More on the Chief Rabbinate vs Beth Din of America on Conversions

I had posted on this.

The Jerusalem Post indicates that Rabbi David Lau is not opposed to the conversions performed by the Beth Din of America, however, Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef prefers to treat each convert individually. I do not understand the rationale from Rabbi Yosef. Unless the Beth Din is Pasul, the conversion has occurred (except in very extenuating circumstances which would have been in existence before the conversion). I am not at all sure Rabbi Yosef’s father, Chacham Ovadia ז׳ל would agree with his son.

For the record: All Geirim need to go through a proper process of learning and should be accepting of the yoke of Mitzvos. That is independent. I believe this would certainly be the case for the Beth Din of America.

Here is the article.

Understandings reached in 2008 between the Chief Rabbinate and the Rabbinical Council of America stated that an Orthodox conversion performed in America and given formal approval by a rabbinical judge from the Beth Din of America would be recognized as valid in Israel by the Chief Rabbinate.

However, this agreement has been unraveling in recent years, as numerous cases have occurred in which conversion approvals from the Beth Din of America and its most senior judge, Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, have been rejected.

It is the rabbinate’s Department of Marriage and Conversion, run by Rabbi Itamar Tubul, which has been directly responsible for these rejections.

The department is under the authority of Yosef in his position as president of the Supreme Rabbinical Court, and sources in the Chief Rabbinate have indicated that he is responsible for instructing Tubul to adopt this new approach.

On Monday, an aide to Lau wrote a letter to Tubul, obtained by The Jerusalem Post, in which he stated that Lau had asked him to clarify to Tubul “once again” that “approvals issued by the Beth Din of America and signed by Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz should be recognized, and that they should be relied upon for the purposes of approving [conversion] certificates which are received from the US.”

Yosef’s office declined to answer an inquiry made by the Post as to whether the chief rabbi considers the understandings of 2008 as still operative.

On Sunday, a spokesperson for the Chief Rabbinate said that every case requiring conversion verification from the US “is examined on an individual basis,” and that “there are no all-inclusive approvals or rejections,” indicating that the Chief Rabbinate, under Yosef’s direction, no longer considers the 2008 agreement to be binding.

Lau and Yosef have had a high-profile quarrel for several months over various issues.

The ITIM religious services advisory group, which has represented many of the converts requiring recognition by the Chief Rabbinate, welcomed Lau’s comments to Tubul, but was critical of the fight between the two chief rabbis.

“The internal bickering in the rabbinate is taking place while converts are suffering. This is un-halachic and inhuman,” said ITIM director Rabbi Seth Farber.

“We call upon the Chief Rabbinate to immediately disband the department and issue a statement that all conversions done under the auspices of rabbis from halachic institutions will be automatically recognized. This is what was always accepted in traditional Jewish society and this should be today’s standard.”

לשנה טובה תכתבו ותחתמו

A Bizayon (slur) on Kavod HaTorah by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate

[Hat tip NB]

The Chief Rabbinate has had the temerity, and I used this word with intent, to turn down some conversions of the Av Beis Din of the Beis Din of America, Rav Gedalia Dov Schwartz. I had the opportunity to speak with Rav Gedalia, when he came to Melbourne for the wedding of one of his students. I was merely the singer of our band Schnapps, but I took every opportunity to approach him at the head table and talk. I found a humble, knowledgeable, worldly, Talmid Chacham. He is ill at present and we wish him a Refuah Shelema.

The Chief Rabbinate which has been mired in corrupt controversy over the last few years and is a pale comparison to the greats who occupied the Chairs in days gone by, would do better to ensure that the Kashrus of their products throughout Israel were acceptable. As most people know, it is not a simple matter to walk into a restaurant under the Rabbanut and actually eat supervised food of an acceptable standard. I encourage people not to say “Ah well, it’s their sin, they have a certificate” but rather to ask to see and speak with the Mashgiach. Many times, you won’t find the Mashgiach. Let them get their house in order before they have the unmitigated Chutzpa to reject a conversion from the universally respected Av Beis Din of America. By contrast Rav Schwartz oversees the cRc, the Chicago Rabbinical Council’s Kashrus, upon which everyone relies. Indeed, their app, is the one you consult when it comes to the Kashrus of alcoholic beverages, as an aside.

Ironically, the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau, spoke in honour or Rav Schwartz’s 90th birthday.

Caulfield Shule President misses the crucial point

In a letter to the Australian Jewish News, Anthony Raitman does a good job of explaining that Shules need to become part of Centres of Orthodox Jewish interest attracting more people. The days of people who simply buy a seat are perhaps waning. Yes, if one attends 3 days a year, even if you have a great Chazan supported by a great Choir, there are challenges charging only for this. In days gone by, this was not the case. The community attended more often, many daily. This was a year long rental of a seat and all that goes with it, and a reasonable price. Caulfield Shule, which classes itself as Modern Orthodox does a great job at hosting and innovating new activities to attract people into the building.

Anthony, however, has missed one important point in my view. This relates to whatever the mission statement of the Shule may be. All the activities are means to an end. The end, though, is to have people feel affiliated to the extent that they will come to shule on more than 3 days. Many don’t come for Yizkor, let alone “Bar Mitzvah” anniversaries and all the new techniques. Ultimately, the cornerstone of all activities must be serious weekly and varied Jewish education, as part of the mix. Without that, people can see it as a Modern Orthodox Beth Weizman. I don’t think this was ever the view of the father of Centrist Orthodoxy, Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik. Serious Torah learning, varied, specialised classes for women on topics that relate specifically to them, etc must accompany all entrepreneurial approaches. Shule can’t simply be a performance. People must be transformed, and transformation can only apply through quality education.

I would hope that more Shules would adopt this as part of their mission statement. Some Chabad shules seizing on the opportunity, simply shift the financial onus from seat rental to raising money. However, they too need to be involved in not just the ‘feel good’ aspects. Torah education must be central to a centrist Orthodox Shule.

Unfortunately, Melbourne did not make use of Rabbi Kenneth Brander from YU, who turned a Shule from 60 members to 600 and is in charge of Yeshivah Universities outreach. He offered lots of free follow-up. I know of many Rabbis who haven’t even made contact with him. Yes, they have their own networks, but you can see the copycat styles even to the extent of canned pre-prepared Shiurim. Whilst pastoral care is critical, education is even more critical as it ensures continuity and revival.

How many Shules offer to say Kaddish on a Yohr Tzeit etc but could do it better by actually meeting the people, re-acquainting them with Kaddish and having them come to Shule and say it, with Tefillin? That’s a level higher.

Males who refuse a Gett; an appropriate response

The Rabbinic Council of America again leads the way on this matter. The pioneering work by noted Posek, Rav Mordechai Willig on this matter, will now become compulsory for member Rabbis. Rav Willig had discussed his method with leading Rabbis around the world some years ago and received  their Halachic agreement. In Victoria, Australia, I understand there are some local legal impediments preventing this method ‘having teeth’. I trust that the RCV, the Rabbinic Council of Victoria are working overtime with both parties to make sure this is overcome. It is high time the Rabbanut in Israel enforced the same on all its Rabbis. I don’t know what other Rabbinic groups such as the Aguda opine, but given the number of very public issues in that sphere of late, it would be nice to see them follow suit.

The text of the RCA Resolution reads:

A Powerful Advance to Prevent Using Jewish Law to Cause Human Suffering

Sep 22, 2016 — “The Rabbinical Council of America today takes a major step forward toward alleviating the suffering of those who cannot successfully end marriages due to the refusal of one of the parties to participate in effecting a Jewish divorce,” said Rabbi Shalom Baum, president of the RCA. A resolution adopted by the RCA now requires “each of its members [to] utilize, in any wedding at which he is the officiant (mesader kiddushin), in addition to a ketubah, a rabbinically-sanctioned prenuptial agreement, where available, that aids in our community’s efforts to ensure the timely and unconditional issuance of a get.”

According to Jewish law, both the husband and the wife must participate willingly in the delivery and acceptance of a get, a Jewish divorce document, without which neither party can remarry. Most divorcing couples understand the need for the get, and are cooperative and respectful of the process. In some cases, however, one spouse inappropriately uses the get as a bargaining chip to gain concessions in other areas surrounding the divorce such as financial settlements or child custody, or as a tool to torment a former spouse. This is an abuse of Jewish law as well as a form of spousal abuse that uses religious practice as a tool of manipulation and control. A rabbinic tribunal often does not have the authority or capability of forcing a recalcitrant spouse to cooperate, and there are those whose marriages have functionally ended but who tragically cannot remarry due to their religious convictions. A woman who cannot remarry is referred to as an agunah; a man is an agun.

One effective way to prevent get-abuse is the “Halachic Prenup.” Drafted by Rabbi Mordechai Willig, Sgan Av Beth Din of the Beth Din of America and a Rosh Yeshiva at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) of Yeshiva University, in consultation with halachic and legal experts, the Halachic Prenup has been advocated by the RCA since 1993. The agreement received wide-spread endorsement of leading rabbinic authorities in Israel and the United States, and is based on much older documents, dating back hundreds of years. This prenuptial agreement both designates the rabbinic forum in which claims for a get will be adjudicated and creates financial incentives for both parties to effect the Jewish divorce in a timely manner. There are other prenuptial agreements that are used as well.

Rabbi Shlomo Weissmann, Director of the Beth Din of America maintains that “”we have seen, over and over again, that the existence of a halachic prenup dramatically changes the dynamics of contentious divorce cases and virtually eliminates the risk that the get will be improperly used as a tool for leverage or extortion.”

Rabbi Jeremy Stern, Executive Director of The Organization for the Resolution of Agunot (ORA), a group that seeks to eliminate abuse from the Jewish divorce process and which was instrumental in drafting and advocating for this resolution, reports that in well over 1,000 contentious Jewish divorce cases with which his organization has been involved, “we have never seen a case of get-refusal in which the halachic prenup did not work. In numerous divorce cases in which the husband began to posture that he would refuse to issue a get, the halachic prenup secured the issuance of a timely and unconditional get.”

While until now the vast majority of RCA rabbis have counseled their congregants to enter into halakhic prenuptial agreements, and while many of them refused to officiate at weddings in which these documents were not first signed, this new resolution now requires all RCA-member rabbis to require the use of prenuptial agreements. There is reason to believe that this new mandate will help to prevent or alleviate many agunah cases. Most importantly, it will remove any perceived stigma associated with signing the agreement. Requiring rabbis to officiate only at weddings with halachic prenups eliminates the concern often expressed by about-to-be married couples that signing a prenup casts aspersions on their characters or their marriage.

With the adoption of this new resolution, signing the prenup is now no longer about the couple and the expectations that its rabbi has of them, but is about the rabbi and the professional standards that he must maintain. Rabbi Shalom Baum announced that the RCA will embark on a number of initiatives to help rabbis better implement this new mandate, as well as community programs to encourage the understanding and signing of prenups.

Rabbi Elazar Muskin, Vice President of the RCA said, “Seeing that there is a halakhic prenup at every wedding is everybody’s responsibility. Mothers and fathers should not walk their children to the chuppah unless a prenup has been signed. Friends should not let friends get married unless a prenup is signed.”

Rabbi Mark Dratch, Executive Vice President of the RCA said, “Supporting members of the community and relieving their distress are among the top priorities of rabbis. If the definition of a religious scholar is one who increases peace in the world (Berachot 64a), then rabbis must certainly step into the forefront when use of halachically acceptable tools are available to prevent the abuse of the vulnerable. Otherwise, we forfeit our claim to the title ‘rabbi.’

Pure Tipshus (stupidity)

[Hat tip BA]%d7%a9%d7%92%d7%a2%d7%95%d7%9f-%d7%9e%d7%a9%d7%99%d7%99%d7%97%d7%99%d7%a1%d7%98%d7%99-%d7%97%d7%93%d7%a9

I thought I’d seen just about everything, but this just goes from the sublime to the ridiculous. Oh, and if you are wondering whether I’d call out a Tallis that had a Magen Dovid or something woven in the same way on the back, I would do so, if the purpose wasn’t decorative.

In my opinion, and I know this is shared by others in the main Yeshivah Shule in Melbourne, the sign up the back has passed its use by date. Indeed, I heard Rabbi Telsner last week in a speech refer to the Lubavitcher Rebbe as Nishmoso Eden נ׳׳ע … given he is a Meshichist, my ears were sensitised. The final decision rests with Rabbi Chaim Tzvi Groner in my opinion, and it’s time the Shule was normalised to look like Shules always looked, without placards etc.

On my sole visit to 770, I didn’t go downstairs because that Minyan, the main minyan, is just surrounded by placards. Chabad agonise about putting a Tefilla on a wall as it’s not considered Minhag Chabad. Enough of this. If he turns out to be Moshiach, it doesn’t bother me. If it turns out that he’s not, then it doesn’t bother me. In the meanwhile can we give all this constant advertising and chanting a rest? If someone really feels that removing these things is tantamount to a cutting off of their Hiskashrus (connection) to the Rebbe and/or not recognising him as their Manhig, I’d suggest that they concentrate on being a proper Chassid and not being part of all this Chitzoniyus (external stuff) which you are more likely to find in the non-Jewish world, or on bill boards daily in Meah Shearim.

