The Foundation for Constitutional Democracy

03-Aug-2009

The Particularism that Nurtures Universalism

Filed under: Judaism — eidelberg @ 5:05 am Edit This

Edited transcript of the Eidelberg Report. Israel National Radio, Aug 3, 2009.

Today’s report is based on my forthcoming book, Toward a Renaissance of Israel and America. The subtitle is The Political Theology of Rabbi Eliyahu Benamozegh.

Unlike Christianity and Islam, Judaism unites Particularism and Universalism. This unique quality of Judaism is developed in depth by the Italian Rabbi Eliyahu Benamozegh, a philosopher and theologian whose magnum opus, Israel and Humanity, was posthumously published in 1914.

To begin with, Rabbi Benamozegh mentions some of the ethnic and parochial aspects of the Mosaic law, such as those that depend on the seasons and geography of Eretz Israel. For example, the Passover is linked to the Israel spring, and the Great Sanhedrin can only function on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Moreover, God promises that He will establish His dwelling place in Eretz Israel, where the Jews would obtain salvation. But what about the salvation of the Gentiles, who are also created in the image of God? (more…)

27-Jul-2009

What is a Jew and What is a Jewish State?

Filed under: Democratic MethodsJudaism — eidelberg @ 6:53 am Edit This

Edited transcript of the Eidelberg Report. Israel National Radio, July 27, 2009.

In a recent article, I referred to Raphael Patai’s The Jewish Mind. Such has been the assimilation of so many Jews since the Enlightenment, so varied are the attachments of most Jews to Judaism, that Patai concludes that “a Jew is a person who considers himself a Jew and is so considered by others.”

In contrast to this subjective and vacuous definition of a Jew, I will argue that what is most distinctive of Jews is that which has preserved them as a people, the Torah and the Talmud.

Turning to specifics, I will mention only two unique characteristics of the Jew — and without disparaging countless Jews who do not exhibit these characteristics. The first is this: The Jew relates every question concerning thought, passion, and action to the Torah and regulates every facet of his life to the laws thereof—say the Halakha. If he is not learned in the Halakha, he consults his rabbi and defers to his judgment. And every rabbi has a rabbi.

It needs to be emphasized that the Talmud, rooted in the Torah, is more than a collection of laws. (more…)

23-Jul-2009

Israel

Filed under: Judaism — eidelberg @ 6:02 am Edit This

One should not identify Israel with the State of Israel. Since Israel was created as the God-bearing nation, it is infinitely more than a state—one of some 200 states represented in the United Nations. The State is a secular concept. It denotes the sovereign power within a political society.

As a secular entity, the State of Israel, in contradistinction to Israel per se, is a temporary phenomenon. This conclusion may be inferred from the thoughts of Rabbi Avraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935), Israel’s first (Ashkenazi) Chief Rabbi who, in addition to being an extraordinary Torah scholar, was a profound philosopher of history.

Referring to secular Zionists of his own time, in whom he saw some semblance of Jewishness, Rav Kook admonishes them, saying:

The denial of our “Thou hast chosen us” vocation and singularity is a fatal blunder. Set apart from the Gentiles, as evident in our incomparable history, the Jewish excellence and nobility surpasses that of any other nation. (more…)

22-Jul-2009

“The Jewish Mind”

Filed under: JudaismIsrael's Nationals — eidelberg @ 6:34 am Edit This

“The Jewish Mind” is the title of a 600-page tome by Raphael Patai, the famous author of The Arab Mind. Patai, who died in 1996, was not a Jewish chauvinist. He knows there are stupid Jews as well as brilliant non-Jews. But he couldn’t ignore the extraordinary intellectual accomplishments of the Jewish people.

However much Jews have been vilified, no one—not even the worst anti-Semites—ever accused the Jewish people of being stupid. Indeed, it has been reported that the Jews, with less than 0.2% of the world’s population, have produced 22% of all Nobel laureates.

When it comes to politics, however, the intelligence of Jews is not conspicuous. To the contrary, Charles Krauthammer refers to the 1993 Agreement between Israel and the PLO as “the the greatest diplomatic blunder in history.”

Consider, also, how Jews voted in the American presidential election of 2008. (more…)

16-Jul-2009

What Should Israel Look Up to?

Filed under: JudaismZionism/NationalismIsrael's Nationals — eidelberg @ 6:17 am Edit This

What is most decisive about the character of a nation is what its people look up to and admire. Sometimes what people look up to and admire is a myth.

