The Path to Madness
The headlines about North Korea's successful test of a small nuclear device this week may be perceived as a respite from the otherwise unshakable focus of the world on news from the Middle East. But those who think that a shift of attention to the threat emanating from the Pacific rim will have little impact on Israel are deeply mistaken.
The challenge that North Korea poses for world leaders who still seek to keep the lid shut on the Pandora's box of nuclear proliferation is daunting. Just as it is no longer possible to ignore the bizarre Stalinist regime in Pyongyang, the announcement about their breakthrough puts the efforts to contain Iran, a far larger rogue regime that also seeks nuclear weapons, in perspective.
If the United States and other powers are somehow helpless to stop the impoverished North Koreans, how can they possibly hope to obstruct Tehran's own quest for the ultimate weapon of mass destruction? Indeed, the diplomatic dance that the United States has engaged in with North Korea over the last 15 years demonstrates just how pointless appeasement of dictators bent on the trophy of a nuclear bomb can be.
This is, after all, the same country that agreed to halt its nuclear program and signed on to a deal with the United States (brokered by former President Jimmy Carter), which would reward them for backing off on nukes with cash and food for their starving people. But North Korea's megalomaniac dictator, Kim Jong-Il, pocketed Carter's bribes, and then proceeded to thumb his nose at America and the rest of the world by continuing his nuclear program.
With North Korea's neighbors and the United States more intent on pacifying a dangerous regime than in confronting it, Kim Jong-Il got away with it. Those who expect him to react differently to new overtures are dreaming. And that is exactly what those who urge appeasement of Iran and its maniacal leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should keep in mind in the months and years ahead.
Tehran may even think the focus on Korea will give it some cover to proceed on its nuclear way with little international attention.
But as limited as our options may be with respect to North Korea, the United States and its allies must remain steadfast in their commitment to stopping Iran. If Iran is allowed to go as far as the Koreans, it will mean that a nuclear device will rest in the hands of a regime that's already advocated Israel's destruction.
Kick Up Our Heels!
In an era when so much of the Jewish world is pondering the question of how to entice people into synagogues or to begin learning about their heritage, this week brings the perfect answer to that dilemma.
The holiday of Simchat Torah, which concludes the weeklong celebration of Sukkot, is often skipped by those whose observance of Judaism does not extend past a three-day-a-year pilgrimage. But this day of dancing, celebration and study is one that should be embraced by those who are intimidated -- or even bored -- by the snippets of Jewish life they have observed.
The holiday, which marks the date on which Jews complete the annual cycle of reading the sacred text of the Torah, is a good excuse to kick up our collective heels, and reconnect with the joys of learning and life that lie at the heart of our faith.
It is a time when we can all celebrate the essential role of the Torah -- and the beauty and wisdom of its teachings -- as well as in our faith in the rule of law.
In these days marked by so much fear, anguish and hand-wringing, Simchat Torah is the ideal day to bask in the beauty of living freely as Jews.