Tamar Ariel: an inspirational humbling young lady


I’ve struggled with understanding the myriad of Israelis who after their army service make their way to Nepal, and India, then sometimes down to Australia. Nepal and India have their significant risks. I’ve only been able to understand it in terms of a need to “come down” from the psychological experience of being in the army. In this regard, I think that whilst having Chabad Houses to support these Israelis is great, the IDF needs to do lots more to develop their post IDF program, especially given the spiritual vacuity that so many seem to experience as soon as they are confronted with life after training and/or combat.

Tamar Ariel is a hero though. I don’t know why she went to Nepal, and I don’t fit her shoes so am hardly in a position to proffer opinion, but a frum girl, who was a pilot, wore a skirt to her ankles, didn’t even shake hands with commanders, is someone who had much more to her than the Chitzoniyus of Tznius. This was a lady who internally was probably more modest than her external fidelity to Halacha. She was one of a kind.

יהי זכרה ברוך

Tamar Ariel ע’ה (picture from Yediot Achronot)

The article can be found here, by Mitch Ginzburg. I reproduce it below.

Cpt. Tamar Ariel, Israel’s first female religious air force pilot, a rear-seat, F-16D navigator, was buried on Tuesday, several days after she died high in the Himalayas. Hundreds of people, including dozens of IAF pilots and commanders, accompanied her on her final journey. Ariel was 25 years old.

She loved motorcycles and fighter jets and wore an ankle-length skirt to her IAF Flight School graduation in December 2012. When Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, the commander of the air force, came down the line of new graduates, he nodded her a greeting, rather than clasping her hand; she nodded vigorously in return and beamed him a smile.

She was a modest and unassuming woman who resented being put on a pedestal. Her aunt, speaking over her grave, said that she did not want to pose for the photo op with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the flight school graduation ceremony because she felt it overshadowed the achievement of her fellow pilots. And though in her life she went to great lengths to state that she was not a role model, she will likely be remembered as such by many in the modern Orthodox community in Israel, which is split by the competing values of army service for all, particularly among the younger generation, and the deep-seated social conservatism that spurred rabbis to press the state, since its inception, to grant all religious Jewish women the right to bypass army service with an oath of Orthodoxy.

Ariel was raised on a cooperative farming community, Moshav Masuot Yitzhak, in a home on the edge of an avocado orchard. She was the third of six children, born to a father who was second generation on the moshav and a mother who made Aliya from Puerto Rico, Yedioth Ahronoth reported in 2012.

She went to a co-ed local school as a child and to an ulpana, or yeshiva for girls, as an adolescent. In 11th grade, she received her first army summons and was found suitable for flight school. After taking several preliminary tests, she decided, in 12th grade, to fall in line with what most of the ulpana girls were doing – national civilian service. “I was afraid of ‘becoming rotten’ from a religious perspective,” she told the Yedioth daily. “I thought that serving within the framework of religious institutions was more protected and safe in that regard.”

She stated that she was Orthodox, received an exemption from army service on the spot, and served for two years as a Bnei Akiva youth leader and a counselor in her former school.

Upon completion, she decided that she still had not fulfilled her potential and turned back to the army, rescinding her earlier statement. In April 2009 she passed the week-long physical exam and was accepted to the prestigious course.

Nighttime navigation drills, when paired off with a man, were awkward, she said, but not “something that anyone dies from.”

After several months in the course and after being placed in the combat fighter section of her class, she flew her first solo flight. As she lined up the landing, wheels already on the tarmac, she felt that she was losing control of the plane and that it might spin off the runway. She pulled the eject cord, according to protocol, was rocketed skyward, and broke a vertebra in her back.

After months in an elastic body cast, the army took her back to the course but moved her into the navigator track.

In December 2012, she graduated, making history. “I don’t think that women need to go to flight school — I think that they can,” she told The Times of Israel at the time. “I recommend that any woman, religious or not, give it a shot. If they call you in, if you pass the tests, it means that the army thinks you can do it. So go ahead — try.”

During Operation Protective Edge this summer she flew the most combat missions in her squadron, her commander said earlier this week.

And then, seeking some R and R, she went, along with another pilot, to vacation in Nepal, to walk the Around Annapurna circuit at what is considered the optimal time of the year. “I didn’t worry during the trip to Nepal,” her mother, Anat, told Army Radio. “The trip was planned to the minute and I had faith in her and in The Holy One, blessed be He.”

Last week, though, a highly unusual storm blew through region, pelting the high mountain passes with snow. Ariel and dozens of other trekkers encountered the brunt of the storm on the Thorong La pass, the highest point on the circuit. Sapped of strength by the altitude and the cold and the fast-accumulating snow, Ariel could no longer walk as afternoon turned to evening and the clusters of trekkers tried to make their way down from the pass to safety.

She died in the snow along with Agam Luria, Nadav Shoham, Michal Charkesky, and 36 other people, half of whom were Nepali.

“You became a public leader,” moshav rabbi Meir Nehorai reportedly said at the funeral, “the object of admiration from all around.”

That admiration is likely to endure and to serve as a beacon to many young Orthodox women charting their path in life.

Guest post from R Meir Deutsch on Simchas Torah


מועדים לשמחה, חגים וזמנים לששון

מתן תורה
מאיר דויטש כל הזכויות שמורות

It is שמחת תורה We finish reading the last Parasha and start again from BERESHIT. In the meantime we dance with the Tora scrolls.
I want to share with you my thoughts about two topics. The first: in what language was the Tora written, and the second: on what was it written.
The deliberations, except the quotes, are my thoughts, you do not have to agree with them or accept them, but would appreciate hearing your thought on the topic.

בדברים בפרק לב פסוק טו נאמר: “ושני לוחות העדות בידו, לוחות כתובים משני עבריהם, מזה ומזה הם כתובים”.
יש דעות שונות מה הפירוש משני עבריהם, לא אכנס לכולן אולם זו שבמסכת שבת (קד, א) הפליאה אותי.
אמר רב חסדא: מ”ם וסמ”ך שבלוחות בנס היו עומדין. ואמר רב חסדא: כתב שבלוחות נקרא מבפנים ונקרא מבחוץ, כגון נבוב – בובן, (רהב – בהר) וכדומה. בצד אחד נקרא כסדר ומהצד השני כתב מראות.
מה שאני למד מברייתא זו הוא כי בבבל, לפחות בתקופתו של רב חיסדא, שהיה דור שני של אמוראי בבל (225-250 לספירה), העברית נכתבה בכתב אשורי, דהיינו הא-ב של ימינו.
כמאה שנים קודם, בתקופת מרד בר-כוכבא (132-135 לספירה), שימש הא-ב העברי (העתיק) בא”י בכיתוב על המטבעות שטבעו בשנות המרד.

לאור האמור בפסוק אני שואל: האם לא נראה לפי הפשט כי הכוונה בנאמר “מזה ומזה הם כתובים” הוא כי בשני הלוחות לא היו שני דפים כתובים מצד אחד בלבד, אלא ארבעה עמודים, כתובים משני עבריהם של הלוחות, שניים שניים בכל לוח כמו שכתוב: “לוחות כתובים משני עבריהם, מזה ומזה הם כתובים”. מדוע רבותינו מפרשים משני עבריהם ככתב חלול? הרי גם לפי רב חסדא לא הייתה אפשרות לקרוא הכתוב מהצד השני כי הוא נכתב בצורת מראה.

באיזה כתב ניתנה התורה?
האם היה בזמן מתן תורה כתב אשורי? האם הלוחות נכתבו בכתב אשורי? אולי הם נכתבו כמו שנכתבו חוקי המורבי, שהם היו חרוטים על לוחות אבן? זו הייתה צורת הכתב והכתיבה באותם ימים. או שמא בכתב עברי? האם היה קיים הכתב העברי בזמן מתן תורה? אם בכתב עברי, אז לא היה צריך נס לאותיות מם (סופית) וסמך, אבל היה צריך נס לאותיות אחרות.