Move on. Bring Moshiach, but move on.

Gneivas Daas and “Political Spin”

Geneivas Da’as in Hebrew involves the theft of one’s mind, thoughts, wisdom, or knowledge (Choshen Mishpat, 228: 6). By causing someone to have a mistaken assumption, or impression it includes fooling someone In other words, it is akin to deception, cheating, creating a false impression, and/or acquiring goodwill through false impressions/words and the like. It goes beyond blatant lying; which is a separate sin.

A clever choice of words or actions that cause others to form incorrect conclusions may be considered a violation of this Issur. The Torah does not allow us to reduce the ability of another person, (Jew or Non-Jew), to make a fair and honest evaluation. This crosses business, interpersonal relations, or other areas where one may be deceived.

It is common place in our politically correct world, as well as in competitive environments where people want to minimise damage to reputation to carefully craft statements describing a situation that has occurred. Details and purposeful ambiguity are employed. In particular, when it is known that there has been a wilful use of such “spin” to deflect from what actually transpired, I think that this forms Gneivas Da’as.

The Tosefta in Baba Kama (7:3) considers the worst type of theft is the one that “steals the minds” of people.  The Tosefta, Baba Metzia 3: 15, quoted by the Magen Avraham states that a storekeeper is not permitted to sprinkle their store with wine or oil because they “steals the minds” of people given that it may fool customers into believing that all the wine sold in the store is of the same high quality. This doesn’t involve a financial loss, so financial loss is not a necessary condition.

Of course, there is a situation where one is fooling themselves and actually believes they are correct and don’t intentionally set out to “spin” or deceive. In such a case Chullin 94b we don’t apply Gneivas Da’as.

I have seen some statements of late which in my opinion are simply Gneivas Da’as Kipshuto bordering on blatant lying. As it is Elul, I won’t take the opportunity to use one example and show explicitly how false and misleading it is to the extent that it steals the minds of those who are not in the know.

Many frum organisations now have public affairs employees, and some of their staff are adept at producing spin. The purpose of this post is to alert people that they should actually ask a Rav whether they may be transgressing Gneivas Da’as. It is not always the case that the sole expert in a matter is the professional wordsmith.

The Rav on Rav Kook and the magnetism and religious tremor of an authentic Jewish personality

[Hat tip YW]

There is more to this story. When I find it (I read it about 20 years ago), I will post some details on the powerful episode at Havdolo.


New book on Rav and the Rebbe by Chaim Dalfin

I was contacted by the author, Rabbi Chaim Dalfin, to make known his latest publication. I don’t normally post advertisements, but I am a fan of both the Rav and the Rebbe, so can’t help myself. I don’t know Rabbi Dalfin personally, but I certainly knew and admired his Shver, the late Reb Chaim Serebryanski. I ordered the book about a week ago, and he sends to Australia too. I don’t believe it will be available in bookshops.

It is available online if you follow this link. Of course, I have no opinion on it until I read it🙂


Parshas Ekev

The nuance expressed in this short Dvar Torah is better appreciated with reference to the aramaic text in the Gemora (Tractate Brachos 33b), included below with the english paraphrasing. Our weekly portion quoting Moshe asks (Devarim 10:12)

“… What does God request from Jews?”

Moshe answers

“ only to fear the Lord your God”.

The word “only” is a challenging pursuit in life. How does Moshe seemingly minimise the fear of God, as a simple attainment, and as THE element that God asks from us?
The Talmud (ad loc.) is similarly troubled and says

“Is fear of Heaven such a simple level to obtain?”
אטו יראת שמים מילתא זוטרתא היא?

The Talmud answers incredulously,

“Yes, in Moshe’s domain it is a simple level to obtain”.
אין, לגבי משה מילתא זוורתא היא

The question is obvious. We are not Moshe. We didn’t speak to God and experience miracles or God’s interference in our world. God remains hidden. For us plebeians, it can’t be said that attaining the fear of Heaven is a relatively simple task.
In one of my favourite insights from Rav Soloveitchik, the Rav explains that the placement of the comma in the Talmud’s response is the key to the puzzle. Instead of reading

“Yes, in Moshe’s domain it is a simple level to obtain”.
אין, לגבי משה מילתא זוורתא היא

the Rav suggests it be read as

“Yes in Moshe’s domain,  it is a simple level to obtain”.
אין לגבי משה, מילתא זוורתא היא

Meaning, the Jew alone does not achieve this level unless they attach themselves to their respected Rabbi and teacher (לגבי משה). It is indeed a formidable mountain to climb, however, it is incumbent upon every Jew to attach themselves to the Masoretic tradition of a respected Rabbi and teacher who is able to help climbing the mountain.

“fear of heaven”.

This mechanism gives rise to the guiding principle of Judaism, Imitatio Dei, emulating Hashem, as expressed thematically throughout the Rav’s writings, through the Pasuk

והלכת בדרכיו
You should go in the way of God

This imperative is held as a positive Torah command by many Rishonim.
The Rav’s Uncle, the Griz, R’ Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik, provided a further insight in his ליקוטי הגרי׳ז ב:פה. One of the Griz’s students excelled more than others. The Griz explained that this wasn’t simply a matter of that student’s innate ability and acquired knowledge. Rather, that student knew how to nullify their self-importance ביטול, and that skill is not an easy one to acquire. On the contrary, the greater the person’s skill set and knowledge is, the harder it is to suppress and bow to the opinion of his teacher and master. The statement in the Talmud that

what a servant does for their master, the student does for their master

Isn’t simply a detail, but a general principle that is applicable across the gamut of educational experience, through which one can achieve fear of God/Heaven—יראת שמים.

(Sources: מפניני הרב, ונפש הרב מאת מורי ורבי ר’ צבי שכטר שליט׳א)

Guest post from R’ Meir Deutsch in response to my post on R’ Cardozo on Tisha B’Av

R Meir’s reactions to my original post (which is in italicised black) are in red. My reactions to R’ Meir are in blue

About your article concerning Tischa b’Av, here are some of my observations.
About your AL CHETs (“Who can” and “Who cannot”); you mention daily events at present, not Tisha B’Av ones. Maybe we should read it on Yom Ha’Atzmaut or on its eve, Yom Ha’Zikaron to remind us that we were a nation before and take care at present that we remain one?

These are just my thoughts.

I see all terrible things, whether remembered or not remembered encapsulated in the overarching Galus. Galus, is of course not just a geographical location. It certainly includes geographic considerations which are reflected by more than 200 Mitzvos which only apply, many Rabbinically at the moment, only in our Holy Land. I stress our Holy Land because it remains Holy to this day according to Halacha. However, even with the Second Beis Hamikdosh, while some Jews lived in the Diaspora (something I find difficult to comprehend) and others actually defiled it in horrible ways that are beyond belief (as described in the Medrash), my personal feeling has always been that whilst steps are taken, miracles happen, and renaissance occurs, all of that is secondary to the eschatological final redemption. On Tisha B’Av, bdavka, I can’t help but think that גלינו מארצינו has both aspects, and is a sad reality. It is one day of mourning, akin to Shiva, where we remember עטרת ראשינו which is not perched in its proper place. And while we have דומה דודי כצבי and are sometimes seemingly teased in directions of euphoria, we then find ourselves, yes even the second-rate ones like me sitting in Australia, depressed about the state of our existence. It extends through the trio: תורת ישראל, עם ישראל and ארץ ישראל all of which portray levels of Galut which should not make it sensible to join our fellow Jews, and recite Eicha together, in a low light, and mournful tone. The qualitative aspect cannot be seen to be ideal today, and just like one doesn’t read Bereishis literally, someone of the stature of Rabbi Cardozo, would surely be able to see between lines, and interpret poetically and midrashically, without the feelings of (not a quote) “what am I doing in Shule with everyone saying Eicha, let me say it alone at home, as it’s challenging to swallow”

I read with incredulity the continuing slide to the left

What do you mean by that? .ימין ושמאל תפרוצי. What is meant by left. by respected people, such as Rabbi Dr Nathan Lopez Cardozo

Rabbi Dr Cardozo is a thinker. This is a hallmark of those with intellect. At the same time intellect may preclude a level of Bittul. I don’t have his intellect, but I’m often accused of not being able to exhibit Bittul. Indeed, this week’s parsha includes a wonderful vort from Rav Soloveitchik which sums up this concept. I wrote it for another forum and will put it up before Shabbos. It tends to be those who are more inclined to mould judaism into new trends, that I refer to as the left. Open Orthodoxy and Partnership Minyanim, and things of that nature (as opposed to Yoatzot Halacha) are the types of things which I call “left” wing. Rabbi Benny Lau is another who I see sometimes express himself this way. I don’t see Rabonim who live in this world and are not cloistered in an attic, like Mori V’Rabbi Rav Hershel Schachter, as ‘right wing fundamentalists’. He is at YU and heads Psak at the OU, and in all my correspondence with him, I have found him to be as straight as an arrow, and moderate, maintaining the strong Menorah base transmitted to him from Rav Soloveitchik. One thing he isn’t, is a philosopher.

Who can not find a day to be sad when a Jew from Jerusalem is called up to the Torah and is asked “what is your name”, and they answer “Chaim”. And after being asked “Ben?” they say “Ben Esrim V’shmoneh”? It’s not funny.

On the other hand, a relative of mine was called up in the diaspora. He said his name: Ra’anan Lior ben Avraham, the Gabai said: not your secular name, your Hebrew name.

I find that just as sad. It’s not a contest. It’s a reflection of the poor quality of Jewish Education that the Mapai have managed to infuse into Israeli society and which the religious zionists ignored for too long while they were perhaps over focussed on outposts at the expense of spreading good Jewish education in Tel Aviv etc

I am not sure how Rabbi Cardozo qualitatively defines the Messianic era, but it seems to me, if he enunciated that, he’d have no issue, on the saddest day of the year, to join in the Shiva, that we all take part in. Don’t we eat meat and drink wine during the Shiva? On Yahrzeit we have a Kiddush (not our minhag). It is true, that our Rabbis also promised us that this will be transformed to a day of Yom Tov. We still do not have a Temple, but we have a Yerushalayim. Is it the time to transform it to a Yom Tov?

We changed the “l’Shana ha’Ba’a Bi’Yrushalayim” to “l’Shana ha’Ba’a Bi’Yrushalayim HABNUYA” the addition is for the Temple – we already are in Yerushalayim.

I feel this is syntactic and in fact supports my comments and not opposes them. Halachically, it is true, that there are ramifications being in Yerushalayim: for example Korban Pesach.

Rabbi Cardozo, surely you aren’t suggesting you see the Yom Tov, but are blind to the myriad of reasons to be sad?

I attend Yom Hashoa out of solidarity, but my real Yom Hashoa tacks onto Tisha B’Av. Each one with his own feelings and customs.

I ask myself: Why would G-d destroy HIS home? It was a place where the Jews worshiped G-d, and not a home of his people. I do not know G-d’s intentions, but shall try my understandings or reasoning. Can one imagine anyone bringing today sacrifices? How would Judaism look if they did? Can it be that G-d’s intention was to stop those sacrifices, and the best way was to destroy the building? ונשלמה פרים שפתינו.

These are questions beyond our human understanding. The Rambam who to my knowledge is the only one who codifies the Halachos of Beis Habechirah and the times of the Mashiach, is certainly not suggesting that there won’t be sacrifices. I know there are those who interpret Rav Kook as implying there may be Korbanos Mincha. At the end of the day, as the Rambam notes, we lack a certain Mesora for these times, because they were hidden from us, and could not have been passed down. He says explicitly words that “all these details we will truly properly know at the time when they happen”

About Yom Hashoa: I was interviewed by GINZACH KIDUSH HASHEM (the Charedi Yad Vashem), and asked: how can you explain the Shoah? My reply was:

We have quite a limited view of the world and its future, as against G-d who has a wider one. At the destruction of the Temple, the Jews were driven out of their city Jerusalem, many were killed others dispersed among the Nations, and many were sold to slavery. They did not enjoy those days, they suffered quite a bit. They probably said Kinot. But G-d had a wider view; my children are going to dwell all over the globe, learn different trades and cultures. Had we stayed in our country, with the Temple, I (or probably also you) would surely dwell in my tent in the Negev as a shepherd looking after my flock – just like a Bedouin. The same with the holocaust, I can still not see the whole picture, but one is that the Jews, after the terrible holocaust, are again a NATION with their own country. Would the world grant us a piece of land if there was no holocaust? Would the Jews come to Eretz Yisrael, the land of desert and camels? Maybe it isn’t yet a full Geula, but surely a beginning. Why did we need six million sacrifices? Would not one million or fewer be enough? Please do not put this question to me. I am not G-d’s accountant.

By the way, in one of the Agudat Yisrael Knesiot (5679 Zurich) there was a discussion whether Jews are a Mosaic sect or a Nation! Because of such a question my father in law, and other German Rabbis left Agudat Yisrael. I thought that Yetziat Mitzraim was our transformation from a nomadic tribe into a Nation. Was I wrong?

