The Bible Teaching Ministry of David Hocking
“The Word of our God shall stand forever” Isaiah 40:8

POST-ELECTION LETTER TO OUR AMERICAN BRTHREN!

March 23rd, 2015

A POST-ELECTION LETTER TO OUR AMERICAN BRETHREN!
by Douglas Altabet (Arutz Sheva News)

As a fairly recent oleh, I still have lots of family and friends in America, and I understand America and American Jewry in an implicit and intuitive way.

That knowledge has made the reaction of a large number of American Jews to our just completed elections all the more painful and frustrating.

What I have heard and read is a great deal of anger, shame, disappointment and even a sense of betrayal. What I have not encountered is a great deal of empathy, nor an attempt to understand or to contextualize provocative statements.

At the risk of sounding preachy, it must be pointed out that Israel is not the 51st state, not to mention the sixth borough. It is a sovereign country. This is Israel’s great glory and its daily challenge.

Sovereignty under the best of circumstances is messy. There is bottom-line accountability and the need to make things work. There are priorities to be adopted, and varying interests to be managed. Not unlike a successful mediation or contract negotiation, sovereignty entails disappointing the fewest number of people as rarely as possible in the least painful of ways.

Add to that maintaining one’s sovereignty in our particular neighborhood, and the challenges and the risks increase geometrically.

The issues confronted by Israeli Jews are greatly removed from the concerns of the American Jewish community. Rockets are not being fired into Newton, MA, no country is threatening to annihilate Brentwood, CA, and no one worries about missile attacks on La Guardia airport.

This morning I dropped off my daughter at our intercity bus stop for her to take her bus to school. Standing there with her were dozens of young men and women in uniform returning to their bases after a Shabbat leave at home.

Seeing this unremarkable, yet nevertheless poignant, scene drove home the reality of difference in a way that words can not describe. Our town has all of 3,000 residents, but there were likely more Jewish soldiers standing there than there are in many states of the Union.

Their service is a matter of course, not a career choice, nor an elective decision. They are part of the reality that we are accountable for ourselves in the face of the enmity of much that surrounds us (I live conveniently close to both Lebanon and Syria.), as well as the genocidal hatred of countries such as Iran.

I am not saying this to make any excuses, but rather to provide the critically needed context in which to assess our actions. The Israeli public has voted, unequivocally supporting those parties that prioritize the security of the country over other important issues. That is the sovereign right of Israelis to exercise.

In the course of this election, we saw a great deal of “involvement,” “meddling” is a better term, by foreign money, and many think by foreign governments as well, to influence the outcome of the election.

There was not only money contributed, but on the ground forces provided, to tip the election against Netanyahu. This involvement provoked much resentment and even fear.

So when Netanyahu said he was concerned about Arabs being bused to the polling places, he was clearly not concerned about Arabs voting, but about foreign forces bribing them to vote – not for Arabs but for Netanyahu’s opposition.

Anyone who knows anything about Israeli politics knows that Netanyahu would not be concerned about Arabs voting for Arabs, since they invariably sit in the opposition. But the idea of Arabs – or anyone else – being bribed to vote for the major opposing party is indeed a scary prospect, as it powerfully infringes on Israeli self-determination.

This statement has become tantamount to race baiting, which, with all due respect, is American Jews looking through the prism of America and not of Israel. The analogy does not hold water, because at the end of the day, the issues with Arabs are politically based and not racially based (Israeli Jews themselves come in all races and ethnicities, and true racial tensions are indeed prevalent among us within the Jewish tent.).

Are we perfect? Do politicians both here, in the US, and around the world, promise, pander and occasionally invoke fear to motivate voters? Only since the beginning of time

But again, the willingness to go nuclear on this subject was very troubling. So troubling and so out of proportion that I fear that American Jews are starting to envision a nightmare that they never wanted to contemplate: the specter of dual loyalty.

The issue is a canard, but it is implicitly being exacerbated by an American administration that has never been Israel’s friend, and has used any tools at its disposal to cast aspersions on Israeli policy and above all its leadership.

