Defense/Security 10:51 AM 3/9/2014
Middle East 1:14 AM
Inside Israel 9:55 AM 3/9/2014
The Jay Shapiro Hour
Torah Tidbits Audio
Best-selling author, speaker, and spiritual guide, Rabbi Lazer Brody came to Israel from the USA in 1970 after graduating from the University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture. He is a veteran of an elite IDF Unit, having served for nearly thirty years in the regular army and in the IDF reserves. Rabbi Brody pens the award-winning Lazer Beams weblog, is the editor of Breslev Israel web magazine, and the author of The Trail to Tranquility. His English translation of Rabbi Shalom Arush's international bestseller The Garden of Emuna has sold over a million copies. Rabbi Brody is also a musical composer; his Calming Waters is a collection of his original relaxing instrumental melodies and Judean Dream is an album of "Land-of-Israel" music recorded together with Guy Tzvi Mintz and Yosef Karduner. Rabbi Brody spends considerable time traveling around the world spreading the light of emuna.
The following is a personal letter to Naftali Bennett, head of the Bayit Hayehudi party:
In Shakespeare's classic play, Julius Caesar is stabbed and killed by the person he considered to be his best friend, Marcus Brutus. As Brutus sticks him with the knife, Caesar says, "Et tu, Brute?" - or, "you too are betraying me, Brutus?"
Many people, including a substantial number of English-speaking immigrants, regarded you as a breath of fresh air in Israeli politics. You promised to bridge the gap between all sectors of the population. You promised to honor the Torah and the world of Torah learning. You promised to strengthen the Jewish settlement in every corner of our beloved homeland.
There have been political parties that have been staunch on Torah. There have also been political parties that have been staunch on our right to every square inch of our G-d given Land of Israel. Three great tzaddikim - the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Sadigora Rebbe, and the Bostoner Rebbe, all of blessed and saintly memory - were uncompromising in both areas, for in essence, the Torah and the Land of Israel are inseparable. All three tzaddikim had limitless love for every individual. Naftali, you had us believing that you were walking in their holy footsteps.
You and I both know the values that one learns in Israel's elite units - dedication, loyalty and reliability. We know that we are no better than the integrity of our word. We also know the values one learns in Torah - emuna, and once again, dedication, loyalty and reliability. No wonder that so many of us who grew up without Torah backgrounds found our way to Torah after serving in one the IDF elite units.
Naftali, where are those values in your pact with Yair Lapid? Why have you taken the cheap populist stance of drafting the Haredim, as if thousands of them aren't already serving today? Why are you strengthening Lapid's hand in limiting deferments to 2,000 Torah learners? The Mir Yeshiva alone has 3,000 students! Was it the Iron Dome that protected Israel in the recent round of hostilities, or all the Torah lerning in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Netivot, Ofakim and Beer Sheva? How many Katyushas did the Iron Dome miss right here in Ashdod? Yet, rockets fell in parking lots in the middle of the city rather than on highrise condos, Heaven forbid. That was the power of Torah...
On Purim yesterday, we were required to drink wine until we can no longer differentiate between cursed Haman and blessed Mordechai.
Unfortunately, Israeli politics is now a Purim joke. Naftali, without drinking a drop, we can no longer differentiate between you and Yair Lapid. We have few expectations from Yair - the poor guy never tasted the sweetness of Torah. But you? And this is the chevruta (partner) you choose? And now, you too are sticking a knife in the world of Torah? Et tu, Naftali?
You could have been the individual that forced the IDF to be more sensitive to the needs of Haredi soldiers. You could have been the one who tripled the size of the Nahal Haredi and the IAF programs for Haredi hi-tech specialists. You could have been the one to make sure that a soldier doesn't get kicked out of officer's school for refusing to listen to women singing, or other ridiculous anti-religious excuses. You could also have been the hero that puts an end to the deligitimization of the holy Yeshivot and those who truly learn Torah.
Don't ruin your opportunity of a lifetime, Naftali.
