Misusing the Holocaust

I was refraining from this particular aspect of the Beit Shemesh conflict, but the latest report (see here (h/t failed messiah) compels me to address what might be more sickening.  As you will see from the report below, the same crazies involved in the disgusting behavior against other Jews are also protesting against their own, claiming that Israel is the equivalent to Nazi Germany.  The original protests, which might be the cause for the uproar from the majority of the Haredi community, took place in Israel last Sat. night.  Many posts have already addressed the horrific pictures of young, religious looking kids, posing the like the famous picture of the kid surrendering to the Nazis (see here).  My disgust with the latest report is beyond the misuse of the Holocaust.  My problem is that other  Jews, regardless of their insanity, marching and claiming Israel to be like Nazi Germany, are furthering negative rhetoric against Israel.  Look, we know the difference between Neturei Karta and Satmar (I think).  Yet, does the rest of the world.  I just wish these people would have the seichel to keep their political opinions to themselves.  Its bad enough we have press about gender bias, but we need another round of the Israeli government are Nazis.  Again, I place this back into the hands of the Haredi rabbinic establishment.  If statements had been made years ago, long before the crescendo of events we are watching, perhaps much of this could have been prevented.  Instead, now we are backpedalling and hoping that it can go away. 

Orthodox Jews to Protest Israel Wearing Yellow “Jude” Stars – TODAY

NEW YORK, Jan. 5, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Torah-true Jews will be gathering to demonstrate in front of Israeli consulates, in U.S.A., Canada and England. The protesters will don concentration camp clothing with the reviled “yellow star” pinned on their garments, to express their cry of desperation and to show solidarity with their brethren in the Holy Land, who demonstrated in Jerusalem this past Saturday night. Thousands of elders and children took to the streets of Jerusalem garbed in concentration camp clothing and yellow Stars of David pinned on their chests.

“The present incarceration of Torah-true Jews, beating etc. is not the sole event that brought the G-d-fearing Jews to such a desperate display”, said Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss of Neturei Karta International. “The present event is not an isolated event or some new policy of the State of Israel being perpetrated against the G-d-fearing religious community. It is only part of the long and ongoing battle between Zionism and the State of Israel with the Torah-true Jews.”

“The ideology of Zionism is both the transformation of Judaism from religion and subservience to the Almighty, to base material nationalism, and a plan to end our Heavenly-decreed exile through our own actions. Both of these concepts are totally contradictory to the true Jewish belief. The Almighty alone will bring our redemption. We are expressly forbidden to take any action to end exile.”

“Therefore, all the great sages and leaders of Judaism in past generations, have stood in total opposition to Zionism and the existence of the State of ‘Israel’. Zionism works with all its power to totally eradicate, Heaven forbid, these true Jewish beliefs. To Torah-true Jews, their Jewish beliefs take precedence over their lives. Therefore, these Jews have undergone a long chain of suffering, imprisonment and letting their blood be spilt in this battle. The present events are just one more link in the long chain of the Zionist campaign in their attempted abolishment of the true Jewish faith.”

“Therefore, our brethren in Jerusalem demonstrated their anguish and pain by wearing the yellow star and striped Holocaust clothes.”

“We stand with them in solidarity.”

“May we merit to see, soon in our days, the revelation of the glory of the Almighty, when all the nations will serve the Almighty in peace and harmony. Amen.”

Jewish Rabbis and laymen will demonstrate in front of the Israeli consulates, TODAY: Thursday, January 5, 2012

NEW YORK CITY: 800 second Avenue [between 42 and 43] at 3:00 pm, followed by a march to the United Nations [First and 43]

LONDON:  2 Palace Green, London W8 4QB, at 2:30 pm

MONTREAL: 1 Westmount Square, Westmount, Quebec, at 2:45 pm



Arzei HaLevanon

The following was my presentation for Kinnah 21, Arzei HaLevanon. 