The day when support for Israel is somehow not tantamount to loyalty to the United States will be a black day indeed for America. I pray it will never come close to arising.

However, it is increasingly being left to politically conservative Jews and Evangelical Christian friends to stand unequivocally with Israel. This is a shame, since the support of Israel should rank high with all those focused on human rights and the dignity of man.

American brethren, we are indeed your brethren, and we are indeed pursuing a complementary, but different path from your own. We ask you to see us empathetically, to understand our challenges and our right and need to respond to those challenges.

You have no need to be embarrassed because of us; indeed, quite the opposite. Despite an irremediably hostile environment, we have brought great gifts to all of mankind, and with God’s help, will continue to do so.

All we ask of you is understanding, and the benefit of the doubt that comes with family.

WHAT NOW FOR ISRAEL’S GOVERNMENT?

March 20th, 2015

WHAT NOW FOR ISRAEL’S GOVERNMENT?
(Israel Today News)

A brief, but stormy election campaign has come to an end, and not only is Benjamin Netanyahu still Prime Minister, he appears poised to establish a far more stable government made up only of right-wing parties.

In the coming days, President Reuven Rivlin will select the candidate best positioned to form the next government. Given Likud’s crushing victory over the left-wing Zionist Union faction, that candidate will be Netanyahu.

Rivlin has expressed his hope for a national unity government, and is expected to ask Netanyahu to consider such an option.

But while a coalition consisting only of Likud, the Zionist Union and one or two other parties would be an interesting prospect, it is far more likely that Netanyahu will capitalize on the results of the elections by building a coalition made up of right-wing and religious parties.

Likud brings 30 seats to the table. It has natural partners in Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home (8 seats) and Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beiteinu (6 seats). The new Kulanu faction (10 seats) of Moshe Kahlon, himself a former Likud heavyweight, is also expected to be an easy sell for Netanyahu.

That would already bring Netanyahu’s coalition to 54 out of 120 Knesset seats.

At that point, Netanyahu could again approach Yair Lapid and his centrist Yesh Atid party, but it is unlikely he will want that headache. It was Lapid who essentially brought down the last government over budget disputes.

Netanyahu’s other option is to woo the two ultra-Orthodox parties – Shas (7 seats) and United Torah Judaism (6 seats).

Getting Shas and United Torah Judaism into the government is easy, provided Netanyahu is prepared to offer the Interior Ministry, significant public funding for Orthodox yeshivas and to make compromises on legislation requiring ultra-Orthodox males to do military service like all other Israeli Jews.

If he’s willing to pay that price, Netanyahu can establish a coalition of 67 seats.

This coalition would still have some differences of opinion regarding economic and social issues, but would largely see eye-to-eye on security and diplomatic issues like Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

In other words, it would appear Netanyahu has the opportunity to form the coalition he wanted and one that might finally serve a full four-year term.

THE REAL ISRAEL STANDS WITH NETANYAHU

March 20th, 2015

THE REAL ISRAEL STANDS WITH NETANYAHU
Giulio Meotti (Arutz Sheva News)

One of the icons of Israeli leftist culture, Joshua Sobol, during the campaign against Benjamin Netanyahu, defined religious Jews as stupid “mezuzah kissers”. This anti-religious perfidy contains the secret of the defeat of the Zionist Camp and the impressive victory of Netanyahu’s Likud.

Israel’s élite was crushed by the “second Israel”, the title by which the people who crowned Bibi again are known. Netanyahu won despite the establishment: newspapers, televisions, former ambassadors, former heads of the Mossad, former retired generals, all the writers and artists.

You see it from the electoral map. The Likud won in the capital, Jerusalem, and in the north and south of the country. The left dominated Tel Aviv and other cities in the center, the bastions of cosmopolitan, sophisticated, hedonistic, urban and literary Israel. Netanyahu dominated in the remote cities threatened by missiles from Hamas and Hezbollah, such as Kiryat Shmona and Nahariya in the north, and Sderot, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Beersheba in the south.

