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A Message from the Torah: Respond to Fear with Faith

People wave Israeli flags following the release of hostages who were seized during the Oct. 7 attack by Palestinian terrorist group Hamas and held in the Gaza Strip, in Ofakim, Israel, Nov. 30, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

As we complete the book of Genesis this week, Jacob has died, and his remaining sons now turn to Joseph and say, “Our father asked us to beg you to forgive us for what we did to you” (Genesis 50:15-21 ).

There is no evidence that Jacob actually said that, and it may simply be the brothers’ sense of guilt because Joseph had treated them well and showed no signs of bearing a grudge, after the initial tough encounter in Egypt. Joseph replied, “Have no fear, I’m not a substitute for God” and I guarantee I am going to take care of you.

I’ve always been interested in the way the word fear, is used in the Torah. The Hebrew word for fear is Yira. But like many words in the Torah, it has multiple meanings. It could mean the fear of someone or something. Or it could mean the fear of saying something wrong, inappropriate, or doing something wrong morally. This latter usage is associated with the word when the Torah talks about fear of God or fear of your mother and father. It doesn’t mean to be frightened as in scared; it means one should be bound by the constraints either of morality or of a relationship with God.

Looking at the way the word is used in the Torah, illustrates these differences. When Lot escapes from Sodom and flees to the town of Tsoar, it says he was frightened to stay there (Genesis 19:30). When Isaac is frightened for his safety he says, “I was frightened lest they kill me because of my wife” (Genesis 26: 6). And Jacob says to Laban, “I was frightened that you were going to steal my daughters away from me” (Genesis 31:31). And again, before his encounter with Esau, he says, “I am frightened that he will come and kill me and my children” (Genesis 32:12). These are all examples of physical fear.

And there is another example that refers to fear of God or moral dereliction. The two midwives in Egypt did not kill the Israelite boys because they feared God, nor because they feared Pharaoh (Exodus 1:21). Twice in the context of the Sinai Revelation the word fear is used. The first time (20:17) is when Moses tells the people not to be afraid of the powerful phenomenon of Sinai on fire. And the second is when he comes down the mountain with the second set of tablets and his face is shining so brightly that the people are afraid to approach him, and he wears a mask (34:30). What kind of fear was that? In Genesis, the phrase “Pachad Yitzchak” is used twice. It could mean “fear of Isaac,” or “Isaac’s fear of God.”

I have always thought it unsatisfactory to translate the word Yira as fear in every case. When applied to God, I believe that we should not translate it as fear at all, but as respect or even awe. Particularly in our mystical tradition, the relationship with God is seen as something comforting, reassuring, and caring, rather than frightening and distant.

The Book of Genesis ends with the death of Joseph. When Jacob died, he was given a state funeral in Hebron. Yes, Israel has a long association with Hebron going back thousands of years.

In the case of Joseph, we are told he was placed in a box in Egypt. The contrast is striking. The lives of the fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were ones of constant challenge, danger, and difficulties. They struggled in every area, and yet still prospered. In the case of Joseph, after the initial struggle that he had with his brothers, he ends up in a position of complete safety, of power, authority, and respect. And yet within a short time, things changed so dramatically as we see in the book of Exodus, and he is forgotten.

The message that resonates with the present moment is that we have always to be worried about the challenges and the threats and the dangers that we face — and not take our safety for granted. We should be examples of Pachad in one sense, insecurity. We never know what challenges we will have to face. But the way to respond is by having faith, a belief in the future, and a relationship with God that is better described as one of respect and devotion rather than fear.

The author is a writer and rabbi, currently based in New York.

