Remembering David Horowitz: A New Series Inaugurated

We are pleased to announce a new featured series on our Web site titled “Remembering David Horowitz.” The monthly feature will chronicle events and little known facts from the life and times of this remarkable man.

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David Horowitz was the dean of the United Nations Press Corps, serving since the founding of the world organization in San Francisco in 1945. He was also the President and Founder of “United Israel World Union” (1943-44). You can read more of his remarkable life and career here.

Those familiar with United Israel World Union will recognize many of the stories, but hopefully benefit from much of the detail and facts that form “the rest of the story”.

For those unfamiliar with the Horowitz saga, we are pleased to share these incredible episodes as a way of honoring Horowitz for his selfless, untiring devotion for the cause of universal Torah faith, the establishment and well-being of the State of Israel and humanitarian ideals.

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The series will be written by Ralph Buntyn, executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets. He is currently working on a biography of David Horowitz covering the years 1945-2002, providing a sequel to the Horowitz autobiography “Thirty-Three Candles” published in 1949.

Who Was Gedaliah and Why a Fast Remembering His Murder?

Ross Nichols has a fascinating article on Gedaliah–a biblical figure whose name would register with very few people today outside of observant Jewish circles. Today marks one of the four “minor” fast days of Judaism, called “the fast of Gedaliah,” commemorating the murder of Gedaliah in the days of Jeremiah following the Babylonian invasion of Judah and the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple in the 6th century BCE. These four fast days (sunrise to sunset) are all associated with the disasters before, during, and after the great Destruction, and they are alluded to in Zechariah 8:18-19. What is particularly fascinating about Gedaliah, which Ross explores in his article, is the connection between him and his family (especially his father and grandfather) with Jeremiah and his priestly family–reaching back to the days of King Josiah when the “book of the Torah” was discovered. Nice Sunday afternoon reading…here is the link to Ross’s article.

Destroying Jerusalem

A Silent Message for a Day of Shouting

IMG_4364The teaching today is an important, and yet silent message for a day that is most often associated with making noise. This class is on the biblical instructions concerning a day that is called Yom Teruah. This ancient festival is mentioned two times in Scripture (Leviticus 23:23-25 & Numbers 29:1-6). It is mentioned nowhere else in the Bible. Ross sets forth to uncover insights into the meaning of this Festival of YHVH. He seeks to answer several questions related to this first day of the seventh month. What is Yom Teruah? When is it celebrated, and finally how is it to be kept? In this teaching, Ross carefully works through the two passages from the Torah that mention this festival and then he shares a message that is rarely discussed on what many have come to call the Festival of Trumpets. What is the silent message the Ross proclaimed on the day of “shouting?” You will not want to miss this teaching.

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Spanking Children: What Does the Bible Really Say?

The indictment of NFL player Adrian Peterson by a Texas grand jury for reckless or negligent injury to a child has generated an extensive discussion in the media on the topic of disciplining children by “spanking,” or corporeal punishment, as commonly practiced in our society. Recent polls show that up to 70% of Americans, both Black and White, approve of some form of corporeal punishment of children–with Evangelical Christians coming in at over 85%. 19 States in the USA allow some form of “paddling” in public schools, see a listing here–with Texas leading the pack, having recorded a total of 49,000 incidents in a recent report–and a new kind of “red State” map here.

Max Ernst Virgin Spanking

Max Ernst, Virgin Spanking the Christ Child with three Witnesses 1926

The Peterson case is, of course, extreme–but not necessarily uncommon. He used a “switch,” a slim, leafless tree branch, to beat his 4-year-old son, raising welts on the youngster’s legs, buttocks and scrotum, but millions of Americans–by far the majority of the over-40 generations–can testify to being “spanked,” or in some cases “beaten,” with belts, switches, cords, and other objects that left their markings on legs and buttocks.