Even Arad, the southern desert city where the writer Amos Oz made his home, awarded vote to the Likud en masse. Ashdod, the third poorest city in Israel and one of the fastest demographically growing, continued to be a bastion of the right.

This is the paradox: the so called Labour Party is voted for by the rich sectors of Israel, while the Likud governs with the consent of the majority of the country living in the smaller towns, in what IIsraelis call the”peripheries” – far north and south – and in the “settlements”. Jerusalem is a poor city, where several shekels are a significant figure.

If Tel Aviv lives a life of power and acquisition, Jerusalem vibrates with Jewish identity. Many Likud voters are Sephardic, from Asian or African countries; enemies of Labor before they are fans of Likud. Many are devotees of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who spared no fierce attacks on feminists, the Supreme Court, and the left (“it does not take into account the human being, but only power”).

Netanyahu was not voted in by Kfar Shamaryahu, the richest town in Israel, where many millionaires and journalists live, such as Haaretz’s Ari Shavit. and the list of the richest Israelis, from Idan Ofer to Stef Wertheimer: they all vote for Herzog and Livni. Weren’t these the same billionaires who supported the Oslo Process in order to invest in the Arab territories?

The arch-enemy of Benjamin Netanyahu, Noni Mozes was also defeated in these elections. He is the mysterious publisher of the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth with vast properties in television. They are the scions of the Ashkenazi élite, the children and grandchildren of those Jews who came from north-eastern Europe, who built Israel with their messianic intelligence. Even today in Israel the taste of cosmopolitan culture, the great love for the theater and, above all, for music, are seen as typically Ashkenazi.

The others, the Sephardim and the Mizrahis, were segregated and pushed to the margins of the society, but today, in the army units and as a demographic, they constitute the core of Israel.

Like the Yemenite Jews, who, originally, with their large eyes, pointy beards and curly locks, looked like antique Assyrian medallions.

Many have come into their own in academia and the professions, but most Sephardic Jews still remain connected to tradition.

The doctor, the architect, the engineer with French, American or British passports – the same people who protested against Bibi’s economic policies – are able to leave Israel and reintegrate into the Western society.

But can a religious Sephardic Jew – or any Sephardic Jew, for that matter – go back to Syria, Iraq, Lebanon or Egypt? It is like after the Yom Kippur war, when part of the Left proposed the abandonment of Israel and the Sephardim said and repeat today: “We are staying”.

HOLY ALTAR CONSTRUCTED FOR JEWISH TEMPLE

March 19th, 2015

HOLY ALTAR CONSTRUCTED FOR JEWISH TEMPLE

End-times prophecy watchers are marveling over a news report out of Jerusalem this week that the Altar of the Lord has been reconstructed by the Temple Institute.

The Institute, based in the Old City of Jerusalem, announced it has finished building an altar that is essentially “ready for use” in sacrificial services.

The altar is the most ambitious project to date toward the goal of rebuilding the Jewish Temple. The massive outdoor altar, which took several years to build, can be operational at little more than a moment’s notice, reported the Israeli magazine Matzav Haruach.

The altar is the last major component needed for the long-obstructed sacrifices to resume in a future Jewish temple.

Carl Gallups, a Baptist pastor in Florida, Bible prophecy expert and author of “Final Warning: Understanding the Trumpet Days of Revelation” details his views that show a startling correlation between Bible prophecy and contemporary reality.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews pray daily for its reconstruction atop the holy hill known as Mount Moriah or the Temple Mount.

Bible scholars say the rebuilding of the ancient temple is predicted throughout scripture, starting with Daniel’s vision in Daniel 9:27. Jesus echoed Daniel’s warning about an abomination standing in “the holy place” in the last days in Matthew 24:15, followed by the Apostle John’s vision of the Temple in Revelation 11:1-2. Paul mentioned it in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4.

Most people don’t realize the temple had two altars — the altar of burnt offering and the altar of incense. The largest was the altar of burnt offering, placed in the outer court of the priests. Designing and building it to exact biblical specifications required quite an undertaking.

