Monthly Archives: May 2018

Parashat Behaalotecha: Theocracy, Democracy, and Halacha

Image result for nathan lopes cardozo

Parashat Behaalotecha
Theocracy, Democracy, and Halacha

The Chanuka menora, sometimes called the chanukiah, has its roots in the menora-candelabra of the Temple. While there are many halachot regarding the appearance and structure of the biblical menora, Rashi, the great French commentator, points to a most remarkable halachic feature that commands our attention. Regarding the Torah’s instruction to arrange the lamps in a way that they will shine “toward the menora,”[1] Rashi explains this to mean that all the flames in the lamps should point toward the middle light.

The Italian sage and physician Rabbi Ovadia Seforno, in his masterful commentary on the Torah, elaborates on Rashi’s comments and explains that the extremists on both ends of the spectrum need to focus on the middle road, which is symbolized by the central light of the menora. While both groups are completely dedicated to Torah and its tradition, the right-wingers need to know that without those who occupy themselves with the affairs of the mundane world, Judaism will not succeed. At the same time, the left-wingers must understand that without those who occupy themselves with the study and implementation of Torah, their worldly occupations would lack the opportunity for sanctification.

Only in a combined effort, symbolized by the middle light, will there be the degree of balance required by the Torah and Judaism. This is based on the talmudic principle: “If not for the leaves, the grapes could not exist.”[2]

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808–1888), known for his philosophy of Torah im Derech Eretz (the study of Torah combined with worldly occupation), comments on Ya’akov’s final blessings to his children:

The nation that will descend from you is to be one single unit outwardly oriented, and a multiplicity of elements united into one – inwardly oriented. Each tribe is to represent a special national quality; is to be, as it were, a nation in miniature. The people of Ya’akov is to become “Yisrael,” is to reveal to the nations God’s power, which controls and masters all earthly human affairs, shaping everything in accordance with His Will. Hence, this people should not present a one-sided image. As a model nation, it should reflect diverse national characteristics. Through its tribes, it should represent the warrior nation, the merchant nation, the agricultural nation, the nation of scholars, and so forth. In this manner it will become clear to all that the sanctification of human life in the Divine covenant of the Torah does not depend on a particular way of life or national characteristic. Rather, all of mankind, with all its diversity, is called upon to accept the uniform spirit of the God of Israel. From the diversity of human and national characteristics will emerge one united kingdom of God.[3]

Rabbi Moshe Schreiber, the Chatam Sofer (1762–1839), offers a slightly different explanation for the halachic requirement as to which direction the lights should face. He warns his readers not to deviate from the middle road. As long as Jewish Law is fully observed, one should not be too much of a right-winger or too much of a left-winger.[4] In other words, the call is not for the extremists to find a modus vivendi, but rather for each individual to live a life in which both extremes are avoided. The ways of God testify to religious balance. This is not to suggest a mediocre attitude toward observance or the maintaining of a religious status quo in which people no longer strive for higher spiritual dimensions. On the contrary, it advises one to understand that the ultimate goal is not to become religiously obese, but to become spiritually elevated. To become extreme is to grow plump, with the result that one topples over; to become elevated is to keep growing in smooth and continuous stages.

To walk the middle path is an art, and is much more difficult than adopting an extreme position. Those who live by extremes often do so because it is more convenient. Things are black or white, clearly identifiable. Those who love the middle road have learned to perform the balancing act, which is much closer to the truth, but a great deal more challenging. Extremism reflects a simple diagnosis of the world’s problems and the conviction that everybody who disagrees is either an ignoramus or a dangerous villain.

Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the question whether the State should be governed by Jewish or by democratic values remains at the center of our national debate. Both values seem almost irreconcilable. Judaism represents a theocentric worldview in which God is placed at the center. He is the focus and absolute authority, while the democratic worldview places the people at the center.

In some of the most remarkable discourses by Rabbi Nissim of Gerona (14th century Spain), also called Ran, this great talmudist and thinker launched a theory in which he argued that Judaism does not subscribe to the idea of a full-fledged theocracy, but in fact favors a halachic democracy.[5] He framed a daring and highly intriguing political theory that created a separation between the law of the Torah and “the law of the king,” societal law. Since Ran, like English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), saw the major problem of any society to be the destructive nature of humanity, he believed it necessary for the state to establish laws that deal with the reality of day-to-day life, which often does not live up to the spiritual requirements of the Torah. This theory, claims Ran, follows from the fact that the Torah demands, or at least allows, for the appointment of a king. The judges of the Sanhedrin, the rabbinical High Court of Israel, judge the people by the law of the Torah only. The king or the political establishment, however, is permitted – and even required – to judge citizens by different criteria in accordance with the needs of the time, and sometimes even against the standard ruling of the Torah.

According to this model, Halacha seeks to create a certain duality within the Jewish polity and allows space for a democratic model in which human beings decide the law, not only God. This is with the full permission, nay, on the initiative of God Himself as reflected in the Torah. In other words, the Torah itself gives its imprimatur to state law: “Appoint yourselves shoftim [judges sitting in the Sanhedrin] and shotrim [magistrates who judge according to ‘the law of the king,’ civil law].”[6]

Likewise, the Torah writes: “Tzedek tzedek tirdof” (Pursue perfect justice).[7] The repetition of the word tzedek (justice) can be understood as referring to justice according to Torah Law as well as justice according to “the law of the king.”

We see here a fascinating balance between divine law and human law. Both are represented and together allow society to function, while the law of the Torah is seen as the ultimate spiritual and moral objective.[8]

Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak ha-Kohen Kook (1865–1935), Chief Rabbi of Palestine before the State of Israel was established, takes this even further and points out that although we can no longer appoint a king in Israel – since only a prophet may anoint him – we see that there were Jewish kings during the Hasmonean period of the Second Commonwealth when prophecy had already ceased. Therefore, he claims, it is possible for a secular Jewish government to be appointed, like a king, once the electorate, by means of a democratic election, decides to give it authority.[9] This he believed would be permitted and even be sanctified by Halacha.

This, I believe, is yet another aspect of what the menora’s design with the focus upon the middle light signifies.


* Note:  This essay appears in my latest book: Jewish Law as Rebellion. Urim Publications, 2018.


[1]Bamidbar 8:2.

[2] Chullin 92a.

[3] R. Samson Raphael Hirsch, The Hirsch Chumash, trans. Daniel Haberman, vol. 1 (Jerusalem: Feldheim, 2002), 693 [Bereshit 35:11–12].

[4] R. Moshe Sofer, Torat Moshe on Bamidbar 8:2.

[5] Derashot ha-Ran, nos. 8 and 11.

[6] Devarim 16:18.

[7] Devarim 16:20.

[8] See Derashot ha-Ran nos. 8 and 11. This differs from the view of Rambam and some other important halachists. See, for example, Mishne Torah, Hilchot Melachim, 4:10. For other opinions, see Don Yitzchak Abarbanel (1437–1508), commentary on Devarim 16:18 and on 1 Shmuel 8:4–6. R. Yosef Hayyun (15th century), commentary on Pirke Avot, Mili de-Avot 3:2; R. Yeshaya Horowitz (c. 1565–1630 – the Shelah ha-Kadosh), Shnei Luchot ha-Brit, part 2, Torah Ohr on Parashat Shoftim. For a thorough study and additional sources on this topic, see Aviezer Ravitzky, Religion and State in Jewish Philosophy: Models of Unity, Division, Collision and Subordination, trans. Rachel Yarden (Jerusalem: Israel Democracy Institute, 2002).

Also related to this issue is the fascinating disagreement between Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski (1863–1940), leading member of the Council of Sages of Agudat Yisrael prior to the Holocaust, and Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac ha-Levi Herzog (1888–1959), former Chief Rabbi of Israel, concerning the question of whether or not to establish a halachic state in modern Israel. Rabbi Grodzinski, who was not a Zionist, was of the opinion that the State of Israel should adopt the approach of Ran and allow for a secular government and legal system, while Rabbi Herzog, a fervent Zionist, wanted to implement a fully halachic state, not based on Ran’s position, but on Rambam’s legal theory! Remarkable is the fact that Rabbi Grodzinski was one of the greatest halachic authorities and had minimum interaction with secular studies, yet he was prepared to give secular law much power in the Jewish State, while Rabbi Herzog, who was as halachically brilliant as Rabbi Grodzinski and held several advanced degrees including a PhD, would not hear of it! Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski’s letter was published in Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac ha-Levi Herzog, Techuka le-Yisrael al pi ha-Torah, ed. I. Warhaftig (Jerusalem: Mossad HaRav Kook, 1989), 2:75. For more information about this debate, see ibid. 65–89; Ravitzky, Religion and State in Jewish Philosophy, 11–14.

[9]Mishpat Kohen, no. 144, section 14.

As taken from,

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 31, 2018 in Uncategorized


«Los médicos nazis arrancaban la carne a los niños y se la hacían comer a otros presos»

Olivier Guez desvela a ABC los pormenores de la vida y la muerte de Josef Mengele, el «Ángel de la muerte» que perpetró todo tipo de crueles experimentos humanos durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial

Manuel P. VillatoroManuel P. Villatoro

Le llamaban el «Ángel de la muerte», pero ni ese terrorífico apodo es capaz de evocar una milésima parte de toda la maldad que atesoraba en su negro corazón Josef Mengele. Médico de carrera y matarife de vocación, el que es conocido a día de hoy como uno de los seguidores más fanáticos del nazismo no era, allá por la década de los 40, más importante que cualquier galeno de tres al cuarto destinado a un campo de concentración. Sin embargo, sus crueles experimentos humanos en Auschwitz le terminaron granjeando -a la postre- un hueco entre los asesinos más sanguinarios del Tercer Reich.

Inocular tintes azules en ojos de niños para volverles más arios; extirpar (y reimplantar) miembros en menores… La lista de maldades perpetradas por este médico no tiene límite. Pero, para Olivier Guez (autor de la novela histórica «La desaparición de Josef Mengele» (Tusquets Editores, 2018) hay uno que sobresale tristemente por encima del resto. «En una ocasión cogió a un padre y a un hijo, les asesinó, les arrancó la carne del esqueleto y, posteriormente, envió sus restos a un museo de Berlín. Lo más tétrico es que, en los días posteriores, unos obreros polacos se creyeron que aquella carne era su ración del día y se la comieron», desvela a ABC.