I’m a second generation holocaust generation, but feel it acutely, likely due to the fact that for most of my life, I was surrounded only by holocaust survivors, who would challenge my religiosity, even when I was 10 years of age and ask me questions that I could not and dared not answer. It is certainly the case that history would record that an outcome of the holocaust was the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland. These are happenings that I don’t understand either. Do I have to pay 6 million lives to acquire something that we have already been promised? Did God not have other more gentle ways to somehow not interfere and yet interfere in the ways of the world so we would have the same outcome? Why didn’t he send Eliyahu down before the final solution and say ENOUGH. ושבו בנים לגבולם. I don’t know and I don’t believe anyone knows, despite the Satmar and other rhetoric. Indeed, on Tisha B’Av, as we sit on the eve of the full redemption, we can only sit exasperated while more human korbanos occur, and anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism, and Tisha B’Av encompasses all that.

Sure, on Yom Ha’atzmaut and on Yom Yerushalayim, when I was a student in Israel, I celebrated. I went to Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav, and euphorically danced all the way to the Kosel, and for the entire night danced until we davened Vatikin. We know how important it is to sing and give praise. Chizkiyahu Hamelech would have been Mashiach if he had sung, as openly stated by the Gemora in Sanhedrin (from memory).

I just expressed my humble thoughts.

And I thank you so much for sharing them. I heard second-hand, that Rabbi Cardozo felt I had not understood his points. That maybe so. As it is the Yohr Tzeit of the famed R’ Chaim Brisker now, I’d like to express that his Neshomo should have an Aliya. He revolutionised Torah learning.

Satmar in Melbourne. Is it different?

I’m accused by what I suspect to be elements of the Adass Israel Congregation of being “anti charedi”. Let’s be clear. The term “anti charedi” use used to maximise the impression of an irrational opposition to a specific approach to Judaism. It should be noted that Rav Kook זצ׳ל was definitely also Charedi. Whilst there is a common element encapsulated in the term Charedi, and that is something that sociologists observe, as well as halachists, the use of catch calls like “anti charedi” is creating a diversion from the specificity of philosophies and actions which occur among specific groups, that may be described as Charedi.

The Adass Israel community in Melbourne is unique,  I believe, in our current Jewish world. Borne by founders who may not recognise some of the direction that it has now taken, it represented a specific firm adherence to religious tenets and approaches that were brought from Europe to Melbourne. It was very common that the children of the founders of Adass, were encouraged to obtain secular education. If my memory serves me correctly, a number attended Prahran Technical School in order to obtain certifications required to make a living which didn’t require seeking handouts in order to survive. I see some  of those people, today, and  interact with them freely and in a friendly manner. They tend to understand the world and the different types of people comprising the world, not to mention the Chochma BaGoyim (the wisdom of a gentile population) as opportunities as opposed to hindrances to their development. Certainly, many of the original members were clean shaven (often with a moustache) and their children, often sport a neat beard, or no beard. Some have morphed into Litvaks. They do respect the Chassidic Adass community that eventually integrated into Adass, but they don’t necessarily share the more extreme range of views expressed by elements of that community. They generally, and sometimes diplomatically, keep their thoughts to themselves. For reasons of cohesiveness, and indeed economic survival, this may well be a necessarily formula, and a secret of success.

The relatively smaller size of the Melbourne Community, together with the economic reality of needing to live within such a community, means that Adass incorporates a cornucopia of different types. The reverence for Rav Beck is a hallmark and something to be admired. There have been a number of leaders ranging from the charismatic Rav Ashkenazi to the Genius Halachist Rav Betzalel Stern, the B’Tzel Hachochma.

Bearing this in mind, we read about different communities around the world where there is homogeneity. Especially in the USA, and to some extent the UK, particular Chassidic groups are grouped entirely amongst themselves. There will be a Satmar, Belz, Munkatcher, Vishnitzer, et al community. They will have their own organisations and pray in their own Shules and Shteiblach.

Melbourne is unique in that all these groups are housed and cooperate together, and the economic reality perhaps dictates that they must remain so, at least for the foreseeable future. It is true there has been one more radical breakaway (Divrei Emina). This may portend future developments, although I prefer an eschatological reality, where we are united in Yerusholayim Ir HaKodesh, well before such events occur.

A number of my readers sent me the article where young groups of both Satmar Chassidim (there are two Rebbes who are brothers) were displaying acts of loathing and violence towards anything to do with the State of Israel. I had seen these and found them a repeat of many other regrettable approaches to education that are used to channel children into a line of thinking where the love of a fellow Jew, dissipates into a hate-filled, dark room of horror. On occasion when I’ve been at Adass, I’ve discretly listened in to lessons to young children and have been disturbed by the time spent on running down the “sinners” and effectively sending them to a fiery hell.

Would the acts reported in the electronic media happen in Melbourne? My answer is that while there may be small pockets of like-minded people, it is unlikely that the collective whole, which comprises Adass, would allow this to occur. Let us not forget that many are also reliant on business dealings with the very same people they consider beyond the pale. There is no doubt this is at least one reason why a documentary featuring especially chosen people from Adass featured on Melbourne Television. (I didn’t watch it; about the only television I watch is a St Kilda or Liverpool game or cricket). Economic reality is a potent force. In addition, Melbourne has been a veritable bastion of pro-Israel sentiment, especially due to the sadly dwindling, but once enormous group of charismatic and determined Holocaust survivors, many of whom sported long payos, and untouched beards before the war.

Adass, like any community, has its occasional crisis or issue. At the moment, there is a concern about the number of divorces and, to their credit, Adass have brought out two experts, to address issues related to this as a means to stem the tide. These experts would have been chosen in the context of meeting the specific environment that Adass couples live within.

If Adass were to splinter, and say, a Satmar group became self-sufficient and had its own organisations, I expect that the same sort of offensive behaviour we have seen splashed over web pages, of children throwing eggs and more, may indeed become part of the Melbourne landscape.

I think its in everyone’s interests that Adass stays together. One group has a grounding and moderating effect on the other; it’s like a semi-forced integration. The concept of being true to one’s ideals and yet be able to compromise on things that are not seriously important, is a plus.

I wouldn’t like to see Adass splinter. Indeed, I have the same view of the Chabad offshoot “Cheder Levi Yitzchok”. In my own dealings with a paraprofessional who helped me health wise when I sustained some serious ankle injury, I am amazed, that due to our respectful interaction, he now sees me as his “oracle” on matters Jewish. I will receive texts out of the blue asking me questions, and where I am able to answer without consulting expert Rabbi’s I do so. I am able to do so because I know him. I know his way of thinking, and I know his challenges. This comes through interaction. At the same time, I also know and recognise some of his qualities. Splintering means the side effect of cutting oneself off from the broader community. With apathy and assimilation from the children and grandchildren of challenged and sometimes disturbed holocaust survivors, it has been my view that one needs to find “kosher” ways of reaching out and incorporating people into Yahadus. I feel this is essentially the process of Teshuva, and indeed, the formula for Geulah. It is clearly stated in Shas and the Rambam. We can sit on our hands, and focus on Bein Odom Lamokom, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the Aybishter is quite interested in our ability to relate to Chavero, their fellow Jew. We don’t know how to admonish, and in any case, admonishments have zero effect today.

The answer is not, of course, to make plasticine out of Judaism, and find academic loop holes, some of which are questionable, in order to make Judaism fit the modern world, the world of Science, the world of Philosophy, the world of Linguistics, etc none of which I see as a threat to my belief system and the practices that flow from it. Rather, the answer is to mould people,  and that can only done by engagement, interaction, and above all setting an example. That example has been damaged through the open world we live in, which is able to promulgate every act of every crooked religious person, and thereby lesson Kavod HaTorah. It is easy for the not yet committed Jew to feel let down by people they thought were respectable.

Especially in a world which looks at religion as the cause of all terror and misery, it is critical that we, as Jew, work in the opposite direction.

How many of us, will pass a Jew, let alone a gentile, and simply not say Good Morning? Why not? These small acts, have potentially great outcomes.

Post Tisha B’Av thoughts reacting to Rabbi Dr Nathan Lopez Cardozo

I read with incredulity the continuing slide to the left by respected people, such as Rabbi Dr Nathan Lopez Cardozo, in his incredulous blog post on Tisha B’Av, where he finds it difficult to mourn because Jerusalem is in a state of such glory. I won’t go through it, piece by piece, and rebut each of his arguments. I will note that Rav Goren, whilst not sliding to the left attempted to make changes to the prayer of Nachem, especially after Jerusalem was perceived as being as united.

I had no difficulty seeing the many areas in our Jewish experience that warrant a sombre, halachically mourning-oriented, day.

It is true, that I’m not poetically inclined, and the piyutim of Kinos are mostly unfathomable to me, despite the Rav Soloveitchik publication on Kinos. Perhaps if I’d spent ten years listening to the Rav on Kinos, during his marathon expositions, I’d develop a keen sense. Instead, I see those who need to go to work, rushing through, saying words they often don’t understand, and skipping around.

In the days of my youth, I saw old Chabad Chassidim sit until mid-day and longer and say each word carefully. The Aveylus/mourning of Tisha B’Av was palpable. I will never forget Rav Betzalel Wilshansky, a Chasid of the Rashab, unable to say more than three or four words of the Haftora without breaking out into uncontrollable weeping. Sure, he would have lived through the hell of Russian Jewish existence, but I have no doubt that his thoughts transcended that experience.

We are taught to be positive at all times. It’s good for the psyche, “good” for bringing up children, and is the modern mantra. When taken to the extreme, though, it is nothing more than another level of extremism, removed from reality. One must call ‘a spade a spade’ at times, and although we need to choose our moments carefully, and be cognisant of the differences of each child, and the new environment of social networking and internet and will be part of their lives, we must stay an anchor as parents and educators in ensuring the transmission of the Mesora from generation to generation. I believe the role of a parent and educator is arguably harder today than it has been. The information explosion, creates so many poorly researched and badly argued propositions. The Neshama is clouded by these manifestations. People try to now reach the Neshama, and break through to reach it, using new devices. They resort to different approaches: including neo-hippy style religion, as manifested through indie/rap/alternative modes of music. They resort to mindfulness, when they actually practice mindlessness–an evacuation of the cerebral and emotional trials and tribulations that need to be dealt with, each according to their particularised approach.

The home has become not so much a bastion of home cooking, and family get togethers for important events. People seek to eat out. They want to taste the koshered delicacies that they believe they have missed, and will fill their lives with more meaningful experience. Do I really need Facon, or Ben Pekuah farms?

How many of us sit down once a week, and learn Torah with our children, even after they are married. Technology allows us to do that by FaceTime, Skype or other means. Why not? What is the method of galvanising the chains of Mesora between us and our offspring.

Which brings me to Yerusholayim Ir HaKodesh. I do not want to fall into the pitfall of the spies and speak badly about the city. It is THE city in Israel where I feel a certain spiritual energy rising from the soles of my feet and encompassing my body. At the same time it is racked with so many problems. There are issues of violent fundamentalists. There are issues of a sad divide between Religious and Secular; the latter caused by the paucity of genuine love of a fellow jew. Love arises when commonality is seen clearly despite difference. If one is unable to break through and sense the Neshoma of the secular Jew and love that person because they share that self-same Neshoma with themselves, then they are blinded. They are not blinded by the light. They are blinded by the darkness.

I do not think anyone who transgresses should be made to feel unwelcome, today. There are very few old-fashioned Apikorsim, people who actually know enough to be called an Apikorus. At the same time, who can be comfortable with the concept of PRIDE (as opposed to respect for difference) that is visible with public sexual overtones?

Who can not find a day to be sad because Holocaust survivors who live in the State, are still not treated well?

Who can not find a day to be sad when the fake historiographers attempt to whitewash the essential Jewish Connection to the Har Habayis?

Who can not find a day to be sad when adding a Kinna to remember the horrors of the Holocaust?

Who can not find a day to be sad when the things that unite different religious groups, despite being greater than the things that divide, do not conquer?

Who can not find a day to be sad when Jerusalem, “The Light of the World”, is not seen that way by the world at large?

Who can not find a day to be sad when a Jew from Jerusalem is called up to the Torah and is asked “what is your name”, and they answer “Chaim”. And after being asked “Ben?” they say “Ben Esrim V’shmoneh”? It’s not funny.

Who can not find a day to be sad when those Jews who have some Rabbinic permission to walk at certain parts of the Temple Mount may not, according to law, even project a semblance of prayer!

Who can not find a day to be sad when reading the story of Kamtza and Bat Kamtza and realising that these things continue to go on today through so-called neutral Jewish NGOs? Do we need to unmask Bernie Sanders?

Who can not find a day to be sad when we see a George Soros or a New Israel Fund, that seeks to force an unrealistic solution with no second partner?

Who can not find a day to be sad when the new word for Anti Semite, is Anti Zionist? They are Anti Har Habayis, and our so-called peace partners in Jordan blame us for incitement when this is palpably a blatant lie

Who can not find a day to be sad, knowing that in the last year, incidents involving stabbings, especially in Jerusalem were an almost daily occurrence, and of course, the world blames the Jewish “Zionists” for their defence against such?

Who can’t see the rupture being created by Open Orthodoxy, as it morphs into the new Conservative movement?

Who can’t see that isms, such as Feminism, are used to tortuously twist Halacha, rather than the other way around?

