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Monday, 21 March 2016

Take ownership of your Judaism

Daf Yomi Kiddushin 6

For the first fifteen years of their married life, Fraidy and Jonny would go away for Pesach.  Either to his parents or to her parents, as well as a couple of times that they spent the festival on a Pesach program at a hotel.  And then one year, things didn’t work out.  His parents were off to Israel for Pesach, and her parents were doing Pesach, but simply didn’t have enough room to host all the children and grandchildren. 

Fraidy and Jonny found themselves in a quandary – with seven kids, they couldn’t afford to go away for Pesach!  Suddenly, for the first time, they would have to make their own Pesach!  They were confused and concerned – they had never done it before!  Would they be able to handle it?

Immediately after Purim, they began cleaning their house.  They went through every drawer, pulled out every piece of furniture, looked through every book for crumbs – it’s amazing what you find after all those years!  They then proceeded to kasher their kitchen.  They purchased new pots and pans and new sets of dishes.  It wasn’t cheap and it was hard work.

But then the seder night finally arrived.  The smell and feel of Pesach permeated the home. Fraidy and Jonny looked at one another beaming. 
‘We did it!’ they exclaimed with joy.
For the first time in their lives, they felt that they had earned the joy of Pesach.  They were no longer mere guests of the festival, now it was theirs.

It was Rava who said that a gift given on condition that it will be returned is still called a gift.  For Rava taught: If a person said to his friend, ‘Take this etrog and perform the mitzvah with it, on condition that you return it to me,’ if he took it and returned it, he has fulfilled the mitzvah.  But if he failed to return it, he has not fulfilled the mitzvah.
Rashi explains: It is considered retroactive theft.

In order to fulfil the mitzvah of lulav and etrog on the first day of the festival of Sukkot, you must personally own your etrog.  It can’t be borrowed, it must be yours.  But what do you if you can’t afford your own etrog?  Rava presents a creative way to fulfil the mitzvah with someone else’s etrog – they can give it to you as a present, on condition that following your fulfilment of the mitzvah, you return it to them!

Seriously?!  Who are we kidding?  Isn’t that a little dodgy?  If your entire ownership is conditioned on your promise to return the etrog, what’s the point of this little ‘charade’?  Effectively you’re borrowing it, so what’s the purpose of the Torah’s directive that you must ‘own’ it, even if that ownership is temporary?

Today, throughout the Jewish world, we are witnessing unprecedented levels of assimilation.  Young people just aren’t interested in the edifices and institutions their parents and grandparents built.  They walk into shul and feel somehow detached.  They just don’t feel like they are truly a part of what’s going on.  Why not?

Because it’s not theirs.  It’s a Judaism that feels borrowed.  They’re not invested in it the same way their parents were.   That’s the difference between a non-member who shows up to shul on occasion versus a shul member who might only show up twice a year.  Even so, the twice a year member feels comfortable and confident walking into shul, because they own it.  The non-member feels awkward, like they somehow don’t really belong.  Because it’s just borrowed.  They don’t own it.

That’s why the Torah insists you own your etrog.  Our natural instinct would be ‘why should I invest in something I am only going to need for the next week and then will be worthless?’  And so nobody would bother investing in a lulav and etrog, figuring that they could just borrow one.  And bentching (blessing) the lulav would be a meaningless gesture.  Instead, you must own it; be invested in it!  And then you feel a part of it.

And that’s really how Hashem wants you to feel about every one of His mitzvos.  You need to take ownership of your Judaism.  As long as you’re ‘borrowing’ it, you’re not really experiencing it.  Whether it’s the sukkah you’re building or the Pesach you’re making, the tallis you’re wearing or the challah you’re baking – only once you do these mitzvos with your own elbow grease do you truly begin to appreciate and feel they are yours.

Take ownership of your Judaism.  Even temporary ownership is better than a borrowed mitzvah.  May you and your children and grandchildren merit owning every mitzvah you perform!

