Friday, June 26, 2015

Iran, Obama and Israel: a Gemara lesson?

The word, Gemara, is an Aramaic word that typically refers to the Jewish Talmud. The Talmud is the Jewish Oral Tradition. This Oral tradition explains and is the legal commentary on the Torah (“Judaism: The Oral Law—Talmud and Mishna (jewishvirtuallibrary, no date). Without it, much of the Torah appears vague or unclear. With it, our Jewish religion comes to life.

But the word, Gemara, also has a more specific meaning. You see, the Talmud has two parts, the Mishna and the Gemara. The Mishna is a compilation of laws gathered from the Torah, along with minority opinions, value statements and observations about those Torah references (ibid). The Gemara follows a Mishna quote. It is a compilation and collection of oral discussions about the contents of that particular quote. These discussions cover each detail of that Mishna citation.

A Mishna might be ten lines long. The Gemara discussion might be ten pages long—or longer.  

For centuries, these discussions had been oral. But they were finally organized and written down over a period of time some 1500-1600 years ago.

The Talmud's discussions are recorded in a consistent format (ibid). For example, a law from the Mishna is cited. This is then followed by rabbinic deliberations on its meaning (those ten+ pages). These rabbinic discussions are called, ‘the Gemara’ (ibid).

When someone refers to ‘a Gemara’, he is referring to one of those rabbinic discussions. One such discussion in the Tractate, Sotah (8b), begins with a statement in a Mishna (ibid, 8b) which states, “According to the measure with which one measures out [his actions], [the Heavenly tribunal] measure for him [in return]”.  The need for these brackets is to fill in the remaining parts of a statement; this stylistic uniqueness is commonplace in the Oral tradition. This is why it is not recommended to study the Talmud alone. One could misstate or misunderstand what is written. It takes at least two people searching commentary together to figure out the meaning of what is written.

This is also why the ArtScroll edition of the Talmud has become so popular. It provides the individual student the commentary and background information necessary to understand the basics of what’s happening on each line of the Talmud.

According to the ArtScroll edition of the Talmud, this quoted statement above (Sotah, 8b) means that, “in whatever manner one conducts oneself, Divine Judgment deals with him in a similar manner” (ibid, 8b2-2, Note 15). This is known as ‘measure-for-measure’. The ArtScroll commentary adds that ‘G-d treats a person in this way so that he will recognize that [what happens to him] was a reward or punishment directed by Divine Providence’ (ibid).

This particular Gemara excerpt reminds me of US President Barack Obama’s dealings with Israel and Iran. Look at his behaviour: concerning Israel, Mr Obama has gone on record to state he is Israel’s best friend (Coleen Curtis, “President Obama Tells Israeli People: The U.S Is Proud to Be ‘Your Strongest Ally and Your Greatest Friend’", The White House Blog, March 20, 2013). He has said that the “U.S. has Israel's back and that it would initiate a military strike on Iran if Tehran failed to pull the plug on its nuclear arms program” (Amrutha Gayathri, “Is President Obama Israel's Best Friend?”, International Business Times, March 7, 2012).

But since making these statements, Mr Obama has worked to betray Israel (Rachel Levy, “Obama Aides Lay Groundwork to Betray Israel at UN Security Council”, The Jewish Press, March 21, 2015). Despite his professions of friendship with Israel, he’s “constantly proven that he is not a friend to Israel” (Shawn Hannity transcript, “Is President Obama betraying Israel?”, Fox News, March 2, 2015).

-Obama has repeatedly stated that ‘settlements’ are ‘illegitimate’ and must stop (actually, this isn’t just a betrayal of Israel, it’s a betrayal of the Torah, which states that the Jewish people are to ‘settle’ Israel—a ‘settlement’ process that includes that same Judea-Samaria which Obama calls ‘illegitimate’ and which the Torah calls ‘Israel’) (ibid).

-Obama refused to have his picture taken with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—and walked out of a dinner meeting with Netanyahu (ibid), abandoning Netanyahu without comment.

-Obama was caught on an open microphone exchanging with then-French president Nicholas Sarkozy derogatory remarks about Netanyahu (ibid).

-During the 2014 war with Gaza, Obama didn’t ‘have Israel’s back’, but was instead highly critical of Israel (ibid).

-As a result of actions by Obama, relations with Israel have never been worse (ibid).

With regards to Iran, you saw in the quote above (Amrutha Gayathri, above) that Obama has said he’d attack Iran if Iran didn’t ‘pull the plug’ on its nuclear ambitions. He also gave Israel’s Netanyahu his personal commitment “to do whatever it takes to prevent Iran from producing an atomic bomb” (Jeffrey Goldberg, “Obama's Crystal-Clear Promise to Stop Iran From Getting a Nuclear Weapon”, The Atlantic, October 2, 2012).

Now, Obama is proposing to allow Iran’s nuclear facilities to stay in place. He’s also, it seems, agreed in secret documents to deliver to Iran “high-tech reactors and other state-of-the-art equipment” that would “modernize and improve Iran’s nuclear program” (Adam Kredo, “Iran demands more nuclear concessions”, Washington Free Beacon,” June 24, 2015).

That’s not keeping a promise. That’s betraying a promise.

Iran has stated repeatedly—even during these nuclear negotiations—that its intent is to destroy Israel. Any assistance the US gives to the Iranian nuclear program is a direct threat against Israel. It’s also a signal that Obama has not been the friend to Israel he has said he is.

In the Tractate Sotah (11a), we learn how G-d measures out punishment to a gentile leader (Pharaoh) according to how that leader measured out his own actions towards the Jews.

If you live in America, here’s a piece of advice. Think about Obama’s behaviour. Think about what happened to Pharaoh in the Exodus story. Then, make aliyah. Come to Israel. Walk away from one who betrays the Jewish nation.

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