Rabbi Lindsey bat Joseph’s address at Augustana Campus, U of A

On Tuesday of this week, I attended a talk by Rabbi Lindsey bat Joseph, titled, “Dancing on our Enemy’s Grave?: Coming to Terms With Victory and Peace,” in the chapel of Augustana Campus, the University of Alberta. The talk was organized by the Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life.

Rabbi Y. Lindsey bat Joseph is director of the Sol Mark Centre for Jewish Excellence, in Vancouver, B.C. She has been teaching for over 25 years, primarily in adult and post-secondary settings, and is currently a faculty member at Alexander College in downtown Vancouver. She has also acted as a moderator for Simon Fraser University’s Philosophers’ Café. She was ordained as a Reform Rabbi under the auspices of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Rabbi bat Joseph served as Rabbi-Educator at Temple Beth Ora of Edmonton for 11 years. She is committed to a Judaism that is inclusive, egalitarian, and creative in its approach to meeting the needs of contemporary Jews. Since moving to the West Coast, she has been involved with small Jewish communities on the B.C. Mainland and on Vancouver Island as well as teaching and studying in the Greater Vancouver Region. She holds a Bachelors Degrees in Education and in Religious Studies and Applied Ethics, a Masters Degree in Jewish Letters from the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion (Reform seminary), and a Masters degree with a major in Moral Philosophy. In 2005, she was awarded the Alberta Centennial Medal for community service. She was a contributing writer to the Jewish Lights Press Women’s Haftarah Commentary and had an article published in the Central Conference of American Rabbis Journal in August 2013.

The following are my notes from Rabbi bat Joseph’s talk, with apologies for any and all errors, omissions, etc.

Rabbi bat Joseph began by saying that one of the main impetuses for this talk was the death and aftermath of Osama bin Laden.

When terrorists are successful in killing their victims, they are portrayed by the media as rejoicing over their enemies. However, when terrorists are defeated, reactions are mixed and more ambiguous. According Rabbi bat Joseph, the reaction of governments were muted, they were not triumphant when the enemy, bin Laden was killed.

In our world today, civilians are increasingly on the front lines, as they are kidnapped by terrorists. Rabbi bat Joseph said that Israel has dealt with this since 1948.

Countries and governments don’t want to negotiate with terrorists, but what about a government’s responsibility to its citizens?

According to Rabbi bat Joseph, there are two seemingly contradictory passages concerning ethical-moral approaches to the enemy in the Book of Proverbs. Proverbs 24:17, and 11:10. Proverbs 24:17 states: “Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble.” Whereas Proverbs 11:10 states: “When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices; and when the wicked perish, there is jubilation.” (Note: I am quoting from the NRSV Bible).

Rabbi bat Joseph pointed out that there is a Midrash on Jewish festivals which places limits on rejoicing in light of the suffering of one’s enemy. One example she cited was pouring wine cups only partially full in the Passover Seder, reminding the Jewish participants that the enemy Egyptians suffered from the deaths of their loved ones from the plagues and in pursuit of the Hebrew slaves during the exodus from Egypt.

In Jewish exegesis of the Proverbs eleven passage, the text is in the context of judgment and justice. Rabbi bat Joseph employed the phrase “carefully restrained joy” when justice prevails.

When Osama bin Laden was killed by the U.S. military in 2011, many in cities across the U.S.A. celebrated his death, even with fireworks. However, governments around the world, including the U.S. government had a more muted response.

In 2004, Sheik Ahmed Yassin was killed by an Israeli missile. Even though he was a well-known terrorist, his death was not celebrated with rejoicing in Israel. Jewish tradition values human life.

The Jewish principle of redeeming the captive is more difficult in today’s world. For example, today we know—and Israel has experienced this—if terrorists are released they go home to plan more attacks.

Rabbi bat Joseph, making reference to the value of a captive, cited Mishnah Gittin 4:6: “Captives may not be ransomed for more than their value, for the sake of social order.”

When a person is taken captive, it is prominent in the media. Sometimes prisoners have been exchanged in Israel for dead bodies. Israel as a country is divided on these exchanges—do they or do they not encourage more kidnapping? What is the price for doing something and for doing nothing? What is a reasonable price to pay for ransom? There are no easy answers according to Rabbi bat Joseph.

When ISIL is defeated, Jewish tradition says that we will not dance on the enemy’s grave.

Following Rabbi bat Joseph’s talk, there were several questions.

On the matter of a peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians, Rabbi bat Joseph said she thinks the two-state solution is the right one and will eventually bring peace. She also stated that Israel is most likely going to end up abandoning some of the settlements, since they will be part of the Palestinian state.