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

How to find happiness

Daf Yomi Kiddushin 4

A fellow once came to the Maggid of Mezritch and asked, “Our Sages teach that the same way one blesses Hashem for the good, we must similarly bless Him for the bad in our life.  How is that humanly possible?”
The Maggid replied, “Travel to Anipoli and address your question to my disciple, Reb Zushe.  He will give you the answers you seek.”  So off the fellow goes to find Reb Zushe of Anipoli.

He arrives in Anipoli and makes enquiries as to where Reb Zushe lives.  He is directed to a shack at the outskirts of town.  The place is broken down and almost appears uninhabitable.  He knocks on the door and one of the children opens up.  Peeking his head inside, he notices that the entire house is one room.  There are a dozen kids running around and there doesn’t seem to be much food in the kitchen.  There are piles of straw strewn across the floor for the kids to sleep upon and a three legged cracked table in the corner of the room.

Reb Zushe sees the visitor and welcomes him warmly.  After serving him some tea in a broken mug, he asks the reason for his visit.  He tells him that the Maggid sent him to learn the meaning of the words of our Sages, “the same way one blesses Hashem for the good, we must similarly bless Him for the bad in our life.” 
Reb Zushe stares at the man in bewilderment and responds, “Sir, I have no idea why the Maggid would have sent you to me.  My life is all good.  I have no bad in my life!”

Concerning a woman from a priestly family whose husband died, the Torah states, “If she did not have children, she shall return to her father’s house (and resume eating the priestly tithes).”
Beraisa: The verse teaches about children.  How about if she only had living grandchildren, could she return to her father’s house?  The verse states, “v’zera ein la (if she did not have children).”  The additional letter ‘yud’ in ‘ein’ (did not) may be understood to mean ‘examine’, meaning: Examine her to see whether she has any offspring.
The Gemara asks: From where does the teacher derive that we may expound the ‘yud’ as a superfluous letter?
They respond: Elsewhere the Torah states, “me’en Bilam” (Bilam refused to come) and “me’en yevami” (my levirate husband refused to marry).  In each of these examples, there is no additional ‘yud.’  If, in our case, the letter ‘yud’ is written, it must be present to teach something additional.

According to the Gemara, the word ‘refuse’ could have been spelled with a ‘yud.’  If that had been the case, the word would have read ‘me’ayin’ – from nothing.  In other words, many times in life, people refuse to do something, based on nothing, for no good reason.  Simply, their first response is always no!

When they’re asked for help, they automatically respond negatively – without even thinking.  There’s no good reason; they’ve simply trained themselves to say no.   It might be a community member, religious authority, or even a spouse.  They’re conditioned with a ‘No!’ attitude.

The right attitude to have is a ‘Yes!’ attitude!   Can you help with this community project?  Yes!   Is my chicken kosher?  Yes!  (Or, at least, ‘Let me look into it and get back to you!’)  Would you like to go to my parents for Yom Tov?  Yes!

The key to having an automatic ‘Yes!’ response is all about the attitude.   If you are thinking negatively, you will respond negatively.  But if you are thinking positively, you will respond positively!

There’s no shortage of books out there about happiness.  Where do you find happiness?  How do you reach happiness?  The truth is that happiness is found right where you are.  You don’t need to reach it; you just need to flick the switch to the ‘on’ position and starting saying ‘Yes!’

Some people have all the material blessings in the world.  Money.  Perfect health.  The good life.  And yet they’re not happy.  Why not?  Because they’ve failed to hit their internal happiness attitude button.   They could switch it on and have a positive attitude at any moment, but they’re not willing to make that effort.  Instead, they’re waiting for the happiness inspiration to come from something external to themselves.  

The word ‘b’simcha’ – with joy – contains the same letters as ‘machshava’ – mind, meaning that happiness is all in the mind!  Don’t wait for happiness and positivity to come your way.  You need to create that attitude within yourself!  You need to stop saying no for no good reason. 

