When Religious Fervor becomes Obvious Hypocrosy~Rabbi Avi Shafran

How to Promote Baseless Hatred

by Rabbi Avi Shafran
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There is much, much work to be done.

Yes, yes, there is a media double standard when it comes to hareidi Jews. That's nothing new.

And so, when thousands of Iranians poured into Tehran's streets in protest of what they saw as a fraudulent
That fraction of the crowd cannot be ignored by those of us who cringed at, and remain shamed by, its ugly behavior.
presidential election, the press emphasis was not on the protesters who threw rocks, set trash bins aflame and vandalized public property. The focus, rightly, was on the bulk of the crowd, peaceful protesters of what they believed to be a fraudulent election.

When tens of thousands of hareidi-religious Jews, though, demonstrated in reaction to a decision by the Jerusalem municipality to open a public parking lot on the Jewish Sabbath, increasing traffic in the heart of the Holy City and disturbing the peacefulness of the day of rest, the main coverage was not of the overwhelming mass of the crowd, peacefully standing up for the sanctity of the Sabbath, but rather of the tiny fraction of the crowd that... threw rocks, set trash bins aflame and vandalized public property.

But that fraction of the crowd cannot be ignored by those of us who cringed at, and remain shamed by, its ugly behavior. The rioters may have been boys, but they were our boys. And if boys of ours can imagine that acts of destruction and hooliganism are somehow the right way to stand up for the Sabbath's honor (leave aside the way to bring non-observant Jews to appreciate the Jewish day of rest), then there is much, much work to be done to teach them what Torah is and what it isn't.

And, yes, yes, again, there are unanswered questions about the arrest of a Hasidic mother of a long-hospitalized child on suspicion of having starved him. The media, quoting hospital authorities, said that the woman was suffering from a mental illness that compels a person to invent or create symptoms of illness, sometimes in another person, in order to garner medical attention.

The hospital video footage, moreover, that authorities said showed the mother removing the child's feeding tube 20 times has yet, at least at this writing, to be released. And why did the hospital not act after the first tube removal? Or the tenth?

Why, further, if the woman is in fact mentally ill, was a simple restraining order not obtained, barring her from contact with the child? Why did the police choose instead to slap handcuffs on the five-months pregnant woman in public (and in front of a summoned press) and place her in a jail cell (with an accused spouse-killer, an Arab woman, as a cell-mate)?

None of us can know with certainty at this point the answers to those questions - or whether the woman at issue is a would-be murderess, a sufferer of mental illness or a caring mother wrongly accused.

What we can know, though, is that the reaction of some members of her community and some other hareidi Jews was horrible abuse of its own sort. To review in any detail even a sampling of the repulsive behavior in which some religious Jews engaged would only increase the desecration of G-d's name it embodied. There may well have been grounds for protest - and civil protest is a fundamental right in a democracy - but there were no grounds for violence. None.

That judgment was made unequivocally by, among others, the head of the anti-Zionist Edah Charedis, the renowned halachic authority Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch. "Anyone," he wrote, referring to the riotous behavior, "who commits acts of violence declares that he doesn't belong to our community."

Even if the violent protesters believe that they are innocent of baseless hatred, they should be made to confront the fact that they are deeply guilty of promoting it.

Insulting another is a grave violation of halacha, as is causing him physical harm. Destroying another's property - or communal property or, for that matter, one's own property - is also forbidden by the Torah. No exceptions have ever been made in halachic codes for instances in which a government policy or action is not to one's liking. How ironic that the idealization of boorishness and destructiveness - most prominently embraced by the criminal world and Hollywood - should have managed to infiltrate the relatively insular hareidi world, a world that clearly stands for diametric ideals.

This time of the Jewish year, the Judaism-conscious are focused on the destruction of the Holy Temples. The second Temple, whose destruction led to our current exile, was destroyed, the Talmud teaches, "because of baseless hatred."

The recent rioters in Jerusalem may well have believed their hatred to have had ample basis. But whatever their rationalizations, their actions evoked disgust in Jews the world over, some of whom, tragically, will generalize from the rioters' bad example and bear ill will toward hareidi Jews as a group.

And so, even if the violent protesters believe that they are innocent of baseless hatred, they should be made to confront the fact that they are deeply guilty of promoting it.


Av 6, 5769 / 27 July 09

Rick Warren Embarks on Follow-Up to 'Purpose Driven Life'

Rick Warren Embarks on Follow-Up to 'Purpose Driven Life'

Megachurch Pastor Rick Warren is working on his next book – the follow-up to the bestselling Purpose Driven Life, which launched the Southern California preacher into national prominence.

“I’m in book writing mode right now,” Warren reported in a broadcast to his church members Thursday. “I’ve gone back into hibernation to write the follow up to Purpose Driven Life now, eight years later. It’s going to be called The Hope of the World, and my plan is to release that on Easter Sunday – our 30th anniversary – next year.”

Warren had announced during the 2009 Purpose Driven Network Summit in May that he was going to take some time off soon to work on his next book, which will be about the Church and its role in today’s times.

