Monday, July 31, 2006

Discussion Between Michael Rubin and Aaron Miller about Israel and Lebanon....

I just caught the last few moments of a discussion about the Israel-Lebanon situation on KUAT’s (channel six in Tucson) Online News Hour with Jim Lehrer. Michael Rubin, to paraphrase, said that Lebanon needs to reign in on and remove Hezba-llah and to fill that vacuum. The host (not Jim Lehrer) asked him if Lebanon has the capability to do this and Rubin promptly answered with another question, which I paraphrase; “Was Lebanon able to end the Syrian occupation? No, but with the help and support of the international community this was accomplished.” Rubin’s parallel between Hezba-llah’s hijacking of Lebanon and Syria’s occupation of Lebanon is right on the money, and it also demonstrates the general Arab society’s passivity when faced with destructive terrorist regimes thriving within the borders of their very own countries. Aaron Miller, whom was debating Rubin, had a quick and defensive/apologetic response, along the lines that such a thing would take too long. Too long for what? On the surface, he’s saying that a quick solution is better, but what this is really just a rejection of Rubin’s proposition, and means that Miller is saying that Israel is responsible for bettering the situation and not Lebanon.

The Problem with Al-Aqsa Mosque (al Masjid al Aqsa) and False History

Here is a picture of where the the Al-Aqsa Mosque stands today. Take a close look at the picture; the walls which create the platform upon which the Mosque stands are the walls to the old Jewish Temple. Normally, and this is how it was in the past, there was something inside the walls, not on top of it. The Mosque, literally and figuratively, rests on top of the site of the Temple. Here is a (rendered) picture of where the Beit Hamikdash, or Temple used to be. Al-Aqsa Mosque was built on this site in the 7th Century and today is the cause of many problems.

While we are all scrambling to understand the core reasons of the problem in the Middle East, coming up with interesting theories, many valid, some not, many have ruled out historical events as the culprit.

The building of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque are the causes of the problem, par excellence. The erection of the Dome of the Rock (the gray dome to the left) and the Al-Aqsa Mosque (the golden dome to the right), with the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade acting in its name in the 7th Century was completed to establish political control over Jerusalem. They act as an encroachment and obstacle to Jews, now for Israelis, and now for peace, for both political and religious reasons. This should be deemed intolerable violation and probably deserves a UN Resolution on its own.

Both are built on top of the site of the Temple, i.e., the Temple which was the center of Jewish religious and political life from when King David built it some three thousand years ago to its destruction in the year 70 of our millennium. Even after its destruction it remained the location of pilgrimage and central Jewish theology. Jewish tradition holds that it is the location where Abraham, long before King David lived, went to sacrifice Isaac, one of his sons. This is known as the Akeidah, or “binding.”

In 715 of this millennium, the Damascus-based (Syria) Ummayad Dynasty had the Al-Aqsa Mosque built on the site of the Temple Mount. Their reasons for doing so were political, and according to an article written by Daniel Pipes, the “Umayyad rulers sought to aggrandize Syria at the expense of Arabia (and perhaps also to help recruit an army against the Byzantine Empire).”

Muhammad himself changed the direction of prayer (qibla) from Jerusalem to Mecca in his lifetime, and later Muslim religious tradition had to create reasons to bring Jerusalem back into the religious sentiments of Muslims. In the attempt to achieve this, which was largely successful, the Ummayads built the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the site of the Temple in Jerusalem. They inferred a claim, very loosely based on Qur’anic Scripture, that Muhammad’s Night Journey took place at the Temple Mount and that he tied his horse, ”Al-Buraq,” which means “Lighting” due to his incredible speed, to the Kotel Ha-ma'aravi Pipes notes that passage 17:1 in the Qur’an reads, “Glory to He who took His servant by night from the Sacred Mosque to the furthest mosque. (Subhana allathina asra bi-‘abdihi laylatan min al-masjidi al-harami ila al-masjidi al-aqsa.)” and “When this Qur'anic passage was first revealed, in about 621, a place called the Sacred Mosque already existed in Mecca.” “Al-masjid al-aqsa” literally means “the furthest mosque,” which the Ummayads interpreted as referencing Jerusalem. However, Pipes explains that “Elsewhere in the Qur'an (30:1), Palestine is called ‘the closest land’ (adna al-ard).” How could the furthest mosque be located in the closest land? If the land was the closest then the mosque in it would also be the closest. Pipes also notes that “The ‘furthest mosque’ was apparently identified with places inside Arabia: either Medina or a town called Ji‘rana, about ten miles from Mecca, which the Prophet visited in 630.” It is most likely here where Muhammad had his Night Journey. There were also no mosques in Jerusalem, or anywhere in Palestine either at this time.

The mosques were built for political purposes and continue to serve those purposes of trying to bring Jerusalem under exclusive Muslim rule. The latest fad and historically false expression of Muslim domination over “Palestine” is Palestinian nationalism, which insists that an undivided Jerusalem is to be the capital of the Palestinian state, at the cost of blood and tears. Jerusalem was largely a backwater in Islamic politics, but as Pipes states, “This neglect came to an abrupt end after June 1967, when the Old City came under Israeli control. Palestinians again made Jerusalem the centerpiece of their political program. The Dome of the Rock turned up in pictures everywhere, from Yasir Arafat's office to the corner grocery. Slogans about Jerusalem proliferated and the city quickly became the single most emotional issue of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The PLO made up for its 1964 oversight by specifically mentioning Jerusalem in its 1968 constitution as "the seat of the Palestine Liberation Organization."

Can we imagine trying to split Mecca up in the same way and for the same political reasons? Pipes’ article, which is very good and stunning in the clarity of its information and research, can be found here.

Yet another Arab woman speaks out. Yashar koyach!...............

Brigitte Gabriel, yet another Arab woman, speaks out against some of the fundamental problems with Muslim terrorism occurring in the Middle East. Oh yes, the times, they are a changin’.

Brigitte Gabriel

Absolute Truth and G-d

The best things about humanity were not invented by humanity. In short, to the stance that G-d is a human invention is my attempt to show that G-d is not a human invention but in fact real. If G-d were a human invention, He would clearly be the best human invention, but then if we consider for a moment that G-d is not a human invention, we can see the world in a perspective that gives value to everything.

We must consider some things before delving into this. Firstly is the matter of subjective vs. objective reality, or truth. We can liken it to a tree in the middle of a jungle with an array of people standing around it; that the tree exists is no question, everybody attests to its existence. Truth is like this, it is not a matter of subjective reality or perspective, because even although each person standing around the tree sees it from a different angle, in respect to his/her specific location in relation to it, each agrees that in fact there is a tree in the middle of the jungle and that it is a tree.

Truth is not the same thing as each individual’s subjective perspective on life and reality, it is an object external to the human mind, as real as the tree. We cannot say that the tree exists in the person’s mind, i.e., is a product of that person’s individual and subjective consciousness, because it is perceived by all. Something about the process of a human’s coming into existence endows, which can also be said “traps,” the human being in a shell of his/her own perspective, his subjective reality. This is what creates each person’s “own truth.” His life becomes a product of his own truth.

