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American White Supremacism

An uncomfortable history lesson.

On July 4th, 1776 the famous American Declaration of Independence was signed. It states, amongst other things:

 “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.[1]

This paragraph is relatively brief, but it explains so much of the modern day ‘schizo’ character of the United States. Firstly, 41 of the 56 signatories to the Declaration of Independence owned slaves at the time of signing.[2]

Just think about that for a moment, that 41 people in high office could put their name to a document stating ‘all men are created equal’ whilst at the same time owning human beings as chattel and complaining about “merciless Indian savages” a little later on in the text.

But it’s really the second highlighted passage that I want to draw to your attention, because when the Founding Fathers said:

“[W]henever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it” – they were basically enshrining the ‘right’ of Americans to violently overthrow their government, if they felt it wasn’t delivering enough ‘life, liberty and pursuit of happiness’.

And that probably explains a lot about why the United States has a huge problem with White Supremacist movements who are looking for ways to overthrow the government: history is repeating itself.

American white supremacism

Like all good patriots, Americans like to believe the best about the country they call home.

That’s natural, it’s human nature. But, when you really lift the cover and take a peek at the violent history of what came to be known as the United States of America, it explains so much of why today, the country is standing on a very dangerous precipice.

The official history always painted the white settlers as the ‘good guys’ who were fending off attacks from bloodthirsty redskins. But there was another side of that story that got airbrushed out of history, namely how millions of indigenous people were murdered in cold blood to make it easier for the Europeans to take their land.

No-one was around to document the violence and murder at the beginning of this process, or to know the scale of what was really going on. But by the mid-1800s, there was enough information circulating for modern historians to have a much clearer view of what was occurring in what became the modern State of California.

Historian Benjamin Madley wrote a book in 2016 called “An American Genocide”.

The book sets out some highly disturbing facts about what occurred in the State of California then, that are rarely taught in American schools, including:

  • 120,000 California Indians met the deaths between 1846 and 1873;
  • A very large proportion of these Indians, including women and children, were brutally murdered by white settlers enticed to California by the goldrush.
  • The American press and most American politicians lauded these murderers (many of whom perpetrated their atrocities wearing the uniform of the American army.) Instead of deriding these wholesale massacres of whole communities as atrocities, they referred to them as ‘battles’, even when they were carried out by vigilantes, and even when the Indians being murdered had not acted with any prior aggression.
  • The US government tacitly and openly encouraged these murders. In 1851, the first California Governor Peter Burnett said in his Governor’s message:

“[A] war of extermination will continue to be waged between the races, until the Indian race becomes extinct.”

  • The State of California started paying high wages to people who would volunteer to participate in ‘anti-Indian’ militias, full expecting the Federal government to reimburse the cost. The US government paid vigilantes money for every Indian scalp, or severed head they presented them with. Many Indians were also deliberately poisoned by food laced with strychnine.
  • The Native people in California were denied the most basic rights by the courts. White people who killed them, enslaved them, stole from them, kidnapped them would not be arrested or imprisoned for their crimes against Indians, because the courts refused to accept any testimony from Indians.

By the end of the 19th century, the few Indians who had survived the massacres understood that moving to a reservation and giving up their rights to their own land was really the only workable option on the table, if they didn’t want to be totally and completed annihilated by the white settlers.

No-one knows how many Indians were killed between 1600 and 1900.

The matter is still being hotly debated. On the low end, historians say there were two million natives in what is now the USA before Europe conquered America, on the high end, that there were 18 million[3].

But what is not in dispute is that by 1900, only 250,000[4] native Americans remained in the whole of the USA, while the rest of the population in the 1890 Census had grown to 63 million.[5]

THE TAKE HOME FROM THIS SECTION:

White settlers from Europe brutally disposed of the native inhabitants of the continental USA, because they wanted exclusive ownership of their land.

American white supremacism

“MANIFEST DESTINY”

In 1845, just prior to the genocide of America’s West Coast natives, an American journalist named John O’Sullivan coined the phrase ‘Manifest Destiny’ to explain the widely-held belief that America and its white, Protestant population were the new ‘chosen people’, and that God had “destined” America to “expand its dominion and spread democracy and capitalism across the entire North American continent.”[6]

But only for whites.

Nearly all of America’s early economic success was built on the back of non-white slave labor. Some historians estimate that between 6-7 million black slaves were shipped to North America from Africa during the 18th century alone. To give some contrast, the official census figures for that same period of time (white only) show that the white population in the US grew from 250,000 in the year 1700, to 5.3 million people by the year 1800.[7] Most of these slaves were literally worked to death.

Officially, the US Congress outlawed the slave trade in 1808, but still permitted domestic trade in slaves, not least because the tobacco and then cotton-based economy of the Southern states was totally dependent on slave labor to continue to run.

This 5 minute video will tell you more about Manifest Destiny:

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How ‘Manifest Destiny contributed to the American Civil War

By 1840, the US population stood at around 17 million, and it was at this point that a decision was made at the political level to pursue ‘manifest destiny’ and expand West-ward. When gold was discovered in California in 1848, this accelerated the pace of settlement, and brought ever more rapacious, greedy and brutal prospectors out to the US looking for gold.

With the increase in the size of the continental US, and the murder of millions of Indians who previously had been used by the Spanish on the West Coast as slave laborers, the US ran into a problem:

There was no way these massive additional tracts of land could be farmed properly, without expanding the US slave trade.

The abolitionist movement had started to pick up steam in the Northern states, who were economically far less dependent on slave labor, but even there, it wasn’t only human rights considerations that were in play. This from history.com:

“While many abolitionists based their activism on the belief that slaveholding was a sin, others were more inclined to the non-religious “free-labor” argument, which held that slaveholding was regressive, inefficient and made little economic sense.”

For many abolitionists, it boiled down to an economic argument, rather than moral one. So on the one hand, there were a number of states who were reliant on slavery for their economic growth, and who wanted to continue and expand it, and on the other, there were a number of states who felt that slavery was economically inefficient, and also (incidentally….) not a very nice thing to do.

That set the stage for America’s civil war, which the Unionists managed to win not least because 186,000 former black slaves from the secessionist South joined the ranks of the Union army – accounting for 10% of its forces.[8]

Slavery was ‘officially’ abolished in the US in 1863, but the ‘white supremacist’ and ‘manifest destiny’ attitudes that underpinned slavery, genocide, and the ruthless economic exploitation of non-whites would continue to flourish in America in many other ways.

And now, we start to bring this story into the modern era.

TAKEAWAY FROM THIS SECTION:

The American economy was built off the back of slave labor. From the middle of the 19th century on, white Americans also came to see themselves as a new ‘chosen people’ who’d been chosen by God to conquer the whole of the continental USA – and beyond.

American white supremacism

SOCIAL DARWINISM AND WHITE SUPREMACISTS

Around the same time that Abraham Lincoln was formally abolishing slavery in the US, in the UK a rich industrialist with scientific ambitions was trying to put together a ‘theory’ to explain why only certain ‘races’ of men deserved the vote, and why it was OK that the rich people at the top of the pyramid continued to exploit and enslave the poorer people underneath them.

This theory came to be known colloquially as ‘survival of the fittest’, and despite the great paucity of any real ‘science’ to back it up, it was swiftly adopted by the great thinkers of the time, as an easy ‘get out’ clause for their consciences.

The pseudo-science behind the “survival of the fittest” arbitrarily divided humanity up into ‘races’, and suggested that the more aggressive and greedier peoples who were exploiting everyone else were ‘the fittest’ specimens that were being naturally selected. Of course, that fit the colonial mindset very nicely, and it made ‘racism’ a virtue.

From the close of the 19th century onwards, Western science strove mightily towards this ideal of creating and perfecting the ‘fittest’ race.

Darwin’s theory led to the creation of the pseudo-science of eugenics, and had white supremacists all over the world preening themselves about their ‘superlative’ gene pool, which they felt entitled them to much greater shares of the world’s wealth and resources than the ‘inferior’ races they were displacing, exploiting and killing.

In a nutshell, Darwin’s ‘theory of evolution’ and ‘natural selection’ bunkum told the European white people who were exploiting everyone else exactly what they wanted to hear: carry on doing what you’re doing, it’s the natural way for the ‘strong’ to oppress and kill the weak, and for the ‘fittest’ to grab the food out of the ‘unfittest’s’ mouth….

For a nation that already believed it was the new chosen people, and that it had a mandate, or ‘manifest destiny’ from God to rule the world, this was music to the ears.

TAKEAWAY FROM THIS SECTION:

‘Natural selection’ and the theory of evolution was invented to give wealthy, white Europeans with a pseudo-scientific excuse for why it was ok to go around killing and exploiting brown and black people, and stealing their land and natural resources.

American white supremacism

AMERICAN EUGENICS

So now we’ve set the scene a little bit more, let’s skip forward to 1916, where a blue-blooded American lawyer called Madison Grant had just published a book called:

THE PASSING OF THE GREAT RACE

Grant was part of an elite set that included the crème of American society, including many wealthy elites, intellectuals, academics, politicians and presidents. At the beginning of the 20th century, this group of well-connected people in America started to feel increasingly upset about the number of non-white ‘inferior’ races that were crowding America’s shores.

In 1916, when the book was published, America’s population stood at a touch under 102 million[9]. Already at this stage, Grant and his group in America started sounding alarms that the proud ‘Nordic Races’ who had founded America were committing what he termed ‘race suicide’ by letting in so many ‘inferior’ races – and Jews were top of the list.

Grant wrote:

“The man of the old stock is being driven off the streets of New York City by the swarms of Polish Jews.”

He continued:

These immigrants adopt the language of the native American, they wear his clothes, they steal his name, and they are beginning to take his women, but they seldom adopt his religion or understand his ideals and while he is being elbowed out of his own home the American looks calmly abroad and urges on others the suicidal ethics which are exterminating his own race.”

In another passage, he wrote:

The cross between a white man and an Indian is an Indian; the cross between a white man and a Negro is a Negro; the cross between a white man and a Hindu is a Hindu; and the cross between any of the three European races and a Jew is a Jew.

Grant was a big fan of eugenics and euthanasia.

In that same book, he wrote:

“Mistaken regard for what are believed to be divine laws and a sentimental belief in the sanctity of human life tend to prevent both the elimination of defective infants and the sterilization of such adults as are themselves of no value to the community. The laws of nature require the obliteration of the unfit, and human life is valuable only when it is of use to the community or race.

(Today, when the State of New York has passed a law enabling parents to murder their newborns right up to the moment of actual birth, it’s becoming clearer and clearer how this awful lack of morality was inspired and encouraged by Darwinian pseudo-science and its associated ‘ethics’.)

Grant concluded:

We Americans must realize that the altruistic ideals which have controlled our social development during the past century and the maudlin sentimentalism that has made America “an asylum for the oppressed,” are sweeping the nation toward a racial abyss. If the Melting Pot is allowed to boil without control and we continue to follow our national motto and deliberately blind ourselves to all “distinctions of race, creed or color,” the type of native American of Colonial descent will become as extinct as the Athenian of the age of Pericles, and the Viking of the days of Rollo.

American white supremacism

Grant’s message fell on very receptive ears – both in the USA itself, which went on to pass laws severely curtailing immigration to the USA in the 1920s – and also in Germany, where one A. Hitler wrote to tell Grant how much he’d enjoyed his book.

Lothrop Stoddard was one of Grant’s acolytes, who was inspired to write his own book warning white Americans against the dangerous ‘colored tide’ about to flood in. In 1921, President Warren Harding (Republican) told a crowd of 10,000 people in Alabama:

“Whoever will take the time to read Mr Lothrop Stoddard’s book The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy…must realise that our race problem here in the United States is only a phase of the race problem that the whole world confronts….if we mean the things we say about democracy as the ideal political state.” In that same speech, Harding stated: “Racial amalgamation there cannot be.”[10]

The next president of the United States, Calvin Coolidge, (Republican) was even more unabashedly ‘pro’ white supremacy. Writing in Good Housekeeping in 1921, he said:

“America has…been an asylum for those who have been driven from their homes in foreign countries because of various forms of political and religious oppression….It is a duty our country owes itself to require of all those aliens who come here that they have a background not inconsistent with American institutions. Such a background might consist either of a racial background or a national experience. But in its lowest terms it must be characterized by a capacity for assimilation.”

Coolidge continued:

“[I]t would be suicidal for us to let down the bars for the inflowing of cheap manhood.”[11]

(In case you’re worrying that racism and white supremacy was only a Republican party problem, this is probably a good time to tell you that the Ku Klux Klan was started in Southern America by Democrats seeking to limit Republican political power in the South after the civil war, as so many blacks were voting for the party who’d emancipated them.)[12]

TAKEAWAY FROM THIS SECTION:

America at the turn of the 20th century introduced a number of very restrictive immigration laws, to make it as hard as possible for ‘inferior’ races to enter America and amalgamate with the ‘superior’ white stock. White superiority and a ‘race’ problem were freely and openly talked about by presidents, politicians, lawyers, judges and the cream of American society.

American white supremacism

AMERICAN NAZIS

As we mentioned, Hitler was highly impressed by all this incredibly racist, pseudo-scientific, eugenicist talk coming out of America, much of which went on to actually shape American immigration policy and suffrage.

In 2017, Yale Law Professor James Q. Whitman wrote a book called: Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law. In THIS article, Whitman explains his main thesis, and tells us something incredible about a meeting that was held in 1934 by the Reich’s top lawyers, to plan the Nuremburg Laws that would decide ‘who was a Jew’:

“Throughout the early 1930s, the years of the making of the Nuremberg Laws, Nazi policymakers looked to US law for inspiration. Hitler himself, in Mein Kampf (1925), described the US as ‘the one state’ that had made progress toward the creation of a healthy racist society, and after the Nazis seized power in 1933 they continued to cite and ponder US models regularly.”

