Turkish Elections: another failure of democracy

Since Adolf Hitler abused the democratic process to come to power and proceeded to wipe out all opposition, many a tyrant has taken advantage of the voting power of the easily manipulated and intimidated masses to stay in power.

Turkey’s Recep Tayip Erdogan has recently joined the ranks of such tyrants , and this week’s local elections in which his long-ruling  party  managed to capture about 46% of the vote- hardly a majority, but enough to claim a public mandate for his tyranny, and to control the country’s two largest city council’s of Istanbul and Ankara, are truly an example of democracy’s Achilles-heel.

That a leader who threatens to destroy his opponents, imprisons more journalists than any other country in the world including China, and even bans Twitter and Utube to prevent people spreading reports of his corruption, can do so well in an election, truly reminds one of the famous words of Sir Winston Churchill: “The greatest argument against democracy is a 5 minute conversation with the average voter!”

dare I guess the same will apply in South Africa this May?

yet what can one do? there is no better system currently available….


Religion and Natural Morality

It is forbidden for fear of Heaven to push aside one’s natural morality, for then it would no longer be pure fear of Heaven. The sign [by which one can recognize] pure fear of Heaven is when the natural morality which is rooted in man’s honest nature ascends by means of [the fear of Heaven] to higher levels than it would have attained without it.
But if there should be a fear of Heaven, such that without its influence, life would tend to function better, and would actualize things beneficial to the individual and society, whereas with its influence that actualizing power would diminish — such a fear of Heaven is invalid.[1]
Founding Chief Rabbi AI KOOK (Orot Hakodesh, Vol. III, p.27., quoted by Rabbi Yehuda Amital zt’l)

the “Great Rabbi” accused of child molesting

My thoughts on the judgement against a famous Rabbi for indecent acts against minors, Hashem yishmor.

I was asked, on my timeline, if I believed that the sentence passed in the relevant case was too mild.

I replied to the question, and am sharing my reply as a post as well, as I believe it is very relevant and on many people’s minds.

“This is a very sensitive one. Part of me says that this man disgraced us all,used his position as a Rosh Yeshiva and national leader to take advantage of kids, and should be given the most harsh sentence possible. Part of me, having met the man myself, and seen his kindness and caring for ALL people (even his insistence of visiting Chris Hani hospital and seeing how AIDS victims are treated), feels VERY sorry for the man, and for all of us who have lost him as a mentor, and that something could also be awefully wrong with the charges. I do not think that either approach is rational. All he was convicted of was “relatively minor” indecent behaviour. The more serious charges were NOT proven. Whether anyone likes it or not, in a democracy, a person is innocent till proven guilty in a court of law. he had his trial, and he was NOT proven guilt of rape, sodomy, or any serious sexual crime. What is also true, is that things that in western culture are considered to be sexual assault, are not always that way in middle eastern, african, or even jewish culture. Affectionately hugging or kissing a student is NOT sexual assault, unless it is done in a sexual way. I hug my students all the time, and there is NOTHING sexual about it. My uncle , Rav Tucazinsky zt’l, used to kiss and hug me, and hugging and kissing students is very common amongst many rosh yeshivos and Rebbeim, and there is NOTHING sexual in it at all. yet many secular teachers at Yeshiva College felt uncomfortable with Rabbis hugging students, which was totally ridiculous. This of course, makes it easy for Rabbis who do have sexual issues to take advantage, and very hard to tell the difference, but it also means that what to western courts are indecent acts might not even be indecent in reality. I do NOT know what Rabbi Druckman is thinking- perhaps he truly believes that the Rabbi in question is innocent, along the lines of the above, though we all know Rabbi Lichtenstein took a VERY different approach. – Personally, I wish and still hope he is innocent- he is or AT LEAST was a great man who has touched the lives of literally thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people for the better, but I am also NOt an ostrich . Even great men make bad mistakes and can do TERRIBLE things sometimes. David heMelech committed adultery and killed the girl’s husband. HE suffered his whole life for it. He did Teshuva, which was eventually accepted. Those who denied his right to repent in their self-righteous manner were also criticized. Of course, even the relatively “minor” verdict of the court would be enough for me not to let him anywhere near my kids in private, just out of caution. nor has he admitted to the charges publically, but it is NOT a halchic requirement of teshiva to publically confess to something- confession is a private matter between a sinner and Hashem, and who says he hasn’t done that? And does any of this really mean that he is so evil that one cannot learn anything from him, or that he deserves to rot for the rest of his life in prison for kissing a kid on his neck, however much it disgraced us, and however bad it might be? The judge can only take into account that which has been PROVEN in his sentence, and so can we- that is ALL. As for the rest, we have to take caution and not let vulnerable people be in private with ANYONE suspected of such things, but thats it. Would I invite him to teach minors, NO- Do I think he should be condemned for ever as an evil man and shut out of society – I dont think any of us have a right to make that call based on the above . The discussion remains open, and there is much to say and debate. It is NOt simple, it is really painful, and what is more painful is that this is not just an isolated incident, but all too common these days- it needs to stop and be stopped- but how to stop it, how to get to the root of the problem- that needs great wisdom, and I fear that we lack it!”