This puts the individual and his personal subjective reality in tension with something that everyone perceives, an existence outside of himself. The tension is a product of his relationship with it; he knows that there is something outside of him, something perceivable, and that that thing strikes a chord of transcendence. The tension is created when he realizes within himself that he did not create this thing, that this thing is simply there and that it relates to everybody. He can take his own personal and individualized stance on this thing, but he is aware, and this is what troubles him, that he did not create this thing – it is not a figment of his imagination, although it is blurred by his imagination and personal experiences. It is like seeing a light through a multi-faceted prism; the light is bent and produces an indecipherable image, but it is clear that it is still light.

Not only does he realize that he did not create this thing, he realizes that the creation of such a thing would be an impossible task for him. He cannot create something better than him that tells him how to live life, for from where did that thing obtain the information other than its source? It is like creating a computer program that explains things to you; a computer program can only know what it has been programmed; there is no computer program that knows more than its designer. Nobody can create a computer that teaches its designer. Every computer is created with a fraction of the knowledge held by its designer. If it were possible to create a computer with knowledge surpassing that of its designer, it means that the person whom created that computer endowed it with the ability to obtain information from the world, which means that the person has all the knowledge of the computer already and therefore the computer is useless.
A person eventually realizes that, despite, or in compliment to his personal and subjective perspective on existence, that he exists in tension with a truth that he cannot shake and that he did not create, i.e., as a whole, and that it is not a product of his own mental creation. It is a law of sorts, a law of existence. It is no wonder that all societies develop laws with stark similarities to each other and that most human beings have certain, if very few, innate understandings of wrong and right. This is nothing less than the human ability, on the macro and micro level, to perceive that such a thing truly exists outside of the human mind. Every societal law and every personal maxim is a reflection of this external truth, this law.

Now the question becomes, “What is the source of this law?” We can try to reason that it is a compendium, an average, of subjective truths and that for some reason that subjective truths tend to align themselves with each other. But this is impossible, or highly unlikely, because the permutations of existence and their effect on a human mind are innumerable; it is virtually impossible that two different people develop similar subjective truths if they were not developing them based on some objective truth. That all drops of water fall from the clouds to the ground is not a coincidence; there is a force of gravity that draws them all to it.

This is the purpose of societies, to bring objective truth into the realm of livability. This is the purpose of law and of order, to try to catch a glimpse of that objective truth and to apply it to the human condition.

However, there is no human that has ever existed that was able to completely break through the tension of himself with that of the perception of absolute truth. Therefore, that humanity seems to be anchored in some notion of absolute truth means that, in some way, absolute truth found its way to us. There is no human that is able to, solely by his own reasoning and perception, state an absolute truth that at once, for all people, and for all time, applies and does not change; this above and beyond the range of human capability.

So the question now becomes, “How did air of this absolute truth reach humanity?” and the answer is that it was told to us, that it reached us not by way of our ability to masterfully tear through all of the world’s illusion, which we possess only in small and to imperfect degrees, but that it was given to us. Firstly, that it was given to us means explicitly that there is a knowledgeable Being whom willed to give it to us. It must be a Being and not a force because forces are neutral and mindless, possessing no will or forethought. Secondly, the person whom merited such a union with such a Being must have been sufficiently able to tear through the aforementioned illusion of existence; this individual was Abraham. It is fitting that Abraham was the first person to fully realize the existence of absolute truth, and with that the existence of the One G-d. Once he accomplished this, by way of his own reason, G-d came the rest of the way and broke that gap; He communicated with Abraham. Abraham reached the brink of human understanding, leading him to be absolutely sure that G-d existed, at which point G-d said, “You’re right, here I am.” What Abraham could not know, G-d informed him.

There is a term in Hebrew, in the Jewish lexicon, known as “bitul,” which is loosely translated as “nullification (of the self).” In Muslim thought there is a very similar parallel, if not the same concept altogether, known as “submission,” or the Arabic word “islam,” which shares a root with the Hebrew word “shalem,” whole, (shalom, peace). Abraham gave the world this concept and that is why he is the revered father of all monotheism and absolute truth today. Suffice it to say that Abraham reasoned that kindness was the Divine pillar of human interaction with each other; so monotheism, absolute truth, and kindness are inseparable.

To say that we created G-d is to say that we are able to create the notions, laws, that spew forth from G-d, but again, if we were able to create the thing that informs us, we would not need to create it because we would be able to inform ourselves. That all human groups throughout time and history have formed idols, imagined gods and goddesses, and had religions with cultural and societal laws is proof that we perceive that a Truth exists and that He gave us life and truth vs. our giving it to Him. Abraham’s recognition was the Identity of this Oneness, a Being, G-d, HaKadosh Baruch Hu.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Somebody sent me this; it's a demonstration being held in California, not sure what city. Either way, it's the context of the e-mail that counts.

The 14th Of March Coalition will be holding a demonstration at the
Federal Building on Wilshire Blvd.
The Demonstration will take place This Sunday July 30th, from
2:00 P.M. till 5:00 P.M.
You are not allowed to hold any flags other than the Lebanese and The American Flag.
You are not allowed to wear any Lebanese Party Apparel.

The Goal behind our Demonstration is to show that Not all lebanese people support Hizbullah, but

Our Demands will be clear through the Flyers/slogans we'll be distributing/holding on the spot. Those Demands are:

1. Impliment UN Resolution 1559

2. Stop Killing Civilians on both sides

3. Send the Lebanese Troops to the Israeli/Lebanese borders and remove Hizzbuallah.

G-d Always Chose the Younger Son/Sons

G-d always chooses the younger son/sons. G-d chose Abraham, Nachor's younger brother, and he gave birth to both Isaac and Ishmael. Muslims consider the tradition of the Torah to have been falsified by Jews, primarily the Torah's text that Isaac was chosen to inherit Abraham's legacy instead of Ishmael, the reason being that Arabs are the descendants of Ishmael. However, the Muslims argument is laid to rest here because had Abraham, the second born son, not been chosen by G-d to be the inheritor of G-d's legacy on Earth, Ishmael would have not been born and Islam would not have come into existence. This is where Muslims pick and choose their arguments; they cannot say that the first born son is always chosen AND that Abraham was chosen, because he was the second born. However, just to drive home the point, I will continue.

Abraham's second born son, Isaac, was chosen by G-d in the same manner in which Abraham was. G-d chose Jacob as well, younger brother to Esav. Jacob married both Rachel and Leah, Rachel who was the younger daughter. Lavan, her father, declared that it was
against the custom of the land to marry the younger first, but it was through Rachel, the younger daughter, through which Joseph was born. Through Rachel, Bilhah, Leah, and Zilpah, the twelve tribes of Jacob/Israel were born, and it was Joseph, who was definately not the oldest son, through his special status with G-d, whom led Israel into Egypt. Joseph was the son of Lavan's younger daughter. Benjamin, Rachel's younger son (Joseph's younger brother), the youngest child out of all the thirteen descendants (Dinah), was the ancestor of King Saul, the first king of Israel. Levi, one of Jacob's sons, was the ancestor of Aaron, Miriam, and Moses, but it was Moses, the younger out of the three, whom through his special relationship with G-d led the Children of Israel out of Egypt and to receive the Torah at Mt. Sinai. King David, the second and greatest king of Israel, came from the tribe of Judah, and David was the youngest of three sons.