La vida de Mengele tuvo, curiosamente, más claros que oscuros hasta la llegada del nazismo a Alemania. En principio, todo indicaba que el joven Josef iba a dedicarse al exitoso negocio familiar: la producción de maquinaria agrícola. Pero nada más lejos ya que sus intereses estaban en otros campos más académicos como la biología o la zoología. Así lo desvela el popular periodista e historiador Jesús Hernández (autor del blog «¡Es la guerra!») en una de sus obras más destacadas: «Bestias nazis». Al no ser un mal estudiante, el futuro «Ángel de la muerte» terminó inscribiéndose en medicina y antropología.

Buen trabajador

Mengele, trabajador y aplicado, podría haber dedicado su vida a la verdadera medicina. Y así lo pretendía, al menos, hasta el ascenso de Hitler. En 1933 todo cambió para él cuando se sintió sumamente atraído por las teorías supremacistas del «Führer». «Hitler consideraba que la vida era una lucha incesante entre las razas fuertes y las débiles en la cual solo las más puras y fuertes sobrevivían. En la visión de Hitler existían tres grupos raciales: los arios, creadores de cultura; los “portadores de cultura”, razas que no creaban cultura pero que podían copiar a los arios, y los “pueblos inferiores”, que tan sólo eran capaces de destruir la humanidad», explica Álvaro Lozano en «La Alemania nazi».

Josef Mengele
Josef Mengele

El buen doctor vio en los nazis la culminación de una idea que él ya había forjado en su mente. No en vano, en su tesis en antropología de 1935 estudió la mandíbula inferior de cuatro grupos raciales diferentes para mostrar sus diferencias. Y otro tanto le ocurrió tres años después, cuando se graduó como médico con un trabajo titulado «Estudio familiar de la fisura labial labial-mandibular-palatina» después de haber trabajado con Otmar von Verschuer (todo un referente en experimentación humana). Por entonces, las esvásticas ya estaban por todos los lados. «Hizo su juramento hipocrático en un ambiente rodeado de ideología nazi y banderas partidarias», explica Carlos De Napoli en su obra «Mengele».

Camino al mal

En 1937, dos años antes del comienzo de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, el que en otros tiempos fuera el prometedor Josef ya se había convertido en un perfecto nazi moldeado al gusto del régimen de Hitler. Algo que quedó demostrado poco después, allá por 1938, cuando se alistó en las SS (las unidades más ideologizadas del régimen). Unirse a sus filas implicaba plantar batalla al enemigo, y así lo hizo nuestro protagonista en 1941, cuando participó en la invasión de la URSS. En las gélidas estepas rusas demostró también su gallardía al obtener obtener la Cruz de Hierro después de salvar a dos soldados heridos de un carro de combate en llamas.

Poco después regresó a Alemania, fue ascendido a capitán y, finalmente, se ganó un puesto como médico en el campo de concentración de Auschwitz. Un destino que ansiaban, por entonces, una buena parte de los militares de las SS ya que les mantenía alejados del gélido frío y las balas que se daban en Rusia.

Mengele arribó a su nuevo destino en mayo de 1943. Hasta entonces jamás había visto las maldades que se perpetraban allí pero, según parece, no le afectaron demasiado. No solo eso, sino que se adaptó rápidamente a ellas y se convirtió en su máximo exponente. Según aquellos que le conocieron, disfrutaba seleccionando (y enviando a la muerte) a los presos que llegaban en los trenes. Aunque era una labor que los galenos solían turnarse, él adoraba la estación.

En Auschwitz, Mengele dio rienda suelta a su brutalidad infrahumana oculta. Solía recorrer las filas de presos que arribaban al campo de concentración al grito de «¡Gemelos, gemelos, gemelos!» para localizar hermanos que sirvieran para sus crueles experimentos humanos. Al parecer, con ellos buscaba -en palabras de Jesús Hernández- descubrir el secreto de los nacimientos múltiples y utilizarlo para que las mujeres arias dieran a luz a multitud de niños «puros». A su vez, las similitudes entre ambos le permitían acabar con uno de ellos, y dejar a otro como sujeto de «control». También solía asesinarles a la vez para hacerles una autopsia comparativa.

Campo de concentración de Auschwitz
Campo de concentración de Auschwitz

En el sumario que elaboró la justicia aliada contra Josef Mengele, se hizo una clara alusión a la experimentación humana en niños gemelos:

«Las investigaciones sobre los gemelos ocuparon una gran parte de los pseudoexperimentos del acusado, según las indagaciones previas del tribunal. Estos le resultaban especialmente interesantes al régimen nazi, en especial en lo que se refiere a su deseo de incrementar la tasa de nacimientos por medio de un aumento manipulado médicamente en el número de nacimientos de gemelos».

Aquello solo fue el comienzo de su reino del terror. Mengele llegó a inocular un extraño tinte (llamado «azul metileno») en niños con rasgos arios, pero ojos marrones, para teñirles las pupilas. Posteriormente, enviaba a los pequeños a la cámara de gas, aunque -en ocasiones- también les arrancaba los globos oculares para quedárselos como recuerdo. Así lo desveló la deportada Vera Kriegel, quien afirmó haberse topado con una pared llena de estos tétricos souvenirs:

«Estaban pinchados allí como si fueran mariposas. Pensé que me había muerto y que ya estaba en el infierno».

También se quedó totalmente asqueado ante esta visión el médico judío Vexler Jancu, testigo de los resultados mientras era preso de Auschwitz:

«En junio de 1943 fui al campo de gitanos de Birkenau. Vi una mesa de madera. Sobre ella, había muestras de ojos. Cada uno de ellos llevaba un número y una letra. Los ojos eran desde amarillo pálido hasta azul claro, verde y violeta».

Presos del campo de concentración
Presos del campo de concentración

Mengele también se dedicó, según explica Jesús Hernández, a amputar y reimplantar miembros de niños en su enfermería. «A los gemelos se les amputaban miembros y se les reimplantaban, en alguna ocasión al revés, se les inoculaban enfermedades, se les practicaban heridas y se infectaban a propósito para ver las reacciones, se les intercambiaba la sangre… no había límite para la perversa imaginación de Mengele», determina el historiador. Además de todo esto, el miembro de las SS también cometió todo tipo de barbaridades como arrojar un bebé recién nacido al fuego o aniquilar en la cámara de gas a barracones enteros para evitar enfermedades.


Por todo ello, el «Ángel de la muerte» se vio obligado a huir a lo largo y ancho de Europa cuando se percató de que los soviéticos estaban a las puertas de Auschwitz. Tras algunos años en un campo de prisioneros, su familia logró enviarle hasta Argentina, donde fue recibido con los brazos abiertos en 1949 por un país que necesitaba a los estudiosos nazis para modernizarse.

Allí nadie le buscó y, de hecho, se pudo dedicar a vivir la buena vida. Sin embargo, la captura en latinoamérica de Adolf Eichmann (uno de los arquitectos de la solución final) le metió el miedo en el cuerpo.

A partir de ese momento inició un viaje por el Nuevo Mundo en el que su mayor obsesión fue que el Mossad no le encontrara. De Argentina se marchó a Paraguay y, desde allí, a Brasil. Allí vivió sus últimos días solo y acongojado, casi como un perro, hasta que falleció el 7 de febrero de 1979 ahogado en una playa. «Alrededor de las 4.30 de la tarde, para refrescarse del sol abrasador, Mengele decidió probar las suaves olas de Atlántico. Diez minutos después, se encontraba luchando por su vida. (…) La parálisis le había agarrotado el cuerpo», explican Gerald L. Posner y John Ware en «Mengele. El médico de los experimentos de Hitler».

Olivier Guez: «La carrera de Mengele fue absolutamente mediocre»

-¿Cuál es el experimento de Mengele que más le impactó durante la escritura de su obra?

El que está en la mitad del libro. Para mí es la metáfora absoluta de quién era Mengele y lo que fue Auschwitz. Mengele cogió a un padre y a un hijo, uno cojo y otro con una joroba. Les asesinó, les quitó la carne del esqueleto y, posteriormente, envió sus restos a un museo de Berlín. Lo más tétrico es que, en los días posteriores, unos obreros polacos se creyeron que aquella carne era su ración del día y se la comieron. Cuando descubrí esta historia pegué un respingo.

-¿Por qué huyó de los rusos, si creía que sus experimentos eran lícitos?

Los nazis como Mengele hacían lo que hacían con la esperanza de ganar. No se planteaban para nada las preguntas morales. Eran soldados biológicos que luchaban por imponer las diferencias raciales. Y en esa biología estaba precisamente el núcleo del sistema nazi. Esa biología influía directamente en las leyes, en las relaciones internacionales, en las sexuales, en las económicas… Estaba en el corazón del sistema.

No se planteaban lo que ocurriría después. Pero, cuando al final de la guerra empezaron a entender que todo aquello iba a terminar mal para Alemania, fue cuando hicieron volar los hornos crematorios para no dejar rastro. Hasta entonces lucharon por Alemania. Y, para ellos, la medicina era uno de los muchos campos de batalla.

Olivier Guez
Olivier Guez

-En su obra, afirma que Mengele escapó de los aliados gracias a su coquetería.

Si. No quiso tatuarse el número reglamentario de las SS. Eso dice mucho de Mengele. Primero de su desconfianza, pero también de su coquetería y de su narcisismo. Eso le salvó la vida en la posguerra inmediata. Gracias a ello pudo camuflarse entre los miles y miles de soldados alemanes desmovilizados durante la guerra. Eso le permitió desaparecer.

-¿Por qué se exilió a Argentina?

Argentina fue a buscar a muchos nazis de manera específica. El país necesitaba modernizarse políticamente, económicamente, científicamente… Por ello se organizó la llegada de todos los fascistas de Europa central, en general.

-¿Buscaban los servicios secretos de Israel a Mengele?

Nadie sabía donde estaba Mengele salvo sus familiares y amigos más cercanos. En Argentina ni siquiera le buscaban. Mengele era un capitán (un cargo que entonces no era nada) y médico (de los que había cientos en los campos de concentración). A pesar de que apareció en la lista de criminales de guerra fue olvidado rápidamente porque no era un alto cargo y no había sido responsable del Holocausto. Otros como Eichmann si. Él fue el gran coordinador y el que lo organizó.

-Pero sí perseguían a Eichmann…

La diferencia entre Eichmann y Mengele es que el primero era mucho más conocido y hablaba mucho más al público. Eichmann llegó muy alto en la jerarquía nazi y, por tanto, necesitaba darse autobombo. Mengele, por el contrario, tuvo una vida muy tranquila gracias a que su carrera durante el nazismo fue absolutamente mediocre. Eso le permitió seguir su vida. A pesar de ello, con la captura de Eichmann la vida de Mengele cambió radicalmente.

