Month: December 2016


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Religious Toleration Began in England

Religious Toleration in England

GP: The Industrial Revolution could not have occurred without the development of religious toleration in England. There is a definite historical progression from religious toleration to political toleration to the affirmation of property rights and the enforcement of patents. And there is a paradoxical, dialectic relationship between patents and progress. On the one hand patents give the inventor the incentive to imagine and create. On the other hand, it holds other back from improving upon his invention.

By W.K. Jordan

The Laymen and the Moderates:

The revolutionary period witnessed the triumph of the lay spirit in England.  We have previously observed that an important body of lay thought had been developing in England which had embraced the principles of religious toleration and which was disposed to wrest from the hands a divided clergy the solution of the complex problems of the settlement of religion and the treatment of dissent.  The outbreak of civil war had the immediate effect of intensifying religious conflict within the realm of losing for the time being the destructive forces of fanaticism and sectarian intolerance.  The cool and reasoned persuasions of moderate counsels were for the moment engulfed by a tide of religious extremism.  It was again demonstrated that war and the fanaticisms which undergird it are destructive to the slow but constructive processes by which reasonable and moderate men seek to solve the problems that confront mankind.


The Columbia Space Shuttle Disaster

Dogged Engineer’s Effort To Assess Shuttle Damage

Over and over, a projector at one end of a long, pale-blue conference room in Building 13 of the Johnson Space Center showed a piece of whitish foam breaking away from the space shuttle Columbia’s fuel tank and bursting like fireworks as it struck the left wing.

In twos and threes, engineers at the other end of the cluttered room drifted away from their meeting and watched the repetitive, almost hypnotic images with deep puzzlement: because of the camera angle, no one could tell exactly where the foam had hit.

It was Tuesday, Jan. 21, five days after the foam had broken loose during liftoff, and some 30 engineers from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and its aerospace contractors were having the first formal meeting to assess potential damage when it struck the wing.

Virtually every one of the participants — those in the room and some linked by teleconference — agreed that the space agency should immediately get images of the impact area, perhaps by requesting them from American spy satellites or powerful telescopes on the ground.

They elected one of their number, a soft-spoken NASA engineer, Rodney Rocha, to convey the idea to the shuttle mission managers.

Mr. Rocha said he tried at least half a dozen times to get the space agency to make the requests. There were two similar efforts by other engineers. All were turned aside. Mr. Rocha (pronounced ROE-cha) said a manager told him that he refused to be a ”Chicken Little.”

The Columbia’s flight director, LeRoy Cain, wrote a curt e-mail message that concluded, ”I consider it to be a dead issue.”

New interviews and newly revealed e-mail sent during the fatal Columbia mission show that the engineers’ desire for outside help in getting a look at the shuttle’s wing was more intense and widespread than what was described in the Aug. 26 final report of the board investigating the Feb. 1 accident, which killed all seven astronauts aboard.

The new information makes it clear that the failure to follow up on the request for outside imagery, the first step in discovering the damage and perhaps mounting a rescue effort, did not simply fall through bureaucratic cracks but was actively, even hotly resisted by mission managers.

The report did not seek to lay blame on individual managers but focused on physical causes of the accident and the ”broken safety culture” within NASA that allowed risks to be underplayed. But Congress has opened several lines of inquiry into the mission, and holding individuals accountable is part of the agenda.

In interviews with numerous engineers, most of whom have not spoken publicly until now, the discord between NASA’s engineers and managers stands out in stark relief.

Mr. Rocha, who has emerged as a central figure in the 16 days of the Columbia’s flight, was a natural choice of his fellow engineers as a go-between on the initial picture request. He had already sent an e-mail message to the shuttle engineering office asking if the astronauts could visually inspect the impact area through a small window on the side of the craft. And as Mr. Rocha was chief engineer in Johnson Space Center’s structural engineering division and a man with a reputation for precision and integrity, his words were likely to carry great weight.

”I said, ‘Yes, I’ll give it a try,’ ” he recalled in mid-September, in the course of five hours of recent interviews at a hotel near the space center.

