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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Which witch is which?

B"H

It says in Shmot (Exodus) "Mahashefa al tikhye" -- a witch will not live. I think it's interesting that despite this admonition, and the general negative feelings about witches in the Tanakh (Jewish bible), it is fictional stories about witches that most show Torah ethics for the late 20th Century/early 21st Century generations.

The popular ideology of late states that there is no such thing as good and evil -- it is all relative. There is a strong "ethic" (if I can use that word for it) pushing moral relativism. "Moral Relativism" basically holds that there is no "good" or "evil", everything is relative and must be taken within the context of the setting or the society it happens in.

The Tora and people of strong moral fiber know this is not the case. There are absolutes of "good" and "evil". Murder is evil, this is why it is called "murder" and not "killing". "Killing" can be justified; "Murder" cannot. This is why the Tora says "you shall not murder" not, despite multiple inaccurate translations, "you shall not kill".

As I mentioned in a previous entry in this blog, J.K. Rowling, in her Harry Potter series, makes it quite clear that there is morality, there is a system of "good" and "evil" and there are absolutes of each. Lord Voldemort is evil, not because of who he is or what his standing the in the community is. He is evil because he chooses to kill and destroy and subjugate others.

Perhaps not as popular as the Harry Potter series, but equally moral in its message, is the television program "Charmed". "Charmed" is about three sisters who are witches. They use their powers to demons and warlocks (the powers of evil). They make no bones about their mission in this world -- they are here to fight evil. Throughout the years this series was in first run (it is currently shown in reruns) the sisters "vanquished" (which, basically, means killed) demons and other evil beings. These demons were looking for power and would kill anyone who got in their way (or people who could give them power).

What I loved about "Charmed" was that they were unapologetic about the sisters' work. The program didn't get wishy-washy. Even when it seemed counter-intuitive, they fought evil.

And that is what we need to do. We need to realize that there is only one way to defeat evil -- we need to destroy evil. As long as evil is out there, we are in danger. Both "Charmed" and "Harry Potter" ended their series with good triumphing over evil and a look into the future -- a future without evil.

This said to me that the fight, no matter how horrible it is, is worth the effort. It is worthwhile to do whatever necessary to destroy evil and return Good in the essential sense. It is the Platonic Good, the ideal Good, the quintessential Good. And, after all, isn't that what we all want?

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Peace Demonstration

B"H

I heard after Shabbat yesterday that there was a peace demonstration in Israel. I found this rather amusing, mostly in the ironic sense. It kind of struck me as amusing in the same way it would strike me as amusing for a child to throw a tantrum until there was snow on the ground. The government of Israel can't make peace any more than the child's parents can make it snow.

There's a saying (I'm not sure who originated it, but it is so true): "If the Arabs put down their guns tomorrow, there would be no conflict. If the Israelis put down their guns tomorrow, there would be no Israel." This isn't just a bit of doggerel -- it's very, very true.

The roots of this "conflict" are in the corrupt demagogues who rule the area and the rabid anti-Jewish feelings the pervade the earth. Because there are only about 15 million Jews in a world of six and a half billion people (with most of the Jews concentrated in the US -- mostly the Northeast, Florida and California -- and Israel -- Only 5 countries have Jewish populations greater than 1% of their population and in no countries do Jews make up more than 2.5% of the population), most people in the world have never met a single Jew in their entire lives. They depend on the media for their view of the Jews and Israel (mind you, the entire population of Israel is barely over 7 million with Jews making up less than 5.5 million).

It is amazing that so many people see the Jews (who make up about .2% of the world's population) and Israel (which is populated by barely over .1% of the world's population in an area that is less than .15% of the world's land mass*) as the central "problem" of the world.

But this world view stems from the inability (or unwillingness) of the leaders of the surrounding countries to give their people a reasonable standard of living. The leaders of most of the countries in the Middle East are corrupt and self-centered. They need to get the minds of their people away from blaming them for their poverty and their harsh lives. Toward this end, they give the people something and someone to hate, a scapegoat to direct all their vitriol toward. That something is Israel and those someones are the Jews.