Whitman continues:

“Throughout the meeting the most ardent supporters of the US model were the most radical Nazis in the room.”

All this should give massive pause for thought as to what the US really stood for then, and continues to stand for today.

But there’s more. Recently, new footage came to light that shows 20,000 American Nazis gathered together in Madison Square Garden in 1939, a few short months before World War II broke out.

You can watch it HERE – and I highly recommend that you do. And then take a breath, and remember that this took place not in Berlin, but in New York City, in 1939. Here’s some of what the leading American Nazi, Fritz Kuhn, had to say in his speech to the audience on that night:

“We, with American ideals, demand that our government shall be returned to the American people who founded it. If you ask me what we are fighting for under our charter, first: a socially-just, white, gentile-ruled United States. Gentile-controlled labor unions, free from Jewish, Moscow-directed domination.”

That night in Madison Square Garden, Kuhn appeared under a massive 8 metre tall picture of George Washington, who Kuhn liked to call: “America’s first fascist”.

American white supremacism

WHY DIDN’T AMERICA SIDE WITH NAZI GERMANY?

Given the institutionalized racism in America, given the prominent, reverent place accorded to ‘white supremacy’ and ‘manifest destiny’, it’s clear that it wasn’t an automatic choice for the USA to oppose the Germans. Close to 25% of the American population in the 1930s were either German immigrants themselves, or the first generation children of German immigrants to the US[13].

Even after World War II began, there were still Nazi ‘summer camps’ for children – organized along the same lines as the Hitler Youth – operating across many States in America.[14] These were only closed when America actually joined the war in December 1941, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

In the run-up to World War II, there was a sizeable contingent of Americans who shared many of the same views and opinions as the Nazis in Germany.

These views were based on Darwin-inspired eugenics and other horrific theories of ‘race suicide’ (which today has morphed into the term ‘white genocide’, amongst modern white supremacists). These people wanted America to stay out of the war in Europe, and to let Hitler get on with the job of ‘cleansing’ the continent.

Photo by Harris & Ewing

One of the most vocal groups at this time was called the ‘America First Committee’, which had Charles Lindbergh, one of early America’s biggest celebrities, at its head. Lindbergh became famous in 1927 for making the first successful solo flight across the Atlantic, and he was adored by large swathes of the American public.

With his backing, America First quickly swelled to 800,000 members. In May 1940, a week after Nazi Germany had invaded Belgium, the Netherlands and France, an opinion poll was taken in America to see who was in favor of the US entering the war. The results:

“showed that Americans overwhelmingly opposed entering World War II.”[15]

According to Lindbergh and the millions of people in the US who shared his outlook and beliefs, the only people who wanted America to enter the War was the Jews. On September 11th, 1941, Lindbergh denounced American Jews as being ‘war agitators’ in a speech he gave at Des Moines Iowa.

Three months later, in December 1941, America entered World War II, and that’s when ‘America First’ was officially disbanded. But ingrained dislike of Jews, and the racist attitudes about saving the (white, Protestant) American people from ‘race suicide’ continued throughout the war – and beyond.

TAKEAWAY FROM THIS SECTION:

American laws and racist policies inspired the Nazis, when they formulated the Nuremberg Laws to dehumanize the Jewish population, before World War II. Much of the American population shared the Nazis views on race and white superiority, which may partially explain why it took America two years to enter the war on the side of the Allies.

American white supremacism

WHY DIDN’T AMERICA DO MORE TO SAVE EUROPE’S JEWS?

There is currently an exhibit being shown at the United States Holocaust Memoriam Museum called: Americans and the Holocaust which encapsulates the problem facing America today, because there is currently a tug-of-war between historians about whether Franklin Delano Roosevelt was an anti-semite who deliberately minimized the number of Jews reaching American shores, or whether he was just making the best of a difficult hand.

Critics point to how FDR’s administration turned boat-loads of German Jews – like the St Louis –  away from America’s shores, and stymied attempts to have 20,000 Jewish children shipped from Europe to the US.

It’s always easier to try and portray national dysfunction as the problem of the leader alone, but FDR was a politician before he was an anti-semite, and like all good politicians, he was giving his voters what they wanted. According to THIS article:

“A Gallup poll from January 1939 asked if Americans would support bringing even 10,000 German refugee children into the country, public opinion ran 2:1 against.”

The article continues:

“The wife of the US’ immigration commissioner (who also happened to be a cousin of President Roosevelt) testified that “20,000 charming children would all too soon grow into 20,000 ugly adults.””[16]

If you take FDR in context, if you take a clear look at how the US built itself up on the back of black slavery and Indian genocide, and how white supremacists with guns and pseudo-science about ‘racial purity’ were always a defining characteristic of the country, FDR’s behavior becomes far more understandable:

He was reflecting the will of the people he governed.

 

Was FDR, personally, an anti-semite?

Probably, yes. In 2018 new documents[17] were revealed to the public from the FDR Library which revealed Roosevelt’s plans to “spread thing all over the world” the remnants of Europe’s Jews. ‘Project M’ was begun in 1942, when there was no longer any doubt about the mass murder of Jews going on in Europe. At that time, FDR asked his closest advisors to put together options for where to dump all the Jews who might still manage to survive the war – because he certainly didn’t want them crowding into America.

Roosevelt turned to one Aleš Hrdlička, the curator of physical anthropology at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and a rabid eugenicist and white supremacist in the best ‘pseudo-scientific’ Darwin style, to investigate the options.

In their correspondence, Roosevelt suggested:

“that while most South American countries would be glad to admit Jewish immigration, it was on the condition that the Jewish group were not localized in the cities, they want no ‘Jewish colonies,’ ‘Italian colonies,’ etc.”

When things didn’t progress with Hrdlička – who wanted the last say on the final contours of the project – Roosevelt next turned to Isaiah Bowman, then president of Johns Hopkins University. Bowman had fired a number of Jewish professors at Johns Hopkins, because:

“There are already too many Jews at Hopkins.”

On another occasion, Bowman opined that:

“Jews don’t come to Hopkins to make the world better or anything like that. They came for two things: to make money and to marry non-Jewish women.”

Bowman tried to ‘solve’ his own Jewish problem by placing quotas on Jewish students, particularly in the fields of maths and science. Roosevelt clearly felt he was just the man for the job, writing to him:

“Frankly, what I am rather looking for is the possibility of uninhabited or sparsely inhabited good agricultural lands to which Jewish colonies might be sent.” When he described the M Project to Winston Churchill, Roosevelt explained that it was looking at: “the problem of working out the best way to settle the Jewish question,” and that he believed the solution “essentially is to spread the Jews thin all over the world.”[18]

So FDR probably was an anti-semite and a white supremacist – but so were so many other ‘good Americans’ of that time.

For example, American Poet Ezra Pound was considered to be one of the most original writers and “master critics” of the 20th century in America:

the writer most responsible for making modernism in literature part of our lives.”[19]

That didn’t stop Pound from taking to the airwaves twice a week for Italian Fascist Radio, where he shared gems like these:

“That any Jew in the White House should send American kids to die for the private interests for the scum of the English earth… and the dregs of the Levantine [a term used to describe the Middle East].” – February, 26, 1942.

And this:

“Don’t start a pogrom – an old-style killing of small Jews. That system is no good whatever. Of course, if some man had a stroke of genius, and could start a pogrom up at the top, there might be something to say for it. But on the whole, legal measures are preferable.” – April 30th, 1942.

Which brings us to the core conclusions of this post.

There is so much more to say about ingrained American white supremacism, racism and anti-Semitism. There is so much more to say about a country which made its own ‘pursuit of happiness’ – and economic benefit – the main criteria for its actions both at home and abroad.

American white supremacism

But here are the takeaway points:

  • The United States of America was built on the creed of ‘white supremacy’ and ‘manifest destiny’. And it’s impossible to totally eradicate those ideas from the American psyche, especially as the brutal roots of modern America are still being largely whitewashed and romanticized.
  •  The United States has a very long history of preaching about human freedom, civil rights and equality – but its unpleasant actions have always belied it’s saintly-sounding rhetoric.
  • Hitler and the Nazis were inspired by America’s racial laws and ‘progress’ in the field of applying the Darwin-inspired, pseudo-scientific principles of eugenics in real time. Nazi lawyers studied American laws in great detail, to help them formulate the Nuremburg laws that would turn Jews into dehumanized second-class citizens.
  • FDR and ‘Middle America’ didn’t do more to stop the destruction of Europe’s Jews, and to let more Jews into America because they didn’t want to. Remember, barely two decades before President Calvin Coolidge wrote a piece where he stressed that America could only take in immigrants who were: “characterized by a capacity for assimilation.”
  • After the Nazis lost World War II, eugenics became discredited, and America (and the rest of the West…) rushed to ‘whitewash’ its historical attachment to ‘white supremacy’ and the American belief that God had given it permission to crush other ‘races’ to extinction. Post World War II, that sounded far too ‘Third Reich-y’, so American politicians like John Foster Dulles turned to the ‘Commie Threat’ to explain why America had to keep toppling democratically-elected governments all over the world that were trying to protest American control and exploitation of their natural resources.
  • ‘White supremacy’ in the United States is not an aberration, it’s woven into the very fabric of the country – and it’s not going away any time soon. All the people who are blaming Trump for ‘causing’ a surge in neo-nazi behavior, anti-Semitism and white supremacist activity in the US kind of have things backwards. Half the country (at least…) hold those beliefs, and they elected someone who they felt better represented them.

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Do I think Trump is an anti-semite?

On balance, no I don’t. (But I could be wrong.) Trump is a business man who understands that America was ‘made great’ on the back of policies that put the white people in America first, at everyone else’s expense, and he’s trying to turn back the clock.

One thing I can tell you for sure: If it serves America’s economic interest to throw Israel under a bus, he will do it in a heartbeat – but it won’t be anything personal. Just money is the main motivation for people like Trump, and many others like him.

American white supremacism

What does all this mean for America’s Jews?

I’ll expand on that, God willing, in another post, but you can sum the situation up like this:

America is home to millions of ‘entitled’ white supremacists who generally dislike Jews, and who have free access to semi-automatic weapons.

And that’s not going to change anytime soon. The main reason anti-Semitism has stayed so minimal in the USA until recent times is because post World War II, the Nazis gave white supremacy a bad name. Also, the American economy was booming over the last 50 years, so fewer Americans felt aggrieved about ‘immigrants’ stealing their jobs and their wealth.

Things have changed now.

American debt is at catastrophic levels and even a good business man like Trump can’t really turn the tanker around and ‘make America great again’ because internationally, America is no longer in a position to impose its economic will on other countries via its army and covert ‘regime change’ (although it’s still trying…)

At most, Trump just bought America some time.

So now, this is the scenario unfolding in America:

On the one side, all the white supremacists with AR-15 semi-automatic rifles and a very long history of using guns and violence to try to solve their social and economic problems.

On the other side, a growing tide of ‘anti God’ and ‘anti-organized religion’ liberals who are trying to totally trash the family unit and any concept of traditional morality. There’s also a growing number of immigrants who want a piece of the American economic pie, some of whom are Muslim and some of whom (not necessarily the Muslims) are also anti-Semitic and / or anti-white.

And American Jews are in the middle of all this mess.

Historically, the trigger that causes the opposing forces in American society to clash violently is the economy. For as long as the money keeps flowing Stateside, they will be able to keep a lid on the white supremacists agitating that ‘immigrants’ have stolen their jobs. But if the economic situation starts to radically deteriorate – as it so easily could! – then it’s going to get very dangerous for Jews in America.

There are people on both sides of the divide that will try to use the Jews as the scapegoat for the problem.

The white supremacists will target the ‘liberal’ Jews in the US who they say control the media and the economy. And the ‘liberals’ and anti-semites in the other camp will target American support for Israel as being the main problem.

There’s more to say, there’s always more to say. But I wanted to set out something of a ‘potted history’ of white supremacy in the US so that more of the Jews living there understand what they are really dealing with, and that it’s not going away any time soon.

Poway and Pittsburgh could really only be the beginning of a culture clash that could leave American Jews reeling, whichever way it goes.

You don’t need an anti-Semitic president, or an anti-Semitic Congress or Senate, for violent anti-Semitism to become a huge problem in the US, lo alenu, God forbid. God doesn’t do the same thing twice, there will be no new ‘elected’ Hitler arriving on the scene.

There doesn’t need to be. There are already millions of white supremacists with guns in America.

And there is nothing anyone can do to disarm them, or make them go away.

American white supremacism

NOTES:

 

[1] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Declaration-of-Independence

[2] http://www.mrheintz.com/how-many-signers-of-the-declaration-of-independence-owned-slaves.html

[3] While it is difficult to determine exactly how many Natives lived in North America before Columbus,[6] estimates range from a low of 2.1 million[7] to 7 million[8] people to a high of 18 million.[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_history_of_indigenous_peoples_of_the_Americas

[4] https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/7302

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1900_United_States_Census

[6] https://www.history.com/topics/westward-expansion/manifest-destiny

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographic_history_of_the_United_States

[8] https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/civil-war-facts

[9] https://fusiontables.google.com/DataSource?dsrcid=225439#rows:id=1

[10] https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1921/10/27/98760670.pdf

[11] http://hearth.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=hearth;rgn=full%20text;idno=6417403_1366_002;view=image;seq=15

[12] https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/grant-kkk/

 

[13] https://gizmodo.com/how-american-nazis-used-summer-camps-to-indoctrinate-th-1743267747

 

[14] Ibid.