Who can not find meaning in Eicha, and Medrash Eicha that doesn’t reflect on all the above and more? Why sit at home? Is this a protest against the prescribed Mesora of the Availus of Tisha B’Av, which parallels the Availus of Shiva?

Who can not find reason to be sad that when someone passes away, we increasingly follow the non-Jewish practice of “celebrating!” their life. The Rabbis decreed there was a time for introspectional mourning. Shiva suddenly becomes one day. In Australia, they like to get drunk after a funeral as if to wash away the sorrow. There is a time to reflect. It is cathartic. One goes to the Shiva house. One does not stay at home. For the first three days one doesn’t speak first. We wait for the mourner to speak IF they feel like it. The celebration of their life isn’t a one time event. Following the year, it is a daily remembrance of tears interlaced with good stories and lessons, through the prism of the life history of the departed.

I admit, it is hard to imagine what life will FEEL like once the Messianic era does formally occur. It has not. The sheep does not sleep near the wolf in peace. The world is a terrified enclosure, and civilians are being slaughtered everywhere “all in the name of religion”.

I am not sure how Rabbi Cardozo qualitatively defines the Messianic era, but it seems to me, if he enunciated that, he’d have no issue, on the saddest day of the year, to join in the Shiva, that we all take part in. It is true, that our Rabbis also promised us that this will be transformed to a day of Yom Tov.

Rabbi Cardozo, surely you aren’t suggesting you see the Yom Tov, but are blind to the myriad of reasons to be sad?

I attend Yom Hashoa out of solidarity, but my real Yom Hashoa tacks onto Tisha B’Av.

I look forward to the full and real redemption: each day: so should Rabbi Cardozo.

More child abuse … in Israel

I don’t know how much of this is true; it may all well be true, and not all of it be found guilty. I’m not being judge. But, where there is smoke there is fire. These stories and accusations do not just come into existence יש מאין, ex nihilo. This report is from Yediot and made me feel ill.

Teachers at Hasidic school accused of sexually abusing students

Six teachers from a Talmud Torah school (“Cheder”) belonging to the Belz Hasidic dynasty were indicted on Tuesday for the abuse and assault of minors, with the main defendant accused of many cases of sodomy with minors, indecent assault, and extortion.
According to the indictments, the offenses were allegedly committed over the course of 11 years from 2000 to 2011 against 22 complainants aged 3-10, who were taught by the defendants. During that time, the defendants committed daily physical and emotional violence against the students, which was characterized by cruelty, humiliation, and intimidation.

According to the indictments, the students called the school “Bergen-Belsen,” referring to the Nazi concentration camp, while the main defendant, 49-year-old Avraham Mordechai Rosenfeld, was dubbed “Rosenazi.” Rosenfeld, the indictment states, brought students to a lounge at the school that contained beds and a closet in which he kept sweets, some of which he confiscated from the students. He allegedly ordered the students to come with him into the room, where he sexually assaulted them. After they stopped crying, he gave them sweets and sent them on their way. In many of the cases, Rosenfeld beat the students using wooden sticks or planks that he ordered the students to gather during recess. The indictment also details some instances in which Rosenfeld tied the students to chairs or desks using ropes or cable ties and had them stand in class with their hands and feet bound. While tied, he force-fed them a spoonful of black pepper or soap and forbade them from washing their mouths after. In other cases, he forbade students from going to the bathroom, or otherwise forced them to relieve themselves in their pants while sitting in class. Rosenfeld is also charged with animal abuse. In one instance, when a cat entered the classroom in which Rosenfeld was teaching, he beat it in front of the students with an umbrella or wooden sticks, and eventually shoved it out of the window, killing the cat. Additionally, Rosenfeld is suspected of terrorizing his wife and children at home. He allegedly subjected one of his children to abuse for years until the child left home. His wife claimed he threatened to keep her from their children, threatened to divorce her, and controlled the food in the house. The other five defendants are Yisrael Haim Shapira, 65, Haim Fishgrond, 69, Moshe Hirsch, 39, Menachem Alberstein, 63, and Avraham Pinchas Deytsch, 53. The six defendants denied the offenses attributed to them, with each providing explanations and interpretations of the incidents, claiming they did not intend to harm the minors. Some admitted to some of the less serious incidents, while presenting them as mere jokes. Apart from Rosenfeld, the other five teachers were released from detention under restrictive conditions. Zion Amir, who also represented former president and convicted rapist Moshe Katsav, now represents some of the defendants. “Some of the people I represent completely deny the allegations against them,” he said. “There is going to be a long trial that will acquit whoever needs to be acquitted from this important community.” Rosenfeld’s lawyer, Yehuda Fried, claimed that “the acts described in the indictment are exaggerated. Regarding his family, the accusations are completely made up by those seeking to get between him and his wife.”

Modern Cholov Yisroel: A blunder of nomenclature

The Halacha of needing supervised kosher milk (Chalav Yisrael) is clear. It applies today, as it applied yesteryear. Every single Jew is enjoined to only drink Milk that was supervised by a Jew. (there are different approaches to supervision). There are different reasons between the Bavli and Yerushalmi as quoted by Tosfos in Avoda Zara, but what is inescapable is that:

There is no permission whatsoever not to drink Chalav Yisrael.

This is a famous law, and we (Orthodox Jews, ranging from Charedi to Centrist/Modern Orthodox) have no permission to drink anything other than Chalav Yisrael. The prime reason given is that we are concerned that non Kosher Milk was also mixed in. Without going into the details of whether non Kosher Milk looks different (greenish) and whether Camel’s milk today is in fact white now, and whether there are no non Kosher animals in the flock, the reality is that there is no Orthodox Posek in the world that ever abrogated the need for Cholov Yisroel. They cannot! They are powerless to annul this (nor would they want to annul it in the many lawless parts of the world).

The Pri Chadash and others suggested that the decree only existed where there was a possibility that there was non kosher milk mixed in. Where no such possibility existed, then the milk is considered at the level of Cholov Yisroel. Some reject the Pri Chadash and want to say that the entire country has to have no non-Kosher milk-bearing animals, but here is not the place to delve into the topic in respect to those details. The Acharonim in Yoreh Deah and after that, are troubled by the Pri Chadash’s observation.

We then have the two great permissive analyses of the Chazon Ish and Reb Moshe Feinstein. Neither of these argue that every single Jew need not drink Cholov Yisrael. For those who believe the Chazon Ish was not lenient, I have a wonderful analyses which I can make available once I ask permission.

The difference is what is considered SUPERVISION. According to R’ Moshe (and we rely on such considerations right throughout the Kashrus Industry) Dairies generally have cow’s milk only, and they fear being shut down and/or sued for presenting non Cow’s milk as cow’s milk, and this constitutes the necessary level of Mirtas (fear) by the non-Jew, to the extent that he will not destroy his business. Accordingly, what R’ Moshe and the Chazon Ish (and others) are telling us is that this particular style of fear is equal to the fear or if you prefer ‘halachic efficacy’ of being supervised by a Jew, (who may have washed out any buckets for exactitude at the beginning) and then being in a place near the flock to be able to stand up at any time and see what is happening. Accordingly, they were lenient, and note: this is not a leniency when people travel through China, India, Russia, and many countries where no such “fear of being sued” or “fear of being caught doling out adulterated products exists (I’m not even going to mention places like Africa and Asia). There is a case mentioned in the Aruch Hashulchan (a Giant Navardoker Misnagdish Posek ) where he relates that the Milk in some famous café was in fact Treyf as it was mixed with non Kosher fats to give it an “edge”).

What’s been the wash up of all of this? We now have a generation of people who say

No, we don’t keep Chalav Yisrael

This is plainly wrong. Everyone must keep Cholov Yisroel at all times. What they are really saying, is that they are keeping the Chalav Yisrael as defined by the promulgation of companies producing cow’s milk and the concomitant fear that their businesses will be ruined if they do not adhere to the standards set by Government. [ Imagine the court case, God forbid, of a child who is allergic to milk other than Cow’s milk who is found to have been given tainted milk, that had camel’s milk mixed suffering anaphylactic shock. The outcry would reverberate. This is why many companies say “may contain traces of nuts and dairy” when in fact this is so remote as to be halachically insignificant and basically a clause inserted by legal insurance to protect themselves.]

It’s not just milk. Generally speaking in most areas of Kashrus, one can find an ‘accepted norm’ and then those who (mainly for Kabbalistic reasons, especially with milk — and yes, both the Ramoh and the Mishnah Brura and the Aruch Hashulchan were affected by these considerations) expect more.

If I was an American Rabbi at that time, I would have visited R’ Moshe and asked that he announce that all observant Jews drink Chalav Yisroel. Some (the Ba’al Nefesh, as R’ Moshe was himself but not for his family or his guests) will assume the traditional mode of supervision, with the eye of Mashgiach.

In summary, I would have liked to have seen CHALAV YISRAEL divided up into two categories, just like much Kosher food (and here I do not include the outlier, unaccepted rogue authorities in many cities around the world)

  1. Chalav Yisrael Mehadrin
  2. Chalav Yisrael Stam (where this is known to be considered supervised through another Halachic method)

You might say I’m picky. I don’t believe I am. I’ve spoken inter-alia on this topic with many people over the years, and I have always been floored by the fact that they think that they are drinking NON CHALAV YISRAEL. Chas V’Shalom to think that a Jew doesn’t have this obligation TODAY, and that they are lax and not fulfilling it. No, they are fulfilling it, because it must be fulfilled. Nobody had nullified the degree. Reb Moshe didn’t “do away” with Chalav Yisrael!!!

By sadly calling them either

  1. Chalav Stam (a new extra halachic phrase that never existed) or Chalav HaCompanies (which was not used by R’ Moshe to defined a new type of milk,  but rather an innovative mode of supervision that renders the milk Chalov Yisrael.
  2. Chalav Yisrael

they have created generations of people who actually think that Cholov Yisroel is a Chumra and isn’t Halacha Lechatchilla. I believe this has done damage and created falsehood.

I would urge, certainly Kosher Australia, to use Mehadrin for Cholov Yisroel which is eyeballed by a Mashgiach, as there is a market for this type of supervision, Halachically and Kabbalistically. True, most local milk produced in Melbourne is under the Hungarian Adass Charedim, and they won’t drink non-eyeballed supervision. Kosher Australia uses Mehadrin for many things. The Charedim in Melbourne follow Kosher Australia’s Mehadrin as does the Badatz in Yerusholayim.

A simple paragraph by Koshe Australia explaining when they use Mehadrin for Cholov Yisroel achieves everything and does not passively cause people to err (and dare I say sin God forbid) and think that they don’t have to have Chalav Yisroel and that Chalav Yisrael is something just for people with bushy beards or long peyos. Sorry, Shulchan Aruch was written for all. People do err and they must understand that at all times and at all places Chalov Yisrael is a must! (I’m not going to discuss cheese or butter here)

[ Yes, with bread, which is a staple, the Gezeira of Pas Yisroel wasn’t accepted and there are leniencies, but without going into the different situations when and if these leniencies can be applied, this isn’t paralleled with Chalav Yisrael. ]

I should hasten, unlike the times of the Shulchan Aruch, we also need to be sure the bottled product is actually Kosher (ditto, the bread in a place where Jewish bread, is not available and there is a bakery (Pas Palter). Food production has changed markedly.

Sharing a coffee for social reasons in a non supervised non-Jewish coffee shop when a Kosher one is available, is something I would suggest people ask their Halachic decisor. I’m not comfortable with it.

[ For work, when I think it is necessary: I have black coffee in a glass, and have my own sweetener in a sachet, if theirs is not kosher, or I just drink water].

The Gay Pride March in Jerusalem

If one is Orthodox and as a matter of belief, the Torah is the word of God, then one cannot escape that certain acts of sexual relations are forbidden, including some of those being exposed through a march.

In Halacha, there are several categories of people who perform acts which constitute sin, many unrelated to sexual acts, where their capacity to act as Torah ordained witnesses is diminished. There are some who do this out of want, and others who do this out of rebellion against the Torah.

I have no doubt that there are many people who struggle with the fact that their desires, sexually, are considered a matter of shame to the extent that they don’t wish to disclose this information, except in trusted (safe) environments. Berating someone for having such desires, or call it a disposition (research on this will emerge over the next ten years, have no doubt), is not of value in this day. Indeed, it could cause someone to feel that they are so hopeless, that they make take their own life in the worst case, or become so depressed that they cannot function as a human being.

It is known that many contemporary sages have said that we no longer have the skill of “telling someone off” for straying from Torah. I believe this is true. The best way to influence someone is to be a living and shining example of what a Jew with unconditional belief, and intellectual submission to the Torah means, and that such a person can be pleasant and sensitive, as can the Judaism they practice.

Intellectual submission to Torah in the form of Emunah is something that is axiomatic for the practicing Orthodox Jewish person. Belief, by its nature transcends intellect. Reasons for commands are there primarily to explore the “what can be derived” from Judaism, as Rav Soloveitchik explained, however, reasons, do not have a place in the “why must I do this command”. The why question exists only when there isn’t submission. In Chassidic terminology this may be termed Bitul.

I understand, and I am happy to be corrected that there may be two motives for a parade of this sort:

  1. To promote the life style as being acceptable
  2. To express the view that nobody should live in fear, or be cut off, as a result of their orientation.