דבר הכתב נדון על ידי רבותינו והרוצה יעיין בכתובים. אביא רק מאמר, אחד מהתלמוד הירושלמי והשני מהתלמוד הבבלי.
מהירושלמי (וילנא) מסכת מגילה פרק א נאמר: ר”נ אומר ברעץ [כתב עברי] ניתנה התורה ואתייא כר’ יוסה רבי אומר אשורית ניתנה התורה וכשחטאו נהפך להן לרעץ וכשזכו בימי עזרא נהפך להן אשורית [זכריה ט יב] [...] תני רבי שמעון בן אלעזר אומר משום רבי אלעזר בן פרטא שאמר משום רבי לעזר המודעי כתב אשורי ניתנה התורה ומה טעמא [שמות כז י] ווי העמודים שיהו ווים של תורה דומים לעמודים אמר רבי לוי מאן דאמר לרעץ ניתנה התורה עי”ן מעשה ניסים מאן דאמר אשורי ניתנה התורה סמ”ך מעשה ניסים (לא השתמשו באותיות הסופיות של מנצפ”ך)
ואזכיר ברייתא אחת מהבבלי (סנהדרין כא, ב):
אמר מר זוטרא ואיתימא מר עוקבא:
בתחילה ניתנה תורה לישראל בכתב עברי ולשון הקודש,
וחזר וניתנה להם בימי עזרא בכתב אשורית ולשון ארמית,
ביררו להן לישראל כתב אשורית ולשון הקודש,
והניחו להדיוטות כתב עברית ולשון ארמי.
כאן מקשים:
1. לפי דעת מר זוטרא שהתורה נתנה בכתב עברי, קשה הרי לכתב עברי אין תגין.
חלק מן האותיות בכתב סת”ם מעוטרות בתגים. התיוג נועד בעיקר ליפות את האותיות אם כי יש לו גם משמעות דרשנית ולפי הגמרא, רבי עקיבא היה לומד דרשות ממיקום התגים באותיות. חוסר תגים באותיות אינו פוסל את הכתב.
2. לפי ברייתא זו קשיא, דאיך אפשר לומר שהתורה נתנה בכתב עברי? דהא אמרינן (שבת ק”ד א): אמר רב חסדא: מ”ם וסמ”ך שבלוחות בנס היו עומדין. ודבר זה לא תמצא רק בכתב אשורית.
3. ועוד הקשו על זה, דאיך אפשר לומר שהתורה נתנה בכתב עברי, ועזרא היה משנה הכתב? ואיך אפשר זה, והלא כתיב אלה המצוות, ואמרו ז”ל (שבת שם) שאין הנביא רשאי לחדש דבר מעתה, ואפילו אותיות מנצפ”ך?
עד כאן הברייתא והקושיות עליה.
אבל גם הברייתא עצמה מפליאה! לפי הגמרא היו שני מתן תורה, זו של משה וזו בימיו של עזרא. ומפליא יותר שבני ישראל לא אימצו לא אף אחת מהן אלא “ביררו להן לישראל כתב אשורית [מתורה שניתנה בימי עזרא] ולשון הקודש [מתורת משה]“.
לפי רבי בירושלמי אשורית ניתנה התורה אבל הכתב שונה לכתב עברי כשחטאו, ובימי עזרא חזר הכתב לאשורי.

לאחר הדיון על הכתב בו ניתנה התורה, נראה על גבי מה היא נכתבה. ידוע כי עשרת הדברים נכתבו על לוחות אבן. זה היה הנוהג באותה תקופה – חריטה על אבן או ציפוי האבן בטית וכתיבה על הטית הרך כמו שנצטוו בעברם את הירדן: [...] והקמת לך אבנים גדלות ושדת אותם בשיד. וכתבת עליהן [...] (דברים כז, ב-ג). הפפירוס היה קיים במצרים באותה תקופה אבל הוא יוצר רק שם מצמח הפפירוס ((Cyperus papyrus. הקלף עדיין לא היה (התחילו לכתוב על קלף רק בערך במאה השנייה לפני הספירה).

בגמרא מובאת מחלוקת בדבר זמן כתיבת התורה: “אמר רבי יוחנן משום ר’ בנאה, תורה – מגילה מגילה ניתנה, שנאמר ‘אז אמרתי הנה-באתי במגלת-ספר כתוב עלי’ (תהלים מ, ח). רבי שמעון בן לקיש אומר, תורה – חתומה ניתנה, שנאמר ‘לקח את ספר התורה הזאת’ ” (דברים לא, כו). רש”י מסביר: “מגילה מגילה ניתנה”: “כשנאמרה פרשה למשה היה כותבה, ולבסוף מ’ שנה כשנגמרו כל הפרשיות חיברן בגידין ותפרן”. “חתומה ניתנה”: “לא נכתבה עד סוף מ’ שנה לאחר שנאמרו כל הפרשיות כולן, והנאמרות לו בשנה ראשונה ושניה היו סדורות לו על פה עד שכתבן”.
אם התורה נכתבה על לוחות אבן מתקבלת יותר דעתו של רבי שמעון בן לקיש שהיא נכתבה בסוף ארבעים השנים, לפני כניסתם לארץ. אחרת היה על בני ישראל לשאת את הלוחות הכבדים בכל מסעיהם במדבר. דבר זה גם לא מזכירה התורה. כאמור, גם בני ישראל נצטוו לכתוב את התורה בעוברם את הירדן על אבנים גדולות מצופות בסיד (בשיד).
הפירוש של רש”י, לדעתו של רבי יוחנן דאמר שהתורה ניתנה מגילה מגילה, אומר כי חיברו את הפרשיות השונות על ידי תפירה בגידין. אין רש”י אומר על מה נכתבו. אם עלינו להניח כי התורה נכתבה על פפירוס, נצטרך להניח כי בני ישראל גידלו את צמח הפפירוס במדבר. האם היה יכול לצמוח שם במדבר? (ודאי לא ייבאו אותו ממצריים). האם הצליחו בני ישראל לגדל את צמח הפפירוס במדבר ולייצר ממנו את הפפירוס? הפפירוס הוא מאוד עדין ולכן גללו אותו כמגילה. האם ניתן היה לתפור אותו בגידין או לקפל אותו?

העליתי את שאלותיי בנושא השפה בה נכתבה התורה ועל מה היא נכתבה. איני קובע עובדות רק מביא מספר דעות של רבותינו. אשמח לקבל דעותיכם בנושא.

אסיים בקרובה לשחרית של שבועות מאת ר’ אלעזר קליר: “אז בכתב אשורית ובלשון עברית ובדיבור מצרית הנחלת לבת עברית.”

More on the mystery of the Kittel for Geshem or Tal


I had sent a few Yekkes that I knew, a publication about the customs in Frankfurt. It is comprehensive and revised yearly. It was sent before Rosh Hashono. I noticed though that it stated that the Kittel was not worn by the Shaliach Tzbibbur on Shmini Atzeres.

I do not know if Hamburg had a different Minhag, nor what Berlin let alone Poland/Russia followed, but [hat tip RDS] the following seems to also confirm (unless I have misread) that it was something that was generally worn originally on Yom Tov, over the clothes, as a special Malbush Yom Tov (which is a Halacha). [Those of you with access to one of those white cylinder style hats can wear those :-) I can remember the days when there were heaps of them adorning the heads of Mispallelim ... they used to get yellow over time, as I noticed] I couldn’t find a picture of one but they are like a flatter floppier version of the Chazan style tall hat (not to be confused with the Shloof Yarmulke, which is another story)

 

The Hetter Mechira for Shmitta (Part 2)


[Hat tip from RDS]

If you can read Hebrew you will understand how they have taken Rav Kook and twisted his words, as they always have and always will. And why? Two reasons: he loved the Land, and he loved all Jews, both with a fiery enthusiasm. As I recall the Ridbaz below was from Tzfas Ir HaKodesh. The emphases in bold are mine.