If the people in the countries that surround Israel were ever to ween themselves from the constant nursing at the breast of hatred they might actually notice that the people in Israel have the highest standard of living in the Middle East. They would notice that in Israel, all are welcome (whereas the rest of the Middle East, for all intents and purposes, is Judenrein[free of Jews] and relatively free of Christians and other non-Muslims), in Israel we agree to disagree without killing our detractors, in Israel women are not treated like chattel. And their leaders are afraid of this. So, in order to keep their people "in place", they feed them a consistent diet of hatred.

Despite this unvarying diet of animosity, there are people who are realizing that Israel is the solution not the problem. There are Muslims and former Muslims (like Salmon Rushdie, Irshad Manji, Nonie Darwish and others) and non-Muslims who grew up in Muslim countries or spent a lot of time around Muslims (like Brigitte Gabriel, Joseph Farrah and the late Oriana Fallaci) who are raising their voices and working hard to bring true peace to the world.

It is unfortunate that it will probably take war to reach that true peace because it will only be through war that we will be able to show the majority of Muslims that their lives don't have to be horrible. We need to be in a position to show these people that Islam can be a religion of peace and that everyone prospers when we all live in peace. But as long as these countries are governed by unscrupulous men who don't have their people's best interests at heart there can never be true peace.


* These percentages mean that there are about 2 Jews for every 1000 people in the world and 1 Israeli for every 1000 non-Israelis and that Israel has 1 1/2 square kilometers for every 1000 square miles in the world. By way of comparison, there are 50 Americans per 1000 people in the world, about 323 Christians per 1000 people and about almost 170 Muslims per 1000 people on earth.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Imagine......

B"H

Imagine:

Police in New York arming burglers and theives in hopes that they will fight with (and kill) all the murderers and rapists on the streets.

Imagine:

Mexico starts bombing Southern Texas, killing people, including children, and putting the people in Southern Texas in fear of their lives. Mexico claims they are doing this because the US took Texas in an illegal war.

Imagine:

Young Canadian men and women strap bombs to their bodies and detonate them in the middle of crowded US places like Grand Central Station in New York, a McDonald's in Chicago, and an Atlanta Braves games. They are protesting, we are told, the US "annexation" of the states of Oregon and Washington.

How long do you think the US government would stand for these things?

So why is Israel expected to give guns to the terrorist Fatah organization? Why is Israel expected to give land (NOT, mind you, give BACK, since it never belonged to the Palestinians in the first place) to their enemies who will use the land to bomb Israel, like they are using the land formerly known as Gush Katif. Why is Israel expected to open its land up to people who are trying to kill Israel's people, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Baha'i, Hindu, Zoroastrian and just about every religion on the planet, with homicide bombs?

Israel is held to a different standard from all the other countries in the world. For some reason, the world feels the need to allow Israel's enemies to do whatever they want. They feel the need to kowtow to the Islamofascists and criticize Israel for everything Israel does (and even fabricate lies to add to the criticism while ignoring example after example of Palestinian horror).

I can't really understand this. Why do people think that if they allow the Islamofascists free reign the Islamofascists will leave them alone?

At the New England Holocaust Memorial is a poem (attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)):

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me,
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

The people of the world need to realize that just as the Islamofascists have subjugated the people of Afghanistan, Iran, and are working on subjugating the people of France, Italy, Scandinavia, Holland and many other countries in Europe, just as the people of India know, and many people in Israel and the US know, the Islamofascist will not stop with Israel! They are intent on turning the world into one gigantic Sharia government. And unless we stop them, unless we stand up to them, unless we fight them with everything we have, that's just what they are going to do.

People who value freedom and liberty need to fight and need to vote in leaders who know the importance of the fight. After 9/11, so many people knew what had to be done. Why have they forgotten in the space of 6 years? Nothing has changed except the urgency of the fight and the urgency of the victory.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Why Do the PMs all have Major Brain Leak?

B"H

I'm trying to figure out why the people in the Prime Minister's position in Israel are so stupid. Maybe I'm missing something. But I can't understand it.