And likewise when it comes to relationships: probably the greatest alleged source of people’s dissatisfaction is their lack of happiness.  My spouse doesn’t make me happy, so I’m out of here!  But marriage doesn’t make you happy – happiness makes you happy!  You need to make yourself a happy, ‘Yes!’ person and you will have a happy, ‘Yes!’ relationship!  If your attitude is ‘This is awesome!’ it will be awesome!  If you’re waiting for someone else or something else to make you happy, you’re going to be waiting an awful long time. 

Just like Reb Zushe, you have the power to see the world positively or negatively.  Most negativity comes ‘me-ayin’ – from no real source.  May you always flick the happiness switch to the ‘on’ position!

Monday, 14 March 2016

Be as Flawless as an Etrog!

Daf Yomi Kiddushin 3
When Moshe Rabbeinu received the Torah at Sinai, he received both a Written Law and an Oral Law.  The latter is the explanation, clarification and specification for everything in the former.  Without it, not only wouldn’t we understand the Bible, we would completely misinterpret it and practise a religion that would hardly resemble Judaism!

But how do we know that the Oral Law Hashem gave Moshe was transmitted faithfully and flawlessly to the people?

Maimonides explains the process: When Moshe received the Torah sheBaal Peh, the Oral Law, he entered his tent and called in his brother, Aharon, to relay it to him.  After that, Aharon’s two sons, Elazar and Isamar entered, and Moshe reviewed everything he had initially taught.  Following that review, the Seventy Elders entered the tent, and Moshe once again taught the Oral Law to all assembled.  Finally, he went out and taught it to all the people.   In other words, Moshe ended up teaching it four times!

Next, Aharon reviewed it with the Children of Israel.  Then his sons reviewed it with the people.  Finally, the Elders reviewed it with the people.  And so, everyone ended up reviewing it four times!  Once that had happened, there was no doubting that the Oral Law had been transmitted completely intact!

An etrog is like a fruit in three ways and like a vegetable in one way.   Just like a vegetable grows from any water and when it is picked it is tithed, so too an etrog may grow from any water and when it is picked it is tithed.
Rashi explains: Fruit trees are watered by the rain, whereas vegetables are watered by both rain and irrigation.  Fruit trees are tithed looking backwards on the prior year, whereas vegetables are tithed with a look towards the year ahead.

Just like vegetables, the etrog is unique in that it is nourished by water from above and below.  In our tradition, water symbolizes Torah.  That’s why the Baal Shem Tov says that one who sees water should know that it is a sign of blessing.  Some go so far as to say that the ultimate blessing is a rained-out chuppah! 

Why is Torah compared to water?  Just like water flows from high places to low places, so too does Torah.  The strength of Torah is in the chain of tradition that links us to our parents and them to their parents, all the way back to Sinai.   The Torah and mitzvos that we learn and practise today is the same Torah and mitzvos that have been practised forever.  Why?  Because we accept the sanctity of the ‘water’ that has come from the high places – the generations that walked before us.

Nevertheless, the etrog is a unique fruit because it gets watered from high and low waters.  What does that mean?  Sometimes Torah comes from the low places.  Our Sages teach, “Much Torah have I learned from my teachers; even more from my friends; but from my students, most of all!”

It’s one thing to learn Torah.  It’s another thing to discuss Torah with your peers.  But the ultimate test of whether you have truly mastered the material comes when you have to teach it.  When students ask you questions, it truly hones your skills and understanding.  That’s the beauty and uniqueness of gaining nourishment from the lower waters!  Your students, the lower waters, are the future – that’s why the tithing occurs looking forwards, not backwards!

Some people think that they don’t know enough Torah to teach it.  That’s nonsense.  If you are reading this Life Yomi, then you have some Torah knowledge that many others lack!  And you have a duty to share it with them.  When you discuss it with them, you will see that not only will you remember it better, you will understand it more deeply and thoroughly! 