Tisha B’Av 5768 – August 10, 2008

 Arzei HaLevanon is the tragic poetic description of the 10 martyrs, the great Tannaitic rabbis executed by the Romans in the period following the destruction of the Second Temple.  In this anonymous qinah, we have the task of relating to brutal murder.  The great cedars of Lebanon, the strong in spirit, were cut down by the grand Roman Empire.  In general, the qinot we have recited year after year are not meant to be obscure, obtuse words we struggle to pronounce.  They are meant to elicit our emotions, to bring tears to our eyes and yet to leave us with a glimmer, not of hope, but of dignity.  Dignity is the ability, in the depths of despair, to find meaning and walk with our heads held high.  Most famously from the stories of the 10 martyrs is Rabbi Aqiba.  As he was standing, facing execution by iron combs, which would rip his flesh bottom to top, he kept a shred of his dignity, teaching his students: “All my life I was concerned with being able to fulfill the statement from qeriat shema, ‘And you should love your G-d with all your heart, all your soul and all your might.’  Specifically, how would I fulfill with all of my soul.  With all my soul I love G-d and feel unexplainable joy being able to truly show this love.”  Can we imagine what it means to laugh in the face of humiliating murder, whose goal was to destroy the soul as well as the body? 

            We have a history of martyrdom, of sacrificing our lives to avoid more devastating options.  This is Masada, this is the crusades, and this is the Holocaust.  We are challenged!  We are challenged to recognize that our leaders recognize that they are the exemplars.  The enemy could kill our bodies, but they couldn’t kill our souls.  As this is the day we remember all our myriads of tragedies, I want to illustrate and frame my words with two examples from 1800 years later, during the Holocaust.

            In July 1941, R. Elchanan Wasserman and other rabbis and students were taken from Kovno to the 9th fort, led to their execution.  It is told that R. Elchanan said that they must have proper intent.  “Let us walk with our heads held high.  Let no one think a thought that would disqualify his offering.  We are about to fulfill the greatest mitzvah, the mitzvah of sanctifying G-d’s name.”  R. Elchanan was stating that as sacrifices to G-d, wrong intent would negate the sacrifice.  In the face of certain death, he implored himself and others that our deaths should be mentally dignified if not phsycially.  R. Elchanan is following in the footsteps of Rabbi Aqiba.[1]  To best summarize the dignity of our martyrs, let me quote the words of the Piacezner Rebbe, R. Kalonymous Kalman Shapira, most well known for the derashot found of his in the Warsaw Ghetto, the Aish Qodesh.  In late 1941, in his derasha for Hanukah, he gave another of his many derashot about sanctifying ourselves for G-d.

            “This can perhaps be explained in a way that teaches us something of our own plight.  The terrible tortures Rabbi Aqiba endured cause such great suffering in his disciples that they were provoked to ask the same question that was asked by Moshe when he was shown the same event (menachot 29b): ‘Is this Torah and this its reward?’ The disciples were afraid that, G-d forbid, they might have doubts, however fleeting, as a result of their emotional and visceral response, and that their faith might be damaged.  They wanted their teacher, who was so powerful in his faith, to speak of his belief, so that his faith might inundate them.  When they asked, ‘Our Rabbi, how far,’ they were saying, ‘can you be our teacher thus far, even into the circumstances of this terrible death?’  Perhaps they did not articulate their question fully, or make it more specific, but merely hinted at it in order to avoid invoking the response that the Talmud (ibid.) says had already been given to Moses: ‘Be silent.’

            Rabbi Aqiba understood that the students were not questioning G-d but rather begging him to bestow upon them some of his faith, and so he told them something about himself and his own aspirations to faith: ‘All my life I was in pain over this verse…  Right now I have the opportunity to love G-d with all my soul.  Should I not grasp it?”

            The Piacezner continued later with words for those struggling to understand the world around them, giving a sense of dignity.

            “If only people would bear in mind that it is not because we robbed or we did anything wrong to anyone that we are being persecuted, but because we are Jews – children of Israel, bound to G-d and to his Holy Torah.  Firstly, it would explain why our enemies are not satisfied with just killing us or extinguishing the divine spark inside us but feel that have to annihilate simultaneously both body and soul of the Jew.  Then, if we could only bear it in mind, our faith and our cleaving to G-d and to the Torah would, on the contrary, burgeon and strengthen.  But because we tend to feel only our physical pain and not the spiritual pain, and because we fail to remind ourselves that what we are enduring is actually a war upon G-d and the Torah, therefore there are certain individuals who experience a weakening of their faith.”

            This qinah has the goal of invoking the cold blooded deaths of our people.  However, we must remember that while our bodies can be destroyed, we can’t.   

[1] Hidden in Thunder p. 451