Thursday, January 31, 2008

Diaspora Jews Are People Too

The current Prime Minister of Israel did more than insult countless benefactors and donors to his constituency when he discounted the opinions of any Jew currently living outside of the Holy Land. He attacked fundamental beliefs within the Jewish faith. While our prayers are directed towards Jerusalem, the holiness of our people transcends borders, just as God Himself transcends the physical.

Any religion can tell you that the righteous certainly have meaning in God's eyes, wherever they may sojourn. The example of Joseph in Egypt comes to mind. An appropriate Talmudic quote on this is, "Even for the sake of one righteous person, the world can continue to exist, as it says "
A righteous man is the foundation of the world (Proverbs 10.25)" (Yoma 38b)

But in Judaism, even the non-righteous can gain merit from the performance of a mitzvah, and this merit is potent enough to help others throughout the world as well. "If this person does one mitzvah, he is praiseworthy, for he has caused himself and the entire world to be on the balance of merit." (Kiddushin 40b)

How can Olmert attack such a basic concept of the Jewish faith and get away with it?! How can he have any significant following in this?! We are the people who believe, "All Jews are responsible, one for another." (Shevuos 39a)

But even for those Olmert followers who reject Judaism itself, and only believe that the righteous and otherwise great people deserve attention, even such people as these, according to this twisted belief, deserve zero acknowledgment.

We are not discussing allocating a preserved historic site for destruction, for the sake of progress. Matters of ecological preservation alone properly belong to the people living in whichever particular country that such a issue arises in. An exception to the rule is if there would be a risk of some sort to other nations from the loss of the ecological site, such as the Rain Forests of the Amazon.

In this case we are discussing uprooting free access, that is, access that is free of bodily danger, of those to whom it belongs, specifically, those Jewish people who are religious or care about religion. This situation is comparable to a person without an artistic bone in his body trying to destroy every piece of art that he finds because in his view all that art ever does is wastes people's time. A modicum of humility, wisdom and civility would call for allowing the art to flourish in the hands of artists and those who appreciate art, and let the anti-artistic people attend to matters they prefer and understand. Therefore this matter represents a breakdown in humility, wisdom and civility by those who would deny the Jews of the Diaspora from having a say in the matter.

But one thing is clear. Even secular people should value Human Rights, and the physical city of Jerusalem as explained before is intrinsic to the spirituality upon which the Jewish faith rests. So if you do not believe in Judaism, then don't you dare try to alter the practice of its adherents by changing the status of the seat of their religion without their consent!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Democratic Messianic King

It is a matter of prophecy that Moshiach (the Messiah) be a king with not just the pomp and pageantry of royalty, but the legal power of life and death over his enemies within the society itself. Now in Halachah (Jewish Religious Law) matters of practice take on a religious import. If something is recognized as the best way of doing things, it is likely that when in pursuit of God's Honor, we must do things in that very way. And it is a matter of practice in our times that society considers good governance that which is closest to democratic ideals, and that which avoids the potential ability to abuse power by individual leaders. This brings us to the question. How do we have a king messiah in the age of democracy? According to God's own rules, this seems to be almost a paradox.

Well we already showed how it is possible for the world to come to a time where rebuilding the Holy Temple is not considered an act of war, but this concept of the messiah being a powerful ruler is perhaps more intrinsic to the entire messianic project. Once the temple is rebuilt, it is there. Once the king is in place, any time there is a lack of democracy, wouldn't there be the potential for discord against the king if indeed he were a fully fledged king? How can the messiah be a "peaceful ruler" (Isaiah 9.5) if his every command is open to question and a potential source of national strife. A "peaceful ruler" also cannot be a monarch who rules with an iron fist, placing extraneous fear in the hearts of his people, who he is obligated to view as his flock that he must lead closer to his Master, the Living God of Israel.

There is no need to show how it can happen that Israelis could choose the absolute rule of a messiah king over democracy. We need look no further than at Russia to see how a country whose governmental system, if it is viewed as the main problem, and not the main solution to the ills of state, how the people of a nation can reject their current form of governance for a more effective, albeit less democratic form.