That’s how our Oral Law has always been transmitted.  Moshe taught it and retaught it.  Aharon taught it and retaught it.  They were asked questions, which made them think even harder and more thoroughly about the material.  That’s how they mastered it and that’s how it was transmitted perfectly through the ages. 

It’s time for you to join the transmission link!  Go out and teach Torah!  Get your water from above and below!  Become as unique as an etrog!  They say that the word etrog is an abbreviation for everything in life that we seek wholesomeness in; and so may you merit Emunah sheleimah, Teshuvah sheleimah, Refuah sheleimah, v (and) Geulah sheleimah!

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Waiting patiently for your basherte

Daf Yomi Kiddushin 2

Adam had been in the Garden of Eden for some time, and he was starting to get a little lonely.
So, he goes to Hashem and says, "This garden is nice, but I'm lonely.  Is there anyone you can send to keep me company?"
The Almighty answers, "I have the perfect person. She will help you with everything.  She'll be a great companion and friend; she’ll take care of your every need: keeping a tidy home, preparing your meals, bearing your children. She will never complain.  She will always brighten your day.  And at the end of a long hard day’s work, you can expect a daily massage.  She really is perfect in every way!"
Adam says, "That sounds amazing! How soon can you send her?"
Hashem replies, "I can send her right away, but there is one thing . . . it's going to cost you an arm and a leg to get her!"
Adam thinks for a moment, and then says, "What can I get for a rib?"

Rabbi Shimon taught: Why does the Torah state, “When a man takes a wife in marriage?” Because the way of a man is to pursue a woman; and it is not the way of a woman to pursue a man.  It may be likened to a person who lost an item.  Who looks for who?  The owner looks for his lost item!
Rashi explains: The lost item is his rib! 

One of the major crises of our generation is that fewer and fewer people are getting married.  There is a host of reasons for the crisis, but a major cause is that we live in a very confused world today where traditional gender roles are disparaged.  As a result, nobody knows what to do anymore.  And so, men have forsaken their duty to pursue women in marriage.

But when you reject the traditional rules of engagement, everything gets muddled.  Who pays for a date?  Who picks up whom?  Who opens the car door?  Who makes the effort in the first place?

Rabbi Shimon makes it clear that in our tradition, the man must pursue his wife the way he would look for a lost item.  Imagine you lost a diamond ring.  What would you do?  You would stop at nothing until you found it!  Sadly today, many young people sit around, telling themselves, ‘It’ll happen when it happens!’ 

It doesn’t work like that!  You must make an effort to find your basherte!  Whether you are the young man seeking your lost rib or you are the young lady seeking to be reunited with your other half, you can’t just sit around waiting for things to happen!

Of course, according to the Gemara, the primary effort is the man’s to make; but if you are a woman, you need to make yourself findable!  That means being in touch regularly with the shadchan, attending singles events and so on.  It doesn’t just happen – finding a lost item takes incredible, non-stop effort!

Some things in life require patience.  Finding your basherte isn't one of them.  You need to be vigilant and never stop looking!

Your other half is out there.  Never lose hope that you will find them.  As long as you are dedicated to seeking your lost half, they will be found.  May you merit finding them immediately!

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Will your great-grandchildren be Jewish?

Daf Yomi Gittin 88

The Prophet Jeremiah foretold that the Babylonian exile would last seventy years, following which we would return to the Land of Israel.  Interestingly, while it was the first seventy-year exile, it was not the last.  Our most recent seventy-year exile was experienced by Jews living in the Soviet Union.   For seventy years of Communism, the practice of Judaism was against the law.  Those caught teaching Torah were sent to Siberia.  Matzah and tefillin had to be smuggled into the country.  And for most of that period, Jews could not leave – they were trapped behind the iron curtain, unable to emigrate to places of religious freedom.

The Rabbis taught: One may use an ancestral family name when signing a gett (bill of divorce) for up to ten generations.  Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar says: Up to three generations is kosher; beyond that, it is invalid.
Rav Huna taught: What is the scriptural source?  “When you beget children and grandchildren, and become aged.”