Spanking in one form or another is as American as apple pie–and the practice is deeply rooted in, and most often defended by, a reading of traditional translations of the English Bible. The oft-quoted quip “Spare the rod and spoil the child” never appears in the Bible but in the book of Proverbs one finds a string of passages that seem not only to condone spanking, but also direly warn parents that unless they use the “rod” on their children they will utterly fail in their upbringing. Here are the quotations in the traditional King James Version translation:

Prov 13:24: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him often.” Prov 19:18: “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” Prov 22:15: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” Prov 23:13-14: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell (i.e. death).” Prov 29:15: “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”

These six verses in the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible, as well as a single passage in the New Testament, that speaks of God’s disciplining of us as a father disciplines his son (Hebrew 12:6-7), have become the flimsy foundation for justifying a world of harm and abuse to children over our 300 year cultural history–often with lifelong detrimental consequences, see for example here. Sincere parents, who love their children, but are stuck with a literal reading of badly translated verses taken out of context, are utterly convinced they are doing the right thing.

On the one hand we have testimonials from the majority of us who were “spanked” or disciplined with corporeal punishment growing up, with seemingly no psychological damage, and on the other hand Christian Evangelical preachers and teachers regularly assure parents that spanking will not harm a child, it is positively commanded by God! This Christian reinforcement of “spanking,” based on a misreading of these verses of the Bible, is undoubtedly what continues to convince parents of the younger generations, who might have more of a cultural aversion to such practices, that they are carrying out God’s will. Here are the cautious instructions on the popular the Focus on the Family web site:

When you spank, use a wooden spoon or some other appropri­ately sized paddle and flick your wrist. That’s all the force you need. It ought to hurt — an especially difficult goal for mothers to accept —  and it’s okay if it produces a few tears and sniffles. If it doesn’t hurt, it isn’t really discipline, and ultimately it isn’t very loving because it will not be effective in modifying the child’s behavior. Have the child lean over his bed and make sure you apply the discipline with a quick flick of the wrist to the fatty tissue of the buttocks, where a sting can occur without doing any damage to the body. You want to be calm, in control, and focused as you firmly spank your child, being very careful to respect his body.

spanking_1-620x320Presumably this “calm” and “loving” beating of a child is to be administered to the naked buttocks of a child–which surely raises some other issues in terms of shame, dignity, and personal respect. Accordingly parents are told that such a practice should not be carried into the pre-teen-aged years!

The fact is these very verses in Proverbs have not only been poorly translated but they have been irresponsibly read out of their historical context and misapplied. For example, the word translated “rod,” that might have inspired an Adrian Peterson, or perhaps my grandmother, to go outside and “cut a switch” off a tree in the backyard, is used by King David in an entirely different way in Psalm 23–The LORD is my Shepherd–where we have the line: “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…” (v. 4). The Hebrew word translated “rod” (Shevet) clearly does not have to refer to physical beating but can be a metaphor for general discipline and “leading,” as with sheep and a shepherd. It is also the word that refers to a tribal leader–who carries a staff or sceptre of leadership–not to beat his fellow clan members, but to lead and direct them. It is used over 180 times in the Hebrew Bible–never with the connotation of beating. These and other verses, as well as the overall teaching about disciplining children in the Bible is ably discussed by Jerusalem-based Christian biblical scholar Samuel Martin, who has produced a wonderful book, Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy, available as a free PDF download here with no cost or obligation. Martin has been joined by a significant number of other informed Christian scholars and commentators who are questioning the both the traditional translation and interpretation of these overly quoted verses from the book of Proverbs, see for example, here. I recommend Martin’s work for those biblically oriented folk out there who have wondered about what the Bible really says regarding using corporeal punishment of any kind to discipline children–or for that matter anyone who wants to be more informed on this controversial topic.

Rosh Hashanah–What Does it Really Mean?

Ever since I first began studying Judaism seriously as a young man, I have felt that there is something not quite right about Rosh Hashanah. In particular, there seems to be a complete disconnect between the holiday described in the Torah and the holiday as understood by most Jews. I had been taught that Rosh Hashanah was the Jewish New Year, the anniversary of the creation of the world, and a day of judgment. But the Torah itself mentions none of those three reasons for celebrating the holiday—and does not even call it Rosh Hashanah. Still more perplexing, in contrast to the other seasonal holidays on the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah seems to commemorate no important moment in the national history of the Jewish people. Rabbi Nathan Laufer

Today on the Jewish calendar is the holiday called Rosh Hashanah–literally “the head of the year.” Jews wish one another “a sweet, peaceful, and prosperous” New Year and even the non-Jewish world has caught onto the day as the “Jewish New Year.”

