Thursday, December 14, 2006

"If there is no flour there is no Torah; if there is no Torah, there is no flour." - Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah

An antagonist asked: Doesn't our Torah have enough commandments concerning helping the poor and the poor's welfare?

I answered: You sound as though there are so many that they are a burden to you. You should cherish those mitzvot above all others and those are the mitzvot that you should perform most assiduously.

Why do I say this? Because they are the mitzvot that are the conditions upon which all of the other mitzvot can be carried out.

"If there is no flour there is no Torah; if there is no Torah, there is no flour." - Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah

I'll quote that again: "If there is no flour there is no Torah; if there is no Torah, there is no flour." - Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah

That statement does not mean that there is no Torah only for those who have no flour. It means that there is no Torah for the ones hardening their hearts, or making of themselves luftmenschen, and not seeing to it that everyone has flour (and water, clothes, shoes, housing, inoculation, education and the conditions under which every individual can grow to her or his maximum Spiritual-Moral, mental, emotional and physical potential).

It is because I see the poor in this country becoming increasing beggared and more and more people falling into poverty, that I feel absolutely confident in saying there is no Torah in Israel. If there was one-third of the children in Israel would not be under the poverty line and they would not be going to school hiding the roll the have from others so that no one will see it has nothing on it, the elderly and infirmed would not be eating out of garbage cans and widows would not have their electricity turned off in the winter.

You stated: It seems to me, there are scores of commandments requiring compassion to the poor; forbidding oppressing the poor.

I responded: And are they being fulfilled? Are people as careful to do those mitzvot as they are when choosing their "glatt" chickens? No! They (maybe) give their 10% tzeddakah and a few hours of their time to help others, which only perpetuates the misery. They do not fulfill the commanment: Unloose the shackles of injustice. They do not go up against the system that creates and perpetuates poverty.

He went on to inquire: Why do we need a philosphy that is not rooted in Torah?

I responded: Do you not see that what I am saying is pure Torah? Shame on your teachers!

From the day that Avraham smashed his father's idols Judaism has been nothing but radical social transformation. Anyone who isn't smashing the idols that keep us in thrall, poor and subject to corrupt regimes is not of the covenant of Avraham, has not begun to understand what that covenant is.

Anarchy is not a philosophy from outside Torah. Anarchy is the mitzvot "concerning helping the poor and the poor's welfare" with the utmost punctiliousness and assiduousness.

Why do you think the old Jew blessed Rudolph Rocker after he helped the Jewish workers win their demands in a strike in 1912?

I once took a course with a rabbi on tzadakah. At one point he stated that there must always be poor people so that we can do the mitzvah of giving tzaddakah. I left his course and have not read a word that he has to say since. He went down to credibility zero with me when he said that. The cruelty that passes itself off as Torah in this generation is absolutely astounding.

We may be sure that even in a society of Anarcho-Communalism, in which all of our physical needs are provided for; there will be endless opportunities for us to give emotional tzaddakah; to help those who need us in numerable ways and to be helped by others in innumerable ways.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Jew Who Knew

Rudolph Rocker was a German non-Jew who devoted his life to ameliorating the conditions of the working poor Jews in London at the start of the 20th C.

He learned Yiddish so well that he became the editor of the Yiddish Anarchist papers Dos Fraye Vort (The Free Word), Der Arbeiter Freint (The Workers Friend) and Germinal.

For his efforts he was detained by the British for years as an "alien enemy of the state".

Shortly after leading Jewish sweatshop workers to victory in a 1912 strike he recalled:

"As I was walking along a narrow Whitechapel street, an old Jew with a long white beard stopped me outside his house, and said: “May God bless you! You helped my children in their need. You are not a Jew, but you are a man!” This old man lived in a world completely different from mine. But the memory of the gratitude that shone in those eyes has remained with me all these years." THE LONDON YEARS, the last page of Chapter 23 – Workers' Circle. The Great Strike.

In 1912, you may be sure, that an old Jew with a long white beard knew the halakhah.

How many Jews today can honestly say they would do for the Jews what the gentile German Rocker did?

Today, far too many Jews who fancy themselves Orthodox and knowledgeable in Torah would dismiss Rocker as a "sheigitz" or perhaps try to shame him publicly for being an "abominable" Anarchist, or proffer a description of his "touched" personality based on an astrological chart, or throw in his face that his father celebrated Christmas or speculate on his mental state or call him a "freak". (See the Yahoo! group "Tzfat" in order to understand to what I am referring.)

But we all know deep in our heart of hearts that the Jew with the long white beard who was already old in 1912 was the real thing. May God bless him as he blessed those who helped the (secular, Anarchistic) Jews, who he called his children, in their need.

