Originally published at customerservant.com. You can comment here or there.

I’ve received a few comments to my post, which I attributed to Ben Stein.
It turns out that, while some of the words are his, not all of them are, and that the rest was cobbled together from various chain letters.
First of all, I’d like to thank Alonzo fyfe for pointing out that everything past “…In light of the many jokes…” is not Ben Stein’s, and I’ll be removing it from the post, and putting it in another one.
Thanks for keeping me on my toes.

Originally published at customerservant.com. You can comment here or there.

I never made it a point to blog about this Friday when I got it, for a number of reasons.
First, I was still exhausted from the monster sinus infection I spent most of last week recovering from, and secondly, it left even me speechless, which is one hell of a feat.
That only happens when something is either so touching/moving/inspirational that I’m humbled and awe-struck, or the stupidity factor is so great that it takes me a while to come up with a suitable response.
Unfortunately for me, this fits into the latter category.
The monumental, earth-shaking solution is, (drumroll please): Disable the Jaws for Windows virtual cursor.
Just so that non-Jaws users have an idea of what I’m talking about, the Jaws for Windows Virtual cursor is an extra cursor that allows Jaws to track what’s going on on the screen, and gives you all the neat Jaws functionality beloved by Jaws users the world over.
No virtual cursor, no Jaws hotkeys, which means no Jaws functionality.
Anyone who has worked with Jaws for Windows as long as these people are supposed to have worked with it would know this, especially if they’re the technical type.
Hell, my mom figured it out, and she’s the least-technical person I’ve ever met.
I’m thinking maybe they should put this stroke of brilliance to better use before it runs out.
If they did, they could have the problem of world hunger solved in a matter of hours, and if they work really hard at it, could probably usher in the Messianic Age all by themselves.
Then, the Messiah could assume his throne with no effort at all, and when God asked how he got all that work done in so short a time, Messiah could just say he outsourced the job.
There has to be a limit to corporate stupidity, there just has to be.
I’ll probably find that when I find a self-help phrase that hasn’t been incorporated into some work-related publication.

Originally published at customerservant.com. You can comment here or there.

For me, 11 September, 2001 dawned just like any other
Tuesday morning.
I got up, and started getting ready to go to math class.
I turned on the radio, and the announcer was saying that
a plane had crashed into one of the towers of the World
Trade Center.
I immediately assumed that the plane had been some prop
job, and that the pilot hadn’t been paying attention to
where he was going.
I remember asking myself how someone could miss a
building that big.
I never once considered it could be a terrorist attack.
It wasn’t that I thought America could never be
attacked, it was just that no one, especially me, had
ever heard of planes being flown into buildings being
used as a method of terrorism.
Then the announcer said a second plane had hit the other
tower, and I knew at that point we had been attacked.
They played music for a while, and it seemed so out of
place.
Then, a little before 10 in the morning, the announcer
came back on and said that the Pentagon had been hit as
well.
I remember thinking to myself, “What are we going to do
now?”
Who the hell would do something like this?
And I still had to go to class.
Luckily our professor, (a graduate student named Robert
Lee), made a short announcement about our upcoming test,
told us both towers had collapsed, and told us that we
could leave if we wanted to.
I don’t think anyone stayed.
I remember walking back to my apartment, and noticing
that no one was laughing, or joking, and that Everyone
was talking in hushed tones.
When I got back home, I found my friend Daniel and my
roommate Joseph sitting in front of the TV watching the
coverage.
People from every nation were sending their condolences,
and then that message came in from the Taliban at around
13:00, saying that they weren’t responsible.
No condolences, just “We didn’t have anything to do with
it, and we don’t know where Osama is.”
Later on, we all saw the video of the Palestinians
dancing in the streets of Gaza, handing out candy, and
it mane everybody very angry.
For the rest of that day and for some weeks after that,
our nation seemed so much smaller than usual.
Everyone wanted to help, and everyone was kind and
polite to each other.
Anybody who displayed extremist partisan tendencies was
very swiftly put in their place, especially the people
who tried to say it was America’s fault, or who tried to
give the dancing Palestinians an excuse.
For a while it seemed like we had the answer, and we
knew what we had to do, and we didn’t care how long it
took, or what the cost would be.
It was America’s “Never Again.”
Unfortunately, we seem to have lost our resolve.
We’re just as partisan as ever now, if not more so.
People seem to have forgotten that the people who did
this haven’t gone away, and no amount of trying to
appease them is going to make them do so.
People keep moaning about the rights of those imprisoned
being violated, or the methods being used by the
security services in order to try to combat what can
effectively be called wild card warfare, without
providing any alternative, practical solutions.
Healthy debate is always a very good thing, but this
discussion has degenerated into a free-for-all on both
sides.
We need to stop all this bickering and one-upmanship
amongst ourselves, bite the bullet, and do what needs to
be done: Go after anyone who either commits terrorist
acts, or supports terrorism, international law be
damned.
Anyone who thinks taking the moral highroad by applying
the Geneva Convention to those not signatory to it, even
going so far as to extend its parameters beyond what
would be required if we were engaged in traditional
combat, is the right thing to do is hopelessly naive.
We don’t have time to sit here and engage in serious
navel-gazing, especially when it comes to an enemy who
isn’t really interested in whether or not we repent of
the sins they accuse us of.
And let’s be real clear about who that enemy is, because
it’s a very real one.
That enemy is anyone who either commits terrorist acts,
gives money to terrorists, sympathizes with them, or
gives them shelter.
It doesn’t matter whether the terrorism is committed
against America, or against its allies.
It’s not a very pretty view from where we sit right now,
but unless we keep these things in mind, and really
start acting accordingly it’s going to get a lot worse.
I, for one, am not interested in waking up one day to
find a bigger blood bath has been perpetrated on our
shores, nor am I interested to find out we’ve become the
latest addition to the one world government known as the
Caliphate.
I think we know which path to take, even if we all agree
it won’t be easy.
Here’s hoping and praying for a better, more peaceful
future, for everyone who wants such things.