Naftali, talk is cheap; your "unbreachable pact" with Lapid shows exactly who you really are. We all make mistakes. We can all correct them, too. I urge you, for the sake of Torah and Eretz Yisrael, to reassess your position. If you choose, you can be Hashem's messenger in bringing Moshiach. Sure, let's make sure that everyone serves the country; but Heaven forbid, let's not diminish one minute of Torah learning. I implore you to rethink your position. Go out to the field and talk to Hashem for an hour - ask Him if you are doing His will. Seek His help and He'll be glad to guide you. If you make your "unbreachable pact" with Hashem, you're bound to succeed.
With respect and blessings, Lazer Brody
Hashem commands Abraham to get up and traverse the Land of Israel by foot, from north to south and from east to west. Let's see why:
On Yom Kippur, Iran's Achmedinejad once again repeated his threat to annihilate Israel. Predictably, less than a handful of nations voiced other than perfunctory luke-warm objections. As the Gemara teaches us, we have no one to depend on but our Father in Heaven.
Most suitably, this week's Torah portion - Haazinu - warns that our only chance of survival in the Land of Israel is by clinging to our roots.
The Sycamore tree is a living example of what the Torah's talking about; join me for a 5-minute boost of emuna...
I must humbly disagree with the doomsday prophets. Sure, Israel suffers from big problems and major threats. But it's heaven for your soul. The fact is that here, more and more people are quietly getting closer to Hashem. In Israel, a beautifully quiet spiritual revolution is taking place. Entire communities of emuna-oriented Jews are mushrooming in places that for years never had a synagogue or a Torah scroll. Yavniel, Carmiel, and Maalot are three examples. Folks there aren't yelling at social protest demonstrations because they're talking to Hashem. Many of our good friends in the USA and Canada have made Aliya recently. I urged those who sought my advice to consider places other than Ramat Bet Shemesh and Har Nof. I sent them to Maalot, to Katzrin, and to Yerucham, where they could buy nice apartments for a song, not worry where the kids are playing and breathe clean air. I've heard no complaints, only expressions of how happy they are to be here. I firmly believe that 5773 will be a wonderful year for the Jewish people in Israel, despite the threats.
The Evil Inclination wants you to think otherwise. By the way, the EI will do anything to prevent a person from making Aliya, especially casting worry and doubt in people's hearts. The EI was active back in the time of the "Sin of the Spies", and he's still active now...
Every day, I get letters from worried parents with children in yeshivas and seminaries here in Israel. They're frantic for their children to come home to the USA or Canada because of the apparent impending danger with Iran. Other families who had planned Aliya write and ask if it's still safe to come to Israel; many are getting cold feet, especially whenever they listen to the news.
So is it safe in Israel? Let me preface my answer with a quick historical refresher of what happened a mere two decades ago:
The Gulf War began when Saddam Hussein's Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990. Condemned by the international community, Iraq was given an ultimatum to withdraw from Kuwait by January 15, 1991. Sadaam ignored the West. The next day, on January 16, the coalition, led by the USA, began an intense aerial campaign against Iraqi targets.
Just a year earlier, I had retired from my combat unit in the IDF. My speed at 41 was not what it used to be, and after twenty years of combat service, I was ready for a breather. I therefore served my last nine years in the IDF Reserves as a military chaplain.
Israel's military intelligence was almost certain that Sadaam would attempt to muster the aide and sympathy of fellow Arab countries in his struggle against the USA by bombing Israel. Tiny Israel began to quietly brace itself for the worst, expecting the first SCUDs to be fired at Israel on January 15 or 16, 1991. Iraq's SCUD missile carried a massive 500-pound payload which was capable of reaching the heart of Israel. Don't forget that Iraq had already used its chemical warheads in its war with Iran.
Two weeks previously, on New Years Day, 1991, we military rabbis got an urgent call to report immediately for reserve duty. Why us? As soon as I reported to base, a busload of my fellow chaplains and I were taken to a military warehouse somewhere in the center of Israel. We were greeted by the Top Brass, briefed, and taken on a tour of a warehouse that contained 100,000 body bags. Israel was expecting the worst. Our commanders figured that we'd be performing funerals around the clock, Heaven forbid.
