagine.

As taken from, http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/3852164/jewish/What-Are-Jewish-Values.htm

 

Is Intermarriage Good for the Jews?

A Moment Symposium

November 6, 2017  in 2017 November-December, Featured, Symposium

In January of 1939 The Atlantic caused a stir when it published “I Married a Jew,” an unprecedented first-person chronicle of the experiences of an intermarried non-Jewish woman. In it, the anonymous author describes the severe ostracism she and her husband faced from their families and communities because of their marriage. The piece was written at a time when there were relatively few intermarriages in the United States, and it was still common for Jewish parents to sever all ties with and literally sit shiva for a child who married a non-Jew. Since the second half of the 20th century—mainly as a result of greater secularization, assimilation and increased social mobility—American Jewish society has undergone a series of radical transformations. Simultaneously, there has been a steep increase in intermarriage rates, particularly since the 1970s. A 2013 study by the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project found that 44 percent of married Jews in the United States have a non-Jewish spouse. This number is higher in the Reform and Reconstructionist movements and somewhat lower in the Conservative movement. Intermarriage rarely if ever occurs in the Orthodox community, and when it does happen, people leave for other denominations.

The very meaning of intermarriage has shifted with these demographic changes. In earlier periods, intermarriage was generally seen as a rejection of Jewish identity and a form of rebellion against the community. These days, intermarriage doesn’t necessarily spell the end of an active Jewish life or of Jewish lineage. Especially among younger Jews, intermarriage is often seen as unremarkable and fully compatible with being Jewish. Much of the current debate on the topic is taking place among religious leaders, for whom intermarriage is not just a matter of demographic survival but also theology and halacha (Jewish law). There are sharp divisions among the movements. The Reform and Reconstructionist movements officially leave the decision about participating in intermarriages to individual rabbis, many of whom will officiate at intermarriages. The Orthodox and Conservative rabbinates interpret the law as forbidding intermarriage. Orthodox rabbis do not attend or officiate at intermarriages and, since the 1970s, Conservative rabbis have also been barred from officiating at or attending weddings between Jews and non-Jews. Last summer, the debate was reignited when a small number of prominent Conservative rabbis at independent synagogues publicly broke with the movement and began performing intermarriages.

Despite its prevalence, intermarriage remains highly contentious and echoes American Jewish fears about assimilation and irrelevance. And since the Orthodox movement remains 100 percent opposed to intermarriage, the issue also contributes to the ever-widening gap between liberal American Judaism and Orthodox Judaism, both in the U.S. and Israel.

Moment asks a group of prominent rabbis, community leaders and scholars to weigh in on the debate. Although there are a wide range of strongly held views in this symposium, almost everyone we spoke with agreed on two points: Intermarriage is here to stay, and it is imperative to reach out to and integrate interfaith families into the Jewish community. Ultimately, the debate over intermarriage determines who American Jews are and will be in the 21st century and beyond.


After converting to Judaism, author Geraldine Brooks married Tony Horwitz in Southern France in 1984.


Michael Satlow

Michael Satlow is a professor of Judaic studies and religious studies at Brown University. He is the author of Six books, most recently How the Bible Became Holy.

Marriage used to be seen as a contractual relationship between a man and a woman rather than as something sanctified and sacred—that idea of marriage came about more as a result of Christianity. Similarly, the definition of intermarriage has changed dramatically over time, and concern about it has fluctuated. The early texts don’t have any of the modern demographic concerns about intermarriage. They don’t discuss matters like the survival of the Jewish people or the health of the community. Those were non-issues. When seen in the giant scope of the Talmud, rabbinic literature says relatively little at all about intermarriage. Early Jewish texts generally condemn intermarriage. The reasons for this are not always clear, and there’s an interesting dynamic in classic Jewish texts where they have a problem defining what intermarriage actually means. It may mean a marriage between a Jew and non-Jew, but it very often refers to marriages between two Jews. For example, there are some passages in the Babylonian Talmud where intermarriage is between a Babylonian Jew and a Palestinian Jew. There are other texts that define intermarriage as between a priest, a Kohain, and someone from a non-Kohainite line, but who is also a Jew. So although there is a clear condemnation of exogamy or “out-marriage,” there is also a very blurry line as to what constitutes “out-marriage.”

Historically, part of the reason for this condemnation is a notion that Jews are pure, and there is a desire to preserve the Jewish race. Because of this concern with purity, early texts might discuss intermarriage during time periods when there is not a significant threat of it happening. In other cases, there is a fear that the non-Jewish partner will lead the Jewish partner into foreign worship and start them down a slippery slope to idolatry. The Bible has numerous cases of Israelite men marrying foreign women: Moses marries Zipporah, daughter of the Midian priest Jethro. Joseph marries Asenath, daughter of the Egyptian priest Potiphera. And Judah marries Shua the Canaanite.

Many of these foreign women are presented as temptresses, and the texts re ect an understanding that for a Jewish man to marry a non-Jewish woman is a sign of a lack of control.


Interfaith Family founder Edmund Case and his wife, Wendy (who converted to Judaism in 2004), were married by a judge in 1974.

Edmund Case

Edmund Case is the founder and former director of Interfaith Family and the co-editor of The Guide to Jewish Interfaith Family Life: An InterfaithFamily.com Handbook.

There are many strong arguments for why intermarriage is good for Jews. Many Jewish partners find that their interest and engagement in Jewish life increases because they are in an interfaith relationship. They report that they cannot take their Jewish involvement for granted; they really have to think about it. I think that is a good thing because when you have to think about Judaism, it becomes a great source of meaning and value. Non-Jewish partners often become very engaged in and bring new insights and energy to the Jewish community. Intermarriage increases tolerance and respect for Jews and could potentially even increase positive feelings about Israel—although that can be challenging. Some people also say that intermarriage improves the genetic pool.

It’s very counterproductive to say that intermarriage is bad. That was the response of the organized Jewish community for a very long time, and it was damaging. It pushed intermarried couples away from Jewish life. Many surveys show that intermarried couples are not nearly as engaged in the Jewish community as non-intermarried couples. But we can’t know what these survey results would have been if these intermarried couples had been genuinely embraced and welcomed by the Jewish community starting 25 years ago, instead of being considered a problem. The solution is to engage intermarried couples. The affiliation of children of intermarried couples who are themselves active in the Jewish community is statistically comparable to the children of non-intermarried couples.


Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff and his wife Marylynn were married in a traditional Conservative Jewish ceremony in 1966.


Asher Lopatin

Asher Lopatin is an American Orthodox rabbi and president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School.

In general, intermarriage is very problematic. It’s against Jewish law as stated in the Talmud and Torah, and it poses a great danger for our people. Most statistical data and anecdotal information show that in the majority of cases when a Jew marries a non-Jew and raises a family, their children have much less of a connection to Israel, are less likely to raise their children Jewish and, in general, they are less connected to the Jewish community. There’s evidence of successful ways to modify that. For instance, the relationship of the Jewish grandparents to the grandchildren of intermarriage is very important. We need to be more welcoming to non-Jewish spouses, and conversion needs to be a much more workable system and opportunity. We also need to show intermarried couples all of the wonderful things that make Judaism such a great religion and, in particular, connect them to Israel in more effective ways.

As an Orthodox rabbi, I say that if a Jew falls in love with a non-Jew, the non-Jewish partner should be encouraged to convert to Judaism. I also have to say that, when a Jew is dating, they should date someone who affirms who they are as a human being and as a Jew. When you are dating seriously, you should ask: Is this person going to help me raise a Jewish family? So I would say date Jews who are committed to Judaism! But if a person is seriously dating a non-Jew, then it is important to be sure that the person you’re dating will commit to converting if you get married. Converts are good for the Jewish people. They bring in good genes, new perspectives and great vitality. Diversity is great, but people who come in from the outside need to make a commitment to being Jewish. That’s why I have been eager to facilitate conversions whenever I possibly can.

I hope in the future that the Jewish community, especially the Orthodox movement, will take more initiative regarding conversion, and I hope the Orthodox community will take the lead in welcoming converts. Orthodox rabbis, however, cannot perform intermarriages.The question is: How can we sincerely show that we want people to be part of our community while upholding our laws, our traditions and our opposition to intermarriage?


Barney Frank

Barney Frank served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts from 1981 to 2013.

As a Jew who married a non-Jewish man, I believe the most important consideration should be whether intermarriage is good for the individual. I think intermarriage is good for the individual Jew getting married to a non-Jew. People should marry the person with whom they are in love, regardless of religion, gender or any other criteria. The rights and needs of the individual are absolutely determinative. Similarly, the extent to which an intermarried couple fits into, and is active in, the Jewish community should be solely determined by whether the Jewish partner actually wants to be an active part of the community and, even more so, whether the non-Jewish spouse also wants this. It’s up to the individuals, not the community, whether or not this is important and something they want. This will vary enormously. I know many intermarried couples that happily participate fully in the Jewish community and many others who don’t. There is something unique about the Jewish experience and community, both in the world and in America. I would be sad to see that disappear, and certainly intermarriage has the potential to diminish that. However, for me, the larger community is not the main concern.

There is too much focus on intermarriage and whether it “weakens” the Jewish community. We should be more focused on what’s going on in Israel and with the Israeli rabbinate and their negativity to other Jews. I would argue that really weakens the Jewish community. Furthermore, people who are concerned about intermarriage weakening Jewish identity should be expressing a lot more concern about rabbis who still refuse to perform same-sex marriages. It’s a real problem that there are rabbis who won’t marry one Jew to another Jew, even though these couples very much want to be Jewish and have a Jewish marriage.

Sarina Roffé

Sarina Roffé is a journalist and scholar who specializes in the history and genealogy of Syrian Jews.

In my opinion, intermarriage is not good for Jews. The demographics of the Jewish people aren’t growing, at least not by a very significant margin. So we shouldn’t have intermarriage; it’s a matter of survival of the Jewish people. We are less than 1 percent of the world’s population. Every time someone marries out, a whole generation of Jewish people is gone. Furthermore, across the board—not just with Jews—I don’t believe in interreligious marriage or interracial marriage, period. Unless they are both Jewish, I do not believe Caucasians and African Americans should intermarry.  Marriage is hard enough; a remarkable number end in divorce. When you have a different culture involved, that raises the bar further, and when you add a different religion, when beliefs differ or conflict, that makes it even harder.

The Syrian Jewish community, of which I am a member, completely rejects intermarriage and conversion of any kind. So if there is intermarriage or marriage to a convert, even an Orthodox convert, it is 100 percent rejected. If a person chooses to go down that path, then their children wouldn’t be allowed to attend community yeshivot, the men in the family would not be permitted to take aliyahs or join the synagogue, they’re denied burial rights and they would face complete social rejection. Nobody will play with their children. They would not get invited to holiday events or weddings, and people would not speak to them. They are totally isolated from the community. Personally, I am more polite than most people. I have to behave respectfully because intermarriage has occurred in my family. I still talk to and socialize with them. It becomes a matter of practicality, but then I would socialize with non-Jews anyway. That doesn’t mean I like it.


Journalist Bob Davis, who is Jewish, and Debra Bruno, who is Catholic, dance the hora after their 1982 wedding.


Bob Davis

Bob Davis is a senior editor at The Wall Street Journal in Washington, DC. He is currently a visiting professor of journalism at Princeton University.

I’ve read the gloom-and-doom studies about intermarriage and how it’s going to destroy the Jewish people. I’m a lot more optimistic about the Jewish future than those studies are. I think the general acceptance of intermarriage says something good about America; it shows the openness and tolerance of the United States. We should be proud that this is a place where you can marry who you want and live a good life.

Given one’s druthers, I think that if you identify as a Jew you would prefer to marry a Jew—but life doesn’t always work out that way; you fall in love with whom you fall in love with. It’s a matter of what you make of it. I am a Reform Jew who married a Catholic woman, and I was lucky that she enthusiastically wanted to preserve the Jewish traditions. It was important to me to raise my children Jewish and she understood that. As an intermarried couple, we chose to give our children a Jewish identity, which as adults they are now free to accept or reject.

The overwhelming influence of Christian culture in America can be challenging when you’re in an intermarriage. For instance, the competition between Christmas and Hanukkah is a serious thing and is difficult when one parent is Christian and the other is Jewish. At first we didn’t have a Christmas tree because I didn’t want one, but one year my wife brought one home and I didn’t want to be like Scrooge—after all, it’s just a tree—so we kept it. There also are benefits to intermarriage: It can create a more tolerant outlook, and you are exposed to different religions and traditions.