ט.        משגלה העם היהודי מארצו, ובהיעדר חקלאות יהודית משמעותית בארץ בימי הגלות, כמעט שלא עמדה על הפרק – במובן לאומי אופרטיבי – שאלת השמיטה; עם זאת מוצאים אנו פולמוסים בעניינה בעת חידוש היישוב היהודי בצפת במאה הט”ז, וחילוקי דעות לא מעטים בין פוסקי הלכה (ראו הרב זוין, שם קי”ג-קט”ז). ואולם, משהחלה בשנות השמונים למאה הי”ט הקמתן של המושבות היהודיות (מושבות העליה הראשונה), שהתפרנסו מחקלאות ונתקיים בהן “ואתם הרי ישראל ענפכם תתנו ופריכם תשאו לעמי ישראל כי קרבו לבוא” (יחזקאל ל”ו, ח), עלתה שאלת השמיטה לראשונה בשנת תרמ”ב-1882, ובמלוא עוזה בשנת תרמ”ט-1888. המושבות, שחלק ניכר מאיכריהן היו שומרי מצוות, עמדו בפני השאלה הקשה כיצד יתפרנסו אם ישמרו על השמיטה כנתינתה. הרב יצחק אלחנן ספקטור, רבה של קובנה שבליטא, פוסק מרכזי בדורו, שראה את הסוגיה כהצלת נפשות, פסק בקשר לשמיטת תרמ”ט לטובת “היתר מכירה”, ובלשונו,

“להתיר על פי העצה למכור השדות והכרמים לישמעאלים, הגוף, והפירות, על משך שתי שנים בלבד, ואחרי כלות הזמן יחזרו הכרמים והשדות לבעלים”.

הסכימו עמו גם הרב יהושע מקוטנא, הרב שמואל מוהליבר מביאליסטוק (מראשי חיבת ציון) והרב שמואל זינויל קלפפיש מורשה. עם זאת ציין הרב ספקטור, כי המדובר בהיתר לשמיטת תרמ”ט “אבל לא לשמיטות הבאות, שאז יצטרכו להיתר מחדש ולעיין אי”ה, וה’ יהיה בעזר עמנו, שלא יצטרכו להיתר…”. קו הקושי מתבלט כבר מאז, קרי, הפער בין חזון שמיטה ככל משפטה וחוקתה לבין מציאות קשה, שהפתרונות לה מורכבים הלכתית. הרב ישראל מאיר לאו, הרב הראשי לישראל לשעבר, בחוות דעתו “שביעית בזמן הזה”, שו”ת יחל ישראל ג’, קמ”ז, שנכתבה בקשר לשמיטת תשס”א-2001, מבאר על פי הרב נפתלי הרץ הלוי – רבן של יפו והמושבות עד פטירתו בתרס”ב (במקומו בא בתרס”ד הרב א”י הכהן קוק) – כי היסוד להיתר היה בדברים שכתב הרב מרדכי רויו מחברון, בעל ספר שמן המור, בשנת תקנ”ג (1793). אבן יסוד קודמת לכך מצויה אצל בעל הבית יוסף, רבנו יוסף קארו מחבר השולחן ערוך, שהתיר פירות נכרים בשביעית, אף שגם עליו היו חולקים בדורו (ראו הרב זוין, שם, קט”ו-קט”ז). הצטרפו אל הרב ספקטור בהיתר גם מראשי הרבנים של הציבור הספרדי בארץ ישראל, ובהם הראשון לציון הרב יעקב שמואל אלישר, בעל ישא ברכה, והראשון לציון הרב רפאל פניג’ל, ובחו”ל גם הנצי”ב – הרב נפתלי צבי יהודה ברלין, ראש ישיבת וולוז’ין, וכן הרב יוסף דב סולוביצ’יק מבריסק. מנגד חלקו עליהם בארץ הרב יהושע לייב דיסקין, רבה של בריסק לשעבר שעלה ארצה, והרב שמואל סלנט, רבה של ירושלים.

י.        הרב הלוי, רבן של יפו והמושבות, נסמך לקראת שמיטת תרנ”ו על היתר המכירה – וזאת הפעם כנראה בהתיעצות עם הרב דיסקין והרב סלנט. לקראת שמיטת תרס”ג נפטר הרב נ”ה הלוי, וחתנו הרב יוסף צבי הלוי הוסמך על-ידי הרב אליהו דוד רבינוביץ תאומים (האדר”ת), אב בית דין בירושלים, ועל-ידי הרב סלנט, רבה של ירושלים, להמשיך בהיתר המכירה (ראו הרב מנחם ולדמן, “הוראות לשנת השמיטה תרס”ג”, תחומין י”ג (תשנ”ב) 47, 48, והפירוט שם; נאמר כי הכרעות הרב נ”ה הלוי היו בהסכמת הרב דיסקין).

י”א.     מי שביסס במיוחד את היתר המכירה הלכתית היה הרב אברהם יצחק הכהן קוק, רבה של יפו והמושבות בשנים 1914-1904, ואחר כך רבה של ירושלים בשנים 1921-1919 ורבה הראשי הראשון של ארץ ישראל מאז 1921 עד פטירתו ב-1935, בספרו שבת הארץ שנכתב בשנת תר”ע לעת השמיטה דאז (תר”ע – 1910), תוך ויכוח חמור. הרב קוק ציין, כי

“מרוב דלות מצב יישובנו בארץ הכרח הוא אמנם להסתפק על פי רוב בהוראת שעה, כאשר הוסכם מאז על פי גדולי הדור, אשר נכנסו לעומק מצב היישוב החדש בארצנו הקדושה… ולדעת כי מאת ה’ היתה זאת, לתת ניר לעמו על אדמת קדשו… למרות הפקעת  המצוה אשר בהוראת שעה זו, ישנם כמה גופי הלכות הנדרשים לשמור ולעשות בפועל… שינון ההלכות יחקור בלבבות את חיובם בלב ומשמיטה לשמיטה יתווספו רבים, אשר בעז ה’ בלבבם ירחיבו את גבול המצוה בכל הרחבתה ופרטיה” (שבת הארץ – הלכות שביעית, כ”ה-כ”ו).

יסוד ההיתר, כפי שהסביר הרב קוק, הוא שבשביעית בזמן הזה מותר לעשות כל עבודה בקרקע של נכרי, וכמובן מי שרוצים לקיים את מצוות השמיטה בלא קוּלות, יש לברכם, ואילו על מי שיקיימו את המצווה במלואה “לדון לכף זכות בכל רגשי כבוד ואהבת ישראל, את כל אלה שמצבם בפרט, או מצב היישוב בכלל מכריח אותם להתנהג על פי סדרי ההיתר וההפקעה” (שם, עמ’ כ”ח. ראו גם איגרתו של הרב קוק אל הרידב”ז – הרב יעקב דוד וילובסקי, פרשן התלמוד הירושלמי שחי אז בארץ – בשו”ת משפט כהן הלכות שמיטה ויובל ס”ג (איגרת מיום ב’ דר”ח אייר תרס”ט) המדגישה (עמ’ קכ”ז, כ”ט) את שעת הדחק מזה ואת דחקות ההיתר מזה, וכן ח’ בן-ארצי, הרב קוק בפולמוס השמיטה תשס”ז (ושם גם התכתבותו עם הרידב”ז)). כאמור, ההיתר לא היה ללא מתנגדים, שעמדו על שמירת השמיטה כנתינתה; חלק מן ההשגות נסבו על השאלה אם ניתן למכור קרקע לנכרי בארץ ישראל, ולא נאריך.

Israel: Stay strong and resolute


ישראל נושע בה׳

The donors of 5 billion dollars to Hamastan laid no conditions of demilitarisation. This is unacceptable, and should be unacceptable to even J-Street supporters

Ban Ki Moon’s statement that the war was a result of “occupation” is reprehensible. He is grossly unfit for office. How does he know? We know it didn’t start with that. That’s fact. We know that Hamas and Fatah hate each other but hate Israel more. We know that successive Prime Ministers have tried to negotiate two state solutions only to have them rejected by the Arabs. We know they don’t recognise a JEWISH state. We know Israel can do no right.

