Thursday, January 29, 2009

My way or...

“Let my people go!”


“Let them go!


Robert Mugabe must be a great-great-grandson of Pharaoh. Indisputable facts mean nothing to him. He’s convinced Zim is just fine, despite its complete economic collapse and wildfire cholera epidemic.

He is just like Pharaoh, who watched his country’s water become infected, all its crops destroyed and his people become ill and die. Yet, he remained unmoved.

How can a leader be so blind to the obvious crisis in his backyard?

Pharaoh- and all his spiritual heirs through history- remained convinced at all times that he was the only one who “really” understood. His way was the right way. After all, things had run his way for as long as he could recall and had worked.

“Free the Jews? We’ve never done that, why should we start now?”

“Obey Hashem? Nobody tells me what to do!”

Pharaoh could choose to be “right” or to be happy. He chose to be “right”- and paid the price.

He’s still alive today, Pharaoh, inside you and inside me.

He still spews rhetoric about how he’s the only one who truly understands and nobody is clever enough to advise him and how he has always done things this way, which must prove he is right. Pharaoh is our voice of over-confidence and inflexibility.

To succeed in life we need to listen to our Moses-voice, the one that urges progress, openness to new ideas and a listening ear.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Big Talk

Fools rush in.

Many of us feel frustrated at Israel’s poor PR effort. Why can’t they just hire a top-notch marketing company to brainstorm and get our side of the story out there? Sure, this time around we’ve had better media representatives than ever, but nobody seems to hear what they say. CNN and co. keep spewing the same “Israel = aggressor” rhetoric despite out best efforts.

Amazingly, as always, the weekly Torah portion is a mirror of contemporary events.

Pharaoh created a high-grade propaganda machine that turned his nation against the Israelites. Who did Hashem send to face off with him? Moshe, a man with a speech impediment!

Oh, but Hashem also backed him up with state-of-the-art miracles to convince Pharaoh that he had better listen. Moshe and Aharon confronted with a lifeless staff and transformed it into a writhing serpent.

Pharaoh remained unmoved. His people could do the same- if not better. The Egyptian sorcerers quickly responded with snakes of their own, water that turned to blood and a swarm of frogs- matching Moshe move for move and dismissing his antics as party tricks in the hub of black magic.

Moshe drew a trump-card. Lice. Witchcraft has no mastery over such tiny creatures, so Pharaoh and his henchmen were stumped. And silenced.

“A fool lets out all his wind, but afterwards a wise man will quiet it”, says King Solomon.

A fool yells a phony message, throwing out “proofs” quickly and loudly, conning the world for a time.

The wise man carries eternal truth. He is quiet and measured, confident that Truth will trounce falsehood again- as it always has.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Israel sure has received some bad press lately. With accusations of targeting schools, killing children and bombing UN agencies- it’s not surprising some of our own community are feeling a little uncomfortable with what we’re hearing.

We know the Israeli answer, but find it difficult to digest. Would Hamas really put their children in the line of fire? To the Western mind, this is impossible.

And, is it possible that world media carries an anti-Israel (read anti-Semitic) bias? Don’t they research and report objectively?

None of this is news to us. It’s part and parcel of the Jewish reality. We have had to deal with this sort of thing from even before we were a nation. Anti-Semitism is older than Judaism.

Chassidic philosophy teaches that the Egytpian Exile is the prototype for every subsequent anti-Semitic event or era. Read the story of Egypt and you’ll know what to expect- and how it will all end.

Pharaoh hated Jews, we all know that. But, his people didn’t. They had good memories of Jews, after all Joseph had saved their country from economic collapse and built it into a world superpower.

Slowly and deliberately Pharaoh fed his nation warnings of the “Jewish threat”: “They will take your jobs”, “They will ally with our enemies”, “They breed like rabbits, they will overrun us”. For all you know he could have used Joseph to illustrate how the Jews control the world.

Pharaoh was so intent on killing Jews he ordered all baby boys thrown into the Nile- Jewish and Egyptian. Golda Meir wasn’t visionary for saying peace would depend on the Arabs loving their children more than they hate us. She understood history.

Welcome to Pharaoh 2009.

We’re not praying for the IDF to win this war. Or any other.

We want Moses 2009- to take us Home and make the world a peaceful place.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Israel- a call to action

It's a few minutes before Shabbos and the rush is on, but this thought struck me and I would like to share it.

Israel's at war- again. Our collective Jewish heart skips a beat each time we hear of another missile attack or a soldier that was killed. Our collective Jewish conscience cringes each time a Palestinian is killed, because we don't celebrate the deaths of our enemies.

Global Jewish mobilisation in support of Israel is heart-warming. From Israeli-flag Facebook profiles to following IDF soldiers on Twitter to pro-Israel demonstrations to letters to the press to emailing video clips- people have responded.

Well, here's another "what you can do for Israel", gleaned from tommorrow's Torah portion.

Jacob dies. His last will calls for his sons to bury him in Canaan, which they set out to do. Egyptian dignitaries join the sad procession in respect to Joseph, their viceroy who is mourning his father.

Others have darker intentions.

As the procession leaves Egypt, a band of Ishmaelite and Canaanite princes ambush the group. Suddenly, inexplicably, instead of attacking the small Jewish band and their Egyptian associates, the princes join the funeral, hanging their crowns on Jacob's bier.

What changed their attitude?

Joseph's crown. The Talmud describes how they saw his crown adorning the casket and felt compelled to do the same.

Notice- they didn't change their tune out of fear of the Egyptians (World Superpower at the time) who accompanied the Jews. The emphasis is on Joseph's crown, not the viceroy of Egypt's crown.

What is the secret of Joseph's crown? Why did it stop the assault dead in its tracks?

Joseph was an atypical Jew. Unlike his brothers, he didn't live in isolation, tending the flocks, free to meditate and pray all day. He was deeply involved in the modern world, managing the most powerful position in the world.

Unlike others who rise to prominence, he didn't assimilate into the surrounding culture. Riding the wave of Egyptian world-domination, Joseph remained faithful to his roots. Rather than allowing society to shape his life, Joseph used morality and values learned in his father's home to guide society.

Joseph teaches us how to live in the "real" world, proud of the Jew we are.

As Israel battles its enemies in Gaza and its critics around the world, we need to wear Joseph's crown. It is the crown of Tefillin on our heads each morning and the pride of our Jewish heritage for all the world to see always.

Joseph's crown is so powerful, anyone who sees it switches from enemy to ally.

We pray for the day when there will be no more war, when all people will collaborate and assist each other. May today be that day.


Deja vu.

Israel fighting to defend its citizens and World condemnation of Arab bloodshed.

They call it a "cycle of violence" and blame "both" sides. They demand a balanced truce.

As if the two sides could be equated.

I say to the World: The day you see a photo of a Hamas terrorist and Jewish child interacting like this Israeli soldier and Palestnian girl, you can dare to use the expression "both" sides.