And thank God for a gentile who bothered to learn Yiddish so he could help the Jews, who recorded the words of that old Jew, immortalizing him, so that the voice of true Judaism can still be heard today by Jews like me who yearn to hear it but so very rarely do.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Corruption in Israel

Five hundred people were surveyed by the Israeli branch of Transparency International.

Corruption, for the purpose of the study, is defined as "the use of political or other power for the advancement of personal interests".

The results, according to a report that appeared on Dec. 12, 2006 of "Kol HaIr", one of the local papers of Tzfat, edition 640, are the following:

66% said that the current gov't does not do enough to fight corruption.

55% said that corruption negatively affects their personal quality of life.

81% said that corruption negatively affects the business enviornment.

86% said that corruption negatively affects quality of gov't.

16% said they believe that the gov't actively encourages corruption.

4% admitted to giving bribes during the past year. (We can assume that this is a very small percentage of those who actually did give bribes. Admitting to doing so is admitting to committing a crime and most people will, understandably, be reluctant to do so, even on a supposedly anonymous survey.)

Add to these results, the recent finding that 92% of Israeli businesses do not conduct themselves in accordance with labor laws.

How, I ask you HOW, can Torah flourish in such an enviornment?

Take the most well-meaning, religious man. He gets up in the morning, does netilat yadayim...has his brakhot as he dresses...goes to shul, dons t'fellin...Learns a blat Gemorrah...

Then, he goes to work. Because he has, b'li ayin hara, a family he, if he's a salaried employee, will keep his mouth shut if he sees his boss cheating. He will do what he is told, even if it is not on the "up and up". He will let himself be abused by his boss who, 92 chances out of 100 on the average, is cheating him of what is coming to him.

If he's an independent, he has to compete with others in the field. He may have loans with the banks in astronomical figures and tens of thousands of shekels is held in escrow by his suppliers.

What does that do to him?

How can he have a crooked heart and tongue all day and then be pure when he sits down to learn Torah, or when he does a mitzvah?

That is what is called: "Ablution in a mikveh while holding a serpent."

First, and I'm going to keep pestering and nudging until this is understood, first we build a just society - then we can go about the business of learning and doing Torah as we should.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Some Facts to Ponder Before Channukah

I do not celebrate Channukah. I know that is very odd. Channukah is one of the most cherished holiday seasons in Judaism. It is considered a festival of light and a time of great joy celebrating the purification of the Second Temple and the reinstatement of the Temple Service.

I do not celebrate Channukah for the following reasons. The Maccabees were Priests, but they were not B'nie Tzadok. Only those Cohenim who are B'nei Tzaddok were entitled to be High Priests. The Maccabbim, who were Cohenim but not B'nei Tzaddok, expropriated the office of High Priest. This was only the first of their sins. They would eventually arrive at a level of depravity and degradation that the mind and heart can hardly fathom. It was because of their internecine power struggles within the family, which included murder and castrations of close family members, all of whom were Cohenim; their orgies with Gentiles in the Temple; their crowning themselves kings, which is forbidden for Cohenim to do that led to the destruction of the Temple and our galut. The period of their reign was the darkest period in Jewish history. There were more atrocities committed by them, but the heart is too rent to consider all of it. I am humiliated that an episode such as that is part of our history.

The Isi'im (the Dead Sea Sect) who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls were B'nei Tzaddok who left Yerushalayim in disgust as a result of these events.

The settled in Qumran, formed a communitarian society of common property and devoted themselves to the study and performance of Torah with the utmost assiduousness.

The Isi'im were lost to history at the end of the Second Temple period.

Thinking they were "out of the way" and not knowing that they had hid their writings in caves in Qumran, the redactors of the Talmud engaged is unbridled mendacity in their representations of who the B'nei Tzaddok were. They said that they rejected Oral Law, in addition to other besmirching.

For 2000 years all that was known about HaIsi'im was written about them in the Talmud.

And then, on the self-same day that the partition of Palestine was voted by the UN, the first of the Dead Sea Scrolls that was found by a Bedouin shepherd boy was sold to Yigal Yadin's father, Professor Eliezer Sukenik.

For the first time in 2000 years; HaIsi'im were able to speak for themselves. They wrote that they were a sect founded by B'nei Tzaddok who left Yerushalayim after it became so defiled by the Maccabbim that they could not longer conscience living there. They wrote about their community. But for the sake of this discussion, most importantly, they wrote about the Oral Law.

The redactors of the Talmud wrote that the B'nei Tzaddok did not believe in any Oral Law, that they followed the written Torah only.

But at Qumran T'fillin were found, and the contained the very same passages that are found in Rashi and Rebbenu Tam T'fellin, only in a different order. Carbon dating showed that they were well over 2000 years old.

One of the fragments of a scroll discusses how much water is needed for a proper mikveh.

Another passage discusses how far one may walk on Shabbat.

Another discusses how one may rescue someone who has fallen into a pit on Shabbat.