Promotion of such a life style is not compatible with Torah. To put it crudely, one would also be against a march which said “It’s okay to do away with Shabbat”. The common element is that they are immutable Torah imperatives, and the quest to seek adherents to such views is anathema to a Torah observant Jew. Indeed, we find great Halachic difference in the Jew who breaks the Sabbath in private versus the one who honks the horn when passing the Rabbi walking to Shule, with the aim of showing that “I don’t care about Sabbath”, or the person who eats prawns because they “just love the taste”.

In terms of the Gay Pride march, if the aim is point 2 above, then I think its existence transcends religion. There are various types of people who don’t accept this reality for other reasons. It is important to make sure that all those who have predilections and quandaries, are not made to feel that they are “outside the tent”. They are in the tent. A more sophisticated approach would be how to engage them, should they personally wish to be engaged on the topic, and make them feel that there are hundreds of Mitzvos that are applicable to them, as much as anyone else. On this point, it would be useful if Rabbis of skill got together and devised some guidelines.

With that in mind, I felt the statements of some 300 Religious Zionist Rabbis achieved nothing positive in respect of the marchers, except for Nir Barkat choosing to remain Pareve and not attend for what he called “sensitivity” reasons. If those Rabbis thought that there was a lack of knowledge about various sins and how they are treated in Judaism, then there are other ways to interact with the various groups. The religious group need a different approach than the one of the non practicing variety. Those approaches need to be advanced and not simple. Quoting a verse, for which the irreligious marchers have no regard, is a waste of time. Do they not know this already?

Point 1 though is something that I do not think should happen from a Halachic viewpoint. I do not see a reason to seek recruits to swell the numbers engaging in such a life style.

The gay pride movement is not without blame here, either. They have much to answer for. Jerusalem is the Holiest City, as such, sensitivity, indeed the same sort of sensitivity they demand when respecting their sexual orientation, should imply that this is definitely not the City where one chooses to march. In the process, they are trampling on sensitivities that they do not understand and in some cases are antagonistic towards. Why do this? It only creates antipathy and division. Of course, this does not mean that there are people in Jerusalem who are confronted with the issue of being gay (or GBLTIQ). They are in Rishon LeTzion, Haifa, and not confined to some geographic point in Israel.

If they have had an Israel march in Tel Aviv, then it’s happened. It can be marketed as such: the location of the march doesn’t signify that it is only for those who live in Tel Aviv. There is no need to offend the Torah based sensibilities in Jerusalem, the Holy City, when sensible alternatives which achieve the same aim are possible. Some of the responsibility for the rhetoric that has occurred, rests with those who also wish to remove the notion that Jerusalem is any holier a place, in Israel. Ironically, that’s what the Arabs do. It is not what Jews do: be they practicing orthodox or otherwise. If they throw a spark into flammable material, then expect a raging fire.

I would have liked to have seen two outcomes from the march:

  1. Jerusalem is considered a no go zone for such marches as the outcome is to cause more antipathy, and that’s precisely what they are trying to overcome. It will actually heighten the problem for GBLTIQ people who will feel minimised.
  2. The Rabbis, need to be more sophisticated in the statements that they put out in response to such events. There should have been meetings beforehand between the organisers and Rabbinic leaders and I expect that a better outcome would have occurred. Of course any Orthodox Rabbi will quote the Torah here if asked. The Torah’s views are not hidden, nor are they unknown. However, I do not know what is achieved by calling such people names as a method to reduce the occurrence of people performing forbidden acts of the Torah.

It is a democracy. That also implies that the Jews of Jerusalem should have a say about the compatibility of the event occurring also in Jerusalem. If the motive is to preach secularism, then it is secularism, not being Gay, that is the issue here. Silent peaceful marches against creeping secularism where Israelis are identifying as nothing different to a non-Jew who lives in Israel (and sees Israel as their secular home country). This may even come to resemble the French Republican model.

It is at times like this, that we need the wise counsel of the lover of all Jews in Israel, Rav Kook. He knew how to ignite the spark of Judaism in Jews who were adopting other isms in Israel and he did so through positive acts. It is time the Rabbis examined their methods of protest and became more advanced in their way of expounding the real basis and foundation for which Jews live in Israel in the first place.

Some will sophomorically claim that this is just the Charedi Leumi section of Religious Zionism, and that they are no different to other Charedim in 90% of their outlook. Rav Kook was a Charedi; there is no doubt about that. One does not have to become a wishy-washy, left-wing, tree-hugging, apologetic Rabbi with a community of people who are lax in increasing numbers, to be qualified to respond to these events.

Unfortunately, our generation doesn’t have a Rav Kook. It doesn’t have a Lubavitcher Rebbe or a Rav Soloveitchik. Apart from Rabbi Sacks who is wonderfully adept at expressing Torah views without causing others to become anti-Torah, we are lacking Rabbinic leaders who understand people, and not only the four sections of the Shulchan Aruch.

On the nature of interfaith relationships

Many years ago, the indisputable Rabbinic Doyen of Centrist Orthodoxy (call it Modern or Torah U’Maddah if you like), Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik, issued clear rulings under which interdenominational activities must be underpinned. Note, unlike, more right-wing streams of Orthodoxy, Rav Soloveitchik, was not an extremist advocating zero contact. At the time, the Rav’s focus was on Xtianity, as this was the prevailing pressure in the USA. To think that his advice would not equally apply to other religions, such as Islam, or Hinduism, or Buddhism is a non sequitur.

Rav Soloveitchik stated (emphasis is mine):

1. “We are a totally independent faith community. We do not revolve as a satellite in any orbit.” Jews must not concede at all to the notion that their covenant with God has been superseded. This refusal should be recognised by all participants as an ongoing point of disagreement between the faith communities, not an issue to be ironed out by apologetics or revisionism.

2. “The logos, the word in which the multifarious religious experience is expressed does not lend itself to standardization or universalisation. The confrontation should occur not at a theological, but at a mundane human level. There, all of us speak the universal language of modern man.” Because the theological language of the respective faith communities expresses religious sensations too intimate to be comprehended by those of another faith, dialogue must remain in the realm of the “secular orders.”

3. “Non-interference is a conditio sine qua non for the furtherance of good-will and mutual respect.”No Jew must ever suggest changes or emendations to Christian rituals or texts, and the converse is a requirement as well.

4. Any response to Christian overtures that even hints toward a willingness to compromise the fundamental matters over which millions of Jewish martyrs were sacrificed is an affront to their memory. To willingly equivocate where they stood firm demonstrates utter insensitivity to the “sense of dignity, pride, and inner joy” that their memory ought to inspire.

With this in mind, let us examine a letter from Rabbi Ralph Genende (emphasis is mine) of Caulfield Shule as an Orthodox Rabbinic member and President of JCMA

To Our Muslim Sisters And Brothers

Jewish Christian Muslim Association of Australia Statement

11th July 2016

We watched with sadness and horror the tragic events of the last days of Ramadan and can’t imagine how difficult they were for you.

We know that there is wide consensus that these terrorist attacks are largely political and that Islam is being distorted and manipulated for political and ideological purposes.

The victims, the families and friends of the victims, are all in our prayers.

In Australia, we heard with pain the divisive and hurtful comments of Pauline Hanson about Islam and Muslims.

Know that we share in your sorrow and distress and that we stand with you in the struggle for love and compassion.  May they overcome bigotry and hatred and violence.

May the blessings of peace, Shalom, Salam speedily grace our planet.

Rabbi Ralph Genende

President JCMA on behalf of JCMA

I have a number of questions of Rabbi Genende.

  1. Does he accept Rav Soloveitchik’s principles as outlined above? If he does, I am comfortable with that. If he does not, I posit that he is acting outside the boundaries set by Rav Soloveitchik for the RCA. [ Yes, I am aware of revisionists from both sides (left/right) who want to strengthen or weaken what Rav Soloveitchik ruled, but I treat these as speculation of little substance]. We have what the Rav said explicitly. It is clear and unambiguous.
  2. If he accepts the Rav’s views, did he formally write the parameters to his colleagues through which dialogue could proceed, as enunciated by the Rav above. In particular, did he write words to the effect that“As Jews we will never concede at all to the notion that our covenant with God has been superseded by other religions and we formally seek your acknowledgement of this point before any dialogue can proceed. You may have your viewpoint, but I seek your explicit agreement that you acknowledge that we will never see our covenant as superseded by other religions, and there can be no apologetics or revisionism in this regard.”
  3. Can Rabbi Genende tell us whether he received condolence style letters of apology from his Muslim colleagues ever. If not, why might that be? If yes, surely, it is critical that he actually publish those letters. Such letters, more than Rabbi Genende’s letter, act as a counter balance to incitement.
  4. We experienced the recent murder of Rabbi Marks and the stabbing of the young girl Hallel Ariel about whom the State Department made no statement despite her being a US citizen, let alone a human being. I assume Rabbi Genende heard the brave tear-jerking speech at the grave by Hallel’s mother. Muslim men of the cloth, in such a forum, need to distance themselves from Arab politics, and issue unambiguous condemnation of cruel, disgustingly opportunistic cold-blooded murders. Surely, one basis of this group is that violence is to be condemned at all times, except if attacked in a war situation where one is defending oneself.
  5. If Rabbi Genende received no such letter of condolence from his Muslim friends of the cloth, then I see no reason for him to continue with letters of “Salaam”. What is the point? The only outcome from such things is  Queens Day honours for the committee for their tolerant platitudes and joint acts of breaking bread.
  6. I am not an expert on Pauline Hanson’s platform, however, a significant number of Australians voted for her viewpoint. In a democracy, this counts for votes in determining how we are governed. There is rhetoric and views from Hanson’s acolytes that are to be condemned. There are other statements that state the obvious, but neither the Labor Party or the Liberals would ever say those for fear of losing votes.  Whatever Hanson’s views are, I do not see it as the role of this committee via Rabbi Genende to make pronouncements about a political party unless Hanson’s party has a platform which is universally considered amoral. Rabbi Genende doesn’t mention which comments of Pauline Hanson he as our representative objects to, but I think that should be the focus and not Hanson herself. He should focus on what was said that is offensive, and if need be, condemn such statements where they offend common human decency. In a vacuum though, the letter simply reads as a political rejection of everything Hanson’s party stands for. It’s not the party per se. It is explicit policies, which may emanate from any party, including the Greens, that might be horribly objectionable to all three religions because they breach a basic covenant of morality. The issues, not the parties, should be the focus.
  7. I invite Rabbi Genende to publish letters initiated by either Xtian, Muslim or other colleagues in respect to violence against civilians in the wider world, including Israel. Paris anyone?
  8. I invite Rabbi Genende to ask his colleagues to openly condemn the current outrageous UNESCO proposal where they brazenly rewrite history, announcing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is an exclusive Muslim holy place which has no connection to the Jewish people or their religion whatsoever! Does Rabbi Genende not remind his co-religionists that this is blatant lying, and lying is a common mundane human act that all religions should condemn? It is precisely the type of pronouncement (from UNESCO) about which Rabbi Soloveitchik warned.Last week UNESCO adopted a resolution which refers to Israel as the “occupying power” in Jerusalem and on, what UNESCO calls, the al-Haram al-Shariff (Temple Mount). The Western Wall (Wailing Wall) that is today Judaism’s holiest site is referred to as “Al-Buraq Plaza” in the resolution.The UNESCO resolution claimed “Israel is planting Jewish fake graves! in other spaces of the Muslim cemeteries” near the Temple Mount and falsely accused Israel of “the continued conversion of many Islamic and Byzantine remains into the so-called Jewish ritual baths or into Jewish prayer places.”. Will Rabbi Genende’s committee distance themselves from such lies publicly? If not, why not? How does one sit on a committee with anyone who denies the Jewish foundation of Jerusalem?UNESCO especially mentioned the damage caused by Israeli Forces since Aug. 23 “to the gates and the windows of the so-called Qibli Mosque inside al-Aqsa Mosque.”. The organisation claimed that Israel doesn’t respect the integrity, authenticity and cultural heritage of al-Aqsa Mosque as “a Muslim Holy Site of worship and as an integral part of a World Cultural Heritage Site.” Rabbi Genende knows this is an abhorrent rewriting of history, or to use the words of Rav Soloveitchik,“Jews must not concede at all to the notion that their covenant with God has been superseded.”

    Given that this implicitly and explicitly concedes our covenant, let alone provable history, on what religious basis is Rabbi Genende continuing dialogue unless his co-religionists openly reject the notion in a letter initiated by them?

    Aug. 23 is the date that 67 Jews were murdered in Hebron in 1929 during riots that began after similar lies about a Jewish threat to al-Aqsa ignited the Arab street in British-ruled Palestine. Talmudic Geniuses from the Yeshiva in Hebron were among those murdered. Will Rabbi Genende not also focus on this parallel or does he confine himself to personhood statements of grief when one group of Muslims murders another group of Muslims?

    The UNESCO resolution doesn’t utter a word about the daily riots that already started on the Temple Mount in the summer of 2015 and continued into the autumn after the Palestinian Authority and Hamas spread false rumors that Israel intended to change the status quo on the mount. There is overwhelming video evidence of who started the fighting at the Temple Mount and of Muslims barricading themselves in the al-Aqsa mosque. Video evidence doesn’t count in a world of lies, and if men of the cloth don’t condemn such lies, why are we sitting with them on one table?

