Maccabee's Wars

A venting rage against the ills of our society with some hopeful observations.

Friday, June 30, 2006

When is a War Not a War?

As we continue to hope for the return, in good health, of Corporal Gilad Shalit and as we mourn over the murder of the young man from Itamar, Eliyahu Asheri, the news from Israel continues to be grim and unfocused.

Israel authorities continue to be adamant that Operation Summer Rains is basically about Corporal Shalit. As an aside, they mention the steady rain of Kassam rockets continually being fired into Israel.

The Palestinian Authority, Hamas, the Arab world at large, the UN, the EU and the media at large focus on the “occupation,” the civilian casualties, and the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian populace.

Both foci are tangential to the real issue.

The “democratically” elected Palestinian government now inculcated with Hamas “officials” is at war with Israel.

It doesn’t matter whether they are a “state,” an occupied land, a government assembly or a bunch of terrorist thugs; they have attacked sovereign Israeli soil and killed Israeli citizens.

When al-Qaeda attacked the US on 9/11 there clearly was only one response. Find the perpetrators and blow them off the face of the earth. It didn’t matter whether they were a state or not; whether they were a government.

An act of war should be responded to as war.

If Mexico attacks US soldiers or National Guardsman on US territory, that is war. If Cuba attacks Guantanamo, that’s war. If Cuba or North Korea fires missiles towards the US, that’s war.

It’s almost laughable that there is a focus on whether the Hamas leaders or the Fatah/PLO non-state of Palestine will or will not recognize Israel.

It is Israel that is the sovereign state. They don’t need to be recognized. The question is whether the world or Israel will recognize any Palestinian state, if it is ever established.

In the interim, Israel is under attack and at war. It should declare the actions of Hamas and Fatah as war. Israel should in turn declare war and respond as the US has done in Afghanistan and in Iraq. It should wage that war with all the immediacy and expedience available at its command.

It should wage that war until either the surrender or destruction of all hostile forces.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Memories of My Mentor

Rebbetzin Leah German, Leah bas Asher, ZT”L left us this past week on Sunday the 22nd Sivan, 5766.

I do not use the title ZT”L lightly. Though it is usually reserved in usage after the Petirah of a Rav, I have no doubt, it is even more appropriate as a reminder of how she lived her life; more so than anyone I have ever known.

I first met Rebbetzin German in the early ‘90s. By that time, she had already retired from the public school system as a master teacher and principal working under the most arduous of conditions in the city. As difficult as that may have been, she took on the responsibilities of what may have been an even more formidable task; principal of Be’er Hagolah.

Be’er Hagolah, established in 1979, became the first major yeshiva, for children of émigrés from the former Soviet Union. The culture of these children was based on a time warp of totalitarianism. American culture, on the other hand whetted their appetites for a type of freedom that was disingenuous to a Jewish way of life.

Though Rebbetzin’s German’s husband, Rabbi Avner German, the Menahel and Dean of Hebrew Studies, of Be’er Hagolah articulated Be’er Hagolah’s first goal as the Americanization of the students, it was indeed a formidable task. The ardent fervor needed to balance the newfound freedom of American culture with Yahadus, with Judaism, could only be provided by Rebbetzin Leah German.

Rebbetzin German, a brilliant woman, understood many things, most of all, the conflict between American culture and Jewish life in America. Growing up in America, attending public school, she saw first hand the trials and tribulations in maintaining one’s Judaism.

Yet she never wavered.

If she believed in the truth of a matter, there was nothing that could sway her from that truth. For example, after marrying her husband Rabbi German, may he merit long and happy years, with Nachas and pride from his children and extended family, she insisted in dressing in a fashion most befitting a G-d fearing woman, a wife of a Rabbi.

I never saw any woman of such culture, education and eminence who dressed and acted with such modesty; a woman who projected the firmness of granite, yet also the warmth and compassion of a mother to every human being.

Whomever she came in contact with, whether it was from the dregs of society to princely dignitaries, she reached each and every one of them on a lofty level with sometimes one word, one phrase, or one sentence.

The children, whom she came into contact with, all of whom she knew by face, name and class, whether from the public school or the Yeshiva, all loved and admired her. They knew she loved them and only were admonished by her so they could grow up to be better.

Her teacher’s were her own as well.

As a mother asks for help for their children, she would contact anyone, including her own children for help regarding Shidduchim, to potentiate possibilities for marriage.

And it would never be, ‘can you help so and so’ or ‘do you know anybody for so and so.’ It would always be “What can you do for my Yehuda?” or for anyone else who needed a Shidduch.