In its report, the independent Columbia Accident Investigation Board spoke of Mr. Rocha, 52, as a kind of NASA Everyman — a typical engineer who suspected that all was not well with the Columbia but could not save it.

”He’s an average guy as far as personality, but as far as his engineering skills, he’s a very, very detail-oriented guy,” said Dan Diggins, who did many of the interviews for the report’s chapter on the space agency’s decision-making during the flight and wrote that chapter’s first draft before it was reworked and approved by the board. Never in hours of interviews did Mr. Diggins find a contradiction between Mr. Rocha’s statements and facts established by other means, he said.

Mr. Rocha’s experience provides perhaps the clearest and most harrowing view of a NASA safety culture that, the board says, must be fixed if the remaining shuttles are to continue flying…

Mr. Rocha said that when he learned of the foam strike in a phone call on Friday afternoon, he gasped. All weekend he watched the video loop showing the strike, and at 11:24 p.m. on Sunday, he sent an e-mail message to the manager of the shuttle engineering office, Paul Shack, suggesting that the astronauts simply take a look at the impact area.

Mr. Shack never responded. But by Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Rocha was showing the loop to the so-called debris assessment team at the meeting in Building 13, where he had his own office. As arresting as the images were, the team agreed, they were too sketchy to draw conclusions without new images.

To engineers familiar with the situation, the request was an easy call. ”We all had an intense interest in getting photos,” said Steven Rickman, a NASA engineer whose staff members served on the assessment team. ”As engineers, they’re always going to want more information.”

In his second e-mail appeal for satellite imagery, Mr. Rocha wrote in boldface to Mr. Shack and other managers, ”Can we petition (beg) for outside agency assistance?”

But Mr. Rocha did not know that the strange politics of the NASA culture had already been set in motion. Calvin Schomburg, a veteran engineer who was regarded as an expert on the shuttle’s thermal protection system — though his expertise was in heat-resisting tiles, not the reinforced carbon-carbon that protected the wings’ leading edges — had been reassuring shuttle managers, Mr. Diggins said. Mr. Schomburg either ”sought them out or the managers sought him out to ask his opinion,” Mr. Diggins said.

Whether because of Mr. Schomburg’s influence or because managers simply had no intention of taking the extraordinary step of asking another agency to obtain images, Mr. Rocha’s request soon found its way into a bureaucratic dead end.

On Wednesday, an official Mr. Schomburg had spoken to — Ms. Ham, the chairwoman of the mission management team — canceled Mr. Rocha’s request and two similar requests from other engineers associated with the mission, according to the investigation board. Late that day, Mr. Shack informed Mr. Rocha of management’s decision not to seek images.

Astonished, Mr. Rocha sent an e-mail message asking why. Receiving no answer, he phoned Mr. Shack, who said, ”I’m not going to be Chicken Little about this,” Mr. Rocha recalled.

”Chicken Little?” Mr. Rocha said he shouted back. ”The program is acting like an ostrich with its head in the sand.”

Mr. Shack, Mr. Schomburg and Ms. Ham declined to comment for this article or did not respond to detailed requests for interviews relayed through the space agency’s public affairs office.

On the day he talked with Mr. Shack, Mr. Rocha wrote an anguished e-mail message that began, ”In my humble technical opinion, this is the wrong (and bordering on irresponsible) answer.” He said his finger hovered over the ”send” key, but he did not push the button. Instead, he showed the draft message to a colleague, Carlisle Campbell, an engineer.

”I said, ‘Rodney, that’s a significant document,’ ” Mr. Campbell said in an interview. ”I probably got more concerned or angry than he did at the time. We could not believe what was going on.”

But Mr. Rocha still decided he should push his concerns through official channels. Engineers were often told not to send messages much higher than their own rung in the ladder, he said.

Taking the Issue Higher

The next day, Mr. Rocha spoke with Barbara Conte, a worker in mission operations, about spy telescopes. In a written response to reporters’ questions, Ms. Conte said her colleague ”was more keyed-up and troubled than I had ever previously encountered him.”

That day, she and another NASA employee, Gregory Oliver, took the issue to Mr. Cain, the Columbia’s flight director for landing, at an unrelated meeting.