What will replace the ANC?

“the day the ANC does to us what the Apartheid government did, we should do to the ANC what we did to the Apartheid government. ”
Nelson Mandela

“One may not knock down a synagogue before building a new one in its place”
[Talmud Bava Batra]

Those who are quick to wish for the demise of the corrupt and incompetent ANC, should consider who will replace it, and whether they can keep the country stable and relatively united, like the ANC, with all its failings, has done.

We need change, but we don’t need Congo style anarchy.

Open letter to South African opposition leader Helen Zille


Dear Premier Zille

I have always been a great admirer of yours, both of your past in the black sash, something my father, Rabbi Ben Isaacson, a well-known anti apartheid activist Rabbi was very close to, as well as your present as the visionary leader of the DA

however, I am very concerned about the talk that is going around about the DA’s support at worst, or silence, at best, of the outrageous demonification of Israel going on right now , as highlighted in the recent Parliamentary committee’s resolutions in Cape Town, and your lack of response so far to people’s requests for clarification about it.

This seems to be indicative of a general tendency towards avoiding responding to serious issues raised by critics as well as supporters, which for a liberal party like the DA, is highly problematic.

I have in the past questioned the DA’s lack of taking a stand against slave labour wages in the Western Cape of R75 a day, the one province where we (and I say “we” as a loyal supporter of many years standing) are able to make a difference and take a moral, if not a legal stand ), and never received a response, even in a direct tweet to you.

I also emailed the DA’s direct email address with very concrete ideas on how to use social media to bolster the election campaign, to which I also received no reply.

It is not so much the fact that we might disagree on issues, which is perfectly legitimate if done fairly, openly, and correctly, but that there seems to be a general tendency in the DA, not unlike that in the ANC, to be above criticism and to be out of touch with its supporters, avoiding real questions that are poised to it, and this is really disturbing.

It is not far fetched for the pro Israel Jewish and Christian communities to field ACDP candidates in their wards against the DA incumbents in the coming elections, and certainly in the municipal elections, and possibly even take them away from the DA, or even worse, split the opposition vote and deliver them to the ANC, if the current matter of concern is not addressed.

The even greater matter that I have mentioned of general lack of transparency to members and supporters is even more troublesome and could lead the DA to meet the same fate as Morgan Tsvangirai if not addressed urgently.

In understand that the recent debacle with Ramphele, from which I believe you have come out taking the moral high ground, is still heavy on your mind, but before this matter hits the social media and our anti BDS sites in an even bigger way, I would appreciate a serious reply from you- there is absolutely NO time to lose- as you know, facebook takes no prisoners and waits for noone.