The first time I was in Israel, Shimon Peres was PM and he spoke to the people in my program. I was overwhelmed with one feeling about him as he spoke -- what a total jerk he was. I know many politicians aren't quite Rhodes Scholars, but Peres really struck me as being totally full of himself, totally unconcerned about anything outside himself, and just totally empty of basic knowledge.

Now when I say "basic knowledge", I mean things like basic history. For example, they don't seem to know, or tend to forget, about another terrorist (who was palsy-walsy with The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem) who decided that the "final solution" to the "Jewish problem" was to "liquidate" all the Jews. I wonder if Peres, Sharon and Olmert would have given Hitler all he wanted. I'm kind of glad they weren't around during the pre-WWII (and early WWII) era or we all might not be here period.

But we don't even have to go back to WWII to see the folly of giving land to the Palestinian Authority. All we have to do is go back a couple of years to the time when the Israeli government handed over Gush Katif on a silver platter. There were no concessions made by the PA for this. The good people of Gush Katif, who bravely acted as a buffer zone between Palestinian missiles and the rest of the Israeli population while turning the dessert of Gaza into a short-lived paradise, were unceremoniously removed from their homes, homes the Israeli government had encouraged them to build. Many of these people are still living as refugees, paying mortgages on homes that don't even exist anymore.

And how did the PA repay us for such an altruistic, one-sided show of magnanimity? They rewarded us by turning our former paradise into a war zone, a place from which to lob bombs as a premium for our largess.

So why, pray tell, are the leaders of the free world encouraging Olmert to make the same mistake again? Why is the world so quick to repeat the mistakes of Gaza, of Oslo, of Munich? Haven't we yet learned that evil people will never be satisfied with our beneficence? Why must we repeat the same mistakes over and over and over again ad nauseum (and until the literal end of the world, at the rate we are going)? Why can't we find leaders who are intelligent enough to understand that the PA is only one part of the Islamofascist puzzle. Al Qaida, the PA, Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Aksa, Fatah -- all are different names of tentacles of the evil octopus. And our world won't be safe until the entire monster is destroyed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Vietnam and My Generation

B"H

I grew up in the Vietnam era. By the time I was old enough to know, most of us knew that the war in Vietnam was a huge mistake. We had seen the footage on TV. We heard about the massacres of civilians. Our side, we thought, had never massacred civilians before. We learned about all the terrible things that were happening and we protested. We protested with rallies, we protested with letters to the editor or articles, we protested with songs. And the more we protested, the more we felt that war was just not the best way to resolve any issue.

As a matter of fact, in my opinion, the Vietnam War and its predecessor, the Korean War, did a lot to damage the heroic image of the military in the US.

World War II was the classic war of Good vs. Evil. Hitler epitomized the evil in this world and, while his partners in war (Mussolini of Italy and Tojo of Japan) weren't quite as evil as he was, the US and its allies had right on their side to the extent that they were fighting this evil. And after WWII, people saw war as a way to deal with evil, a way to fight the enemies of righteousness, liberty and freedom.

Unfortunately, most of the people who are around today didn't live through WWII. Most of the information we have about war is from M*A*S*H, the very popular TV show (from a movie that came from a book) about doctors in the Korean War. Though the program took place during the Korean War, we all knew in out heart of hearts that they were really talking about the Vietnam War.

And that left us with a bad impression of war. Part of that impression is well-deserved. War, after all, is fought by young men (and women), people who have their whole lives ahead of them unless their lives are cut tragically short. War causes destruction of lives and of property leaving many people dead and many more homeless and mourning dead relatives.

But there are times when war is necessary. And, because of the bad taste Vietnam and Korea left in our collective mouths, and on our collective psyches, people have a hard time understanding this. They have a hard time understanding that, had Israel lost any of the wars it has been involved in, from the 1948 War of Independence, to the 1956 Sinai Campaign, the 6 Day War of 1967, the 1973 Yom Kippur War and on and on to the recent Lebanon War, Israel would have ceased to exist.

So Israel is condemned for defending itself. But that's not the only issue with war in the recent past. The US and Israel both need to fight to survive. We need to fight evil in every form.