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Rachel, Joseph, Benjamin, Levi, Moses, King Saul, and King David, all pivotal and extremely significant historical characters in the monotheistic legacy of Abraham, i.e., "very important Jews," are also labeled "Muslims" by Muslim tradition, as all of the Patriarchs, Matriarchs, and Prophets in the Tanakh. Muslims are free to call these people whatever they want, but it would be historically anachronistic by some 3,000 years and less to say that they were Muslims, not to mention that there is no evidence of any sort of "proto-Muslim" religion's existence; Arabic wasn't even around until much later. Does this mean that the first Muslims spoke Hebrew? Why wasn't the Q'uran revealed in Hebrew then? In fact, that which Muslims express as the prototype form of Islam, i.e., true submission, was actually "Israelite religion," the precursor to Judaism, not to Islam. It is today's religious kippah (men) and long skirt-wearing (women) who live closer to the tradition of the Israelites than does anybody on this earth, primarily because they keep the commandments. If Islam claims to the descendant religion to this prototype religion of G-d, why don't they keep and/or recognize all the commandments of the Torah in the way that Jews do? In fact, Islam presents a break from tradition, a distancing from the calls of the Torah. It is the Jews who are closer to the truth.

And living before Abraham was Noah whom had three sons; Shem, Ham, and Yafet-- Shem was "the chosen son" in that he gave birth to Abraham's line. Where was he in the birth chronology? Going even further back we realize that Adam and Eve had two sons originally; Cain and Abel, and G-d favored Abel, the younger son.

According to Islam then, here is a list of the people that the Jewish text, the Jews, have cheated by meddling with the "original text" of the Torah, also a non-existent imaginary text meant to justify Islam.

Cain (Abel's older brother)
Nachor (Abraham's older brother)
Ishmael (Isaac's older brother)
Esav (Jacob's older brother)
Leah (Rachel's older sister)
Reuven, Shimon, Gad, Dan, Naftali, Issachar, Zvulun, Yehudah, and Asher (Yosef's and Benyamin's older brothers)
Aaron and Miriam (Moses' older brothers)
King David's older brothers

Going by the logic that the Jews changed "the original text" of the Torah to cheat the aforementioned Matriachs and Patriarchs out of their proper place in the tradition of Abraham, we should expect to find "the original text" one of these days containing the tradition in which the "correct" ancestral lines of the aforementioned Patriarchs and Matriarchs is contained. In this text, Nachor is the father of a multitude of nations and his first born son comes in place of Isaac, and his first born son is in place of Esav. It is a moot point to go on because Nachor's being chosen by G-d would unseat both Judaism and Islam as religions today; we would not exist. Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, and Esav would still be alive today, but we, their descendants, would be reading this post while a descendant of Nachor was writing about the One True G-d. For some reason, G-d also chose the younger son or daughter.

However, if we were to find a text like this it would be nonsenical. Nachor would have had a son but Ishmael, his brothers first born, would have inherited. Nachor's son would have had a son, but his brother's grandchild (Esav) would have inherited. The permutations are countless, and irrational too; all along the way a random person from another family would have inherited the tradition. This is in essence what Islam is alluding to, that is, if they were to stay consistent with their logic.

The truth is that Muslims agree with SOME of the text of the Torah but disagree with other parts. By what logical basis do they disagree with some parts and agree with others? Easy, necessity; Muslim religious tradition confirms the Torah text that justifies Islam, or might as well be true without harming foundational Muslim beliefs, but discards as "corrupted" information negating the claims that established Islam. Islam was born out of competition and has not yet understood that it is a sister religion to Judaism and that it does not need to spread its bounty everywhere in order for the truth of G-d to be revealed. Muslim teachings say that there were people before the advent of the religion of Islam that were true monotheists; why can't those people stay true monotheists today? Why do they need to convert or submit to Islam? Weren't Jews in that category? Islam has not learned how to love its neighbors yet, let alone get along with them.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Abda-llah's Havdala

The Muslims (at least the Arab Muslims) have a political and social culture that is deeply religious, which is the way we used to be and the way that we'll be again. When the Arabs get rowdy and pissed off about our returning to our Holy Land, we should take it as a serious sign that we're doing something right because they foresee the re-establishment of the Jewish sovereign state, which would undermine claims to Islam's universality and utter dominance. Through all their bluffs of military strength this is one thing that they demonstrate honestly through their hostility. To the degree of their fear of the implications of Israel we should be that much happier and willing. It's strange, but they are serving as a reminder for us in a way. Hehe, if we get confused about what we have to do we should take a look at what the Arab Muslims are saying Israel is and take a cue from them. R' Chaim of Volozhin said, "If a Jew doesn't say Kiddush, the non-Jew will say Havdalah for him*." In Arabic, the word "junud" means soldiers and "Yahud" means Jews. I once heard an Hamas song where the singer rhymed those two words. The song was expressively negative but the jist of the lines was, "My son, Qassam, have no mercy on all of the Jews. They are all soldiers." He's right, but not the kind of soldiers he says we are, the soldiers that we say we are, soldiers of Torah. We should put our lives in the hands of Hashem, not of some bloody murderer terrorist. Let's make some Kiddush and avoid that type of Havdalah; Abda-llah's Havdalah.

May the anthems of our enemies be like sweet words to our ears.

*"Kiddush" literally means "sanctification," i.e., separating the holy from the mundane. "Havdalah" literally means "separation" and it's a blessing that Jews say right after Shabbat ends to separate the holy day from the mundane. R' Chaim was using the words metaphorically; if a Jew doesn't sanctify his/her life, he will be shown just how different he is. I also read it, if a Jew doesn't take on a life of holiness, the Gentiles will take it upon themselves to take on that life of holiness in our stead. The two ways it can be read can come together, because once they believe they have replaced us, they will try to remove us.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Will the Real Akeidah Please Stand Up?

So I just came back from praying Mincha and Ma’ariv (the evening and night prayers) at the synagogue, where our Rabbi taught us some of the halakhot (laws) of building the mizbe’ach, or altar where the sacrifices were brought. It resides in Jerusalem on the site of the Temple, built on the land of Moriah, a hill to be exact, where Abraham brought Isaac to be sacrificed – the Akeidah. It was the same spot where Noah offe
red a sacrifice to G-d after the Flood. It was also the same spot where Adam brought an offering to G-d and from the same mound of dirt from which he was created. The point is that he was forgiven in the same place from which he was made, and it is where we will be forgiven.

So here comes the point where I glean and focus the information into something relevant for a different purpose, other than rebuilding the Temple.

As the Torah says, Abraham was to sacrifice his (second born) son Isaac on that site on Mt. Moriah. Muslim tradition has it that Abraham was to sacrifice Ishmael, not Isaac, and it also says that the Akeidah took place in Mecca, on the future site of the Qaba, not Jerusalem. Take a look at a map of where Mecca is located. In Genesis 12:5 we read, "Abram took his wife Sarai and Lot, his brother's son, and all their wealth that they had amassed, and the souls they made in Haran; and they left to go to the land of Canaan, and they came to the land of Canaan. Abram passed into the land as far as the site of Shechem, until the Plain of Moreh." The walk from Jerusalem to Mecca is about twice as long as the walk from Haran to Jerusalem. Haran is located in modern-day southeast Turkey, the northernmost black dot. Jerusalem is in Israel, which is in green, and Mecca is in Saudi Arabia, in yellow. Nevertheless, the walk from Haran to Jerusalem is about 550 miles, or 890 kilometers away from Jerusalem, which is one place Abraham travelled. From Jerusalem to Mecca it's about 931 miles, or about 1,500 kilometers, or in other words, almost twice as long. But Muslim tradition doesn't say that Abraham went to Jerusalem, but rather Mecca, so cutting Jerusalem out of the trip and going straight from Haran to Mecca would be about 1,211 miles, or about 1,950 kilometers. This means that Abraham took a camp of people 1,211 miles on donkey and camelback to a place that was "out of the way," i.e., nothing of import was taking place there until much later. They would have gone all this way to sacrifice Ishmael, which serves the purpose of making Mecca and the Hijaz (Saudi Arabian Peninsula) the inheritance of the legacy of Abraham, but we see that his legacy was born with the Jewish monarchy in around the year 1020 BCE, meaning that there was about a 1,742 year long period where there was no Islam. The Jewish monarchy even lived out its duration long before Islam was born and fell in 722 BCE with the Assyrian invasion; Islam finished spreading in 722 CE. Even today neither Mecca nor Saudi Arabia are the center of Middle Eastern politics, but Jerusalem. Mecca is definitely the center, or the major center, of the Muslim world, but only the Muslim world.