[15] https://exhibitions.ushmm.org/americans-and-the-holocaust/main/us-fear-of-spies

[16] https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/1/27/14412082/refugees-history-holocaust

 

[17] http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/_resources/images/psf/psfc0232.pdf

[18] https://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/FDR-wanted-Jews-spread-thin-and-kept-out-of-US-documents-reveal-553336

 

[19] Page 31, ‘New York Jew’, by Alfred Kazin, published 1978

Forty years ago, on the eve of Pesach, 1979 (April 12th), a young Jewish man named Steven Finkelstein was found horrifically mutilated and dead, at the base of Haystack Rock, off the Oregon coast.

Haystack Rock measures around 300 foot tall, and is located a little out to sea off the coast at Cannon Beach. At high tide, it’s surrounded by water. On the evening of April 12th, 1979 when the police were called to the scene, they were told by a man named Mills – the only witness to what had occurred – that Steve Finkelstein had decided to climb up the rock, and had slipped and fallen to his death.

There were a few things that made this story unlikely:

  • That day, the weather had been awful – it was sleeting, hailing and the winds had reached 50 mph. Not the sort of weather you go climbing up rocks.
  • According to his father, Herschel (who you will hear more about in a moment) Steve was not a rock-climber. But if he’d chosen to climb a rock as dangerous as Haystack Rock, he certainly would have prepared himself better to do it, than by wearing his trademark slippery-soled cowboy boots.
  • Steve’s throat had been slit, and his body was so badly mangled that the acting coroner found it difficult to believe that even a fall off a rock in bad weather could account for the injuries, and suspected foul play.
  • Mills was an obvious anti-semite.
  • The year before, a notorious white supremacist located in Oregon called William Pierce had published a dystopian novel novel called The Turner Diaries, which advocated the mass ritual killing of Jews in America.

Strangely, the Oregon police force didn’t press for an autopsy, the case was never properly investigated, and they accepted Mills’ account of a ‘bad accident’ without any further investigation.

Steve’s father, Herschel, spent a lot of time and money investigating what had actually happened, and much of what he discovered he wrote up in a book he recently self-published, called The Adventures and Travels of a Poor Chemist. Today, Herschel lives in a nursing home in Jerusalem, and that’s where I went to visit him, to interview him about his book a couple of weeks before Pesach.

Herschel believes that neo-Nazis killed his son, and that this was covered up by the authorities at the time, not least because the two main suspects were soldiers in the US army.

(You can see an excellent article that covers a lot of the details of Steve Finkelstein’s death HERE.)

THE TURNER DIARIES

Three days ago, after the shooting at the Poway synagogue in Chabad, I finally sat down to start putting Herschel’s story together, and to do a little more research into one “William Pierce”, a former Physics Professor from Portland, Oregon, who had written something called “The Turner Diaries.”

The Turner Diaries were first released by Pierce in 1978 – the year before Steve died – writing under the pseudonym ‘Andrew MacDonald’. Here’s a very brief overview of the plot. (Go HERE to see a fuller version)

THE BASIC PLOT

In 2099, the diaries of one ‘Earl Turner’ are discovered, which describes how white supremacists in the US band together to overthrow the Federal government, and then undertake a ‘race war’ which spreads to the rest of the world. Here’s a chunk of what the Wiki entry says:

“The story starts soon after the federal government has confiscated all civilian firearms in the country under the fictional Cohen Act. Turner and his cohorts take their organization underground to engage in a guerrilla war against the System [the US Federal Government], depicted as dominated by Jewish control.[4] The “System” begins by implementing numerous repressive laws on various forms of hate, by making it a “hate crime” for white people to defend themselves from crime by non-whites even after all weapons are confiscated, and by pushing for new surveillance measures in order to monitor its citizens, such as a special passport required at all times and in all places to permanently monitor where individuals are. The “Organization” starts its campaigns by committing acts such as the bombing of FBI headquarters, then executing an ongoing, low-level campaign of terrorismassassination, and economic sabotage throughout the United States.”

Long story short, the fictional Turner and his neo-nazi, White supremacist buddies (many of whom formerly joined the US military in order to get properly trained up for the coming ‘Race War’), decide to start a violent uprising aimed at “fomenting racial conflict” in the US, which eventually leads to a full-scale civil war.

They do this by shooting up all different houses of worship, executing thousands of black people, making non-white people “Public Enemy Number 1”, and of course, by beating, lynching and shooting any Jews they can find. All these acts of violence are filmed “for propaganda purposes”.

The white supremacists then get their hands on nuclear weapons, and use them to nuke NYC and Tel Aviv. Then a bunch of other countries start to collapse, including France, Netherlands and the former USSR, as anti-semitism soars. The US becomes a military dictatorship ultimately run by White Supremacists, and 75% of the world – i.e. everyone brown, black or Jewish – is totally destroyed.

==

ANY CONNECTION WITH THE RECENT SHOOTINGS AGAINST THE JEWISH COMMUNITY?

So, as I’m reading this, I can’t help thinking about the recent shooting that happened in the Poway Chabad Synagogue in San Diego, and the shooting that happened at the ‘Tree of Life’ synagogue in Pittsburgh back in October 2018. And I started to wonder to myself: Did the shooters at those events have any knowledge of these ‘Turner Diaries’?

According to THIS article:

““The Turner Diaries” …. has been cited by numerous white supremacists since the late 1970s, including the Oklahoma City bomber. The mass shooter in Christchurch, New Zealand, paid homage to the book by writing a reference to it on his gun.

“The Turner Diaries” — known as the “Bible of the extremist right” — depicts the birth of a new world order through the actions of a few paramilitary warriors who manage to overthrow powerful governments by motivating regular people to their own violence acts. That sentiment is littered throughout the Poway shooter’s letter, as he praises other men accused of murdering Jews and Muslims.”

FICTION OR REALITY?

Back in March 2019, a white supremacist opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch, killing 50 worshippers and wounding hundreds more. Exactly as per the ‘instructions’ in The Turner Diaries, this act of violence was filmed “for propaganda purposes”.

The Poway shooter also wanted to film his shooting spree, too, but apparently couldn’t figure out the logistics in the heat of the moment. And Robert Bowers, the Tree of Life shooter, posted before the attack that he’d been inspired to kill Jews because Jews were “bringing in invaders that kill our people.”

Again, this plot line is straight out of The Turner Diaries. More digging turned up the disturbing nugget that researcher JM Berger estimates that at least 200 people have been murdered off the back of Turner Diary devotees, since it’s publication in 1978 – and that’s not even including unsolved murders like Steve Finkelstein.

IT’S EASY TO DISMISS THIS AS A PROBLEM OF THE LUNATIC FRINGE

But that would be a grave mistake. In February 2019, the Southern Poverty Law Centre published a report showing that the number of White Supremacist hate groups in the US had jumped from 100 in 2017 to 148 in 2018.

There are millions of people in the US who believe that ‘White Genocide’ –  a term white supremacists use to describe a conspiracy where white people are being ‘deliberately’ outnumbered and outbred by non-white people – is happening right in front of their eyes. They read projections from the Census Bureau in the US that ‘Caucasians will lose their majority by 2044’ – and we’re straight back to the plot in The Turner Diaries.

According to THIS article on the Missouri State website, there are an estimated 25,000 ‘hard core’ white supremacists in the US, with a further 200,000 people attending marches and rallies, or donating money to White Supremacist organisations.

Personally, I believe that figure is a gross understatement. According to the Factchecker website:

“In an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken just after the Charlottesville rally in August 2017, 9 percent of the respondents said they thought it was strongly or somewhat acceptableto hold neo–Nazi or white supremacist views. As ABC News reported at the time, that’s equivalent to about 22 million Americans.”

John Earnest, the shooter at Poway Chabad wouldn’t have shown up as an official ‘white supremacist’ before the attack. And Herschel Finkelstein’s story shows that the true level of white supremacist violence and attacks on minorities may well be under-investigated and under-reported in the US.

No-one really knows how many people are reading The Turner Diaries in the darkest corners of the net, and being ‘inspired’ to plan their own killing sprees against Jews and other communities, God forbid.

But just think about 22 million people holding ‘white supremacist’ views in a country where anyone can legally buy a semi-automatic rifle, and understand what that portends for the Jews in America.

The more I research this, the more I’m convinced that the Tree of Life and Poway are not just unfortunate ‘blips’ on the social radar of a country that’s known for its mass shootings. They are the sign of things to come, as more and more ‘white supremacists’ start trying to make the fictional plot of the Turner Diaries into an awful reality.

==

So many of the people on the left like to blame the rise in white supremacy on Trump.

They believe that if Trump was out of the way, this whole problem would die back down and disappear, but this view is based far more on wishful thinking, than a clear grasp of the facts.

Over the last 150 years, the US has excelled at believing its own propaganda about being the most benign and ‘good’ country in the whole world. But the more you research the history of the Modern USA, the more you find a country built on the assumption that ‘white christians’ are superior to everyone else, and that America can justifiably take any action against anyone who opposes them to maintain their status as the world’s economic superpower.

The ‘supremacy’ of white people (preferably christian…) is not just the belief system of a ‘fringe group’ of far-right radicals who only appeared on the scene after Trump became president. This is one of the main foundations that the USA was built on, and you can follow its thread throughout at least 200 years of American history.

That’s an unpleasant truth, it’s an unpalatable idea to many people, I know. Like all countries, America teaches the version of history that makes it look good, and that brushes all the ucky stuff under the carpet. Of course, America has also done a lot of good things in the world, and the picture is by no means starkly black or white.

(For some reason, the Life of Brian scene “What have the Romans ever done for us?” has just flashed before my eyes.)

But in the next post, I’m going to set out some of that darker side of American history – the stuff they don’t teach in the schools, and that is routinely down-played and whitewashed.

We’ll take a look at how the US passed laws to encourage the mass-murder of millions of native Indians; how no less a personage than Hitler, yimach shemam, was ‘inspired’ by the US’s restrictive and discriminatory racial laws in the 1920s; how 20,000 American Nazis crowded into Madison Square Garden on the eve of WWII, in February 1939; and how so much of the “American Dream” has been built against the backdrop of rapacious greed, exploitation and ‘justifiable’ murder and persecution of anyone who stood in the way of American economic interest and expansion.

The time when we could stick our head in the sand and pretend all this is someone else’s problem is long gone. American Jews are in the greatest danger they’ve ever been, and it’s time to take a long, hard look at what America really stands for, and why God is sending ever-clearer messages to the Jewish community there to clear out and come home.

BH I will try to pull much more of these facts together in the next post.

A thoughtful review of the biography of Rabbi Berland, aka Eliezer ben Etia, One in a Generation #2.

I’m still officially taking it easy throughout the rest of Pesach, but I just got emailed a great review of Volume II of One in a Generation: Into Exile, which finally sets the record straight about what happened with Rav Eliezer Berland, and why he was forced to admit to crimes he never committed.

The review appears on the myrtlerising blog, and you can see it at the link below:

http://www.myrtlerising.com/blog/a-tell-all-turned-inside-out-a-review-of-one-in-a-generation-volume-ii-into-exile

My co-author else sent me a personal review of the book they received over email, which I’m also bringing below:

I have just finished reading the whole book and it is totally amazing! Beautifully written and it reads like the greatest of fast-moving novels. I literally couldn’t put it down! I was just in Uman and I can picture it on the best-seller table at Steimatskys at the airport. If I had seen it there and read that great back-cover I would certainly have bought it.

The first book was more biographical, almost like a list of his early life, but this one actually flies!
I would consider myself to have a lot of emuna in the Rav, especially after being stuck to him body and soul for over 30 years, but I felt that even my belief in him was strengthened while reading the book. You have done a great and important job, and that Rivkah Levi, whoever she is, has enhanced it enormously.
(Yes, nothing like a book review to keep you humble….)

There’s a chance to get the book for free, next week

So stay tuned, especially from Tuesday (April 30th) onwards, and I’ll post more information and details up once I have them.
And last but not least – please leave a review of the book if you’ve read it and liked it, particularly on Amazon.
You don’t need to write anything, you can just rate it with stars if that’s easier. The Amazon algorhythm works on:
1) Number of sales
2) Number of reviews
If we don’t have a lot of either, then Amazon won’t recommend the book more widely to other readers. So, if you read it and liked it, please take the two minutes required to leave a review, and do your bit to get the real story ‘out there’ to more people.
Thanks.
I appreciate it.
You can leave a review on Amazon HERE.
You can get the PDF or paperback version at the ravberland.com website HERE.
And, you can also pick up the paperback version directly from the Ein Yaakov Bookstore in Meah Shearim.
UPDATE:

Like Alice Through the Looking Glass, somehow a malfunction occurred in my Pesach outing plans, and I ended up tripping through the glass into the Land of Money*.

We wound up at this swanky, newly-built apartment complex overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, where we were told we could park on Level Minus 2. I nearly crashed into a concrete wall, because there was only Minus 1. Later on, we discovered that Minus 2 was carefully hidden behind a retractable Iron Curtain, policed with cameras that didn’t recognize our car as ‘belonging’.

I knew the feeling.

One of the residents of the Land of Money came down to greet us, as we were ushered into the expensive but sterile lobby, then over to the elevators with no buttons.

“Why are there no buttons?” I wanted to know.

“Some Arab got in here a few months ago from the parking, and started visiting all the floors and they caught him on camera,” came the explanation. “The residents all went mad, so the management changed the elevator and now it will only open on your own floor.”