-¿Se buscó a los cargos medios del nazismo inmediatamente después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial?

Al final, en los años 50 nadie buscaba a los criminales de guerra nazis. Los americanos estaban inmersos en la Guerra Fría, los israelíes estaban muy preocupados por su seguridad porque su país no tenía ni diez años… Además nadie hablaba, ni los culpables, ni las víctimas. Todo ese permitió a Mengele vivir la “dolce vita” tras cruzar el Atlántico.

-¿Cómo fue su exilio en Argentina?

En Argentina tuvo una vida muy tranquila. Enderezó sus negocios, se volvió a casar… Aunque era alguien totalmente desconfiado que no se mostraba al resto, tuvo amigos, viajó, hizo negocios, tuvo mujer e hijos, se compró un coche bonito…

-¿Por qué cambió esa «dolce vita»?

Por la captura de Eichmann en Argentina por el Mossad en 1960. Su secuestro obligó a Mengele a marcharse. Además tenía problemas con la justicia por sus abortos clandestinos. Luego adoptó una mentalidad de serpiente. Tenía miedo, así que decidió moverse todo el rato. Lo que pasa es que él no importaba a Israel. No fue juzgado porque nadie quiso realmente detenerle. Nadie tuvo interés ni recursos para capturarle.

-¿El Mossad llegó a buscarle?

Solo le persiguió durante tres años. El Mossad no es el servicio de seguridad de la memoria judía, lo es del Estado de Israel, y el estado tenía otras prioridades más destacables entonces que la de buscar a los nazis en latinoamérica. Además, violar la seguridad de un país era peligroso. pudieron hacerlo una vez para Eichamann, pero dos era muy peligroso. Así que el Mossad no estuvo mucho detrás de Mengele.

-Siempre se ha elucubrado con que era protegido por antiguos nazis por su importancia…

Pertenecía a la sociedad nazi de Buenos Aires, pero ellos no le protegían. Hubo algunos alemanes y austríacos que miraron por su seguridad en Brasil, pero no era una organización estructurada, eran personas pagadas por la familia Mengele. No era una red poderosa, era el dinero.

Mengele, durante el exilio
Mengele, durante el exilio

-¿Cómo vivió la última parte de su vida?

En Brasil vivió en un agujero, no se movía. Murió de forma tan mediocre como vivió: solo, como un perro. Fue una muerte banal, pero todo lo condujo a ella. Su soledad, su rabia, su amargura… Todo eso le llevó a la playa en la que desapareció.

-¿Fue ese castigo suficiente, o debería haber sido juzgado?

Para un hombre así no hay un castigo lo suficientemente grande. Solo se puede confiar en la justicia de los hombres, y no fue juzgado por ellos. ¿Hubo una especie de justicia en su final? No se puede saber. Creo que la vida le castigó. Terminó sus días rodeado de soledad, paranoia e incertidumbre. Eso fue letal para un burgués que había soñado en su momento con ser profesor universitario. Además estuvo aislado. Creo que sufrió, pero no se si lo suficiente. Eso que lo juzgue cada cual.

-¿Cómo pudo un médico llevar a cabo aquellos experimentos?

No era un médico normal, era un médico nazi normal. Un médico nazi tenía la mentalidad de que, para cuidar al pueblo, podía hacer todo aquello que quisiera con las poblaciones consideradas inferiores. Mengele llevó esa norma al máximo.

Fue un médico nazi. O un nazi médico, más bien. No era un humanista al que, repentinamente, obligaban a hacer cosas que luego no le permitían dormir. Hace poco se descubrieron fotografías en las que se puede ver al personal de Auschwitz riendo después de salir del campo de concentración. Eran como un grupo de trabajadores que se van a tomar algo después de la jornada. Esas personas eran perfectamente conscientes de lo que hacían, pero estaban protegidos por la ley y pertenecían a un régimen que alentaba este tipo de cosas.

La cultura nunca ha sido una garantía. En Europa, a finales del siglo XIX, hubo una cultura de la destrucción. Buscaban romper la herencia judeo cristiana. Si vemos todos los movimientos de vanguardia, buscaban destruir lo que las generaciones anteriores habían hecho. Eso va desde el futurismo al supremacismo. Después de la Primera Guerra Mundial todos los movimientos de masas, desde el fascismo hasta el bolchevismo, fueron la producción del hombre nuevo. Algunos eran muy cultos, pero pusieron la cultura al servicio de la destrucción. Y Mengele, que tenía una cierta cultura, fue un ejemplo de esto.

Según tomado de,



Leave a comment

Posted by on May 30, 2018 in Uncategorized


Ask The Rabbis | Has Israel Changed Judaism?

May 7, 2018 in 2018 May/June

“When Jews gathered as religious communities, we didn’t have to tolerate significant differences: When we disagreed, we just founded a new synagogue with the like-minded. The political arena demands something different. ”


Judaism is an alter kocker. It doesn’t change. It only gets more wrinkles. Rather than changing Judaism, Israel has actually validated it. It has testified to the truth of our story and to the tenacity of our hope. We never forgot Israel, never stopped singing about her, never stopped longing for her. And then, one day, some 70 years ago, when we needed her most, she showed up and took us home.  In the more eloquent words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: “She occupied our hearts, filled our prayers, pervaded our dreams. Continually mourning her loss, our grief was not subdued when celebrating festivities, when arranging a dinner table, when painting our homes…The two most solemn occasions of the year, the Seder on Passover, and the Day of Atonement, found their climax in the proclamation: ‘Next year in Jerusalem.’…When a Jew arrived in the land, he bent and kissed the dust. When he saw the ruins he tore his garment. When placed in his grave, a handful of earth taken from the soil of the Holy Land was placed under his head.” (Israel: An Echo of Eternity, pp. 26-27).

Rabbi Gershon Winkler
Walking Stick Foundation
Cedar Glen, CA


Except for adding a new holiday to the calendar, the effect of Israel on Judaism as a set of religious practices for most Jews is negligible. But the effect on Jewish identity and the Jewish people has been enormous.

In the early years of Israel’s founding, Israel’s survival, twinned with Holocaust remembrance, became our collective raison d’être and the watchword of our philanthropic campaigns. When attacked, we circled the wagons, raised even more money and felt even more gushing pride at Israel’s swift military victories: “Am Yisrael Chai!” I still have an unredeemed Israel bond in a drawer.

But these simple slogans have not met the test of time.  In fact, they have tarnished greatly. Seventy years after Israel’s beginning, most of us in America are not Israel-centric. We do not think of ourselves as living in the diaspora or infuse our identity with “all things Israel.”

Furthermore, we are no longer euphoric about Israel’s military posture and politics. To the contrary, many of us stand highly critical of many Israeli policies.  We grieve for these changes and for the direction we see the country moving. Sadly, these changes alienate us and weaken our ties.

Rabbi Peter H. Schweitzer
The City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism
New York, NY


A Palestinian man from the organization Combatants for Peace recently told me a story. Jailed at age 14 during the first intifada for hanging a flag, he was put in a solitary cell. He couldn’t fall asleep, not even by crying—until he overheard a soldier whose singing finally lulled him to sleep. He told me how he still loves that song, how he still cries when he hears “Shalom Aleichem.”

Israel can be seen as one of the great triumphs of history. Israel gave us an army, a country, an end to a certain kind of fear. For the first time in millennia, we could practice the Torah’s wisdom to love the land and to love the stranger. These imperatives are in tension: The more you love the land, the more likely you may be to resent strangers. So the Torah reminds us (six times): “You were strangers in Egypt.” Even in the promised land, it says, we remain strangers: “Gerim v’toshavim atem imadi.” (Lev. 25:23)

Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, founder of Jewish Renewal, taught that every religion is an organ in the body of humanity, with its own wisdom to bless this planet. And yet, if Israel should embody the wisdom of loving the land together with the stranger, its current government promotes its antithesis, calling asylum seekers “infiltrators,” the Bedouin “invaders,” Gaza protesters “terrorists” and Jews who care “traitors.” When our “Shalom Aleichem” welcomes not only the angels but also that Palestinian man’s family, when we can weave a whole human tapestry out of our desire for the land, then we will know that we too are home.

Rabbi David Seidenberg
Northampton, MA


Having once shaped Judaism, of course Israel has lately changed it. But Jewish philosophy separates a thing’s potential (koach) from its actuals-to-date (po’al). Israel might unite the Jewish people; today it often divides us instead.  The renascent State of Israel could be a historical or even theological watershed, but so far it isn’t: Most American Jews give Israel lip service only.

For Zion reborn to realize its potential, both right and left must soul-search. The religious and political right must be less exclusivist and cease claiming all of Israel for their narrowly defined “us”—since without democracy, justice and equality for Palestinians and liberal Jews alike, neither the world nor k’lal Yisrael (all of Jewry) can be on board.  At the same time, liberal Jews must step up, embracing the near-miraculous Hebrew-Jewish renaissance as their own:  Israeli literature and culture, Israel’s people and their struggles and the land itself.

The Zionist ideal aims higher than mere statehood or middling “normalcy.” We’ve gained independence, ingathered exiles, created high-tech hubs—wonderful.  Now, can Israel truly become a moral and spiritual “light unto the nations”?  Then we’ll have a good answer to the still bigger question, “How has Israel/Judaism changed the world?

Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb
Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation
Bethesda, MD


For centuries, the land of Israel has been at the heart of Jewish rituals and prayers.  We end our Passover seders by saying, “Next year in Jerusalem.” Daily prayers include petitions for fruitfulness of the land, peace in the land, return to the land.  One of the seven traditional wedding blessings acclaims that joy and gladness are heard in the streets of Jerusalem and in the land of Zion. 

We have also always understood that we are one people, the people of Israel. In the Talmud we are taught that all of Israel are responsible for one another. This is the impetus for unceasing efforts to save fellow Jews from persecution and help them in times of need. 

Now we are witnesses to the modern State of Israel, as Jews of diverse backgrounds and ideologies worked together to create it. Some experience this as the fulfillment of those long-uttered prayers. Others find in it a safe haven from tyranny and oppression. Still others find the modern State of Israel a source of internal conflict over social, economic and political challenges the country faces.

Nevertheless, the language of our rituals and prayers has not changed.  Israel–the land, the people and the modern state—are all here to stay.  As Jews, we must each know which Israel we connect to and how we actualize its meaning in our own lives.