On Thursday, the evangelical leader asked church members to pray for him as he’s writing.

“[P]ray … that God’s Spirit will guide me in writing this next book just as He did with Purpose Driven Life so that it can change hundreds, thousands, and even more than of lives all around the world,” he said.

Since its release seven years ago, The Purpose Driven Life has sold over 52 million copies and has been described as the bestselling nonfiction hardback book in history. The 2002 devotional book was also most identified in a Barna survey of American pastors and ministers as the book that was most influential on their lives and ministries.

Last year, Warren released The Purpose of Christmas, his first book since Purpose Driven Life. The 125-page gift book, which Warren called “the most evangelistic book I’ve ever written,” hit the New York Times’ list of top 5 bestselling Hardcover Advice books after two weeks on the bookshelves.

All net proceeds of The Purpose of Christmas have gone to benefit Warren’s PEACE Plan – a global initiative created to mobilize millions of Christians in the fight against the five global “giants” of spiritual emptiness, self-centered leadership, extreme poverty, pandemic disease and illiteracy/education.

Evangelist Greg Laurie Reflects on Son's Death, One Year Later

Evangelist Greg Laurie Reflects on Son's Death, One Year Later

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One year ago today, a well-known evangelist lost his oldest son.

Reflecting on the anniversary of his son's death, evangelist Greg Laurie testifies that the Lord has been there for him in the midst of a devastating time.

When Christopher Laurie died at age 33 last July in an automobile accident, many wondered whether Greg Laurie would be able to continue his ministry and preach at the Harvest Crusades later that summer as he does annually throughout the United States.

He had a choice to make.

"Will I merely react emotionally to it, and live permanently under the cloud of grief, pain, and sometimes even despair? Or will I listen to what the Bible says about this and perhaps gain a new perspective?" Laurie wrote on his blog Thursday.

"Though I have spent plenty of time with the former, I work at living by the latter."

Although still grieving, Laurie went on to share the Gospel message to tens of thousands of people in Anaheim, Calif., Philadelphia and New York City that year.

His signature messages about heaven were even more compelling as he spoke of his son and his assurance that Christopher was alive in the presence of God.

"[O]ne day I will see him again. I don’t just feel it. I know it," Laurie says in his blog. "Christopher David Laurie is my son, and he is alive."

The day of Christopher's fatal accident was the most devastating day in the evangelist's life.

The obvious question arises: Why does God allow suffering?

Answering the question a year later, Laurie said, "When you're in times of hardship you cling to God more tightly than in other times and you realize that the answer is God.

"I think it's a greater awareness of the fact that you need God, number one, and then God is with you, number two, and you cling to Him, you rely on Him. You're not so self-sufficient."

The Southern California evangelist did not let the tragedy destroy his faith. In fact, it pushed him to turn to God rather than away from Him. He couldn't imagine dealing with his son's death if he didn't have faith in Christ.

Another reason God allows suffering, Laurie noted, is so that the affected can help other people who have gone through a similar tragedy.

"I think God can really use you to help someone else so they don't lose hope and know that there's light at the end of the tunnel," Laurie said.

Now just a month away from his 20th annual Southern California evangelistic crusade, Laurie is again ready to give hope to thousands.

"We can pray and sometimes God will remove our problems. Sometimes He'll heal us of that infirmity, but sometimes our problems don't go away. But God is still with us," the evangelist says. "We have a greater hope than this life on this earth. It's a life in heaven and in the presence of God.

"For now all of our questions are not answered. ...But there will come a day until we see God face to face and all of our questions will be answered. Until then we need to walk by faith, we need to trust God and remember that His grace is sufficient for us."

Why Did Jesus Come to Earth?~Billy Graham

Why Did Jesus Come to Earth?

Q: When Jesus lived on the earth why did people get very excited about Him at first, and then turn against Him later on and demand He be put to death? What did He do to upset them so much? This has always puzzled me. - Mrs. L.T.

  • (Photo: BGEA / File)

A: One reason people got so excited about Jesus was because they believed He was going to lead a revolt against the Romans (who occupied their country). In other words, they thought Jesus had come to establish a new political kingdom, with Him as its king.

But this wasn't Jesus' plan - nor was it the reason why God sent Him into the world. In fact, Jesus deliberately went out of His way to show that He had no intention of seeking political power. On one occasion, we read, "Jesus, knowing that they (the crowd) intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself" (John 6:15). On another occasion, He declared, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). Once people realized this, many turned against Him.

Why, then, did Jesus come? Jesus Christ came for one reason: To bring us back to God. We are separated from God because of our sins, and our greatest need is to have our sins forgiven and cleansed. But how is this possible? It's only possible because Jesus Christ was willing to take all our sins upon Himself, and become the final and complete sacrifice for our sins. This is what He did when He died on the cross for us.

Many people, however, weren't willing to admit they needed a Savior - and the same is true today. May this not be true of you, but by faith open your heart and life to Him without delay.


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