”We informed LeRoy of the concern from Rodney” and offered to help arrange an observation by military satellites, Mr. Oliver wrote on March 6 — a month after the accident — in a previously unreleased e-mail chronology of shuttle events. The message continued, ”LeRoy said he would go talk to Linda Ham and get back to us.”

About two hours later, at 12:07 p.m. that day, Mr. Cain sent out his own e-mail message saying he had spoken with management officials, who had no interest in obtaining the images. Therefore, Mr. Cain wrote, ”I consider it to be a dead issue.”

It was not over for Mr. Rocha, though. On Thursday afternoon, Jan. 23, he encountered Mr. Schomburg, the expert on the heat-resisting tiles, on the sixth floor of Building 1, where most of the managers had offices. They sat down in the anteroom of an office and began arguing about the need for imaging, said Mr. Rocha and the investigative board’s report.

Mr. Schomburg insisted that because smaller pieces of foam had broken off and struck shuttles on previous flights without dire consequences, the latest strike would require nothing more than a refurbishment after the Columbia landed. Mr. Rocha maintained that the damage could be severe enough to allow hot gases to burn through the wing on re-entry and threaten the craft.

As their voices rose, Mr. Rocha recalled, Mr. Schomburg thrust out an index finger and said, ”Well, if it’s that bad, there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.”

On Jan. 24, eight days into the mission, engineers and managers held a series of meetings in which the debris strike was discussed. At a 7 a.m. meeting, Boeing engineers presented their analysis, which they said showed that the shuttle probably took the hit without experiencing fatal damage.

Those results were hastily carried into the 8 a.m. meeting of the mission management team, led by Ms. Ham. When a NASA engineer presented the results of the Boeing analysis and then began to discuss the lingering areas of uncertainty, Ms. Ham cut him off and the meeting moved along. The wing discussion does not even appear in the official minutes.



On the morning of January 21, 2003, the Mission Management Team (MMT) for NASA mission STS-107 – the twenty-eighth flight of the space shuttle Columbia – held a teleconference, its second since the Columbia’s launch on January  16.  An hour before the meeting Don McCormack had been briefed by members of the Debris Assessment Team (DAT), a group of engineers from NASA, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin  who had spent much of the previous five days evaluating the possible consequences of a large debris strike on the Columbia.  During the shuttle’s  ascent into the atmosphere, a large  piece of foam had broken off the left bipod area of the shuttle’s external fuel tank and had smashed into the ship’s left wing. None of the cameras that were tracking the shuttle’s launch had provided a clear picture of the impact, so it was difficult to tell how much damage the foam might have caused. And although by January 21  a request had been made for  on-orbit pictures of the Columbia, they had not been approved. So the DAT had done what it could with the information it had, first estimating the size of the foam and the speed at which it had struck the Columbia, and then using an algorithm called Cater to predict how deep a piece of debris that size and traveling at that speed would  penetrate into the thermal-protection tiles that covered the shuttle’s wings.

The DAT had reached no conclusions, but they made it clear to McCormack that there was reason to be concerned. McCormack did not transmit that sense of concern to the MMT during its teleconference. The foam strike was not mentioned until two-thirds of the way through the meeting, and was brought up only after discussions of, among other things, a jammed camera, the scientific experiments on the shuttle, and a leaky water separator. Then Linda Ham, who was the MMT leader, asked McCormack for an update. He simply said that people were investigating the possible damage and what could potentially be done to fix it, and added that when the Columbia had been hit by a  similar strike during STS-87, five years earlier, it had suffered “fairly significant damage.”  This is how Ham answered: “And I really don’t think there is much we can do so its not really a factor during the flight because there is not much we can do about it.”

Ham, in other words, had already decided that the foam strike was inconsequential.  More important, she decided for every one else in the meeting that it was inconsequential, too. This was the first time the MMT had heard any details about the foam strike.It would have been logical for McCormack to outline the possible consequences and talk about what the evidence from past shuttles that had been struck with debris showed. But instead the meeting moved on.