The British Labor Party’s direction to its members to vote on the issue is grossly political. It isn’t about the concept, it’s about the timing and methodology. This is how a prostituted party works in England to garner votes.

How dare Moon not wish to investigate Human Rights violations from Hamas.

Obama is on his last legs. He has proved absolutely useless at protecting Kurds and Yazdis. He gives lip service to genocide. His lip service is only second to Clinton. Kerry is a גארנישט

The world is corruption personified.

I would, as Israel, Boycott as many UN events as possible. THAT must be the reaction. If you aren’t forced, why go to a filthy bordello? We are עם לבדד ישכון ובגויים לא יתחשב

That will not change.

Shmuley Boteach’s confused understanding of the Jewish World


The (I’m advised sincere) but confused article by Shmuley Boteach should not remain without counter-comment.

I will copy his article below and intersperse my comments.

The magnetism of Chabad messianism

Messianism is the world’s most powerful idea, humanity’s most compelling vision.

Messianism, which presumably is a word used because it over-focuses on WHO may be the Messiah, as opposed to the condition of the world at such a time, is not the world’s most powerful idea nor humanity’s most compelling vision.

The redemption itself, but more nuanced than that, the condition extant at the time of the redemption are a vision which we pray for three times a day. The days when the wolf will live with the lion, and the temple and it’s influence of unity and concentration and holiness are the reality, not vision, which Jews pray for every day. I do know that there are multifarious views of other religions now. I am not terribly interested in these, except in as much as דע משתשיב

Not only is it the underpinning of the world’s most populous religion, Christianity, it is also the engine for human progress itself.

If Jesus is the underpinning of the world’s most populous religion, that person (as opposed to the euphemistic messianism) then that is what it is. It is no more than that. If it means that people act in a certain way, which can be considered moral and ethical, and most importantly not missionary, then that is good. There is no evidence in Boteach’s statement that it is the engine for human progress. This is a statement without a presentation of any illustrative proof.

Only through a belief that history is not cyclical but linear, that positive steps in human advancement are cumulative rather than short-lived, that as a race we can step together out of the shadows and into the light, can there hope for collective human progress.

There are some mixed metaphors here. History is indeed cyclical. Boteach’s mistake is that if one proceeds in a circle, one cannot increase energy. This is of course demonstrably wrong. It is as wrong as assuming that one who travels in a line, is “growing”. They may in fact be dying, and reaching their end point.

Boteach again uses the term progress. He calls it “collective human progress.” He has not, however, seemingly made any effort to define what he means.

It is therefore fascinating to witness – once a year – the tremendous energy unleashed by the Chabad messianic movement as it congregates and detonates at world Chabad headquarters in Brooklyn.

Having never been there, I have heard that it certainly used to detonate a special extended holiness, however, anyone who has been in the State of Israel, and experienced Succos in Jerusalem, Hevron and the surrounds cannot help but know that they are actually on holy ground, enveloped by a sweeping holiness. that is unleashed and detonated. The same can be said for the “second hakafos” in Israel. That being said, I would posit that even Boteach acknowledges that Brooklyn now, is not the Brooklyn of 25 years ago, and the shining star that illuminated that section of the world, is sadly in another place. There is now much binge drinking where people either drown their sorrows or try to reach moments of detached ecstasy as a substitute. In Melbourne, I haven’t heard a good farbrengen, for example, since Rabbi Groner and those before him departed. Let me know where one is, and I’d love to be enthused by an outpouring of the Torah of Simcha.

The Jewish festival of Sukkot brings together two very different strands of the global Chabad movement. On the one hand, there is mainstream Chabad comprised of residents of Crown Heights – the global hub – together with the worldwide network of Chabad emissaries. Their strength is their professionalism, dedication, and impact.

On the other hand there are the Chabad messianists, a minority to be sure, but vocal, visible, determined, and brimming with life.

Here I assume Boteach defines a Chabad Messianist as either a chanter of one line mantras, or one who imagines he is receiving wine from nobody, or perhaps one who refuses to believe there is a filled grave. It would be helpful if Boteach defined his terms. There are many silent ones who pine for redemption. Some will internally hope that by some Divine rule it will be their Rebbe. Others (a very very small minority) will think this issue of identifying the Messiah, is actually a thorough and useless waste of time. I assume he speaks not about the elohisten.

Mainstream Chabad is uncomfortable with the messianists, believing they give both the movement and the Rebbe himself a bad name. The messianists are millennial, apocalyptic, and, to many minds, irrational. They want to push both Chabad and Judaism into the end of days.

I don’t see them as irrational (but note, I don’t know which category Boteach refers to). I see many of them as post-justifiers. They will cut and dismember Jewish tradition as espoused by the Rambam and acknowledged by the rest of Jewry. Those who think there is nothing in the grave, need psychiatric help.

But there can be no denying that they have tapped into an energy source that appears near infinite.

I do not know what “near infinite” means, let alone in this context.

When I was a young Chabad student in Crown Heights what I remember most was the limitless energy we all experienced in the Rebbe’s court. On Sukkot we could dance nine days running without tiring. We could go for a week with barely any sleep. The Rebbe – then in his eighties – set the pace with superhuman strength and inexplicable vigor.

Although I was not and am not a Chabadnik, I agree, based on the books I have recently read and some videos that I have watched, that it would have been an experience to remember.

That was more than twenty years ago.

Since then, Chabad has conquered the world and gone mainstream, sprouting educational centers in every point of the globe. My wife and I recently spent Shabbat with Chabad of Korea right after I spoke at Seoul’s Olympic Stadium at a global peace summit. A few weeks earlier I had spoken at Chabad of Aspen, Colorado. The local Chabad centers in these two very different places had in common the outstanding young Chabad rabbis, true soldiers of the Jewish people. Watching their impact on their respective communities was inspiring.

I think that Chabad has sprouted and grown, but I don’t know about conquered the world. If there was one word that I was left with after reading the three recent books about the Lubavitcher Rebbe, it was either the word dedication or positivity. I think Chabad has influenced many in that direction.

But for all that, Chabad today – as a movement that has now gone mainstream – has learned to eschew controversy. Gone are the days when Chabad agitated for the territorial integrity of the State of Israel and public stands against trading land for a fraudulent peace.

Those days aren’t gone!?! I hear this message constantly and unwaveringly today.

Gone too are the Chabad emphasis on messianism as being central to Judaism and the Jewish future.

This depends on the Shaliach. Some have adapted to their clientele while others will unwaveringly soldier on with the original message in all it’s vigour and yellow paraphernalia.

Chabad today is effective if not conventional, essential if not somewhat predictable.

It is predictable because it is a continuation of a message. There is no more central figure to initiate new ideas that are to be brought to the world. That is sad; but true. At the same time, there is an enormous corpus that may be applied to today’s world, without change.

Its focus: opening nurseries and day schools, synagogues and mikvehs, looking after special needs children (Friendship Circle) and the elderly, running Sunday schools and day camps. And to quote Carly Simon, nobody does it better.

This is also necessary for the mainstream. Jews are abandoning Shules. The latter can’t survive. They must generate income from nurseries etc simply to survive financially!

It is to this side of Chabad that I adhere and this vision for the building of Jewish life that I am dedicated. Chabad justly evokes in every Jew on earth a feeling of both awe and gratitude.

Which side exactly does Boteach not adhere to? Those that yell Yechi, or those that think it, or someone else?

Without Chabad the Jewish world would be up a creek without a paddle.

I don’t second guess God, nor do I know what he would have done, but there can be no doubt Chabad’s influence has been very significant.

But even as someone who prides himself on his rationality,

I do not know how a Chabad Chossid prides himself on rationality. My understanding is that there is higher level, called Bittul.

I cannot help but be somewhat jealous of the go-for-broke mentality of the other side of the movement, the messianists. The belief that humankind can attain an age of perfection, a belief that Judaism has a global, universal vision that is not limited to Jews, a dismissal of money and materialism in favor of a purely spiritual calling, and placing faith in a great leader who prompts us to embrace that era.