“How does it know what floor your apartment is on?”

He flashed me the round blue plastic toggle on his keychain, as he pressed it to the screen reader outside the elevator.

Man, this is really a prison, I thought to myself.

We got up to the swanky five-room cell, hidden behind its ominous security door, and walked into an atmosphere so thick, you could cut it with a knife.

Not even the stunning view, or the massively-colorful artwork could take your mind off the oppressive, gloomy feeling of suppressed anger and resentment, that was swirling all over the place like a toxic cloud.

The sofa was oversized and pure white. It was covered in a cheap white blanket, and one of the inhabitants of the Land of Money sat uncomfortably perched on the edge of it. God forbid, that a speck should land on that purity and sully it! God forbid, that someone’s careless heels should leave a scuff-mark on the couch, or that it’s perfection should be creased or diminished in any way!

“Sit down, sit down!” they told me heartily. But I was too scared of the couch to want to comply. So, I stood awkwardly for a few minutes, admiring the view, then proffered the two boxes of fresh strawberries I’d brought as an offering to appease the gods of the Land of Money.

This started a panic.

I know they aren’t so fussed about kashrut, so they’re not worrying about bug infestation. So what? What is going on here, what?!

It took me a couple of minutes of deciphering worried glances and barked commands to sit down at the table to figure out the problem: Strawberries contain red juice – lots of it – and red juice stains. And the expensive designer chairs around the carefully upholstered glass dining table were first in the line of fire.

They had their hand-sewn, cheap grey covers to protect them – which presumably would be whipped off whenever all humans had left the premises, restoring them to their pristine appearance – but even so. Were those covers enough to defend against two boxes of strawberries in the hands of young children?

It took ten minutes of strict policing and worried hovering with wipees until the residents of the Land of Money could breathe out again.

In the meantime, I started to find the atmosphere totally choking and suffocating.

No-one asked me how I was doing – why would they? In the scale that the Land of Money uses to measure worth, I’m less than a cockroach. I have no big investments to boast about, no easy cash to flaunt, no designer clothes to swish around in.

Whatever money I have, I spend.

I’d just spent a small fortune having different residents from the Land of Money for Seder, where no expense was spared to try to make it a good evening for the (not religious) people attending.

They didn’t offer to help cover any of the expenses, natch, because they were ‘Stars’ in the Land of Money, and as I’ve mentioned, my net worth ranks me alongside the ‘animals’ that are expected to sacrifice themselves for the idols in that place.

“Let’s get out of here, and go to the icecream place down the road,” one of the kids suggested, and I jumped at the idea far too enthusiastically.

Freedom! Let’s get out of this poisonous cloud of choking gashmius ASAP!!!

Somehow, the button-less lift with its million electronic eyes knew to let us out at the lobby, and we bounded out of the elevator just as an expensively-dressed group of secular Americans were waiting to crowd back in.

They caught one whiff of my husband’s payot (side-curls) and their eyes immediately grew large in their faces, and almost fell out. You could hear what they were thinking:

What is something like this doing in our building?!?!

Strange to say, I had the same thought.

What are we doing here, in this awful, sterile, dead place where the money has killed every spiritual impulse, every natural kind tendency of the human heart, stone dead?

As soon as we got outside, we breathed easier again, the kids lightened up, and the conversation that had frozen into stilted rivulets of polite small talk up in the apartment started to gush forth with much more genuine warmth and interest.

“You have to get out of there, it’s killing you.”

That’s what I told the prisoner who I’d come to visit in the Land of Money.

“Yeah, it’s a gilded cage. But I’m stuck in it,” he told me back.

And we both knew that at least for now, he’s right.

I came home so thankful to God for so many things.

Thanks, God, that my armchair is 15 years old, but people can eat strawberries on it without anyone risking a heart attack. Thanks, God, that you made my business fail when it did, so I would put so much more of my effort into building relationships than building my bank balance. Thanks, God, that I’m not so obsessed with money that I’m totally close-fisted about sharing what I have. Thanks that I don’t spend all my time ‘complaining’ about how other people aren’t giving me value for money.

And most of all, God, thanks for getting me out of the poisonous, toxic atmosphere of the Land of Money, where people can’t talk to each other, and the only thing that matter is how it all looks.

The apartment looked stunning (underneath all the cheap covers….) but felt totally dead and deadening.

And not for the first time, I learnt that freedom is priceless, and that too much money truly is the worse curse in the world.

======

  • The Land of Money appears in Rebbe Nachman’s Tale called ‘The Master of Prayer’. It’s a place where all the residents believe that making money is the only true purpose of life, and where the people with the most money are literally worshipped as ‘gods’ and ‘stars’.

Off the back of the discussion that’s been taking place around the Deconstructing Geula post, I thought I’d write something deconstructing the whole idea of aliya.

This is such a fraught topic, and so many bad middot and other subconscious impulses come into play with this subject, which is why I’ve generally stayed away from it in my writing. But, after that atrocious book was published to great acclaim in the orthodox Jewish world, which was ‘anti aliya’, to the point of degrading it even as a God-given mitzvah, I think it’s time to look at this subject in some depth, and to deconstruct what’s going on with it.

The first, and really primary, place to start is this:

Does God want Jews to live in Eretz Yisrael, at this stage in time?

Because if the answer is ‘yes’, then there has to be an extremely good reason for not moving here, if you consider yourself to be a God-fearing Jew.

So, without any further ado, let’s dive in the deep end, and see if we can answer the two parts of the question:

  • Does God want Jews to live in Eretz Yisrael generally; and
  • Does God wants Jews to live in Eretz Yisrael now.

THE BIBLICAL MITZVAH TO DWELL IN THE LAND

The following comes from 110b in Ketubot (Artscroll Translation):

“A person can force all the members of his household to go up to Eretz Yisrael to live there, but he can force none of them to leave there.”

The footnote to this clear pronouncement says the following:

[According to Rashi] If a family is living in some country outside of Eretz Yisrael and the father or mother decides that the family should move to Eretz Yisrael, the entire household is coerced [by the Rabbinic Court] to accede to the wishes of the parent and to go and live in Eretz Yisrael….According to some Rishonim, there is a biblical mitzvah to settle Eretz Yisrael…..[o]ther Rishonim maintain that there is no positive commandment to settle Eretz Yisrael.

However, even those authorities agree that it is a worthy cause to live in Eretz Yisrael.

(Which is why they enacted the law that would enable someone to ‘force’ his family to move there, with him. Or her.)

By the way, the mitzvah of settling the land doesn’t depend on ‘the land’ being an easy place to live.

When Moshe’s 12 spies go to take a look at Israel, 10 of them can only see the negative points of the country.

It’s hard there, there’s giants. The land devours its inhabitants. The people are really rough and rude. It’s full of wife-beating Arabs and awful daycare centers. The bureaucracy’s a nightmare, it’s too hot, I can’t get a decent job and my wife will miss her parents too much….

What does Caleb, the spy who figured out that you make it in Israel by doing a lot of hitbodedut and praying at the tombs of holy people tell them, in reply?

We can do it, if God is with us, we’ll eat the Caananites for lunch! There’s no problem that God can’t solve! Israel is where we’re really going to discover if we have emuna, or not, where we’re really going to grow into believing that Ein Od Milvado, there is only Hashem!

Come on, guys, the last 40 years you’ve been giving all these Torah sermons about ‘what God requires from us’, and ‘living our emuna’, and having faith – now it’s time to put your money where your mouth is, and to really live it! So what, you’ll lose your social status?! So what, you don’t speak the language properly and no-one appreciates your PhD?! So what, you can’t even figure out how to ask for a stamp in the post office?! 

All that stuff is humbling, and we know a humble person is much closer to God. God can’t dwell with an arrogant person, we know that! This is your chance to really get humble, and then to get real and stop thinking you’re such a big tzaddik and success, and then to get closer to God. Whaddya say?

 

We know what the spies said: Thanks, but no thanks.

They had prestigious, well-paying positions outside of Israel. They had respect. They had ‘their’ seat in shul, they had their established set of friends, they knew where to get the best chicken. They had nothing against visiting Israel every year for Pesach – still cheaper and nicer than having to clean their own home and cook everything themselves – but that’s as far as it goes.

Was God happy about this?

Nope.

The spies got punished awfully for slandering the land, and putting their fellow Jews off from moving to Israel.

But, your kid is going to struggle in school! Your husband is going to miss out on his amazing Rav, his amazing chavruta! You have a nice bunch of friends here, in the desert! But, you don’t speak the language, you can’t get a good job there, you won’t be able to afford your own home if you move to Israel, the place is full of wife-beating, idol-worshipping Canaanites, the divorce rate there is 80%….

Everybody has the same fears, the same concerns. People can’t live on thin air, it’s true. But again, God often expects some mesirut nefesh, some self-sacrifice from people, in order to keep His mitzvahs.

If someone is interested in working on their soul dimension, then Israel will be appealing to them for a lot of reasons (and if they aren’t, it won’t be, also for a lot of reasons.)

Let’s explore that idea a bit more, tachlis.

ISRAEL IS THE LAND OF EMUNA

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches that Israel is the place where you’re going to learn some real emuna. How? Because you’ll be surrounded by miracles and challenges every second of the day.

In Chutz L’Aretz, a person can sin and sin and sin again, and because spiritual matters are more hidden there, they don’t feel the effect of their sins until the end of their lives – usually when it’s way too late to change course and fix things.

There in the hospital, with a tube up their nose and a drip in their arm, they finally start to realize how much of their life they wasted, chasing after stuff, and holidays, and traif food, and non-kosher experiences, and money, and status, and their own bad middot, because God was out of the picture.

God can hide much easier in chul. You don’t keep Shabbat, you don’t keep kosher, you don’t pay your 10% to charity, you don’t pay any attention to what God really wants from you – you’ll just keep swallowing your Prozac, drinking your G&T and going on holiday, or shopping, or working like a dog to drown out any inner discomfort you feel as a result.

And God lets you.

That’s why being in galut is such an ordeal, spiritually such a test. Because it really can seem as though you can game the system, and live a good life even if you’re a bitter atheist with terrible character traits.

But in Israel, it’s not like that.

It says that you walk dalet amot, four amot, in Israel, and that atones for your sins. Do you know why? Because every dalet amot here, you’ll be faced with another rude person, another problem, another challenge, another issue, that has been 100% tailored by God to bring your bad middot to the fore, and to show you what you still have left to work on.

Really? You’re not so bothered about gashmius? Let’s see how you’re going to cope when every brand of kosher-for-Pesach mayonnaise in the country has kitniot in it. Let’s see how much you start craving all the brands in TX Maxx, let’s see how you cope with just one toilet between seven people, and no cleaning help.

And there’s more tests, too. Like, trying to find a school for your kid; and trying to deal with the wounded ego of your spouse, who used to be a ‘bigshot’ in shul, or at work, but is now scrabbling to hold it together as a relative ‘nothing’ in Israel; or dealing with the tremendous loneliness and boredom of being an Anglo in Israel on Shabbos, which used to be filled up with six hour long Shabbos lunches, and ‘kiddush clubs’ at shul (that went on to 1pm…) and yet more shiurim on how to keep super-machmir standards of kashrut. Etc.

And we didn’t even get into the tests involved with having rockets fired at you on a regular basis, or people trying to stab you just for being a Jew, or getting shot or run over as you wait for a bus.

All these things, all these difficulties, build a person’s emuna like nothing else.

Because if you don’t turn to God to deal with the difficulties in finding work, or finding a place to live, or the million and one other things that force you to get real in Israel very quickly, you can quickly sink without a trace.

That’s why Israel is the land of emuna – dafka, because it shows a person what they need to work on, and how far away they are from really having emuna, and really serving Hashem properly, 24/7.

So when people point to the hardships of living in Israel as a reason to not make aliya, they are kind of missing the point – if they’re really interested in the more spiritual dimension of life.

Which honestly, a lot of people really just aren’t. Even in the ‘orthodox’ world.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the halachic arguments underpinning the ‘anti’ aliya argument.

=======

TORAH-BASED ARGUMENTS FOR NOT MAKING ALIYA

This approach was basically set out by the late Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, z’tl, in his book V’Yoel Moshe.

Rav Teitelbaum wrote his book after going through the holocaust. He saw half a million of his Hungarian compatriots sold out by the Zionist government in Israel, who were offered the chance to buy the freedom and lives of the Hungarian Jews by the cash-strapped Nazis – and who turned it down.

The whole sordid tale is told in Ben Hecht’s excellent book, Perfidy, but the Satmar Rebbe was one of the brands snatched from the conflagration in Hungary, and he had personal experience of this most ugly face of secular ‘zionism’. The awful actions of the secular politicians in Israel before, during and after WW II almost certainly influenced the opinions he put forth in his book.

Remember, the Israeli authorities in the 1950s were irradiating the kids of Moroccan immigrants in the tent camps, and cutting off people’s payot, and selling Yemenite children to the highest bidder. They were yucky, ugly people in every sense of the word.

Many of our other leading orthodox leaders, within Israel and without, also recognized who they were really dealing with, and that the secular leadership in Israel was spiritually corrupt, and corrupting to a very high degree.

The Satmar Rebbe took this idea to an extreme in his book, where he puts forward the idea that the anti-Torah Zionists in Israel caused the holocaust to happen, at least indirectly, by their actions, and by ‘forcing the time’ for returning to the land. (We’ll look at what this ‘forcing the time’ is referring to, in a moment.)