But because we in the US fought an unfortunate war that lasted for over 10 years and was broadcast into our living rooms in every gory detail, people still think, as Benjamin Franklin said, that there's never been a good war or a bad peace. But I disagree with both ends of that statement. WWII was a good war. What we have now with terrorists and Islamofascists is a bad peace.

And, so, we need to see that Vietnam is not the only face of war. We need to realize that in some cases, war is the only answer. We cannot afford to allow our distaste of war to cloud our judgment. We need to be strong and show the enemies of freedom that they can't get away with threatening our lives and our way of life. We need to be the Supermen and fight for Truth, Justice and the American Way. And we need to do it now.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Evolution, Revolution

B"H

I am currently reading a book about the Darwin awards. These awards are given to people who, by their own stupidity, take themselves out of the gene pool. It's a generally enjoyable and informative book that is easy to read in the facilities. But I got to a segment this morning that really bothered me. The authors of this book decided to use this chapter as a platform to make fun of people who don't treat the theory of evolution as "halakhat Tora mi'sinai" (the law of the Tora given "on high" to Moses on Mount Sinai).

I'm as scientific as the next person (Math and Science were my best subjects in school -- with history a close third), but I have a problem with people acting as though evolution (a theory, remember?) is definitely true and the Tora is definitely false (they then act, by extension, as though anyone who believes in G-d or follows any religion is a fool).

Granted, most of the people who are acting this way have only been exposed to the Christian version of the creation story and the fundamentalist interpretation (which is that the Tora version is totally literal).

I have to admit that I wasn't there when the world came into being, but, then again, neither were any of the scientists who bow down at the altar of evolution. So my version of what happened is no less valid than their version. (Keep in mind, science thinkers, our knowledge of science is far from complete -- much of what we "knew" just 50 years ago has been debunked or replaced. How do you know we won't find something in the next 50 years that will make people who swallowed the "evolution" theory whole look like fools?)

This is my version, more or less. G-d created the world. Over time (which was short for G-d but long for us) G-d created the stars and the planets, the nebulae and the galaxies, the sun and the stars and the moons. Then (S)He turned to Earth and began creating life on earth. G-d started with plant life (because that would be food for animal life and it makes sense to put the food on the table before you invite the guests). Then G-d moved on to the animal life, the lower animals, creepy crawlies and water life, then reptiles (in there, at some point, was the age of the dinosaurs), then birds, then mammals and then people. When G-d wrote the Tora to describe all this, (S)He used time terms that people could comprehend, using the model of a week, so that (S)He could give people a forced rest on the 7th day by saying "even G-d rested on the 7th day". This, of course, is metaphorical. G-d doesn't need to rest (and, for all intents and purposes, can't since G-d is the One who runs the show, so to speak.)

Now, I have to tell you. I don't label people who don't believe this version "fools" or "heretics". Nobody who is alive today was there then, so no one knows for sure. I believe that G-d wrote the Tora, so I believe that every word in the Tora is true. But I also know that the Tora is made up of two parts -- the written and the oral Tora. Without the Oral Tora, the written Tora doesn't make sense. It's as though you read your roommates notes to a lecture class -- you really don't understand the notes without the lecture.

My point in all this is why do people feel that it's either one or the other? Why do people think they have to reject one story for the other? I suppose this comes down to the fundamentalist way of looking at the "bible". There are people out there who believe the "bible" is meant to be taken literally (something that is nearly impossible to do, IMHO). The strangest part of this is that they believe that it is meant to be taken literally as it is translated, into English, in the King James version! That is, not only is it meant to be taken literally, but it's meant to be taken literally in a language it wasn't even written in!

Hebrew is a very rich language, with nuances of meaning that just can't be captured in a translation. For example, it says that the Children of Israel came out of Egypt "Hamushim". The commentaries come up with at least two meanings for this word -- armed, or 1/5 (from the same root as Hamesh, which means 5, Hamsa, which is supposed to represent the hand of G-d, and Humash, the Hebrew word for the 5 books of Moses). Another example is the Hebrew word "Et". "Et" is a preposition that really has no meaning in English (or any other language I've been exposed to except Hebrew). I can't come up with a translation for it, but I know when I'm writing or speaking where it belongs in a sentence. In the Tora, there are usually additional meanings gleaned from the word "Et" -- as in the commandment "Kabeid Et Aviha V'Et Imeha" "Honor your father and mother" -- the "Et"s there are said to represent grandparents or older siblings.