Consider Israel’s “Declaration of Independence.” The Declaration is taught and public schools, and Israel’s Supreme Court has said it embodies the “credo” of the State of Israel.

It so happens, however, that the first sentence of the Declaration, which states that the Jews became a nation in Eretz Israel, is a lie. The Jews became a nation at the Law-Giving at Mount Sinai, hence, before they ever entered the Land of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that foundational falsehood on June 14, 2009 at Bar-Ilan University. There he had the audacity to negate God’s Covenant with the Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state on the land chosen by God for the Jewish people. (more…)

13-Jul-2009

An American Patriot in Israel

Filed under: JudaismParty StructuresMulticulturalism/Moral Relativism — eidelberg @ 6:02 am Edit This

Edited transcript of the Eidelberg Report, Israel National Radio, July 13, 2009.

More than forty years have elapsed since I wrote “The Crisis of Our Times,” which was printed in The Congressional Record (U.S. Senate, July 31, 1968, pp. E.7150-E.7157).

The article revealed that the doctrine of moral relativism permeates all levels of education in America and even influences decisions of its Supreme Court. I warned that moral relativism was undermining America’s political heritage and that it would lead to America’s demise. Enter Barack Obama, the first moral relativist in the White House. Before continuing, I had better define relativism.

Moral relativism (like cultural relativism) denies the validity of any standards by which to determine what is good or bad, right or wrong, just or unjust. Hence there are no rational or objective standards by which to determine whether the way of life of one individual, group, or nation is intrinsically superior to that of another.

Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton quotes Obama as saying: “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” “This answer,” says Bolton “proves precisely the opposite of what Obama is ostensibly saying. (more…)

09-Jul-2009

Some Reflections of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch

Filed under: JudaismMilitary Strategy — eidelberg @ 5:31 am Edit This

1.  “It would be a piece of base self-deception for us to imagine that we could buy the friendship of the peoples and permanently assure it to ourselves by discarding the Jewish distinctiveness.”

2.  “Haman’s ancestor Amalek fell upon Israel when it had not yet received these separatist laws at Sinai.”

3.  “So long as there is night upon earth, the struggle between [Esau and Jacob] will continue, Jacob will not overcome Esau, nor Esau Jacob, even though Esau may prevent Jacob from setting his feet firmly and independently on earth. But when the morning breaks and the struggle will come to an end, this end will not lie in the abandonment and cessation of the mission of Jacob, Jacob will not be vanquished. Esau will say to Jacob, ‘Let me go, for the morning has broken, the time of conflict is over. Jacob, however says, ‘I will let you go, but not before you bless me, before you have admitted to me that I have not deserved this cursing, hatred and persecution, before you have fully acknowledged what a blessing I deserve—and blessed me.’” (more…)

05-Jan-2009

A Backgrounder on Hamas: Islam and Monotheistic Paganism

Filed under: Islam & ArabJudaism — eidelberg @ 9:30 pm Edit This

Islam’s deep theological structure includes themes that render the notion of “three Abrahamic faiths” ultimately misleading in understanding Islam’s faith and practice—particularly if this trope is understood in the popular imagination as a matter of three equivalent legs propping up a single monotheistic stool.

George Weigel

Contrary to long established opinion, Islam’s deity, “Allah,” is not the God of the Bible—certainly not the God Jews refer to by the Ineffable Name HaShem and designated by the Tetragrammaton YHVH.

The Zohar (87a) states: “Thou shalt have no other gods upon My face,” meaning “Thou shalt even avoid conceiving Me in those aspects (faces) which form Ishmael’s religion [i.e., Islam].”

Islam actually contradicts the Biblical conception of man’s creation in the image of God. Thus, in 1985, Iran’s delegate to the United Nations, Said Raja’i-Khorassani, declared that “the very concept of human rights was ‘a Judeo-Christian invention’ and inadmissible in Islam.”

Although the Quran refers to Allah as the “compassionate,” his most conspicuous function in that highly polemical work is to consign unbelievers to hell. To be sure, the Quran contains many verses that preach peace and tolerance, but more typical are verses that sanction war against non-believers. (more…)

Praise the Lord, the God of Israel

Filed under: EthicsJudaism — eidelberg @ 9:04 pm Edit This

Praise the Lord, all people of honest faith, praise the God of Israel.

See how His Chosen People, “despite” mediocre leaders, attacks Evil—the evil incarnate in Hamas, the proxy of Shi’te Iran, the epicenter of Islamic paganism veneered in monotheism.