First, there’s a partial translation of some of the Satmar Rebbe’s words in V’Yoel Moshe, HERE, which the following ideas are taken from. The Satmar Rebbe avers that:

  • The anti-Torah Zionist groups in Israel caused the holocaust by ‘informing’ on the Jews in Europe to the non-Jewish authorities, and making trouble for the Jews there, in order to turn up the heat and get these Jews to move to the fledgling State of Israel.
  • That these anti-Torah Zionist groups “violated the oath of hastening the end by claiming sovereignty and freedom before the time.”
  • That the secular Zionist groups performed several “cruel actions” before, during and after the war which also lead to the death of hundreds of thousands of Jews.
  • Furthermore, among those who have moved to Eretz Yisrael in these times, most of the immigrants from Arab countries were living peacefully and tranquilly in their countries, lacking nothing, until the establishment of the heretical kingdom in Israel. Through the establishment of that State they began to suffer hatred and persecution in their countries, and the Zionists themselves aided this through their wiles, so as to increase the persecution until they would be forced to emigrate to Eretz Yisrael, destitute and with nothing, and they glorified their saviors, but the truth was the opposite – that [the Zionists] had brought about all of the destruction in the first place. (Va-Yo’el Moshe 123)”

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THE THREE OATHS ‘PREVENTING’ ALIYA

The idea of the three oaths that prevent Jews from returning to Israel before God actually wills it comes from the Gemara (Ketubot 111a), where it brings a discussion between R’ Zeira, who wanted to make aliya to Israel from Bablyonia, and Rav Yehuda who said:

Whoever ascends from Babylonia to Eretz Yisrael transgresses a positive commandment, as it says: “They will be brought to Babylonia and they will be there until the day that I attend to them – when I shall bring them up and return them to this place.

Rav Zeira said that this verse is referring to the sacred utensils that were used in the Temple service, but that people are permitted to make aliya, still. Rav Yehuda disagrees, and says that the verse I have adjured you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by gazelles or by hinds of the field etc means that the Jews are bound by an oath not to ascend to Eretz Yisrael until the Final Redemption.

Rav Zeira says that’s not what this verse means. Rather, he says it means that:

The Jewish people should not converge upon Eretz Yisrael in a wall of force, but that an individual is permitted to settle there, if he wants to.

Rav Yehuda again disagrees, so then R’ Zeira explains there are three oaths, as follows:

  • The Jewish people should not converge upon Israel as a wall of force;
  • Hashem adjured the Jewish people to not rebel against the nations of the world [to try and force their way back to living in Israel before the time God wanted that to happen]; and
  • Hashem also adjured the idolaters (i.e. the non-Jewish nations) not to subjugate and terrorise the Jews more than was required.

R’ Zeira explains that any case, an individual is never adjured to not make aliya to Eretz Yisrael.

This discussion in the Gemara is ‘sandwiched’ between the following statements:

BEFORE: Whoever dwells outside Eretz Yisrael, it’s as if he worships idols.

AFTER: The people dwelling within Eretz Yisrael are forgiven of sin.

This discussion is the halachic basis for the Satmar position, together with some other groups, for why it’s not a mitzvah to make aliya.

But you’ll notice, even in this discussion, it’s clear that the main ‘problem’ being discussed is for groups of Jews to ‘ascend’ all at once. There is no problem for individuals to make aliya, and as is clear from the surrounding text and discussion in the Gemara, the Sages considered it a very praiseworthy thing, to move to Israel.

ARE WE AT ‘THE END’ OR NOT?

The main argument revolves around a discussion of whether we are at the ‘the end’ of the galut, as determined by God, or not. If we’re at ‘the end’, then there is no problem at all with making Aliyah en masse.

If we aren’t at ‘the end’, then it’s good for individuals to make aliya, but still problematic for large groups to come on aliya.

Here’s a few suggested reasons for why the 3 oaths have been superseded:

  • The nations of the world actually gave permission for the State of Israel to be created, back in 1948.
  • The Gemara in Sanhedrin (98a) says that “when Eretz Yisrael gives forth fruit abundantly, it is a sure sign that the redemption is coming”. This was already happening in the early 1900s, in the time of Rav Avraham Kook.
  • Only very large groups coming in a short period of time violate the ‘oath’, it doesn’t apply to a slow trickle of Jews moving here.
  • The Ari’s student, R’ Chaim Vital, said that the oath only applied for 1,000 years.
  • The Vilna Gaon states that the oath applied to rebuilding the Temple, not to resettling the land.

And then, there’s all the evidence we see with our own eyes today, and things that we feel with our own hearts, that tells us whether we are at ‘the end’ or not.

DON’T CONFUSE ‘THE STATE OF ISRAEL’ WITH ERETZ YISRAEL

Another important point to make here is that the State of Israel should not confused, or conflated, with Eretz Yisrael.

When we talk about moving to Israel, we’re not talking about the State. We’re talking about moving to the land that God gave to the Jews more than 3,000 years ago.

Sooner or later, the secular ‘State’ will fall away – as Rav Kook describes it, as the ‘peel’ around the fruit’.

SUMMING UP WHAT’S GOING ON WITH ALIYA, AND RELIGIOUS JEWS IN CHUL

This is a long post, I know (but still probably not doing real justice to the subject….) But let’s try to sum it up, and bring all this information together into something practical and easy-to-digest.

  • If you are a God-fearing Jew, and keeping mitzvahs is important to you, then moving to Israel is a big mitzvah for an individual.

Not one of the Rishonim or Achronim commentators disagrees with this statement.

  • If you want to come to Israel as part of a very large group of people moving here ‘all at once’, there is a Torah view that this is prohibited, as long as we haven’t yet reached ‘The End’.
  • If we’ve reached ‘The End’, the three oaths don’t apply anymore anyway.
  • There’s lots of things that suggest we are now in the stage of ‘the end of days’ – not least, all the pronouncements by the nations’ leading rabbis that we’ve reached ‘the End’.

That’s a basic sum-up of the halachah.

Now, I just want to spend a little bit of time, finally, to explore why more orthodox Jews aren’t moving to Israel.

GETTING REAL

There are three main reasons why more orthodox Jews aren’t coming to Israel:

  • They are scared to come out of the comfort zone.
  • They really do want to come, but God isn’t let them.
  • They actually don’t care so much about keeping mitzvahs, getting closer to God, or working on their emuna.

I won’t belabor this segment, as this is where things can get very sticky. Each person knows what’s really in their heart.

There are people who really do want to come, but are stuck outside for a whole bunch of reasons that really are out of their control. For these people, they are learning emuna and humility by being kept away from Israel.

Then, there are others who really don’t want to come at all, and are just looking for excuses to justify their own spiritual shortcomings – at Israel’s expense.

Then, there’s the third group, who would like to come in theory, and know that it’s good to be here, but are too scared that they won’t have the lifestyle, the money, the connections, the big house, or the career they currently have now, if they leave.

But if we truly have reached ‘The End’, then God will find a way to coax everyone who really can, to make aliya, and He will open the gates to the Holy land, one way or another.

There’s been quite a bit of discussion on the Deconstructing Geula post, which I put together to try to explore what happens practically, the day after Moshiach actually shows up, and how different the experience is obviously going to be, depending on where we actually live at that point in time, and how much emuna we really do have.

I thought it would be useful to bring the discussion I’ve been having with Devorah, one of the commentators, here, as its own post. I’m working on a post which will look at the halachic basis for staying out of Israel, in the time before Moshiach comes – because there is one, as set out by the late Satmar Rebbe, R’ Yoel Teitelbaum – but this is a useful subset of the discussion:

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Devorah says

March 14, 2019 at 15:30

Rivka, Rambam represents just one opinion. There are different opinions. There’s another opinion that says that the Divine revelation at the time of geula will be like har Sinai, the yetzer hara, sicknesses, and death will disappear, the miracles will be bigger than in the Exodus, all forms of negativity will disappear.

Rivka Levy says

March 17, 2019 at 13:18

Thanks for the comment, Devorah.

By the time the Israelites got to Har Sinai, they’d already lost 4/5 in the plague of darkness, had to leave their homes in Egypt, and experienced 10 plagues and enormous fear and upheaval. So, it seems to me that what you’re describing is what comes AFTER what I’m describing precedes it. We need to have emuna to get to geula, and there are no short-cuts to acquiring it.

Devorah says

March 18, 2019 at 04:56

I know Rivka but not in the final Geulah.

“Unlike the Egyptian Exodus, when many Jews did not merit to leave Egypt, with regards to the future redemption we are assured that no Jew will be left behind—including the Ten Lost Tribes.” Source: https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1122197/jewish/The-Future-Apportionment-of-Israel.htm

Also, the Jewish people will not have to leave galut in haste because unlike in the Geulah from Egypt when the Jews still had some measure of evil in them, in the final Geulah the evil inclination in them will already been annulled. This is the kabbalistic explanation I remember from the book of Tanya and from the moshiach and Geulah online forum that still existed a few years ago. If you’re still scared, you can change ur emotions and invoke miracles in your life by practicing gratefulness. Kol tuv

Rivka Levy says

March 18, 2019 at 12:23

Devorah, do you live in Israel, or in Chul?

Rivka Levy says

March 18, 2019 at 12:54

Thanks for the link – I had a look, and I can see that what you quoted is the opinion of the author, Rav Silberberg, but he didn’t include any sources or references for that opinion. Can you point me in the direction of any sources?

At the same time, I found this on the Chabad website talking about the time immediately before Moshiach comes, here: https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/100900/jewish/The-Time-Before-Mashiach.htm

Which has copious sources from the Gemara, and explains that the situation will be very scary before the Messianic Era actually kicks off (see below).

Which brings us back to the original point of whether we can get to the Messianic Era without the ‘birthpangs’ and suffering that is so amply described, in so many of our sources, as being part and parcel of the run up to the Messianic Era.

Again, if you have a Torah source you can reference to support your point of view, I’d be very interested in seeing it.
==

III. Ikvot Meshicha: The Time Immediately Before Mashiach

The time appointed by G‑d for the Messianic redemption is a closely guarded secret.1 Nonetheless, we are offered many hints to recognize its proximity: when certain conditions come about, await the imminent coming of Mashiach.

Most of these conditions are quite disturbing, clearly displaying a situation of the very “bottom of the pit.”2 One major source describes the world-condition in those days as follows: increase in insolence and impudence; oppressing inflation; unbridled irresponsibility on the part of authorities; centers of learning will turn into bawdy houses; wars; many destitutes begging, with none to pity them; wisdom shall be putrid; the pious shall be despised; truth will be abandoned; the young will insult the old; family-breakup with mutual recriminations; impudent leadership.3

Other sources add: lack of scholars; succession of troubles and evil decrees; famines; mutual denunciations; epidemics of terrible diseases; poverty and scarcity; cursing and blaspheming; international confrontations nations provoking and fighting each other.4 In short, it will be a time of suffering that will make it look as if G‑d were asleep. These are the birthpangs of Mashiach, bearable only in anticipation of the bliss that follows them.

“When you see a generation ever dwindling, hope for him… when you see a generation overwhelmed by many troubles as by a river, await him.”5 “When you see nations fighting each other, look toward the feet of Mashiach.”6

Little wonder that some sages expressed apprehensions about those days in terms of, “Let [Mashiach] come, but let me not see him.”7

==

I guess those scared Sages should also go and work on their gratitude….

Rachel in NY says

March 18, 2019 at 19:05

We are THERE, Rivka. We have already experienced everything you listed in your above comment. No reason to assume it has to get worse!

Rivka Levy says

March 19, 2019 at 09:42

It’s definitely tough now, you’re right.

But I’d like to see a Torah source for this part of Devorah’s comment:

“Also, the Jewish people will not have to leave galut in haste because unlike in the Geulah from Egypt when the Jews still had some measure of evil in them, in the final Geulah the evil inclination in them will already been annuled.”

I still have an evil inclination, and so do a whole bunch of the people who are living in Galut, and also here in Israel. What needs to happen, before that evil inclination gets ‘annulled’? I’d like to see a Torah source for that, because in my experience, evil inclinations get ‘annulled’ through suffering. That’s the catalyst for real teshuva. But I’m very happy to see a Torah source that provides some other route.

Devorah says

April 2, 2019 at 14:52

Rivka the Torah source of ” not leave in haste” is in the book Tanya and see also point 2 here: http://ruchoshelmashiach.blogspot.com/2012/07/i-will-redeem-you-in-end-like-beginning.html?m=1

I think it’s based on yeshayahu 52:12
https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15983#showrashi=true

I am sorry to tell you though that I also read somewhere in the meantime ( sorry I lost the link) that it all depends on us. If I remember well. You can Google these things. I may find more when I will have more time to look. Sorry, I am not a rabbi ..

Re the evil inclination annulled. how? : I think thru the birthpangs of Jewish history, and of mashiach. Could also in the end happen suddenly like at har Sinai. It says it will be like that. Hashem will reveal himself to the whole world with greater revelation than at har Sinai and suddenly the evil inclination will be annulled. Darkness can’t exist in the presence of light

Re whether we can get to the Messianic Era without the ‘birthpangs’ and suffering that is so amply described: of course. Darkness can’t exist in the presence of light. Talmud says in order to survive in the times of the birthpangs of mashiach one needs to occupy himself with Torah and gemilut hassadim.

Also, gratefulness evokes miracles.

I too believe we have already suffered enough and we’re already there.

Question to you now after been reading ur other site: could it be that all these leftists that are anti Torah and wanna make peace with the enemies suffer from c-ptsd (toxic shame, self hatred etc) ??