It was approximately 5 meters (16 feet) tall and 16 meters (52.5 feet) wide, with four “horns” or raised corners, and a ramp.

The altar is the central focus of the sacrificial services that were halted with the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D.

The Temple Institute has prepared all the priestly garments and sacred vessels for the rebuilt temple, which can be viewed on its website. It even trains members of the priestly family to be ready to serve as soon as the Temple is constructed.

Carl Gallups, a Baptist pastor in Florida, Bible prophecy expert and author of “Final Warning: Understanding the Trumpet Days of Revelation,” told WND the announcement about the altar will be seen by many Christians as a huge step toward fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

“This announcement will surely excite prophecy watchers around the world,” he said. “Regardless of one’s eschatological leanings, every sincere student of the Word of God knows there are at least hints, if not clear declarations, of something happening just before the return of the Lord that involves altar sacrifices and the distinct possibility of a rebuilt temple on the Temple Mount.”

KERRY AND ABBAS TO MEET IN EGYPT

March 13th, 2015

KERRY AND ABBAS TO MEET IN EGYPT
(Arutz Sheva News)

Secretary of State to meet PA chairman and Jordan’s King to discuss the PA’s economic crisis.

United States Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah II on the sidelines of economic talks in Egypt on Friday, American officials said on Thursday night.

The talks are likely to focus on the economic crisis facing the PA and could be a four-way meeting which would also include Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a State Department official was quoted by AFP as having said.

“We continue to be concerned about the PA,” the official told reporters travelling with Kerry on his plane to the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

“It’s really part of the continuous, ongoing conversation we’re having with the critical stakeholders here,” the official said, asking not to be named.

Kerry is due to arrive Friday at the resort to attend an international economic conference, set to burnish Sisi’s global credentials.

Last month, Kerry voiced fears that the PA may be teetering on the brink of collapse because of a lack of funding, as Israel withholds taxes and donor aid stalls.

In January, Israel suspended $127 million in tax revenues which should have been transferred to the Palestinian Authority in retaliation for its move to join the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The PA has repeatedly asked for foreign donations, claiming it is on the verge of collapse due to a worsening financial crisis.

While blaming Israel for the PA’s financial woes, its chairman Abbas continues to spend six percent of the PA’s annual budget to pay $4.5 million a month to jailed terrorists and another $6.5 million to their families.

The State Department official did not indicate whether the meeting between Kerry and Abbas would deal with the peace process. Kerry was able to force Israel and the PA into a six-month negotiation period in 2014, but the PA torpedoed those talks by requesting to join 15 international agencies in breach of the conditions of the negotiations.

A recent report indicated that President Barack Obama intends to restart peace talks between Israel and the PA after Knesset elections, which are to be held March 17.

NETANYAHU’S CONGRESS SPEECH MAY HAVE SAVED THE WORLD!

March 13th, 2015

NETANYAHU’S CONGRESS SPEECH MAY HAVE SAVED THE WORLD!
by Mark Langfan – (Arutz Sheva News)

Everyone has heard of the story of the little boy who was the only person to tell the vain, delusional, self-absorbed emperor that he had no clothes. Well, 47 brave US Senate Republicans have just told Iran that the vain, delusional, self-absorbed President Obama is constitutionally unclothed with respect to his Iran-Nuke-deal end-run around the US Senate.

And there’s only one reason the Senate Republicans took such a bold step: Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to the Joint Session of Congress. For, as it stands, the only obstacle that could stop Obama’s arm-Iran-with-nukes-deal is the Senate Republican Letter.

Hence, PM Netanyahu may have saved the world from a catastrophic Obama-Iran-Nuke deal.

A little background is in order. On November 4, 2014, I published an Arutz Sheva news story which outed Senior Obama Administration Foreign Policy staffer Ben Rhodes as saying the Obama Administration was trying to legally engineer an end-run around the US Senate ratification of any Iran Nuke deal. Here’s what I wrote:

Also, after generally explaining that President Obama may receive political flak from his own Democratic Party over an Iranian nuclear deal, Rhodes is heard stating that, “and we [the Obama Administration] are already, kind of, picking through [analyzing] how do we structure a deal so that we don’t necessarily require (starts laughing) legislative action anyway. Um, And there are ways to do that.”