I am not jealous of them. Those that think that they have a minyan with two people and eight pictures, or eat on Tisha B’Av have broken with Jewish Mesorah. If Boteach is saying that he admires their perspicacity, ok.

To be sure, I follow the ruling of Maimonides that the Messiah must be a living man who fulfills the Messianic prophecies which rules out anyone – however great – that has passed from this world without ushering in an age of universal peace, rebuilt the Temple, and gathered in all Jewish exiles. That would exclude my Rebbe as it would exclude all the other great leaders of the Jewish people through the ages however much they have devoted their lives to our people.

It does, but that same Maimonides said, we don’t really know how things will unfold exactly. Which means I agree with Boteach, but I think he may be selective as a Chabadnik.

But that does not change my clear memory of the Rebbe’s incessant and unyielding public calls for Jews to work toward a messianic future, to dedicate every positive deed toward his coming, and to never fear controversy in the pursuit of every aspect of Jewish belief.

I once wanted to visit him for a Yechidus when I was younger. However, I felt that I was not worthy of saying anything of substance nor did I have a particular issue that I wanted to raise. As a Cohen, I also knew that if I blessed Jews with love, God himself would bless me. Not withstanding that fact, after reading the three books, I probably would have gone in if I had my chance again, and simply asked for “an appropriate brocho” Those three words. No more, and no less.

The kittel during Tefillas Geshem and Tal


We can all easily work out the sense in the Shaliach Tzibbur wearing one. A sense of extreme humility and awe should envelop the Chazzan while he recites such critical requests on behalf of the congregation.

On Erev Succos, an acquaintance of mine discussed the concept with me and asked me what the SOURCE of this MINHAG is. I said I’d look and email. I don’t have access to the Bar Ilan program because they refused my offer to port the program to a Mac or an iPad. I was hoping it might run under a PC virtual machine on my Mac. They have progressed from the time warp of DOS and XP and now like you to subscribe to online access.

Either way, I searched and searched and couldn’t find it. I was sure that if I looked at the Nitei Gavriel he was bound to find SOME primordial source for this. Alas, even he stated that he didn’t know of a source as pointed out to me by a Zurba Derabonnon.

I did find in my limited research that the Minhag in Frankfurt (and perhaps Hamburg and other parts of Germany) was NOT to wear a Kittel!

There was an older Minhag, about which I’m unsure why it ceased, to wear a special white gown cum kittel as one’s Bigdei Yom Tov. Many seem to forget that one should wear something extra special on Yom Tov.

Perhaps, just perhaps, this is the real reason why people wore it at the seder. I don’t really know and I’ve read many of the reasons including Rav Moshe Soloveitchik’s (R Chaim Brisker’s son who married into the Feinsteins) reason, and who was the Rav’s father.

Anyway, I’m throwing the question out to the Oilom who read my blog. I guess that someone like Rav Sraya Deblicki might know, but if Rav Tzinner, the author of Nitei Gavriel and Rav Hamachshir of Melbourne’s Eruv doesn’t know ….

Of course the kittel didn’t appear to exist amongst the Sephardim.

It’s a pity Rav Ovadya has left us, as he was a walking encyclopaedia kipshuto.

The Heter Mechira in Shmitta


This may come as a surprise to the nidertrechtikte soinim of Rav Kook, but the common fallacy is that when he became Chief Rabbi of Yaffo-Tel Aviv, he introduced the Heter Mechira.

This is of course one of a string of lies and distortions that Israel/ZIONIST hating so called Frummer Hungarians in Israel would have you gullibly swallow to this day.

But their world isn’t a world of Torah even remotely approaching the supreme and holy Tzadik that Rav Kook was, so I am not surprised that they peddled and continue to peddle their outright lies and disrespect for a very holy Rov.

Full of twaddle


There is a fellow who sits proximate to me, whose Yechi Yarmulke annoys me. Actually, its not his yechi yarmulke, it’s all Yechi yarmulkes that upset me, because I consider the implied message as non halachic bunkum. And yes, I’d be happier if there was no sign at the back of the Shule, but if it means people don’t blurt it out at every opportunity during, before and after davening, like they used to, I tolerate it.

Anyway, he’s a new comer, so today he informed me that he had “asked about me”. He was perplexed. How can someone daven at a Chabad Shule and dislike the advertising hoardings around a handful of skulls.

He then told me that he was advised that I was a Misnaged who has been thrown out of every Shule I had davened at, and that’s why I now often daven in Lubavitch.

Well I have news for this Johnny-come-lately, and for the geniuses who informed him.

I have been “encouraged” to leave one Shule only in my life. It was the nascent Beit Haroeh at Mizrachi, decades ago. Two others, Anthony Waller and David Meerkin, both fine upstanding people and friends, who now live in Israel, were also so encouraged, all by Mizrachi Board Askonim at the instigation of the infamous Rabbi Baruch Zaichyk, then Rabbi of Mizrachi. I carry that episode as a badge of honour. Quite apart from some serious halachic issues I had with Rabbi Zaichyk which I raised privately with him (and I don’t refer to the Eruv that wasn’t) he publicly imitated Mori V’Rabbi Harav Baruch Abaranok ז’’ל and that was a line that was beyond the pale for me. I revered and continue to revere Rav Abaranok to this day. I could have fought Zaichyk, especially in those youthful days, and believe me I have a dossier of properly researched material in a file which I had prepared to defend my position in the event that a need would arise. My father ע’’ה who was a lot wiser than me, told me to just stay away. I have no desire to reveal this information today and long ago took the decision not to do so. I enjoyed a good relationship with Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen ז’’לֹ and get on extremely well with the impressive Rabbi Ya’akov Sprung, both Rabbis of Mizrachi since that time.

So Mister Smart Aleck, proud wearer of the Yechi Yarmulke, your “facts” have zero credibility. I think you need to wake up and realise that there are even Chabad Shules, such as the one run by my class mate Rabbi Yossi New in Atlanta, who wouldn’t even let you in, wearing one of these skull caps.

PS. Anyway, although I don’t follow any Chassidic group, I am not opposed to Chassidism per se, Lubavitch or otherwise. I have three sons-in-law and a son who consider themselves Lubavitch! I do have different views on matters: e.g. the rabid anti-Zionism of Satmar, Meshichism of Chabad, etc but they hardly qualify someone as a Misnaged!

Is Shlomo Sand lacking the vision of Bilaam’s donkey?


Frankly, his job as a professor lends no credence to his views. They have demonstrably been shown to be false, if he opened his eyes and just looked at Israeli society. His is the sad wish of someone who wants to assimilate because then he won’t be from the “chosen people”.

His Zayda would disown him. The most telling comment was his use of the word “occupation”. That gave it all away for me. Globalisation, my foot. If anything, the internet has strengthened my knowledge of Judaism enormously.

His inane comment is as silly as the one I saw in Rabbi Donenbaum’s booklet over Succos where someone put in a dedication (anonymous! Why? Tzidkus, humility?) because his Chavrusa has turned the internet off on his iPhone. I have a better idea. Let his Chavrusa give me his iPhone and I’ll give him one of those old Nokias. The Yetzer Hora won’t even touch him that way. Anyway, here is the article reported about Shlomo Sand. I suggest he change his name to Steve Sand?

A controversial Israeli historian has declared his wish to cease considering himself a Jew, expressing disgust at the “ethnocentricity” which he feels is the prevailing worldview among many Israelis

In an opinion piece published in the Guardian on Friday – which is an extract from his new book, How I Stopped Being a Jew — Prof. Shlomo Sand of Tel Aviv University says he has been “assimilated by law into a fictitious ethnos of persecutors and their supporters.”

“I wish to resign and cease considering myself a Jew,” he writes.

Sand asserts that Israel is “one of the most racist societies in the western world” due to its strict characterization as a Jewish state. “Racism is present to some degree everywhere, but in Israel it exists deep within the spirit of the laws,” he says.

He expresses his disillusionment with Israel dues to its continued occupation of the Palestinian territories, which he says “is leading us on the road to hell.”

