Blogs

Oh, Jerusalem

A Blog by Rabbi Marc D. Angel, June 9, 2015

Jerusalem, “the eternal capital of Israel,” is not considered to be in Israel according to a recent decision of the United States Supreme Court. Jerusalem’s status, as per President Obama and the Supreme Court, is undetermined, and will ultimately depend on an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Americans born in Jerusalem may put on their passports that they were born in Jerusalem or in Israel, but not that they were born in Jerusalem, Israel.

The Supreme Court’s decision has deeply upset Israel and has elated the Palestinians. Putting a question mark on the legal status of Jerusalem is another step in undermining the legitimacy of Israel’s sovereignty over its own capital city.

We’ve all been troubled by news of recent scandals relating to rabbinic misbehavior. Rabbis who had served as “spiritual leaders” turned out to be very imperfect human beings, betraying the trust of their congregants and the community at large. Fortunately, the vast majority of rabbis are fine, upstanding people who serve with honesty and integrity.

A popular quip has it that "I love humanity; it's the people I don't like." It sometimes seems easier to love an abstract concept like humanity, or the Jewish people, or the community--rather than to love actual individuals. After all, individual human beings are not always pleasant, nice, courteous or considerate. Individuals can be rude, obnoxious, violent, immoral. We can more easily love the abstract concept of humanity, rather than having to deal with the negative features of particular individuals.

This essay is not about same-sex marriage. It seems amply clear from Torah and halakha that marriage entails a union between a man and a woman.

This essay is not about whether the United States Supreme Court should have legalized same-sex marriage, or whether such marriages should or should not be performed by civil magistrates.

We are confronted with a reality, whether we approve or do not approve. The reality is that same-sex marriage is legal in the United States; that “Gay rights” activists have convinced much of the public that their cause is a “human rights” issue and that those who oppose same-sex marriage are “on the wrong side of history.”

Some years ago, a prominent American Christian Evangelical minister proclaimed that “God does not hear the prayers of Jews.” This statement obviously did not sit well with Jews, or with vast numbers of non-Jews who resented the arrogant self-righteousness of that minister. How did he dare to speak as though he knew God’s policies about hearing prayers?

I recently read an article about keeping balance. The author wrote of the importance of doing balance exercises so that one may avoid falling down. He pointed out that when you balance yourself by standing on one foot for 30 seconds or so, you are doing good training. But if you try standing on one foot with your eyes closed, it’s much more difficult to keep on balance.

I tried this experiment, and it was true. I was pretty good keeping balance while standing on each foot; but when I closed my eyes, I could not maintain my balance.

The great American writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald, made an important observation: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” This is not only a truism, but a tremendous challenge.

One idea: The recent deal with Iran is a disaster for the Western World and an immediate threat to Israel. Iran will continue with its nuclear aspirations, and enjoy an economic boom that will enable it to increase its support of terrorism throughout the Middle East and beyond.

Painting Israel into a Corner

As many of us feared, the Iran Deal has become more and more problematic for Israel on many fronts. President Obama has stated that “the whole world” favors this deal, and only Israel is in opposition. (Whether this is true or not doesn’t really matter. If President Obama repeats it often enough it becomes “true” in the media and in public perception).

A recent article in New York’s Jewish Week quoted an elderly man who said that lately he wakes up in the middle of the night “feeling terrible, depressed—I’ve never felt this bad.” This man had been a major financial supporter of his synagogue for many years.

He had attended daily services, was active on the Board, and played a key role in many synagogue activities. Now, at age 90, he is bitterly depressed. He didn’t pray at his synagogue on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, but attended a “break-away” congregation.

A story is told of an incident on a bus in Jerusalem. A pretty young lady got on the bus and sat down in a vacant seat next to a Hareidi rabbi. The rabbi arose in a huff and walked quickly away from the woman. At the next stop, a Sephardic rabbi got on the bus. Seeing the empty seat next to the young lady, he sat down. The young lady was perplexed. She asked the rabbi sitting next to her: “When I sat down next to a Hareidi rabbi, he got up and stomped away from me. But you’re also a religious man, and yet you sat down next to me. How do you explain this?” The Sephardic rabbi replied: “That Hareidi is a rabbi. I am a Hakham!”