When peace finally comes, Rabbi bat Joseph believes that economically both Israel and Palestine will rely on each other in a similar way that Canada and the United States do now. She also noted that a similar thing happened between Germany and Israel. Today both countries are on reasonably good terms with one another economically and politically.

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Nelson Mandela: A brief tribute

Receiving Doctor of Laws Degree at Ryerson University, Toronto

Receiving Doctor of Laws Degree at Ryerson University, Toronto

Yesterday, December 5, 2013, Nelson Mandela died at the ripe old age of 95 years. What an incredible life he lived! He started out in a rural area of South Africa as a humble animal herder. He then moved to one of the nation’s urban centres to eventually become a lawyer and begin his long fight for freedom and democracy against the South African Apartheid regime. His fight for freedom and democracy landed him in jail for 27 years. His time in prison however gave him an opportunity to grow richer and stronger in character as a human being. After his release from prison in 1990, he continued his long struggle as South Africa’s most gifted and inspirational political leaders, and eventually was elected as the nation’s first black President in 1994. A year earlier, he and President deKlerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

Mandela has been described, among other things as: The African Lincoln, noble yet humble, Father of the nation [i.e. South Africa and/or of the whole continent], prophet, brilliant leader, courageous peacemaker, and so forth. We Canadians awarded Mandela an honourary citizenship and made him a member of the Order of Canada, we also named a school after him. Of course, in many respects Mandela was also not only a citizen of his own nation, but a citizen of every nation-especially regarded as such, I think, because of his political wisdom and compassion for humankind.

 

Without question, he was an inspirational exemplar and hero of the black citizens of his nation, and of blacks in general in all of Africa and around the globe. Yet, he had feet of clay like the rest of us, and he at times was the first to admit it. He had, in his earlier years, intimidated and bullied an East Indian leader, removing him off the stage at a public gathering. In humility that bespeaks repentance, he admitted on one occasion publicly that he had failed as, and had been a poor husband to his first wife. He also publicly spoke words of compassion rather than condemnation regarding his second wife, when he was asked about an alleged adulterous relationship with another man.

 

Yet his charisma and sense of doing the right thing at the right time in a symbolic way, earned him the respect of even his worst enemies-including P.W. Botha’s wife, whom he visited shortly after her husband’s death.

 

I think the most significant thing we as Christians can learn from the life of Nelson Mandela is his brilliant capacity to forgive and work for reconciliation with his enemies. In this regard, he was extremely successful, and deserved winning the Nobel Peace Prize. South Africa could have devolved into a brutal civil war, however against all the odds, Mandela’s brilliant leadership led the nation into a state of forgiveness, peace, justice and reconciliation. In this way, most likely he was influenced by such non-violent peacemakers as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Mohandas K. Gandhi, [and, most of all, I would like to think, Jesus himself our Saviour and Messiah].

 

May this legacy of Nelson Mandela live on in the history of South Africa, as well as the history of humankind! In closing, I would like to let Nelson Mandela speak for himself, I believe the following quotation epitomises the man and his life: “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” REST ETERNAL GRANT NELSON MANDELA, O LORD; AND LET LIGHT PERPETUAL SHINE UPON HIM.

 

Daily Prompt at The Daily Post @ WordPress.com

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/daily-prompt-global/

 

“Think global, act local.” Write a post connecting a global issue to a personal one.

One could write a lot on this theme, however I believe it begins with the love of God towards us and all of creation. God loves us more than we are able to comprehend and God loves creation, delighting in its beauty, complexity and diversity.

   Since we are created in God’s image; since God is love; since we have been loved and are loved by God; we can respond by also loving God, one another and caring for the whole creation. One of the most important ways we do this is by living peaceful lives.

   The book of Isaiah gives us a beautiful vision of perfect shalom-peace; of a world where weapons of war are turned into tools for peace—spears into pruning hooks and swords into ploughshares; a world where we shall no longer know—or engage in acts of—war anymore; a world where even natural predator instincts will not exist and enemies will live in peace and love together. Jesus epitomised this vision while dying on the cross and praying for his enemies: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

   When we live with the vision of shalom-peace, then we endeavour to: love God and our neighbour and yes, even our enemies, solve conflicts through respect and honest dialogue, be responsible stewards of creation by reducing our carbon footprint, planting more trees and gardens, supporting local-grown economies rather than exploiting cheap labour with appalling working conditions in the two-thirds world, slowing down to smell the flowers rather than living in the fast lane, caring for, respecting and protecting the most vulnerable in our midst including the elderly, differently-abled and children, working to support freedom, democracy, education, healthcare, along with the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter and meaningful work for everyone in the world. A tall, perhaps naïve, and impossible order, yes, and for human beings alone impossible, however with God’s help and activity, all things are possible.