Governor Deval Patrick married Congressman Barney Frank to his non-Jewish partner, Jim Ready, in 2012.


Geraldine Brooks

Geraldine Brooks is the author of eight books, including March, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Her most recent novel is The Secret Chord.

I don’t have opinions on the wider topic of intermarriage, buspeaking for myself, my decision to convert when I married a Jew was more about history than faith. In particular, it was my own small, personal gesture to the terrible losses of the 20th century. Since Judaism is passed through the female line—a tradition I’ve always appreciated for its feminist implications as well as its hard-headed pragmatism—there was no way I was going to be the end of the line for a family that had made it through diaspora, pogrom and Shoah.

I’m not a deist, but I appreciate Jewish prayer for its emphasis on gratitude for the small good things of nature—the dew on the grass, the new moon, the turning of the seasons. I am also glad to engage in the long struggle for human understanding that Torah study represents.  I am fortunate to be part of a heterogeneous and open shul, and to be able to offer this kind of Jewish learning to my two sons. What they decide to do with it is entirely up to them.


Historian Sylvia Barack Fishman and Philip Fishman were married by her father Rabbi Nathan A. Barack in 1967.


Sylvia Barack Fishman

Sylvia Barack Fishman is the co-director of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute. She is the author of eight books, including Double or Nothing?: Jewish Families and Mixed Marriage.

For most of Jewish history, Jews have lived in environments where they were small minorities. When a Jew married a person of another religion, they converted to that religion. Very occasionally, non-Jews converted to Judaism, but often Jews lived in societies where that was considered an offense against the official religion of that society. There are historical records of whole villages of Jews being killed because a Christian girl who was working in a Jewish home converted to Judaism.

The idea that intermarriage has always been a concern is entirely incorrect. When ancient and classic Jewish texts refer with concern to Jews marrying non-Jews, it is not because they were prohibited from doing it; they were not. It’s because historically, when a Jew married a non-Jew, they were lost to the Jewish people. They became part of the other culture.

It’s important to remember that until the modern age, there was no such thing as intermarriage as we understand it because there was no neutral ground for people of two religions to live together. Historically, when a person married someone from another religion, they joined only one of the two original religions. The modern notion of intermarriage is premised on living in a society where there is a lot of neutral space and where people can choose to be what they want.

Today, there is great variety in how non-Jewish partners relate to Judaism. One very common one is that both the Jewish and non-Jewish partner simply retreat from religion. Another is that both partners continue with their original religions, and the household has two religions. A third is that some non-Jews agree to raise their children as Jewish and become involved in the Jewish community. In a small number of cases, the non-Jewish partner may eventually convert to Judaism.

Amichai Lau-Lavie

Amichai Lau-Lavie is an Israeli Orthodox-born conservative rabbi, educator and performing artist. He founded the Lab/Shul of NYC and is the creator of “Storahtelling.”

Increasingly, many American Jews choose love over tribal loyalty. Love is a good thing. Love is cherished and beautiful and complicated. So is love good for the Jews? Yes. Is intermarriage therefore good for the Jews who choose it? Yes. Is it good for Judaism, and is it good for the continuity of the Jewish narrative? That’s a very different question.

Intermarriage is a very serious challenge to the continuity of Judaism as we know it, but it is not a deal-breaker, nor is it the end of the line. It is a serious invitation to be very thoughtful about what it means to be evolving as a people and an invitation to be sensitive to the realities on the ground, to examine our priorities and the complexities of continuity and discontinuity.

As a Conservative rabbi at an independent shul, I have decided to perform intermarriages, but I do not propose or support a blanket yes to all intermarriages but rather to ones between Jews and people from another heritage who are involved, engaged and deeply invested in the Jewish community. That is a nuanced but important distinction. The current position of the Conservative movement is that there is not much room for this kind of nuance. That feels inappropriate to me.

This is a unique moment. For the past century or so, there’s been a gradual decline in Jewish literacy and engagement with what Judaism has to offer. This has created stress and anxieties about the continuity of Judaism. These are legitimate and valid concerns. I have confidence that many of us still possess a deep love for what Judaism and Jewish values have to offer. I want people to choose Judaism from a place of love and trust, rather than from anxiety and fear that this is the end of the line. We should embrace the complex evolution of our current Jewish reality. If we don’t do this, the Conservative Jewish movement might just collapse.

Elliot N. Dorff

Elliot N. Dorff is a Conservative rabbi and professor of philosophy at the American Jewish University in California. Dorff is the chairman of the Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards.

I think it is a mixed bag. Only 20 to 30 percent of interfaith couples raise their children as Jews. Jews are already in a demographic crisis, and this makes it worse. On the other hand, when interfaith couples raise their children as Jews or when the non-Jewish partner later converts, intermarriages can actually enhance the Jewish people. When people come into the tradition from other backgrounds and decide to convert, they often bring a real commitment to the tradition that those born Jewish don’t have. There are many couples where the Jew-by-choice is actually much more active in the community than the Jew-by-birth.

As a Conservative rabbi, I strongly disagree with the small number of Conservative rabbis who have decided to start performing intermarriages. I do not believe that officiating at intermarriages ultimately helps the Jewish people. Reform rabbis have been doing this for quite a while and, for the most part, they have not succeeded in convincing the intermarried couples to be actively Jewish. Jews are supposed to marry Jews. That goes back to the Bible: Abraham sent Eliezer back to Paddan-Aram to get a wife for Isaac from the extended family. When Esau took a wife from outside the Jewish clan and his parents were unhappy, he took a second wife from within the clan. Later Ezra required all men who had married non-Jewish wives to divorce them before they were allowed to come back from Babylonia to Israel. So the value and idea of endogamy is very strongly rooted in our tradition. It doesn’t matter whether someone is a Jew-by-choice or a Jew-by-birth, as a rabbi I must only marry one Jew to another Jew. I’m not within and honoring the Jewish tradition if I marry a Jew to a non-Jew.