Promising the world to crowds in Polokwane like Malema (even though we all know you could do a better job ) and dancing on the stage like Zuma (though that is something he is certainly your better at ) might be a necessary way to bring about change for the better, but showing the ability to stick to promises, answer rather than evade real questions, and not backstabbing loyal supporters is the true test of what can come of such promises.

Warmest wishes and hoping for a wise and speedy reply

Rabbi Yoni Isaacson
Community Educator and Businessman

Did Israel really support Apartheid South Africa?

old sa flag


As the son of an anti-apartheid activist who was also a soldier in two Israeli wars at the same time as opposing apartheid, I can point out that the truth is closer to the opposite:

before the seventies, Israel was one of the most anti Apartheid countries in the world, and even trained anti-Apartheid activists.

Israel helped support newly independant African countries, and invested heavily in their development and decolonization.

all this during a time when America and the West were supporting Rhodesia and Apartheid South-Africa, and Western puppet dictators like Mobutu in the Congo, who they installed there to protect Western interests after murdering the democratically elected socialist, Patrice Lemumba.

After the Yom-Kippur war , Arab States bribed Africa states with oil to sever ties with Israel.

When they took the bait and betrayed Israel, together with South African liberation movements who were aligned with the Soviet/Arab block, she was left isolated, and the similarly isolated Apartheid government became a natural ally- not exactly a crown of glory, but no different to the “new South Africa’s ” alliance with Gaddafi, China, and other dictators-

The so-called right-wing Menachem Begin is described by one of his closest aides as an admirer of Nelson Mandela, at a time when Mandela was still in prison and openly aligned with the then “him who may not be named” Yasser Arafat, our biggest foe.

In short, our little Israel has done much more for Africa than any of the Arab nations that oppose us- our record might not be perfect, but in the greater picture, we have far more to be proud of than ashamed of!

Chalav Yisroel- government supervised milk-the Heter

It is clear from the Gemara that the Mishna’s requirement for a Yisroel to see the milking process is not absolute, but that being present in a  position where he could stand up and see it at anytime is also sufficient, due to the fact that the  milker is  afraid to mix any non kosher milk into the milk in case the Yisroel will see him, and this is codified in the Shulchan Aruch, without any disagreement, the only conditions being that the milker is milking for a Yisroel and knows what milk is forbidden to him.  [Y.D. 115/1]

The question is whether this idea can be extended further to its logical conclusion, in which case one could argue that whenever the milker would be afraid to mix non kosher milk into the milk, the requirement for a Yisroel to see the actual milking could be waived, even if he is not present at all.

This would not be annulling a decree of Chazal based on the assumption that is reason doesn’t apply anymore, something one is not usually permitted to do-  It would simply be extending the Gemara’s ruling that the original decree against ‘Chalav Akam’ never applied to milk which was produced in the presence of a Yisroel, to never applying to milk produced under the conditions of “fear of Yisroel”, even without his presence, or by further extension , any equally significant fear at all!   Such milk would in fact not be “Chalav Akum” at all, but would in fact be halachically “Chalav Yisroel.”

It was the Chazon Ish [Y.D. 115] who first suggested the possibility that government supervised milk might indeed be in the same category as milk produced in the presence of a Yisroel.

Later, Rav Moshe Feinstein  [ Igros Moshe Y.D. 1/ 47] confirmed this view, basing his heter on 3 assumptions:

i. just like the Yisroel’s ability to get up and see what he is doing at any minute, government supervision and the accompanying  fines and resultant loss if caught mixing any unauthorized material into the milk, creates a “fear factor” in the non Jewish milker

ii. The “fear factor” gives us clear knowledge that the milker will not mix any non kosher milk into the kosher milk

iii. Clear knowledge of something is considered as if one has actually seen it in many areas of halacha, including this one

It is factor iii, “clear knowledge” that nothing non kosher has been mixed into the kosher milk, that is the basis of the exemption from the gezeiro, the “fear factor” is merely  what caused the “clear knowledge” in both the case of the Gemara, and the case of government supervision, and the Yisroel’s ability to get up  (in the case of the Gemara), and the fines and resulting financial loss (in the case of the government supervision), are merely what causes the “fear factor.”

