Waging Today’s Battles

We read in the Mishna about Moshe and the Jewish people’s battle with Amalek, which we will recall this Shabbat, Parsha Zachor, the Shabbat preceding Purim.

“And so it was, when Moshe raised his hand, Israel prevailed…” (Exodus 17:11). Did the hands of Moshe make or break the battle?” (Mishna Rosh Hashanah 3:8)

Could it be that Moshe’s hands had that kind of power to fight a war on behalf of the Jewish people? The question has merit. After all, wasn’t it Moshe’s hand and rod that split the sea and brought so many of the plagues?

However, if it was indeed Moshe’s hands that caused the Jewish people to win, then why did Moshe need help to keep them raised? Would he have not had enough strength knowing the importance of the matter to keep them raised himself? This is Moshe who assembled the Mishkan (tabernacle) all by himself!

So the Mishna begins to answer these questions, “Rather, this comes to tell you that whenever Israel would turn their thoughts above, and subjugate their hearts to God in heaven, they would prevail; and if not, they would fall.”

Moshe’s hands were directional aids they were not secret weapons. The Jewish people would look at Moshe and be inspired and be victorious.

But we return to a similar problem. If Moshe knew that keeping his hands up was going to provide them with the inspiration they needed to succeed in battle, how could he ever let them down? Would he have not had the strength needed to keep them up as long as possible?

The Sfas Emes answers that we have the scenario reversed. When the Jewish people in battle were focusing their hearts for the sake of heaven, and consequently they were victorious, then Moses hands were strengthened, and held high. But when the Jewish people’s hearts were not in the battle – or worse, when they were not convinced that it was God who would bring them victoriously through battle –  then Moses didn’t have the strength to keep his hands raised.

In other words, the Jewish people’s disposition brings strength to their leaders, which in turns allows their leaders the courage to lead and inspire.

Today we have many battles that we are waging — some of them existential threats and some of them internal spiritual battles — and all of them are rooted in this battle with Amalek.

What are we to do? We must main

tain our determination and trust in God that we can be victorious, and not be swayed by indifference, self-doubt or selfishness (all maladies associated with Amalek).

This determination will inspire our leaders to take risks and lead.

May all our enemies – both internal and external – be defeated.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Purim!

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Saturday Night Online Shopping Report: Nazi Valentine’s Card on Etsy, Protocols for Kindle on Amazon

Just weeks after the 70th Anniversay of the liberation of Auschwitz, and a month after the brutal slaying of Jews and others in Paris, I am reminded of the fact that for most Americans the Holocaust, and Hitler, are so far removed from our times that they are OK to joke about.

Case in point: Etsy, the craft site, has for sale a card that says, “Will Jew be mine? I’ll be Furerious is you say no.” Including a picture with the likeness of Hitler. “Will Jew be mine” is a cute line for a card. Adding Hitler makes it’s offensive.

I have Tweeted about it, and sent messages to the author / creator bringing attention to the card, with the hope of having it taken off the site.

Mel Brooks mocks Nazis, as have many other comedians, and they are completely in their rights. There should be no law outlawing a joke. France is wrong to put on trial a comedian. I am not for censoring, arresting, or outlawing comedians.

But a site like Etsy — and Amazon who are selling White Power and Nazi music — need to take a stand against racism and antisemitism and refuse to sell this merchandise. It’s in their right as a retailer to choose what to sell, and both sites have plenty of other products to sell. They won’t go hungry, and no one will harm their business for acting ethically.

Amazon has been impervious to this pressure before, but hopefully Etsy will respond positively and remove the card. Better yet, perhaps the card’s author will realize its not just hurtful, but that its bad for business.

Meanwhile, I am ambivalent about the sale of Mein Kamf on the craft site.

Amazon has a longstanding policy of selling antisemitic items — souvenirs, books, music, videos, clothing. Today my biggest disspointment with the online retailer is the Kindle download of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

I guess no matter how much influence we “Jews” supposedly have in control of the world, we can’t seem to figure out how to get Amazon from selling this book.

Also appears on JewishJournal.com

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President Carter, on The Daily Show, Links Parisian Massacres With Israeli Arab Conflict

President Jimmy Carter has done amazing work with building shelters for homeless people, and curing diseases in third-world countries. He is a humanitarian, and has helped millions.

Yet, his Carter’s assertion on the Daily Show (see video below) that the Israeli-Arab conflict played “a role” in the massacre of newspaper writers in Paris loudly calls attention to the fact that Carter is completely off-balanced on Islam, terrorism, and the Arab-Israel conflict. Charlie Hebdo was revenge for Mohammed cartoons and much more. But not the Arab Israeli conflict.

The Jewish supermarket massacre, however, was revenge on Jews and certainly connected to the Arab-Israel conflict. But Carter never distinguished between the two. (The Yemen based terrorists who took responsibility for Charlie Hebdo don’t even take responsibility for the massacre of the Jews.)

There has been no doubt since Carter published his book against Israel, Peace not Apartheid, that his legacy will be forever linked with his anti-Israel stance. He not only blames Israel for the conflict, he even blames Israel for things that Israel is not even doing: like apartheid and occupying Gaza.

I will never forget that when President Carter spoke at UC Irvine in May 2007, during my tenure as there as campus Rabbi, he told an arena full of students about Jewish control of congress which prevents peace in the middle east.

In this video below President Carter also reiterates the Israel should withdraw from East Jerusalem – which is saying to the Jews, “hey you don’t really want that Western Wall anyway.”

All President Carter’s work fighting disease in the third world has not rid him of the disease of antisemitism.

(Stewart’s line that these murderers in Paris use religions as a pretext is also simply wrong, but he is a TV show host, and not a world leader.)



As we read this past Shabbat in synagogue from Parsha Shemot, God says to Moses, “I will be THAT I will be.” Rashi teaches that God wants Moshe to reassure the Jewish people that “I will be with you during this time of distress in Egypt and in future times of distress.” Moshe isn’t so happy with this. Why bother them with the news that there will be still other times of distress after this slavery!? “You’re right, says God, tell them…”

Moshe didn’t want us to hear the news then, and it is hard to hear the news now.

Our hearts grieve as one over the tragic deaths of our brothers and sisters, and a dozen others in Paris in the last two days.

You know what? God is also heartbroken. So heartbroken. Just as God promised to Moshe, God is with us in our distress now.

But we cannot afford to be silent, to sit in sorrow or fear in the darkness, because now is the time to turn on the light and bring blessing and goodness to the world.

Outpourings of kindness, mitzvoth, love for one another are needed. And prayer. Pray with all our hearts to God to protect our people around the world, in Israel, and bless us with peace.

God, you took us out of Egypt, to be your people. Don’t forsake us and don’t abandon us. Please comfort our mourners, and do not let their deaths be in vain.