All of these matters are Oral Torah.

If you wish to read my writings on the Dead Sea Sect, HaYachad, as they called themselves, you can find them on the following web sites:

The redactors of the Talmud misrepresented the B'nei Tzaddok. They did so intentionally in order to become the sole representatives of Torah. They lied in order to establish their absolute authority.

That being the case we are not only free to, but absolutely must, call everything in the Talmud into question. We cannot believe that their intentions were pure about anything they wrote. Certainly, we would be foolish to reject all of the Talmud out-of-hand. But we are equally foolish to accept it uncritically and unquestioningly.

I think it is pertinent here to discuss a group of people who did try to live according to the written Law without an Oral Law – the Karaites.

They were excommunicated, in toto, from Judaism.

Do you know that Aaron ben Moshe ben Asher and his descendants, the House of Asher, those who fixed the version of HaMasorah HaT'veriani were Karaites? (See: Everything we learn in Torah is thanks to the impeccable knowledge and the work of a long line of Karaites.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

Someone on a message board wrote the following to me:

"Let me know if you ever get off your duff in the periphery, and come down to the center of the country to actually DO something constructive regarding the things you write about. "

I answered:

There is a mystical Jewish teaching which holds that this world is called the World of Doing (or Action) - עולם העשיה in Hebrew.

It is the lowest of four worlds, each more rarified, sublime and vast than the one beneath it in the order of creation.

There is nothing in this world that is not doing. It cannot be otherwise.

To say to someone in this world that she or he is not doing something, is to misunderstand what doing is and the nature of the level of reality that we inhabit fundamentally.

Is not writing doing?

Is making people think not doing?

In this world even thinking is doing. It is an action in and of itself, even if it does not lead to further action.

My mother taught me when I was a child that the pen is mightier than the sword. I believe that to be true.

Writing is what I do and it is as much doing as another other activity in the World of Doing (or Action), which we inhabit.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


One can keep kashrut out of a need to belong, keep Shabbat out of fear of what their family and neighbors will say and keep Taharat HaMisphachah out of desire for a place in the world to come... - all without loving HaShem with one's entire being.

But no one devotes their entire life to humanity, consistently over the period of a lifetime, unless they love HaShem completely and are devoted to HaShem in a way that the Orthodox can only feign being. That devotion need not be conscious, but it is there.

Am I conflated? Am I making a shatnez of Torah and secular ethics? In fact, there is nothing that I have written that is not pure Torah.

Ideally a Jew should keep the mitzvot and serve humanity. They do not only not contradict; they are supplementary one to the other.However, Judaism as it is currently taught and practiced, with all of the chumrot and minhagim that have been added to Torah (in contravention of the injunction not to add to Torah!) does not allow for the performance of both those mitzvot that bring down holiness into the physical plane and the social service aspects of Torah - both of which are essential and should be performed in such a way that they enable and advance one the other.

We have been taught in Chassidut about the principle of the descent for the purpose of the ascent.

In our times, time of darkness and blindness we are in need of a more radical cure for our moral-spiritual ills. We are in need of the leaving for the sake of the return.The only solution to the problem is to leave this farce that we are told is Torah and build a just society that is not based on greed and violence and power-hungriness. In such a society there will be no incentives for Rabbis who serve the power structure to distort Torah and make it into shackles and manacles that bind the mind, the heart and Soul. In such a society Torah can be rediscovered in its pristine purity because there won't be a power structure that will have interests in making the populace spiritual slaves and moral cripples.Torah has been so horribly misrepresented, so grossly misunderstood and so abused as an instrument of mind and behavior control that the only way to return to it is by leaving what we think is Torah, but is not.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel
Genuine Religious Jews

Jews inspired by genuine Divine afflatus do not engage overmuch in ceremonies, nor do they speak in clichés, quoting others verbatim by rote.

They are not overly punctilious and scrupulous about ritual purity and they do not carry out formulaic actions obsessively-compulsively.

They do not care a whit about their own salvation and nothing they do is for the sake of ensuring an eternal place of rest and joy for themselves.

They act in, rather than speak of, love.

They do not wax pontifical or esoteric. They concern themselves with the needs of human beings qua human beings.

They do not sacrifice the material levels of our beings for the sake of the "spiritual" levels.

They do not profit from the encouraging and teaching of others to observe ritual.

They do not claim immaculate morality on the part of their teachers; neither do they claim that they their tradition or their teachers are infallible.

They do not set themselves up and judge and jury over humankind.

The only abomination they recognize is injustice and the misuse of power.

They need no social acceptance or group to be part to know what they should do or give them a sense of identity. They are strong enough to stand alone, all alone, if need be.

Their every action, the very purpose of their lives and their entire being is given over to the alleviation of the suffering of humankind.

Injustice is intolerable to them and they fight for justice for all no matter what the personal price they must pay for it.