This is an open trackback post.
If you have a 911 tribute, link to this post, and send a
trackback, and I’ll display your links at the bottom of
this post.

Originally published at customerservant.com. You can comment here or there.

by Heidi at Euphoric Reality

This week’s Blogburst is available as a Podcast.

In the days and weeks leading up to the fifth anniversary of 9/11, I have been musing how the overall impact of that single days’ terrorism has affected our nation. Some people have felt their initial shock and horror fade away to something sadly benign – a quiet relief that it hasn’t happened again, and a determination to “do their part” going on with their lives. After all, if they didn’t, then the terrorists would’ve “won” that day, they aver. Others like me, felt that same shock and horror harden into a stone cold fury and an implacable resolve to fight this burgeoning evil that hides behind the facade of religion.

The question on everyone’s minds is, “Are we safer today than we were on 9/10?” With our wide-open borders, and our government’s refusal to crack down on illegal aliens, my answer is a resounding “NO!” There is no way any politician or civic leader can claim that we have gotten tougher on evicting people who should NOT be here. In fact, they are competing over how many millions of illegals we can let in each year without identification, without background checks, and without any knowledge of where they are or what they are doing. In fact, our “leaders” are racing to see who can squash any meager attempt at controlling our borders or enforcing our immigration laws the fastest! It has become a feather in their cap to deny to rule of law and leave our borders defenseless.

There is no doubt that illegal immigration is the gaping hole in our tenuous national security. President Bush narrowly defines the issue of our national security as a matter of success in Iraq. The House – heeding the overwhelming demands of the constituents who elected them to office – has refused to grant amnesty to over 20 million illegal aliens inside our borders. And with the Senate’s obstinate refusal to physically safeguard our border, Congress has reached an impasse. What a solution! When the swiftest and most decisive action is called for…they do nothing.

Third World County says it best:

…every single one of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers was in this country illegally at the time of their terrorist act.

Every. Single. One.

So, for all those political poltroons pimping amnesty (yes, you too, Mr. Bush), remember this: failure to enforce immigration laws, crack down on forged and hijacked SS documents, etc., cost American lives on 9/11.

__________________________________________

This has been a production of the Guard the Borders Blogburst. It is syndicated by Euphoric Reality, and serves to keep immigration issues in the forefront of our minds as we’re going about our daily lives and continuing to fight the war on terror. If you are concerned with the trend of illegal immigration in our country, join the Blogburst! Send an email with your blog name and url to euphoricrealitynet at gmail dot com.

Originally published at customerservant.com. You can comment here or there.

By Ari Shavit Haaretz Magazine 15 September 2006

Moshe Ya’alon is ensconced in a small room on the second floor of the Shalem
Center in Jerusalem’s Greek Colony neighborhood. His year at a research
institute in Washington hasn’t changed him. He lets his proud and tough
integrity say its piece, as in the past. Because, after all, he is entirely
as he was. He is entirely that uncompromising moral roughness of a native of
Kiryat Haim. A son of historic Mapai, the forerunner of Labor; the son of
poor Ashkenazim, working-class Holocaust survivors, who sent their son to
the land-settlement movement, to the security sphere and the building of the
country. To self-fulfillment without vested interests, without a sense of
humor and without winks and manipulations.

At Doron’s Falafel they like Boogey, as Ya’alon is known. When he sits at
the Formica table with tehina dripping from his half-pita, he looks
different from any other contemporary Israeli public figure. His Spartan
modesty is now working in his favor. At the midway point between the house
on 29th November Street and Cremieux Street the former chief of staff
somehow seems to embody a different moral thrust. Jerusalem Likudniks who
have had their fill of Olmert and know every shtick of the Tricky Dicky who
grew up in their city are looking to the colorless kibbutznik who, for his
part, seems to be trying to obscure his presence and to shrink his stature.

Will he enter politics? Ya’alon continues to deny it, but the denial sounds
less cogent and more hesitant than in the past. The person who removed the
chief of staff of the Al-Aqsa Intifada prematurely in order to replace him
with Halutz and Kaplinsky sowed in this village teacher a seed of ambitious
bitterness that every so often lights a burning fire in his eyes. The person
who managed the second Lebanon war in the way it was managed let the seed
sprout and produce fruit. If he were not labeled as being responsible, to a
certain extent, for the blunder of the six years that preceded the war,
Ya’alon would already now be leading the postwar protest movement.

If he were not also controversial, Ya’alon would already now become the Moti
Ashkenazi of 2006 – the person who sparked the post-Yom Kippur War protest
movement. Still, even so, even though he knows that people are lurking in
ambush for him, Bogey appears determined to make waves and foment storms.
Those who did not want him as chief of staff will get him as a key figure in
the new public life of the political era that is about to open.

The IDF failed in the second Lebanon war. As the person who was deputy chief
of staff and chief of staff for five of the past six years, don’t you bear
responsibility for this failure?

Ya’alon: “I support the establishment of a state commission of inquiry. I
propose that I be the first person to be questioned by the commission. I
have nothing to hide.”