The Gemara talks about signing a document using the name of one’s forebear.  Many of us have famous ancestors, and we take pride in calling ourselves their children.  In the Megillah, Mordechai is called ‘ben Kish’.   The truth is, Kish wasn’t his father; he was a great-grandfather.  And yet, that was how he signed his name.  Rabbanit Batya’s great-great grandfather was a famous rabbi called the Oneg Yom Tov.  In the manner of our Gemara, she might start signing her name ‘Batya bat Refoel Yom Tov Lipman Halperin.’

But Rabbi Shimon maintains that one may only employ an ancestral name for three generations.  Ten generations, he argues, is unreasonable.  After all, who knows their great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents?   The connection is tenuous!  What constitutes a reasonable relationship?  Three generations, says Rabbi Shimon.  Beyond that, there’s little impact and influence to speak of. 

And that’s the significance of seventy years.   Beyond that time, we’re talking not just a different generation, but a completely different era and period of time.  They say that once a family has not been religiously observant for three generations, you rarely find the fourth generation even affiliating with the Jewish people.   In fact, Rav Moshe Feinstein rules that in situations of questionable cohen status, after three generations, we assume that the family are not cohanim.

And so when Hashem saved us from exile in Babylonia or the Soviet Union, He rescued us in the nick of time.  Any longer would have been too late.  We’d have been so far removed from our ancestors, that the likelihood of returning to our Judaism would have been slim to none.  The Almighty, in His abundant kindness, redeemed His people from the precipice of religious oblivion. 

You are the ancestor of your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren!  You have the power to direct your lineage for generations to come.  Will they take pride in using your name when they sign religious documents?  Or will they lack the wherewithal to sign the documents, because our generation made poor decisions? 

You hold the key to your family name for at least the next three generations.  May you merit children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who are proud, committed Jews!  

The Problem with Plagiarism

Daf Yomi Gittin 79

One of the greatest threats to academic integrity is the practice of plagiarism.  So much is premised on the trust that an individual’s work is indeed their own.  But what exactly is the problem with plagiarism?  Some teachers call it stealing.  But is it really stealing?  When you steal something, you take it away from the original owner; but when you plagiarise, most of the time the original owner wouldn’t even know about it.  So what’s so wrong with the ‘art’ of plagiarism?

Mishnah: If he dated the gett (bill of divorce) according to the reign of the improper kingdom, and she remarried on the basis of that gett, she must divorce both husbands.
Gemara: What is the improper kingdom?  The Roman Empire.  Why was it called the improper kingdom?  Because they do not possess their own script or language.
Rashi explains: They took these from another nation.
Tosfos comments: Rabbeinu Elchanan taught: Why are they an improper nation?  Even though their script and language are not their own, people still envy them.

The Gemara calls the Romans an improper kingdom, because they ‘took’, or plagiarised, their script and language.  Historians indeed point to Indo-European migrants who brought the Latin language to the area of Rome, and the same would appear to go for the alphabet that we use in English and many European languages today.  What’s striking to Tosfos is the envy people have for the Romans, despite their plagiarism.  Why would people envy a nation that was built on false pretenses?   

The reason people envy those who engage in plagiarism is actually the whole problem with plagiarism itself.   Plagiarism isn’t about stealing; obviously, nobody would envy a thief!   The problem with a plagiariser is that they avoid the hard work it truly takes to accomplish great things in this world. 

We were placed on this Earth to work hard and achieve progress in every facet of human development – spiritual, physical, psychological, scientific, artistic, musical, and so on.  Some people work hard and accomplish great achievements.  And then there are others who cut corners by lifting the work of others and claiming it as their own.  All of a sudden, they’re an overnight success and the envy of all who see them.  That’s the problem with plagiarism, says Tosfos: you create the appearance that you’ve accomplished great things, and that it was easy to get there.