  9. One has to wonder: apart from appeasement in the name of “we are all one” what Rabbi Genende’s involvement on this committee actually achieves. I’d argue that sending all Victorian students to the holocaust centre achieves much more than such letters.

I also read the growing trend of experiencing the religious practices of other religions in moments of “unity”, with nice accompanying pictures (Rabbi Genende amongst them). I ask again, how is this consonant with Rav Soloveitchik’s ruling that things be restricted to secular orders. Rav Soloveitchik, effectively meant, looking after the poor, the needy, and Noachide-style edicts of having proper courts, order, etc.

I have no doubt that Rabbi Genende has the best intentions, but I believe that unless we see letters initiated by his co-religionists of this committee, then we are not getting a proper picture of what this committee does or what it hopes to achieve, and whether it achieves it or whether its terms of reference should be refined or changed.

I, for one, would have no regret in condemning  those Jews in Israel who burnt the Palestinian youth and criticising it as an act which is contrary to Halacha and normal moral law. Did Rabbi Genende write such a letter? We all know that  such Jews are minuscule in numbers, and that the Shin Bet is on their heads and tails, sometimes with justification and sometimes without. Jews act to quell violent radicalism.

Be under no illusion, Rabbi Genende. Even today, Xtians believe that all Jews should convert to Xtianity and Muslims believe that all Jews should convert to Islam. Under that factoid, it seems to me that confining activities to joint acts of the more secular, as enunciated by Rav Soloveitchik is the correct and only approach to take. Any more is platitudes that achieve very little.

The politics and policing of curbing incitement is the domain of politicians and the law, not a religious committee that ought to work together to foster those secular good acts that benefit society.

How many mashgichim?

I run a popular band. [ Yes, we still play and are recognised by those with discerning taste. End plug. ]

As part of my decades of experience at Simchas I’ve seen the sublime to the ridiculous. I will leave my stories either untold or for a book I may write one day. One thing though concerns me now, as it has for many years. For some reason, irrespective of whether it is Kosher Australia or whether it is the Adass, Rabonim seem non reactive.

Some venues are incredibly complicated and the ability for an error to sneak in is amplified. Some venues are simpler but the sheer number of people who are at a Simcha means that the operation in the kitchen and out of the kitchen is a major logistic undertaking. Others have both concerns.

In my uneducated view there should be a ratio of mashgichim which is correlated with both the number of guests, the type of kitchen, and even the complexity of given menus, and the method of preparation.

I know many mashgichim are considered ‘good’ because they also help out in the kitchen. I’d suggest their job though is to have eyes in the back of their heads and not be involved in the manual operations of the preparation and to be actively vigilant.

I would ask the two agencies to consider a standard ratio system in the least. Perhaps 75 people equals one Mashgiach and increase these according the number of guests and perhaps some of the more complex kitchens, especially at hotels where 3 functions may be held simultaneously. I’ve witnessed nightmarish scenarios.

I’ve incredulously watched one Mashgiach oversee a complex venue with 600 guests in a very complex set up.

Whilst waiter numbers are increased, a sole Mashgiach has to see everything. Frankly I don’t know how it can be done, and I’ve seen many ways where things could go awry without anyone noticing.

I’ve also been to many kiddushim where there isn’t a Mashgiach to be seen? Why not? It’s Shabbos and more. Simply depositing boxes of taped food packages means that the moment those tapes are removed and the prep setting takes place, any meat, for example, may become forbidden!

At one Shule, the so called Yotze VeNichnas, the person who arrives unannounced a number of times, is also the Gabbay of the Shule. This is a nonsense and I don’t understand how it is permitted.

I’ve also been to Charedi functions where there is no Mashgiach to be found. This has improved but needs to be treated more uniformly and seriously.

I’ve seen a Mashgiach crack eggs for hours (technically uneccesary in my non Rabbinic opinion) and spend the rest of the night worryingly about his own meals. In one case I saw a Mashgiach dancing! I kid you not. This was not one of respected Hashgochos so you can breathe easier. 

I’ve had to call the Mashgiach to properly set up the Kashrus of band meals. The best place to place a band is inside the hall in a dead spot. If I wasn’t frum and it was just another band, almost anything goes when the band is remote in some hole in the bowels of a hall.

Whilst the investigation of products has improved significantly I feel  Hashocho at venues needs improvement and more care.

Ironically, I’ve seen some of the ‘less frum’ caterers do things exactly by the book as opposed to those who are fully shomer Torah and Mitzvos.

As a related aside, it is ironic that drink bars sometimes have signs saying they are not covered by the hashgocho. It’s a cute disclaimer but I don’t see how such a practice can work with

לפני עיוור לא תיתן מכשול

and less discerning guests. They also have a נפש אלוקית … Not just when they pay.

It rests most uneasily with me. I have my theories as to why, but if I state them I will be accused of Charedi bashing.

How many Jewish parliamentarians are there in the Australian parliament?

I do not know the answer to this question, but non orthodox feminists may be upset to find out that males do not pass on the irrevocable portion of membership of the Jewish religion.

The press tells us there are 5 Jewish members. Of course, there may be some who have legitimately converted in orthodox tradition. Others and/or their mothers may not have.

As I recall this was a Machlokes Tanoim?, and tradition/Mesora has unquestionably gone via the mother. I guess the egalitarians should be up in arms and demand equality: viz both parents should be jewish.

Of course those who follow the modern egalitarian/equality religion with sprinklings of traditional Judaic practice, you know, the one Moses didn’t bring down from Sinai, ought to really be arguing that being a Cohen or Levi should be a matter of choice for the child, just like male circumcision. Where the mother is the daughter of Cohen and the father is a Levi, say, you’d leave it to the child to decide, and I guess they could also change their mind depending on their spiritual development at a given point in time? Come to think of it they should call up their women as cohenet or levitate, or …  I’m of course tongue in cheek, but it follows for those for whom equality is their religion and Judaism is their cultural affiliation. I haven’t got the foggiest idea what their pronouncements are in such matters with respect to Trans or fluid genders. 

There are some in the USA who are intellectually honest enough to do away with Cohen, Levi and Yisrael and make them all equal. Then again, these are also the same Bernie Sanders types, who had every mention of Zion removed from prayer books (Reform Judaism).

I know Michael Danby gets Aliyos at Elwood where the Head of the Beth Din of Melbourne is the religious authority, and is Jewish, and that Josh Frydenberg is also halachically one of the tribe, but I don’t know enough about the other three to make claims either way with the same confidence that the ‘Beth Din’ of the Jewish News does. Does the Jewish News use the Nazi definition or the ‘I fought in the IDF definition’ or I have ‘latkes and dreidels with Father Xmas rule’? I’m not sure they have ever defined Jew.

I do know that Lee Rhiannon of the anti Zionist Greens is Halachically Jewish and her surname is/was Brown. Perhaps she should have called herself Lee Green. The worst political types are often fully Jews. Jon Faine the left wing national radio personality, of course is Jewish, but unlike his mate Waleed makes every effort to distance himself from the tradition of his parents ostensibly in the name of leftist equality. We Jews are very good at apologising for our identity by running away from it.

In the Victorian State parliament there maybe one person?  I guess the Australian Jewish News is the arbiter on such matters and promulgates its pronouncements to be gobbled up by the non Jewish Press as gospel. They may in fact be gospel!

I heard or read that Malcolm Turnbull may actually be Jewish? Is that true? I don’t know what the Beth Din of the Australian Jewish News has determined, as they don’t seem to have a formal responsa on the matter.

As a side note the great modern sages: Rabbi Yosef Dov HaLevi Soleveitchik and the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn both foresaw the issue of Yichus as critical in a nation prone to assimilation and encouraged men to always note in their names that they were a Cohen or Levi.

Rabbi Stav of Tzohar is visiting Melbourne this week. Perhaps someone can inform him and ask him for an authentic halachic ruling as opposed to the ‘feel good’ or ‘kosher style’ approach of the Australian Jewish News where almost anything flies.

Yair Lapid has talent

Netanyahu should seriously use it. This is from his Facebook (hat tip MD)

UNRWA Spokesperson Chris Gunness harshly criticized our decision to demolish the homes of two terrorists who last December stabbed two Israelis to death at the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem.

I have one question for Mr. Gunness:

What’s it got to do with you?

Actually I have another one:

Who asked you?

UNRWA is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. Its role is clear. It is meant to help Palestinians find work and if they can’t find work then to assist them with food and medication.

That’s it. It doesn’t have another role. There is nothing in UNRWA’s mandate which justifies intervention in security matters. There is nothing in Chris Gunness’ past which qualifies him to give us advice on how to protect ourselves.

And if we’re already speaking Chris, here are another few questions:

Why doesn’t the State of Israel appear on maps in UNRWA schools?

If you condemn violence, why were you silent when it became clear that an UNRWA building was used as a hiding place for a terror tunnel used to kill three Israeli soldiers?

Why are the Palestinians the only ones in the world allowed to pass down the status of refugee from one generation to the next? Why can someone be born in Qatar, live in a villa in Paris, hold a Spanish passport and still be considered a Palestinian refugee?

Why is it that among the 23,000 UNRWA employees are there so many Hamas people (I didn’t say that Chris – as you know the Secretary General of your organization said so himself(?

In actual fact, why is it that only the Palestinians have a refugee agency of their own? What do they deserve that the 21.5 million refugees from Tibet, Darfur, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere don’t?

How is it that since UNRWA was founded, in 1950, the number of refugees has increased from 750,000 to over 5 million (!) without a single Palestinian being expelled? Is UNRWA creating refugees?

And a question to the citizens of the United States:

Do you know that your taxpayer dollars fund over a hundred million dollars a year of this insanity?


Do Chabad also douse flames?

There is a very dangerous manifestation of a pseudo orthodox far left ‘Shule’ which walks some of the walk but talks foreign talk. Having read the populist ‘weekly Dvar torah’ from its ex Chabad Rabbi, Schneur Zalman Waks (I don’t think I’ve met him formally and can’t remember him) it would be really good to get a real McCoy warm and knowledgeable Chosid to set up a proper Chabad house nearby with backing. וכל קרני רשעים אגדע

Even Breslover sing it. Would this be a Chabad thing to do in order to counter the open Apikorsus there? I don’t know but that ‘ARK Center’ represents an unholy alliance of elements of Judaism and Korach style triumphalism. Why Chabad? I don’t know of any other group that would care enough to do something about it.

Mesora based Judaism will always endure if promulgated with earnest warmth and intellectualism.

Yerushalayim IR HAKODESH

When I read the secular press, I notice how reverential (or in fear?) they may be.

You don’t read even left-wing publications without them writing ‘the Prophet’ Mohammed’. Okay, call it a title that Muslims use. They also don’t write Elizabeth. They write Queen Elizabeth, when referring to the Queen of England. One can be a republican (as I am) and still use titles as a matter of courtesy and accepted practice. In Australia you often find the press very loose. They wrote Malcolm Turnbull (not Prime Minister Turnbull). I don’t find this edifying.

Consider Ramadan. A religion considers it holy and has fasts and feasts. Does this mean that the secular press should ALWAYS refer to it as ‘the holy month of Ramadan’ as opposed to Ramadan? I’m not sure. 

One thing I am sure is that WE and here I blame Jews of Culture, Religion and History, do not use the eternal words of our own religion when we speak and write,  especially in the context of a secular readership.

When was the last time you heard someone say ‘the Holy City of Jerusalem’.

In seeking to secularise, we have out Galut-ed ourselves. One does not need to be religious to state a historical title (which has halachic import today, well before redemption).

I am starting with myself, and would like to see a world-wide campaign of EACH AND EVERY JEW and yes, even halachically Jewish  Bernie Sanders (to whom I will write about this), and the local black wiggle, Dr Richard Di Natale of the dangerous anti Zionist and anti Semitic Greens Party, that WE, who the secular press acknowledge recognise Jerusalem as our HOLIEST city, ONLY say and write henceforth

The Holy City of Jerusalem


Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh (תבנה ותכונן במהרה בימינו)

I intend to write to the Australian Rabbinate, the Rabbinic Council of America and major Rabbinic organisations (even those whose Judaism is foreign to me) to join me in this initiative.

I hope this is at least as important to stress in Sermons as the footy, or a secular poet or … And urge those Rabbis who read my blog to spread the word amongst their colleagues.

This is not a matter we should be divided about.

This message needs to be curricularised indirectly but with unending momentum.

ירושלים עיר הקודש

And everyone should be able to roll it off their lips even if they aren’t too proficient with our holy tongue, לשון קודש.


For those of you who don’t know about Jewish Gen

This is a very great service. They digitise the records of Jews in all the shtetlach before the war etc and mainly rely on volunteers. You can look up their website and I have found records of relatives etc. They need about 2K to continue their work. Every $18 dollars helps.

I fully support their appeal, and believe it to be very worthwhile.