Amnesty International launches human rights mission to South Sudan

Amnesty International Canada’s Secretary-General Alex Neve arrives today in South Sudan. He is joining an important human rights research mission called to investigate attacks on villages and aerial bombings of the tens of thousands of civilians living in vulnerable conditions along the border region of Sudan and the world’s newest country, South Sudan.

   We wish Alex and the team of AI researchers our best, and pray for their safety as they travel to remote and volatile areas, doing the important work of gathering first-hand reports from those affected by the violence in the region.

 

 

Instead of arresting George Clooney and his dad, arrest despot Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and other despots

 Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. This is certainly one of those Stories, even though George Clooneyand his dad have been released from jail, they should never have been arrested in the first place. Rather, despots like Omar al-Bashir should be arrested immediately and brought to justice before the International Criminal Court, which issued a warrant for his arrest back in 2009. Yet, he is allowed to travel freely, and avoid being brought to justice for his alleged crimes.

   In this same vein, I have recently supported Amnesty International’s appeal to the UN Secretary General, urging further arrests of fugitives from the International Criminal Court.

   The 11 with outstanding International Criminal Court arrest warrants are: Democratic Republic of Congo: Bosco Ntaganda, whom the ICC has charged with enlisting and conscripting children under 15. The Congolese government is shielding him following his integration into the national army.   Uganda: Accused Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony and LRA commanders Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo, and Dominic Ongwen continue to evade trial after being charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes. They and the fighters they lead continue to move between the Central African Republic, north-eastern DRC and South Sudan and commit crimes.   Sudan: President Omar al-Bashir has been charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Darfur region. He has yet to be arrested despite regularly conducting state visits abroad. Sudanese officials Ahmad Harun and Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein and accused “Janjaweed” leader Al! i Kushayb are also at large.   Libya: Saif al Islam Gaddafi and Abdullah al-Senussi are charged with crimes against humanity committed during the crackdown on protesters in Libya. Saif al-Islam was captured on 19 November 2011, but has not yet been surrendered to the ICC.

   The UN has a critical role to play by providing political, diplomatic, and logistical support for efforts to arrest individuals named in ICC arrest warrants and to protect civilians in countries where the ICC is investigating crimes.

   I encourage readers of my blog to take action to protect victims of war criminals, please consider these actions: 1. Write a letter – A hand-written letter is Amnesty International’s oldest, and time-proven method of getting results. Please address the points in our online action, and address your letter, “Dear Secretary General” Address your letter to: Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon United Nations Secretariat New York, NY 10017 Affix $1.80 (Canada postage). Or you can go here to take action on this issue online. 2. Make a financial gift in support of Amnesty International’s human rights work – Your donations help A.I. mobilize letter-writers, publish highly respected human rights reports, and campaign directly to decision-makers. To donate now, go here.

Thank you and may God bless you as you work for justice and peace for the world’s most vulnerable.

 

The depraved United Nations

On September 20, the vast majority of the 192 member countries of the United Nations will probably “recognize” a Palestinian state.

The “recognition” will not be accompanied with caveats about dismantling PA terrorist organizations such as Al- Aksa Martyrs Brigades or ending the incitement to hatred and murder of Jews and Israelis that pervades all levels of Palestinian society. There will be no requirements for demilitarization. Nor will negotiations by the PA to unite with the genocidal Hamas be curtailed. The Palestinians will not be obliged to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and will continue demanding the Arab right of return to it.

Renewal of negotiations with Israel are unlikely because the Palestinians realize that their goals can be more effectively achieved by leveraging international pressure on us to make further unilateral concessions – and dismantle us in stages.

This event will be followed by Durban III, a UN endorsed hate fest designed to delegitimize and demonize the Jewish state. The principal participant will be Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who recently predicted that the UN recognition of Palestinian statehood would represent the first step toward the inevitable elimination of the Jewish state. Like the preceding meetings in 2001 and 2009, this purportedly “anti-racist conference” will overwhelmingly concentrate on spewing venom against Israel.

The founders of the United Nations, who after the defeat of Nazism endorsed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, could never have visualized that the organization they created would become controlled by dictatorships and tyrannies and transformed into a platform for promoting genocide.

You can read the whole article here.

Bruce Cockburn prophet of our time

I’ve always appreciated the music of Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn. His lyrics remind me of the classic Hebrew Bible prophets, full of passion for justice, spoken (in Bruce’s case, sung) with deep love and care. Many of his songs are laments like the prophetic oracles of Jeremiah or Amos and others. In this video [scroll down to play it] Bruce sings one of his quintessential laments on behalf of the two-thirds world, “Call It Democracy.”