But take note of how the world denounces Israel. Is there better proof of the Chosen People?

Hear ye, oh people of honest faith, rise and cheer the People of Israel, while one gentile nation after another wallows in envious hatred of Jews while crawling to Arab and Muslim despots—merchants of hatred, of black gold and murder.

Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who uses even fools and scoundrels to reveal the inexhaustible righteousness of His Chosen People.

30-Dec-2008

A Muslim’s View of Ecumenism

Filed under: Islam & ArabJudaismMulticulturalism/Moral Relativism — eidelberg @ 6:51 am Edit This

If anyone wants to know how enlightened Muslims look upon ecumenism he can hardly do better than read the works of Seyyed Hossein Nasr, perhaps the most erudite Muslim philosopher of our time.

Nasr, who received his Ph.D. in the History of Science and Philosophy at Harvard and subsequently served as Chancellor of Aryamehr University in Iran, has taught and lectured at America’s most prestigious universities.

“Ecumenism,” he writes, “is becoming an instrument for simple relativization and further secularization.” By “relativization” he means this. The tendency of ecumenism is to deny that any religion is the repository of exclusive truth. Ecumenism thus reinforces the doctrine of cultural relativism according to which there are no objective and universally valid standards by which to determine whether the beliefs and practices of one people are superior to those of another.

Moreover, because relativism denies what Nasr calls “transcendental truths,” it inevitably breeds secularism. That some religionists are also relativists or quasi-relativists is only evidence of their superficiality or desire for popularity. Many ecumenicals fit this description. (more…)

24-Dec-2008

“You Can’t Make A Crooked Line Straight”

Filed under: JudaismParty StructuresZionism/Nationalism — eidelberg @ 5:47 am Edit This

Edited transcript of the Eidelberg Report, Israel National Radio, December 22, 2008.

The Sages say, “You can’t make a crooked line straight.” This prompted the present writer to warn a reputedly right-minded organization against joining the Likud Party some ten years ago. This was before 23 Likud MKs betrayed the nation by voting for “unilateral disengagement” from Gaza in 2004—a policy rejected by a vast majority of the public in the 2003 election.

The Likud government’s expulsion of Gaza’s 8,000 Jewish residents was called a crime by Professor Benzion Netanyahu. He said this despite the fact that his son Binyamin was a minister in that government. The same crime would be re-enacted if Dan Meridor, who recently rejoined the Likud, prevails in a projected Likud-led government to yield the Golan Heights to Syria.

But what is there about the Likud that prompts the title of this article? To answer this question, I turn to Israel’s first and illustrious Chief Rabbi, Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook.

The Likud is rooted in secular Zionism, in Theodor Herzl’s tract The Jewish State. Herzl severed Judaism from public law and relegated the Torah to the home and the synagogue. (more…)

23-Dec-2008

Orot (Lights) From Rav Kook

Filed under: JudaismBELIEFS & PERSPECTIVES — eidelberg @ 6:00 am Edit This

Apropos of Hanukah, the Festival of Lights, let me share with you some of the light from Orot, the seminal work of the illustrious Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook.

Orot (Lights), has been translated and brilliantly annotated by Rabbi Bezalel Naor, who rightly says in his introduction, “Rav Kook’s thought is intended to be the sum, the synthesis, of all Jewish thought preceding it. Beyond that, it attempts to provide the last, premessianic word on that entire tradition.”

Before continuing, it is important to bear in mind that the original edition of Orot was published in 1920, shortly after First World War—till then the bloodiest war in human history. Another significant matter: Rabbi Naor refers to Rav Kook as “The man who wore tefillin all day—and Nietzsche.” I wrote my masters thesis on Nietzsche, and having read Orot many times, what links Rav Kook and Nietzsche is their denial of antinomies on the one hand, and their “yes to life” philosophy on the other. Whatever one may think of Nietzsche, probably no gentile philosopher better understood Judaism, and few admired Jews more than the author of Thus Spake Zarathustra.

When Nietzsche says in Zarathustra, “God is dead,” he meant the God of Christianity. Lo and behold, Europe is now witnessing the demise of Christianity. (more…)

Rabbi Kook

Filed under: JudaismBELIEFS & PERSPECTIVES — eidelberg @ 5:27 am Edit This

To those who feel the pain of Israel’s redemption, or who feel disheartened by the falling character of Israel’s government; and to those who feel powerless before the wave of decay sweeping across America, a few words from the Talmud.