You froze the Nautilus project and thereby exposed the North to Katyushas.

“I am not the one who stopped the Nautilus project. But I did have doubts
about it. It was extremely expensive and of limited result. It could only
have protected a city here and a city there. If Israel invests a fortune to
sew a protective suit for each citizen and turn itself into a bunker state,
it will not survive economically.”

You also neglected the active defense systems for tanks against anti-tank
missiles. Because of you the tanks were not protected.

“As chief of staff I assigned priority to creating intelligence capabilities
and attack capabilities. In my opinion that was a correct approach, which
proved itself. I would not have used the tanks the way they were used in
this war.”

You shared the conception that gave excess weight to the air force and to
precision munitions.

“The air force and the precise munitions proved themselves both in the
Palestinian arena and in the Lebanon fighting. I did not count solely on
aerial combat. I prepared an option of ground combat and prepared the
appropriate forces for that. The problem in the war was not the air force
but the unrealistic expectations about what the air force could achieve.”

You accepted the stagnation of the reserve units.

“Even before I became chief of staff we made the decision to take a risk in
this regard. We made it clear to the political echelon that in a war it
would take four days to prepare the reserve units. Even now I think the risk
we took was reasonable. In 2002 Israel faced a danger of economic collapse.
The IDF has to understand the constraints of the budget and adjust itself
accordingly. I continue to battle today against an excessive increase of the
defense budget. Israel’s economic soundness is a central element in its
national security.”

You said that we had to let the rockets rust.

“True, and I stand behind that statement today, too. I did not suggest that
we sit idly by until the rockets rusted. I proposed that we act politically
and in a limited military fashion so that in the end Hezbollah would disarm.
I understood there was no military action which could smash or pulverize
Hezbollah. I understood that there is no way to uproot Hezbollah from the
hearts of the Shi’ites in Lebanon. I also understood that there is no
gimmick that will remove the Katyusha threat instantly. Accordingly, I
proposed that we take combined political-military action in order to contain
Hezbollah, to constrict its maneuvering space and in the end to bring about
a situation in which the organization would be perceived as illegitimate in
Lebanon itself.”

Did you favor negotiations with Syria?

“Yes. In the summer of 2003 I suggested to prime minister Sharon that he
accede to the requests of Bashar Assad and enter into negotiations with him.
I thought that the very existence of negotiations with Syria on the future
of the Golan Heights would crack the northern alignment of
Iran-Syria-Hezbollah and perhaps also cause its dismantlement. Sharon
rejected my suggestion outright. He preferred the disengagement.”

Would you be ready to cede the Golan Heights in return for peace with Syria?

“I never sanctified any piece of ground. If a territorial concession will
bring about true peace and full recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a
Jewish state, I am not against that. However, even if we did not reach a
land-for-peace agreement, the very fact of the renewal of the dialogue
channel with Syria would have distanced it from Iran and would have weakened
the northern alignment, which I defined as a strategic threat.”

Nevertheless, the rockets kept piling up and you did not take action against
them.

“You have to understand the limitations of power. Those who do not
understand them must not be in command of power. At this moment Syrian
missiles are aimed at Israel. Why don’t we attack them? Why don’t we attack
the Iranian Shihab [missiles] already today? One could argue that we should
also attack the Egyptian missiles. Egypt has a large army and many missiles,
so why shouldn’t we attack them now, because who knows what will happen 10
years down the line?

“You have to understand that the use of military force is a last resort. You
don’t use it offhandedly. And in order to use military force a legitimate
strategic context is required. There was no such context regarding
Hezbollah. However, beyond all that, it was clear to me that Hezbollah is a
rooted phenomenon and will not be eradicated by military action. It was also
clear to me that there is no unequivocal military solution against the
rocket deployment. I therefore encouraged political activity, which in the
end would lead to the disarming of Hezbollah as a result of an internal
Lebanese process, and concurrently I drew up a military plan intended to
address a scenario of a Hezbollah offensive that would oblige us to deal
with the organization militarily.”

What were the plan’s basic assumptions?

“That the IDF must act in a way that would set in motion a political process
that would lead to the disarming of Hezbollah, the removal of the Iranians
from Lebanon and perhaps also the imposition of sanctions on Syria and Iran.
In a scenario of the abduction of soldiers, exactly as occurred on July 12,
the IDF was supposed to respond with an aerial attack and the mobilization
of reserve divisions, which would act as a threat to the Syrians and to
Hezbollah and would encourage Lebanon and the international community to
take action to achieve the desired goal. If the threat itself did not
achieve the goal, a ground move would have begun within a few days aimed
primarily at seizing dominant terrain as far as the Litani River and the
Nabatiya plateau.

“The ground entry was supposed to be carried out speedily, for an allotted
time, without the use of tanks and without entering houses or built-up
areas. Because of our awareness of the anti-tank missile problem and our
awareness of the bunkers and of the fact that the routes are mined, the
intention was to activate the IDF in guerrilla modalities. That was the
operational idea, that was the plan and that is how the forces were
trained.”

If so, why was that plan not implemented?

“I don’t know. That is one of the questions that the state commission of
inquiry will have to investigate. In my opinion, the aerial offensive was
correct. The air force delivered the goods. In a few areas it even provided
favorable surprises. But the activation of the ground forces was a
catastrophe. There was no defined goal. There was no required achievement.
They jumped from one idea to the next and introduced new missions all the
time without any logic.”

So you argue that the IDF was prepared for the war but that its management
was a failure.