It follows from Rav Moshe that once one is prepared to understand that the Gemara’s exemption is describing  an “exempt category” of situations, and not just a precise situation , it doesnt really matter what provides the “clear knowledge” and what provides the “fear factor” – main thing is that one can show HALACHICALLY VERIFIABLE “clear knowledge” that nothing  non kosher has been mixed in the kosher milk in a given situation, and the laws of Chalav Akum might not apply to that situation.

Having said that, whereas we already have precedent for the “fear factor” being a HALACHICALLY VERIFIABLE  source of “clear knowledge”, arbitrarily choosing one’s own sources for such knowledge would be unwise, and the Aruch haShulchan [Y.D. 115] indeed cautions against people being too clever and thinking that there is no cause for concern in any given situation, bringing a frightening anecdote to prove his point.

On the other hand, it is also important to note that Chazal only made decrees  when they had a real concern with a significant chance of something going wrong: they need not make decrees to avoid farfetched scenarios of one in a million.

As such, it is not necessary to be 100% sure that nothing will go wrong in order to accept that a situation could have been excluded from a decree of Chazal- only reasonably sure, and then if there is precedent already for excluding similar situations from the decree, it is not illegal for halachic authorities to extend that precedent to the given situation.

As such, Rav Moshe Feinstein confidentally rules that milk manufactures under government supervision in countries where it is illegal to mix non kosher milk into cows milk and where transgression is punishable by fining or worse, is not subject to the prohibition of “chalav akum”, and in effect, has the status of “chalav yisrael.”

He permits drinking such milk without any hesitation but notes that it is fitting for “baalei nefesh” to be stringent and only drink milk prepared in the presence of a Yisroel, and that he himself was stringent as well. He stresses that one who is stringent should not look down in any way on those who choose not to be.



[ All Halacha blogs are summaries of my own learning and  subject to further self-editing  and user- correction- they are not psak halacha, unless specifically classified as such, and are for the purpose of study and discussion only]

Chalav Yisroel: Introduction

The Mishna [ avoda Zara 35b] tells us that milk which was milked by an   ‘Akum’ [Idol worshippers] , which a Jew did not observe being milked, may not be consumed,  but that one may derive benefit from it.

The Gemara explains that we are concerned that some milk from a non kosher species might have been mixed with it

This is the basis for the Rabbinic requirement that the milking process should be supervised by an observant Jew, and milk which has been produced subject to this requirement in commonly known as “Chalav Yisrael.”

Milk produced not subject to this requirement is technically “Chalav Akum” and not kosher.

The Gemara [39b] rules that it is not necessary for the Jew to actually watch the milking process- so long as he is present  (sitting down) while the milking is taking place, and able to get up and look at any time, we assume that the people involved will be afraid to mix anything non kosher into the milk in case he stands up and catches them doing so.

On this basis, inspectors for kosher milk to not actually have to watch the entire process, but just have to be present and able to see it when they wish to, so long as the producer are aware of their presence and its purpose.

Once we see from the Gemara that the Mishna’s requirement to ‘watch’ the milking process is not literal and that the important factor is that we are able to assume that the ‘Akum’ is afraid of being caught if he mixes anything non kosher in the  milk, there is room to  relax this requirement even further, and it is here that things get to be a little more ‘controversial.’



[ All Halacha blogs are summaries of my own learning and  subject to further self-editing  and user- correction- they are not psak halacha, unless specifically classified as such, and are for the purpose of study and discussion only]

Zuma lied, but not willingly?

the Public Protector’s Report just found Zuma lied to Parliament, but not “willingly”- what exactly does that mean?

How does the president of a country tell parliament that he paid for his own swimming pool, cattle kraal, and much more, and not know that the government actually paid for it?

Assuming this was true, can a person so out of touch of his own affairs be trusted with the affairs of 50 million people?

If not true, what led the protector to such a conclusion?