The post A Message from the Torah: Respond to Fear with Faith first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Police are investigating an incident involving a man with a nail gun at an anti-Israel protest in Thornhill

York Regional Police arrested a man at a demonstration outside a synagogue Sunday, alleging he had brought a nail gun. The incident was still under investigation and no charges were laid, police said on Sunday afternoon. No injuries were reported at the protest The demonstration occurred outside the Aish Thornhill Community Shul, on Clark Ave. […]

The post Police are investigating an incident involving a man with a nail gun at an anti-Israel protest in Thornhill appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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An Ideology of Violence

Illustrative: Supporters of Hamas gather for a rally in Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Reuters/Joel Carrett

JNS.orgWhen all is said and done, antisemitism is fundamentally an ideology of violence. Behind every missive and every barb—whether delivered online, at pro-Hamas rallies or graffitied on the walls of a Jewish communal building—is a message of dehumanization that licenses physical attacks on Jews and their property.

In the nearly five months that have passed since Hamas terrorists orchestrated the horrendous pogrom of Oct. 7 in Israel, antisemitic violence has exploded around the world. There are something like 16 million Jews around the globe, mainly concentrated in Israel and the United States, but with a presence in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Oceania as well. From what I can tell, there isn’t a single Jewish community that hasn’t been scarred by this latest wave of hostility.

Additionally, in the two decades that I’ve been writing about antisemitic violence, there hasn’t been a single episode in which the perpetrator was a public figure or someone with a media profile. I’m not referring here to the antisemitic rhetoric we’ve heard from influencers like the rapper Kanye West, or any number of the prominent elected officials flinging words like “genocide” in Israel’s direction, or asserting that Diaspora Jews who join the Israeli Defense Forces should be locked up on charges of treason and war crimes. I’m talking about the people who have crossed the line into assaults and even murder, which target Jews simply because they are Jews. The names of individuals we would otherwise have never heard of—like Kobili Traoré, who brutally murdered a Jewish woman, Sarah Halimi, in her Paris apartment in 2017; or Stephan Balliet, the German neo-Nazi who attempted to shoot up a synagogue in the city of Halle, Germany, on Yom Kippur in 2019—are seared into our consciousness solely as a result of their bestial actions.

But that’s changing. Last week, police in the Australian city of Melbourne arrested a known pro-Hamas influencer, a woman who has the ear of some of that country’s elected representatives and whose past activities have earned her media coverage, on the charge of having masterminded the kidnapping and torture of a young man whose only offense was that he works for a Jewish employer.

The 28-year-old Lebanese-Australian woman, Laura Allam, is the CEO of the Al Jannah Foundation, which bills itself as an Islamic humanitarian organization. While Allam’s social-media profiles specify that she is still running Al Jannah, an entry on the Australian Register of Companies notes that the foundation ceased operations in July 2023, less than three years after it was formally incorporated. But while her humanitarian organization may be little more than a husk, Allam has made sure to keep her own voice alive within Australia’s internal debate on the war in Gaza—a debate which, like elsewhere, has been stained by antisemitic invective, conspiracy theories and bloodthirsty celebrations of Israeli deaths.

On Feb. 16, Allam’s pro-Hamas activities took an altogether more sinister turn. Along with an accomplice—identified by the blog Israellycool as Muhammad Sharab, a pro-Hamas fanatic whose social-media posts attacking Israel are decorated with images of samurai swords and ninjas—Allam is alleged to have seized her unnamed 31-year-old victim late at night in the Melbourne suburb of St. Albans at gunpoint. Because of the draconian restrictions imposed on reporting the case by the Australian authorities, who have banned the publication of Allam’s name and photograph by local media outlets, the full details of the assault have not been released. What we do know, though, is that the victim was so badly beaten that he required extensive hospital treatment.

Since the incident, Allam has remained silent, save for one final post on her Instagram account before it was shut down. With sickening self-regard, Allam depicted herself as a victim, ignored by unnamed “community leaders” who “turn around and say such abhorrent words like ‘this is not our fight’ while a woman in your community has now endured a lifetime of pain, suffering and trauma.” Such leaders, she went on, had nothing to fear from her, at least for the time being. “I pride myself in my selflessness (sic) and the idea of remaining quiet—for now,” she wrote. “Why? Well, I’d like to hope that you so-called ‘selfless individuals’ realize that if I decide to speak up on what has occurred, it will have the most detrimental effect on our community and every single effort we have put into our movement.”

Allam, it would seem, recognizes that her turn to antisemitic violence would be a setback for the community she claims to represent. Yet there is no apology on her part, merely a tactical decision to “remain quiet.” Quite the pledge from a woman with her record.

Before the news of the attack in Melbourne, Allam had already attracted national attention for her furious messages on social media. “Good riddance,” she declared on learning of the deaths of four IDF soldiers in Gaza. One day after the Oct. 7 pogrom, she announced that she had “woken up to some great news from our beloved Palestine.”

Allam’s rejoicing in the mass killing, rapes and mutilation that defined Oct. 7 were an obvious signal to Australian politicians to avoid any contact with her—but they didn’t. At a pro-Hamas demonstration outside the Australian parliament in Canberra at the beginning of February, Allam stood alongside senators from the left-wing Green Party, drawing a rebuke from TV host Andrew Bolt. “The Greens may not have known of Allam’s past, but this is who they find next to them in their gutter,” he stated, in a reference to the news in December that Allam was using the Al Jannah Foundation to resettle Palestinians from Gaza in Australia, which led opposition politicians to question whether supporters of Hamas were being imported into Australia under the guise of humanitarianism.

By orchestrating an assault on someone whose “offense” was to work for a Jewish employer, Allam ceased being a cheerleader for Hamas and became, in effect, a vehicle to spread its vengeance outside the Middle East. Cheering “resistance” is no longer enough for the pro-Hamas movement cluttering our schools, colleges and streets with their genocidal slogans; they are now duplicating those same “resistance” tactics to intimidate defenseless Jewish communities in their midst.

Allam may be a shocking example of this trend, but sadly, she is not the only one. Last week, Jewish students at the University of California, Berkeley were forced to evacuate a building where they were due to hold a meeting after pro-Hamas agitators gathered outside, banging on the windows and screaming “intifada, intifada.” Two Jewish students ended up being assaulted. If you study the video of that episode, you’ll be struck most of all by the demeanor of the mob, their faces a veritable picture of virtue signaling as they bellow “shame on you” at Jewish kids who were just trying to hold a get-together, but who were, in that moment, the embodiment of the hated Zionist state.

Our elected leaders—in the United States, in Europe and elsewhere—have failed us. Every outburst of antisemitic hatred in history has been directed by a mob, and the present situation is no different. Don’t fool yourselves; the mob is back, and this time it wears a keffiyeh rather than a swastika armband. If the authorities won’t expel these people from our campuses and imprison them when they engage in attacks on Jews, and if we are unwilling or unable to defend ourselves, we will find, sooner rather than later, that the only option we have is to head for the exits.

The post An Ideology of Violence first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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The Pro-Hamas Fifth Column Intends to Kill People

Sigmund Freud, circa 1921. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

JNS.orgSigmund Freud always took a somewhat jaundiced view of the human psyche, but in the wake of the horrors of World War I, it turned even darker. Confronted with mankind’s capacity to destroy itself, Freud concluded that within every living thing, there is a drive towards senescence and homeostasis—a state in which things do not change. The ultimate form of such a state, of course, is death. Thus, Freud believed, all life contains within it the seed of its own destruction and dissolution—a death drive.

But Freud understood that this was not simply a desire for stasis. In 1932, he wrote to Albert Einstein, “According to our hypothesis human instincts are of only two kinds: those which seek to preserve and unite… and those which seek to destroy and kill and which we group together as the aggressive or destructive instinct.”

These instincts are not always opposed, however. Freud asserted that “an instinct of the one sort can scarcely ever operate in isolation; it is always accompanied—or, as we say, alloyed—with a certain quota from the other side, which modifies its aim or is, in some cases, what enables it to achieve that aim.”