Despite his scathing critique of Israel, Sand acknowledges that he is also deeply tied to the nation. “The language in which I speak, write and dream is overwhelmingly Hebrew,” he says. “When I am far from Israel, I see my street corner in Tel Aviv and look forward to the moment I can return to it… when I visit the teeming Paris bookstores, what comes to my mind is the Hebrew book week organized each year in Israel.”

Sand states his belief that the ethnic differences which have divided the world for millennia will become insignificant as the world moves more and more towards globalization. “The cultural distance between my great grandson and me will be as great or greater than that separating me from my own great grandfather,” he hypothesizes.

The Tel Aviv lecturer has long been the subject of controversy. His 2008 book “The Invention of the Jewish People” claimed that the Jews were not a nation expelled from its homeland but a religion of converts spread throughout the world. The Jewish people as an ethnic group, he asserted, was a myth created by Jewish intellectuals in the 19th century. In a 2009 sequel, “The Invention of the Land of Israel,” Sand similarly deconstructs the Jews’ historical right to that land.

Where is the sense in left wing Israeli Politics?


I just don’t get it. Even the ultra left humanitarian tree huggers of J-Street saw what happened in Gaza, and were shocked with the plan for a massive Rosh Hashana action that would have devastated all Jewry. Settlers? These were Kibbutzim in line.

We have the physics master telling us God doesn’t exist (do we believe him because he is disabled and we tend to subconsciously ascribe more genius to him as a result out of Rachmonus) Where is his cure for cancer, he could have turned to that, it might have been more useful than models that don’t seem to stand more than ten years before a better model emerges.

We have a President in his last stage, whose entire path seems to be that he “won’t repeat Bush’s mistakes”. In  pursuing this one-minded agenda he has deluded himself that he actually has friends in the Arab world and that they don’t ultimately treat him as a denier. He has failed to apply proportionality. Why doesn’t he take a prisoner from Guantanamo Bay (that he was desperate to close down) and behead him on TV. Now, that’s proportionality. A head for a head. Even the Bible doesn’t say that, so he can’t be accused of being partial. I see that civilians are killed in his bombings. Isn’t his army perfect?

He knows full well that the aged Shimon Peres, our picture/news seeking missile, that Mahmoud Abbas hasn’t got the strength or the political belief to make peace ever. Abbas just wants to go to his grave as a “great leader” like Arafat, ימ’’ש and not be shot in the head by Hamastan.

Yerusholyaim is not for sale, in the words of Mordechai Ben David, except where Arabs sell their land to the Jews and even then we are “settlers”. It’s a pejorative. Settling the City of David is a pejorative?

We buy it legally and live therein. Is there something particularly historically Arab about Silwan. Any honest historian knows the Palestinians are at best nothing to do with a long history, but an existentialism (no different to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria et al) that were “created” ex nihilo by the Turks and British. Is that some sort of Klipa that we have to honour?

No, there is only one answer, and that is a strong, unforgiving, determined, and lasting Israel. No compromise on anything. If you give an inch, they take a mile. There is no Rambam that says that the COMMENCEMENT of the ingathering of the exiles can’t preclude Moshiach.

בונים בחול ואחר כך מקדישים

Our politicians are a disgrace. No sooner than the rockets have stopped temporarily, and we are surrounded by the biggest threats since the establishment of the State and they pretend like political marionettes that they have a “peace” partner in Abu Mazen, the infamous holocaust belittler. They have no morals. Even Yair Lapid has more morals than they, and Tzippi Livni seems to have finally come to her senses.

The only way forward is the no nonsense and unambiguous approach of Naftali Bennett. Don’t like him? He’s more moderate than the Iranians, and the Qataris and all the riffraff that Obama and his side kick and delicately coiffured Kerry pretend they have respect for.

The word diplomacy needs to be rested. It has no place in the current climate. The only thing that will change the status quo is the realisation of those who want to eradicate us, that we are not budging. We are expanding on all fronts, and their time for farnarkling through multiple processes where they could have built a viable demilitarised state is running out. They must make the move. The UN is just a prostitute.

On Yom Hashoah we say “Never Again”. I wouldn’t trust those words with the left-wing in Israeli politics. The Meretz types, the opportunists and the seat piners and liners. This is no joke.

Let me say it in plain English.

They do NOT accept a Jewish State. End of Story. No Jewish State, means we have NOBODY to talk to. If you put deodorant on a stinging wound, it will still stink to high hell, and will likely also hurt. No deodorants, no more, pardon my language, it’s all bull dust. Close the doors and open them when someone normal is standing at the gate. Two State Solution? They don’t recognise one state!

If Hezbollah have a notion of starting with us, then we must not dillydally. We must ignore the world, and destroy them for their aggression in a very aggressive quick and no-nonsense all out attack. THIS is “Never Again”, not the lovely poetry and fancy speeches on Yom Hashoa.

Wake up Yidden! Stop falling for all the diplo-crap. We might be going into temporary dwellings over Succos, but those observing most of the Mitzvos of the Torah deserve quiet and solid dwellings for the rest of the year.

 

Can you daven with a seriously accused criminal or criminal?


There was an interesting article which appeared in Tablet Magazine (c) by Joshua Berman. In it he essentially questioned the opening stanza before Kol Nidrei wherein we accept all sinners to join us in prayer to God.

I reproduce the article below. Some time ago, I had a related problem. An accused and charged criminal, who was waiting for his day in court, and was on strict bail conditions, appeared in our Shule to daven. My personal feelings were that of revulsion. In the end, I convinced myself that perhaps if they sat in a back corner of the Shule, came and went quickly, and didn’t make  themselves conspicuous that it was questionable. I rang my Rav, for his opinion, and he felt that it was no worse than a Cohen who transgresses but still has to perform Mitzvos Bircas Cohanim (the positive command remains), and it is commonly the case in many Shules that Cohanim who are less than committed to Halacha, Duchen. There is a special law in respect of Bircas Cohanim but that depends on the particular kehilla. In essence then= this person shouldn’t be denied davening with a minyan. He stipulated however that if that person “extended his welcome”, then it would be better for him to Daven at home. With difficulty,  I accepted the Psak, and discussed it with the local Orthodox Rabbi, who agreed. Unfortunately, those who have been party to certain sinful proclivities rarely sit quietly minding their own business. It’s as if some מחלה has overtaken them and they are no longer in control of what we call common sensibility.

One day, I had a less than friendly interchange with said person, because I felt, as did others that he had exceeded his task thereby resulting in what might be called a less than quiet moment. He didn’t return after that. It’s a very difficult question from an emotional point of view, even for those who aren’t directly affected, and I was not one of these.

With the consent of the Almighty and with the consent of the congregation, in the assembly of the Heavenly Court and the assembly of the earthly court, we sanction prayer in the company of the delinquent.
I always took comfort in that line, the opening line of the prayers of Yom Kippur night. Despite my shortcomings — which seem to persist over time — the liturgy welcomed me to Yom Kippur. I was one of those “delinquents” with whom those around me could legitimately pray.

But this Yom Kippur eve, I’m experiencing that opening line of our liturgy in a more profound way. Friday night, I’ll be leading Kol Nidre services in my synagogue. Ask anyone who leads prayer services over the High Holidays what it’s like to prepare and they will report the same experience: When you rehearse the lines and the melodies in the days leading up to the service you commune with the rabbis, cantors and teachers who instructed or inspired you in the art of leading the service. You aren’t merely recalling a tune; you recall their voice, their passion, their expression. As you reach mid-age, these days of preparation can be more powerful than the actual synagogue service itself. Recalling the passion and personality of beloved teachers who have since passed on, you cherish the days of preparation as an opportunity to revel in their melodic presence in collective service of the Almighty.

In my mind’s choir I sing along with Rabbi Yehoshua Kreiser and Rabbi Avraham Weiser of blessed memory, the European born rabbis of the small congregation in which I grew up. And I sing along with my beloved Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yehuda Amital of blessed memory, also of European birth. I sing and tear-up in disbelief that my children will probably never experience an old shtetl Jew leading the High Holiday services.