The most unfitting thing here is that G-d told Abraham to go to Canaan (later Israel) to establish his legacy there. Why only during Muhammad's life some 3,000 year later did Arabs suddenly realize that Abraham brought Ishmael to Mecca? If Abraham had really taken Ishmael to Mecca, where was his religious legacy for all that time?

In Genesis 12:5 we read, "Hashem appeared to Abram and said, 'To your offspring I will this land,'" a reference to Isaac then Jacob's offspring. In 13:8-9 we read, "So Abram said to Lot: 'Please let there be no strife between me and you, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not all the land before you? Please, separate from me: If you go left then I will go right, and if you go right then I will go left.'" In verses 14 adn 15 we read, "Hashem said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, 'Raise now your eyes and look out from where you are: northward, southward, eastward, and westward. For all the land that you see, to you will I give it, and to your descendants forever.'"

Now, aside from the questionable line of logic that Muslim tradition has in showing that Abraham brought Ishmael and not Isaac (due to its location) to Mecca, how do we explain that throughout human history it has been Jerusalem, and specifically the site of the Beit Hamikdash, or Temple and not Mecca and the site of the Q'aba that has been wrought with strife? Why is that invading peoples and nations have always wanted to get their hands on Jerusalem, not Mecca? How do we explain that the Crusaders persistently wanted to take over Jerusalem and not Mecca? Why are today’s problems concentrated in Jerusalem, not Mecca? Mecca, in purely relative matters, is marginal to the core of the conflict in the Middle East, it’s a sort of “backwater” and only important to Muslims. Why, why aren’t Jews, Christians, and Muslims fighting over the holiest site of Islam, or even Christianity? Why is that it, to go along with the common maxim, Jerusalem is a holy site to the three major religions and not Bethlehem, Nazareth, Mecca, or Medina? Why is Jerusalem a pillar that the people involved want?

Perhaps it is possible, in alignment with the Torah tradition of Abraham bringing Isaac to Mt. Moriah, that the world’s religious populations have internalized a certain tradition, that Abraham brought his son Isaac to the future site of Jerusalem to be sacrificed. Whether or not peoples have passed on this tradition in the same form, the fact is that Jerusalem has stayed at the center of interest for many world powers over; why is it that Mecca never became the new Jerusalem? This wasn’t achieved even after Muhammad shifted the direction of prayer, or Qibla
of Muslims from Jerusalem to Mecca and stated that Abraham went to sacrifice Ishmael there. Even if it was true that Abraham brought Ishmael and not Isaac, it still wouldn’t explain why Muslim tradition doesn’t declare that Ishmael is only concerned with making statements about Ishmael with regards to Mecca but not to Noah, or Adam. The Qur'an doesn't say that Noah made an offering in Mecca or that G-d formed Adam from a mound of dirt in Mecca, in fact, they probably agree that those events took place in Jerusalem. We indeed see that Islam makes many of the same or similar claims that Judaism does, for example, that Abraham came from a family of polytheists in Babylon (modern day Iraq), but it was necessary for them to alter their stance on Ishmael. And of course we can’t ignore that the Jewish religious monarchy was started by King Saul and passed on to many “greats,” such as King David, who moved it to Jerusalem, and his son Solomon. They are all figures which Muslim tradition recognizes as “Muslims,” (submitters to G-d) and that this monarchy, which was in fact an ancient Jewish state, was the center of world politics for some one thousand and seven hundred years before Muhammad was born. If, Kings Saul, David, and Solomon were Muslims and they erected the first ever religious monarchy to G-d, we could even say that Israel was the first Muslim state. Equally, we can say that it should serve as the prototype for all future Muslim states, "Palestine" included.

Perhaps the world tradition, at least for “Western” religionists, that human civilization started with Adam and eventually centered around a location fixed in the heart of a Land called “Israel,” is unshakeable no matter what new religions say. The Jews are much less populous than the Muslims, making up .002% of the world compared to Islam’s 23%, but Islam will always be Judaism’s little sister regardless of her enormity.


This is one of the major rebuttals coming from the Muslim tradition as to the veracity of the Torah tradition that Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac in Jerusalem and not Ishmael in Mecca. If there are any that you know about that I missed, please leave a comment.

According to Wikipedia, the Muslim traditions states this:

“Traditionally, Muslims believe that it was Ishmael rather than Isaac whom Abraham was told to sacrifice. In support of this, Muslims note that the text of Genesis as it stands, despite specifying Isaac, appears to state that Abraham was told to sacrifice his only son ("Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Isaac," Genesis 22:2) to God. Since Isaac was Abraham's second son, there was no time at which he would have been Abraham's only son, so they take this to imply that the original text must have named Ishmael rather than Isaac as the intended sacrifice. The Qur'an itself does not specify which son he nearly sacrificed (Qur'an 37:99-111).

The entire episode of the sacrifice is regarded as a trial that Abraham had to face from God. It is celebrated by Muslims on the day of Eid ul-Adha.”

I must say that from a logical perspective that is a great point and it is not the first time that I have been pleased (logically) with an argument I’ve heard come from Islam. However, after just a bit of thinking it dawned on me that earlier in 21:9, “Sarah saw the son of Hagar, the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking. So she said to Abraham, ‘Drive out this slavewoman with her son, for the son of that slavewoman shall not inherit with my son, with Isaac!’” Later in 21:11, G-d says, “Be not distressed over the youth (Ishmael) or your slavewoman (Hagar): Whatever Sarah tells you, heed her voice, since through Isaac will offspring be considered yours.” Perhaps that by the time of the Akeidah, Ishmael was not around, and therefore Isaac was Abraham’s only son. Note, the Hebrew doesn’t say “even Isaac,” which is a product of translation. Further, which can be taken to confirm that Isaac was really the object of the Akeidah, is that, according to the above paragraph from the Wikipedia site, “The Qur'an itself does not specify which son he nearly sacrificed (Qur'an 37:99-111).”

The exact verses in the Qur’an mentioning the Akeidah are as follows,

“Allah the Almighty tells us of Ibrahim's affliction. After his rescue from the fire, Ibrahim (pbuh) says : ‘Verily, I am going to my Lord. He will guide me! My Lord! Grant me (offspring) from the righteous.’ So We gave him the glad tidings of a forbearing boy. And, when he (Isma'il) was old enough to walk with him, he said: ‘0 my son! I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering you (offer you in sacrifice to Allah), so look what do you think!’ He said: ‘0 my father! Do that which you are commanded, Insha' Allah (if Allah wills), you shall find me of the patient.’ Then, when they had both submitted themselves (to the Will of Allah) and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (or on the side of his forehead for slaughtering); and We called out to him: ‘0 Abraham! You have fulfilled the dream (vision)!’ Verily! Thus do We reward those who perform good deeds totally for Allah's sake only.’