Yet the crux of the matter is in the nature of the king, not the nature of monarchical governance. From a faith based perspective, the King Moshiach is absolutely guaranteed to be the perfect ruler, the most just leader, so the people will trust him to the extent to which no other people could trust a standard king to lead them. From a psychological perspective, Moshiach is described as having a Davidic style of personality. King David eventually became head of the Sanhedrin (Supreme Court) due to his incredible level of scholarship. Moshiach will be more scholar than politician. He will look for ways to avoid getting bogged down with day to day affairs of state. Therefore he will avoid tampering with the republican nature of the Jewish State. The more he can leave to the Knesset, the more of God's Holy Word he can study, and then inculcate into his lordship persona. The weight of prophecy and history will bear down upon him to be as perfect in his judgment as any king ever was. In the words of Maimonides (from 'the Laws of Penance' 9.2), "He will be wiser than Solomon, and like unto the greatness of Moses."

So what this means is in relation to the current Israeli system, if Moshiach came today, he will likely say that the Knesset should continue to run the daily affairs of state. Only in the event of war, or a complete break down of government sensitivity to the needs of the public, would the king ever act as king. For the most part he will be the most studious of scholars. It is mainly on the side that he will police the policies of the government to make certain everything is running smoothly. To do this most efficiently and effectively, he needs the full powers of a king.

One way this could work, without creating many new offices of government, would be to revamp the office of President of the State of Israel. Give the ceremonial tasks that the current Presidency calls for to the Vice President. Then give three main powers to the President:
  1. The power to not only line item veto, but also to initiate legislation, and approve it without governmental support. (I call this the Power of the Super Veto) The check and balance to this is that the Knesset can appeal to the Sanhedrin to override the Super Veto. Thus there is a method to limit monarchical power, but rather than making it hard to get anything done, as it is in current bureaucracies, this way would make it hard to overrule the king. Obviously there is a need of having a king you can really trust for this kind of power to be in place, and Moshiach fits that bill.
  2. The Power of Commander In Chief (as per the USA version of this concept)
  3. The Power of Absolute Immunity (he can be removed from office by vote of the Sanhedrin for egregious acts, but never physically or otherwise punished for any crime he commits).
This would also fit in nicely with the Prophecies of Ezekiel who calls the Messiah and his son and grandson, The Nasi, which is Hebrew for prince, and in modern Hebrew, the word for President.

In Honor of my father, Rabbi Leon Eliezer Friedlander, Esq., of blessed memory on 17 Shevat, 5768, the third anniversary of his passing to the World of Truth

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Iranian Dilemma

The likelihood of war happening as soon as this year only increases when you reduce the consequences for a county with the current kind of leadership that Iran has. The weak opposition by the West to Iran going nuclear has strengthened the danger of war with Iran. Friends of Iran, including nations like Russia, should be thinking tough love, not codependency, at a time in history like this.

Ahmadinejad’s ploy is currently working. How do you keep both the American military and your political competition at bay at the same time? Shell game tactics. Just as he was coming under pressure from moderates in his own government, this change of rhetoric from the White House is taken as a breath of fresh air, and more. As the Iranian leader values his stated declarations almost as much as actually following through on his threats, he views the White House disclosure to be a major victory of his regime against the "Great Satan". Moderates in Iran are silenced while extremists are strengthened, because it was only through Ahmadinejad's diligence in harsh language against the West that this "victory" was won. This strengthens his grasp on power, and serves to legitimize radical policies in the future.

Israeli intelligence has not relented from its view of danger from Iran. As they have more at stake than we do, they have less room for error, and therefore their press releases on this issue may be more on target than the USA's. The more isolated the Israelis are made to feel by the West, against an enemy more powerful than Saddam Hussein at the height of his power, the less likely they will be able to avoid personal involvement in a conflict with Iran.

I only oppose Iran going nuclear with their current regime in power, but with a Shah-like regime, only with more democratic institutional guarantees, I would support their pursuit of nuclear power. But with Iran's currently leadership, it not a question of recommending war, it a matter of finding a way to avoid it, otherwise it will happen, and it will happen soon. Pressure needs to come especially from Iran's friends. Perhaps the West can work out with Moscow a way to finance a freeze of Russian labor for Iran, without damaging the Russian economy. But as long as Iran can sit back while Russia does the work for it, this does not seem to be heading for a peaceful resolution.