Rivka Levy says

April 3, 2019 at 09:44

Hi Devorah, I’m grateful for you taking the time to share sources.

I will BH write a longer post on this, as what you’re referring to is also part of why Satmar talks about the 4 oaths, restraining Am Yisrael from ‘ascending to Eretz Yisrael as a wall’.

From the first link, the post ends with this:

“And so it is with the service of each and every individual – there is no time to say, ‘I’ll change, when I have the time’, because these could be the very last moments of galus, and after these will come ‘the years about which you say ‘I have no desire for them” – ‘night like day will shine’, the complete redemption by means of Mashiach. ”

That seems to suggest we can’t expect Moshiach to ‘change’ things for us – NOW is the time we need to be doing the work on taking down the yetzer, etc, and fulfilling the mitzvah of making aliya (or at least, WANTING to make aliya).

The 4/5 died because they didn’t want to move out of their comfort zone. It could be that when the Tanya teaches the geula will come ‘comfortably’ and not in haste, that means that the Jewish people had 70 years to get their act together and move to Israel at a time when it was most convenient for them, and they could still come with their assets, and not just some old matza to eat…

There’s a lot of clarification required, and I think it requires a proper blog post, not just a 2 minute response on a comment. So, BH when I have some time I will put that together, with as many sources as I can find.

Re: crazy lefties – they for sure have C-PTSD! That doesn’t excuse them (or any other of the angry, aggressive, narrow-minded and abusive people out there) – but it does explain how they got like that, and it also points to how they can get ‘fixed’ somehow.

Devorah says

April 3, 2019 at 12:16

Rivka, Remember that someone who suffers from c-ptsd could also have the fawn response, not just the fight response. I think most inhabitants of Tel Aviv fawn. It’s really bad. How do they react whenever they see the rockets flying over TLV? “Oh poor Palestinians, you are starving again. It’s about time that our gov treats you more like family” ??

Devorah says

April 3, 2019 at 21:20

And let’s remember, Israel’s enemies also have c-ptsd.

Before the elections, some questions for meditation:

Who should we vote for? Which politician doesn’t have or has the least c-ptsd ?
What if a Torah observant politician has c-ptsd but a non Torah observant politician doesn’t have it? Who should we rather vote for?

Rivka Levy says

April 4, 2019 at 10:00

“The hearts of the kings are in Hashem’s hands” – who we vote for doesn’t matter so much (although clearly much better to vote for someone with daas Torah behind them, because even if we think we know who has C-PTSD and who doesn’t, what do we really know?)

If WE make the teshuva required in our dalet amot, our leaders will have siyatta dishmeya and things will work out, even if they are lunatics. And vice versa.

Devorah says

April 4, 2019 at 18:02

“If WE make the teshuva required ”

Currently according to statistics only 20% of Israelis keep Shabbat.

We need a non-lunatic spiritual as well as political leader.

No one wants to follow a lunatic even if he has daas Torah (remember for instance that NY born rabbi politician who got thrown out of the gov and then shot) and Torah requires one to be healthy!!

Rivka Levy says

April 6, 2019 at 22:02

If someone truly has daas Torah, they won’t be a lunatic. Just because someone has the title of ‘rabbi’, doesn’t mean they have daas Torah.

Also daas Torah is not generally a result of an individual effort, it’s the result of many yireh shemayim people coming together to come up with opinions that reflect genuine daas Torah – that’s why the Sanhedrin had 70 members, that’s why a Beit Din has 3 members. You can’t just have one person calling the shots in true Yiddishkeit.

Daas Torah is a consensus view.

Also, the teshuva required is not just in Israel. I don’t know where you got that stat from about Shabbat – can you please give a source? But I can tell you 100% for sure, that there are far more mitzvahs happening in Israel, and far more people with a true connection to Hashem in Israel.

Doesn’t mean that there aren’t mitzvahs occurring in Chul too, or that there aren’t people with a connection to Hashem there, too, because obviously there are. But our sources say clearly that Israel is the land of emuna. You feel Hashem’s guidance here 24/7, that’s part of why it’s sometimes not easy to live here, you can feel the spiritual judgments in the air, and they can drive you bonkers – or make you make teshuva.

Devorah says

April 7, 2019 at 22:28

Rivka, So who is this person in Israel’s politics that presently has daas haTorah acc to you?

Re the stat: “11% simply as religious, and 9% as ultra-Orthodox. According to the Israel Democracy Institute, the percentage of ultra-Orthodox is slightly higher.”

Source:

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/latest-population-statistics-for-israel

80% of Israelis believe in G-d (stat of 2012)

https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/1.5175991

Rivka Levy says

April 8, 2019 at 10:37

Daas Torah is collective, it’s not about an individual.

There is no one person in Israeli politics with “Daas Torah”, but there are political parties who clearly state that they don’t act before first consulting ‘Daas Torah’ – i.e. the collective wisdom of yirat-shemayim rabbis who are extremely learned in the finer points of halacha, and who are genuinely striving to try to give God what He wants.

Politics is dirty, there’s no way around it, but at least those types of parties have an additional ‘check’ on their negative impulses.

Thanks for giving the source for the stats – there’s a lot of manipulation of these things going on in the press in Israel, as they are trying to ‘force through’ anti-Shabbat legislation by claiming the majority don’t want it. Here’s what I found about the state of shabbos observance, from two years ago:

Towards the 69th Independence Day of the State of Israel, the Central Bureau of Statistics published a report according to which the population of Israel is approximately 8,680 million. 9% stated that they are ultra-Orthodox, 11% religious, 12% traditional religious, 24% traditional and not so Religious, “44% are not religious and secular.

I.e. 56% of the country keep Shabbat, in some form or other. Again, the reason that you’re seeing all those headlines screaming ‘only 20% are frum!!!!’ is because there’s a lot of political manipulation going on in this country, and huge agendas all over the place. Most of Israel keeps shabbat, but the 44% that doesn’t is often extremely vocal and ‘anti’ religion. It’s v polarised. But that 44% are in charge of the media, the courts and (most of…)the political parties.

Devorah says

Can you post the URL of the article about the stat?
Besides traditional doesn’t mean keeps Shabbat. It usually means they go to shul on rosh hashana and Yom Kippur, they do the pesach seder, brit mila and they install a mezuza.

The entire Middle East is one crazy region. The Arabs beat their wives, the Israelis beat their children, kick their brothers out of their homes and at least half of them divorce but, they wanna make ‘peace’ with the terrorists. Insane!

Rivka Levy says

April 9, 2019 at 09:09

The stat comes from here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Israel

“It usually means they go to shul on rosh hashana and Yom Kippur, they do the pesach seder, brit mila and they install a mezuza.” –

This is a chutz l’aretz definition of ‘traditional’. If you look at the link above, you’ll see that:

“85% [of Jews in Israel] participate in a Passover seder.”

“98% of Israel Jews Perform ‘Brit Milah’ Circumcision” – See here: https://hamodia.com/2017/12/27/poll-98-young-israeli-parents-held-bris-children/

Mezuzahs are ubiquitous in Israel – there is hardly a doorpost without them, and even self-defined ‘secular’ Jews put up mezuzahs – and also, erect sukkahs on Succot.

All this means that a ‘traditional’ Jew in Chul would probably self-define as a ‘secular’ Jew here. In Israel, traditional means the Shabbat is observed in some notable way – people will eat the Friday night meal, they will go to shul, they will not drive, minimum.

In regard to your comments about ‘half of Israelis beating up their children’ – 1) where on earth did you get that from? 2) it’s total lashon hara about Jews in Israel to say that – are you saying that wife-beating and kid-beating doesn’t happen in Jewish communities outside of Israel, or that Israel is somehow ‘worse’ than other places?

On what basis? This comes from a report on domestic abuse in the US Jewish community: (https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/265934/safe-at-home-2)

“In Jewish families, domestic abuse occurs at about the same rate as in the general population (15-25 percent), among all socioeconomic levels and denominations including the unaffiliated, reports the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse.”

I know it’s more comfortable to keep demonizing Israel, as that helps to justify why Jews live in Chul. I get that, I understand it. No-one is pretending Israel is perfect, anything but. But the discussion boils back down to ‘what does God want from me, and where does He want the Jewish people to live?’

The answer to the second part of that question is obvious, but it’s qualified – and sometimes superseded – by each person’s individual path in life.

I’m just cutting and pasting this from ravberland.com. BH, as many of us as possible will come, and also tell our friends and family to join in, however they can. We have come down to the wire, and from tomorrow, things are going to be very different in Israel – hopefully only in a good way!

If you’re in Israel, please make the effort to come. I heard from my source that whoever comes, things will go much sweeter for them personally, from here on in.

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Make or Break – Everything depends on tonight!

Six years ago, the landscape in Eretz Yisrael – particularly for religious Jews – was pretty bleak. Yair Lapid and Yesh Atid had just come to power, and they wasted no time in imposing a raft of laws designed to break the Torah world, and uproot a Torah-observant lifestyle.

Civil marriages, banning circumcision, forced drafting of chareidi young man into the army – and everyone knew this was only the beginning of an onslaught against orthodox Judaism.

Ultimately, the war against Torah Jewry was stopped by a war of a different kind, when the Gaza border erupted in rocket attacks, where thousands of rockets rained down on the country on many separate occasions, but most notably, as the precursor to Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, and Operation Protective Edge in the Summer of 2014.

And then, there was the Iranian nuclear threats against Israel, which had the Israeli government totally panicked that Israel was in the cross-hairs of an Iranian nuke, God forbid, with no way of preventing it.

At precisely that time, Rav Eliezer Berland went into exile, and took it upon himself to be slandered and humiliated, in fulfillment of Rebbe Nachman’s teaching in Likutey Moharan, I:260 that:

“The name is the soul….This concept involves the surrender of the soul…to sanctify God’s name….

The same applies to the loss of one’s [good] name, specifically, for a person with a famous name….

But another person does this intentionally and consciously, surrendering his soul for the sanctification of God’s name. He surrenders his fame – his “name”, corresponding to the soul – and on account of this, although he is renowned, he is not famous at all.

On the contrary: everyone talks about him, conjuring stories about him that he would never have dreamed of doing. He experiences this as if he was literally being killed. He does this intentionally, because it is a literal self-sacrifice of soul, for the name is the soul, as said, and he experiences it as death.

But in this way, he saves the Jewish people from what would have happened to them in order to facilitate this unification, as said, and by thus sacrificing his soul, which is his name, he spares them.”

Over the last six years, there have been many atzerets, or prayer gatherings.

They’ve all been held at crucial points in the unfolding process of trying to sweeten the massive judgments that are due to come down to the world before the next stage of the redemption process can begin.

Some were held at the Kotel, some were held at Hevron, at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, and all of them helped to avert disaster, and to move us on to the next stage.

But tonight’s prayer gathering is probably the last of its type, and the most important one of all.

Over the last few months, Rav Berland has been hinting that we have come as far as we can go with the current situation, and we are now at a vital crossroads.

If 50,000 people show up this evening, to come and pray with the Tzaddik and add their ‘soul power’ to that of the Tzaddikim, then we can still sweeten what’s to come considerably, and have the best shot of having geula “the sweet way’.

If not…We dread to think what is around the corner.

Rav Berland told us months ago that our enemies have tens of thousands of rockets pointed at Israel, primed and ready to go, and that no “Iron Dome” can help stave off disaster. He told us recently that the decrees had been postponed for six years, since 2013, but now we are at the turning point, once again.

He said just a couple of days ago that there is an awful decree that has been made in Heaven, that the anti-Torah politicians are going to re-start their war against the Torah world in 10 days time.

And every time there is a war against Torah in Israel, that very quickly leads to a war of a different type, on our borders.

THIS IS MAKE OR BREAK.

There will be a live hook-up here, on the ravberland.com site, for those who are physically unable to come because they live outside of Israel. For everyone else, we urge you to please attend the prayer gathering this evening, which will begin at 10pm at the Mearat HaMachpela in Hevron.

There will be subsidized buses leaving from across the country, and this appears to be our last chance to come together in unity and prayer, to bring the next stage of redemption the sweet way.

Please, come yourself, and encourage others to come too, or at least, to join in online and add their prayers to the tefillot of those who are participating in person.

Because it’s clear that from this point on, things are going to change radically – and only our prayers together with the tzaddikim of the generation is going to enable those changes to happen the sweeten way.

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TO REGISTER FOR A SUBSIDIZED BUS,

PLEASE CALL: 077-229-2222

Then, please press:

#2 – To register for a bus into Hevron and back.

Then, press the number according to the telephone prefix for your area, as follows:

PHONE NUMBER BEGINS WITH:

02 – dial 2

03 – dial 3

04 – dial 4

08 – dial 8

09 – dial 9

You will then hear a list of different cities that the buses are departing from in those areas, and you can press the number of your city, to hear where and when the buses are leaving.

THE PRAYERS WILL START AT 10PM TONIGHT.

There is also an option to drive in to Kiryat Arba yourself in your own car, and then to take one of the shuttle buses that will be leaving from the gate between Kiryat Arba and Hevron.

FOR THE LIVE HOOK-UP:

Please check back here a little later on, and we will have the video of the live hook-up streaming on the site, where you can join in.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO HELP DEFRAY SOME OF THE EXPENSES OF THE ATZERET, PLEASE ALSO CALL THIS NUMBER AND PRESS #1, TO HEAR OPTIONS FOR HOW YOU CAN CONTRIBUTE.

Alternatively, you can also contribute via the DONATE tab at the top of the page [on the ravberland.com site]. Each autobus will cost 1500 to hire for the night.

