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Reflections from Rabbi Waxman
Reflections from Rabbi Waxman
A Sobering Week for the Jewish People
Although most attention has been focused on events in Israel, two other developments need to be highlighted.
Sunday, a group of anti-Israel demonstrators marched on a Paris synagogue, and taking chairs and tables from a nearby café began to throw them towards the synagogue that had 200 congregants inside. The police detachment of 5 was unable to repel the force; only with the vigorous intervention of the Jewish security force, aided by members of Beitar and the JDL did the mob beat a hasty retreat. (One can see some of the action on the recorded action on the internet.) An ironic way of marking the eve of Bastille Day. Ironic, as France was the first nation to formally grant full citizenship to Jews. (Here in the United States, Jews were not excluded on a national level; but in several states they were denied the right to hold office. For example, in Maryland, it wasn’t until the passage of the “Jew Bill” in 1826 that they gained that right.) The attack is but the latest in a series of events that have left Franco Jewry uneasy and have spurred a growth in Aliyah to Israel from that community.
Tomorrow, on the 18th of July, Argentine Jewry will mark a sober anniversary: it is the 20th anniversary of the bombing of the AMIA, the central office for that community in Buenos Aires. 85 people—not all of them Jews-- were killed that day as a van packed with an explosive mixture went off outside, destroying the building and killing not only those inside but pedestrians, as well. Fingers have been pointed to the involvement of Iran in this act of terror—also behind the bombing of the Israeli embassy there, back in 1992. Over the years, the case has been marked by incompetence and accusations of cover-ups by Argentine authorities. Meanwhile, some of the Iranians who were involved in planning the bombing, have risen to significant positions in Iran, such as Ahamd Vahidi, who served as defense minister a few years ago. It should be noted that back in 2005, Cardinal Beroglio, now Pope Francis, was the first public personality to sign a petition for justice in the AMIA bombing case. He was one of the signatories on a document called “85 victims, 85 signatures” as part of the bombing’s 11th anniversary. Nonetheless, justice has yet to be served: the perpetrators remain at large.
Meantime, we hope and pray that the temporary ceasefire will be extended—though rocket attacks resumed after the 5 hour lull--,and that reports of a proposed Friday am ceasefire are true and that calm will once again prevail for an extended period.( I conclude this at 10 a.m./5 p.m. Israel time on Thursday.)
P.S. Courtesy of a colleague, Rabbi Gordon Papert, I share this link to a YouTube compilation from Egyptian television about Hamas. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VtENBF_yjo
Kudos for a Pitching Mensch
On a different note: Adam Wainwright appears to have grooved a pitch to Derek Jeter so that Jeter could go out in style: that he could get a hit in his last All-Star game. As it turned out, at his next at bat Jeter also got a single, but it remains a nice gesture—though subsequently denied—by the starting pitcher for the National League. (Jeter also made a great play in the top of the first, reminding people why he was an “all-star.”.) There is a long history of such gifts. As the writer for The Times noted the other day, back in 1968, Denny McClain grooved a pitch to Mickey Mantle so that Mantle could overtake Jimmie Foxx on the all-time home run list before he retired. Over the years, many other players in the twilight of their careers have been allowed to depart with a measure of honor. A tip of my Yankee kipah to Wainwright for his act of menschlichkeit.
Chadashot MeYisrael: News From Israel
Israel’s Umbrella: The Iron Dome
We are all aware of the effectiveness of the Iron Dome system. Currently, it has an effective rate of approximately 90%. The system can handle multiple threats simultaneously, as it has done repeatedly over recent days. The system only intercepts incoming rockets that are deemed to be critical threats. If the trajectory of the incoming missile is such that it will land in an open area, that rocket is not targeted.
What is not well known is that initially many critics of the system predicted that it would never work. But the system that was developed in less than 4 years—adopted in 2007 by then Defense Minister Amir Peretz, a year after the Second Lebanon War--, and by March 2011 was already operational clearly has convinced the doubters. A month after its deployment, the advanced system successfully shot down its first Grad rocket fired by Hamas from Gaza.
An interesting piece of trivia pertaining to its development: A toy car sold by Toys R Us inspired developers in building the Iron Dome. One of the leading developers recently told Hayadan, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s magazine, that due to schedule and budget constraints, some of the missile components were taken from a toy car he had bought for his son at a local Toys R Us store.
The Iron Dome is a project jointly funded by Israel and the United States. This week, the US Senate approved $351 million for the Iron Dome system. That is double what the White House requested and fifty percent more than was appropriated last year.
It should be noted that this but one part of a three-part defense system. The other components are “Magic Wand” which is designed to intercept projectiles with a range between 45 and 180 miles, such as the long rockets that Hezbollah has stockpiled in Lebanon, and “the Arrow” which is designed for longer-range threats, such as ballistic missiles from Iran.
A Comment on the Weekly Torah Portion
The portion of Mattot (Numbers 30:2-31:54) is read this Saturday, July 19th.
31:7 They took the field against Midian, as the Lord had commanded Moses, and slew every male.
31:7 And they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses…They surrounded them from all four sides. R. Natan said that he left one side open so they could flee (Sifrei). In other words, he allowed an opportunity for those who wished to flee to do so. Rambam [Maimonides]in his Laws of Kings 6:7 write: “When one besieges a city in order to conquer it, one does not surround all four sides but only three of them, and leaves place for those who wish to flee to do so, as it states, ‘And they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses.’ By oral tradition we have learned that that was what they commanded.” Rambam’s final statement, “By oral tradition we have learned that that was what they were commanded,” is not clear, because where is there any allusion to such a tradition? Furthermore, what is the source of R. Natan’s statement? One can possibly say that Maimonides relied on the Jerusalem Talmud (Shevi’it 5:1), that Joshua sent three proclamations to the inhabitants of Eretz Israel before he entered the land, one of them being that whoever wished to flee could do so. And Joshua evidently learned this from Moses’ battle: “And they warred against the Midianites as the Lord commanded Moses.” This is what Rambam meant when he said, “By oral tradition we have learned,” i.e., from Joshua we can deduce what Moses commanded. (Torah Temimah in Aharon Yaakov Greenberg, Torah Gems, Volume III—translated by Shmuel Himelstein. Torah Temimah was the product of Rabbi Baruch HaLevi Epstein. Rabbi Epstein was born in 1860, the son of Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein, who was the author of Arukah HaShulchan, the last major compendium of Jewish law. Except for a period in which he lived in the United States—1923-26--, in which he looked in vain for a permanent rabbinic position, Rabbi Baruch Epstein lived most of his life in Pinsk. Though an accountant by profession—he would become a bank director--, he found time to compile this commentary on the Torah and the 5 scrolls---Esther, Ruth, etc.--, which was first issued in the beginning of the 20th century. He also wrote a commentary on the prayer book, as well as on sections of the Palestinian Talmud. But most extraordinarily, he penned an autobiographical work with notes on life in the Volozhin yeshiva and his uncle, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin—known by his acronym, the Netziv--, who headed that famed yeshiva: it is entitled, Mekor Baruch, "Source of Blessing".He died in July, 1941 from illness, shortly after the Germans entered Pinsk.)