Quick Update: we are now just over $2k away from our goal. Please help us achieve our goal today, so that we can complete our Spring Appeal a day early!
As mentioned, our average gift is just $79. We need 25 people to step forward and donate $79 or more to reach our goal. (If you are in a position to do so, all gifts of $100 ore more will qualify for Value Added Services). 
Please click here to donate online via our secure website, or here to contribute via PayPal.
Thank you in advance. If you have any questions, please reply to this email and we will do our best to help.
Sincerely yours,
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VP for KehilaLinks
Here is the link to donate.
Please pass onto those can help out in any way.

Chalav Yisrael by Video Surveillance

Contrary to what many may have assumed, this issue, and allied issues of non direct eye-ball supervision, have pervaded in various guises in Halacha.

Some examples include:

  1. Testimony of the appearance of the new moon through a reflection (Rosh Hashono 24a. the Rambam 2:5 Kiddush Hachodesh and Acharonim)
  2. Sound waves for promulgation of Brachos or Megila reading (Igros Moshe (vol 2 and 4, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Minchas Shlomo 1:9), Minchas Elozor and more.
  3. Amen to a Brocho (Rav Kook in Orach Mishpot 48)
  4. Gett via webcam (Beis Yitzchok Even HoEzer 2:13)
  5. Photographs and Aguna (Rav Yitzchok Elchonon Spector, Ein Yitzchok Even Hoezer Vol 1:31)
  6. “Digital witnesses” for Kiddushin (See Ketzos (241:1)
  7. Webcam based Chalitza to release a lady from marrying the brother of a dead husband (Shevus Ya’akov (Breish, 126)
  8. Brachos over Royalty via a TV (Chida 22 regarding through a glass view)
  9. Protection against Yichud

Consider though why one would do this in the context of Chalav Yisrael. Let’s assume, which it is according to some authorities (cf Chasam Sofer Yoreh Deah 107), a valid substitute for a human being watching the milking. Even Reb Moshe who is one of the two prime permissive positive rulings in respect of Milk from Companies, explicitly says that a Baal Nefesh, (someone who is extra punctilious) should be Machmir.

In Melbourne at least, and I assume throughout the world, it is mainly Chassidim who are careful and do consider themselves as Baalei Nefesh  not relying on the permissive rulings of the Chazon Ish and Reb Moshe Feinstein regarding government supervised milk. Those people, will follow their Poskim. Their poskim have shown in allied issues that they are often not prepared to rely on video surveillance as a halachic mechanism. Note: just as there is Chemical Halacha, Kashrus Chemistry, Shabbos Chemistry, there are also Kashrus stringencies. These are adopted by communal organisations so that there is a unified acceptable standard. On several occasions Rav Schachter of the OU disagreed with Rav Belsky ז’ל of the OU on matters of Psak, however, when it came to Paskening for the OU, something which a mega-community could rely on, they adopted the less inventive stance. This is sensible unless one wishes to branch off. Branching off may mean less supported Kashrus ends up not being accepted and then it creates situations where people are forced not to eat at houses where the non standard form of supervision or maverick schemes are adopted. A pirud, a limitation of joining one’s friends at the table ensues. This only benefits those non standardised more maverick supervisory bodies, many of which are also run as personal financial fiefdoms.

The only application I can think of is export. But those Hashgachos don’t export. Note, for example, if you go to Costco, you will find the plain Lay’s chips with an OU, but the barbecue do not have an OU. Instead the triangle K is the Hashgocho (this is also true of other products with Triangle K; be careful) . In general, the frum world does not trust the standards of the triangle K (and we don’t bring it in the house). It has a place. Where there is a need to find leniency so that people have access to food! This is similar to the law of Pas Palter, if you will.

Let us not forget that Chassidim ascribe a supernatural concern with ingestion of questionable milk and will be unlikely to consider compromise. The others simply rely on the Chazon Ish or Reb Moshe anyway!

I remain baffled by the motives behind the venture, its clientele, and the motive of those who seek such innovations when the prospective clientele are already the Baal Nefesh and won’t accept the Psak. Is this just grandstanding?

Peeled Eggs, Onion or Garlic overnight: Part 2

I had written a blog post on this in 2011. You can see it here.

Recently, the OU in their emails sent the following:

May I dice onions and place them in sealed packaging to avoid the sakana (danger) of eating peeled onions that were left overnight?
(A subscriber’s question)

The Gemara (Nida 17a) writes that there is a sakana to eat peeled onions that were left overnight, even if they were placed in sealed packaging. The only exception that the Gemara mentions is if part of the roots or the peel is left on the onion. Tosfos (Shabbos 141a s.v. Hani) writes that the sakana applies to diced onions as well. However, if there are other ingredients mixed in to the onions, Rishonim already discuss that one can be lenient. Igros Moshe (Y.D. III: 20) writes that industrial produced products are not subject to this sakana. So one may purchase frozen packages of diced onions.

as well, the OU wrote:

Q. Does the halacha of not eating onions which were peeled and left overnight apply to the following: red onions, white onions, scallions, shallots and leeks? (A subscriber’s question)
A. Rav Belsky, zt”l said the halacha applies to both red and white onions and shallots, but not to leeks and scallions.

I sent my article to the OU for their feedback. It was sent onto the Safra D’Dayna Rabbi Eli Gersten, who responded that:

You are correct that the topic of ru’ach ra’ah is certainly unclear.

I don’t have an explanation as to why earlier poskim (Shulchan Aruch, Maharshal, Rema…) where seemingly unconcerned about this type of ruach ra’ah and yet later generations again began to be choshesh.

Rabbi Yosef Grossman of the OU offered to send me an article from the Daf Hakashrus of 2005 on the topic, which I copy below. I am chuffed that my thoughts were somewhat aligned with Mori V’Rabbi R’ Hershel Schachter שליט׳א (though I didn’t know of him in 2005).



75th Holocaust Memorial Event

Melbourne was and probably still is a predominantly Polish refugee influenced community largely due to the 2nd largest group of Polish refugees coming to Australia. We are all the richer for that wide tapestry of different components which, I guess Warsaw alone represented. I don’t remember the number, but the sheer volume of different views and newspapers and groups therein was just astounding.

On the other hand we have had valuable refugees from the then Soviet Union who suffered also from the vicissitudes of the Holocaust and associated political atrocities committed there. Chabad, which is really a Lita (Litvishe) / White Russian movement that withstood the attempted erosion of Jewish identity in Russia was an early important element, but in more recent times many Russian Jews have enriched our community with their own contribution having escaped the so-called “Union” of Soviet Republics led by Stalin ימח שמו וזכרו.

Due to the hard work of Mordechai Oyberman and others Elwood Shule is commemorating the 75th memorial and I attach the flier and encourage those who are able to attend. Whilst it’s a pity that we haven’t fully united in commemoration (save for Tisha B’Av which consumes us with Jewish tragedy over the ages) I think it’s important that Jews of all “colours” make an effort to offer Tfilla, Kaddish and Kel Moleh Rachamim for the holy souls consumed by the sub-human element that comprises society.

Flier for 75 years from 22 June 1941 final eng

Rabbi Danny Mirvis confirmed. Mazel Tov

Picture from Kinus Torah at Chabad’s Yeshiva Gedola
A bold move by Mizrachi. Thank God he isn’t ‘a pseudo card carrying member of Open (sic) Orthodoxy’ or Maverick ARK. 

Hopefully this will see ‘Beit HaRoeh’ move en masse into the main Shule!
From Danny Lamm, the president of Mizrachi in Melbourne.

Dear Members,I was informed earlier today by Mizrachi’s auditors that members had voted overwhelmingly (97%) in support of the Mizrachi Committee’s decision to offer the position of Senior Rabbi of the Mizrachi Organisation to Rabbi Danny Mirvis for a term of 4 years with such appointment to take effect from Rosh Chodesh Ellul 5776 (4 September 2016). 

I have, of course, informed Rav Danny and Althea of the outcome which reflect’s the extraordinary support they have already received following the announcement of their proposed appointment. 

I am delighted to inform you that a formal induction ceremony will take place in late August and that Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Rebbetzin Valerie Mirvis will make a special visit to Melbourne to participate in this auspicious event.

How long till we get support for this from “progressive” Reform groups?

Sandra Lawson

Check this out from Times of Israel. [ Hat tip Magyar.]

You’d NEVER get an editorial from the Australian Jewish News on this. Might be a Magid legacy? Maybe newly honoured Jeffery Kamins would comment?

PHILADELPHIA (JTA) — Sandra Lawson didn’t expect to perform a public benediction at her local pub in this city’s Roxborough neighborhood.

But when her friend Jay, who was entering firefighter training, asked her for a blessing earlier this year, she stood with him in the middle of the room and put her rabbinical school training into action.

“Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, please bless Jay on his journey of being a firefighter,” she said, placing her hand on his shoulder. “Come back and have a beer with me.”

For Lawson, a bar is a natural place to create a Jewish ceremony. As a rabbi in training who herself is breaking barriers, Lawson is eager to take Jewish practice outside the traditional bounds of the synagogue.

Lawson, 45, lives at the intersection of several communities while being in a small demographic within the American Jewish world. As an African-American lesbian who converted to Judaism, eats vegan and is now studying to be a rabbi at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Lawson believes American Jews need to rethink how their community looks and where it should congregate.

“Redefining or helping people understand what the Jewish community looks like today is something I want to do,” Lawson told JTA in a vegan cafe where she holds Friday night services.

‘People can deal with a female rabbi, a queer rabbi. But, “Oh, you’re black, too? That’s too much to deal with in one day”‘
“In the US, people can deal with a female rabbi, a queer rabbi,” she continued. “But, ‘Oh, you’re black, too? That’s too much to deal with in one day.’ When you put those identities together, it’s too much to handle.”

Lawson grew up in a military family and, while Christian, wasn’t raised religious. Her first exposure to Judaism came in an Old Testament course at St. Leo University in Florida while she was serving in the Army as a military police officer. Following military service, Lawson became a personal trainer in Atlanta, where one of her clients was Joshua Lesser, a Reconstructionist rabbi and local activist for racial justice. She began attending services at his Congregation Beth Haverim, a synagogue for the LGBT community, and converted in 2004.

Sandra Lawson with her wife, Susan Hurrey. Lawson is due to receive her rabbinic ordination in 2018. (Courtesy of Lawson/via JTA)
Sandra Lawson with her wife, Susan Hurrey. Lawson is due to receive her rabbinic ordination in 2018. (Courtesy of Lawson/via JTA)

She decided to become a rabbi after representing the Jewish community at a LGBT memorial service for Coretta Scott King, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s wife. She realized there that being an African-American Jew could allow her to strengthen connections among communities. She’s on track to graduate from rabbinical school in 2018.

“I was able to help make those connections and build some of those bridges by being someone who wants to be clergy and help build more trust around interfaith stuff,” Lawson said. She wants to get to a point where “when I Google ‘rabbi,’ I see someone other than a bearded white guy.”

(Indeed, when you Google “rabbi,” all you see initially are bearded white men.)

Lawson says “nobody’s been horrible to me,” but she has encountered different challenges to her identity, depending on where she is. At one synagogue, she was standing in a prayer shawl and kippah with a friend when a congregant approached her friend and asked him if she was Jewish.

‘Every community has their own idea of who is a Jew and what does a Jew look like’
“I don’t know anyone who goes to a synagogue, wears a kippah and a talit Saturday morning who is not Jewish,” she said. “Every community has their own idea of who is a Jew and what does a Jew look like. If you don’t fit that framework, they don’t think you’re Jewish.”

Studying last year in Israel, Lawson said she would encounter trouble when visiting the Western Wall. Attendants saw her haircut and told her on three separate occasions to go to the men’s section. Once she had to grab her breasts to show she was a woman.

Diane Tobin, founder of Be’chol Lashon, a group that advocates for Jews of color, says that in many cases, white Jews address race crudely because they lack the language skills to talk sensitively about it. Lawson, she says, “is the embodiment of a younger generation of Jews who have intersecting identities.”

Lawson wants to expand the Jewish conversation in part by taking it outside its traditional setting. She would rather lead services in a park, or address the concerns of Jews and non-Jews in inner cities, than be a full-time pulpit rabbi. Every month she runs a Friday night service at Arnold’s Way, a vegan cafe and health store near Philadelphia, which she begins with a song she wrote based on a verse from Psalms.

‘If you’re going to wait for people to come to your synagogue, your JCC, you’ll be waiting a long time’
Lawson also uses social media and live video feeds to spread Jewish content. On Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, traditionally the days when the Torah is read, she will put out a stream of video content on Snapchat featuring Torah study interspersed with humorous images. On June 16, her thoughts about the weekly Torah portion came after images of her face overlaid with dog ears and her cheeks inflated.

“The model of the synagogue, where you have to pay large dues, pay to come to High Holidays, is not a model I want to duplicate,” she said. “We live in a different world now. If you’re going to wait for people to come to your synagogue, your JCC, you’ll be waiting a long time.”

Lawson’s personal Jewish practice also happens at unexpected places. Because her iPod has pop music interspersed with Jewish liturgy — like “Modeh Ani,” the prayer said upon waking up — she’ll sometimes find herself praying while working out. Because she also plays a zombie game on the device while she runs, things can become confusing. But she doesn’t let that faze her.

“I have the Bee Gees on my iPod, and the next thing is Modeh Ani,” she said. “I’m being chased by zombies and the Shema would come on. It’s Saturday morning, [I’m] wearing a Superman shirt, running, being chased by zombies, and I sing along.”