In the unity of sex and death, Freud implied, there comes a point at which the death drive becomes a desire for the orgasmic destruction of oneself and others. Sex enables death and vice-versa.

All of this came to mind when I read that a man named Aaron Bushnell had committed suicide by setting himself on fire in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington while shrieking, “Free Palestine.”

I was neither shocked nor surprised by the news. It was inevitable from the moment the pro-Hamas fifth column in the United States began its pro-terror campaign. The instant the genocidists took to the streets, it was obvious that behind all the screaming and slogans was nothing more than an inchoate murderous rage. This rage has reached such a peak of intensity that it has ceased to be mere antisemitism. It is nothing but itself. It is the death drive. These people want to die and they want others to die. Worse still, they take pleasure in that desire and its consummation.

In Hamas’s case, the death drive took the form of mass murder. In Bushnell’s case, it took the form of suicide. One could say that this is a point in Bushnell’s favor. At least he didn’t try to take anyone else down with him. But his self-immolation has prompted statements from his ideological kin that point to something far more sinister.

Reporter Andy Ngo recently tweeted about a post on the anarchist website “CrimethInc.” featuring an email Bushnell apparently sent to the site stating his intentions. CrimethInc. seems to be dedicated to promoting illegal activities to further the anarchist cause. As such, its comments on Bushnell’s missive are disturbing, to say the least.

At first glance, it appears that the site simply wants to dissuade others from immolating themselves, saying, “Let’s not glamorize the decision to end one’s life, nor celebrate anything with such permanent repercussions. Rather than exalting Aaron as a martyr and encouraging others to emulate him, we honor his memory, but we exhort you to take a different path.”

The site never explicitly states what that “different path” might be. However, it does say, quite falsely, “All available evidence indicates that the Israeli military will continue killing Palestinians by the thousand until they are forced to stop.”

Given the necessity of forcing Israel to “stop,” the site muses, “If protests are going to exert leverage towards stopping the genocide, it is up to people in the United States to figure out how to accomplish that. But what will it take? Thousands across the country have engaged in brave acts of protest without yet succeeding in putting a halt to Israel’s assault.”

“If your heart is broken by the horrors in Gaza and you are prepared to bear significant consequences to try to stop them, we urge you to do everything in your power to find comrades and make plans collectively,” the site exhorts. “Lay the foundations for a full life of resistance to colonialism and all forms of oppression. Prepare to take risks as your conscience demands, but don’t hurry towards self-destruction. We desperately need you alive, at our side, for all that is to come.”

“All that is to come,” once again, goes unnamed, but the site reemphasizes, “Let’s admit that the kind of protest activity that has taken place thus far in the United States has not served to compel the U.S. government to compel a halt to the genocide in Gaza. It is an open question of what could accomplish that. Aaron’s action challenges us to answer this question—and to answer it differently than he did.”

The site is careful about its rhetoric to the point of esoteric writing, but there is a small indication of what it means by “differently.” It states, “If nothing else, Aaron’s action shows that genocide cannot take place overseas without collateral damage on this side of the ocean.”

It is quite clear what “collateral damage” means in this context: dead people. Such dead people will be produced, the site forthrightly states, “differently.” That is, they will not be produced by suicide. People will be murdered.

I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that the implications of this are fairly obvious: The pro-Hamas fifth column in the U.S. intends to kill people. Given the atrocities of the current moment, it is impossible to imagine that most if not all of those people will be Jews. It seems that however careful they may be about saying so, the death cultists in the U.S. intend to imitate their fellow death cultists in Gaza. The death drive will seek to sate itself on American Jews as it did on Israeli Jews. The pleasures inherent are too much for the cultists to resist.

Major Jewish organizations, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and all relevant agencies should take note: Bushnell’s death was not just a suicide, it was also an exhortation to murder—and people are listening.

The post The Pro-Hamas Fifth Column Intends to Kill People first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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