I just co-chaired the blue ribbon commission of the Rabbinic Assembly of the Conservative movement to clarify our stance about this issue. We have reaffirmed that a Conservative rabbi may not officiate at the wedding of a Jew to a non-Jew. There are some questions about activities that are ancillary to the wedding itself. It remains uncertain if a rabbi, for example, can toast an intermarried couple at the reception after a wedding or if, after the wedding, the rabbi can have a ceremonious welcome of the interfaith couple to a synagogue. However, the wedding itself is only Jewish if it’s between two Jews.


Author A.J. Jacobs and Julie Schoenberg, both Jewish, were married by Judge Michael B. Mukasey in 2000.


A.J. Jacobs

A.J. Jacobs is the author of five best-selling books, including It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree.

The more intermarriage we have, the more we’ll have to accept that Judaism itself isn’t something just encoded in the genes. It’s a way of looking at life. It’s a series of rituals and stories. It’s a community of people hoping to heal the world.  It’s salty and fatty and sometimes gross food. If you cling to the notion of Judaism as DNA, Judaism will disappear. Since the rates of intermarriage are only going to increase and adopted kids can be Jewish, children of mixed marriages can be Jewish. The idea that you’re only Jewish if your mom is Jewish—that seems outdated.

Here’s an analogy that might or might not work. When the Second Temple was destroyed and we had the diaspora, Jews had to realize that our religion isn’t about the Temple. As one rabbi told me, you have to take the Temple with you in your heart. Maybe there’s a parallel. As our DNA scatters, we have to realize that Judaism isn’t just tied to genetics. It is about a way of life, a culture.

Plus, there are advantages to intermarriage. It might reduce anti-Semitism. I once interviewed Bennett Greenspan, founder of Family Tree DNA. He told me, “I really do think that if someone finds out they have a little Jewish DNA, they’ll be less inclined to stay quiet when someone tells an anti-Semitic joke.” 


Journalist Sarina Roffé and her husband David were married in a traditional Syrian Jewish ceremony in 1974.


Felix Posen

Felix Posen is the founder and president of the Posen Foundation. The foundation is compiling a ten-volume anthology documenting 3,000 years of Jewish literature, artwork and artifacts.

I think it is too soon to come to any conclusions on how intermarriage affects Jewish culture. Jewish culture, like Jewish religion, is a way of life. If the married couple decides to carry on the marriage within Jewish culture, then it can work as well as the marriage of Jewish men and women who believe in Judaism as a religion. What is obviously important is the knowledge that each partner has and develops an understanding of the meaning and depth of Judaism as a culture. This is a relatively new field, and there have been no in-depth studies to provide an answer to the question of the impact of intermarriage on Jewish culture.

Elisha Wiesel

Elisha Wiesel is the son of Elie and Marion Wiesel.

There are two questions to answer: Is it good for the individuals themselves? And then, is it good for the existence of the Jewish people as a whole? The two answers are more interrelated than people may realize. I believe that individual Jews receive a legacy of a rich culture and tradition with important values that give a sense of purpose. If individual Jews cut themselves off from that by intermarrying, a step that effectively distances them from their people, they are giving up something important. It’s ultimately for the individual to decide if what they’re gaining in their spouse is worth that. However, if we apply Kant-like logic of going to extremes and ask, “What would happen if every Jew made that choice?” it’s very simple. If every Jew married out, there would be no more Jewish people. So in the extremis, intermarriage can’t be good for the Jewish people.

I promised my father Elie Wiesel that I would marry another Jew. It was understood that this included anyone who converted to Judaism in a meaningful process. I understand now that if I had not married within the faith, experiences that I currently derive tremendous meaning from would be missing. For instance, the connection that I had to my father was not just that of a father and son, it happened in a very Jewish context. When I said Kaddish for him for 11 months, I was not just connecting with him; I felt connected with his forebears as well. I had a real sense of history, going back thousands of years, of what it meant to be part of a lineage with certain traditions, rituals and values. For almost 2,000 years, when a parent has passed, the Jewish child has said Kaddish. There is something profound about that. As I prepare my own son for his bar mitzvah and watch my daughter learning Hebrew, despite this crazy modern life with all of its distractions, I have this same sense of history and continuity. I think about where I came from, where I am and where my Jewish children will go in the future. That’s deeply meaningful and very grounding.

Micah Greenland

Micah Greenland is an Orthodox rabbi and the international director of NCSY, the youth movement of the Orthodox Union.

Intermarriage is decidedly not good for the Jews. At the core, this is because of the importance of the Jewish home. Jewish life, values and practice revolve around the Jewish home. A Jewish home is the strongest way to ensure that Jewish values are lived and practiced. This has the highest likelihood of happening in a household where both partners are Jewish and share central Jewish values. It is my hope and aspiration for every Jew that they should be able to bring the beauty of Jewish life to their home as well as to their personal practice.

Youth movements like NCSY play an important role in restoring Jewish pride and the value of leading a Jewish life. A study by the Lilly Endowment demonstrated that 98 percent of NCSY alumni married other Jews; other youth movements have had similar positive results. By the time a person is choosing a marriage partner there are tens of thousands of life choices that they have already made that influence whom they are dating and whom they are likely to marry. Jewish youth movements help ensure that as many of those choices as possible are made through a Jewish lens.

Intermarriage is heartbreaking. We can’t hide our heads in the sand about that. However, I do not think we benefit as a community by putting a stamp of approval on it. We have to maintain the ideal that we should be raising Jews to have such a commitment to their Jewish values and Jewish practice that their highest aspiration for their Judaism involves building a Jewish home with a Jewish spouse.


Sue Levenstein, a convert to Judaism, and her husband Mark celebrate after their 2009 Conservative Jewish wedding.


Naomi Schaefer Riley

Naomi Schaefer Riley is a journalist whose work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe and The New York Times and the author of ’Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage is Transforming America.

Interfaith marriage has been a great challenge for the Jews as a community and for Jewish continuity. That will continue to be the case.Intermarriage is much more complicated for families than it is for childless couples. In most cases, a husband and wife can go their separate ways when it comes to beliefs, traditions and rituals. That becomes much harder once children are in the picture.

Personally, as someone in an intermarriage raising Jewish children, I think many people don’t realize the day-to-day shifting and tensions that happen after you decide to raise the kids Jewish. Religion influences everyday questions from celebrating holidays to choosing schools, summer camp, how to spend money, which charities to support and what kind of community you want to live in. My children certainly have a somewhat broader perspective because they have family members who are not Jewish. Generally speaking, it would have been easier to be in a same-faith marriage. I knew that going in, and it’s still true.