So what is the "take home" message I'm aiming for here? I guess it's threefold:
1) The Tora (and "bible") are not meant to be taken literally
2) There is no reason one can't believe in both the Tora ("bible") version of creation and evolution
3) The Tora and Science are parts of the same whole -- G-d created them both. And, therefore, they can't be contradictory. I agree with Maimonides on this -- if you find a contradiction, you must be misunderstanding or misinterpreting either the science or the Tora.

Mennonite Company and Israel

B"H

Our local Jewish newspaper's lead story this week was about a store in our community called "Ten Thousand Villages". This store is a franchise (it might be lurking in your community too). It is owned by the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

Investigation by the newspaper into the policies of this organization began with a local Jewish resident who went into the store and found out that the store doesn't buy from Israel or China. She understood why they would not want to buy from China (China's record of human rights violations and trade abuses is well known), but why Israel (and why was Israel the only other country included in their ban)? This was especially vexing because this store's policy included Jewish Israel in their ban but not "Palestine".

Without going into the litany of lies and misinformation this group is spreading about Israel (it is extensive and it appears to me in the article that this group is very dangerous -- I did a google for their site and searched "Israel" there and got this list of articles about Israel) but lies and misinformation aside, I'm at a loss to explain something....

I grew up in the 60s -- I was part of the pacifist anti-war generation. I understand the pacifist perspective and, for the most part, agree with it (though I withhold my pacifism when the choice is "fight or be killed", but I digress....). So I am totally floored when a group of people who is supposedly dedicated to pacifism supports a group of people whose only recent "contribution" to society as a whole has been war, killing, destroying and just general mayhem.

This group of people took the Gaza areas of Gush Katif which were thriving with farms and beautiful homes and turned it into a barren area, devoid of vegetation, used it then (and use it now) and a launching pad for missiles (which they use to attack and kill Israeli citizens, including children) and a training area for terrorists. This is what they do with land that was handed over to them on a silver platter. They didn't have to promise (much less keep the promise) to recognize Israel and condemn terrorism.

But the Mennonite Central Committee in its infinite "wisdom" has decided that these warlike people are more deserving of financial (and moral -- boy, is the the wrong word for the Palestinians or what????) support than the peaceful citizens of the State of Israel, a Sovereign state, a member of the United Nations since they've been a nation, a seeker of peace, a defender of its own people, who, I might add, include Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha'i (this peaceful religion thinks so highly of Israel that its world headquarters is in the Israeli port city of Haifa), includes people of all racial and national origins, and, while it is a Jewish state (the only Jewish State in the world in an area of land about the size of New Jersey), has pretty much universal suffrage and politicians from all ethnic groups, a country that is a standout in the area of Human Rights in a part of the world where Human Rights violations are so common they aren't even questioned.

By throwing their support behind the evil regimes of the Palestinians, the Mennonite Central Committee places itself squarely in the camp of the liars, the haters, and the war mongers. And, as long as they do that, we have to make sure we never give them a cent of our hard earned money. We can't be sure it won't go to support our enemies and the enemies of the free world.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Free Elections

B"H

I went this morning to vote, as I do twice a year (once for the primaries and once for the general election). It's something that as an American, I take for granted. I also take for granted that no one is going to arrest me, beat me up, kill me or generally cause me pain or injury for whom I vote.

On my way home (we live less than three blocks from the polling place, so I walked), I was thinking about elections. You see, it's not elections that make a free society, it's a free and secret election. Only in an election where your vote is totally secret and totally your choice can elections be totally free.

Dictatorships make a show of being part of a free society by staging elections. Much of the time, there isn't even another candidate -- it's just a "yes" or "no" vote and woe be it to anyone who votes "no"!

Even in the elections in the Palestinian territories where Hamas won the elections against Fatah, the election was rigged because people feared for their lives if they voted for Fatah. And, lest you think this was like an election between John Kerry and George W. Bush, Fatah is no more a partner for peace than Hamas.