“Exactly so. In the debriefings that are now under way in the IDF the
tendency is to go below. To talk about a crisis at the tactical level. To
cast the responsibility on the battalion and brigade commanders. But I
maintain that the problem is not there. Our pilots are excellent. The
company commanders are excellent. They fought excellently in Operation
Defensive Shield [in the West Bank, in spring 2002] and they overcame the
Palestinian terrorism and also carried out the disengagement optimally. And
they have not changed since. In this war, too, when they were used correctly
they operated correctly. There were units that liquidated about 50
terrorists without sustaining one casualty. So the allegation that the army
is basically flawed is not right. Nor do I accept the claim that the IDF did
not prepare for this campaign but for the last war. That is simply not true.
What we had here was a management failure at a very senior level by those
who are responsible for activating force in Israel. The failure in this
campaign was one of management.”

When did you understand that there had been a failure, that something had
gone wrong?

“At the end of the first week. Until then things were conducted reasonably
well. I was critical of the fact that the reserves were not mobilized, but I
understood more or less what the goal was. But then, instead of plucking the
political fruits of the aerial offensive, they continued to use force. They
over-used force. And instead of coordinating with the Americans for them to
stop us when the operation was at its height, and setting in motion a
political process to disarm Hezbollah, we asked the Americans for more time.
We let the Americans think that we have some sort of gimmick that will
vanquish Hezbollah militarily. I knew there was no such gimmick. I knew the
whole logic of the operation was that it be limited in time and not be
extended.

“And then I lost all logical connection with the events. I understood that
there was a deviation from the plan that was based on some sort of false
feeling that there is a military means to pulverize Hezbollah and bring
about its dismantlement and disappearance. Because the goals of the war were
not defined and because no one clarified what the army is capable of doing
and what it cannot do, the pursuit began of an impossible achievement.
Instead of sticking to the IDF’s operative plan, they started to improvise.
They improvised, improvised and then improvised again. Instead of grabbing
political achievements at the right moment, they went on with the use of
force. The excessive use of force in a situation like this is ruinous. It
becomes a two-edged sword. When you turn a screw and reach a certain point
you have to stop. If you keep going you end up pulling it out: you open
instead of closing. That is what happened here.”

Did you try to warn people? Did you talk to Olmert and Halutz?

“I tried to phone from Washington. Then I got here and tried to talk here.
But I discovered that the political level had the feeling – which was
nourished by the chief of staff – that the matter could be wrapped up from
the air. And when it turned out that the aerial move was not going to
deliver the goods it was never meant to deliver in the first place,
frustration set in. A desperate search began for some kind of move that
would produce some sort of feeling of victory. The delusory idea of a
one-kilometer ground move developed.”

Why delusory?

“The goal that was posited was to destroy Hezbollah outposts adjacent to the
border. But if Hezbollah is not disarmed, it will build new outposts. If it
is disarmed, there is no point destroying the outposts. So the whole idea of
sending a force into Maroun A Ras was baseless. I didn’t understand it. I
didn’t understand where it came from. I was not familiar with any such
plan.”

Did you say so to Halutz?

“I did not succeed in speaking to the chief of staff. I came to Israel
because I was climbing up the walls in Washington but I went back the way I
came and climbed those walls even higher. By then we were already entangled
in Bint Jbail.”

So you believe the Bint Jbail move was also mistaken?

“Bint Jbail was imposed by the chief of staff. There was no orderly plan
here. There was no dialogue between the General Staff and Northern Command
and the field levels. The idea to capture Bint Jbail was born out of the
desperate attempt to create a picture of victory, because Bint Jbail is a
symbol. Because that’s where Nasrallah made his ’spider webs’ speech. But it
was clear that this was folly. Why are you even messing with a built-up
area? Seize the dominating terrain. Use infantry according to the original
plan. Don’t enter killing areas in which Hezbollah is waiting for you.
Listen to the command levels that are telling you that this is a mistake.”

You’re angry.

“Yes. Because spin is penetrating strategy. There is a discourse here. There
is no listening here. There is a misunderstanding that the land army is not
a plane to which you assign a mission and it attacks and returns. It is
impossible to order Northern Command to capture Bint Jbail by a snap
decision. As a result, soldiers are killed. As a result, the IDF goes in and
comes out and retreats. The deterrent image is damaged. At Maroun A Ras and
at Bint Jbail an unfavorable reversal was created in the battle picture.”

Your wife’s nephew was seriously wounded in the land skirmishes in the
village of Debel.

“The question that arises from Moran and from his buddies is a simple one:
Why? I am familiar with the loss of friends in war. And with bereaved
families, and with serious wounds. But if it is clear why and for what, it’s
easier. And here the young soldiers were sent to execute a mission whose
logic and purpose were not clear to them. Nor did they understand why they
found themselves in a house when it was clear to them that it wasn’t smart
to enter houses. When Moran was drafted I told his father one thing: no
tanks and no houses – I was that aware of the antitank threat. And when he
shouted there, ‘Don’t send us into houses,’ nobody listened. Two antitank
missiles entered the house, leaving nine killed and 32 wounded.

“So he and his buddies are asking why. Why the mistake in the tactical
execution. And why the entering and leaving villages. And I, with them, also
ask why. Yes, in war people are killed, wounded. But that is why the
political echelon and the military echelon have to make their decisions in
the most judicious and precise way. Not to get carried away. Not to act
emotionally. Not to kick a wall with a bare foot. Because when you kick a
wall with a bare foot the satisfaction of the kick lasts exactly as long as
it takes for the foot to make contact with the wall. After that the foot is
broken, while the wall continues to stand. And what happens in the meantime
is not only that soldiers are killed. What happens is that the most basic
element that leadership needs is eroded: trust. And that is what happened
here. The trust of the soldiers and the commanders in the political echelon
and in the senior command was eroded.”