Hashem didn’t send you down here for a vacation.  He wants you to work hard in this world.  Don’t ever be fooled by people who claim to be instant overnight successes.  Our Sages teach, “If a person says, ‘I strove and did not accomplish, do not believe him.  If he say, ‘I did not strive, but I accomplished,’ do not believe him.  If, however, he says, ‘I strove and accomplished,’ believe him.” 

If you see someone who appears to have reached their goals without much effort, run the other way!  They are not a good role model for you!  Great accomplishments require great efforts!  You can achieve your every dream, so long as you are prepared to work hard to get there, whether those are spiritual or material dreams!

In life, there are no shortcuts.  Successful people work hard to accomplish their goals and dreams.  May you never stop striving and merit reaching your every dream!

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

What's your symbol?

Daf Yomi Gittin 87

In our family, we love nicknames.  Every kid has at least a couple of nicknames and as occasions arise, names may be added.  And so, one day, Ella Bracha – a.k.a. Bree Elle, a.k.a. Stacey, a.k.a. goddess, a.k.a. Ella B. – comes home from preschool and proudly displays her symbol, a fish.  Since two year olds cannot read, they assign them symbols to recognize their property.   Hers was a fish and they had labelled everything from her schoolbag, to her chair, to her coat-hook, with the fish symbol.  And so a new nickname was born, ‘Ella the Fish’! 

When signing a document, Rav would draw a fish; Rabbi Chanina, a palm leaf; Rav Chisda, the letter ‘samech’; Rav Hoshaya, the letter ‘ayin’; Rabbah bar Rav Huna would draw a ship’s mast.

I was teaching this piece of Gemara in shul.  Judge Zalmanowitz was sitting there and so I asked him if today one could legally sign a document using a symbol.  He responded, “No problem.  But, in the twenty-first century, it’s called an Emoji!” 

Why did these rabbis use symbols for their signatures?  Clearly each felt that his particular symbol embodied his character and was a good representation of himself to the world. 

And so Rav would draw a fish.  Why?  Our Sages tell us that the ayin hara (evil eye) has no power over fish.  That’s why we eat fish on Rosh Hashanah.  That’s why we recite tashlich at a pool of water containing fish.  And presumably, Rav felt that the most important character trait to model is one that negates the ayin hara.  In other words, his life eschewed any form of jealousy or ill-feeling.    And so too with each of the rabbis, they would choose a symbol that represented how they wanted to be perceived by the world.

What’s your symbol?  What emoji best characterizes you?  How do you want the world to perceive you?

When I was in yeshiva in Melbourne, I was eighteen years old.  At one point, another yeshiva bochur, Mendy G., decided to hold an awards ceremony.  He drew up a list of all the yeshiva boys and gave them each an award for outstanding merit.  One bochur received the award for diligence; another for generosity; another for intelligence.  What award did I receive?  The tucked-in-shirt award: apparently, my outstanding merit was that I was the only boy in the yeshiva, who you could guarantee would always have his shirt tucked in. 

To tell the truth, deep down I was a little offended.  What about my wittiness?  My creativity?  Helpfulness?  My most unique trait was my tucked-in shirt?!  Seriously?!

But as time went by, I began to appreciate the profundity of the award.  And I started taking pride in the recognition.  Here I had been acknowledged as the most orderly person in a sea of chaotic, untucked, unkempt yeshiva bochurim.  My symbol was order in amongst the chaos!

And today I wear that symbol with honour.  I take pride in being a source of order in a chaotic world.  Whether it means bringing spiritual meaning into people’s crazy lives; or as simply as Mendy G. originally intended – being the best-dressed person in the room and demonstrating that being a ‘yeshiva bochur’ does not contradict being presentable.  Indeed, our Sages tell us that a talmid chacham (Torah scholar) is forbidden to go out with a stain on his shirt – after all, he represents the ways of the Torah!

Every individual has their unique symbol in life.  May you discover your special purpose and mission, and be able to present yourself to the world succinctly and powerfully! 