UPDATE:

I was emailing with my friend Daisy, who has been trying to get more people to come to the prayer gathering in Hevron tomorrow night (Monday April 8th), starting at 10pm.
She sent me the following, and I think it deserved sharing more widely, so here it is:
“I think that is the answer: CHESED, LOVE. This Atzeret is all about LOVE, about Chesed. We have to arouse the LOVE of AM Yisrael, because Am Yisrael has let Sinat Chinam bury the love. We have to REIGNITE the LOVE. This Rosh Chodesh Nissan is all about LOVE , I just heard a Shiur by a rav last Shabbat in Tampa about this very topic, and we were by coincidence – we know there are no coincidences, – discussing the issue of lack of love in Am Yisrael these days with my son, just a couple of days before the rav gave his lecture…
WE HAVE TO REIGNITE THE LOVE IN AM YISRAEL! That is the message. That is the only thing that will counteract the Sinat Chinam of the Churban Bayit Sheni! I get it!
Shabbat Shalom, Chodesh Tov. May Ahavat Chinam return to Am Yisrael, in every group, every Chassidut, every political party. We are buried in hatred. Of course destruction follows! The only way to counteract the destruction is with LOVE OF OUR FELLOW JEW, and even of all good people in the world! And I mean REAL love, the kind you feel all over, the kind you swim in. Not the phony, limited, fake love we got used to.”

This morning (April 7th), Rav Berland told the crowd in shul that awful decrees have now been made, and that Gantz and Lapid are planning to completely destroy the Torah lifestyle in Eretz Yisrael – banning brit mila, allowing Jews to marry whoever they want in civil marriages…and only 50,000 people showing up for the atzeret is going to be able to cancel this decree, which the Rav said otherwise begins in 10 days time.

Which suggests to me that Blue and White have found a way to fix the election somehow, and to win it after all, despite all polls showing a comfortable lead for the right wingers again.
And every single time the crazy, anti-Torah people get into power in this country, and start going after Yiddishkeit and frum Jews, Hashem stops them by sending a war with the Arabs. Check this out for yourself, it’s a fact and totally Snopes-proof.

So….if Blue and White win, God forbid, that means war is not far behind. And when there is war in Israel, the anti-Semitism in the world shoots through the roof – and it’s pretty high already.

So this really is everyone’s problem, and we need to make eve ry effort to get to Hevron tomorrow, for 10pm.I even have my teenagers coming with me this time, it’s that serious.(It’s an open miracle the 15 year old agreed, what can I tell you.)
On a technical note: I’m still waiting for confirmation if there is going to be a live hook-up via the internet. They still don’t know if that can make that happen this time, so I will keep you posted.
But there’s so much to pray for, isn’t there?

If Blue and White win, we are all going to be feeling the consequences, one way or another, wherever we live in the world.

School A had a problem with the girls in school using their phones too much, and probably surfing inappropriate content.

School A was a ‘religious’ school, inasmuch as it wanted its students to keep Shabbat and kosher, and to believe in Hashem, and to grow up wanting to live in Eretz Yisrael, and being good people, and keeping the Torah as much as they could.

With no pressure.

Many of School A’s students had their nose pierced, and five earrings in their ear, and the school also turned a blind eye to the girls who wore jeans under long tunics. The school also encouraged the students to decorate the walls, and were thrilled when one girl drew a massive ‘Ha Esh Sheli’ picture on the upstairs wall, while another girl penned a saying from Rebbe Nachman next to it.

For the end of year play, the school decided to stage a drama that was based on the story of a young woman who used to be chareidi, but who fell off the path – but then returned wholeheartedly and more sincerely than before, after a trip to Uman. School A isn’t perfect, not at all. There’s a lot of issues, a lot of people struggling with their yiddishkeit and their emuna.

But School A is honest about what’s going on, and isn’t trying to hide things under the carpet.

So when School A realized there was a phone problem, they decided to organize a panel, and to invite student representatives from each of the classes, to sit on it, together with some parents and teachers. They also decided to bring in a bunch of different speakers, and to start sharing around educational material about the dangers of smartphone addiction – for everyone, grownups included – for the panels to discuss, and to help formulate a healthy, workable policy for the school that really tried to tackle the problem at its root.

They sent a letter home to the parents to inform them of what was going on, and invited any interested parent to come and join one of the panels.

School B also had a problem with the girls in school using their phones too much, and probably surfing inappropriate content.

School B was a ‘religious’ school, inasmuch as it had a reputation it felt it had to maintain, and a public image to guard. Of course, it also wanted its students to keep Shabbat and kosher, and to believe in Hashem, and to grow up wanting to live in Eretz Yisrael, and being good people, and keeping the Torah as much as they could.

But that wasn’t the priority.

The priority was for the school to retain the appearance of its students being the ‘right sort’ of religiously observant, and to dress the right way publically. Nose rings were banned (so the girls who had them bought clear bits of plastic to stick in their noses during school hours.) Skirt lengths were religiously policed (so the girls bought skirts that were super-easy to roll down for school, and then way, way up for on the way to and from school).

And the end of year play could only be done by students who were either studying dance or drama as part of their curriculum, because the main thing was that it should appear to be a totally professional production.

School B isn’t perfect, not at all. There’s a lot of issues, a lot of people struggling with their yiddishkeit and their emuna.

But School B isn’t being honest about what’s going on, and believes that lots of pious lectures from the school’s educators about having emuna, etc, is all that’s required to really tick the ‘personal development’ box.

(Most of the students in School B are on Ritalin or Concerta.)

So when School B realized there was a phone problem, they decided to resolve it in a very superficial way. They sent a pompous letter to all of their parents informing them that any student coming to school without the Etrog filter on their phone, or otherwise with a ‘kosher’ (WHATever) smartphone would have the phone confiscated and get into lots of trouble.

In the meantime, lots and lots of the girls figured out how to bypass the filter. Lots and lots of girls had a ‘kosher’ phone for school, and a totally unfiltered phone for everywhere else. The school knew this was happening, but the school didn’t care, because the only thing it was really worried about was looking the part.

As the months wore on, more and more of the girls in School B started to drink alcohol. And to smoke cigarettes. And to stop dressing tzniusly. And even, to stop keeping Shabbat. As long as they didn’t do this on the school’s time, or on the school’s premises, the school turned a blind eye to it.

It didn’t send out any letters to the parents, it didn’t organize any special educational events, because doing that would be an admission that School B’s students had a problem, and School B wasn’t about to do that in a rush. There was an appearance of perfection that needed to be maintained.

But the behavior, attitudes and environment in the school continued to erode.

Eventually, things got so bad, that even School B realized it had to do something. So, it sent out a carefully worded letter to the parents, informing them that from now on, there would be zero tolerance for any lack of respect towards the teachers, or absence of derech eretz.

The problem was definitely all with the students, and School B would be launching another series of preachy, fake-emuna type lectures from its highly unpopular and hypocritical educators, to try to get the student in the school to stop being so bad.

When the parent of one of the girls in both these schools read those emails – which popped into her inbox 10 minutes apart – she called up the kid in School B, and she told her:

We need to get you out of that place ASAP. It’s only going to get worse from here.

And thankfully, Hashem heard that parent’s heartfelt prayer that her kid should go somewhere far less hypocritical, and far more spiritually healthy, where the people in charge saw their students with a good eye, and did their best to relate to them as precious, if struggling, human beings, instead of ‘robots’ or enemies.

The End.

Or really as we all know, just the beginning.

A few years’ back, on Emunaroma, I spent quite a while trying to bottom out whether yoga could really be ‘kosher’ for orthodox Jews.

After a lot of digging around, the answer that crystallised was:

No, absolutely not!

Last week, a friend called me and asked me to re-post the yoga report on my new blog, as there is a 3 day ‘yoga retreat’ happening in Israel, and she was shocked that so many very orthodox women are spending a whole three days of their precious lives bowing to the modern baal that is yoga.

So, I’m reposting it below.

==

Can Yoga Really be Kosher?

Some background

For years’ now, I’ve been hearing from different people in the frum community about how ‘great’ and ‘amazing’ and ‘wonderful’ yoga is. But because I’m a religious Jew, I’ve been very wary of getting into anything that seems so connected to idol worship and the Hindu religion (more on this in a moment).

‘But yoga can be kosher!’ I’ve been assured repeatedly, and I never pushed the issue very much because a) I still wanted to get Shabbat invitations, and b) I wasn’t really interested in doing it anyway.

When I started to develop an interest in alternative medicine, I made a point of seeking out a knowledgeable, well-respected orthodox Rabbi in Sanhedria, to ask him what was acceptable, halachically, and what wasn’t. He gave me guidelines that things like acupuncture and acupressure and even applied kinesiology – where everything is directly ‘hands-on’ and there’s no indirect, invisible ‘forces’ at play – are halachically OK.

But anything to do with chakras, or anything hands-off (like the type of healing that occurs with Reiki, for example,) was not.)

I did  more research, and was told that a rabbinic research group had been put together a few years’ back by one of the ultra-orthodox organisations in Israel, to explore what was ok, Jewishly, and what wasn’t. The basic conclusion is that most of the things coming out of China were OK, but the practises coming out of India were NOT OK.

I also discovered that Rav Elyashiv had given a ruling about kisufim (the use of magic) in alternative medicine, that basically said that anything where it couldn’t be shown scientifically how it actually worked to help a person heal, should be considered kisufim and avoided by Jews.

In recent years, there have been many studies done to show that the body is made up of electrical impulses, that each cell is polarized with an electrical charge, and that the traditional acupuncture points of Chinese Medicine actually correspond to areas where the electrical ‘charge’ of the skin is much greater than in surrounding areas.

Long story short: Chinese Medicine now has a proven scientific basis for how and why it works, and is thus acceptable for orthodox Jews.

But the same can definitely NOT be said for the Indian healing tradition, which includes multiple references to energy centres (the chakras and the nadis) and working with the ‘astral’ body, i.e., a person’s soul. Yoga is part of the Indian healing tradition.

So, can it be ‘kosher’?

——

Yoga’s bad vibe

Let me start by explaining how I came to be researching this topic. A few weeks’ ago, I finally attended my first apparently ‘kosher’ yoga class. The teacher was a very lovely woman, but the spiritual ‘vibe’ I got from attending the class was so disturbing to me – despite the fact that all we seemed to be doing was some nice stretching exercises – that I decided to check things out properly, to see what’s really going on with ‘kosher yoga’.

I decided to buy a book on the history of yoga by yoga expert Georg Feuerstein, which would set everything out, and explain where yoga had come from. Immediately, the first red flag went up as I started to read some of the comments about yoga being the ‘midwife’ of at least four idolatrous religions; and how it was ‘impossible to separate yoga from Hinduism, just as it’s impossible to unscramble an egg.’

There was also a lot of talk about how it helps people to tap into to the ‘mythical energy of the serpent’, and a whole bunch of other stuff that frankly made my hair stand on end.

Let’s be clear that the people discussing yoga in this fashion were adepts and experts who really knew what they were talking about, and who didn’t have a vested interest about pretending that yoga was nothing to do with religion.

They stated very clearly that it was a religious, spiritual practice, associated with many of the world’s most idolatrous religions.

Things did not look very promising, initially, but I decided to wait and see what the book said, before really making up my mind.

Then, someone contacted me complaining that I should look at the ‘secular’ branch of yoga as taught by BKS Iyengar, and practiced in the West, which was all about health benefits and exercise, and nothing to do with religion at all.

——

There is no such thing as ‘secular’ yoga

I went to check out BKS Iyengar – and got to an official site that was dripping with idol worship and full of prayers offered up to the dead founders of yoga, who had now been officially deified (including by BKS Iyengar, himself).

(As a side note, whenever you do that ‘OM’ chant, the underlying intention is that you are praying to an idol.)

The more I was scratching the surface of yoga, even apparently ‘secular’ yoga, the more I was finding references and connections to idol worship – so much so, that I literally started to feel a little nauseous about the whole affair.

The next thing I did was go back to our halachic sources, to check what it says about idol worship.

The Torah gives us two very clear commandments in connection with the severe prohibition against idol worship (I’m quoting the notes to the Artscroll Tractate of Avodah Zarah, 11a):

  • “And you shall not follow their rituals – Leviticus 18.3 – which proscribes rituals that are used in idol worship.”
  • “And you shall not act according to their practices – Exodus 23-24 – which forbids any practices specific to idolatrous peoples, even those that have nothing to do with idolatry.”

On the face of it, even if yoga was ‘secular’ and ‘just exercises’, as is claimed by the kosher yoga crowd, and even if you got rid of the salutations to the sun and the chanting,

Jews are still forbidden to do it because yoga is indisputably a practice that’s specific to idolatrous peoples.

——

Trying to track down the halachic approval for yoga

So now, we hit the next stage of the process: trying to track down the rabbis who had apparently approved yoga as kosher, to hear from them how their rulings squared with the above Torah laws.

And this is where things have become very interesting!

I was put in touch with a yoga teacher who had apparently received the halachic OK from two well-known orthodox figures. When I asked for more details, she told me she’d been told verbally by one of them that yoga was OK if she just avoided the ‘salutations to the sun’ and the chanting stuff.

I have been trying to get hold of that person to speak to them, but so far they haven’t returned my emails. (If he does, I will update you.)

It turned out the other figure had never spoken to her directly, and to my source’s credit she was unwilling to name them or pass on what they’d said as she’d only heard it second-hand (and as I’m learning with this stuff, even the ‘first-hand’ approvals have to be taken with a huge pinch of salt.)

But she put me in touch with the ‘orthodox’ yoga teacher who’d trained her – and hundreds of others in the orthodox world – who she was sure could give me more details about the halachic backers of ‘kosher’ yoga.