Hindsight is, of course, twenty-twenty, and just as with the critiques of the U.S. intelligence community after September 11, its perhaps too easy to fault the MMT at NASA for its failure to see what would happen to the Columbia when it reentered the Earth’s atmosphere on February 1.  Even those who have been exceptionally critical of NASA have suggested that focusing on this one team is a mistake because it obscures the deep institutional and cultural problems that plague the agency.

…sifting through the evidence collected by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CIBO), there is no way to evade the conclusion that the team had an opportunity to make different choices that could have dramatically improved the chances of the crew surviving.  The team members were urged on many different occasions to collect the information they needed to make a reasonable estimate of the shuttle’s safety. They were advised that the foam might, in fact, have inflicted enough damage to cause “burn-through” – heat burning through the protective tiles and into the shuttle’s fuselage- when the shuttle reentered the Earth’s atmosphere. ….

The Performance of the MMT is an object lesson in how not to run a small group, and a powerful demonstration of the way in which, instead of making people wiser, being in a group can actually make them dumber.

as found in James Surowiecki: The Wisdom of Crowds, p.p 173-174.

NASA Report on Columbia Disaster

Rabbi Hayyim Hirschensohn

Rabbi Hayyim Hirschensohn (1856-1935), who lived and worked in Jerusalem and in the United States at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, was born in Tzfat. His thought has intrigued many Jews who strive to combine Judaism and modernity, religion and life, thereby seeking to resolve the conflict between their firm commitment to Halakha and their growing openness to the modern world. R. Hayyim Hirschensohn was one of the few among the Religious- Zionist thinkers who confronted the challenges of modernity and grappled with the intricate halakhic problems inherent in the establishment of a modern Jewish state. For the first time, a systematic attempt was made to answer the question whether it is possible to establish a modern and democratic Jewish state on the very foundations of the Halakha; whether a state that empowers the people with legislative authority, embraces modern values and develops modern social, cultural, and economic order is compatible with the Halakha. This question is not restricted to the political realm. R. Hirschensohn would argue that the Torah goes hand in hand with the realities of life. In his view, within the Torah there are inherent mechanisms that make it possible, in principle, to accommodate the Torah to the ever-changing needs of life. His teaching entertains the possibility that the Torah is not opposed to most of the values that modernity offers to the believer. On the contrary, it is possible to re-establish full Jewish life by responding and opening up to the surrounding modern world.

His parents, among the founders of the Hibat Zion movement, emigrated to Israel from Pinsk in Belarus in 1847. When he was 8, the family moved to Jerusalem and became one of the dominant families in their contribution to the Jewish Yishuv there. When he grew older, Rabbi Hayyim Hirschensohn was extremely active with Ben Yehuda in introducing the Hebrew language as the living language of the Jewish people. He established a magazine which researched Judaism, and was dedicated to current issues. Rabbi Hirschensohn also taught Judaism in the Lemel School. Due to his unconventional views and progressive educational methods, he was boycotted by the ultra-Orthodox stream in Israel. He emigrated to the United States and in 1903, settled in Hoboken, New Jersey, where he wrote most of his books. Almost all of his books deal with the question of how the Torah can be relevant and integrated into the modern life of a modern Jewish state.

Rabbi Hayyim Hirschensohn was much admired by Jews of all streams in Hudson County. Upon his arrival in the United States, he became involved in public life. He invested a great deal of effort in Jewish education, and as Head of the Education Committee of the Union of Rabbis, he established the first Hebrew Kindergarten. He was among the first members of Mizrachi, and established deep friendships with Rabbi Reines, and Rabbi Dov Abramowitz of Saint Louis, and Rabbi Shafer of Baltimore among others. Rabbi Hirschensohn was very involved in the American Zionist movements, was aware of prevalent thought at the time, and he was influenced by American thought and culture on the issue of a Jewish State.

R. Hirschensohn stands out as a halakhist par excellence. Most of the thinkers of his generation dealt with the questions of their time in journalistic, contemplative, philosophical, and prosaic ways. A case in point is the thought of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook, R. Hirschensohn’s contemporary. Rav Kook, too, saw himself as a member of the Jewish Renaissance Generation, the generation that witnessed the national revival of the Jewish people. As is well known, he was active in the renewed Jewish Yishuv in the land of Israel, and his initiatives often stirred a heated debate. He addressed contemporary issues by writing poetical philosophy unique in its kind, but his thoughts do not provide concrete answers to the question whether a modern, halakhically oriented Jewish state is possible; whether the religious-Zionist linkage between the Torah and modernity is viable.