When the smoke of the Gulf War cleared, 39 SCUD missiles had hit Israel, some in densely populated areas like Ramat Gan and Ramat Aviv. One person died of a heart attack but no one died from Sadaam's missiles.
In contrast, one SCUD missile hit a US Army base in Saudi Arabia, killing 25 GIs and wounding over 200.
* * *
Nu, so is it safe in Israel?
My answer is utterly simple: Hashem did not perform history's greatest miracles to bring us all back to our ancient homeland in the Land of Israel in order to slaughter us here, Heaven forbid.
Neither the Pentagon, newspapers, Fox News, CNN, nor anyone else has an iota of understanding about Hashem's relationship with His beloved children, especially those who dwell in the Land of Israel.
In World War II, the British Army in North Africa crumbled under Rommel's iron boot. Nothing stood between the German Panzers and Israel; that is, nothing but Hashem. Hashem stopped Rommel in his tracks when the thirsty German soldiers drank salt water in the desert and got sick. The Brits regrouped and routed the Germans.
Hashem saved the Jews in the Land of Israel in 1948, in 1967, in 1973 and again in 1991. Hashem was a well-established chazaka, a pattern of reliability.
Only a fool would conjecture about what's in store for us in 5773. All the dangers that surround us - Iran, the Syrian uncertainty, terror in Sina and the takeover of Egypt by the Muslem Brotherhood, Hamas and Hizbolla - are high-volume wake-up calls for us to do our very best to come back to Hashem.
One point seems clear - Hashem wants us to learn emuna and to believe in Him. A dazzling IDF victory over Iran doesn't seem likely, because Hashem doesn't want people to be putting their trust in our army. In a manner that no one can imagine, Hashem will foil the evil designs of our enemies, to make us all declare Ein Od Milvado, there is no one but Him!
5773 faces us with unprecedented uncertainty, not only in Israel but in America and Europe as well. America is having its worst drought in decades. A huge percentage of American families are on food stamps with unemployment at record highs. Both the dollar and the Euro face a bleak future. Antisemitism, especially in Europe, is rampant.
Hashem is closing the doors of alternatives. He wants us all to come home, and soon.
So, despite the apparent threats and dangers, Aliya is your best bet for 5773. Now is a unique window of opportunity that might not be open for long. We're waiting for you. Write or call my good friends at Nefesh B'Nefesh and tell them that Lazer sent you. Meanwhile, l'shana tova tikatevu, may you and yours be inscribed in the Book of Life for a wonderful New Year 5773.
Iran - strike or not?
According to the media, not only is it a race of time, but time is running out.
According to the media, Israel's Prime Minister and Defense Minister are in the final stages of planning an attack on Iran.
According to the media, the President of the United States and his Cabinet are doing everything in their power to discourage/sabotage Israel's plans.
Either way, don't be upset. The media and the politicians on both sides of the ocean don't decide.
Each passing day brings Iran closer to a nuclear warhead. Only the blind and the naive would think otherwise. Despite international sanctions, the Iranian centrifuges are working 24/7 purifying uranium and producing nuclear weapons-grade fuel.
Lately, one after the other, senior American government officials such as the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense have visiting Israel, each carrying the same message: "Don't be naughty, you mischievous Israelis! You may certainly not carry out a preemptive strike against the Iranian nuclear reactors!"
Our leaders answer with their well-known bravado, "We won't leave our fate in the hands of others. We'll do what we need to do when we need to do."
We certainly agree with the above statement, but our references aren't the same as theirs. We don't leave our fate in the hand of "others" - in other words, other gods. We leave our fate in the hand of Hashem.
With all the hype in the media, people are frantic. They hear Iran day and night. Syria too is up for grabs, and no one knows in whose hands hundreds of tons of chemical mass-destructive weapons will fall. Then there's Hizbulla, Iran's armed-to-the-gills proxy right on our border too. Terror is on the rise in lawless Sinai. What will be?
I asked that question to my beloved teacher, Rabbi Shalom Arush, shlit'a. Recent events, especially the horror stories of breaches of holiness in the Haredi community, have taken a toll on his health.
Rav Shalom brushed aside the USA, Iran, and all of our other so-called friends and enemies with one backhand gesture. "They don't decide our fate," he said hoarsely. He had tears in his eyes, his voice was quivering, and he was obviously trying to restrain himself from crying. It was scary. "This is the Minister of the Smile?" I asked myself. Rav Shalom was seeing a very dark cloud on the spiritual horizon.
He then quoted the Torah: "And I will bring upon you the sword that avenges the vengeance of covenant" (Leviticus 26:25).
Rav Shalom then became as fierce as a lion: "When will people begin to realize that the entire purpose of Torah and mitzvoth is to bring a person to a state of holiness, so he or she can be a worthy vessel for the Divine Presence. But everyone must know: if they eat Kosher BaDatz, keep Shabbat with stringencies and have long beards - yet they think that their libido is a big mitzvah and their hearts are far from holiness - then they have done nothing! They've completely missed the point of Torah observance."
Not only have they missed the point, but they aid and abet the enemy. How?
Rav Shalom quoted Torah and mentioned "the sword that avenges the vengeance of covenant". Hashem incorporated a hard-fast law of cause-and-effect in the fiber of creation: if the Jewish people shall live their lives in holiness, they shall be encompassed within the glorious "clouds of Divine Presence;" they shall lack nothing and shall enjoy every single blessing in life, both material and spiritual. Not only that, Hashem Himself shall dwell in their midst, so no evil can befall them.
But, if on the other hand, Heaven forbid, the Jewish people forsake the path of holiness, succumbing to temptations mind and body, they shall suffer the consequences of the breach in brit, the holy covenant. Any breach in covenant produces a negative spiritual force known as "vengeance of covenant". The vengeance of covenant is the force that creates a sword of vengeance, the same way that nuclear fuel is the power source of an atomic weapon.
Are you beginning to understand?
The spiritual roots of the Iranian nuclear weapons, the "sword of vengeance" that threatens us today, are all the breaches of holiness within the Torah-observant community. Maybe you think that's not fair. "What about the seculars?" you want to ask.
Hashem expects much more from the observant community than He does from the seculars, who grew up in utter ignorance of Torah and mitzvoth.
People are afraid to be called names. One "average" religious man says, "If I go around closing my eyes, people will think I'm insane."
Rav Shalom answers, "If you open your eyes, especially to unfiltered web and to Facebook, you will be insane."
A so-called "Orthodox" woman says (wearing her long Euro-Kastem $1600 wig and her long but quite-tight satin dress that accents every curve), "Do you expect me to dress like a yachna (Yiddish for 'old hag')? I wouldn't be caught dead like that!"
Hey lady, if you continue dressing the way you do, you are creating the sword which will "catch you dead."
So maybe you're asking, "What can I do if the whole world is off its rocker and I guard my eyes?" Or, "What can I do if all the women are 'in style' and I dress like 'Little House on the Prairie'?" Rav Shalom that you're doing a lot - you just might save the Jewish people.
When the Jews arrived at the Red Sea, with the Egyptian Army in hot pursuit from behind and the sea in front, there was an argument in the Heavenly Court if the Jews were worthy of being saved or not. One man's dedication - Nachshon ben Aminadav who jumped into the water - tipped the scales in the Jews' favor and the sea split. This is what Rebbe Nachman of Breslev calls azut d'kedusha, or boldness for holiness.
Rav Shalom told me that azut d'kedusha is the only weapon which can defeat the sword of our enemies, conventional or otherwise.
So it's not our enemies or our allies that determine our fate; they don't decide. Our determination in strengthening personal holiness - guarding eyes for men and modesty for women - is the force that will determine which way the chips fall. There's little time left, so let's get to work. Personal holiness is our undesputable and irrefutable deed to the entire holy Land of Israel. The wicked Bilaam knew that Israel was invincible as long as it preserved its holiness. That's why he tempted our people with the daughters of Midian; 24,000 Jews who dropped their guard died in the aftermath. Let's not let that or anything like it happen ever again.
With our strengthened personal holiness, let Tehran worry; we here will sleep like babies, for The Guardian of Israel shall never slumber. G-d bless always.