To avoid execution by the wicked Roman government, Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai and his son hid in a cave for twelve years. There they diligently studied the Jewish sources. With the death of the Caesar, they were free to leave the cave. Seeing people plowing and sowing, they said: “They are abandoning eternal life for temporal life.” Every place they gazed upon was immediately consumed by fire. A heavenly voice rang out and said to them: “Did you go out to destroy my world? Return to your cave.” After twelve months, they again left the cave, and Shimon ben Yohai said: “My son, you and I are enough for the world.” Now ponder Rav Avraham Yitzhak Hakohen Kook’s commentary on these few words in bold print.

If the orbit of all existence and all the multitudinous, broad, distant deeds of man should be designed for the desired effect that out of mankind there should emerge even a few holy people full of the light of truth and the sanctity of God the Most High, blessed be He—then all the machinations which seem so foreign to us are worthwhile. (more…)

22-Dec-2008

Thoughts Out of Season III

Filed under: JudaismIsrael's Nationals — eidelberg @ 6:35 am Edit This

Consider what some eminent individuals have said of the Jewish people:

● Rabbi Avraham Isaac Hakohen Kook:

The denial of our ‘Thou hast chosen us’ vocation and singularity is a fateful blunder. Set apart from the Gentiles, as evident in our incompatible history, the Jewish excellence and nobility surpasses that of any other nation. Our self-recognition implies an awareness of the Jewish grandeur; its renunciation spells a denial of the self. A people that disregards its essence, diminishes its stature. The obliteration of our exalted nature is the sole cause of our decline.

● John Adams:

The Jews have done more to civilize men than any other nation…. They are the most glorious Nation that ever inhabited the earth. The Romans and their Empire were but a bauble in comparison to the Jews. They have given religion to three-quarters of the Globe and have influenced the affairs of Mankind more, and more happily than any other Nation, ancient or modern. (more…)

05-Dec-2008

Self Restraint

Filed under: EthicsJudaism — eidelberg @ 6:32 am Edit This

U.S. Admiral Bull Halsey, a rational and responsible man, said, “Hit hard, hit fast, hit often.” Rationality and responsibility are qualities quite foreign to those who shape Israel’s policy toward its enemy, the Palestinian Authority. Their policy is “Hit softly, hit slowly, and hit seldom.”

In Hebrew this policy is called “havlaga”—self-restraint. This policy is motivated by fear of world opinion, perhaps also by the desire to display Israel’s moral superiority vis-à-vis the cruelty of her Arab enemies. It is an utterly inane and immoral policy.

Havlaga prolongs the war. It therefore increases the number of Jewish as well as Arab casualties. But let me focus on the character of the government that pursues this policy of havlaga—so sickeningly obvious in its failure to retaliate against the constant bombing of Sderot by the Arabs in Gaza,

This craven policy reveals the government’s lack of heartfelt concern for the lives of Jews. Paradoxical as it may seem, this government policy of havlaga undermines the sanctity of human life. It encourages the enemy and increases Arab—indeed, the world’s—contempt for Israel. Havlaga is a vile policy, and its proponents must be deemed bungled or base human beings. (more…)

24-Nov-2008

An Untried Policy

Filed under: JudaismOslo/Peace Process — eidelberg @ 5:25 am Edit This

An updated version of an article published in 1995.

Countless Jews are appalled or dumbfounded. They cannot understand how a Jewish government, backed the Israel Defense Forces, could give away Judea and Samaria, the sacred heartland of the Jewish people to terrorist thugs.

The Prophets and Sages of Israel predicted that, in the end of days, the Jews would have such a government. They foresaw that Israel would be ruled by “scorners” of the Torah. These scorners, said the Prophet Hosea (12:1-3), will fill Israel with lies and deception. They will strive after wind (“peace”) and make alliances with Israel’s enemies.

The Prophet Isaiah (28:14-18) chastises these insolent Jews. He foretells that they will make a “covenant with death,” but that this pact will not protect them, indeed, that they will be swept away like refuse. Remarkably, the Targum translates this pact with death as a contract with “terrorists” (mechablim)!