I heard it first hand. I heard it for myself.

But she never asked anything for herself. Any requests were always for the school, her children, her pupils, her teachers.

Even when parents would argue with her, parents who many times didn’t even pay a dime of tuition, parents who were totally in the wrong, she never lost her patience and would deal with them for hours on end.

Though many times in her working environments, she was exposed to foul language, she never accepted it. She abhorred it. As Rabbi German said, she became physically sick from its use as one can from a foul odor. Her soul refused to become tainted by it.

And she never complained.

Diagnosed with her illness eight years ago, she never let on that she was sick. She continued to work 24 hours a day until the last year of her life. Nothing was ever too much or too hard.

Her son, sitting Shiva in Starrett City, stated that she continued to cook for shabbos for countless guests, making chicken as he described it, with the ta’am of Gan Eden, the taste of the Garden of Eden, which no one in the family could duplicate, even though they had the recipe and they saw exactly how she made it.

Her husband said that in addition to her work in the school and at home, she would cook for hundreds of people in the shul, the synagogue. Her extracurricular life went from cleaning for Pesach to cooking for Pesach, to baking for Shavuos ad infinitum, all for hundreds of people, at the same time running a school for a thousand students.

She even cleaned for the cleaning lady for Pesach so that the cleaning lady shouldn’t have to work too hard; and that was the only time she ever had a cleaning lady to help out.

Lying in a hospital bed, with barely any strength, she insisted that her children first give some food first to the caretaker who had come to take care of the Rebbetzin.

And she never complained.

Her son mentioned that when she first received treatment for her illness, chemicals leaked through the intravenous, which were so harsh and acidic that it caused a wound large enough to fit one’s hand through it. Though the pain was horrendous, her description of it was so mild, no one came to help her until major damage had been inflicted.

Her husband had said that her personal physician never arrived on time for the birth of her seven children, because she never called out in pain for a nurse or a doctor. As a result, it was always thought that she was not ready to deliver.

What did I learn over the years from Rebbetzin German? How was she my mentor? She always offered constructive criticism whether I wanted it or not and I always tried to listen because I knew that she was right. But more so I learned from her grit and determination to stand up for what’s right; to be consistent, to find the truth, to hold on to it and never let it go, no matter what anybody says.

To paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, Rebbetzin German was the epitome of ‘speak softly and carry a big stick.’ Yet her big stick was not a weapon of mass destruction. Her call to arms was her integrity, her fortitude, her strength and her brilliance.

She was a woman of Chesed, Gevirah and Tov; a woman of spunk and spirit. As Rabbi German mentioned how others described her – zaltz and feffer -- the spice of life.

She was woman of valor like no other.

I will miss her greatly.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

As Confucius Says “Who’s Confused Now?” Better Known As, Samuel L. Beckett’s “Waiting for the Golem.”

Dr. S.Z. Leiman in his last shiur of the season referred back to an email, he received from a gentleman, which questioned why Dr. Leiman did not address the ‘fact’ that there is evidence of a documentary nature that a Talmid of the Maharal of Prague created a Golem.

The evidence stems from a sefer entitled Yeshurun that combed sources indicating that R’ Eliyahu Ba’al Shem of Chelm, a Talmid of the Maharal, created a Golem and that people confuse that creation as one made by the Maharal himself.

Unfortunately, the real confusion is that this R’ Eliyahu could not have been a Talmid of the Maharal. He is actually a Talmid of the Marshal and possibly a contemporary of the Maharal.

Moreover, R’ Eliyahu Ba’al Shem of Chelm is also confused with R’ Eliyahu Ba’al Shem of Worms, who actually may have been A Talmid of the Maharal. In the Haskama to Gedulos Mordechai, a commentary on the Mordechai with annotations by the Maharal, R’ Eliyahu of Worms indicates that the Maharal was either his Rebbi or, by calling him Moheiranu Rabbaeinu, gives the Maharal the respect due to the Gadol Hador.

Each of the two R’ Eliyahu B’al Shems are buried in their own plots in their respective towns, so they are not one and the same. R’ Eliyahu Ba’al Shem of Chelm was an ancestor of R’ Ya’akov Emden. In Migilas Sefer, R’ Emden mentions that R’ Eliayhu created a man, which may have been a Golem On the other hand, there is no documentary evidence of R’ Eliyahu Ba’al Shem of Worms, who may possibly be a Talmid of the Maharal, creating a Golem. Neither for that matter is there any evidence of the Maharal himself creating a Golem.

Golem stories!

Oh what a tangled web we weave.