R. Hirschensohn undertook the challenge to demonstrate that Halakha is potentially capable of coming to grips with contemporary questions. As a rule, he perceived the essence of the “trouble of Judaism” in modern times in the apprehensive reluctance of the Rabbis to deal with these urgent questions. In his opinion, this conservatism had a detrimental effect. It distanced the young generation from the Torah, while at the same time reinforced the feeling of the Orthodox and the secular public alike that the Torah was incapable of meeting the challenges of the new era. In writing his books, R. Hirschensohn was not motivated by the desire to cater to the wider public. Rather, he aimed at the halakhic scholars of his generation. By introducing a halakhic debate on modern problems that was conveyed in conventional rabbinical language, he was striving to convince them of the ability of the Halakha to resolve such intricate problems.

In 1918 Rabbi Hirschensohn participated in 21st Zionist Conference in Pittsburgh chaired by Judge Louis Brandeis, where all communities were represented, and outlined a plan for the establishment of the State of Israel on the basis of justice and equality. This American Zionist thought was based on the similarity they saw between the writings of the Jewish prophets and the basis of American freedoms and equalities, which attracted Rabbi Hayyim Hirschensohn.

The delegates to the Conference adopted the resolution with respect to the establishment of a democratic government in Israel. Some of the delegates to the Conference felt embarrassed due to the difference between modern democratic political thought and the Historic Jewish ideal of a Kingdom.

In order to resolve this issue, Rabbi Hirschensohn volunteered to research “A discussion of questions regarding the conduct of a Jewish government in Palestine from the standpoint of the Halakha”. In the introduction of Malki Bakodesh he writes:

There is nothing in biblical law and Halakha which contradicts in any way progress or common sense. The objective of my research is to show that Halakha does not pose any obstacle to the development of private life or the life of an entire nation.

His experience at the Zionist Conference motivated him to write his six volumes of Responsa, Malki Bakodesh, and in addition he wrote approximately 40 books in total.

R. Hirschensohn devotes his voluminous Responsa book Malki Bakodesh to a halakhic discussion on contemporary questions. In writing this work, he envisages the urgent problems that the Jewish public confronted at the beginning of the 20th century (and which are still engaging our attention, as if an entire century had not elapsed since).

Following are three examples:

1) What regime is suitable in the Jewish state – democracy or monarchy?

In R. Hirschensohn’s words: “In these days of democracy when kings are toppling from their thrones and monarchy rightly seems to be doomed, when war is being waged against autocratic powers to make the world safe for democracy, how is it possible for us to consider the setting up of a hereditary king to reign over us in Palestine as Jewish tradition demands?” His answer was that:

There is a definite relation between the commandments of appointing a King and the eradication of Amalek, and the Building of the Temple for sacrificial offerings. The King was needed to accomplish the destruction of Amalek. After completing this task, his next duty was to build the Temple for sacrifices. Moreover, the King had to be appointed only through a Prophet. (Malki Bakodesh, Part I, p. 16 – Foreword).

As there is no longer Amalek, nor prophets, there is no longer the Mitzva of appointing a King. As such, Rabbi Hirschensohn argues that the Mitzva which would be appropriate in modern times would be to appoint a democratic government which would be elected by the people in their entirety, men and women equally. According to him, the desired from of government according to the Torah is a democracy.

2) How should the phenomenon of secularism and the secular Jews be treated?

Upon his arrival in the United States, Rabbi Hirschensohn understood that secularism was a fact of life. He understood that secularism could not be solved by thinking that it was merely a temporary state. He proposed a more tolerant approach towards secular Jews and sought Halakhic solutions which would justify the modern state of affairs where Jews who were not Torah observant would still be part of the Jewish nation.