Rabbi Laura Novak Winer
Fresno, CA


In a word: Yes. Nearly half of all the Jews in the world live in Israel, a situation not seen since ancient times. The ingathering of the exiles has been partially achieved. For the first time in 2,000 years, public space is shaped by Jewish culture and tradition. The Sabbath as an official day of rest is observed on Saturday, and life is punctuated by Jewish holidays, as well as days to commemorate the Holocaust and celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem. In Israel, “secular” Jews may nonetheless light Shabbat candles, dress up for Purim, build a Sukkah and study Talmud.

Israel has given diaspora Jews many causes for pride: the Six-Day War, technological advances, unbridled creativity applied to the arts and sciences. It has also given diaspora Jews causes for division—politics, poverty rates and government decisions on matters such as the administered territories, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and African refugees. In some ways, this development is the ultimate challenge.  My teacher, Rabbi Donniel Hartman, once suggested that when Jews gathered as religious communities, we didn’t have to tolerate significant differences: When we disagreed, we just founded a new synagogue with the like-minded. The political arena demands something different. We must learn to live with competing ideas and strategies for solving major societal issues. 

Rabbi Amy Wallk Katz
Temple Beth El
Springfield, MA

“A culture in which the Prague Haggadah could portray the Wicked Son as a soldier now inspires Israeli young men to believe that the highest calling is the IDF.”


Yes. But not enough yet.

The major shift is that a religion that taught the Jews to trust in God patiently and to wait for a divine/messianic redeemer now teaches (except in the views of some haredim) that Zionism is a mitzvah and humans have a responsibility to act. A culture in which the Prague Haggadah could for centuries portray the Wicked Son as a contemporary soldier now inspires Israeli young men to believe that the highest calling is to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces—preferably in the most challenging and risky units—to defend the Jewish people.

However, the dominance of haredi and yeshivish elements in Orthodoxy has held back needed further development. Traditional Jews celebrate the Exodus from Egypt as the core event of the Jewish religion, and on Tisha B’Av they mourn the destruction of the second Temple as the greatest national tragedy. Sadly, some haredi and yeshivish rabbis have resisted religiously observing Yom HaShoah for the Holocaust and celebrating the creation of Israel as the greater Exodus of our time. Similarly, women’s equality, minority rights, religious pluralism, respect for moral gay sexuality—achieved and even taken for granted in most of Israeli life—have not yet been integrated into traditional Judaism. The time is coming…

Rabbi Yitzhak Greenberg
Riverdale, NY


Any change would be in the way we live our Judaism, not in the core principles of Judaism, which are immutable and unchangeable. There’s a classic essay by Rav Joseph Soloveitchik from 1956 that talks about the six “knocks on the door,” actual unveilings of the divine, that the establishment of the state represented for Jews: the political miracle, the military miracle, the refutation of other religions’ theology concerning the Jews, the reversal of assimilation, the end of the idea that Jewish blood was cheap for the taking, and the creation of a secure refuge. But even before the state was established, Rav Abraham Kook wrote that it would mean a return to a sense of nationhood, of peoplehood. For 2,000 years, we were used to the idea of surviving as individuals, families, villages. We lost the sense we were one people, with all our disparity and diversity. When criticized for working with those who were far from religious practice, Rav Kook cautioned that the return to a sense of peoplehood would take longer than other changes, and that people should be patient and take reversals and disappointments in stride. What I’ve witnessed in Israel is an enormous passion and pride in being part of the Jewish nation. Polls show that a plurality of Israeli Jews identify as Jewish first rather than Israeli first. The country is secondary to the notion that we are a nation and a people. It’s something that many non-Jews are slow to recognize. And it’s something that Israel has done for Jews and Judaism.

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein
Los Angeles, CA


Israel was designated by G-d as the Jews’ land before the first-born Jew, Isaac, was conceived. Deuteronomy warns us that we are but wayfarers in the land: The land owns us; we do not own the land. It is only when we struggle, as implied in the etymology of the name “Yisrael,” or “Israel,” that we own up to our obligation to the land and the presence of the Shechina (divine presence) that dwells therein. Even if Jews renounce their connection to the land by selling it, it comes back to own them in the Jubilee year.

Thank G-d, the secular democracy in Israel has the tools to protect the residents of the land and fight off the killers of Jews, but we still pray for a time when from Zion shall come forth Torah and the word of G-d from Jerusalem. Then the world’s true moral compass will point to Eretz Yisrael as north.

A Hasidic story that resonates with me and informs my work in Denver is of a Hasid who, in his quest for spiritual advancement, asked the third Chabad Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek, for a blessing to join the Chabad community in Israel. The Rebbe answered, “Make Israel here!”

Our expulsion from the land and the birth of a diaspora did not end the work of cultivating Eretz Yisrael and revealing the Shechina in all we encounter.

Rabbi Yossi Serebryanski
Chabad of Denver
Denver, CO

As taken from,

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 29, 2018 in Uncategorized


Faith and Friendship

By Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

In this week’s parsha Moses reaches his lowest ebb. Not surprisingly. After all that had happened – the miracles, the exodus, the division of the sea, food from heaven,

What is striking is the depth of Moses’ despair

water from a rock, the revelation at Sinai and the covenant that went with it – the people, yet again, were complaining about the food. And not because they were hungry; merely because they were bored. “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt for free—and the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.”As for the miraculous “bread from heaven,” although it sustained them it had ceased to satisfy them: “Now our appetite is gone; there’s nothing to look at but this manna!”1Any leader might despair at such a moment. What is striking is the depth of Moses’ despair, the candor with which he expresses it, and the blazing honesty of the Torah in telling us this story. This is what he says to G‑d:

“Why have You brought this trouble on Your servant? What have I done to displease You that You put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do You tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land You promised on oath to their ancestors? … If this is how You are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in Your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”2

Every leader, perhaps every human being, at some time in their lives faces failure, defeat and the looming abyss of despair. What is fascinating is G‑d’s response. He does not tell Moses, “Cheer up; pull yourself together; you are bigger than this.” Instead He gives him something practical to do:

“Gather for Me seventy of the elders of Israel …I will take some of the spirit that is on you and put it on them; and they shall bear the burden of the people along with you so that you will not bear it all by yourself.”

It is as if G‑d were saying to Moses, “Remember what your father-in-law Jethro told you. Do not try to lead alone. Do not try to live alone. Even you, the greatest of the prophets, are still human, and humans are social animals. Enlist others. Choose associates. End your isolation. Have friends.”

What is moving about this episode is that, at the moment of Moses’ maximum emotional vulnerability, G‑d Himself speaks to Moses as a friend. This is fundamental to Judaism as a whole. For us G‑d is not (merely) Creator of the universe, L‑rd of history, Sovereign, Lawgiver and Redeemer, the G‑d of capital-letter nouns. He is also close, tender, loving: “He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.”3 He is like a parent: “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.”4 He is like a shepherd; “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for You are with me.”5 He is always there: “G‑d is close to all who call on Him – to all who call on Him in truth.”6

In 2006, in the fittingly named Hope Square outside London’s Liverpool Street Station, a memorial was erected in memory of Kindertransport, the operation that rescued 10,000 Jewish children from Nazi Germany shortly before the outbreak of war. At the ceremony one of the speakers, a woman by then in her eighties who was one of the saved, spoke movingly about the warmth she felt toward the country that had given refuge to her and her fellow kinder. In her speech she said something that left an indelible impression on me. She said, “I discovered that in England a policeman could be a friend.” That is what made England so different from Germany. And it is what Jews discovered long ago about G‑d Himself. He is not just a supreme power. He is also a friend. That is what Moses discovered in this week’s parsha.

Friends matter. They shape our lives. How much they do so was discovered by two social scientists, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, using data from the Framingham Heart Study. This project, started in 1948, has followed more than 15,000 residents of Framingham, Massachusetts, examining their heart rate, weight, blood levels and other health indicators, on average every four years. Its purpose was to identify risk factors for heart disease. However, Christakis and Fowler were interested in something else, namely the effects of socialization. Does it make a difference to your health whether you have friends, and if so, what kind of people they are?

Their discoveries

Not only does having friends matter, so does having the right ones

were impressive. Not only does having friends matter; so too does having the right ones. If your friends are slim, active, happy and have healthy habits, the likelihood is that so will you, and the same is true of the reverse. Another study, in 2000, showed that if at college, you have a roommate who works hard at his or her studies, the probability is that you will work harder. A Princeton study in 2006 showed that if one of your siblings has a child, you are 15% more likely to do so within the next two years. Habits are contagious. They spread through social networks. Even your friends’ friends and their friends can still have an influence on your behavior.7Jordan Peterson, in his 12 Rules for Life, marshalls his own experience and that of his contemporaries, growing up in the small, isolated town of Fairview, Alberta. Those who chose upwardly mobile individuals as friends went on to success. Those who fell into bad company fared badly, sometimes disastrously. We can choose the wrong friends, he says, precisely because they boost our self-image. If we have a fault and know we do, we can find reassurance in the fact that the people we associate with have the same fault. This soothes our troubled mind but at the price of making it almost impossible to escape our deficiencies. Hence his Rule 3: Make friends with people who want the best for you.8

None of this would come as a surprise to the sages, who pointed out, for example, that the key figures in the Korach rebellion were encamped near one another. From this they concluded, “Woe to the wicked and woe to his neighbour.” In the opposite direction, the tribes of Yehudah, Issachar and Zevulun were encamped near Moses and Aaron, and they became distinguished for their expertise in Torah. Hence, “Happy the righteous and happy his neighbour.”9 Hence Maimonides’ axiom:

It is natural to be influenced in character and conduct by your friends and associates, and to follow the fashions of your fellow citizens. Therefore one ought to ensure that your friends are virtuous and that you frequent the company of the wise so that you learn from the way they live, and that you keep a distance from bad company.10

Or, as the sages put it more briefly: “Make for yourself a mentor and acquire for yourself a friend.”11

In the end that is what G‑d did for Moses, and it ended his depression. He told him to gather around him seventy elders who would bear the burden of leadership with him. There was nothing they could do that Moses could not: he did not need their practical or spiritual help. But they did alleviate his isolation. They shared his spirit. They gave him the gift of friendship. We all need it. We are social animals. “It is not good to be alone.”12

It is part of the

Faith is the redemption of solitude

intellectual history of the West and the fact that from quite early on, Christianity became more Hellenistic than Hebraic, that people came to think that the main purpose of religion is to convey information (about the origin of the universe, miracles, life after death, and so on). Hence the conflict between religion and science, revelation and reason, faith and demonstration. These are false dichotomies.Judaism has foundational beliefs, to be sure, but it is fundamentally about something else altogether. For us, faith is the redemption of solitude. It is about relationships – between us and G‑d, us and our family, us and our neighbors, us and our people, us and humankind. Judaism is not about the lonely soul. It is about the bonds that bind us to one another and to the Author of all. It is, in the highest sense, about friendship.