This test was truly a manifest trial, and Isma'il (pbuh) and his father (pbuh) showed their complete submission to God. Allah granted their progeny with so many prophets.

"And We left for him (a goodly remembrance) among generations (to come) in later times.. Verily, he was one of Our believing slaves. (Qur'an Saffat 37:99-111)”

Interestingly enough, in the same manner, the Qur’an does not mention that Muhammad ascended to Heaven from Jerusalem, but rather from a place which the Qur’an refers to as the “furthest mosque.” Al aqsa means “nearest” in Arabic, the name given to the mosque built on the site of the Temple in Jerusalem, Judaism’s holiest site in honor of this verse from the Qur’an. However, if the Qur’an says that the place was “the farthest,” why was the mosque in Jerusalem named “the nearest,” the exact opposite? What this could mean is that “the place farther from all other places” was not a reference to Jerusalem, but maybe to Mecca, or maybe even to Heaven, and Jerusalem was “nearer,” or “the nearest.”

According to an article by Daniel Pipes about Al-Aqsa Mosque, of which the full article can be found

“The next Umayyad step was subtle and complex, and requires a pause to note a passage of the Qur'an (17:1) describing the Prophet Muhammad's Night Journey to heaven (isra'):

Glory to He who took His servant by night from the Sacred Mosque to the furthest mosque. (Subhana allathina asra bi-‘abdihi laylatan min al-masjidi al-harami ila al-masjidi al-aqsa.)

When this Qur'anic passage was first revealed, in about 621, a place called the Sacred Mosque already existed in Mecca. In contrast, the ‘furthest mosque’ was a turn of phrase, not a place. Some early Muslims understood it as metaphorical or as a place in heaven.14 And if the ‘furthest mosque’ did exist on earth, Palestine would seem an unlikely location, for many reasons. Some of them:

Elsewhere in the Qur'an (30:1), Palestine is called ‘the closest land’ (adna al-ard).

Palestine had not yet been conquered by the Muslims and contained not a single mosque.

The ‘furthest mosque’ was apparently identified with places inside Arabia: either Medina15 or a town called Ji‘rana, about ten miles from Mecca, which the Prophet visited in 630.16

The earliest Muslim accounts of Jerusalem, such as the description of Caliph ‘Umar's reported visit to the city just after the Muslims conquest in 638, nowhere identify the Temple Mount with the ‘furthest mosque’ of the Qur'an.

The Qur'anic inscriptions that make up a 240-meter mosaic frieze inside the Dome of the Rock do not include Qur'an 17:1 and the story of the Night Journey, suggesting that as late as 692 the idea of Jerusalem as the lift-off for the Night Journey had not yet been established. (Indeed, the first extant inscriptions of Qur'an 17:1 in Jerusalem date from the eleventh century.)

Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiya (638-700), a close relative of the Prophet Muhammad, is quoted denigrating the notion that the prophet ever set foot on the Rock in Jerusalem; ‘these damned Syrians,’ by which he means the Umayyads, ‘pretend that God put His foot on the Rock in Jerusalem, though [only] one person ever put his foot on the rock, namely Abraham.’17

Just a thought:

Another argument made by the Muslim tradition is that the Jews maliciously corrupted the text of the “original Torah” (meaning that the Torah that the Jews read today is not the original) to replace Ishmael with Isaac. However, in verse 21:9 of the Torah we read, “Sarah saw the son of Hagar, the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking. So she said to Abraham, ‘Drive out this slavewoman with her son, for the son of that slavewoman shall not inherit with my son, with Isaac!’” This hardly seems like a corruption of the text; Hagar mocked Sarah because Sarah was barren and Hagar had just given birth. Sarah, who is also seen as a Muslim in Muslim tradition, was deeply offended by Hagar’s subtle patronizing and expelled her slavewoman, or handmaiden, from the home. Further, the Torah says in 22:11, “The matter greatly distressed Abraham regarding his son (Ishmael).”

Wait just a matzah-pickin’ minute here! If the Jews corrupted the text, they are treating “the bad guys” very nicely. Maybe this is how it really happened? There are a series of verses that deal with Hagar and her son Ishmael quite compassionately, hardly indications of malicious corruption. Guess what, there are even Rabbi’s with the name “Ishmael.” 22:14-20 says, “So Abraham awoke early in the morning, took bread and a skin of water, and gave them to Hagar. He placed them on her shoulder along with the boy, and sent her off. She departed, and strayed in the desert of Beer-sheba. G-d heard the cry of the youth, and an angel of G-d called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for G-d has heeded the cry of the youth in his present state. Arise, lift up the youth and grasp your hand upon him, for I will make a great nation of him.’ Then G-d opened her eyes and she perceived a well of water; she went back and filled the skin of water and gave the youth to drink. G-d was with the youth and he grew up; he dwelt in the desert and became an accomplished archer. He lived in the desert of Paran, and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.”

Interestingly enough, Genesis 22:4-5 says, “So Abraham woke up early in the morning and he saddled his donkey; he took his two young men with him and Isaac, his son; he split the wood for the offering, and stood up and went to the place of which G-d had spoken to him. On the third day, Abraham raised his eyes and perceived the place from afar. And Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here by yourselves with the donkey, while I and the lad will go yonder; we will worship and we will return to you.” The Talmud commentary says that Abraham told the young men that “they,” he and Isaac, would worship and return because he knew that G-d was going to tell him not to sacrifice Isaac. Genesis 22:14, which starts with the same wording, “So Abraham awoke early in the morning,” has a similar occurrence. Abraham gives Hagar a skin of water, and it is that same skin that she fills up later when the angel of G-d showed her the well of water. It is as if Abraham also knew that she would be saved in the desert in the same way that Isaac was saved from sacrifice. This is just something I am inferring from the text, but nevertheless, it hardly seems to be a malicious corruption.

Oh yes, the Talmud also says that Ishmael and Isaac made amends upon burying their father Abraham and also says that Ishmael made "tshuva", he repented, and was a tzaddik, a righteous person. It seems that the Muslim tradition has had to be a bit hasty in its conclusions about the Torah's treatment of Ishmael in the name of establishing that they are the correct religious heirs to Abraham.

Further, Muslim tradition is bound by certain laws of logic, so it cannot denigrate any of the Prophets and so the Jews serve as that antithesis to Islam, true submission. In reality, and with the utmost respect and love for Abraham who is our father too, Muslim tradition faithfully ignores that he too could have been implicated in acting erroneously, as a Jew. What about Jacob, whom stole Esav's birthright? "Ah," they would say," you see how the Jews even stoop so low as to insult their own Patriarch? This is something that a Muslim never does." Perhaps in the Qur'an Esav, in an act of exhuberant and excited utter submission gives his birthright over to Jacob with joy. That way they can tell the story without "insulting" any of the Prophets the way that those horrible Jews do. On the other hand, they end up with shallow and less believable characters, and what is a worst act of corruption than turning complicated Prophets into mindless zombie drones? We are supposed to simulate our Prophets; most Muslims do a fine job of simulating the Prophets the way the Qur'an describes them. Again, I can't help but to wonder if how the Torah says it went down is how it really all happened; all the evidence points in that direction.