You haven’t mentioned the successful operation at Baalbek.

“I am not convinced that what was done at Baalbek was a success. And I am
not convinced that what was carried out was justified in terms of risk, cost
and benefit. There is a certain type of operation that carries a very high
risk level. Therefore you attempt it only when the achievement it is meant
to generate is of strategic importance. I am not certain this was the case
here. I am not certain that the operation at Baalbek was not an adventure.”

And the final ground move that ended the war?

“That was a spin move. It had no substantive security-political goal, only a
spin goal. It was meant to supply the missing victory picture. You don’t do
that. You don’t send soldiers to carry out a futile mission after the
political outcome has already been set. I consider that corrupt.”

You are saying a very serious thing. Thirty-three soldiers were killed in
that operation. Were they killed to achieve a spin?

“Yes. And that is why people have to resign. For that you don’t even need a
commission of inquiry. Whoever made that decision has to assume
responsibility and resign.”

Does the prime minister have to resign?

“Yes. He can’t say he did not know. He cannot say that. Even if he was not
an army person in the past and was not prime minister or defense minister,
he knows how one goes to war. This is not the way to go to war. And he knows
how a war is managed. This is not the way a war is managed. Going to war was
scandalous and he is directly responsible for that. The management of the
war was a failure and he is responsible for that. The final operation was
particularly problematic and he was directly involved in that. He was warned
and he did not heed the warnings. Therefore he must resign.”

And the chief of staff?

“The chief of staff failed in the management of the war. He gave the
political echelon the feeling that he had the capability, which in practice
he did not have, to bring about a political achievement by means of an
extremely aggressive military operation. He entered the war without defining
it as a war and maybe without understanding that it was a war. He did not
understand the implications of the measures he himself adopted. He did not
mobilize the reserves in time and did not open the emergency depots in time
and did not activate the high-command base. He managed the war from his
office. He imposed missions such as Bint Jbail without any discussion and
without consulting with the command about the consequences and implications.
He created lack of clarity that rattled the forces in the field, caused a
loss of trust and generated chaos. He did not give the commanders in the
north backing. He did not build a structure that would help him overcome his
weakness in the land sphere. He managed the campaign arrogantly and
shallowly.”

Must the chief of staff resign?

“Yes. He should have resigned immediately after the conclusion of the
campaign.”

And the defense minister?

“The defense minister should be replaced. There is a certain justice to what
he says about being new and not having time to learn and not even hearing
that there were rockets in Lebanon. But the responsibility is on his
shoulders in his very agreement to take the job. Both he and the person who
appointed him are responsible for appointing an inexperienced person to a
sensitive post without taking into account that within a short time he would
have to manage a crisis. There is no doubt the leadership team that was
created here was perceived by Hezbollah as weak and inexperienced. Nasrallah
may have been taken by surprise at the aggressive reaction by the prime
minister, the defense minister and the chief of staff, but in the end he was
right in his assessment that this team was not capable of managing a war
properly.”

The price of moral fog

Has there been any improvement since the war? Is a learning process
discernible?

“The processes of cover-up and corruption are continuing. The prime
minister’s examination commissions are an escape. Instead of proving that he
is showing responsibility, the prime minister is fleeing from
responsibility. In the IDF, too, it’s clear there will not be truthful
investigations. Everyone is busy with his own personal survival. So without
changing horses and without a state commission of inquiry that will expose
the truth to everyone, there is no chance of starting the process of
rehabilitating the IDF. This is because the IDF is not destroyed. It does
not need organizational rehabilitation. What it needs is a rehabilitation of
values. Without the replacement of the political leadership and the senior
command, that kind of rehabilitation of values is impossible. It won’t
happen.”

You have lost me. What, exactly, do you mean?

“I see a war of cultures here. In recent years the public sector in Israel
has undergone a process of corruption. It began in politics but,
regrettably, also penetrated the army. A cycle of discussion has been
created here in which the core is not the essence but marketing. In the war
we paid a price for that. We paid a price for disengaging from the truth. We
paid a price for the loss of integrity and the moral fog. We paid a price
for accepting a process in which officers are promoted because they have
political connections.”

Allow me to translate. You are saying, in effect, that Ariel Sharon’s ‘ranch
forum’ corrupted the top level of the IDF.

“I have no doubt of that.”

You are arguing that the chief of staff and his deputy were appointed to
their positions because they are close to the ranch forum.

“That is what the papers said.”

And this corruption, which has its origins in the ranch forum, caused many
of the ills that were exposed in the war?

“The present chief of staff is a very talented person. He was an excellent
commander of the air force. But there is a moral debate here. He carries
with him a problematic message. The connection of officers to politics is
undesirable. It is a corrupt connection. There is a problem today in the IDF
of very senior officers who are too close to political elements.”

Can you give some examples?

“In the last Herzliya Conference the chief of staff said that our security
situation has never been better. The Iranian threat – not this year.
Terrorism is not an existential threat. Wow, terrific. Life is great. We
have it good here. That was an untruthful presentation for the inhabitants
of Israel. And it came ahead of elections. It was within the framework of an
attempt at a ‘compensation of hope,’ as the prime minister put it.”

Are you saying that the chief of staff promoted Kadima?