Hence the life changing idea: we tend to become what our friends are. So choose as friends people who are what you aspire to be.

1. Num. 11:4-6.
2. Num. 11:11-15.
3. Psalms 147:3.
4. Isaiah 66:13.
5. Psalms 23:4.
6. Psalms 145:18.
7. Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, Connected: the Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, Little, Brown, 2011.
8. Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life, Allen Lane, 2018, 67-83.
9. Tanhuma (Buber), Bemidbar 13; Bemidbar Rabbah, Korach, 18:5.
10. Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Deot, 6:1.
11. Mishnah Avot 1:6.
12. Genedsis 2: 18.

As taken from,

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 29, 2018 in Uncategorized


The Atheism Crusade: A Jewish rebuttal to Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion

The Atheist Crusade

A Jewish rebuttal to Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion

Columnist and psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple, writing in the prestigious “City Journal,” discloses the origins of his atheism. He was nine years old and attending prayer assembly in his British school. The headmaster Mr. Clinton commanded the children to keep their eyes shut lest God depart the assembly hall. Young Theodore wanted to test the hypothesis, so he opened his eyes suddenly so as to catch a glimpse of the fleeing God. Instead he saw Mr. Clinton praying with one eye open in order to survey the children. “I quickly concluded,” recounts Dalrymple, “that Mr. Clinton did not believe what he said about the need to keep our eyes shut. And if he did not believe that, why should I believe in his God? In such illogical leaps do our beliefs often originate, to be disciplined later in life by elaborate rationalization.”

Over the last year and a half, such “elaborate rationalizations” of atheism have spawned a spate of books condemning God, religion, and religious believers. Christopher Hitchens’ book, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list in just three weeks. Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion has sold over 1.5 million copies and has been translated into 31 languages. It was on the New York Times bestseller list for 51 weeks. The BBC produced a two-hour documentary based on the book, entitled, “Religion: The Root of All Evil?”

Many critics have pointed out that the appeal of these books is less in the soundness of their arguments than in the eloquence of their prose. As Bruce DeSilva of the Associated Press wrote: “Hitchens has nothing new to say, although it must be acknowledged that he says it exceptionally well.”

The venom of their invective actually turns these proud rationalists into irrational hate-mongers.

Five of the six books constituting the neo-atheist crusade can be dismissed as screeds, full of what Theodore Dalrymple describes as “sloppiness and lack of intellectual scruple, with the assumption of certainty where there is none.” The venom of their invective against God and religious believers actually turns these proud rationalists into irrational hate-mongers. Witness Sam Harris’s declaration in his book The End of Faith: “The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for believing them.”

Obviously, such a diatribe does not merit a rational rebuttal.


Only The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, a professor of evolutionary biology at Oxford, merits serious discussion. Dawkins advances four basic arguments.

One is that religion is dangerous. His BBC documentary begins with the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. He then shows footage of wounded Israelis after a suicide bombing. From this he pans to pictures of Hasidic Jews praying at the Western Wall, and announces, “Religious terrorism is the logical outcome of deeply held faith.”

Dawkins’s distorted syllogism — that because Muslim terrorists are religious and Muslim terrorists murder, therefore all religious people are potential murderers — is enough to make a freshman student of logic go apoplectic.

The obvious rebuttal of Dawkins’s allegation that religion causes terrorism, wars, crusades, inquisitions, jihad, etc. is a cursory look at the genocides of the 20th century. An estimated 80,000,000 human beings were murdered in the course of the 20th century (not including war casualties), and they were all murdered by atheists: Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao.

Dawkins writes that this point comes up “after just about every public lecture that I ever give on the subject of religion, and in most of my radio interviews as well.” He then devotes seven pages to attempting to prove that Hitler was not an atheist but a Catholic. He sums up this section: “Stalin was probably an atheist and Hitler probably wasn’t; but even if they were both atheists, the bottom line of the Stalin/Hitler debating point is very simple. Individual atheists may do evil things but they don’t do evil things in the name of atheism.”

If Dawkins had asked Stalin or Mao if they were motivated by their ideology, they would certainly have contended that all their policies derived directly from their Communist principles. Even today the Communist regime of China is cutting open live Falon Gong practitioners and removing their vital organs for sale on the lucrative organ transplant market. This atrocity is consistent with their atheistic ideology that regards human beings in exclusively economic terms and denies that human life is sacred because human beings were created “in the image of God.” Since Communism is an inherently atheistic system that denies both God and the Divine soul, Dawkins’s contention that atheists “don’t do evil things in the name of atheism” is blatantly false.

It’s like saying medicine is evil because Dr. Josef Mengele committed heinous acts in the name of medical research.

Furthermore, to say that religion is evil because religious people have committed heinous acts in the name of religion is like saying medicine is evil because Dr. Josef Mengele committed heinous acts against the subjects of his Auschwitz experiments in the name of medical research. One can take any constructive enterprise and use it for destructive purposes. This offers no grounds for condemning the enterprise itself.

One of the many distortions in which all the neo-atheist books abound is that they rant about the evil byproducts of religion without ever mentioning religion’s benefits to every society throughout history. As Theodore Dalrymple observes: “The thinness of the new atheism is evident in its approach to our civilization, which until recently was religious to its core. To regret religion is, in fact, to regret our civilization and its monuments, its achievements, and its legacy.”

Dalrymple gives as examples the Cathedral of Chartres and the Saint Matthew Passion. Judaism can point to its legacy of Western values. As Ken Spiro demonstrates in his book WorldPerfect, Judaism has given the world its core values: respect for human life, peace, justice, equality before the law, education, and social responsibility.

Even Oxford University, where Prof. Dawkins enjoys tenure, was founded nine centuries ago by religious Christians, among them the Bishop of Rochester.


Dawkins contends that religion and science are irrevocably opposed. He maintains that, unlike science, faith in God is irrational:. “Faith demands a positive suspension of critical faculties.” The Dawkins dogma states: “Science uses reason and evidence to reach logical conclusions. Religion is about turning untested belief into unshakable truth through the power of institutions and the passage of time.”

Dawkins, who was raised in the Church of England, naturally associates religion with irrational beliefs such as the virgin birth and God impregnating a human being to give birth to a God-man. This, however, has nothing to do with Judaism. Just open a page of the Talmud, read Maimonides, or spend one hour learning in a yeshiva, and you will experience Judaism’s rigorous argumentation to discern the truth. The primary focus in Judaism is the study of Torah and the development, not the “suspension,” of critical faculties.

Judaism’s perfectly rational belief in God, as enunciated by Maimonides, is that there must be a non-physical, infinite source of the physical, finite universe. As will be shown below, there is no other plausible explanation for how the universe got here.

Einstein understood that the beginning of the universe implies a transcendent force that brought it into being. That’s why for so long he clung to his belief in a static universe (one that had always existed, and therefore had no beginning) and resisted the mounting evidence for an expanding universe.

As Lawrence Kelemen in his book Permission to Believe, explains the challenge posed by an expanding universe:

Why would a dot containing all matter and energy — a dot that sat quietly for an eternity — suddenly explode? The Law of Inertia insists that objects at rest should remain at rest unless acted upon by an external force. Since all matter and energy would be contained within this dot, there could be nothing outside the dot to get things going—nothing natural, at least. What force could have ignited the initial explosion?

Faced with evidence of an expanding universe discovered by astronomer Vesto Slipher and deduced by mathematicians Willem de Sitter and Alexander Friedman, Einstein refused to accept the inevitable conclusion. “I have not yet fallen into the hands of the priests,” was Einstein’s famous response to the possibility of an expanding universe. Clearly he understood that an expanding universe must have a non-physical First Cause.

Since then, of course, science has proven that the universe is expanding from the original event known as the Big Bang. This reality gives scientific backing to Maimonides’ philosophical contention that a supernatural force must have initiated the natural universe.

The respected journal Astrophysics and Space Science [issue 269-270 (1999)] states clearly that the Big Bang points to a “transcendent cause of the universe”:

The absolute origin of the universe, of all matter and energy, even of physical space and time themselves, in the Big Bang singularity contradicts the perennial naturalistic assumption that the universe has always existed. One after another, models designed to avert the initial cosmological singularity–the Steady State model, the Oscillating model, Vacuum Fluctuation models–have come and gone. Current quantum gravity models, such as the Hartle-Hawking model and the Vilenkin model, must appeal to the physically unintelligible and metaphysically dubious device of “imaginary time” to avoid the universe’s beginning. The contingency implied by an absolute beginning ex nihilo points to a transcendent cause of the universe beyond space and time. Philosophical objections to a cause of the universe fail to carry conviction. [pp. 723-740]

In a flippant two and a half pages, Dawkins dismisses Thomas Aquinas’ proofs for the existence of God (Maimonides, who preceded Aquinas by two centuries, writes similar arguments). “The five ‘proofs’ asserted by Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century don’t prove anything, and are easily — though I hesitate to say so, given his eminence — exposed as vacuous.” [p. 100]

Dawkins simply fails to understand the depth of argument of philosophy, and is too arrogant to admit when he’s out of his element.

Dawkins’s rebuttal of Aquinas would earn him a “D” in any first year philosophy course. A biologist, not a philosopher, Dawkins simply fails to understand the depth of argument of philosophy, and is too arrogant to admit when he’s out of his element.

The problem of “First Cause” is the knock-out argument against which Dawkins has no defense. Even if Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist, could prove that human beings evolved out of some primordial soup, evolution still begs the bigger questions: Where did the elements of the primordial soup come from? What caused the first particles to come into being? What caused the Big Bang? How can you believe in a beginning without also believing in a beginner? To these classical challenges to atheism, Dawkins offers no response.

Dawkins’s sanguine belief that although scientists have not yet created life, someday in the future they will succeed, suspiciously resembles messianic hopes:

I shall not be surprised if, within the next few years, chemists report that they have successfully midwifed a new origin of life in the laboratory. Nevertheless it hasn’t happened yet, and it is still possible to maintain that the probability of its happening is, and always was, exceedingly low — although it did happen once! [p. 165]

Of course Dawkins would then have to explain how to do it without having the original chemicals. Dawkins may be able to make a salad, but let’s see him create the vegetables.

Dawkins’s insistence that religion and science contradict each other dismisses with an imperious sweep of the hand an entire body of work written by respected scientists who show that science in fact corroborates the Genesis narrative. Although the bibliography of such books is too lengthy to list here, three excellent examples are: The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom by M.I.T. physicist Dr. Gerald Schroeder, The Language of God by Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the Human Genome Project, who, by the way, grew up as an agnostic, and There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind by Anthony Flew and Roy Varghese.