Despite the challenges, for American Jews as a community, intermarriage has been a boon in certain ways. It has encouraged greater assimilation and tolerance in this country and allowed people of other faiths to know and understand Judaism more fully and more meaningfully. It has allowed Jews to also gain a broader understanding of what other religious communities are like. I think that mixing has produced a more understanding, less suspicious attitude toward others than if everyone was in their own camp. Having members of other faiths as members of your extended family has produced a kind of intimate tolerance and assimilation in many cases that in previous generations was not possible.


Scholar Keren McGinity married a non-Jewish man in 1992. They divorced in 2007.


José Rolando Matalon

José Rolando Matalon is the Argentinian-born senior rabbi of B’nai Jeshurun in New York City.

There are active members of our community who have a strong Jewish education and background who fall in love with, and want to marry, non-Jews. Our previous refusal to participate in their marriage ceremonies closed the door to any further involvement in their lives. They felt hurt and rejected and turned away from us. This led to their complete alienation from the Jewish community. We need to be part of their lives, their future and the lives of their kids. We want them in our community and our lives. Large numbers of these people want an attachment to the Jewish community and want a connection to Jewish tradition and ritual—they care enough about Judaism to ask for that.

America has been a welcoming, hospitable and open place for Jews, and we’ve come to a time and place where non-Jews fall in love with Jews, non-Jews want to marry Jews and vice versa. The social barriers that existed before have been lowered. I don’t know if intermarriage is good or if it’s bad, but we can’t avoid looking at and dealing with it. That is why my synagogue, B’nai Jeshurun, decided last summer to officiate at intermarriages if the couple is engaged in Jewish life, commits to creating a Jewish home and to raising their kids Jewish. Those are our conditions. We will support them in creating their Jewish home and in raising their kids; we are not leaving them on their own to do this.

Jewish concerns about demography and whether our numbers will remain robust are real and valid, as are the concerns about whether intermarried couples will remain connected to our faith, culture and traditions. We should keep in mind, of course, that two Jews can marry and have absolutely no connection to Judaism and not raise their kids Jewish.


Keren McGinity

Keren McGinity is the director of interfaith families Jewish engagement at the Schoolman Graduate School of Jewish Education at Hebrew College in Newton Centre, Massachusetts. She is the author of Still Jewish: A History of Women & Intermarriage in America and Marrying Out: Jewish Men, Intermarriage, and Fatherhood.

Intermarriage is neither inherently bad nor a panacea. People who think that intermarriage threatens Jewish survival base their beliefs on a pervasive and historic assumption that Jews who intermarry cease to identify as Jewish, don’t raise Jewish children, and have no commitment to participating in the Jewish community or Jewish life. The meaning and experience of intermarriage have changed dramatically from the early 20th century to the present. Thanks to a decline in anti-Semitism and Jews’ more secure social status, combined with the influences of ethnic consciousness and feminism, intermarried Jews are significantly more proactive about identifying as Jewish and raising Jewish children.

Quantitative research now shows that a significant proportion of millennial children of intermarriages identify as Jewish. Simultaneous to the rates of intermarriage increasing over time, the percentage of these children who identify as Jewish has also gone up. Qualitative research illustrates that intermarriage can actually heighten Jews’ awareness of being Jewish and inspire them to figure out what it means and how to transmit Jewishness to their children. Provided that intermarried Jews and their families are treated equally as inmarried Jewish families, and that Jewish education is accessible and engaging, intermarriage can be an opportunity for Jews and their loved ones to draw closer to Judaism and the Jewish community.

Gender is often missing from discussions about intermarriage; the gender of the Jew who intermarries is especially important. Both Jewish men and women who intermarry are likely to continue to identify as Jewish. However, their experiences differ. Men tend to switch from more traditional to more progressive denominations where their children will count as Jews. Intermarried Jewish women are more likely to raise their children Jewish than intermarried Jewish men. That doesn’t mean men can’t effectively raise Jewish children. They certainly can. There is, however, still a distinct disparity in which women generally have more responsibility than men for hands-on parenting. Placing greater emphasis on the value of Jewish fathering and creating programs for men to “do Jewish” with their children would help level the parenting field and better enable intermarried men to raise Jewish children.


Elliott Abrams

Elliott Abrams served in foreign policy positions for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. He is the author of five books, including Faith or Fear: How Jews Can Survive in Christian America.

Intermarriage weakens Jewish culture because, obviously, one of the two people in the marriage brings no Jewish cultural background and will find it very difficult, therefore, to convey Jewish culture to the children. There are substitutes that can provide a certain sense of Jewish community and culture, including Jewish education, Jewish day school and, to a lesser extent, Jewish camps and visits to Israel. However, the central and most common way in which Jewish culture is conveyed is in the home, and that is much harder in an intermarriage situation.

There is clear evidence that with children raised in a home that practices multiple religions, the feeling of belonging to the Jewish community and of connection to Israel is a lot weaker. The notion that you pay more attention to a terrorist attack in Jerusalem than in Bombay, or that you are more concerned about anti-Semitism than the average American, is missing. Additionally, in most cases, there is almost no religious practice. The children have very little sense of belonging to a community that is doing something important on Shabbat, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur or Passover. When an individual’s feeling of belonging to, and having a responsibility toward, the Jewish community is diminished, he or she is much less likely to give to Jewish charities or to Israel. All of the tell-tale signs of belonging to both a local and a global community are much weaker.


Farrah and Bryan met through JSwipe, a Jewish dating app founded by David Yarus.


David Yarus

David Yarus is the founder of JSwipe, a Jewish dating app, and of mllnnl, a social media agency that works with Jewish organizations to engage Jewish millennials.

I have no absolute opinion about whether intermarriage is good or bad. I’m a true Gemini: I can understand both sides. It’s good that other faiths and communities are now more deeply tied into the Jewish world. Conversely, intermarriage without question presents challenges to ongoing and active engagement within the tradition.