“It’s very possible. After the disengagement it was clear that we were
headed for a confrontation with extremist Islam, which viewed the
disengagement as a sign of weakness. I knew that and Military Intelligence
knew that. What should have been done was to prepare the IDF for a
confrontation. But instead, they forged some imaginary hope that turned out
to be an illusion. They placed a golden calf before the people of Israel and
another golden calf, instead of telling the nation the truth. The top level
of the IDF was a partner to this. Adlerism [referring to ad man Reuven
Adler] penetrated the army. What we had here was the sin of arrogance and
what we had was corruption. In the year that preceded the war there was a
worrisome shift for the worse in the IDF.”

Did you discern problems in the IDF even before the war?

“Certainly. The senior command distanced itself from details, and when the
senior command does that it creates laxness. You get slackness. The muscle
tone changes. At the same time, the processes of deep thought were severed.
A clear message was conveyed that everyone has to toe the line. That
decisions are made before the discussion and not in its course. Too much
value was attributed to charisma, to the speed with which decisions are
made. Anyone who held a different view was distanced or silenced. An
unhealthy spirit emerged of not being meticulous and of not making an
effort. Of uniformity of opinion and of complacency. And worst of all: a
feeling was created that anyone who preserved rectitude and integrity was
liable not to be promoted. A feeling was created that anyone seeking
promotion has to cross the lines and join the spinfest and learn how to
serve the politicians. That is why the chief of staff cannot now put the IDF
through a rehabilitation of values. Because he reflects saliently the flawed
culture of values from which release is needed, which has to be cleansed.”

The reservists who protested the war say that it revealed the fact that
corruption kills. Do you share that view?

“Yes. Corruption is the real threat to Israel. It is more dangerous than the
Iranian threat and the Palestinian threat. That is why we have to replace
the leadership now. Without the replacement of the leadership there will be
no cleansing and no cultural-values rehabilitation and also no preparedness
for the next war.”

Do we have to prepare for a war?

“Deterrence was harmed in the wake of the war’s failed management. Unjustly,
Israel is now perceived in the region as a state that is not able to protect
the lives of its citizens. The image of Israel and the image of the IDF is
bad. As chief of staff I was able to accept the Military Intelligence
appraisal that the probability of a Syrian surprise attack was very, very
low. Today, as a result of the war, that probability is no longer very, very
low. It is not extremely high, but it is more than low.”

In this state of emergency, do you see yourself taking over as chief of
staff for a pre-set limited period?

“That is not necessary. There are good people in the system who can do the
job. There is no need for an emergency appointment. But throughout my life I
have said that if I am wanted, I am here. It’s the same today.”

And if you were offered the post of defense minister?

“I will not enter the present alignment. It needs to be replaced. In other
circumstances it would be a hard dilemma.”

It’s said that you are connected to Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud.

“Nonsense.”

So maybe you will establish a new party?

“I am not looking for power. I hate it. But I do not flee responsibility. I
also hated the army, but after the Yom Kippur War I joined the career army.
In the first years it was hard for me to go back to the army every Sunday
morning, but I did it because I thought that I would be able to exert
influence from there. Today I don’t think politics is my way to exert
influence.”

But you are not ruling it out altogether. In an analogy to what happened to
you after 1973, maybe you will again feel that you are required to take
action contrary to your DNA and run for prime minister, despite everything?

“I don’t want to get into that. I am disturbed by what is happening in the
country. It’s burning in my bones. I care. But at the moment all I want to
do is share with the public my diagnosis of the situation, to share with the
public an understanding of the gravity of the corruption. If we do not act
immediately to uproot the corruption from the political establishment and
from the military establishment, it will endanger our existence. Arrogance
and corruption are today the existential threat to Israel.”

Originally published at customerservant.com. You can comment here or there.

These announcements, with interesting typos and phrasing blunders, were reportedly found in various synagogue newsletters and bulletins around the country.

1. Don’t let worry kill you. Let your synagogue help. Join us for our Oneg after services. Prayer and medication to follow. Remember in prayer the many
who are sick from our congregation.
2. For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
3. We are pleased to announce the birth of David Weiss, the sin of Rabbi and Mrs. Abe Weiss.
4. Weight Watchers will meet at 7 p.m. at the JCC. Please use the large double door at the side entrance.
5. Goldblum will be entering the hospital this week for testes.
6. Please join us as we show our support for Amy and Rob, who are preparing for the girth of their first child.
7. We are taking up a collection to defray the cost of the new carpet in the sanctuary. All those wishing to do something on the carpet will come forward
and get a piece of paper.
8. If you enjoy sinning, the choir is looking for you!
9. The Associate Rabbi unveiled the synagogue’s new fund-raising campaign slogan this week: “I Upped My Pledge. Up Yours.”

Originally published at customerservant.com. You can comment here or there.

A 2,000-Year-Old Debate on Whether to “Get Out of the Box”

By Yosef Y. Jacobson

This week’s portion (Vayelech) relates the dramatic events that transpired during Moses’ last day on earth. Among the many things he did on that fateful
day was commit the entire Pentateuch (the Chumash, or Five Books of Moses) to writing (1). The Torah scrolls we use today are copies of copies of copies
of the original Torah scroll written by Moses on the day of his passing, on 7 Adar of the year 2488, 3,278 years ago.

After completing the writing of the full Torah, Moses commanded the Levites, “Take this Torah scroll, and place it at the side of the Ark of the Covenant
of the Lord your G-d, and it shall be there as witness for you (2).” The Tabernacle in the desert and later the Temple in Jerusalem housed a Holy Ark containing
Two Tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments and the newly completed Torah scroll needed to be placed at the side of this Ark.