Dawkins’s third point is that indoctrinating children with religious teachings is akin to child abuse, because they prevent children from learning to think independently.. He writes that terms like “Catholic child” or “Muslim child” should make people flinch.

Dawkins is, in fact, surprisingly tolerant of the sexual abuse of children. He writes: “We live in a time of hysteria about pedophilia … It is clearly unjust to visit upon all pedophiles a vengeance appropriate to the tiny minority who are also murderers.” [p. 354-5] He has, however, zero tolerance for what he considers the far worse crime of raising a child in a particular religion:

Once, in the question time after a lecture in Dublin, I was asked what I thought about the widely publicized cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland. I replied that, horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place. [p. 356]

While it takes a whole book to refute a book, suffice it to say that all parents, whether religious or secular, inculcate their children with their own beliefs. Does Dawkins not raise his children with a prejudice to be pro-democracy? Anti-cocaine? In the name of intellectual honesty, would he expose his children to every perverse element of society? In the name of intellectual balance, would he permit his children to study Muslim theology in a Saudi mosque for a few months?


Dawkins’ final point is that human beings don’t need religion for morality. In his BBC documentary, as a troop of chimpanzees frolics in the background, he asserts that morality is also the product of evolution.

His explanation is simple: “Morality stems from altruistic genes naturally selected in our evolutionary past.” Pointing to the social structures abounding in the animal kingdom, he asserts that “survival of the fittest” favored the evolutionary development of moral traits:

Natural selection favours genes that predispose individuals, in relationships of asymmetric need and opportunity, to give when they can, and to solicit giving when they can’t. It also favors tendencies to remember obligations, bear grudges, police exchange relationships and punish cheats who take, but don’t give when their turn comes. [pp. 248-9]

Here the title of Dawkins’s documentary,”Religion: The Root of All Evil” turns out to be true, although not in the way he intended. Religion is indeed the root of all evil, because without religion there would be no concept of “evil.” And religion is also the root of all good. Simply put, without religion determining an absolute system of values, what makes anything evil or good?

If human beings were nothing but advanced monkeys, as evolutionists would have us believe, the concept of morality would be irrelevant. A lion that devours a kicking and struggling “innocent” zebra is not “evil.” She is merely following her instinct, and instincts in the animal kingdom carry no moral value.

Dawkins offers an example: “Vampire bats learn which other individuals of their social group can be relied upon to pay their debts (in regurgitated blood) and which individuals cheat.” [p. 248] But is the bat who pays his debts “good” and the bat who cheats “evil”? Of course not.

According to Dawkins, the terrorists flying into the Twin Towers are no different than the lion devouring the zebra.

By taking God out of the picture there is nothing evil about evil. According to Dawkins, the terrorists flying into the Twin Towers are no different than the lion devouring the zebra.

Even in the development of human civilization, social contracts were expedient rather than moral. The Code of Hammurabi, for example, prohibits stealing for the mutual protection of property rights, not because stealing is “evil.”

Morality could have been introduced into the world only by God, for no one else has the arbitrary right to declare universal standards of right and wrong. And much of the morality that God ordained is counter-intuitive and goes against instinct.

For example, historian Paul Johnson [A History of the Jews, p. 34] has pointed out that, among all the legal codes of the ancient Near East, only the Bible declared that crimes against property are never capital, because the sacredness of human life supersedes property values. The Torah also commands people to release the debts owed to them at the end of every seven years, to return purchased land to its original owner every fifty years, to proactively intercede when another person’s life is in danger, and to not carry a grudge or take revenge. (Remember Dawkins’s statement, quoted above, that natural selection favors those who “bear grudges.”) (1)

In his duel against religion Richard Dawkins chose his weapon: rationality. While he certainly gets points for his eloquent use of the Queen’s English and for his cynical wit, in terms of rational argument Dawkins wields a dull sword indeed.

(1) Most laughable is Dawkins’ attempt to show the strides made in a constantly evolving morality. His “proof” that morality evolves is that a half century ago in England almost everyone was racist, and now almost no one is racist. A half century ago almost everyone was homophobic and now the majority is not. This is the apex of moral evolution in Dawkins’ estimation.

But what about the Holocaust? The present genocide in Darfur? The stealing of organs of live Falon Gong practitioners? The sadism that accompanied or accompanies each of these atrocities dramatically refutes any notion of moral evolution. Dawkins’s fancied “moral evolution” must mean that human beings are demonstrably less barbaric with the passing of centuries, but in terms of moral level, Rudolph Hoess, the commandant of Auschwitz, had nothing over Genghis Khan.

As taken from,


Leave a comment

Posted by on May 29, 2018 in Uncategorized


As Gazans Attack Border Crossing, It’s Israel, Not Hamas, Coming to Their Aid

As Gazans Attack Border Crossing, It’s Israel, Not Hamas, Coming to Their Aid

Israel is working around the clock to keep the crossing open and functional, despite Hamas’ own attacks on it.

Despite Hamas’ repeated assault on the Kerem Shalom border crossing, the only lifeline that supplies basic goods to civilians in Gaza, Israel has been battling intensively to keep it open.

The episode underlines a much wider phenomenon in which Hamas seeks to create a crisis in order to bring in outside funding for Gaza’s needs, so it can ensure the stability of its regime and keep supporting its military wing.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority seeks to choke off Gaza’s economy to punish Hamas for refusing to disarm its military wing and force it to pay a price for splitting off from the PA.

However, those paying the price for this are the residents of the Gaza Strip.

Three times this month, Kerem Shalom was attacked by mobs acting under Hamas instructions. Rioters destroyed fuel pipes that carry critical energy supplies and looted the Palestinian side of the crossing terminal.

A truck parks next to a security barrier inside the Kerem Shalom border crossing terminal between Israel and Gaza Strip, January 16, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Amir Cohen / File.

According to Israeli intelligence assessments, these actions are part of a wider effort by Hamas to ramp up the pressure on Israel and the international community in order to obtain fresh funds for the collapsing Palestinian economy. The deadly border incidents orchestrated by Hamas this month are part of the same effort. Hamas wants someone else to foot the bill for the civilian economy so it can rescue its regime from collapse.

Gaza’s power plant, for example, runs on gas, and can supply 150 megawatts of electricity per month. Yet on April 12, Hamas shut the power plant down completely, cutting off energy supplies to two million Gazans. Throughout this time, gas was flowing freely into Gaza from Israel. Despite the daily power cuts to Gaza’s civilians, Hamas’ tunnels continued to receive power. It is safe to assume that Hamas’ rocket factories also continued to work.

Israel is, in fact, the only country that has been fighting to keep Gaza supplied with electricity. Egyptian power lines can deliver 30 megawatts, but have been shut down by Egyptian authorities for the past four months.

As part of its conflict with Hamas, the PA reduced payments for electricity. Israel quietly pressured it to reverse this decision, and the PA did so.

Similarly, at Kerem Shalom, Israel is working around the clock to keep the crossing open and functional, despite Hamas’ own attacks on it.

Thanks to these efforts, diesel fuel and gas tankers have recently resumed the transfer of critical energy supplies to the Gaza Strip, averting a certain fuel crisis.

“The most important thing to know is that these people who came to Kerem Shalom and demolished the crossing point did not go there by themselves. We know that Hamas sent them,” a senior Israeli security source said earlier this month.

Brig.-Gen. (Res.) Alon Eviatar, an expert on the Palestinian issue and a former adviser to Israel’s office for Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, said that Israel has been left on its own to deal with Gaza’s economic and humanitarian needs. Even though the Jewish state wanted to disconnect from Gaza after leaving it in 2005, “It learned over the years that it is becoming the central player, against its interests. Not Egypt and not the Palestinian Authority,” he said.

The PA, for its part, is deliberately abandoning its responsibility for Gaza, added Eviatar.

“This created a very problematic result for Israel in the short – and long-term future,” he said. “As the door of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas closes shut, the ball falls in our court.”

At the same time, Israel understands that Hamas is going to remain in power for many years to come. As bitter a pill as this is to swallow for Israel, it is preferable to a power vacuum with no one ruling Gaza at all, resulting in armed anarchy.

As a result, explained Eviatar, “Israel’s steps have been to not topple Hamas, to not push it into the corner, not to conquer Gaza. Israel is stopping itself from going all the way. The Israeli rationale is to balance all of the time.”

Israel has “sensors” in place warning it ahead of time before Gaza reaches a real humanitarian crisis. While conditions in Gaza are bad, they have not reached the extreme, red-alert level, he said.

Meanwhile, Hamas has realized that if it wants to avoid going back to being an underground armed movement, it must find a solution to civilian needs or risk losing its power over the Strip.

The way out of this dead end, according to Eviatar, might well be in the form of a “tactical, temporary arrangement [between Israel and] Hamas” that would protect Israel’s security control on the one hand, but allow for sufficient economic assistance on the other, thereby preventing a future explosion.

“Hamas’ ideology will remain unchanged. Their vision is unchanged. But in the intermediate stage, the tactics have changed. There is also religious approval [in Gaza] for this. Therefore, Israel can seek unwritten understandings; a ladder that will suit both them and us,” he said. “I think this might be feasible.”

Until such a development occurs, Israel has attempted to take some of the pressure off Gaza. In recent months, Israel significantly increased the number of permits it granted to Palestinian businesspeople and merchants, allowing them to enter the country via the Erez pedestrian border crossing. The first quarter of 2018 saw an increase of 80 percent of such traffic, according to the senior Israeli security officer, with 10,000 movements recorded in the past three months alone.

Yet Hamas, as part of its campaign to ramp up the pressure to find a bigger solution, disrupted this economic progress, setting up a checkpoint on the Gazan side of the crossing and stopping some of the businesspeople from entering Israel.

In addition, Hamas routinely forces such pedestrians to try to smuggle terror-financing cash and explosive material into Israel, though these efforts are usually intercepted by the Israeli Defense Ministry’s personnel who run the crossings.

Similarly, on the humanitarian front, the PA froze the transfer of medical goods into Gaza, leaving Gazans dependent on Israeli medical supplies entering via Kerem Shalom.

In the first quarter of 2018, Israel’s efforts enabled Gazans to export 37 million shekels of agricultural goods, 2 million shekels in furniture exports, and 8 million shekels of textiles.

Nevertheless, these efforts have not been adequate to forestall a crisis in the Gazan economy – a crisis created by Hamas, but which Israel now has no option but to address.