The solution he proposed was that Jewish identity would be based on Jewish nationalism rather than religion. There is no doubt that religion in a major component of the Jewish identity, but not the only one. As long as a Jew retains a bond to his people, he will continue to be thought of as a Jew for all intents and purposes, even though he is not Torah observant. As a result, Rabbi Hayyim Hirschensohn established a common basis for both religious and secular Jews.

3) What should be the status of women in the modern Jewish state?

One of the burning questions posed by Orthodox Jewry in the modern era was that of the Status of Women.

At its inception, Orthodoxy imagined it could ignore the immense change that was to be felt on the issue of the Status of Women. However Rabbi Hayyim Hirschensohn understood that the change had already happened whether or not it was happily accepted. The major point of disagreement between Rabbi Hayyim Hirschensohn, and other Orthodox Rabbis was how the status of women was perceived. Does their inferior social status reflect an ontological stand which sees the woman as an inferior to man, or is it merely a result of historical, cultural and social norms? Whereas Rabbi Kook and the Ultra-Orthodox see the inferior status as stemming from her ontological state, Rabbi Hirschensohn viewed the inferior status as an outcome of the cultural and social-economic realities prevalent in the world until the modern era:

All the power of men over women in historic times was due to the economic situation and the underdeveloped moral state, where it was thought that it was possible to be religious without morality… Religion together with morality is our sacred Torah…..and we should infer Halakha from these historic situations…..just like we need not live in tents simply because our forefathers did…… (Malki Bakodesh Part II, p. 192)

This is a modern theory per se in keeping with the theory of equality between men and women. There is no difference – ontological or social– between men and women and the differences are in the area of religious ritual only.

In his books, R. Hirschensohn attempts to give a Halakhic response to the new historic situation which was created as the result of the Balfour Declaration. He states that it is imperative that we deal with national issues and not with problems of individual Jews as had been prevalent until now. It is now important to deal with the issues of national leadership of the nation which will soon earn its independence. The Balfour Declaration is the basis for the establishment of a Jewish State. R. Hirschensohn wished to prepare the Halakhic tools in order to create a constitutional base for a modern democratic Jewish state. These new problems include economic, societal, cultural, scientific and philosophical questions.

He argued that the Torah strides side by side with the necessities of life and the Torah never conflicts with life and progress. Torah includes inherent mechanisms which enable it to suit changing needs:

There is nothing in Biblical Law and in the Halakha opposed in any way to the progress of civilization or to the rule of common sense. This is a fundamental principle by which we must be guided (Malki Bakodesh, Vol. I, p. 15 – Foreword).

One of the consequences of Rabbi Hirschensohn’s school of thought is the argument that Judaism can be a full partner in the multicultural discourse in an open society in which a modern Jew finds himself. In addition to traditional religion, the modern Jew relates to a number of other contexts which may include cultural, societal, historic, moral and political components which build his world. In essence “Man” is a multicultural creature whose identity is created by the many worlds surrounding him. As such Rabbi Hayyim Hirschensohn nullifies the Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) view which seeks to isolate the Jew from the modern world and live only within the four walls of the Halakha. In essence Rabbi Hayyim Hirschensohn is continuing the Rambam’s approach which sees Judaism in a broader context – as a Judaism that is influenced by both external and internal sources.

Rabbi Hayyim Hirschensohn’s thoughts present clear and positive positions towards modern values such as: democracy, status of women, the autonomy of the individual, rationalism and moral considerations. He argues that “a priori” it cannot be that Halakha would contradict the achievements of civilization. He states that God himself wants his people to choose Torah voluntarily and of free will. The type of approach enables one to adopt the modern humanistic consciousness, one in which “Man” determines and molds his fate.

The question of “church and state” in Rabbi Hayyim Hirschensohn’s thoughts reflects his efforts to combine the commitment to Halakha and adoption of modern values with respect to a free, egalitarian, democratic country, governed and ruled by the people. Under the assumption that the Jewish nation has a national and ethnic infrastructure, rather than only a religious one, Rabbi Hayyim Hirschensohn grants a common identity to religious and secular Jews.

Rabbi Hayyim Hirschensohn found sources of inspiration in the model of freedom and democracy he saw in America. He felt that the model of a Democratic Republic would most suit the Jewish state. In this type of democracy, the common history of the people, nation, religion, and culture would mold the identity of the Jewish people in a Jewish State in Israel.