Cassius Clay and the Tree Hugging New Israel Fund and leftist tree hugging Rabbis

Do we have any in Melbourne? Non Rabbis we certainly do. They are so so morally decrepit… Like the NEW Israel Fund which should be cremated according to Reform Judaism rights (where they removed all references to Zion from their prayer books because they were so ‘enlightened’ and PROGRESSIVE.

This article from the Algemeiner is nice

A Message to Michael Lerner:

Tolerance only works if it goes both ways.
At Muhammad Ali’s funeral, Rabbi Michael Lerner, founder of Tikkun Magazine and the Network of Spiritual Progressives, gave a stirring speech that was roundly applauded. I agree with almost everything he said. We must stop victimizing, generalizing and hating people who are different in color, creed and practice. We live in a world where power corrupts. Inequality and exploitation are everywhere and infiltrate every ideology, religion and creed. Racism, victimization, greed and violence pervade every society. Obviously, some more than others. Otherwise, no one would ever want to move to a different country for a better quality of life and greater freedom.
The message that Rabbi Lerner advocated was the message of every idealist. We must love our neighbors. Do unto others as we would be done by. Yet for some reason, despite technological, scientific and humanitarian progress, despite a reduction in poverty, an increase in food production, welfare systems, huge charitable enterprises and benevolence, we are still way, way off from achieving what we have been preaching. We still live in a world of either imperfect or evil regimes. But we still yearn for freedom, equality, friendship and benevolence. We like the good. But we are not all capable of pursuing it.
Muhammad Ali was a remarkable character, as well as a brilliant athlete. No one is perfect. Not even he. He picked up too many anti-white and anti-Zionist hate tropes from mentors Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan. But he fought for his people and for freedom. How ironic that he had a Jewish grandson and went to his bar mitzvah. But still, it is so important, and after Orlando even more so, to use every opportunity to speak out against racism and prejudice, and that was what Rabbi Lerner rightly did.
I was pleased that he went to the funeral. It was, in its way, a kiddush hashem (sanctifying of the name of God), even if he had absolutely no right to say he was representing American Jewry. It seems any rabbi who gets exposure claims that nowadays. But I am sorry he so overtly politicized his message by spouting left-wing Bernie nostra as if they would solve the problems of the world, let alone America.
Governments that want to create a utopia often have to concede that they either do not have the financial means or the population to achieve it. We all want it in theory, on our terms. Since the days of Plato and his Republic, we have dreamed and planned, but we are still a long way off. With our societies we have the idealists and the pragmatists, the capitalists and the socialists, and no one system is perfect or has ever been. But still we must dream, we should dream, and we need to be reminded of our dreams.
In all my days in the rabbinate, whenever I was stuck for a sermon I knew I could always fall back on preaching ideals, excoriating those who betray our ideals and standing against hypocrisy. And after every such sermon someone would always come up to me and say, “Rabbi, great sermon, you really gave it to them today.” Or words to that effect. It was always, “You told them.” It was never, “You told me.”
On the same day as Ali’s funeral, an American Muslim wrote in the New York Times about how his young daughter was picked on in a restaurant for wearing a headscarf. He ended by wondering why we hate people for their religion or race. Yes, of course, I agreed, because I wonder why so many Muslims and Christians still hate Jews for being Jews, or hate people of different sexual orientation. We are so good at seeing the mote in the eyes of others, but not the beam in our own. Or as the Talmud says (Bava Batra 15b), “Don’t tell me to do something about my toothpick when you have a whole plank of wood to deal with.”
So I ask myself, why in his speech did Lerner have to focus on Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and not Sunni-Shia internecine conflicts (which Ali felt equally strongly about), human rights in China and Russia, occupation in Tibet, Kashmir, or West Sahara, or Turkey’s treatment of Kurds, or North Korea? Why did he not excoriate the left-wing ideology that Chavez and Maduro have destroyed Venezuela with? Or indeed Cuba? Does he think there is no need for self-examination other than for Jews? Why no reciprocity? Did Israel start the wars? Do Israelis really not want peace desperately? Is there no other side to the argument?
We now live in a world of rights. Do not Jews have rights, too? Were Rabbi Lerner’s comments about Netanyahu just to pander to an audience that, at core, is now sadly so anti-Israel and antisemitic as to deny rights to Jews to defend themselves? He could have said that almost half of Israel opposes many of his policies and rhetoric. He spoke about how once Jew stood shoulder-to-shoulder with black civil rights leaders. He did not speak about why today antisemitism is so prevalent in black societies. Why Black Lives Matter has chosen to add Palestine to their agenda rather than any one of the other humanitarian causes with far greater casualties elsewhere in the world today. If Martin Luther King had been present, he would not have been so one-sided.
Of course, the Israeli Left, indeed any Left, has the right and should have the right to take whatever side it wants to. Of course, excess, corruption and inhumanity must be addressed. But one who excoriates Jews wherever they are, should have the honesty and morality to point out another point of view others political correctness and one-sidedness simply debases the debate. Why does no one mention the protests in Palestinian territory against the policies of their dogmatists and kleptocracy? When you pick on just one example, on just one argument, that is pure prejudice.
Not only, but look at how Lerner’s speech was reported — not as a critique of racism or prejudice wherever it comes from. Instead, look on the internet and see the headlines, “Rabbi Slams Israel in Muhammad Ali Funeral Speech.” Yes, just more fodder for the Jew-haters. He could have made all his major ethical points without having to pander to the tub-thumping anti-Israel, anti-Jewish amen chorus that has now taken over the Left (not to mention the Right) wherever it exists.
The same trope. Remove Israel and the Middle East will be peaceful. Sunni and Shia will love each other, as well as lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals. The Left has always had rose-colored spectacles. Remove the Kulaks, then the aristocrats, then the bourgeoisie, then the Jews and Russia will be paradise. Remove capitalists, and we will live in heaven. Remove religion, and we will get in with each other, make love, and we will all live happily ever after.
Life is not like that. I am glad Rabbi Lerner stands for what he stands for. We need contrarians and prophets. But my experience tells me that any dogma can be dangerous, and that any one sided argument is doomed.
All I seek is balance. By all means, criticize Netanyahu if you also criticize Abu Mazen. By all means, attack Israel if you also attack Hamas, Hezbollah and all the others who put war above human needs and human rights. Rabbi Lerner can and should demand rights. But I can demand mine, too.

Advertisements on the Jerusalem Post App

I have a daily habit of looking at the app (which is one of the more annoying ones as you are bombarded every which way … the Israelis know how to annoy you so🙂

Last night and this morning, I come across advertisements for the rabidly anti Zionist Adam Bandt of the Australian Greens Party. What the Heck? Do I have to see his Partzuf (visage) on the Jerusalem Post? Does he really think even Jewish lefties are going to support this BDS supporter and his fanatical anti Israel party?

I have taken the opportunity to report the advertisement as inappropriate with a few clicks. Consider the same?

I imagine the Android app is similar (I don’t use Android. There is too much Mamzerus in the operating system, and yes, I know it’s cheaper and the S7 is a nice phone; but Steve Jobs, who wasn’t an Israel lover, did revolutionise the Computer World unless you still wear blinkers and are happy with the South East Asian Engineering version of the plagiarism.

Anyway, click the advertisement, and tell Google (more Yidden) to send these advertisements to Azazel.

In the meanwhile, I  encourage people to vote for Michael Danby in Melbourne Ports. My hip pocket may be better in the long run under Malcolm Turnbull, who is a wonderful friend of Israel and a competent person, but Michael needs to remain in Parliament as a strong voice, and for that reason alone, I feel it’s important to support him. Saul Same AM ( Avshalom Shmulewitz was his real name; an Elwood Shule Mispallel who came from a Shochet in Western Australia, but I digress) would agree, but for more partisan reasons.

Do offender Registries have Halachic import?

I came across this article and I started to think about it from an halachic perspective. Again, remember, this blog constitutes pitputim. These are just thoughts, and mostly not researched in the way I would an academic post or lehavdil some Chidush I thought I might discover in Torah.

One key to maintaining a safe Jewish society would appear to be to protection from “dangerous entities”. This stands behind even the most basic D’Orayso command of Lifnei Iver — placing a stumbling block. I’m not even going into Rodef, which is a “live danger”.

But what about a registry? Is a person to be noted formally forever after if they have committed disgraceful acts such as child molestation? The argument for, is cogent. We don’t (yet) know enough about the Gene vs Environment argument to be sure and when in doubt one errs in favour of potential victims. What about other acts? Do we start a register of wife bashers? What about husbands who have affairs beyond the pale of acceptable halacha? Do we exclude those who think they’ve been “wronged”. What about the classical Mechallel Shabbos B’farhesya (the public antagonistic shabbat desecrator). In days of yore, people knew who they were. There was a quasi register. Some considered them forbidden to perform various functions (e.g. the Priestly blessings — we don’t follow that today as per the cogent arguments of Centrist Gedolim like Mori V’Rabbi R’ Schachter), or their touching of Kosher wine (non Mevushal).

I don’t know the answer(s) to these questions and categories nor if there has been an halachic study in this regard. Certainly Chazal used to perform lashings (Makas Mardus) to punish offenders whose crime was not at the brazen level of a full prohibition requiring formal Malkus.

Despite many claiming that incarceration is not a Jewish Concept (Orey Miklat anyone?), I remember hearing a Shiur some 25 years ago from a Talmid Chacham who brought many Mekoros from Rishonim and Acharonim which suggested that it was used. Alas, my memory recalls little more than his suggestions. I did find this article, for what it’s worth. Happy to be enlightened.

One thing is without any doubt. Having performed a serious sin(s), the sinner is not “free” from their obligations to perform Mitzvos, even if they rationalise it in their head, and even if their presence in a Minyan may sicken other members of the Minyan (שמעתי ממו׳ור הרה׳ג ר׳ צבי שכטר)

Rabbi Riskin: the other side of the coin

[Hat tip NB]

This is from Rabbi Yoni Rosenzweig who was a Rosh Kollel in Mizrachi for a several years. I do not know him, and I think I only spoke to him once on Purim over a passuk in the Megilla at Rabbi Sprung’s house. I say I “think” because it was Purim and the memory is hazy🙂

That being said, the interaction between my car and it’s bluetooth implementation and my phone, causes a shiur (I have about 2000 on my iPhone) to come on when I drive. On Friday, I heard part 2 of one from Rabbi Professor Sperber (who is known for his fantastic series on Minhagim). There were aspects that disturbed me. I will try to listen to Part 1 and 2 and blog about that in the future.

One thing I did come away with was that Professor Sperber’s description of his daughter’s Judaism, and what I know of Shira Chadasha in Melbourne are many many miles apart. Below, is what Rabbi Rosenzweig apparently wrote on Facebook in response to Rabbi Gordimer (I haven’t seen the original)

Rabbi Riskin gave an interview yesterday in which he posited that the Reform an Conservative movements are not enemies, but rather partners (see link in the comments). In response, Rabbi Gordimer wrote a scathing response (link below in the comments).

I must take issue with Rabbi Gordimer’s comments. I would like to start off by saying that as my family was also very close with The Rav, and also very much involved in YU, I have – despite my growing up here – always been privy to many stories regarding Rabbi Riskin, both positive and negative, and have been “kept in the loop” through those circles and connections.

But I never really knew Rabbi Riskin until I started working for him (and still work in one of his institutions). Throughout my work in Ohr Torah I have had many opportunities to sit with him, discuss both practical and theoretical issues, and hear his position on many a topic.

I can say two things without hesitation: (1) Rabbi Riskin and I disagree on a whole bunch of stuff. I can count on more than two hands the Halachic and philosophical positions he has taken which I disagree with. We have very different outlooks. (2) Rabbi Riskin is a completely authentic and genuine person. He doesn’t pander, doesn’t change his opinion in order to get as many “likes” as possible. That’s not his way. He really and genuinely believes in his positions, and thinks they will benefit the Jewish people.

Rabbi Gordimer’s insinuations otherwise are scandalous. To call Rabbi Riskin a “superstar Rabbi”, or to say he is just trying to be “politically correct” or to “gain popular appeal” – that’s just slander. If he wants to talk about the issues, he can do that, but to attack Rabbi Riskin’s character is off-the-wall, especially as it misses the mark completely.

Even to claim he is Open Orthodox is doubtful in my eyes. Look at the article Rabbi Riskin published in Techumin, regarding women receiving Aliyot to the Torah. He outright prohibits it. Is that the psak of an Open Orthodox Rabbi, trying to gain public appeal and score points with the liberal public? Or is that the position of someone who will tell you what he thinks is right, regardless of how it makes him look (and no doubt people looked to him to allow that as well)?

My father – who sat in The Rav’s shiur – once told me that no matter what, he believes anyone who was in The Rav’s shiur and was close with The Rav, is kept honest by that experience, because whenever he does anything, he sees The Rav’s face in front of him, and that keeps him from straying off the straight and narrow.

So I don’t worry about Rabbi Riskin, who has done so much for the Jewish people – even if you think his comment was mistaken this time around. I worry about that the people who slander him, that the flame of their self-righteousness shouldn’t blind them from seeing the forest from the trees.