Oh, Jerusalem

A Blog by Rabbi Marc D. Angel, June 9, 2015

Jerusalem, “the eternal capital of Israel,” is not considered to be in Israel according to a recent decision of the United States Supreme Court. Jerusalem’s status, as per President Obama and the Supreme Court, is undetermined, and will ultimately depend on an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Americans born in Jerusalem may put on their passports that they were born in Jerusalem or in Israel, but not that they were born in Jerusalem, Israel.

The Supreme Court’s decision has deeply upset Israel and has elated the Palestinians. Putting a question mark on the legal status of Jerusalem is another step in undermining the legitimacy of Israel’s sovereignty over its own capital city.

We’ve all been troubled by news of recent scandals relating to rabbinic misbehavior. Rabbis who had served as “spiritual leaders” turned out to be very imperfect human beings, betraying the trust of their congregants and the community at large. Fortunately, the vast majority of rabbis are fine, upstanding people who serve with honesty and integrity.

A popular quip has it that "I love humanity; it's the people I don't like." It sometimes seems easier to love an abstract concept like humanity, or the Jewish people, or the community--rather than to love actual individuals. After all, individual human beings are not always pleasant, nice, courteous or considerate. Individuals can be rude, obnoxious, violent, immoral. We can more easily love the abstract concept of humanity, rather than having to deal with the negative features of particular individuals.

This essay is not about same-sex marriage. It seems amply clear from Torah and halakha that marriage entails a union between a man and a woman.

This essay is not about whether the United States Supreme Court should have legalized same-sex marriage, or whether such marriages should or should not be performed by civil magistrates.

We are confronted with a reality, whether we approve or do not approve. The reality is that same-sex marriage is legal in the United States; that “Gay rights” activists have convinced much of the public that their cause is a “human rights” issue and that those who oppose same-sex marriage are “on the wrong side of history.”

Some years ago, a prominent American Christian Evangelical minister proclaimed that “God does not hear the prayers of Jews.” This statement obviously did not sit well with Jews, or with vast numbers of non-Jews who resented the arrogant self-righteousness of that minister. How did he dare to speak as though he knew God’s policies about hearing prayers?

I recently read an article about keeping balance. The author wrote of the importance of doing balance exercises so that one may avoid falling down. He pointed out that when you balance yourself by standing on one foot for 30 seconds or so, you are doing good training. But if you try standing on one foot with your eyes closed, it’s much more difficult to keep on balance.

I tried this experiment, and it was true. I was pretty good keeping balance while standing on each foot; but when I closed my eyes, I could not maintain my balance.

The great American writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald, made an important observation: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” This is not only a truism, but a tremendous challenge.

One idea: The recent deal with Iran is a disaster for the Western World and an immediate threat to Israel. Iran will continue with its nuclear aspirations, and enjoy an economic boom that will enable it to increase its support of terrorism throughout the Middle East and beyond.

Painting Israel into a Corner

As many of us feared, the Iran Deal has become more and more problematic for Israel on many fronts. President Obama has stated that “the whole world” favors this deal, and only Israel is in opposition. (Whether this is true or not doesn’t really matter. If President Obama repeats it often enough it becomes “true” in the media and in public perception).

A recent article in New York’s Jewish Week quoted an elderly man who said that lately he wakes up in the middle of the night “feeling terrible, depressed—I’ve never felt this bad.” This man had been a major financial supporter of his synagogue for many years.

He had attended daily services, was active on the Board, and played a key role in many synagogue activities. Now, at age 90, he is bitterly depressed. He didn’t pray at his synagogue on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, but attended a “break-away” congregation.

A story is told of an incident on a bus in Jerusalem. A pretty young lady got on the bus and sat down in a vacant seat next to a Hareidi rabbi. The rabbi arose in a huff and walked quickly away from the woman. At the next stop, a Sephardic rabbi got on the bus. Seeing the empty seat next to the young lady, he sat down. The young lady was perplexed. She asked the rabbi sitting next to her: “When I sat down next to a Hareidi rabbi, he got up and stomped away from me. But you’re also a religious man, and yet you sat down next to me. How do you explain this?” The Sephardic rabbi replied: “That Hareidi is a rabbi. I am a Hakham!”