C.I. Lewis, the well-known 20th century American philosopher from Harvard notes in his book The Ground and Nature of the Right that the concept of obligation pervades all of human thinking. Obligation does not refer only to Moral behavior – it applies to every aspect of thinking and behavior that can called right as opposed to wrong. There is a right and wrong way to calculate numbers. There is a right and a wrong way to ride a horse. There is a right way and wrong way to drive a car and so on. It is only when we come into the sphere of social activity between man and man that we then can invoke the moral aspect of obligation

As pointed out by Lewis Carroll in the dialogue between Achilles and the Tortoise , we see that even basic logical processes require our assent – to say,” yes, that is correct, I accept that.” Accompanying this assent is a feeling of obligation – that I must say “yes”, that I must agree. When we enter the area of obligation, we are already in the area of the heart – we are asking for commitment and assent. This does not mean that statements of obligation are meaningless, as C.L. Stevenson would have had us believe. But there is an emotive element which provides the incentive for commitment to truth.

If the other side refuses to accept the dictates of logic or the sense of right and wrong, both in common human endeavors or in ethical and human relationships, so then dialogue ceases. This is what we mean by rationality; accept the norms of basic logic and basic human behaviour. If the other side has an agenda that negates these assumptions, such as the commitment to Communism (the Totalitarianism of Lenin and Stalin), the commitment to Nazi Ideology, the commitment to Radical Islamism, then there is a negation of rationality and common human decency, the basic norms accepted by the West (accepted at least in theory). The other side is saying  “I will obliterate you”  and “we will act on this rule.” (The interesting historical question is how Soviet Russia was held at bay throughout the Cold War). The fault of the West today is the willingness to ignore these basic rules governing the behaviour of nations and their significance to International Relations.

Within Judaism, the commitment to obey both the Seven Mitzvot of B’nai Noach and the Ten Commandments, constitute the foundation of civilization and progress. Hence with Amalek, the epitome of  a destructive and totalitarian society:  the commandment was to obliterate them. There was no other rational choice.

Important Links:

 The Bombing of Dresden

Sir Arthur Harris  – “Bomber Harris”   Wikepedia

  PDF:  Distinguishing between Islam and Islamism __ Daniel Pipes 

  Islamism – Wikepedia

Confronting Violence

GP: This lecture is based on Rabbi Sacks’ new book, Not in God’s Name. It is an important book and should be studied. Rabbi Sacks, shlit’a, is probably one of the most eloquent spokesmen for the Jewish People to the nations of the world today. He is able to impart those sections of Torat Moshe to Christians and Moslems which they share with us and to make the analysis vital and the issues urgent. And he uses traditional textual analysis to do this. One might think that textual analysis is an academic exercise. To the Jew, it is the key to understanding the infinite depths of Torat Moshe. The sublety of meanings, the ability to go this way or that way without doing violence to the text itself, is a fundamental characteristic of Torah study. It is because of the sacredness of the text and the belief that the text itself is G-d given that enables and empowers such textual analysis.

However, the terminology could be simplified without loss of depth. Instead of “Dualism”, the term “Intolerance” might be preferred, so to place the subject in its proper place. In most cases of violence and oppression, the image of G-d in man is denied and obliterated. But there are cases such as with Louis XIV, who decided that revoking the Edict of Nantes and the persecution of the Huguenots would lead to a beneficial political result. For him, it was only an expediency and not an ideology.

Further, Rabbi Sacks has no solution to combating Terrorism. Would the Islamic theorists at Al-Azhar University, Cairo sit down with Rabbi Sacks to talk the matter out? Further, how can you call a man “good” when he advocates a murderous ideology? “Devoted”, yes, but “good”? When a Terrorist wants to kill you, there is only one proper response, to kill him first. There is no dialogue or coming together to reason and talk. It is instructive to analyze the psyche of a Terrorist, but not to see his point of view.

Toleration, respect, and compassion are required to create a well functioning society. Intolerance by a dominant group leads to terrible cruelty and economic decline. See the “Perfect Historical Experiment“ recounting the simultaneous Glorious Revolution (1689) and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685).