One final thought; why are Muslims so quick to offer high respects to Hagar as a Muslim, a woman who insulted another who was not able to give birth? Some submitter.

Comments, quips, and complaints greatly appreciated.

Seeds of Change..............


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

All information about the Hamas Charter contained in this post comes from this website:

Psalm 83:1-19

A Song, a Psalm of Asaph.
O G-d, keep not Thou silence; hold not Thy peace, and be not still, O G-d.
For, lo, Thine enemies are in an uproar;and they that hate Thee have lifted up the head.
They hold crafty converse against Thy people, and take counsel against Thy treasured ones.
They have said: 'Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.'
For they have consulted together with one consent; against Thee do they make a
The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab, and the Hagrites;

Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre;
Assyria also is joined with them; they have been an arm to the children of Lot. Selah

Do Thou unto them as unto Midian; as to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook Kishon;

Who were destroyed at En-dor; they became as dung for the earth.
Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, and like Zebahand Zalmunna all their princes;
Who said: 'Let us take to ourselves in possession the habitations of G-d.'
O my G-d, make them like the whirling dust; as stubble before the wind.
As the fire that burneth the forest, and as the flame that setteth the mountains ablaze;
So pursue them with Thy tempest, and affright them with Thy storm.
Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek Thy name, O HaShem.
Let them be ashamed and affrighted for ever; yea, let them be abashed and perish;
That they may know that it is Thou alone whose name is HaShem, the Most High over all the earth.
A Fire Not Pleasing to A-llah.....................

Iraninans Volunteer to Fight Israel

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Surrounded by yellow Hezbollah flags, more than 60 Iranian volunteers set off Wednesday to join what they called a holy war against Israeli forces in Lebanon.

The group -- ranging from teenagers to grandfathers -- plans to join about 200 other volunteers on the way to the Turkish border, which they hope to cross Thursday. They plan to reach Lebanon via Syria on the weekend.

Organizers said the volunteers are carrying no weapons, and it was not clear whether Turkey would allow them to pass.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, would not say Wednesday if Turkey would allow them to cross. Iranians, however, can enter Turkey without a visa and stay for three months.

Iran says it will not send regular forces to aid Hezbollah, but apparently it will not attempt to stop volunteer guerrillas. Iran and Syria are Hezbollah's main sponsors.

"We are just the first wave of Islamic warriors from Iran," said Amir Jalilinejad, chairman of the Student Justice Movement, a nongovernment group that helped recruit the fighters. "More will come from here and other Muslim nations around the world. Hezbollah needs our help."

Military service is mandatory in Iran, and nearly every man has at least some basic training. Some hard-liners have more extensive drills as members of the Basiji corps, a paramilitary network linked to the powerful Revolutionary Guard.

Other volunteers, such as 72-year-old Hasan Honavi, have combat experience from the 1980-88 war with Iraq.

"God made this decision for me," said Honavi, a grandfather and one of the oldest volunteers. "I still have fight left in me for a holy war."

The group, chanting and marching in military-style formation, assembled Wednesday in a part of Tehran's main cemetery that is reserved for war dead and other "martyrs."

They prayed on Persian carpets and linked hands, with their shoes and bags piled alongside. Few had any battle-type gear and some arrived in dress shoes or plastic sandals.

Some bowed before a memorial to Hezbollah-linked suicide bombers who carried out the 1983 blast at Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. servicemen. An almost simultaneous bombing killed 56 French peacekeepers.

Speakers praised Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah and laid scorn on Muslim leaders -- including their own government -- for not sending battlefield assistance to Hezbollah since the battles erupted two weeks ago.

Even if the volunteers fail to reach Lebanon, their mobilization is an example of how Iranians are rallying to Hezbollah through organizations outside official circles.

Iran insists it is not directly involved in the conflict on the military side, but it remains the group's key pipeline for money. Iran has dismissed Israel's claims that Hezbollah has been supplied with upgraded Iranian missiles that have reached Haifa and other points across northern Israel.

"We cannot stand by and watch out Hezbollah brothers fight alone," said Komeil Baradaran, a 21-year-old Basiji member. "If we are to die in Lebanon, then we will go to heaven. It is our duty as Muslims to fight."
Anybody can convert to Judaism if he/she wants, and if a person wants to do it then he should. The Torah tells us to love the convert and the Talmud, Jewish Law, tells us not to remind a person needlessly of his/her life before the conversion. Questions like, "You mean you used to try to convert Jews to Christianity," or "You once had three girlfriends at one time?!" should be out of the question. This is similar to how ba'alei t'shuva, Jews who've become obserant/religious, should be treated.

Myself personally, I think it's cool when a person becomes a Jew. Given that our religion does not actively seek converts, when a person makes the decision to become a Jew on his/her own, it's quite an amazing thing. When an "unexpected" person, or a person from a group of people that haven't been known to traditionally choose Judaism as their faith, such as black Americans, Mexican Americans, Christians, or Muslims, it is all the more shocking, and to me, a bit of a spiritual buzz.

And I think it's cool for a more important reason; when a person from "a different walk of life," a person relatively removed from Judaism decides to become a Jew it's a statement that Judaism is a religion compatible with universal notions of morality and truth. Usually the person converting chooses Judaism BECAUSE he/she sees Judaism as the source from which these things emanate.

Further, and closely related, converts to Judaism allow the Jewish people contact with the rest of the world in a very intimate way, through the Torah and its values and precepts. Seeing that a convert will not cut out family and friend from his/her life, converts to Judaism allow "the Torah opinion" to be disseminated to the world's nooks and crannies. Judaism is a people, but a people does not mean one "race," although we started out from our Father Avraham, a Hebrew. In the end, Judaism is a people with a religion; any type of person can become a Jew, and converts expand a Jew's horizon of how observance of Torah fits into every nut and bolt of the world.

However, there is also a potential "downside," one that I didn't give much credence to. The same with a ba'al t'shuva, a convert brings something new to the table of Judaism, a set of concepts and sentiments which he/she incorporates into the Jewish world view, while Judaism brings something new to him/her, or answers old questions. A convert is a human being with his/her own set of presuppositions and there is a possibility that he/she tries to steer Jewish values in a direction that will conform to his/her personal set of values, as true to the Torah as those values might be. The Torah contains all that is righteous in the world, but that doesn't mean that a person, a convert or a ba'al t'shuva, in the direction that he/she deems concordant with the values of the Torah. This would be a bit self-absorbed. Yes, it is perfectly valid to bring new insights to people born Jews, and this is incredibly important, but it needs to be done in a give and take manner, it can't be done in the manner likened to walking into a building and claiming a corner as yours, or by pushing people out of your way.
Arabs Should Take Care of their Own Problems.............................

I was watching the news a few hours ago with my dad when the reporter summarized a statement made by Mahmoud Abbas, or Abu Mazen, the Palestinian Prime Minister. According to her, he said that Hezba-llah should do everything in its power to remove Israeli troops from Lebanon. The Shi'ite Iraqi President, Jawad al-Maliki, expressed the same sentiment on a separated occasion.