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In contrast Christians (and thus our “secular culture”) begin the New Year in the dead of winter–as the long dark winter days finally grow longer (marked by December 21st and the Winter Solstice). Ancient Hebrews, as reflected in Exodus 12:1-2, reflecting the ancient Babylonian practice, began the year in the Spring (March/April), which was the “turning of the year,” with the arrival of new life in the Spring (marked by March 20th and the Vernal Equinox). Of course these seasons only make sense in the Northern Hemisphere.

So what is the meaning of Rosh Hashanah? Rabbi Nathan Laufer has a very perceptive piece on the subject titled “Remembrance of Trumpets Past,” in Mosaic on-line magazine, exploring its potential meaning in our oldest texts of the Torah, where this day is called both the “day of the blast,” most likely referring to the sound of the Shofar or ram’s horn, as well as a “a day of remembrance”–but the question is–remembering what? You can read his complete in-depth treatment here. I highly recommend it. It is the most intelligent piece I think I have ever come across on Rosh Hashanah.

Hear and Do!

900px-Cirrocumulus_to_Altocumulus-300x225This week, Ross covers material contained within Torah readings Nitzavim and VaYelech – the two shortest readings in the entire cycle. He begins with the words of Israel’s ancient prophet Amos concerning a famine in the land; not a famine of bread and water, but a famine of hearing the words of God. Ross works through various passages in Deuteronomy related to the covenant and its relevance for hearers today. He stresses the importance of “hearing” and of “doing” the words of the covenant and points out that living a Torah life is possible today, contrary to teachings that suggest otherwise. The Torah is NOT in heaven, nor is it beyond the sea. It is in your mouth and in your heart to do it!

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The Commanded Way

10wordsThis week’s teaching is from Torah Reading Ki Tetzay. It contains more commandments than any other Torah portion. The more than 70 commandments in this Torah reading cover a wide range of subjects, but Ross focuses his teaching on the underlying theme of keeping the commandments. He begins the class by speaking of an age old enemy known as Amalek and then relates that this enemy is fighting against the very Kingdom of God, a kingdom based upon justice and righteousness. Today, the enemies of the kingdom oppose “the way” of that holy kingdom, a way summed up in the commandments. They express this opposition by declaring that living by the commandments is legalistic, archaic, according to the flesh, etc. But this is in direct contradiction to the plain teaching of Scripture. Living the commanded way brings life, blessing and good. Ross shows that Torah living is a challenge, that it is not easy, but neither is it too difficult. You will not want to miss this teaching.

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The Prophet Nation

Scale_of_justiceIn this week’s teaching, Ross shares a message from Torah reading Shofetim. It is based upon two Hebrew words often translated as Justice and Righteousness. He illustrates how these two words form the foundation for Israel’s eternal mission, and define the Way of YHVH. Ross then demonstrates from Scripture that Israel is the Servant of YHVH – a servant with a task. The task is shown to be “messianic,” and as Ross explains, many of the prophecies attributed to a messiah figure are actually referring to the nation of Israel. Is Israel referred to as messiah? Can all YHVH’s people be prophets? What is required of a prophet? You will not want to miss this challenging teaching.

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The Great Test

gerizim-ebal-300x199In this week’s lesson, Ross teaches on the great test of faith contained in Torah Reading Re’eh. He begins by presenting two ways – the blessing and the curse. The way of blessing is for those who listen to the commandments, the way of the curse is for those who will not listen to the commandments, and who turn aside from the commanded way. Ross goes on to point out that the way of the curse is associated with walking after other gods. He goes on to describe the distinction between the true faith and a way of apostasy. Is your faith good and upright in the eyes of YHVH or right in your own eyes? How does one demonstrate love for God? You will not want to miss this teaching.

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Israel as the Chosen People

treasure-300x247In this week’s class Ross teaches on the subject of Israel’s status as the chosen people. More and more, this status is challenged in the world today. It is more important now than ever before, that Israel understand and embrace this status, but what does the Bible mean when it speaks of being chosen? Chosen for what? This subject is one that many are uncomfortable with. Does this imply that Israel is God’s favorite? In this teaching, Ross carefully works through some key passages to shed light on this important topic. What does it mean to be called God’s special treasure among all the peoples? Is Israel the chosen people because of their righteousness, or are they to be righteous because they are the chosen people. You will not want to miss this informative class.

Click here to listen to this teaching.