Currently, 71 percent of non-Orthodox marriages, including those of my generation—Jewish millennials—are interfaith. Millennials in general, including Jewish millennials, are the least religious generation in history. For the most part, we are less observant, less affiliated, and shedding labels across our lives, including religious ones. I personally consider myself a “post-denominational” Jew mostly because I hate the idea of having to label myself one way or the other. Throughout our upbringing and our lives, we have been turned off by what I call “big Jewish infrastructure.” The system built by our parents’ and grandparents’ generations has yet to adapt to fully understand the millennial mindset. The idea of having to marry someone Jewish when we’ve grown up in a world where we are told repeatedly that everyone is equal seems conflicting to us, especially for the less religious and less affiliated. As the founder of JSwipe, a Jewish dating app, I speak to large numbers of young Jewish singles about what they want in a romantic partner. Despite varying levels of observance, there is a fairly universal desire, that they may not be able to rationally explain, to partner with someone Jewish. They will talk about shared values and shared upbringing. They definitely mention familial and communal pressures.

While I am definitely Jewish, I consider myself a universalist. Meaning, to me, everyone is right! We’re all humans—it’s all energy. People on an individual basis should explore, experience and then decide what’s right for them. JSwipe allows non-Jews to join our app, mostly to not be exclusionary or “othering,” which is something I find off-putting about most organized religion. That said, users can easily filter out non-Jews. They can also filter for kosher versus not kosher, level of observance and other parameters for finding their NJB/NJG (Nice Jewish Boy/Girl). We leave it up to the users to choose what it is they are looking for.

Intermarriage has spread Jewish culture through other communities. We are at other people’s dinner tables, other families’ holiday dinners, and they are joining ours. Conversations that might have previously happened without us are now being infused with a Jewish viewpoint. Over the past year, I’ve seen an explosion in the popularity of Shabbat dinners among non-Jewish attendees. My non-Jewish colleague and friend even started hosting an event called Shiksa Shabbat! One thing is certain, we’re experiencing a remarkable evolution of what it means to be Jewish and what being Jewish will look like over the next five, 10 and 20 years. The question is: How do we experience this through the lens of possibility and abundance rather than one of fear and scarcity?

 

As taken from, http://www.momentmag.com/intermarriage/?utm_campaign=eNewsletter&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=58432189&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-_JhuYY–4k1sS5qr7wSm6pvNfH1j3vdR1UnUVDz6Jm4xjcfrpHl0-pEqv920wfCUcBoOQCUgT_KyniJxfA3YHYfqfs2BdSeNMitJAez5ONdDEdiD4&_hsmi=58432189

Without Victory, There Can Be No Peace

avatar by Oded Forer

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Ninety-four years ago, on November 4 1923, Ze’ev Jabotinsky published an essay that would shape the worldview of the nationalist Israeli Right. Known as the “Iron Wall” doctrine, it stated that, so long as the Arabs have even a sliver of hope regarding the outcome of the Israeli-Arab conflict, the conflict will not end.

Peace would only be achievable, Jabotinsky argued, once the “Iron Wall” of Israeli military superiority was completely solid. Even so, in the years following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the foundational ideas of the Iron Wall doctrine have steadily faded from Israeli political discourse.

The first “crack” in the Iron Wall occurred the moment that the Oslo Accords were signed. The Israeli government imported a group of certified terrorists, in the hope that they would become converted to our way of thinking — that they would combat terror “without Bagatz or B’Tselem” (without the Supreme Court or far-left NGOs).

To some Arabs, the Oslo Accords represented a bright new hope; the first stage in the multi-step plan to achieve their dream of driving us out of the country, as first devised in the 1974 PLO Phased Plan. Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, continues on the same path — securing whatever concessions possible from Israel through negotiation, while using violence to achieve the rest of his goals.

The controversial invitation to officials of several American Jewish organizations to visit the Gulf kingdom of Qatar follows the historical…

In 2014, Abbas explained as much in Cairo at an Arab League meeting, stating that he would never recognize Israel as a Jewish State: Meaning that he would continue to work towards a Palestinian State encompassing as much territory as possible, while at the same time working towards turning Israel into a second Palestinian state.

The Palestinians have come to understand that the Israeli addiction to the notion of “peace” is our greatest weakness. For this reason, they are constantly talking about peace, but peace in the Palestinian worldview is no more than an armistice. Any peace agreement is simply a stop on the path toward the ultimate goal: the destruction of the Jewish state. This is because we have not yet extinguished, for many of them, their hopes of defeating us.

In the Iron Wall essay, Jabotinsky understood and even respected the Arab drive to destroy us; it was perfectly clear to him that as long as the Arabs had even the slightest hope of success, they would never give up their dreams of driving us out of Israel.

Therefore, one of our first priorities must be to make clear to them that Israel — and our status as a Jewish state — is permanent. Many military victories and a steadfast commitment to Israel’s founding principles have demonstrated this, but the message has not gotten through. Since the Oslo Accords, the Iron Wall has begun to show cracks simply because the way that we talk about the conflict has changed. Instead of talking in terms of a definitive end to the conflict, we have begun to talk in terms of incremental progress. Instead of talking about eradicating terror, we now discuss limiting it.

Over the last 20 years, Israel has engaged in many large-scale military operations and one major war. In almost every case, when the Israeli military stated its objectives for the operation, the same terms stood out: “strengthening our deterrence,” “delivering a significant blow to the enemy” and “minimizing civilian casualties.”

Conspicuously missing was the term “decisive victory.”

Former Defense Minister Ehud Barak chose to describe the objectives of Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 as “strengthening our capabilities of deterrence, significantly damaging their rocket-launching systems, dealing a painful blow to Hamas and other terror groups, and minimizing the damage on our civilian front” — omitting any reference to absolute victory.

It is time for us to remember the meaning of victory. Victory is what builds the Iron Wall, and decisiveness is what seals the cracks.

We cannot achieve peace while one side refuses to accept the fact that the other side has won — and has the right to exist. To Israel, victory means the state of Israel being recognized as the homeland of the Jewish nation. There is no point to discussing peace so long as the Arabs refuse to accept that fact, and refuse to abandon their dream of destroying Israel and exiling the Jewish nation from its ancestral and indigenous homeland.

As long as even leading members of Knesset such as MK Hanin Zoabi feel free to deny Israel’s right to exist as the Jewish state, we must remember that we are still engaged in a conflict that needs to be ended once and for all. And we must be mindful of the fact that we are in a war that we must win. Without victory, there can be no peace.