I also sing along with the cantor who prepared several hours of tapes for me when I first led services as a college student 30 years ago. Let’s call him Shlomo. Shlomo taught at the yeshiva day school I attended as a youngster. We were members of the same small congregation. Shlomo had a beautiful voice and everyone in the community felt it a treat when he lead the services.

As I communed this week with all the wonderful rabbis and teachers of my mind’s choir, I paused as I came to a particular bar of Kol Nidre that I identify as a “Shlomo” bar in my repertoire. I recalled the link an acquaintance sent me a few years back documenting that Shlomo had years later served time for sexually abusing young boys.

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra boycotts the music of Wagner because of the role of his music in the rise of the Nazi regime. Should I now “boycott” the music, nay the high-holiday melodies, of a pedophile?

For me, Shlomo was a beloved teacher. In fact, the first time I ever experienced a full traditional Shabbat setting was in his home when I was 11. He had a bunch of boys over for Shabbat. Perhaps with today’s sensitivities such a gathering might never take place. But forty years ago, not much was thought of it. I still remember the chicken fricassee he prepared and the songs around the Shabbat table. But above all I remember his love for liturgy and his generosity in preparing hours of liturgy on tape cassette for me .

I have had no contact with Shlomo in several decades. I can’t imagine what such a meeting would feel like. Of course, I am sickened by the actions for which he has served time, and cannot begin to imagine the justified loathing felt toward him by his victims or by their parents. They were the victims of his darkest impulses. I was the fortunate recipient of his brightest. Shlomo gave me an exposure to Shabbat and a melodic path with which to relate to the Almighty on the High Holidays.

Thinking of Shlomo, the darkness of his personal struggles and the melodies he has passed on to me lead me to new insight into that opening line of the Yom Kippur evening service – “we sanction prayer in the company of the delinquent.” The liturgy does not say, “We sanction prayer in the company of sinners — chot’im. In Hebrew the word I’ve translated as “delinquent” is avaryanim, which is much stronger than just “sinners” — chot’im. Even in medieval rabbinic Hebrew, avaryanim comes much closer to its modern Hebrew meaning of “criminal.” And the term is even stronger, as it is paired here with the definite article, “the avaryanim, implying not merely those many who are imperfect, but those few guilty of the worst deeds.

On Yom Kippur there is no easy ethos of “forgive and forget.” The opening line of the liturgy affirms the functioning of a heavenly court and an earthly one. Each shall mute out justice in its respective realm. But that opening line speaks of a third body – that of the congregation. On Yom Kippur the congregation must find a way to include in its midst not only mere “sinners”, but indeed “the avaryanim.”

And it is in that spirit that through the inspiration of all my teachers I shall lead the services, confident in the knowledge that I ”have sanction to pray with the delinquent.”

Clarify your systems and policies El Al and stick to them


An article appeared in the Jerusalem Post by Sharon Udasin (reproduced) below. It is effectively in many papers, and I’d imagine it will end up in the non-Jewish press in time.

More than a thousand people have signed an online petition calling on El Al Airlines to protect female passengers from harassment by ultra-Orthodox men.

More than a thousand people have signed an online petition calling on El Al Airlines to protect female passengers from harassment by ultra-Orthodox men.

The petition on Change.org was launched Sunday, days after an El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv was delayed in taking off when haredi male passengers refused to sit next to women. As of Tuesday afternoon, the initiative had more than 1,100 supporters.

Sharon Shapiro of Chicago, who initiated the petition, said she wanted to stop the phenomenon of “passenger shaming.”

“Some men become belligerent if their demands aren’t met, and spend flights bullying and harassing women who refuse to change seats,” she wrote.

The petition recommends that El Al “reserve a few rows of separate-sex seating on every flight, where for a fee, those passengers who need such seating can pre-book their seats and not annoy or coerce other passengers before take-off to change seats with them – thereby avoiding arguments, bullying, and delayed take-off.”

While El Al did not provide a reaction to this specific petition, the company responded to last week’s incident, stressing that the airline “makes every effort to provide its passengers with the best service all year round.”

“Traffic is currently at its peak during this Jewish High Holiday season to and from Israel and representatives of the company, in the air and the ground, do their best to respond to every request,” a statement from the company read. “El Al makes every effort possible to ensure a passenger’s flight is as enjoyable as possible while doing our utmost to maintain schedules and arrive safely at the destination.”

It added that the airline was “committed to responding to every complaint received and if it is found that there are possibilities for improvement in the future, those suggestions will be taken into consideration.”

 

My views are:

  • It isn’t halachically necessary to ask to move to a seat next to men, but if you feel you need to or want to, or you have been so directed by your Posek/Rabbi, then you must ask extremely courteously. This is not a right, this is a privilege that someone who may have carefully chosen their seat earlier for a range of reasons (unknown to you) may wish to extended to you as a courtesy. If this causes a mass kerfuffle of people moving all around the plane and bags being shlepped to other overhead lockers, think carefully about what may be caused by you together with others who are doing the same thing as you. You might even consider giving a gift of thanks. No doubt you will thank the person/people several times with a cheery disposition. If the person is not Jewish, if you do give a gift later, then I do not think you are transgressing לא תחנם
  • El Al really should not get involved in these issues en masse at the beginning of a flight; there has to be a better system. As an airline, any airline, all requests about food and seating should be made beforehand. One could even add a question about seat preferences along gender lines with the rider that there is no guarantee. They might consider some rows at the back of the plane as male only and female only, and if those fill up, study patterns adjust, but there can’t be a guarantee.
  • Flights should never leave late because of such things. This is a major discourtesy to fellow travellers.
  • If there is even the slightest sign that the person/people are reticent to move, then one has an opportunity for a Kiddush Hashem, and to be friendly and not show even the slightest umbrage at their desire to sit on their allocated seat and accept their decision with a smile. Failure to do so, may cause a Chillul Hashem, and that is far more severe than what the person was attempting to avoid.
  • If somebody cannot afford to buy three seats so that the one on their left and right are empty, or upgrade to those business/first class seats which are separated, then they should consider travelling on Muslim airlines, where they are more likely to be seated in male only areas.
  • Create your own Charedi Airline if you have the patronage
  • I’m presuming that the people, most of them at least, are not simply Anti Charedi or Anti Religious. I think this is a reasonable assumption given the description of circumstances presented.

Finally, as noted by many Poskim, daven sitting quietly in your seat and forget about disturbing people with “minyan, minyan”.

Make up your own mind or ask your Local Orthodox Rabbi!

Why is the JNF apparently Treyf?


Look carefully, there are kosher establishments in Melbourne wherein you will not see a JNF charity box in the shop. I’m advised that it’s not for want of not trying. They tend to be refused? by Ultra Orthodox owners. There are often a myriad of other charity boxes, but no JNF. Ask why.

Why do I mention this now? I just read this truly uplifting article and noticed that the JNF were behind it.

Go figure. Why wouldn’t you want your money to go there?

A Jewish mode of verbally induced meditation


This year, was a first for many a year, when I was not a שליח ציבור. I was also in a Shule where you could hear a pin drop. The combination of these two led to a slightly embarrassing moment on the first day of Rosh Hashana. Our Nusach, and that originally of my father ע’ה, is Nusach Sephard (not to be confused with the Nusach of Sepharadi Jews and their variations). My trusty Machzor, is small and was purchased decades ago when still a lad learning in Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavne. I was excited to reuse it, and happy that unlike some of my Seforim which are lent in good faith, and seem to have found a new home, this Machzor was exactly where it should be, and readily accessible. It was easy to hold, not being thick with salubrious translation and commentary. It was plain, much-loved, but hardly used in over three decades; certainly for Shachris or Mussaf.

As a Shaliach Tzibbur/Chazan, I followed the Nusach of the Shule. This was Ashkenaz, and with the exception of the Avoda of Yom HaKippurim, the differences were not evident, as perhaps one might expect.

As I know most of the Tefilla by heart, I found myself sitting wrapped in a Tallis, keenly trying to concentrate on each word in a way that had not been amenable beforehand when I was the שליח ציבור. I was free to use as much time as needed to navigate the words and their meaning.