Not surprisingly, the exact location of the Torah scroll vis-a-vis the Ark inspired a debate between the Talmudic Sages (3). Rabbi Meir held that the Torah
scroll needed to be placed inside the Ark, at the side of the Two Tablets. Rabbi Judah was of the opinion that a shelf protruded from the outside of the
Ark and Torah scroll was placed on it.

The logic behind their argument lay in the proper interpretation of Moses’ words quoted above, “Take this Torah scroll, and place it at the side of the
Ark.” According to Rabbi Judah, “at the side of the Ark” is to be understood literally — that the Torah scroll ought to be placed not inside, but outside
the ark. Rabbi Meir, on the other hand, believes that the words “on the side of the Ark” merely tell us that the Torah scroll should be placed not between
the two Tablets, but rather at the side of the tablets, next to the interior wall of the Ark (4).

The Questions
Three questions come to mind.

First, why did Rabbi Meir feel compelled to impose an apparently twisted interpretation to the words “at the side of the ark”? Why would Rabbi Meir not
embrace Rabbi Judah’s simple and straightforward explanation that when Moses instructed the Torah scroll to be placed “at the side of the Ark” he meant
it literally?

Second, why was there a need to have the Torah scroll situated in such close proximity to the Ark? Would it really have mattered if the scroll were placed
at another location more distant from the Ark (5)?

And finally, we have discussed numerous times that the Torah and all of its commandments and episodes were transcribed to serve as a Divine blueprint for
living, as a road map for life’s challenging journeys. How can a 21st century human being glean wisdom and inspiration from an ancient commandment to place
a Torah scroll at the side of an ark, at a time when we have no Ark and no Tablets? What type of relevance can Moses’ instruction to the Levites carry
for our lives today?

The Root vs. the Branches

Our Sages have said (6) that the Ten Commandments presented at Sinai and inscribed on the Two Tablets of the Covenant embodied the quintessence of the entire
Torah, of all the Five Books. All perspectives, themes, ideas, laws, ethics and stories of Torah are encapsulated in the 620 letters of the Ten Commandments
(7). The Five Books of Moses, then, serve essentially as a commentary to the Ten Commandments, elaborating and explaining the background, meaning and significance
of these ten pillars of Jewish faith.

The Tablets, in other words, constitute the source, the epicenter, the nucleus of Judaism; the Five Books are the elaboration, the explanation, the outgrowth.

The debate between Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Judah on the kinship between the Torah scroll and the Tablets is not merely a technical argument concerning the
proximity of two physical entities, but rather a profound disagreement on the fundamental methodologies of the development and communication of Judaism.

How closely must we uphold the connection between the expansion of Torah and its core? Are we capable of “leaving the box” containing the Tablets without
losing the real thing?

This is by no means an abstract dilemma. How does one communicate ancient truths to a young generation molded in a secular weltanschauung? How does one
present a Torah which is more than 3,000 years old to a modern 21st century Palm addict? How do we pass on the gift of “In the beginning G-d created heaven
and earth” to Stanford and Yale graduates for whom Charles Darwin holds more sway than Moses?

Are we to present Judaism in its original form and composition, without employing modern-day terminology, techniques and structures of thought? Or must
we take Judaism “out of the box” and re-package it in contemporary language?

I once received an e-mail from a weekly reader, a very learned and observant Jew from Los Angeles: “Rabbi Jacobson, would you cease transcribing your psychobabble
and begin teaching good old Judaism.”

So I wrote back: You are of the opinion of Rabbi Meir; my e-mails follow the path of Rabbi Judah…
The Light and the Vessels

The Talmud (8) says something profoundly moving about Rabbi Meir: It is known to the Creator of the world that Rabbi Meir surpassed his entire generation
and had no equal. Why then was the law not established according to his opinion? Because the sages could not comprehend the depth of his wisdom. Rabbi
Meir was misunderstood even by his own colleagues; his ideas were too advanced for his times.

“Meir” in Hebrew means “the illuminator (9).” The light that emanated from Rabbi Meir’s mind and heart was too profound for his colleagues and students.
Why? Because Rabbi Meir was of the opinion that all interpretation and development of Torah thought must remain intimately bound with its source. The commentary
and exposition may never be removed from the space of their progenitor. The Torah should be placed right near the Tablets. To dilute the light in order
to accommodate the vessels or students, would do an injustice to the integrity of the message.

According to Rabbi Judah, however, the word of G-d needs to leave the perimeters of the sacred Ark and be brought outward.

Judah, Yehudah in Hebrew, means surrender or submission. One has to surrender his or her own elevated state of consciousness in order to reach out and present
the Torah to the student who would not be able to absorb the intense light dwelling “inside the box.” Judaism, Rabbi Judah argued, needed to be “packaged”
in a manner that would make it accessible, relevant and pertinent to people trained in a different mind set and educated in secular schools of thought.

The Critical Link
Yet here is the critical catch: Even according to Rabbi Judah, the Torah must always remain connected to its source by means of a plank of wood.

What this means is this: There is a difference between presenting Judaism in terminology and methodology that can penetrate modern man vs. attempting to
prove that Judaism conforms to modern trends of thought. The former path is noble; the latter path is intellectually dishonest, as it does not seek to
discover the authentic message of Judaism, only to create a fluffy Judaism that does not challenge the comfort zones of the progressive man and woman.

