Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Rav Dov Lior Affair: G-d is not in the hands of man

The Rav Dov Lior Affair: G-d is not in the hands of man

The past twenty four hours have, seemingly, brought into the limelight, Rav (Rabbi) Dov Lior, Chief Rabbi of Hebron-Kiryat Arba, and the rule of law. Rav Lior, almost two years ago, wrote an approbation to a Jewish legal treatise called “Torat HaMechech,” meaning ‘the King’s Torah.’ The book deals with relationships between Jews and non-Jews. The primary subject at hand is that of ‘Dinei Nefashot’ that being, when is bloodshed an option. When is it permissible to use force, even at the cost of a person’s life, in dealings between Jews and non-Jews.
This is no small matter. Jews have faced anti-Semitic persecution for two millennia, with tens and hundreds of thousands killed because they were Jews. Expulsions, burning at the stake, and other torture led to the horrific climax seventy years ago, with the Holocaust leaving between six to seven million Jews dead at the hands of the Nazis and their partners.
At present, the question still exists: when is it halachically (legal by Jewish-Torah law) permissible to kill. These laws are not simple; to the contrary, they are infinitely complex. So much so, that Rav Lior writes, “I don’t think that there is any other work which collects all the subjects that belong to the realm this book deals with.”
Why is this so important? There are a number of reasons. Torat HaMelech deals with situations of war. In the words of the authors, ‘It must be stressed that in our dealings with war in this book, we relate to war against enemies who are harming us only. Israel has been dealing with matters of war since the renewal of the state in 1948, and even before. Through the present day. Rav Lior: This is an area which is actual enough, especially during these days of Israel’s return to its land, the opinion of true Jewish halacha (Jewish legal ruling) relating to all the abnormal situations we face should be known, providing proper, true direction for occurrences and our dealings with them…”
The complexities of the issues can be exemplified by when comparing a ‘true Jewish legal opinion’ with that of ‘ethics experts.’ Rav Lior writes, “I saw, and was gladdened, seeing this wonderful creation, full of sources and opinions of subjects, beginning with the Talmud, via our Rabbis of centuries past, up to the most important Torah giants of recent generations. Between the lines it can be witnessed the tremendous amount of work and investment of the Rabbis (the authors) to learn these subjects…”
(It should be noted, that no where, in Rav Lior’s approbation, or in the book itself, are there instructions calling on anyone to randomly or otherwise, kill anyone.)
However, the significance of this work, and Rabbis Lior, Ginsburgh, Yosef approbations, are much deeper.
The question of ‘when to use deadly force’ did not begin with Torat HaMelech. This is an issue dealt with at the highest levels of Israeli government. The primary necessity to extract workable definitions can be found within the security forces, the IDF, the Israeli armed forces. Jews have always been thought of, not so much as warriors, rather as a merciful people. Where does mercy end; where does force begin; where does force transform into cruelty?
Of course, questions dealing with war ethics are nothing new. But, perhaps, the key word is: HOW ­ - how are decisions concerning such ethical decisions taken? What is standard by which the decisions are made?
The so-called ‘expert’ on Israeli ethical conduct during war is one Professor Asa Kasher. He is the author of the IDF ethical code of conduct. Rather than trying to explain Kasher’s thought process and conclusions, it is preferable to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth: From ‘The Moralist’ by Jerusalem Post editor David Horowitz, - an interview with Asa Kasher, The Jerusalem Post, April 22, 2011 [http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=217479 ]:
“Our responsibility is to maintain our moral standards. That’s a very important starting point because in matters of war it can sometimes get blurred. People are always talking about factors like international law, public opinion, the Western world – that is, outside factors that we’re supposed to match up to. No, I say we have to uphold our own standards.

… The prime question, in these fields of morals and ethics, is what I see when I look in the mirror – not when I watch the BBC.

When the enemy becomes more ruthless and harsher than it was in the past, then we have to protect ourselves in smarter and different ways, but still according to the standards that we have set for ourselves.
…the moral foundation of a democratic state is respect for human dignity. Human dignity must be respected in all circumstances. And to respect human dignity in all circumstances means, among other things, to be sensitive to human life in all circumstances. Not just the lives of the citizens of your state. Everybody.