Obama was recorded as engineering a violation of the US Constitution by not submitting the Iran Nuke deal to the Senate.

As the Iranian-Government-backed Press TV reported my remarks on November 20, 2014 after the 2014 Federal elections which saw the Republicans win the Senate:

“Mark Langfan told Press TV on Saturday that there is no way for US President Barack Obama to reach a deal with Iran over its nuclear program without a green light from Congress.

“Langfan was commenting on a letter to Obama, signed by a group of 43 Republican senators, which expressed ‘alarm’ at the prospect of a nuclear accord with Tehran.”

In the letter, dated November 19, the senators, led by Mark Kirk and Marco Rubio, told Obama that they were worried by “reports that your Administration plans to circumvent Congress and unilaterally provide significant sanctions relief under a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran”, according to Arutz Sheva.

“What a lot of people don’t understand is that President Obama can decide not to enforce the law, but the law is still on the books”, Langfan said. “When Obama leaves in two years all those laws are still on the books”, if the new President comes in he can retroactively enforce them.

The Republicans, who will control both houses of Congress in January, have vowed to fight against any changes made by the White House by bypassing Congress.

“Any kind of deal with Iran would certainly be some type of treaty and under the United States constitution a treaty has to be ratified by the US Senate, said the New York-based military strategist.”

Therefore, if the Senate letter has slowed or stopped the Obama-Iran deal, Netanyahu and his speech will have been the one and only act which prompted the senators to act and send the letter. The Senate letter also exposes Herzog’s “after the speech and the hugs, Netanyahu will be alone” comment.

Firstly, Herzog’s comment deserves the “Fool of The Year” award. The senate letter proves Herzog is a rank idiot for attacking Netanyahu’s speech even before the applause died down. But most importantly, the Senate letter shows that, at minimum, the Senate Republicans will stand with Israel against a catastrophic Iranian nuke deal against a President who has violated every tenet of mutual consensus and comity between the President and the Congress when it comes to Foreign Policy.

Finally, the most tautological Orwellian Obama argument used by the “let’s make an Iranian deal” crowd is: Almost zero enrichment is not possible because now Iran has so many centrifuges and so much uranium, that it’s unreasonable to ask Iran to stop enriching. This translates into, the Obama Administration has appeased Iran so much for 6 and 1/2 years, that, at this point, we can’t stop appeasing Iran because they’ll get upset and use all the nuclear technology and enriched stock that they developed under the appeasing Obama.

Alcoholics and druggies also say the same thing. They can’t stop drinking or getting high because they must get high. With alcoholics and druggies, you send them to Alcoholics Anonymous, or lock them up in a Drug rehab. With Obama, the solution is simple, send the entire Obama Administration to Appeasers Anonymous for an appeaser’s detox plan. It starts with first admitting you’re a pro-Iranian nuclear appeaser who has allowed Iran to murder 250,000 Sunnis in Syria.

After the Netanyahu-Inspired US Senate letter, hopefully Obama will seek immediate appeaser-intervention. Much more likely is that Valerie Jarett will threaten to cut Obama’s fraudulent Hyde Park real-estate deal with Syrian/Iranian-sleeper agent/dual national Tony Rezko.

So, don’t bank on Obama starting his ten-step anti-appeasement rehab program anytime soon.

HOW IS CAROLE DOING?

March 12th, 2015

HOW IS CAROLE DOING?

Many of you have been asking about my wife Carole, who has been hospitalized and had surgery on her right leg on Thursday night, March 5, 2015. Her bad fall occurred on March 2, the morning that the rain poured down severely in about one hour – we were coming home from errands. Carole got out of my truck and started to walk into our garage – it was very wet and slippery – she slipped and fell on her knee, shattering it, and also did severe damage to her femur. She left the hospital (where she was isolated for several days) and was moved into a rehab facility. We were told that she might be there for a couple of months – How we need your prayers!