This is an excerpt of our email exchange, after I’d asked the teacher (very politely) if she could please give me details of the Rabbinic backers who had certified her yoga courses for the orthodox Jewish world:

I would love to be part of this discussion however this is the craziest month for me with school ending, camp coming, Shavuot around the corner, and my program starts in a month so everyone is calling.

I can only tell you Rivka that I have done extensive research on this and there is a false understanding that the modern postural practice of yoga, which we westerners practice, is rooted in Hinduism.  I am sending you this article to read which explains it all http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/living/not-as-old-as-you-think#page3.  There are major Rabbanim that poskin that yoga is fine so long as it is done for health purposes and that it practiced as an exercise or a path to wellness and health. 

Other than this I can’t get into a whole dialogue about it because of my time constraints but just know that the poses were influenced greatly by western fitness models and you don’t have to worry about it.

I responded:

I took a look at the article, thanks, and it’s not at all clear. It’s obviously a very hot topic of debate within the yoga world itself about whether yoga can truly be cut off from its hindu origins, and the person who wrote the article appears to be a lone voice in the wilderness, saying that it can. Do you have any other references?

Also, I just looked up your teacher’s site (as per your info on your site) and was a little surprised that it said the following – the part about her system of ‘flow yoga’ being ‘rooted in the ancient system of Tantra’ etc. So clearly, her yoga DOES have a spiritual basis rooted in hindu tradition, as she herself is publicising on her site.

I’m curious if that’s the same style of flow yoga that you’re teaching and certifying via [YOUR YOGA COLLEGE]?

And if yes, I really do need the names of your halachic poskim.

(The ‘orthodox’ yoga teacher had apparently learned her completely ‘secular’ yoga practices from someone who studied directly from a tantric master, and who happily teachers her yoga in temples dedicated to ‘Lord Shriva’.)

This is what I got back:

Hi Rivka

Why are you inquiring about this? I don’t know of your intentions for why you are asking all these questions. Are you thinking of learning yoga. ? Do you want to teach it? Are you upset observant Jews are teaching yoga?

I responded:

Let me ask you a question: Why are you being so reticent about giving me the names of your halachic poskim? What’s the big deal? If it’s ok, halachically, let me know who your rabbis are who have sanctioned it, and end of story.

My intention is this: I am trying to find out if yoga is halachically OK for Jews to do.

I am writing up my discoveries as I go along, and I’m sharing what I’m learning with others.

If you have halachic sanction from orthodox rabbis, please give me the names so I can contact them for further details. If you can’t do that, then it suggests that the issue is not as straightforward as you’re representing it to be.

I got this response back (peace ‘n love, man…)

It doesn’t suggest anything. I am straightforward. I have dealt with people like you in the past and frankly I don’t have the time of day to deal with it. We have 100% have called Poskin and got permission to practice yoga.  Now it’s your turn to do the same. Call your Rabbis and speak to them about your particular situation.  I am not interested in being scrutinized nor will I pass the name out of my Rabbis. Yoi have your own Rabbis, own community and own hashgafa so get ypur answera from your own community. It was rude of you to look up my teachers bio (who I learned with 20 years ago when I wasn’t frum) & question my authenticity based on her bio. Please don’t write me and go do your own research into the topic. Next time you have questions such as this try not to approach a person with such judgement and maybe you will learn something.

Well, learn something I certainly did….

——

Wikipedia to the rescue

The proponents of ‘kosher yoga’ like to say that it’s completely secular and just exercise. But even a cursory look at Wikipedia shows that yoga and idolatry are so tightly woven together, THEY CANNOT BE SEPERATED.

  • Plug in ‘Hatha Yoga’ to Wikipedia and here’s what you’ll read, in the first two lines:

Hindu tradition believes that the deity Shiva himself is the founder of hatha yoga.[3][4][5]

In the 20th century, hatha yoga, particularly asanas (the physical postures), became popular throughout the world as a form of physical exercise, and is now colloquially termed as simply “yoga”.”

  • Plug in plain ‘Yoga’ to Wikipedia, and you’ll get this:

“In the 1980s, yoga became popular as a system of physical exercise across the Western world. Yoga in Indian traditions, however, is more than physical exercise, it has a meditative and spiritual core. One of the six major orthodox schools of Hinduism is also called Yoga, which has its own epistemology and metaphysics, and is closely related to Hindu Samkhya philosophy.”

And a little later on, you get this, in the section called ‘The Goals of Yoga’:

“According to David Gordon White, from the 5th century CE onward, the core principles of “yoga” were more or less in place, and variations of these principles developed in various forms over time:[29]

  • Yoga, as an analysis of perception and cognition; illustration of this principle is found in Hindu texts such as the Bhagavad Gitaand Yogasutras, as well as a number of Buddhist Mahāyāna works;
  • Yoga, as the rising and expansion of consciousness; these are discussed in sources such as Hinduism Epic Mahābhārata, Jainism Praśamaratiprakarana;
  • Yoga, as a path to omniscience; examples are found in HinduismNyaya and Vaisesika school texts as well as Buddhism Mādhyamaka texts, but in different ways;
  • Yoga, as a technique for entering into other bodies, generating multiple bodies, and the attainment of other supernatural accomplishments; these are described in Tantric literature of Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as the Buddhist Sāmaññaphalasutta.”

 As these excerpts clearly and unequivocably show, the focus of yoga is NOT on exercise and physical health at all. The spiritual underpinnings of yoga, and its direct connections to idol worshipping religions are so obvious, it’s hard to believe that I’m even having to write this.

——

“If you do yoga just for your physical health, then it’s ok halachically”

So now, we come down to the crux of the ‘Kosher Yoga’ argument, which is that if you only do the exercises, and you have no connection whatsoever to the philosophical or religious associations, then it’s OK, halachically.

That appears to be the current argument of the people who are convinced that yoga can be koshered. But there are a number of serious problems with this approach.

  • PROBLEM ONE: It doesn’t satisfy the Torah prohibitions we brought above, namely:

“And you shall not follow their rituals – Leviticus 18.3 – which proscribes rituals that are used in idol worship.”

“And you shall not act according to their practices – Exodus 23-24 – which forbids any practices specific to idolatrous peoples, even those that have nothing to do with idolatry.”

Who can deny that yoga is a practice that is specific to idolatrous peoples?

Who can claim that the exact same poses used in the worship of ‘Lord Shriva’ or some other idol are NOT ‘rituals that are used in idol worship’, even if the person doing them doesn’t have that specific intention?

So that’s the first, massive problem with this halachic approach, and I would love for the Rabbinic poskim who have apparently sanctioned yoga for orthodox Jews to come out of hiding, and openly explain how they have specifically addressed this issue, in their rulings.

  • PROBLEM TWO: It doesn’t work, in practice.

Why not?

Because as we’ve been learning, it’s impossible to disentangle the physical exercises from their spiritual and philosophical roots.

As soon as you call your exercise program ‘yoga’, you’ve connected it to the philosophy and spirituality of idol worship. (This is a good time to remind you that a leading branch of Hinduism is actually called ‘yoga’. If you’d be uncomfortable attending a class called ‘Xtian stretching’, then the same issue applies here.)

If you’re still not convinced that even the name is steeped in Hindu philosopy and idol-worshipping spirituality, I found the following on one of the official websites promoting Swami Vivekananda, the man credited with ‘secularising’ modern yoga for Western consumption a century ago:

“The word Yoga is FIRST defined by sage Patanjali in his book Patanjali Yoga Sutra. He summarized YOGA as CHITTA VRITHI NIRODHA.

CHITTA means MIND
VRITTI means VIBRATIONS
NIRODHA means STOPPAGE”

(As a side note, you should know that ‘sage Patanjali’ has been officially deified by many branches of the Hindu religion.)

Also, in order to qualify as an ‘official’ yoga teacher in the West (even via the apparently ‘kosher’ yoga colleges)  you are still required to learn ‘yoga philosophy, lifestyle and ethics’, that are all clearly rooted in idolatrous beliefs and philosophy, as per the below which comes from the Yoga Alliance website for registered yoga schools:

  1. Yoga Philosophy, Lifestyle and Ethics for Yoga Teachers:

30 hours

Minimum Contact Hours: 20 hours

Minimum Contact Hours w/ Lead Trainer(s): 0 hours

Special Requirements: A minimum of 2 of the above Contact Hours must be spent on ethics for yoga teachers

Topics in this category could include, but would not be limited to:

  • The study of yoga philosophies and traditional texts (such as the Yoga Sutras, Hatha Yoga Pradipika or Bhagavad Gita)

  • Yoga lifestyle, such as the precept of non-violence (ahimsa), and the concepts of dharma and karma

  • Ethics for yoga teachers, such as those involving teacher – student relationships and community

  • Understanding the value of teaching yoga as a service and being of service to others (seva)

Now, I’ve never heard of people having to immerse themselves in idolatrous texts for thirty hours just to be able to teach tennis, or a good aerobics class. Is there really anyone out there who still believes that yoga is ‘purely’ a form of exercise?

——

Yoga is not just an exercise, it’s a lifestyle choice

The last thing to say is that yoga, even the apparently ‘secular-just-for-exercise’ version is a complete lifestyle package. As soon as people get into yoga, they start wanting to learn more about it, and expand their knowledge of this amazing new ‘exercise’ their doing.

As soon as they do that – as soon as they read the information on Wikipedia, or on any other yoga site, for example – they’re connecting to the philosophy and spirituality behind the exercises, which makes it instantly forbidden to them to continue practicing yoga, even according to the halachic opinion quoted above, that it’s: ‘OK’ to do yoga if it’s completely divorced from spirituality or philosophy.

(And this is a good time to note, again, that the exercises CANNOT be divorced from the spiritual side of things, for all the reasons and more stated above.)

Where do we go from here?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about yoga-practicing Jews, even the ‘frum’ ones, it’s that they will defend their ‘exercise’ program religiously.

Again, the idol-worshipping connections to yoga are so obvious, that anyone who even researches this topic a little will quickly find stacks of information making it clear that yoga is off-limits for believing Jews.

So it comes down to this: For the God-fearing people in our midst who really want to avoid idol worship, and who are really concerned about doing what God wants, even when it involves some sort of self-sacrifice on their part, there is really no question:

Yoga is an idolatrous practice, and is forbidden. Engaging in yoga, even so-called ‘secular’ yoga will damage your soul and your connection to God and Yiddishkeit.

For the other people, who decided a long time ago that yoga was ‘kosher’ – regardless of the issues raised above – nothing I wrote here will change their mind, and they will continue to try to convince everyone else that you can really kosher a pig, and that they aren’t doing anything wrong!!!

And for the people in the middle?

Get informed.

Ask your ‘kosher yoga’ provider the name of the rabbi who certified their program – and don’t let them wiggle out of giving it you. Ask them how their ‘secular’ style of yoga differs from the poses used in idol-worship (and then watch them squirm, because the whole point of certain schools of yoga is that the poses, or ‘asanas’ have to be done precisely, as taught by the (idol-worshiping) yoga masters.)

Ask them how can be sure that the 30 hours of instruction in idolatrous beliefs they had to do in order to even qualify as a yoga teacher hasn’t seeped into the classes and exercises they’re giving over to their own students.

Go onto the internet and see for yourself how yoga is basically its own idolatrous religion.

And then you can decide which group you want to really be in: God-fearing Jews who care about their souls and their relationship to the Creator; OR Jews-for-yoga.

—–

‘I believe I get health benefits from doing yoga. What can I do instead?’

This one is easy:

Do any stretching exercises you like that aren’t called ‘yoga’, or attached to idolatrous philosophies or religions!

That could be Pilates, the Alexander technique exercises, even just the ‘plain vanilla’ stretching exercises you can find in books like ‘Stretching for Dummies’. There are many different ways that you can stretch in a truly kosher way that have nothing to do with idolatrous faiths and practices.

——

A word to our Rabbis

Let’s end with a plea to the orthodox rabbis who are apparently certifying ‘kosher yoga’ (if they actually do exist…) Dear rabbis, I know you have a very hard job of trying to bring people closer to Yiddishkeit, and trying to accommodate the strange and superficial ideas about spirituality that so many modern people have.

I know it’s a very hard sell to get people to believe that body, mind and soul are really connected (which is why a Jew can’t just eat what they want, and why we go to mikva, and why we dress modestly, for example.)

But please don’t certify any more ‘kosher yoga’ programs until you’ve really done your homework about the idolatrous roots of yoga, and the spiritual implications of ‘just doing the poses’.

Giving a hechsher to idol worshipping practices is hugely problematic, and should not be done lightly.

(Remember, in order to be a certified yoga instructor, you have to have spent a minimum of 30 hours learning ‘Yoga philosophy, ethics and lifestyle’, as discussed above, which basically boils down to 30 hours of instruction in idolatrous ideas and philosophies).

If you decide it IS possible to make a form of ‘kosher’ yoga, then please publicize your rulings, and please give enough detailed explanation so the masses can also understand why doing even a ‘kosher’ form of yoga doesn’t infringe the serious Torah prohibitions against:

And you shall not follow their rituals – Leviticus 18.3 – which proscribes rituals that are used in idol worship.”

And you shall not act according to their practices – Exodus 23-24 – which forbids any practices specific to idolatrous peoples, even those that have nothing to do with idolatry.”

May Hashem help us all to have the clarity to differentiate between good and bad, spiritual light and spiritual darkness, and the courage to act on our holy convictions, even when it’s very difficult for us.

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Can Yoga really be Kosher