Here's my beef, and I hope it's Halal; it seems to me that both the Palestinians and the Iraqi's have a list of problems occuring within their own peoples. Palestinian society is rife with the power struggle between Hamas and Fatach, basically uncontrollable by Abbas. They have severe economic problems, Gaza is said to be one of the poorest regions in the world and have almost no infrastructure, which means no jobs, etc... The education system is almost completely infiltrated with propagandaagainst the State of Israel, which has been the case approximately since the Six Day War in 1967 (38 years), and this is a movement that will only be able to be remedied by another movement moving in the other direction. Israel is always on the defensive and offensive due to the stock of young suicide bombers that Gaza and the West Bank towns produce per capita. Not to forget, the occasional Muslim Palestinian takeover of Christian Palestinian sites. If they had less war, they could have more production.

The Iraqi's have their own set of problems; Sunni-Shi'ite struggles, anti-American troop insurgencies, and the establishment of a constitution, government, and military force that will be able to reign control in on the country. Not to mention, as with the Palestinians, a crossroads of terrorist activity from other Arab countries funding and operating within.

Yet, in spite of all this, Mahmoud Abbas and Maliki have the time and energy, and immaturity, to even have an opinion on what's going on in Lebanon. Excuse me, but Hassan Nasra-llah, the leader of Hezba-llah, is doing a fine enough job without the emotional support of Abbas and Maliki. If Abbas and Maliki truly want to be leaders to their people they should be too busy with the issues of their own people to have an opinion on what's happening in Lebanon. They should say, "Let Lebanon do what it needs to against Israel and America. We have our own problems here and we are trying our best to take care of them. Lebanon is not of our concern, our well-being is." The problem is that many Arab societies and their governments suffer the delusional illusion that their well-being is dependent on the ability and success of Arab states to fight Israel - it is an ideological association that serves only the Pan-nationalist hatred of the Arab states towards Israel but serves no direct tangible purpose for the actual subjects of those Arab countries, the citizens. Not surprisingly, their maintained focus and effort in fighting a perpetual war on the proverbial front with Israel keeps them wallowing in the muck of their problems and never proceeding. The sad truth about Arab leaders is that part of the prerquisites of a good Arab (and Iranian) leader is his hatred for Israel and how much prideful bluffing and propaganda spreading he is able to do. Nasra-llah's poker face was solid but transparent when he said that Israel did not inflict many casualties on Hezba-llah.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A dromedary named "Great" sent me this in an e-mail, and I present it to you here today.

This is from a friend who served in the USCG.

A difficult lesson

When I was in the Navy, I once witnessed a bar fight in downtown Olongapo (Philippines) that still haunts my dreams. The fight was between a big oafish Marine and a rather soft-spoken, medium sized Latino sailor from my ship. All evening the Marine had been trying to pick a fight with one of us and had finally set his sights on this diminutive shipmate of mine... figuring him for a safe target.

When my friend refused to be goaded into a fight the Marine sucker punched him from behind on the side of the head so hard that blood instantly started to pour from this poor man's mutilated ear. Everyone present was horrified and was prepared to absolutely murder this Marine, but my shipmate quickly turned on him and began to single-handedly back him towards a corner with a series of stinging jabs and upper cuts that gave more than a hint to a youth spent boxing in a small gym in the Bronx. Each punch opened a cut on the Marine's startled face and by the time he had been backed completely into the corner he was blubbering for someone to stop the fight. He invoked his split lips and chipped teeth as reasons to stop the fight. He begged us to stop the fight because he could barely see through the river of blood that was pouring out of his split and swollen brows.

Nobody moved. Not one person. The only sound in the bar was the sickening staccato sound of this sailor's lightning fast fists making contact with new areas of the Marine's head. The only sound I have heard since that was remotely similar was from the first Rocky film when Sylvester Stallone was punching sides of beef in the meat locker. Finally the Marine's pleading turned to screams.... a high, almost womanly shriek. And still the punches continued relentlessly. Several people in the bar took a few tentative steps as though they wanted to try to break it up at that point, but hands reached out from the crowd and held them tight. I'm not ashamed to say that mine were two of the hands that held someone back. You see, in between each blow the sailor had begun chanting a soft cadence: "Say [punch] you [punch] give [punch] up [punch]... say [punch] you [punch]were [punch] wrong [punch]". He had been repeating it to the Marine almost from the start but we only became aware of it when the typical barroom cheers had died down and we began to be sickened by the sight and sound of the carnage.

This Marine stood there shrieking in the corner of the bar trying futilely to block the carefully timed punches that were cutting his head to tatters... right down to the skull in places. But he refused to say that he gave up... or that he was wrong. Even in the delirium of his beating he believed in his heart that someone would stop the fight before he had to admit defeat. I'm sure this strategy had served him well in the past and had allowed him to continue on his career as a barroom bully. Finally, in a wail of agony the Marine shrieked "I give up", and we gently backed the sailor away from him. I'm sure you can guess why I have shared this story today. I'm not particularly proud to have been witness to such a bloody spectacle, and the sound of that Marine's woman-like shrieks will haunt me to my grave. But I learned something that evening that Israel had better learn for itself if it is to finally be rid of at least one of its tormentors: This is one time an Arab aggressor must be allowed to be beaten so badly that every civilized nation will stand in horror, wanting desperately to step in and stop the carnage... but knowing that the fight will only truly be over when one side gives up and finally admits defeat. Just as every person who had ever rescued that bully from admitting defeat helped create the cowardly brute I saw that evening in the bar, every well-intentioned power that has ever stepped in and negotiated a ceasefire for an Arab aggressor has helped create the monsters we see around us today.

President Emile Lahoud of Lebanon, a big Hezbollah supporter and a close ally of Syria, has been shrieking non-stop to the UN Security Council for the past two days to get them to force Israel into a cease fire. Clearly he has been reading his autographed copy of 'Military Success for Arab Despots' by the late Gamel Abdel Nasser of Egypt. Ever since Nasser accidentally discovered the trick in '56, every subsequent Arab leader has stuck to his tried and true formula for military success:

1. Instigate a war.

2. Once the war is well underway and you are in the process of having your ass handed to you... get a few world powers to force your western opponent into a cease fire.

3. Whatever you do, don't surrender or submit to any terms dictated by your enemy. That would ruin everything! All you have to do is wait it out and eventually the world will become sickened at what is being done to your soldiers and civilian population... and will force a truce.

4. Once a truce has been called you can resume your intransigence (which probably caused the conflict in the first place), and even declare victory as your opponent leaves the field of battle.

This tactic has never failed. Not once. In fact it worked so will for the Egyptians in 1973, that to this day they celebrate the Yom Kippur War - a crushing defeat at the hands of Israel - as a military victory! No kidding... it's a national holiday over there! President Lahoud has already begun to shriek like a school girl to the UN Security Council to "Stop the violence and arrange a cease-fire, and then after that we'll be ready to discuss all matters." Uh huh. Forgive me if I find that a tad hard to swallow. He allowed Hezbollah to take over his country. He allowed the regular Lebanese army to provide radar targeting data for the Hezbollah missile that struck the Israeli destroyer. He has turned a blind eye while Iranian and Syrian weapons, advisers and money have poured into his country. And now that his country is in ruins he wants to call it a draw. As much as it may sicken the world to stand by and watch it happen, strong hands need to hold back the weak-hearted and let the fight continue until one side finally admits unambiguous defeat.