She cannot walk (not even with a walker or crutches), and it will be several weeks before she can put pressure on her right leg again.

Both of us are aware that life is filled with very difficult situations, and we need to depend entirely upon the grace of our Lord and His healing power.

I will be in Temecula this Saturday night, March 14, to speak in behalf of the support for Israel. Next weekend (March 20-22) I will be at a Prophecy Conference at Vision Calvary Chapel in Porterville, CA – your prayers will be most appreciated – please remember to pray for my dear wife, Carole – this has been one of the most difficult times for her, and for us. Thank you all again!

PA SECURITY ARRESTS MORE THAN 100 HAMAS MEMBERS

March 9th, 2015

PA SECURITY ARRESTS MORE THAN 100 HAMAS MEMBERS by Ben Ariel (Arutz Sheva News)

Hamas says PA security services have launched another crackdown on its members in Judea and Samaria, arresting 100.

The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) security services have launched another crackdown on Hamas members in Judea and Samaria, Kol Yisrael radio reported on Sunday night, citing Hamas-affiliated media outlets.

According to the latest reports, more than 100 members of Hamas have been detained in Ramallah, Hevron, Tulkarm and other cities. Among those detained are previously released prisoners, students and educators, Hamas claimed.

The crackdown on Hamas by PA security forces comes despite a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, which led to the formation of a unity government last year.

Despite the unity agreement, the PA has continuously arrested members of Hamas in the PA-assigned areas of Judea and Samaria.

The reconciliation attempt has been rocked by tensions, most notably Hamas’s attempt to stage a violent coup in Judea and Samaria against the Palestinian Authority.

The sides have most recently quarreled over the PA’s refusal to take responsibility for the employees from the former-Hamas run government, a key Hamas demand.

Hamas employees were enraged in June when the new unity government did not pay their salaries at the start of the month, despite the 70,000 PA employees in Gaza being able to withdraw their paychecks. The rage boiled over into fistfights, with Hamas eventually shutting down all the banks in Gaza for roughly a week.

In another sign that the unity agreement was crumbling, Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri recently said that the six-month mandate of the unity government had ended. He was preceded by the head of Hamas’s politburo, Khaled Mashaal, who said that the Palestinian reconciliation “scene” was not satisfying.

JUDAISM: CAN THERE BE COMPASSION WITHOUT JUSTICE?

March 6th, 2015

JUDAISM: CAN THERE BE COMPASSION WITHOUT JUSTICE?
Former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks (Arutz Sheva News)

God is compassionate and lives in love and forgiveness. This is an essential element of Jewish faith. But there is a caveat.

At the height of the drama of the Golden Calf a vivid and enigmatic scene takes place. Moses has secured forgiveness for the people. But now, on Mount Sinai yet again, he does more. He asks God to be with the people. He asks Him to “teach me Your ways,” and “show me Your glory” (Ex. 33: 13, 18). God replies: “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence … I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” But, He said, “you cannot see My face, for no one may see Me and live” (Ex. 33: 20).

God then places Moses in a cleft in the rock face, telling him he will be able to “see My back” but not His face, and Moses hears God say these words:

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished … (Ex. 34: 6-7)

This passage became known as the “thirteen attributes of God’s compassion.”

The sages understood this episode as the moment in which God taught Moses, and through him future generations, how to pray when atoning for sin. Moses himself used these words with slight variations during the next crisis, that of the spies. Eventually they became the basis of the special prayers known as selichot, prayers of penitence. It was as if God were binding himself to forgive the penitent in each generation by this self-definition.

But there is a caveat. God adds: “Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.” There is a further clause about visiting the sins of the parents on the children which demands separate attention and is not our subject here. The caveat tells us that there is forgiveness but also punishment. There is compassion but also justice.