Similarly, the Zohar (Exodus 7b) predicts that in the end of days certain Jews in Israel will make an alliance with the enemies of the Jewish people. The Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles fits this dire prediction. (more…)

14-Nov-2008

Israel Versus Democrats and Despots

Filed under: Islam & ArabJudaism — eidelberg @ 8:03 pm Edit This

To grasp the world-historical significance of the conflict between Israel and democratic nations now allied with Arab despots, one must identify the great question that has confronted the architects of Western thought since the 16th century: the G-d question.

It was this question that preoccupied the fathers of the secular state: Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza, Rousseau, Marx. It was they who undermined the Biblical tradition and removed religion from the domain of truth. These were the real legislators of the contemporary mind. It was they who educated the educators who now dominate the colleges and universities of the democratic world.

These political philosophers provided the ideological foundations for the separation of religious and public law. It was their mode of thought that permeated the political Zionists who established the secular State of Israel. And now their post-Zionist descendants, under U.S. auspices, are exchanging the Land of Israel to the Arabs for the pottage of “peace.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s secular nationalists, in the Likud, for example. are powerless to prevent this insane treachery, for they, too, have been emasculated by a spiritually vacuous, territorial Zionism. (more…)

09-Nov-2008

Myths About Science

Filed under: EthicsJudaism — eidelberg @ 6:39 am Edit This

Let’s reflect on some not very well-known facts in the history of science as well as about scientists.

First, the astronomer Hiparchus, who lived in the second century before the common era, calculated the distance of the moon as 30 and 1/4 earth dimensions. That involves an error of a mere 0.3 percent. Not bad.

Second, in the sixth century before the common era, educated men knew that the earth was a sphere. Twelve hundred years later the earth was thought to be a disc.

Third, and more familiar to moderns is the name of Copernicus. Few people know, however, that Copernicus got his idea of a heliocentric (as opposed to a geocentric) universe from Aristarchus who studied the heavens some eighteen centuries earlier. Still less known is the fact that Pope Leo X gave a lecture on the Copernican system contained in The Book of Revolutions. The book was published in 1543. Seventy-three years later the Church, under another pope, placed the book on the Index.

Consider, now, the reputed founder of modern science, Galileo, who brought astronomy down to earth by his mathematization of nature. (more…)

06-Nov-2008

Biblical Freedom of Speech

Filed under: Democratic MethodsEthicsJudaism — eidelberg @ 6:55 am Edit This

Freedom of speech is a fundamental human value. This value seems to have its home in liberal democracy. In fact, liberal democracy exalts freedom of speech over all other values. Unfortunately, the exaltation of this freedom has led to its degradation. Today freedom of speech lacks rational and ethical constraints. Divorced from truth, freedom of speech has become a license to lie. To redeem and elevate freedom of speech, let us explore its pristine origin, the Bible of Israel.

Recall Abraham’s questioning the justice of G-d’s decision to destroy Sodom: “Peradventure there are fifty righteous within the city; wilt Thou indeed sweep away and not forgive the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from Thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked, that so the righteous should be as the wicked; that be far from Thee; shall not the Judge of all earth do justly?”

G-d permits Abraham to question Him. By so doing, the King of Kings affirms freedom of speech as a fundamental human right. But clearly this right, from a Judaic perspective, can only be derived from man’s creation in the image of G-d. Only because man is endowed with reason and free will does he have a right to freedom of speech. This right, however, must be understood in terms of the purpose or function of speech. (more…)

05-Nov-2008

Truth Versus Democracy

Filed under: Democratic MethodsJudaismUS & Global Policy — eidelberg @ 10:54 pm Edit This

Although democracies are hospitable to philosophy, it does not follow that democracies are truth-oriented. To the contrary, the freedom of speech and press enjoyed in democracies is actually rooted in the denial of truth. If democracies were truth-oriented they would not be tolerant of error. But as everyone knows, tolerance is a fundamental prerequisite of all democratic or pluralistic societies.

The pluralism of which democracies boast is another indication of their lack of truth-orientation. For this pluralism extends to the question of how should man live, and who does not know that democracies tolerate virtually every kind of “life-style”? Thus homosexuality has become as respectable as heterosexuality, and cheating has become a commonplace in high schools and colleges.

Democracies reduce truth to a private possession. Each individual becomes his own source of truth regarding good and bad, right and wrong, just and unjust. This is why public opinion polls have become the standard for public policy. In other words, opinion polls are required in democratic societies because in such societies each man’s opinion is deemed as valid as the next. This equality of opinion, manifested in the principle of “one adult, one vote,” is logically related to the denial of objective truth, the denial of objective standards as to how man should live or how society should be governed. (more…)

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