My own aside... Lebanon's president is a Maronite Christian, and today on a news interview I heard him mention that Hezba-llah is good for Lebanon. You see, an Arab Christian can play either side of politics; siding with Islamists or taking a stance against them, which usually, but not always, ends up in siding with Israel. Another Arab Christian is Hanan Ashrawi, former legislator and spokewoman for the Palestinians. Betcha didn't know that, did ya?

... and all the libbies say, "Dum, dee dum, dee dum, dee dum dum. Dum, dee dum, dee dum, dee dum dum."

Monday, July 24, 2006


My becoming an observant Jew was an answer to the question that asked, “What and who are you?” I eventually answered with “I am a Jewish.”

It’s ironic that it took for me to live in America as a relative “outsider” to find out that being Jewish was the foundational basis of my existence and identity. I was born in Israel and moved here at the age of five with my family. My being an outsider was not just from the Gentile community, many of whom were Christian, but from the American Jewish community as well. Subsequently, I found myself in a state of “outsiderness” that lasted my whole life, even into high school and college.

Shakespeare asks the question, “To be or not to be?” The way I see it, and I think this is the way he intends the question, is it better to live life by defining yourself as something and being a part of that thing, or is it better to live your life negating other things and making negation the source of your identity? If you find something good in life, something worth being a part of, then logically you will want to identify yourself by that thing. But if you can’t find anything in life worth being a part of then it is logical to say that it makes more sense to be a part of nothing. If you find something good, the answer to Shakespeare’s question is “to be.” If you can’t find anything good in life worthy of association, then the answer to Shakespeare’s question is “not to be.”

It is like if you ask a dog, assuming that it can speak, “What animal are you?” If the dog says, “Well, I am not a cat, I am not a bird, I am not a giraffe, and I am not a camel,” then we can begin to understand that the dog does not have a real understanding of what it is. But if the dog says, “I am a dog,” then we can understand that the dog understands its identity and existence.

I believe that “to be” is the best answer to the question, no matter what. It is better to be a wrong thing than to be nothing. You can find a plethora of things in the world not worthy of being, but what self-value can you find by negating each and every one of those things? Basically none. The question that I have asked myself is, if I strongly believe that “to be” is the best answer to that question, then why did I have to be Jewish? Why couldn’t I have been a Muslim, or a Christian, or a Buddhist? Why a Jew?

And if we look at the dog analogy again, the dog is already a dog; if that animal is looking for its identity, it would have an easier time being a dog than trying to be a cat, or a bird, or a giraffe, or a camel. In reality, it was raised with dogs, so being a dog would be much easier for it. If the dog feels that it has to go through a change in order to be something, becoming a dog also requires a change. I reasoned, “I am a Jew, and while I am capable of trying to find an identity as something else, maybe the things I am looking for can be found in Judaism.” It turned out being the first and last place I looked. If I was going to be something, why not be the thing that I already was? If I was looking for an identity, and identity is arbitrary, then why not simply choose the thing with which I already identify? I concluded then that Judaism was the first place that I would look for what I needed, but I also had the feeling that Judaism was the place where I would find them, and I was right.

It seems that my search for a fixed identity was based in my feeling of being without a real or fixed identity. This is not something that everybody experiences, and I know that my feeling of having that lack of an identity is a result of coming to America at such a young age and never fully integrating. I later realized that my apprehension in full integration was that I didn’t want to lose what I felt was very close to my heart and my being, which was Israel. Therefore, I resisted almost everything in my life, every kind of group belonging or association, which ironically, also meant resisting my own Judaism, an organized religion and my own people. I got so used to resisting everything in the name of maintaining my identity that my identity eventually became a collection of things that I wasn’t. I knew that I wasn’t a cat, or a bird, or a giraffe, or a camel, but by the time I had it figured to all the things that I was not, my identity had slipped away; what was I? I had eventually identified myself as something so unique and unable to fit anywhere that there was nothing I could say I belonged to.

Further, I had begun to associate Judaism as a non-Israeli thing – it was an American thing because I never saw Judaism in Israel (having left at the age of five). Therefore, to be true to what I believed I was, Israeli, I had to be distanced from Judaism. I had come to believe that to be Israeli, which it was debatable if I was or not, was to be the opposite of what it was to be Jewish. The validity, or lack thereof, of that statement is also debatable and does not fit into the scope of this essay.

The realizations that led me to become an observant Jew had a few layers. First, I realized that I needed an identity. Second, I realized that my identity was largely Jewish already. Three, I felt that my identity had to reflect truth. And four, I already believed in G-d. If I was going to choose an identity I wanted to choose something which with I already identified but also with something that reflected truth, hence, I started to read about Judaism. This would fill in the first three “prerequisites” that I had of Judaism; identity, personal identification, and truth. I had already believed in G-d, and I finally reasoned that if He existed then identifying, recognizing, and living with the truth was of utmost importance – if G-d did not exist then these things didn’t matter. My personal identification with Judaism would then make sense beyond my love for it; my personal love for Judaism would then be attached to truth. This would do the job of giving me a sense of identity. This search, which ended with a successful find, thank G-d, started internally and bumped into an external truth. It was that external truth, which is G-d, which made the continued internal and external search possible.

I would often lie in bed, restless and with my mind full of thoughts, trying to understand the phenomena of existence. It was an esoteric and painful and unhappy thing to do but I wasn’t content without doing it and it troubled me because I was in high school and it put me at odds with much of the people and things happening around me. Eventually I ran into an external Source, a product of my ideas and observations. It was as if I drew a bunch of lines on a piece of paper, one at a time and at different angles, and they eventually each stopped in a place where if I looked at the product at once it was a circle. I had not drawn the circle, the lines that I drew stopped in a place that created a circle, and it was then I realized that there even was a circle. How could my thoughts exist in a vacuum? If thoughts are the products of free will, how it is that my thoughts, when carried to logical conclusions, led to a specific location, and when viewed as a whole in a unified state, created a shape? It is as if the desire to know the truth, if left unhindered and obstructed by what the human assumes he knows, to flow forwards, it will channel in a certain direction. Some say that it’s the subconscious mind at work, but are we really ready to say that the subconscious mind knows things that the conscious does not? If so, and if the subconscious mind is a part of the conscious mind, the human mind, which is finite and has finite knowledge, from where does the subconscious mind receive its knowledge? If we say that the subconscious mind draws and absorbs truth from the world, we are really saying is that there is a real and discernable truth that exists in the world and that the subconscious mind is able to suck it in and digest it. When it becomes digested it seeps into the conscious mind and this results in knowledge. Truth is an object then and not a product of the subjective mind, and to understand the truth is to be objective, i.e., to pursue the truth. There is a set of rules in which the human mind functions and it is the biggest fallacy to believe that the rules freeze the mind; nay, it is the rules which allow the mind to function and then to function strongly and healthily. Have you ever tried to run in water? There is less gravity in water and therefore it is harder to run. It is this very force that pulls one down which allows one to move though space at high speeds. Similarly, an object with mass can be thrown farther than one without much mass. A feather cannot be thrown as can a rock.

But the really important thing to realize is that humans cannot really discern the truth in this way in a lasting manner or in a way perfectly reflective of the truth; the world is too much of a cluttered place for that. The truth is that somebody before us had already discerned the truth in this way, and perfectly, and his name is Abraham. It was through him that the first contact with G-d was established and to his descendants that the Laws expressing that truth were delivered. Those Laws are the (six hundred and thirteen) commandments, or mitzvot, of the Torah.