The thing is that in the Western world, we are so used to secret ballots that we don't realize what the enemies of liberty are doing. We hear the world "election" and we think freedom. But elections aren't free if there's no secret ballot. Elections aren't free if the "politicians" use terror tactics to force people to vote for them. Elections aren't free if there really is no choice.

So, next time you hear of an "election" in a country where there never were elections before, check to see if there's really a choice. And check to see if the people are really the ones choosing. If these elements aren't there, you know the "election" is only for show.

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Monday, November 5, 2007

"Perfect" Jews

B"H

I know I'm slow on the uptake when it comes to news (this is because I'm not a news hound and I depend on my best friend to keep me abreast of anything important). I just heard from her about Anne Coulter and her comment about what she considered a "perfect world". She said that to her, the NY Republican convention was the perfect place, everyone happy, republican and Christian (mind you, I can't imagine there would be anything that big in NY without any Jews, but we'll go on from here.....) The interviewer, who just happened to be Jewish, asked her about Judaism and Jews and she said that they needed to "perfect" the Jews.

"Perfect" us? If I didn't know this was code (J4J code, that is) for "converting" us, I would be wondering what in heck she meant. Well, for those of you who didn't know, "perfecting" Jews means converting us to Christianity. After all, in their eyes, it doesn't matter how you live your life. It doesn't matter if you are a good person or a bad person, if you accept JC as your "personal savior" then you will go to heaven when you die and if you don't accept JC as your "personal savior" then you will burn for all eternity in the pits of hell. (Mind you, Dante, in his book "The Inferno" -- part of his "Divine Comedy" -- shows most of hell as being icy and cold, like evil people's cold hearts, but I digress).

A Rabbi I know told a story about a cousin of his who was a Rabbi in Jerusalem and he was walking with his students on Ben Yehuda Street, a pedestrian mall area in the center of Jerusalem. It was the "holiday" season (that is, the winter holiday season). There was a man in middle of the pedestrian area talking about the "Good News" he wanted to share. The Rabbi decided to talk to this man himself, rather than have one of his students "shoo" the man. He went over and engaged the "Good Newsler". "So," the Rabbi asked, "what is this 'good news'?" "Oh," said the Good Newsler, "that 'he' died for our sins. And if you accept 'him', you will go to heaven!". "Oh, that's interesting," said the Rabbi. "I have a question for you -- the Neurenberg criminals, who were responsible for the murder of millions of people, went to mass before they were hanged. Where did they go after they died?" "Oh," said the Good Newsler, "they went straight to heaven." The Rabbi continued his question,"and the 1.5 million Jewish babies who the Nazis murdered, where did they go?" The Good Newsler answered, "they went to hell." The Rabbi smiled. "Well, I have to tell you, if I have a choice between going to heaven with Nazi war criminals and going to hell with 1.5 million Jewish babies, I'd rather be in hell."

As I said in my last blog entry, Christians don't seem to get it. It's funny (that's funny ironic, not funny "ha,ha") that Christians don't seem to realize that without Judaism there is no Christianity. Christianity is based on Judaism. But Christianity contradicts the Tora, so it can't be true.

I ask Christians (who are open to talking to me about it) if they believe in the "Old Testament" and they generally tell me that, yes, they do. And I ask them if they believe in the "New Testament" and they generally tell me that, yes, they do. So I tell them that if you believe in the "New Testament", you must believe that an Omniscient, Omnipresent G-d changed His/Her mind. If G-d changes His/Her mind, how do you know when (S)He stops? How do you know that the Muslims aren't right, or the Mormons?

I then tell them that I know what I believe is right because G-d doesn't change His/Her mind. The Tora is it.

So in our mind, "perfection" or "perfecting" ourselves (tikkun in Hebrew) means moving the observances of our lives more into sync with the Tora, not less. We perfect ourselves and the world (tikkun olam) by trying our hardest to do what Hashem (G-d) wants of us as stated in the Tora.

Perfection in the Tora view would be achieved only when the entire world starts keeping the Tora, the Gentiles keeping their mitzvot (laws) and Jews keeping our mitzvot.

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