The author is a Knesset member for the Yisrael Beytenu party, and the chairman of the Knesset Israel Victory Caucus.

As taken from, https://www.algemeiner.com/2017/11/13/without-victory-there-can-be-no-peace/

Balfour Declaration: A century old and as disputed as ever

Researchers at the Shalom Hartman Institute dive into what the media is and isn’t saying about the British letter’s meaning and impact upon its 100th anniversary

From left, Lords Edmund Allenby, Arthur Balfour and Sir Herbert Samuel, at Hebrew University in 1925. (Library of Congress)

From left, Lords Edmund Allenby, Arthur Balfour and Sir Herbert Samuel, at Hebrew University in 1925. (Library of Congress)

The Balfour Declaration has been in the news so much over the last year it could lead you to conclude that the British dispatch supporting Jewish resettlement in the land of Israel was announced on Twitter last November, and not in a letter to a long-gone Lord Rothschild on November 2, 1917.

In August, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said in a meeting with a British foreign ministry official in Ramallah that, “Balfour became famous for his promise… to establish Israel on the land of Palestine. … I call for the current British foreign secretary to be famous for giving the Palestinians a promise called the ‘Johnson Declaration’ that recognizes a Palestinian state.”

Al-Maliki’s was only one in a series of references to the Balfour Declaration by Palestinians in the last 18 months. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told the same British official that the UK should reconsider plans to celebrate the Declaration’s 100th anniversary.

The resurgence of interest in Balfour echoes the way other contentious anniversaries are remembered and reported. A recent Associated Press article about the American Civil War was titled, “We’re still fighting, more than 150 years after Appomattox.”

To assess how political leaders are portraying Balfour, and how the media are reporting it, we reviewed dozens of articles in Israeli, British, American, Palestinian, and Arab media. What we learned should not have surprised us, but it did depress us. We found superficial reporting and knee-jerk commentary, regardless of location or political orientation. There has been little meaningful assessment of Balfour’s historical context, past impact, and future meaning by reporters, Israelis, Palestinians, and their supporters.

Balfour Then: Philo-Semitic Conspiracy Theories and Ritual Denunciations

The Balfour Declaration emerged at a time of brutal military carnage. Britain and France wished to bring the United States into the Great War and to keep Russia on the battlefield on their side of a bitter struggle against Germany in Europe and the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East. Foreign Minister Lord Balfour and others believed that American and Russian Jews could wield enough influence over the foreign policies of their respective countries to woo them to the British side.

British leaders such as prime minister Lloyd George and Winston Churchill wanted to help Jewish immigration to Palestine, even as others in Britain favored Arab claims over the land, which at that time was under the rule of the fading and embattled Ottoman Empire.

Chaim Weizmann, Israel’s first president, pictured in 1949. (Photo: Hugo Mendelson / Wikipedia)

Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann, whose scientific breakthroughs powered British munitions, juggled efforts to charm British policymakers and browbeat influential anti-Zionist British Jews. He was aware that outsized views of Jewish power teetered between sincere Christian Zionism and racist conspiracy theories.

“We hate equally anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism. Both are equally degrading,” Weizmann said.

The declaration is so brief it bears quoting in full:

“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

The Declaration did not acknowledge that Palestine was still part of the Ottoman Empire at the time it was written, and therefore that Britain had no real right to promise anything to anyone. Its vagueness stopped short of guaranteeing political sovereignty or independence to Palestinian Jews or Arabs.

In fact, Britain had imperial designs on the Middle East. The goal was to bring Palestine into the British Empire after the war concluded, even as warring factions of His Majesty’s government made extravagant and conflicting promises to Jews and Arabs.

The Declaration generated praise and reproach from the moment it was issued. London’s Jewish Chronicle, quoted in the first New York Times mention of Balfour on November 9, said that “with one great step the Jewish cause has made a great bound forward. It is the perceptible lifting of the cloud of centuries.”

Arthur Balfour (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Arthur Balfour (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

On the other hand, American rabbi Samuel Schulman wrote two weeks later that Balfour was not needed, because Jews were a religious group and not a people.

“The Jews in Western lands cannot for a moment grant the idea that they are without a home,” he said in an article for the American Hebrew. “The phrasing [of Balfour] is such an exact reproduction of the platform of Zionism, that we cannot entirely endorse it.”

In war-torn Palestine, the Balfour Declaration was kept from the public. British General Edmund Allenby, whose army swept through Beersheba on November 2 on its way north to Jerusalem, decreed that it would not be published in Palestine. Nevertheless, Arab leaders had been briefed of its contents. The moment it went public in Palestine, they expressed their distaste.

“We were shocked to see that the Allies did not recognize Palestinian suffering, did not acknowledge its sacrifices, and literally ignored its cause, condemning it to become a national homeland for a powerful foreign group who fought against the impoverished sons of this land and sought to deprive them of the right to life,” read an article in the newspaper Falastin written by its editor ‘Issa al-‘Issa.

Balfour Now: Ritual Denunciations and Knee-jerk Support

Those early comments set up a framework that hasn’t changed since. Three years ago, Palestinian academic Walid Khalidi called Balfour “the single most destructive political document on the Middle East in the 20th century.”

Balfour returned to the headlines in a big way in July 2016 in a speech by Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki at the League of Arab States meeting in Mauritania. He called the Declaration a “fateful promise from those who do not own to those who do not deserve.”

Al-Maliki said a lawsuit would be filed in an international court, and he asked Arab League states to help the Palestinian Authority prepare and file it.

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki holds a press conference at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting in Istanbul on August 1, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ozan Kose)

The announcement generated a wave of stories in the mainstream media, as well as in pro-Jewish and pro-Palestinian outlets. It received the widest coverage in Britain, but also made The Atlantic, Reuters, and The Times of Israel, among others.

Israel supporters mocked it. Anti-Defamation League Deputy National Director Kenneth Jacobson wrote that he was surprised to learn the threat to sue Britain was not “satire of the sort put out by The Onion.”

No media followed up the story, and it dropped from the headlines within a few days. It only reemerged in September, when Abbas called on Britain to apologize for Balfour in his annual speech at the UN General Assembly.