As taken from,

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 29, 2018 in Uncategorized


5 consejos tradicionales sobre el matrimonio que tienes que dar vuelta

La despedida de soltera fue hermosa: había flores en todas las mesas, docenas de amigas que habían venido a celebrar y la anfitriona había planeado una mañana de juegos para entretener a la novia. La primera actividad, anunció, sería algo que las invitadas teníamos preparado de antemano: con una sonrisa, sacó un pilón de cartitas para que la novia leyera en voz alta. Cada una tenía un consejo de matrimonio que las invitadas queríamos compartir.

La novia tomó la primera carta y reconoció en ella mi letra. “No tengas miedo de irte a dormir enojada”, se rio y continuó: “si sientes que estás a punto de tener una pelea, tómate un tiempo y discutan luego sus diferencias, en un momento en el que ambos estén más tranquilos”.

“¡No puedo creerlo!”, gritó una invitada con una sonrisa, “Escribí el mismo consejo: ¡No tengas miedo de irte a dormir enojada!”. La otra invitada era unos años mayor que yo y era un pilar de la comunidad. Me gustó que una persona tan sabia hubiera elegido el mismo consejo que yo había pensado.

“Yo siempre escuché que se decía lo contrario: que no es bueno irse a dormir enojada”, dijo otra invitada, y otra mujer explicó con amabilidad lo que quería decir.

“Cuando estás cansada, enojada y a punto de tener una pelea, no es el mejor momento para hablar de las cosas. Es mejor hablar de las diferencias de opinión cuando ambas personas han descansado y están de mejor humor”. De inmediato todas las mujeres presentes comenzaron a asentir con la cabeza.

Todos hemos escuchado el proverbio “no te duermas enojado”, pero tomarse un tiempo cuando estamos irascibles puede ser más productivo e incluso puede prevenir que los desacuerdos se conviertan en peleas graves.

Aquí, otros cinco consejos sobre el matrimonio que suelen mejorar si los seguimos a la inversa.

1. Todo en partes iguales

En un matrimonio, hay veces en las que nos toca dar sin recibir. Dirigirse al matrimonio con la idea de que vamos a recibir algo a cambio cada vez que entregamos es poco real y puede conducir al resentimiento cuando una de las personas siente que no recibe tanto como debería.

En cambio, trata de tener la meta de hacer a tu pareja feliz y de darle, sin llevar la cuenta de lo que ha hecho por ti en el último tiempo. Piensa en la relación entre padres e hijos: los padres aman a sus hijos y dan todo por ellos. Si bien los padres no esperan algo a cambio, todo de lo que proveen a sus hijos de manera desinteresada y llena de cariño crea un vínculo como ningún otro. Si bien puede parecer contraproducente adoptar esa actitud con un adulto, con una pareja, los resultados pueden sorprenderte y acercarte al otro más que antes. En lugar de “todo en partes iguales”, piensa en remplazar la frase por el famoso dicho del Talmud: “Trata a tu esposo como a un rey, y él te tratará como a una reina” (y viceversa).

2. Amar significa jamás tener que pedir perdón

Este famoso aforismo supone que, en una relación amorosa, todo está perdonado. No hay necesidad de disculparse cuando se trata de los seres más queridos.

Esta actitud nos convence de que es cierto el mito de que pedir disculpas de alguna manera nos disminuye. De hecho, pedir disculpas demuestra fortaleza, revela que tenemos la confianza y la seguridad suficientes para admitir cuando nos equivocamos, y que nos importan los otros lo suficiente como para considerar sus sentimientos.

El judaísmo pone énfasis en revisar con constancia nuestras acciones para buscar maneras de mejorar. Si nos equivocamos, pedimos disculpas. Buscar pedir disculpas a aquellos con los que nos hemos equivocado es parte de la teshuvá, que se suele traducir como “arrepentimiento”, pero cuyo sentido literal es “retorno”. Pedir disculpas por nuestras palabras y acciones es una manera de retornar, de volver a la persona que se suponía que éramos. Desde esta perspectiva, las disculpas no son un signo de debilidad, sino de fortaleza. Pedir el perdón de los otros es signo de que los respetamos (a ellos y a nosotros mismos) lo suficiente como para querer reparar nuestras relaciones.

3. Lo que importa es lo de adentro

Hace unos años me pidieron que grabara una breve clase. Luego de escribir y practicar lo que iba a decir, me preparé para hacer el video: me puse mi mejor ropa, dediqué mucho tiempo al maquillaje y me preparé para grabar. En ese momento, mi marido llegó a casa del trabajo. Me miró, sonrió y me dijo: “¡Estás hermosa!”.

En lugar de alegría, sentí un poco de culpa. ¿Cuándo había sido la última vez que me había vestido linda para él? Había caído en el hábito de no hacer un esfuerzo con mi apariencia. “Lo que importa es lo de adentro”, podría haber dicho; hasta ese momento en el que vi la cara de mi marido.

Si bien ser hermoso por dentro es esencial, hacer un esfuerzo con nuestra apariencia física es una forma de señalar que nuestra pareja es importante para nosotros y que aún queremos vernos bien para ellos. Es una manera poderosa de decir que nos importa.

4. No tengas miedo de decir lo que piensas

Si bien en un matrimonio puede ser tentador dejar que todo se sepa, hay un antiguo dicho judío sobre el daño que puede causar lo que decimos: “Un pájaro liberado puede volver a capturarse, pero la palabra que escapa del cerco de tus labios se ha ido para siempre”.

Por esta razón, los sabios judíos aconsejaban ser muy cuidadosos al hablar. Esto vale para todas las personas con las que interactuamos, en especial las que están más cerca de nosotros, que están más en sintonía con lo que nos afecta y cuyos sentimientos pueden resultar dañados con una palabra lanzada sin cuidado.

Considera una versión distinta de “no tengas miedo de decir lo que piensas”. Piensa antes de hablar, en especial cuando lo que te motive sea el enojo. Adopta la estrategia de contar hasta 10 cuando estés enojada y piensa en las posibles consecuencias de tus palabras.

Un consejo alternativo podría ser: reconoce que las acciones pueden tener un mayor efecto que las palabras. O, según rabí Shamai: “Di poco y haz mucho” (Pirkei Avot 1:15).

5. La ausencia endulza el corazón

Si bien a veces un poco de distancia puede ser saludable en un matrimonio, es fácil caer en la trampa de tener horarios por completo diferentes. Un estudio del gobierno británico acerca del uso del tiempo en parejas casadas confirmaba esta realidad moderna en su título. Se llamaba “Casados durante el fin de semana”, lo que refleja que la triste realidad para muchas parejas es que el tiempo juntos es un bien escaso. En lugar de tener agendas súper ocupadas, traten de buscar tiempo para estar juntos. Citas nocturnas, viajes compartidos, incluso pasar tiempo en casa con los aparatos electrónicos apagados hace que la gente se enfoque en su pareja. Y eso hace que tenga tiempo de disfrutar del otro y crecer con él.

Hay un tesoro de sabiduría en nuestra tradición judía que nos puede brindar una nueva y maravillosa guía y otras perspectivas respecto del matrimonio. Pensar de manera crítica en algunos de los consejos ya desgastados sobre el matrimonio, que muchos de nosotros damos por sentados, puede ayudarnos a abrir los ojos a nuevas fuentes de sabiduría y sentido común.

Según tomado de,

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 26, 2018 in Uncategorized


Lifting Heads

by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

The word Naso that gives its name to this week’s parsha is a verb of an extraordinary range of meanings, among them: to lift, to carry, and to forgive. Here though, and elsewhere in the wilderness years, it is used, in conjunction with the phrase et rosh (“the head”) to mean “to count.” This is an odd way of speaking, because biblical Hebrew is not short of other verbs meaning to count, among them limnot, lispor, lifkod, and lachshov. Why then not use one of these verbs? Why not simply say “count” instead of “lift the head”?

The answer takes us into one of the most revolutionary of all Jewish beliefs. If we are each in the image of God, then every one of us has infinite value. We are each unique. Even genetically identical twins share only approximately 50 percent of their attributes. None of us is substitutable for any other. This may well be the single most important consequence of monotheism. Discovering God, singular and alone, our ancestors discovered the human individual, singular and alone.

This was simply not a value in the ancient world, nor is it one in tyrannical or totalitarian societies today. The ruler might be deemed to have infinite value; so might some of the members of his or her court; but certainly not the masses – as the word “mass” itself implies. Most people were simply regarded as part of a mass: an army, a work force or a gang of slaves. What mattered was their total number, not their individual lives, their hopes and fears, their loves and dreams.

That is the image we have of Egypt of the Pharaohs. It is how the sages understood the builders of Babel. They said that if a brick fell from the tower they wept. If a worker fell and died, they paid no attention.[1] Almost a hundred million people died in the twentieth century in Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s Communist China and Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. We say of such regimes that people became “just numbers.”[2] That is what the Torah is rejecting as a matter of supreme religious principle. At the very moment when one might be maximally tempted to see people as “just numbers” – namely, when taking a census, as here – the Israelites were commanded to “lift people’s heads,” to raise their spirits, to make them feel they counted as individuals, not numbers in a mass, ciphers in a crowd.

In the course of my life I have had several deep conversations with Christians, and there is one aspect of Judaism that they find very difficult to understand. The conversation usually turns to the central figure of Christianity, and I am often asked, do I believe that he was the son of God. “I do indeed,” I reply, “because we believe that every Jew is a son or daughter of God.” What Christianity applies to one figure in its faith, we apply to all. Where Christianity transcendentalises, Judaism democratises. My conversation partners often think I am being evasive, finding a polite way to avoid answering the question. In fact, though, the opposite is true.

The first words God commands Moses to say to Pharaoh were, “My child, My firstborn, Israel” (Ex. 4:22). In Deuteronomy, Moses reminds the Israelites, “You are children of the Lord your God” (Deut. 14:1). “Beloved are Israel,” said Rabbi Akiva, “for they are called God’s children.”[3] One of the key phrases of prayer, Avinu malkenu, “Our Father, our King,” encapsulates this in two simple words. We are all royalty. We are each children of the King.

To be sure, this is not the only metaphor for our relationship with God. He is also our Sovereign and we are His servants. He is our shepherd and we are His sheep. These evoke more humility than the image of parent-and-child. What is more, when God saw the first human without a partner He said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” The Torah is thus signalling one of the defining tensions of all human life: we are independent but we are also interdependent. Our thoughts and feelings belong to the “I,” but much of our existence depends on being part of a “We.” Despite its unprecedented estimate of the individual, Judaism is at the same time an irreducibly communal faith. There is no “I” without the “we.”