Rabbi Lord Sacks remains in the domain of the theoretical. His lectures are to academic institutions. But the analysis will have to be applied to urgent matters which cannot await a theoretical resolution . Consider the following Post by Arnon Groiss
(November 2016):

The schoolbooks in use in UNRWA schools are provided by the host governments in its areas of operation. UNRWA can add to the curriculum its own books and it did publish schoolbooks promoting issues such as tolerance, non-violence and human rights for use in its schools in the West Bank and Gaza. But a thorough examination of these books revealed that they systematically avoided dealing with these subjects within the wider context of the Middle East conflict and restricted the scope of their discussion to Palestinian society alone (for instance: tolerance between Palestinian Muslims and Christians, protecting the environment, acceptance of the handicapped, etc.). These findings reveal that the PA books, including those ones in use in UNRWA schools, are based on three fundamental principles regarding their attitude to the “other” and to peace within the conflict: De-legitimization, demonization and indoctrination to a future war for the elimination of the State of Israel, though without stating that explicitly. Following are the findings with some examples:


According to the PA schoolbooks used by UNRWA, Jews are not considered a nation entitled to national rights like other nations, but are rather citizens of various states. The Jewish nationalist movement in modern times – Zionism – is defined as a colonialist movement created by European Jews: “Zionism is a political-colonialist [istitaniyyah – “colonizational”] movement created by the Jews of Europe in the second half of the nineteenth century with a view to gathering the Jews of various nationalities from all parts of the world and concentrate them in Palestine and in its neighboring countries by way of immigration and the expulsion of the Palestinian people from its land in order to establish the State of Israel” (Modern and Contemporary Arab History, Grade 9 (2014).


In England of the 17th and early 18th centuries, it was not a straight path to religious toleration even after the Glorious Revolution which Daron Acemoglue and James A. Robinson describe and justly extol as the pivot point in Western Political History. The Tory’s under Queene Anne passed the Occasional Conformity Bill (1711) “which punished with ruinous fines any man who having qualified for State or municipal office by taking the Sacrament in an Anglican church, afterwards attended a place of Non-conformist worship. Three years later The Schism Act took away from Dissenters the education of their own children, which was to be handed over to persons licensed by Bishops of the Established Church. The many excellent schools that the Non-conformmists had established at their own cost were to be suppressed, and their teachers turned adrift. However, Queen Anne died shortly after this Act was approved and was not put into effect. “the Schism Act was the worst blot on the record of the Tory party after the Revolution, and rendered its downfall a pre-condition of religious freedom in England. For if the Schism Act had had time to come into force, it must have led to the abolition of varieties of religious belief, or else to a civil war. But the dynastic crisis precipitated by the death of Anne divided and ruined the Tory party, saved the Dissenters without resort to arms, and established the full Eighteenth Century era of domestic peace, latitudinariansm and toleration. The ascent of the House of Hanover to the Throne of England was assured by the early and untimely death of Good Queene Anne. ” (Trevelyan)

The Schism Act (13 Ann., c. 7) was a 1714 Act of the Parliament of Great Britain.The Act stipulated that anyone who wished to keep a public or private school, or act as tutor, must first be granted a license from a bishop. Also, he must conform to the liturgy of the Church of England and to have taken in the past year the rites of that Church.

The Act was aimed against Dissenter schools (dissenting academies), but on the day the Act was due to come into force, Queen Anne died[1] and the Act was never enforced. Upon the Hanoverian succession in 1714 and the subsequent supremacy of the Whig party, the Act was repealed by the Religious Worship Act 1718.[2(

GP: Dissent within the Limits of Law (here undefined) is an essential ingredient for the well functioning of a society. This holds true for corporations as well. The importance of Dissent is a major topic in universities and business schools investigating the decision making process of groups, be they large or small.

See November 9, 2016: “Hong Kong lawyers condemn Beijing’s legal “interference”. According to Acemoglue and Robinson, China will still become a failed nation if dissent is completely crushed.

To see my notes to this lecture click here

Click here to Read Rabbi J. David Bleich: The Methodology of Halakhah