This applies even in our interactions with terrorists. I am respecting the terrorist’s dignity when I ask myself, “Do I have to kill him or can I stop him without killing him?”"
I suggest reading the entire interview. The above-quotes speak for themselves. Each and every person can relate to Kasher’s opinions as they want. But the point so important here is not so much what he says; rather, what is the basis for his opinions, what are the pillars of his ideology? The answer is: Asa Kasher’s own philosophy of life and his interpretation of how a ‘democracy’ should act. His source is somewhere inside his head. That’s it.
But I ask, of what value is whatever Asa Kasher thinks! Why do his ideas have any more value than mine, or of anyone else? Very simply, they don’t.
This is exactly why “Torah HaMelech” is so valuable. It is not based upon what I think, or what Rav Lior thinks, or what Rav Yitzhak Shapira thinks. It is, as Rav Lior writes, founded upon the teachings of our Torah and our sages, beginning thousands of years ago, expounded upon over the centuries. It is not a ‘guide to killing goyim.’ It is a legal tractate explaining Jewish Torah law and ethics, and as I believe it, the word of G-d.
So why the witch hunt? Why did the police and the prosecutor’s office decide to snatch an almost eighty year old rabbi from his car in order to question him for an hour? Why did they refuse to sit with him in his office, as is done with many other public officials, when the need so arises?
Quite simply, Rav Dov Lior represents what authentic Judaism is all about, the total opposite of the Asa Kashers of Israeli society. Rav Lior stands for Jewish pride, for Torah, for Eretz Yisrael. He refuses, as did Mordechai during the days of Haman, to bow down to evil and idolatry. Acquiescence to Kasher’s respect for the ‘dignity of terrorists’ is idol worship, based upon false truths, false gods, which have no place in a true Jewish society.
Rav Lior has, for years, stood tall against the wickedness of corrupt, immoral ‘leaders’ who reject the Jewishness of Israel, preferring to relate to Israel as a ‘state with Jewish residents’ rather than a ‘Jewish state.’ This, leading to catastrophes as Yamit, Oslo, the Hebron Accords, the destruction of Gush Katif, and other such calamities. Rav Lior represents all which is good, all which is pure, which is G-dly, in direct contradiction with the ideologies and life styles of others, who see him as a threat to their very existence. For if he is right, and should his way succeed, their entire life structure would crumble, like a deck of cards.
This is why he is hounded, for his belief that our lives are in the hands of G-d, that G-d is not in the hands of man. That is what he fights for, this is what he will continue to fight for, and this is why, not only will he never give up or surrender, but all of us, his students, will too, follow in the footsteps of this righteous man, a giant amongst giants, who really and truly understands the meaning of the rule of law – the authentic law, the law of G-d, the law of our holy Torah.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Shofar-blower is Arriving: In memory of Eyal Noked

The Shofar-blower is Arriving: In memory of Eyal Noked
I’ve spent much time this week looking for photos. You might think, sitting in front of the screen for a few hours, viewing pictures, not too stressing. But in truth, it hasn’t been easy. I’ve been searching for photos of my friend, Eyal Noked, who, a few months before his forty-first birthday, passed away on Saturday night.

At about 11:15 PM, the beeper message sent out to people’s homes and individual pagers had only three words: Baruch Dayan HaEmet – Blessed is the true judge. Such words are recited upon notification of a person’s death. No name accompanied this sad communication, but unfortunately, it was not necessary. All understood. Eyal was gone.
However, I think that Eyal didn’t ‘die’ as such. As is written about Eyal’s favorite prophet, “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, which parted them both assunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” (Kings 2:11)
Eyal’s life was certainly filled with challenge. While serving in the army, he was attacked by terrorists who tried to steal his weapon and shot at him. Here in Hebron,he was, among other things, a paramedic. A number of years ago, attempting to help people wounded in a terror shooting at the Tel Hebron (Rumeida) neighborhood, he was shot in the shoulder by the terrorist. A few years ago, while driving a special paramedic motorcycle down the hill from Kiryat Arba to Hebron, Arabs starting throwing rocks at him. Swerving, attempting to dodge the rocks, he fell, with the motorcycle on top of him, breaking his leg in two places. Eyal opted to forgo surgery, knowing that the recovery time (and pain) would be extended by a number of months. Yet, despite the seriousness of the injury, one day I found him on the treadmill, next to me, in Hebron’s gym room. And  he was moving much faster than me.
Some years ago Eyal was diagnosed with cancer. Several surgeries seemed to have removed the growth, and his recovery appeared complete. But a couple of years ago it returned. At some point he had no choice but to leave his position here in Hebron, investing his time in an attempt to again overcome the illness.
 It’s difficult to describe Eyal’s role in Hebron. He did so much, in so many different positions. Not only as a colleague, but also as a friend. As one of the speakers at the funeral declared, many many people looked at him as their best friend. Here, in our offices, Eyal had an integral role in building Hebron, both on paper and physically. He was instrumental in major building projects, working day and night at Beit HaShalom, Beit Shapira and in the “Shalhevet neighborhood,” otherwise known as the ‘shuk.’ He was a firm believer in the ‘greening’ of Hebron, and spent many an hour finding places to plant flowers, trees, and bushes, which really beautified the city. He was also a paramedic and ambulance driver, on-call whenever needed. He also served as a senior advisor to one of Hebron’s executive directors, and was elected to the Hebron community council. Eyal was a key player in the reestablishment of Chabad’s presence in Hebron, working as Rabbi Danny Cohen’s right-hand man with all major Chabad projects, including the renewed permanent Jewish presence at the ancient Ashkenazi cemetery, site of the grave of Menucha Rachel Slonim. He also worked tirelessly to reestablish the Jewish presence at Joseph’s tomb in Shechem.  Additionally he spent months in Gush Katif, prior to the expulsion, living and assisting in numerous projects undertaken at that time. He dedicated his life to Eretz Yisrael.
But, in truth, none of the above really describes Eyal. Perhaps the most fitting description portrayal of Eyal can be expressed in the words of his oldest son, Baruch Tzuri, seventeen years old, who, eulogizing his father at the funeral said, “Dad, you taught us that everything, but everything, comes from HaShem, from G-d. Just as you had no complaints, so too, we have no complaints to HaShem. We will continue in your path, knowing, believing, and living this axiom, that everything comes from HaShem.”
Much is written, in sacred Jewish literature, about the goal of every Jew, that being, ‘devakut with HaShem’ – roughly translated as ‘bind to HaShem, being at one with HaShem. This was, quite literally, the way Eyal lived. We have a job in this world, to do our part, but whatever happens is the Will of G-d. This is the way he lived and it’s also the way he died. I met him outside one day, and when he asked how I was, I sort of looked at him and raised my hands to the heavens, with the expression on my face not one of joy and happiness. He questioned me, as to the problem, and when I just looked at him he just smiled and said, ‘not because of me. Everything is fine, HaShem has me exactly where he wants me.’
In the past few weeks, even as his strength dwindled, he maintained his inner strength. A couple of weeks ago, despite that fact that his ability to speak, decreased, he lay in bed and spoke with a friend for two hours about faith and the goodness of G-d. And so it was with others, time and time again, up until the end.
Eyal taught me many things, different classes to listen to via internet, how to drive my car, and how to think clearly. A couple of years ago I was supposed to visit the US for an extended visit. A few people had invested a lot of time to help organize the trip. The only problem was that I became ill, with what later was diagnosed as mono, and really didn’t have the strength to travel. On the other hand, I didn’t want to offend the people who were working very hard to help me and Hebron. I was in a real bind, not knowing what to do.