Why so? Why must there be justice as well as compassion, punishment as well as forgiveness? The sages said that “When God created the universe He did so under the attribute of justice, but then saw it could not survive. What did He do? He added compassion to justice and created the world.” This statement prompts the same question. Why did God not abandon justice altogether? Why is forgiveness alone not enough?

Some fascinating recent research in diverse fields from moral philosophy to evolutionary psychology, and from games theory to environmental ethics, provides us with an extraordinary and unexpected answer.

The best point of entry is Garrett Harding’s famous paper written in 1968 about “the tragedy of the commons.” He asks us to imagine an asset with no specific owner: pasture land that belongs to everyone (the commons), for example, or the sea and the fish it contains. The asset provides a livelihood to many people, the local farmers or fishermen. But eventually it attracts too many people. There is over-pasturing or overfishing, and the resource is depleted. The pasture is at risk of becoming wasteland. The fish are in danger of extinction.

What then happens? The common good demands that everyone from here on must practice restraint. They must limit the number of animals they graze or the amount of fish they catch. But some individuals are tempted not to do so. They continue to over-pasture or overfish. The gain to them is great and the loss to others is small, since it is divided by many. Self-interest takes precedence over the common good, and if enough people do so the result is disaster.

This is the tragedy of the commons, and it explains how environmental catastrophes and other disasters occur. The problem is the free rider, the person who pursues his or her self interest without bearing their share of the cost of the common good. Because of the importance of this type of situation to many contemporary problems, they have been intensively studied by mathematical biologists like Anatol Rapoport and Martin Nowak and behavioural economists like Daniel Kahneman and the late Amos Tversky.

One of the things they have done is to create experimental situations that simulate this sort of problem. Here is one example. Four players are each given $8. They are told they can choose to invest as much or as little as they want in a common fund. The experimenter collects the contributions, adds them up, adds 50% (the gain the farmer or fisherman would have made by using the commons), and distributes the sum equally to all four players. So if each contributes the full $8 to the fund, they each receive $12 at the end. But if one player contributes nothing, the fund will total $24, which with 50% added becomes $36. Distributed equally it means that each will receive $9. Three will thus have gained $1, while the fourth, the free rider, will have gained $9.

This, though, is not a stable situation. As the game is played repeatedly, the participants begin to realise there is a free rider among them even if the experiment is structured so that they don’t know who it is. One of two things then tends to happen. Either everyone stops contributing to the fund (i.e. the common good) or they agree, if given the choice, to punish the free rider. Often people are keen to punish, even if it means that they will lose thereby, a phenomenon sometimes called “altruistic punishment.”

Some have linked participants to MRI machines to see which parts of the brain are activated by such games. Interestingly, altruistic punishment is linked to pleasure centres in the brain. As Kahneman puts it, “It appears that maintaining the social order and the rules of fairness in this fashion is its own reward. Altruistic punishment could well be the glue that holds societies together.” This, though, is hardly a happy situation. Punishment is bad news for everyone. The offender suffers, but so do the punishers, who have to spend time or money they might otherwise use in improving the collective outcome. And in cross-cultural studies, it turns out to be people from countries where there is widespread free-riding who punish most severely. People are most punitive in societies where there is the most corruption and the least public-spiritedness. Punishment, in other words, is the solution of last resort.

This brings us to religion. A whole series of experiments has shed light on the role of religious practice in such circumstances. Tests have been carried out in which participants have the opportunity to cheat and gain by so doing. If, without any connection being made to the experiment at hand, participants have been primed to think religious thoughts – by being shown words relating to God, for example, or being reminded of the Ten Commandments – they cheat significantly less. What is particularly fascinating about such tests is that outcomes show no relationship to the underlying beliefs of the participants. What makes the difference is not believing in God, but rather being reminded of God before the test. This may well be why daily prayer and other regular rituals are so important. What affects us at moments of temptation is not so much background belief but the act of bringing that belief into awareness.

Of much greater significance have been the experiments designed to test the impact of different ways of thinking about God. Do we think primarily in terms of Divine forgiveness, or of Divine justice and punishment? Some strands within the great faiths emphasize one, others the other. There are hellfire preachers and those who speak in the still, small voice of love. which is the more effective?