The Hassidic master Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Przysucha nicely summed up the Jewish approach to the value of a life. He said that we should each have two pockets. In one we should place a piece of paper with the words: “For my sake was the world created.”[4] In the other should be the words: “I am but dust and ashes.”[5] We are unique. We each have non-negotiable dignity and inalienable rights. But in and of ourselves we are nothing. Our greatness comes not from us but from God. That is the dialectic of life in the conscious presence of our mortality and God’s eternity.

The point being made by the Torah, though, is that what matters is not how we see ourselves but how we see, and treat, and behave toward others. The world is not short of self-important people. What it is short of is those who make other people feel important – who “lift their heads.”

I will never forget the occasion when Prince Charles, at a banquet given by the Jewish community, spent as much time talking to the young schoolchildren who came to sing in a choir as he did to the great and good among the guests, or when he came to a Jewish primary school and lit Chanukah candles with the children, giving each the chance to tell him who they were and what the festival meant to them. That, at least in Britain, is what royalty is and does. Members of the royal family make other people feel important. That is their work, their service, their role. It is the true meaning of royalty. Watching them, you understand Rabbi Yohanan’s fine insight that “greatness is humility.”[6] You understand also Ben Zoma’s axiom: “Who is honoured? One who honours others.”[7]

The challenge that emerges from the way the Torah describes taking a census is that we must “lift people’s heads.” Never let them feel merely a number. Make those you meet feel important, especially the people whom others tend to take for granted: the waiters at a communal meal; the woman who takes your coat in a cloakroom; the shammas in the synagogue; the people doing security duty; the caretaker; the most junior member of the office team, and so on. Make eye contact. Smile. Let them know you do not take them for granted. You appreciate them. They matter as individuals.

For this is the life-changing idea: We are as important as we make other people feel.


[1] Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, 24.

[2] As Jews were in Auschwitz.

[3] Mishnah Avot 3:14.

[4] Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5.

[5] Genesis 18:27.

[6] Megillah 31a.

[7] Mishnah Avot 4:1.

As taken from,

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 26, 2018 in Uncategorized


Why a Second Day of Yom Tov? The Incomparable Greatness of the Land of Israel

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

One of the most puzzling laws in Halacha (Jewish Law) is the requirement to observe a second day Yom Tov (festival) in all Jewish communities outside of Israel.

Before the establishment of a set calendar of the Jewish year, there was doubt concerning the day on which Yom Tov should be celebrated outside of Israel. The Sanhedrin (Jewish High Court) in Jerusalem would declare the first day of a new month on the basis of eyewitness testimony given by people who had just seen the first appearance of the new moon. The court would then immediately send out messengers to inform the nearby communities as to which day was declared to be Rosh Chodesh (first day of the month), so that they could observe the festivals at the proper time. Jewish communities that were located outside the land, and too far from Jerusalem to be informed of the precise day of Rosh Chodesh, were told to keep two consecutive days of Yom Tov, since they could not, in time, know which day the new month had started in Israel. Since a Jewish month can consist of 29 or 30 days, there could be a difference of one day. And since biblical festivals always have a fixed and specific date in the month (as stated by the Torah), a two-day celebration became necessary.[1]

This law is still applicable today. Consequently, any Jew living outside of Israel is required to observe two days on Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot.

The difficulty with this rabbinical decree today is that since the days of Hillel HaNasi (4th century CE), an official and fixed calendar (independent of eye witnesses) is in operation and, consequently, there is no longer any doubt about which day is the correct day of Yom Tov. It is therefore quite surprising that the Sages did not annul the second day Yom Tov, but insisted on its continuation.

The classical reason given is that since this had become the official minhag (custom) for so many years, and was so well established, an annulment would no longer be possible.

The renowned Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin—also known as Netziv (1817-1893)—the last Rosh Yeshiva of the famous Volozhin Yeshiva, suggests in his Ha’amek Davar a completely different approach, which will be an important eye-opener to many.

In Parashat Emor,[2] we are introduced to the festivals of the Jewish year with the following seemingly superfluous words: “And you shall keep My commandments and you shall perform them. I am the Lord.” After offering an interesting approach to this problem, Netziv continues and states that the reason for this “superfluous” verse is to instruct the Sages to make a fence around these festivals and strengthen them by requiring a second day Yom Tov outside the Land of Israel.

In his notes,[3] called Harchev Davar, Netziv quotes a statement in the teshuvot (responsa) of Rabbi Hai Gaon—one of the greatest halachic authorities of the 10th century—in which he says that the requirement of keeping a second day Yom Tov outside of Israel was already alluded to by the prophets. He concludes with the following words:

And perhaps this was done since the days of Yehoshua ben Nun (Joshua) for those who lived outside [the Land of Israel.]

Netziv then comments that in principle there is absolutely no reason to keep a second day Yom Tov outside of Israel, even when one is not sure of which day is the correct one (see above). His argument is that Jewish Law always follows the majority in all matters of halachic doubt, and since in most cases the Jewish months have 29 days and not 30, there is no reason to keep a second day Yom Tov.

Netziv continues and proves this point by stating that we would otherwise encounter a serious contradiction in Judaism. Why don’t we keep two days Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement)? And we could no doubt ask why, when counting the Omer (49 days between Pesach and Shavuot) outside of Israel, we only count one date and not two. After all, if Pesach would have started one day later, there should have been the need to begin counting the Omer one day later as well. In that case we should, for example, say (outside of Israel), “Today is the 31st or the 32nd day of the Omer.” This, however, is not done and is in fact forbidden.

Netziv therefore concludes that the above verse: “And you shall keep My commandments, and you shall perform them” comes to teach us that we should be extremely careful to observe these festivals for two days; we should not rely on the fact that most months have only 29 days and consequently keep the festivals for only one day. The meaning of the verse, then, would be: And you shall surely keep them in the best way possible and not allow for any doubt.

We may wonder, however, to what specific matter our verse is alluding, according to Netziv. Why should one observe two days Yom Tov outside of Israel so as to make sure that we definitely celebrate them properly? Why not following the majority of months with only 29 days?

The answer may be found in an observation made by Rabbi Menachem Recanati, one of the great kabbalists of the 13th-14th century. He tells us that it is impossible for people outside the Land of Israel to be as inspired by a particular festival as it is for people in the Land of Israel. Israel carries its own spirituality into any festival, and in only one day people are able to accomplish great spiritual achievements.

Outside of Israel, however, where the spiritual environment is not conducive to this kind of soul state, one needs two days to achieve the same goal. We may now understand why there is no requirement to observe two days of Yom Kippur. This is not only due to the fact that people will not be able to fast for such a long time, but also because Yom Kippur, due to its extraordinary nature, is able to offer us the opportunity to achieve almost the same spiritual religious experience outside of Israel as that of someone living in the Land of Israel. On this day, the soul of a Jew should and could feel as if it dwells in the Holy Land, and no second day is required.[4]

In that case, we should state that it is erroneous to argue in favor of a one-day Yom Tov outside of Israel. Modern interpretations of Judaism, with their emphasis on greater spiritual quality, should only welcome such a rabbinical enactment instead of condemning it, since the quality of life in the modern-day Diaspora (even with all of its beauty) has definitely not been conducive to greater spiritual opportunities.

As anyone can testify, celebrating the Jewish festivals in Israel is an act of supreme delight. The festivals are invested with a very special spirit that cannot be experienced anywhere else.

No other land can compete with the Land of Israel!

This, it seems, is the secret behind the second day Yom Tov and why the sages did not abolish it.


[1] For a short overview of this complicated issue, see: Rabbi Yerachmiel David Fried, Yom Tov Sheni Kehilchato:the Second Day of Yom Tov in Israel and Abroad, adapted into English by Moshe Dombey, 1990; and Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, “Rosh Chodesh,” in The Book of Our Heritage (Jerusalem: Feldheim Publishers, 1979) vol. 1, pp. 213-232.

[2] Vayikra 22:31.

[3] ad loc.

[4] The reverse is true regarding the counting of the Omer. While Yom Kippur is able to offer us great spirituality, even to the point that outside of Israel there’s no need for a second day, the counting of the Omer would be no more spiritually uplifting if a second counting were added each time the mitzvah was done.

As taken from,

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 26, 2018 in Uncategorized


El delicioso equilibrio. ¿El secreto de este placer?

¿Has escuchado decir a la gente que la “religión” no tiene nada que ver con la realidad? Este argumento suele ubicar a la religión en un lugar fuera de la vida cotidiana, en el tiempo extra, cuando sobra tiempo para hacer esas “cosas espirituales”.

Se piensa que lo “religioso” es para lo espiritual, Shabat o festividades; mientras que todo el resto de los elementos de este mundo (la gran mayoría) son la vida “real”. Sin embargo no es así.

El precepto de nazir (nazareno) nos iluminará este concepto. El nazir es una persona que se auto-impone más restricciones de lo que la Torá nos ordena para así sentirse más cerca de D-os. Es una actitud elogiable. Se deja crecer el cabello (evitando lo estético) y se abstiene de tomar vino (evitando el placer físico). Al final de su proceso debe llevar unas ofrendas al templo, entre ellas una ofrenda pidiendo perdón. ¿Perdón por qué? Porque se abstuvo de tomar vino.

¿Cómo puede ser? Porque por más encomendable que sea la actitud del Nazir, debe darse cuenta que ese no es el camino del judaísmo. ¡D-os quiere que tengas el máximo placer! En todas las áreas de la vida, incluso la física. ¡Incluso saboreando un vino rico!

¿El secreto de este placer? El equilibrio. Las pautas que la Ley-Torá establece permiten el equilibrio perfecto, para que no te hundas en lo espiritual ni te hundas en lo material. Para lograr equilibrio entre tu trabajo y ser trabajólico; entre estética excesiva y abandono físico; entre glotonería y dieta; entre ejercicio físico extremo y pesadez corporal; entre la plegaria y el trabajo.

¿Qué tanto con el equilibrio? Por un lado, sin equilibrio, el placer hedonista se convierte en hastío y degradación. Por el otro, sin equilibrio, el solitario y controlador se convierte en ermitaño y asceta.

El equilibrio es la prueba de que no existe “religión”. Porque todos tenemos actividades mundanas en este mundo, y el equilibrio es y debería ser en todas las esferas de la vida, no solo en una parte de ella. Saca la palabra “Religión”, y sustitúyela por “Forma de vida equilibrada y con sentido” en toda tu vida cotidiana. Allí podrás comenzar el cambio.

Lejaim! y Shabat Shalom!!

Según tomado de,

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 23, 2018 in Uncategorized