Eyal happened to be in the office that day, so I decided to ask his advice. He thought for a moment and then asked, “Did you ask them, in the US, what would happen if you had to cancel?” “No,” I answered. “So call them and listen, not only to what they say, but also how they say it. If they’re really upset, go. But if they can deal with it, stay here.”
Very simple advice. And it worked.
Another man, speaking at the funeral, told how he had been involved in an accident, which crushed his leg. He’d been brought to the hospital, but was left lying in the emergency room, without being treated. After a while, not knowing what to do, he called his friend Eyal and asked him what to do. Eyal heard him and then asked, “Your head, it’s ok? And your neck, your arms and your stomach, they’re all ok? And your leg, left or right? Left – and above the knee or below the knee. Below? That’s all? Your injured only on your left leg, below the knee? Man, you have to laugh!” And Eyal started laughing, over the phone, until his friend too started laughing, almost rolling on the floor, thanking G-d that the injury wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.
Eyal’s wife of about 20 years, Einat, told of Eyal’s passing.
‘Eliyahu (Elijah) the prophet, was Eyal’s favorite prophet. He read about him over and over. On Thursday, after I read to him the verses describing how Elihayu left this world, he said to me, “I’m not on the level of Eliyahu, but that’s the way I feel.”
On Shabbat afternoon he told me, “we are not separated. We will always be together, I’m just moving up one floor.” Later, after Shabbat, he tried to tell me something, but couldn’t talk. He motioned with his arm, and I realized he wanted someone to study Torah with him, to pray with him. I called one of his friends, and when he came over and started recited Torah and prayers, Eyal’s eyes opened and he radiated with joy.  Later, we were all there in the room. I called a righteous doctor, who could discern the exact moment of the soul’s departure from the body. He sat opposite Eyal, staring at his eyes. Eyal’s face and eyes emanated rapture, seeing the angels awaiting him, above him. He had said that he did not fear death, that he was totally at peace with his situation, and so it was. Suddenly the doctor yelled, ‘Shema Yisrael’ and then all those present did so, and you could actually see his neshama, his soul, leave his body. We weren’t crying, it was a moment of Divine exaltation.’
Last Rosh HaShana eve, following services, I went over to Eyal’s house to wish him a happy New Year. His kids told me that he wasn’t home, that he’d gone to Ma’arat HaMachpela to pray. I told them that if he wanted, there would be prayer services at Beit Hadassah the next morning. But they said that he’d worship again at Machpela.
The next morning, despite his illness and weakness, he was there. But he didn’t only pray. He also trumpeted the Shofar, the ram’s horn, blown every Rosh HaShana. The shofar isn’t blown once. Rather, one hundred times. The laws concerning this special mitzvah are detailed and intricate. Many times, if the sound produced is not exactly right, it must be repeated.
Eyal stood and blew the shofar, on the first day, one hundred times. And he blew the Shofar again, on the second day of Rosh HaShana, one hundred times.  And he did not make one mistake, on either day. Not one time did he have to repeat himself.  And the sound that he produced from that ram’s horn, I’ve never heard anything like it in my life. So it was, Eyal, sick with cancer, less than a year ago.
Not yet forty one, nine children, and one grandchild, born less than a month ago.
I have no doubt whatsoever, that as Eyal’s neshama, as his soul left his body, in the heaven’s above, hundreds and thousands of ram’s horns began trumpeting, with a voice heard, above them all, ‘the Shofar-blower from Hebron, the Shofar-blower from Ma’arat HaMachpela is arriving. The Shofar-blower is arriving. Let us all go greet the shofar-blower from Hebron.’
Next Rosh HaShana will not be the same.
Eyal will be sorely missed, for many many years to come.

Following Eyal's passing, Vaad HaRabbanim in Jerusalem opened a special fund for the family. All money donated goes to the family. There aren't any percentages or fees to anyone else.
Contributions can be made to Fund number 3050 - this number must be given or the donation will not reach them!
In Israel, 1-800-22-36-36 or from any cell phone at *072
In the US, Vaad Rabbanim, 221 Regent Dr., Lakewood, NJ 08701
Tel: 732-367-0234
In Canada: Canadian Friends of Vaad Rabbanim, 5831 Esplanade, Montreal, Quebec, H2T3A2
Tel: 732-367-0234
People are asked, if they can, to donate 40 Shekels (about $15.) for 50 months. However, any amount, for any given time, would be most welcome. Thank you very much.

The Brit of Eyal's first grandson, Uri Michael, a short time before
Eyal's death. Eyal is the Sandak, holding the baby during the ceremony.