Needless to say, when the experimental subjects are atheists or agnostics, there is no difference. They are not affected either way. Among believers, though, the difference is significant. Those who believe in a punitive God cheat and steal less than those who believe in a forgiving God. Experiments were then performed to see how believers relate to free-riders in common-good situations like those described above. Were they willing to forgive, or did they punish the free-riders even at a cost to themselves. Here the results were revelatory. People who believe in a punitive God, punish people less than those who believe in a forgiving God. Those who believe that, as the Torah says, God “does not leave the guilty unpunished,” are more willing to leave punishment to God. Those who focus on Divine forgiveness are more likely to practice human retribution or revenge.

The same applies to societies as a whole. Here the experimenters used terms not entirely germane to Judaism: they compared countries in terms of percentages of the population who believed in heaven and hell. “Nations with the highest levels of belief in hell and the lowest levels of belief in heaven had the lowest crime rates. In contrast, nations that privileged heaven over hell were champions of crime. These patterns persisted across nearly all major religious faiths, including various Christian, Hindu and syncretic religions that are a blend of several belief systems.”

This was so surprising a finding that people asked: in that case, why are there religions that de-emphasize Divine punishment? Azim Shariff offered the following explanation: “Because though Hell might be better at getting people to be good, Heaven is much better at making them feel good.” So, if a religion is intent on making converts, “it’s much easier to sell a religion that promises a divine paradise than one that threatens believers with fire and brimstone.”

It is now clear why, at the very moment He is declaring His compassion, grace and forgiveness, God insists that He does not leave the guilty unpunished. A world without Divine justice would be one where there is more resentment, punishment and crime, and less public-spiritedness and forgiveness, even among religious believers. The more we believe that God punishes the guilty, the more forgiving we become. The less we believe that God punishes the guilty, the more resentful and punitive we become. This is a totally counterintuitive truth, yet one that finally allows us to see the profound wisdom of the Torah in helping us create a humane and compassionate society.

UPDATE ON CAROLE’S SURGERY

March 6th, 2015

UPDATE ON CAROLE’S SURGERY
by David Hocking
Thank you so much to all of you who have sent wonderful cards, e-mails, and assurances of your prayers and support.

On Thursday evening at 5:00 PM Carole was slated for surgery on her right leg – she had a very bad and painful fall last Monday during a powerful, and infrequent, rain storm. She slipped on the wet cement and fell, injuring her knee and upper leg causing enormous and frightening pain. We immediately ordered the Paramedics to bring their ambulance and take her to the emergency center at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange, California.

The X-Rays that were taken revealed some serious injury to her leg. They have been trying this past week to relieve her pain by giving her morphine continuously.

At 4:45 PM on Thursday (yesterday), the nurses and surgery attendants came to take her to Pre-Op to prepare her for surgery. Unfortunately, the doctor was involved with another patient, and they were not able to take Carole until 6:30 PM. It was four hours later that her surgeon came out to David to explain what was happening, and why the surgery took so long. In turns out the her femur was very damaged, and the doctor was surprised to find a large hole in the femur that would have to be repaired. The surgery took longer than expected, but the doctor (an excellent orthopedic surgeon) was able to put things back together, and put a large brace upon her leg. She came out of recovery at midnight – today she is having more tests, and the plan is to provide some re-hab for her for at least 2-4 weeks. They will take her this next week to a familiar place – Town and Country Manor for rehabilitation procedures.

After the rehab weeks, she will be at home bed-ridden for six weeks before we try a “walker” or “crutches” to be used very sparingly. All together, the doctor has said that it will be three months before she is able to put any pressure or weight upon that leg.

Our trust is in the LORD GOD, and we depend upon His knowledge, His healing, His love and mercy, and His timing in all of this.

Thanks you again for your amazing love and kindness to us!

Love to you all!

David Hocking
HOPE for TODAY Ministries


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