Necktie on Apple iOS 9.3 

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Why the monarchy is good for Israel

Daf Yomi Gittin 80

In 2005, Queen Elizabeth II came to Alberta for our centennial celebration.  Rabbanit Batya and I had the good fortune of being invited to the official state dinner with the Queen.  Nevertheless, she didn’t limit her interactions to leaders of the province; she made sure to make a number of public appearances, including a visit to the Provincial Museum, which was subsequently renamed the Royal Alberta Museum.

My mother-in-law, Sylvia, happened to be in town and was thrilled to have the opportunity to greet the Queen.  Spending her formative years in France, she had always had immense respect and wonder for the royal family and was also looking forward to reciting the special bracha one makes when one sees a monarch.  Anticipating busy crowds, Sylvia set out early to get a good spot on the road where the procession was due to take place.  Can you imagine her surprise when she was first in line and only about a hundred people showed up to greet the Queen?!

The truth is, many people believe that the monarchy is an antiquated relic of earlier forms of human progress.  In our age of tabloid magazines, respect for the royal family has all but disappeared.  Is it time to become a republic?

Ulla taught: Why did the Rabbis’ institute that a gett (bill of divorce) must be dated according to the year of the national monarch’s reign?  For the sake of peaceful relations with the monarchy.
Rashi explains: The monarch will say that the fact that we include them in our official documents demonstrates that they are important in our eyes.

As Jews, we have three reasons to support the monarchy.  First, as the Gemara here states, we are so concerned for good relations that we are prepared to recognize the monarchy on our religious documents!  How much more concerned must we be about supporting them throughout our societal and political interactions!

Second, we are bound by the principle of dina d’malchusa dina – we must obey the law of the land.  Believe it or not, it is still treasonous to act against the monarchy.  And so unless they are corrupt or oppressive, we are halachically obligated to support them.

The third reason is practical and has to do with our love for the State of Israel and the safety and security of our brothers and sisters in Israel.  Recently, British Prime Minister David Cameron criticised ‘settlement construction’ in ‘East Jerusalem.’  In 1967, Israel captured the eastern part of its capital city from Jordan.  Prior to 1967, no modern sovereign nation-state had ever laid claim to the area.  And so when Israel claimed it as its own, it did not steal it from anyone.  Contrary to popular myth, the Palestinian people never owned the territory and in fact rejected the United Nations’ offer to have it in 1947.

And so despite the fact that the nations of the world wanted to recognize that piece of land as Palestinian territory, they never claimed it as their own.  Israel was the first modern state to stake a legal claim in the eastern part of Jerusalem.  To draw an analogy closer to home, although there were indigenous people living in the land that today we call Canada, those people never staked a modern legal national claim to the land.  The first do so were the British and therefore Canada today is under the rule of the Queen of England.

And so when PM Cameron criticizes Israel for building homes in East Jerusalem, he might as well criticize every public action carried out by the Canadian government, with the approval of the Queen’s representative, the Governor-General.  Who gives them the right to build on land belonging to Inuit and First Nations people?

In other words, as long as Great Britain retains its stake in Canada, as long as the monarchy remains in place as our sovereign ruler, Britain has absolutely no right to criticize Israel’s actions in East Jerusalem or the Golan!

Of course, the major difference between Israel’s ‘occupation’ and Britain’s is that nobody denies that the British came here from abroad and colonized Canada.  In contrast, everyone agrees that the Jewish people are the true indigenous inhabitants of the Land of Israel!  The only complication is that for the two thousand years that most of our nation lived in exile from our homeland, others came and repopulated the area.  And so upon our return home, they too claimed indigenous status.   But never did they claim to establish a nation-state; and never did Israel occupy sovereign territory that belonged to anyone else.

Really, we should not have to defend our right to the Land of Israel.  Anyone who has ever read the Bible, or studied a little history or archaeology knows who the rightful owners of Israel are.  But until Moshiach comes, we live in an international society and we must play by their rules.  May we merit the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days, Amen!