Friday, April 19, 2024

Looking at an Extraordinary Night with Multiple Dimensional Lens

With so much noise and distractions, it's easy not to reflect or even quickly forget the extraordinary event of the major Iranian attack on Israel. The attack involved more than 120 ballistic missiles, 170 drones, and more than 30 cruise missiles, with the launches also coming from Iraq and Yemen. I am not sure most of us, including myself, can comprehend the potential damage to lives this attack could have incurred. I saw the photo of the missile that Israel received from the Dead Sea, and it was nothing short of astounding. According to the IDF, the Emad missile had an estimated 1,100-lb warhead. Only the missile's fuel tank was recovered, as the warhead and engine were destroyed during its interception by the long-range Arrow air defense system. The missile's fuel tank remains — 36 feet long and is just 70 percent of the entire projectile. The massive missile, one of 120 ballistic missiles fired at Israel, was found on Sunday morning floating in the Dead Sea. It had flown more than 1,500 kilometers from Iran to Israel in around 12 minutes. Just trying to imagine this missile slamming into a major population center is too horrific to contemplate. The missile defense system that Israel deployed with some help from others far exceeded expectations with over a 99% success rate. My understanding is that there should be a 90% rate of interception. That would mean one could have anticipated about 30 missiles to penetrate Israeli territory and cause catastrophic damages. The stated reason that did not occur is the superiority of the Israel missile defense program. That is, of course, true, and as a community of faith, we understand that this situation is not simply to be understood with a one-dimensional lens. It must be viewed with a multiple-dimensional lens that includes a spiritual lens and understands the hand of God in the background. King David states in Tehilim/Psalms 127, "unless God watches over the city, the watchman keeps vigil in vain." According to Google Trends, the fifth most searched for term among Israelis on the night of the attack was Tehilim. There may have been millions of Jews reaching out to our Father in Heaven at the time of the attack. Anyone who is skeptical of the hand of God might dismiss this as a coincidence. As Pesach approaches and we retell our story again, we can't escape the conclusion in the long game of history: the Guardian of Israel neither sleeps nor slumbers. Have a peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

Friday, April 12, 2024

Thoughts on the Eclipse

Millions of people dropped everything this week to view the solar eclipse phenomenon. Some even traveled thousands of miles to be in the region where one can view the total eclipse. A total solar eclipse, when the moon totally blocks the sun, results in temporary darkness for up to five minutes in spots along the path of totality. The solar eclipse generated much discussion in Jewish Thought and lore about whether the eclipse may, in fact, be a bad omen for the world. A respected and venerated scholar, no less than the famous Rashi, stated, “I have not heard a reason for this.” If Rashi can profess he is “not in the know” about the connection between an eclipse and being a bad omen for the world, then I am comfortable not being “in the know.” I want to offer an interesting perspective by another famous sage, the Ramban or the Nachmanides. He writes that, unlike the popular perception, “everything is a miracle because nature does not act independent of G-d. What we call nature is nothing more than what we are accustomed to and do not consider it to be a manifestation of G-d’s controlling hand, because generally, He prefers to govern the world in a manner that appears to be normal.” From the marvel of the intricacies of the human eye to a baby being delivered into the world to the sun rising every morning, these are all miracles that we tend not to appreciate because of their frequency. We tend only to notice the miracle when it is lacking, such as when a person is ill or another misfortune occurs. It’s important to reorient ourselves on a regular basis and recognize the amazing miracles that are unfolding in front of us all the time. It’s a tragedy when we become so desensitized that we lose appreciation for all the gifts and blessings in our daily lives. Reorienting ourselves to view life with this perspective should doubly apply during difficult times in the world, as we are experiencing at the moment. As much as the eclipse was incredible to experience, I hope it can also be a gateway for us all to be more cognizant of all the miracles that are bestowed upon us. Have a Peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

Friday, April 5, 2024

Double Standard?

Amid the fog of a brutal war, there was a military attack on aid workers working to bring assistance to civilians. The military mistook these civilians for terrorists, and their lives came to an abrupt end. The attack took place in Afghanistan on August 29, 2022, and the forces that committed this tragic mistake were the United States Military. The targeted victim was 43-year-old Zemari Ahmadi, who died with nine members of his family, including seven children, when a missile from a US Air Force Reaper hit his family and struck his car as he arrived home from work in a residential neighborhood of Kabul. The United States most senior General, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair, initially called the attack a "righteous strike." Later, the General acknowledged the action as a "horrible tragedy of war." Unless I missed it, I don't recall the President ordering fundamental changes in the way its forces allow aid workers to reach innocent civilians trapped in wartime. It seemed to be understood that although tragic, this attack was not a reflection of the moral standing of America or its values. The grace accorded to America after this incident was not offered to Israel after a tragic mistake in which Israel killed seven members of the World Central Kitchen in Gaza. The attention given to this story is nothing short of remarkable. The celebrity chef who runs the aid organization is reportedly putting pressure on Washington to change its policy of support to Israel. It's hard to digest the hypocrisy in watching the President and his most senior advisers publicly upbraid its supposedly greatest ally, Israel, in a strikingly similar incident. The outrage was communicated in a public manner, and America made clear to Israel that unless it fundamentally changes how it fights an existential war against an enemy committed to destruction, it will withhold vital military assistance. What is good for the goose is obviously not good for the gander. In the wars that followed 9/11 in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States killed over 400,000 civilians and displaced over 38 million people. The number of civilians killed in these wars was actually higher than military fighters. (These figures are from a comprehensive report conducted by Brown University.) I don't recall America remotely having the sensitivity to civilian lives in the wars it waged to the sensitivity it demands Israel accord the civilians in Rafah. Meanwhile, the most righteous cause that many have embraced is the "Free Palestine" movement. These enlightened people preach to the world that the root cause of the conflict is the lack of a state to the oppressed Palestinians. One can reasonably ask why the Tibetans and Kurds who have aspirations for a state are not accorded the same seriousness for their legitimate desires of statehood from America and its allies. It's hard to escape the conclusion that all the outrage associated with the plight of the civilians and aid workers in Gaza is for one simple reason. The entity, in this case, embroiled in the conflict is Israel. The selective outrage is once again directed at Israel from countries that would never think that these standards should apply to themselves. If there is a silver lining to the unfolding series of events, it is that we are getting clarity on who our friends are and, more importantly, an opportunity to reflect on our status as Jews in the modern world. It would be a worthwhile exercise of personal reflection to contemplate our people's mission and destiny and the role that the ultimate Guardian of Israel plays in the saga that continues to unfold. Have a Peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

Most Destructive Word in the English Language

I have always been intrigued by the “word of the year.” This last year of 2023, Merriam Webster designated “authentic” as the WOTY (word of ...