As I write, I remembered Mr Hoppe ז’ל, a family friend, and fellow Cohen, with a gutturally deep voice, who was an Alexander Chossid before the war with long peyos, and at whose home in Tomashov, the Aleksander Rebbe stayed on occasion. I remember him asking me one year after I had returned from Kerem B’Yavne,  (in yiddish)

“why are you davening so much, what are you saying, I don’t know how you can stand so long”

I recall that I didn’t answer. My reasons were private, I wasn’t able to answer anyway, and many of my thoughts remain private, until this day.

Hoppe+Dad

Mr Hoppe (left) and my father עליהם השלום

Because I am acutely sensitised to Nussach, and was davening in a Shule that used a Machzor based on the Ari (and finalised by the Ba’al HaTanya, I presume) there were times that I was juddered by a different word, or in some cases (such as at the conclusion of הנני העני ממעש) a set of additional lines that were not present either in Nusach Ashkenaz or Nusach Sefard when they suddenly entered the arena. I haven’t looked into their etymology.

Much of the time, my eyes were shut, and I was concentrating, as well as I could. There was the unusual fact that in Chabad there is no בעל מקריא to call out the Shofar notes. In fact, I was surprised that on the first day, the very first set of notes were not repeated as I felt (but I’m certainly no Rabbi) that they were questionably executed.

Ensconced in the repetition of the Amida (which ideally I should have stood for throughout, except that this would have disturbed my concentration) I waded off into the worlds of מלכיות , זכרונות and שופרות. I use the word waded because probably for the first time in my life I managed to control my thoughts and focus, almost subterraneously, on what was being sai, occasionally fluttering at the odd word that was different from the Nusach I was used to. Even then, my thoughts were trying to reconcile differences in my expectation.

I had always been jealous of people who were seemingly able to “meditate”. The jealousy stemmed from their ability to divest from what was occurring around them and focus solely on (often) something inane. It could be an exercise in mindfulness, or an approach that allowed one to concentrate on something else. I could never do it, despite many efforts and having five one on one lessons based on a non religious approach. My mind was forever bubbling and thinking, and I was unable to temper its tempestuous foray into areas that I did not want to go. I simply concluded that it was just one of those things: some could manage this exercise and other could not. I just wasn’t blessed to turn off, so to speak. I often joke with my students and alumni that my “off” switch is rusty, and can’t be repaired.

Amazingly, this year, while I was “unshackled” from responsibility, and was also in a conducive environment, I was able to turn off the switch controlling the outside world and immerse myself in Tefillah.

The embarrassing moment occurred when it came to שופרות. By that stage, the Cohanim, of which I am one, had left the Shule just prior and returned on time so they could ascend immediately after ארשת שפתינו. Alas, because I had been a שליח ציבור for so long, I was used to having a Levi bring me the Kvort and tissues, while someone else led the Cohanim. I was rooted to my spot on the Bima at all times, except that I jumped around to face the Kehilla. (And yes, I’m aware of different views in the Acharonim about this matter, but I have never lost my bearings and been unable to continue cleanly thereafter).

Suddenly, someone tapped me and pointed to the Machzor (one being unable to speak at that point). I was deep in thought and was literally startled. At first I thought it was a Pesicha, something which doesn’t interest me. Finally, I realised, after noticing the Cohanim ready to ascend, that I was too late. The Priestly blessings were about to commence!

I made a quick exit, as my hands hadn’t been washed, my shoes were not removed, and according to the Din, one is meant to make their move before רצה.

In a curious way, whilst I was later mirthfully called the absent-minded professor, or asked “were you sleeping?”, I was neither. I had actually succeeded for the first time in my life to meditate at some level.

Suffice it to say that on the second day, when I saw Rabbi Cohen walk past , I followed him and performed ברכת כהנים to the best of my ability, even though I had felt somewhat “disturbed” to leave the Shule for hand washing.

In summary, it was a strange experience, and I missed out on ואני אברכם on the first day, but I was surprised and pleased with myself that I had reached a level of obliviousness that brought me to Tefillah-based meditation.

Not sure why, but this Selichos is enchanting


There is something so genuine about Sephardic davening. I was most exposed to it in Bombay. (I once was in Bombay on Selichos on Motzei Shabbos in the original old Chabad House of R’ Gavriel and Rivki הי’’ד.

I guess if I had to put my finger on it, it is the constant involvement of individual Mispallelim (or should that be Mitpallelim) and less of a focus on the Hazan. The latter, of course, is more like the leader and not a sole performer, operatic or otherwise, and will not necessarily stand at the front like Ashkenazim. (Hat tip MT). There is also more audience participation, from all types, and there are colours other than black.

Certainly beats the rushed reading of the sets of Anenu’s, as you hit the home stretch before finishing.

When your wife talks, you listen


I have tried on many occasions to cajole wordpress to remove what could be called advertisements (from which they make money) from this blog. It hasn’t worked. Personally, I never saw the advertisements so didn’t know how offensive or commonly offensive they might be to our expectations, although one reader sent me a screen shot.

“She who must be obeyed” then sent me the following

Is there any way to get rid of those advertisements …

There is, but I have to pay annually. I’ve paid. There’s a nice way to start the new year :-)

You can also access the blog via pitputim.me as a side-effect of the “benefits” I have accrued.

Visiting the בית החיים on Erev Rosh Hashana


I have absolutely no doubt that I am still traumatised by the fact that my father ע’’ה has left this world. There is not only a vacuüm, but a set of shoes which I haven’t got a hope to fill. Yes, each person is an individual, and it is true that we all carve out our particular approach and niche in life. At the same time, whether via nature or nurture there are so very many aspects of the way my father conducted himself, I cannot even hope to reach his ankles.

I still do not sleep peacefully, and disturbingly, when I awake in the morning I am often in a state of nervous aggravation, as if I’ve fought some war during the night. I don’t remember any dreams, and I’m not sure if there were any. Maybe a subconscious stream has enveloped me. It can take me up to an hour to “get over it”.

Another symptom is forgetfulness. It is very easy for me to forget the most basic things, whereas prior to this event, I was not the classical absent-minded professor, just the remote eccentric and vocal type.

My wife has been a tower of strength often helping me to find most basic things. No doubt issues regarding her health (which Baruch Hashem is fine) haven’t exactly helped me heal overnight as my well as my mother’s poor health which is now Baruch Hashem improving.

Accordingly, unlike my mother and sisters, I avoided going to the cemetery when I could. They are no different to me, but had a need to be close to the grave. I understand that. As I Cohen, I could, however, only stand on the road and look at the back of the Matzeiva. I feared looking at my father’s grave, and coming face to face with the reality of my petty achievements in comparison with his and which had already overtaken my subconscious. Maybe it was better that way. I don’t know.

Maybe this is a part of second generation holocaust syndrome. I also do not know.

So, yesterday, I headed out with my mother to Springvale Cemetery. This is the Minhag in our family, even though Rav Schachter advised me it wasn’t his Minhag to ever go to a Cemetery, or the Minhag of Beis HoRav (Soloveitchik) or the Vilna Gaon. As I have mentioned before, Rav Schachter never would say “don’t go”. When it came to cemetery questions, he suggested I ask a Rav who has such Minhogim.

After visiting my father, we made the rounds of other relatives and friends, recounting aspects of their lives. I then felt a sudden feeling of warmth. Looking around all the Haymishe Yidden that I once knew, and were now in another world, I felt strangely “comfortable”. I thought, now this is a Kehilla. Look at this one, and that one, and so on. I know I am a tad eccentric, and maybe I am also a bissel meshigge, but I felt inspired by the names and what they had represented and achieved. Everywhere we went, there were great people, people I had loved, and people I had admired, and of course, just “plain” survivors.

So, what started as a trip laden with trepidation, ended with a feeling of a “visit to another world”, a world which was familiar to me. People who knew about Jewish tradition, how to daven, how to learn, how to do a kind favour, religious people and not so observant people: they were all in one spot.

You probably won’t understand, but never mind.