Kenneth Jacobson, deputy national director of the Anti-defamation League. (Courtesy)

“We ask Britain, as we approach 100 years since this notorious Declaration,” Abbas said, “to draw the necessary lessons and to bear its historic, legal, political, material, and moral responsibilities for the consequences of this Declaration, including an apology to the Palestinian people for the catastrophes, miseries and injustices that it created, and to act to rectify this historic catastrophe and remedy its consequences, including by recognition of the State of Palestine.”

Despite its harsh tone, the speech did not reiterate the lawsuit threat, and journalists didn’t ask about it. After another 24-hour news cycle, interest again sagged until the 99th anniversary date approached in November, which saw a round of stories triggered by the media’s penchant for timely “hooks.”

On November 2, 2016, controversial Israeli historian Ilan Pappe wrote on Al Jazeera that the Zionist movement was a “settler colonial project” with the intent of carrying out ethnic cleansing, and that Balfour was an evil act which “eventually allowed the Zionist movement to take over Palestine.” On the same day in Newsweek, Erekat called for Britain to apologize for the “grave insult to world justice” that was Balfour.

The UK Jewish community countered with the announcement of a website and yearlong series of events titled “Balfour 100” to honor British leaders who “in the midst of the Great War… chose to recognize the longing of the Jewish people to re-establish its national homeland in the land of Israel.”

University of Exeter Professor Ilan Pappe (CC-BY-SA, Slim Virginian, via wikipedia)

Qatar-based Al Jazeera doubled down on its critique of Balfour a few days later with a piece by regular commentator Ramzy Baroud which portrayed the Declaration as a “sinister document” that through the “horrific consequences of British colonialism,” allowed for the “eventual complete Zionist takeover of Palestine.”

In the same Jewish Chronicle which had praised Balfour 100 years ago, Mick Davis, chairman of the UK Jewish Leadership Council, wrote two weeks later that the Jewish and Zionist community ought to “celebrate Balfour with pride.”

The media dropped the topic again until April, when a British pro-Palestinian group launched an online petition reiterating Abbas’s call for a government apology. The document failed to receive enough signatures to force a parliamentary debate, but the UK government rejected the request, anyway.

 

 

“The Balfour Declaration is an historic statement for which Her Majesty’s government does not intend to apologize,” the statement said. “We are proud of our role in creating the State of Israel.”

The British statement bowed to Palestinian criticisms. It said that the Declaration “should have called for the protection of political rights of the non-Jewish communities in Palestine, particularly their right to self-determination” and called for a “viable and sovereign Palestinian state.”

Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Authority’s diplomatic representative to the United Kingdom (photo credit: YouTube screencap)

In its story about the British statement, London’s The Independent quoted Manuel Hassassian, Palestinian ambassador to the UK, as saying the lawsuit would happen if Britain didn’t retract its statement. But the paper, which had reported the original announcement, didn’t press Hassassian on whether any action had been taken since then.

Over the summer, two Jewish media outlets published series on Balfour that sought to put it into context. Mosaic, an online publication of the US-based Tikvah Fund, framed Balfour as an international effort and not just one by England. Fathom, an online journal of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, produced a package of essays that was the only one we found which included an essay by a Palestinian journalist alongside those of Jewish commentators.

 

Elias Zananiri was critical of Balfour but also called for the PA to drop its lawsuit threats. In a follow-up email he sent to us, he said the argument on which he based his article was for the UK to recognize the State of Palestine in return for Palestinians dropping their suit against the UK.

“Our goal is not suing the UK at all,” he wrote. “Our goal is to obtain our independence.”

Balfour at 100: Shouts in Echo Chambers

The Balfour Declaration didn’t enjoy universal support within the British establishment at the time it was issued, and later actions such as Britain’s 1939 White Paper could be seen as undermining its intent. Balfour’s nod to Arab residents of Palestine was similarly undercut by British double-dealing with Arab leaders from Jordan through Iraq as World War I ended.

The Jewish world was by no means unanimous in its backing for Balfour, either. The Arab world’s public opposition to Jewish settlement in Palestine masked competing interests and backroom haggling that frustrated and complicated efforts at developing Arab sovereignty in the region.

Chaim Weizmann (left), and Prince Faisal in Transjordan, June, 1918. Weizmann is wearing Arab dress as a sign of friendship. (Public domain)

Today’s one-sided commentaries are ignoring this complex history. Pro-Israel news sources have celebrated Balfour as the beginning of the realization of the Jewish people’s return to their historical homeland. But Zionist writers and organizations are not acknowledging what is at the heart of this issue for those sympathetic to the Palestinian cause: From a Palestinian perspective, the Balfour Declaration was the first document to legitimize the displacement and mistreatment of the Palestinian people.

Palestinian supporters have denounced Balfour as another display of European colonialism suppressing a land’s indigenous people, and have have given no heed to the Zionist position that a British apology for Balfour would also apologize for the establishment of the State of Israel.

 

 

In his letter to us, Elias Zananiri wrote, “The UK, where the first shot was fired against our national aspirations, must help promote this independence. It is never about the past as much as it is about the future of our people and of the region, including Israel whom we already recognized but [which] has never reciprocated. It is a matter of fairness, justice, and freedom. None of these three should be allowed exclusively to one side and denied to another.”

The mainstream media hasn’t helped advance the dialogue from the metaphorical trenches so sadly evocative of WWI’s fruitlessness. It’s not as if their coverage has been inaccurate. They dutifully transcribed and reported Palestinian demands, and repeated the process when Britain issued its official response.

To be sure, our own inquiries of the Arab League to tell us if it was helping the Palestinians prepare a lawsuit received no response. But we didn’t find any “no response was forthcoming from the Arab League by deadline,” disclaimers in the media.

The struggle over Balfour’s legacy tells us that 100 years after a complex and often contradictory stew comprised of imperialist desires and anti-imperialist impulses, Christian Zionism and “philo-anti-Semitism,” realpolitik and idealism, converged in wartime England, a better understanding forged in open debate and served to willing listeners is still needed. With Balfour’s 100th anniversary upon us, there is no hope this will happen.

Alan D. Abbey is the Media Director of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and Ethics Lecturer at the Getty School of Citizen Journalism in the Middle East and North Africa.

Benjamin Emmerich is studying philosophy and political science at the University of Rochester. He was a Summer 2017 research assistant and intern with the Hartman Institute’s iEngage Project.