This distinction between the two approaches has been profoundly blurred in recent years, and the results have been obvious. The former approach has given
countless students the opportunity to challenge themselves by the divine truths of Torah; the latter approach has brought down the Torah to suit the fancy
of modern man. In the end, it comes down to the question of how confident you are in the truth of Torah: Are you employing modern thought merely to communicate
Torah, or are you employing it to legitimize Judaism? (Or are you unaware of the distinction between the two, which may be worse…)

What Rabbi Judah is saying is that as far out of the box as you travel, a “plank of wood” ought always to connect you to the original, pristine “Tablets”
inside the box. The link between the nucleus of Torah and its expansions must always remain evident. If not, you may be depriving yourself and your students
from the vibrant, pulsating, divine wellsprings of G-d’s word (10).

~~~~~~~~

Footnotes:
1) Deuteronomy 31:9. Cf. Rambam’s introduction to his Mishnah Torah.
2) Deuteronomy 31:26.
3) Bava Basra 14a-b, quoted in Rashi on this verse.
4) See Bava Basra ibid.
5) In fact, the location of the Torah scroll made it unavailable for use, since nobody was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies where the Ark lay. There
are two opinions of if and when this Torah scroll in the Ark was used. According to Rashi (Bava Basra 14b), during the ceremony of Hakhel, the king of
the Jewish people would read chapters of the Torah from this scroll. Also, the High Priest read from it on Yom Kippur. According to Tosafos (ibid. 14a),
this scroll was taken from the Ark only for the purposes of maintenance and it was never put to use.
6) See Talmud Shabbas 87a; Rashi to Exodus 24:12; Baal Haturim to Exodus 20:13.
7) This number is not coincidental: it represents the 613 biblical mitzvos and the seven rabbinical injunctions.
8) Eiruvin 13b; ibid. 53a.
9) See Talmud Eiruvin 13b.
10) This essay is based on a talk delivered by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Shabbas Vayelech 5729, September 1968. Published in Sichos kodesh 5729 pp. 9-19. Large
parts of the talk were later published in Likkutei Sichos vol. 9 pp. 196-203. For another English rendition of this talk, see Week In Review (edited by
Yanki Tauber) vol. 5 number 32.

My thanks to Shmuel Levin of Pittsburgh for his editorial assistance.

Originally published at customerservant.com. You can comment here or there.

Soup is a healthy and nutritious way to start any meal and in these days of higher food prices it’s also an economical way to stretch your food budget. A
large pot of soup can produce enough soup for 8 to 10 hungry adults and many recipes can be double or tripled so that you can freeze the extra
for those days when you’re just too tired to do anything more than defrost and serve.

Soup Tips:
1. Make soup 1 to 2 days in advance to let flavors blend.
2. Reserve vegetable cooking water and use in place of plain water to improve soup flavor.
3. If soup tastes thin or weak, add bouillon cubes or powder to boost the flavor.
4. Cool soup uncovered as quickly as possible by placing pot in sink of ice water.
5. If you’re using beer or wine in the soup, reduce salt content slightly.
6. When adding wine to soups add it just shortly before serving and do not let it boil.
7. Too much wine will make soup bitter. 1/4 to 1/3 cup per quart is plenty.
8. If soup is too salty, add half a peeled raw potato and simmer about 15 minutes to absorb excess salt and then remove potato.
9. 1 teaspoon of sugar or light brown sugar will mellow the acidity of tomato soup.
10. Vegetable cream soups can be thickened by pureeing some of the vegetables with a bit of the liquid.
11. Add fresh herbs at the end of cooking.
12. 1 quart soup equals approx. 6 first-course servings or 3 to 4 main course servings.

Originally published at customerservant.com. You can comment here or there.

According to unconfirmed reports, Toys R Us, (otherwise affectionately known as We Be Toys), is being accused by the NYACLU of violating a shopper’s civil rights because they asked her not to breastfeed on the flor, in front of God and everybody.

The New York Civil Liberties Union claims that Toys “R” Us employees harassed a shopper who was breastfeeding her infant this week at the 42nd Street store.

In a letter sent to company headquarters in Wayne, N.J., yesterday, a lawyer with the NYCLU claims the company violated the state’s basic civil rights law
and demanded a public apology and compensation for the mother.

A lawsuit could follow if the demands are not met, the lawyer, Elisabeth Benjamin, said, in an interview yesterday.

The NYCLU claims that when the mother, Chelsi Meyerson of Brooklyn, began to breastfeed, five different saleswomen confronted her, according to the letter.
At least one saleswoman told Ms. Meyerson that breastfeeding on the store floor was “inappropriate” because of all the nearby children, the letter stated.

Let’s get something straight.
Being able to breastfeed your spawn in public, with no regard for public decency, is not a civil right. If you’re going to breastfeed, take it somewhere where everyone else doesn’t have to watch.
I don’t care how natural it is, or healthy for the child, or whatever.
Taking a dump is pretty natural and healthy too, but I don’t see anyone advocating it being done in stores, in public view either.
Or is that one on the way?
And suing for damages?!
How do they come up with that one?
The woman’s lucky she wasn’t kicked out of the store, because that’s exactly what I would have done.
Having one breast exposed, no matter what the reason, isn’t any different than having both exposed.
And if we’re going to allow for nursing mothers to show off in public, then let’s just have the strippers do it too, and the ACLU needs to help Janet Jackson sue for backpay since she was pretty much turned into persona non-grata after the Super Bowl a couple of years ago.
Stupid.
Just completely, totally stupid.
And people wonder why I don’t believe in evolution.
Survival of the fittest is a joke.
Stupid people have too many other people within society willing to enable them, which keeps them on a survival plan that’s way to long and drawn-out.