Gustav Landauer, Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Saul Alinsky, Martin Buber and Murray Bookchin were religious Jews. They carried within them the whole of Torah. The received and passed on the torch of the Prophets of Israel. This was true despite the protestations of some of them that they were atheists. It is recorded of Emma Goldman, the self-professed atheist Anarchist, that: "A rabbi who heard her lecture a large conference of clergymen on atheism probably came closer than the public to understanding her antireligious stand. "In spite of al Miss Goldman has said against religion", he announced, "she is the most religious person I know." (RED EMMA SPEAKS, An Emma Goldman Reader, Compiled and Edited by Alex Kates Shulman, Preface to Part Two; Published 1998 by Humanity Books, an imprint of Prometheus Books)

It is certainly be true that some Jews who adhere to the minutiae of Jewish Law may be true Orthodox Jews, but this is true if and only if they do so in addition to devoting their entire lives to the amelioration of the human condition and the alleviation of human suffering. Their performance of the minutiae of Jewish Law is not that which defines them at genuine Orthodox Jews. That is a mere appurtenance. Their devotion to justice is that which defines them as genuine Orthodox Jews.

Those who teach Jewish Law in such a way that it comes in lieu of acting in the world for the betterment of human kind; if it obviates doing so; if it becomes so all-demanding, time-consuming and burdensome that there is no strength or time for fighting injustice; if the observance of Jewish Law imparts the illusion of being absolutely right and just; if it attenuates the desire to right wrongs or puts off the doing so for the Mashiach to take care of; if it brings one to believe that each of us has only to tend to our own imperfections – then we may be entirely sure that what we have is not Judaism at all, but an ersatz, painstakingly deliberately fabricated and purposefully promulgated in order to confound us, to keep our energies invested in that which will avail nothing and deflect us from our duties by nefarious interests.

A great deal of money, ink and blood is being poured in order to keep Jews distracted from our true purpose and our true values. This is as true of the religious segments of our society as it is of the secular segments. The only difference is the methods being employed in order to dissipate our energies.

History has proven that Jews who are devoted to justice en masse are invincible. It is then that HaShem performs miracles for us.

Every effort is being made, in the religious and secular worlds alike, to prevent us from knowing who we truly are, what our purpose in creation is, from mobilizing in unison, reaching a critical mass of power and changing the course of the world. We can do it. We have done so before. If we were not capable of changing the world, so much investment would not be being invested in atomizing us and reducing our strength.

Do not be fooled. Do not be misled. Do not be bought. Do not be enthralled. Do not be enticed. Do not be led astray.

We Jews were put here for the sake of participating in the creation of a just world with every other and for every other sentient being.

Let nothing, but nothing, be it pseudo-religious principles or iPods and other things that go beep in the night steer you away from what you are and what your designated tasks are.

The Hebrew version of this essay is to be found on the following URL:

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

Friday, December 01, 2006


Clearly, we cannot know the whys and wherefores of that which transpires and, if we notice, as we advance on our path the experiences we have become more and more complex and confusing. As I grow older I understand less and less. It seems to me that this common experience is a process of aging that involves the surrendering of the will to conquer the world with our minds to HaShem. Eventually we will surrender everything to HaShem. First we must surrender our desire to know - which is really a desire to conquer.

I believe we are not intended to understand HaShem, not because HaShem could not make us understand if It willed that we would, but because we are being tested to see how we react to that which occurs which defies human understanding.

I believe that it is observed on high if we gaze upon the death and destruction of others and condemn those who suffered for some sin either of their own or, worse, others. I believe we are being observed to see if we are smug in believing that we are chosen. Do we interpret this as superiority or do we understand it as an imperative to serve humankind?

I believe that the Torah, as it presents itself to our every day, constricted consciousness, is a test. It is impossible to observe every mitzvah and to believe every tenet. I believe we are being observed to see what we adopt and what we reject, what we do and what we don't, what we believe about ourselves and what we believe about all of humanity.

HaShem, I believe, wants us to struggle and grapple with what is written in Torah, knowing that none of us accept and do it all. What do we cherish? What do we overlook? What do we stress? What do we minimize? All this, I believe, is telling about who we are and is being observed.

I believe that HaShem rejoices when we refuse to carry out the condemnations in Torah, which I believe are planted therein to see if we find that fruit sweet or bitter. I believe when we encounter the tests in Torah and we cry out to God: If that is what You expect of me, then send me to hell! I'll have no part of any World to Come if those are the conditions! - that God says בני נצחוני! –" My children have conquered me!" - in the sense that my children have seen past the words into My heart, they have passed the tests I set before them.

I believe that those who stress the strictures of Torah are not kind and good people, despite their having learned the clichés and giving lip service to love and devotion. I believe our attitudes and actions are being observed.

Shabbat Shalom,
Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel