This is YU Bein Hazmanim, Erev Pesach. And there is מורי ורבי שליט״א
(photo: Rabbi Jesse Horn)
This is YU Bein Hazmanim, Erev Pesach. And there is מורי ורבי שליט״א
(photo: Rabbi Jesse Horn)
I saw this article and cringed, majorly. What are Nini’s thoughts when she sings? Assume she respects the man as a leader of a particular religious group. Assume then that she is not disturbed enough by the allegations that he has possibly known about abuse amongst his clergy during his tenure, and that his promotion of a now disgraced Archbishop was “under his radar”. Assume then that she is not disturbed by allegations that he has not done much to address major abuse issues. Assume that she wants to expose her daughter to a leader of a religious group. Assume then that she also exposes her daughter to leaders of her own religious group. Assume then that she is not caught up with her own ego and self promotion.
Perhaps she was most impressed by his comment that
Beneath every Xtian there is a Jew
Of course we must be civil, courteous and tolerant. That does not mean that we should appear in the Vatican singing “Maria”. Surely there are alternatives.
Perhaps Nini could and should have sung the great Yonatan Razel song below, and translated the lyrics into English/Spanish for Francis’s benefit. I could have coped with that.
I wrote the following a few hours after Rabbi Groner passed away. I feel that it should be recorded on my blog, rather than occupy a few kilobytes in the cloud. As this serves as a historical record of what I wrote, I’m not taking comments.
We were all terrified of him. He was a huge man with a powerful and melodious voice. Coupled with that steely determined look in his eyes, students literally melted in his presence. On one occasion when sent to his office because of a classroom misdemeanour, I waited in the hallway, my knees quivering with fear. I was fortunate to be spared. Rabbi Groner z”l was much more than the Principal and Director of the Yeshiva. Waiting for my moment of judgement, it seemed like the entire Melbourne Jewish community were ringing or shuffling in and out of his office. Rabbi Groner was in a state of tireless perpetual motion, directing with certitude and conviction. I felt that he had a soft spot for me. Rabbi Groner loved Chazonus and personally ensured that Yeshiva had a “professional choir” to perform at the Yeshivah dinner and other events. I was the soloist assigned to sing the famous and haunting “Ovinu Malkeinu” of the Alter Rebbe, the first Rebbe of Chabad. This Chassidic Niggun was a personal favourite of Rabbi Groner, and nobody sang it with the soulful enveloping power of Rabbi Groner. Our choir sang in the lunchroom adjoining his office, and each week when I sang that uplifting Niggun, Rabbi Groner would rush out of his office and nod approvingly. He was quick to also warn me that my voice would break after my Bar Mitzvah and that I needed Hashem’s blessing to ensure that my ascent into manhood would preserve the gift that had been bestowed.
[I saw a video clip of the הקמת מצבה of Rebbetzin Groner on the Yohr Tzeit of Rabbi Groner last night and fittingly, אבינו מלכינו was sung around the graves]
Rabbi Groner seemed to maintain a keen interest in everybody’s pursuits and this continued even when he was infirm and he always asked whether my cantorial duties at Elwood Shule on Rosh Hashono and Yom Kippur had been successful, and what Rabbi Chaim Gutnick z”l had said in his drosha.
One day, when I was in my mid-teens, I had forthrightly declared in an Ivrit class that the (then new) campaign of “Mitzvah Tanks” was potentially a catalyst for anti-semitic foment. I had argued that whilst it was important to “spread the word”, there was no need to publicly “take it to the streets.” The Ivrit teacher sent me to Rabbi Groner, and it seemed that my days at Yeshivah College were numbered. This time, I was sure I had no chance of wriggling out. Leaning back with a physical presence that filled his most modest office, I expected a spirited joust followed by an inevitable reproach. Instead, I was exposed to the soft, caring and loving side of Rabbi Groner, which was to comprise the longer-lasting impression that now occupies my memory. After listening to my lengthy diatribe, Rabbi Groner leaned forward, gazed into my eyes, and said
“Yitzchok, when you are older, you will understand.”
He couldn’t have been more correct, but I was far too immature to appreciate his message or subtle approach.
In the early days, Rav Perlov z”l was the Posek in Chabad. A venerable elder Chossid who had the zechus to pass away on Yom Kippur, like my Zeyda Yidel. Rabbi Groner’s innate charisma drew people to him. I can still hear him thundering
“Rav Perlov is the Posek, don’t ask me Shailos, ask Rav Perlov”.
His sense of Kovod HaTorah and modesty was also exemplified by the fact that he sat in an ordinary seat, three rows down from where our family continues to sit.
He seemed to remember everybody and anything, drawing on an incredible knowledge of Chassidic Dynasties, no doubt also gleaned from his days in the“Rayim Aheevim” Shule that he frequented in his youth in Brownsville. When I brought our elder son, Tzvi Yehuda for a Brocho before his Bar Mitzvah, I mentioned our connection with Amshinov, and as if in auto-pilot, he regaled us with stories and impressions that only he could bring to life in the modest office of his home.
One year, after I had returned from learning in Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh, a group of us decided to gate-crash Chabad’s Simchas Torah revelry and augment the usual repertoire with our own “tunes”. We had seemingly “conquered” and taken over the dancing when all of a sudden I felt this big hand on my shoulder. Hovering behind me was the towering figure of Rabbi Groner, who quickly “advised” me that this was his Shule, and he was “calling the shots”, and if we didn’t like it, we could always “decide” to leave. Suffice it to say that the ambience efficiently reverted to more traditional Chassidic overtones.
You always knew exactly where you stood with Rabbi Groner. He was both vigorous and forthright, and yet displayed special attributes of tenderness and compassion. I vividly recall the manner in which he conducted and directed the funeral of my Booba Toba in Carlton before he escorted her body to Essendon Airport, ironically on her own final journey to Yerusholayim. I was only a little boy, and the trauma of Booba’s sudden death etched indelibly in my memory together with the countermanding vision of Rabbi Groner’s strength, compassion and forbearance. Rabbi Groner always remembered the date of her passing. He seemed to remember everyone’s special events and somehow managed to ubiquitously support people during the height of their Simcha, or sadly at the depths of their despair. I used to tell my children that Rabbi Groner exemplified possibly the most important educational lesson that cannot be adequately transmitted in a classroom or drosha setting.
Rabbi Groner was a living paragon of unwavering commitment (otherwise known as Mesirus Nefesh). Fringe dwellers such as myself could only observe and aspire to such lofty levels of achievement from afar. Rabbi Groner’s axiological belief system and weltanshauung was never compromised. He and his Rebbetzin (may she be spared many years of health and nachas) personified utter selflessness and devotion. Rabbi Groner and his Rebbetzin stood like proverbial soldiers ready to perform the will of the Almighty through the prism of Chabad, as directed by its mentor, the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
As I write this, a few short hours after his passing, I reflect on the muted tone of our elder son who informed me of Rabbi Groner’s passing. I hear the tearful sobs of our youngest daughter who felt the need to ring me from Camp, overcome with sorrow. I feel the vacant and stunned silence from my wife, and the sighs of pain and tears of my parents. I reflect on all this and recall my last moments with Rabbi Groner on a Monday afternoon, shortly before his penultimate journey.
My cousin Ya’akov, a long-time student of Rabbi Groner was visiting from Israel to participate in the Bar Mitzvah of our younger son, Yossi. We are a family of Cohanim and Rabbi Groner took our blessings most seriously, always asking to remember “Yitzchok Dovid ben Menucha Rochel” while we Duchened. The combination of these three factors allowed us the privilege to spend a few short moments with him in the Hospital.
Barely able to speak, Rabbi Groner’s eyes lit up when he saw my cousin. After asking about our Yossi, my father, cousin and I recited the priestly blessings. Ya’akov then asked Rabbi Groner a difficult halachic question. Even though Yaakov had been living in Israel for over 30 years, he still considered Rabbi Groner his Posek. Rabbi Groner slowly looked up, and with a motion of his hand, said in Yiddish, “That is a very difficult question, I will need to look into that.” I wished Rabbi Groner a speedy recovery and suggested that when he comes out of hospital, he would answer the question. He looked up at us and exclaimed a single word “Moshiach!”.
This epitomised his essence. His is a void that cannot be filled. My few words do not, and are not, intended to portray Rabbi Groner’s legacy or contribution to the Jewish Community in Melbourne and beyond. Indeed, as he was want to say
“LaMefoorsomois Lo Tzrichim Raaya”
“things that are known and famous do not require any proof or support”.
I feel sure that Rabbi Groner has ascended to a special Gan Eden reserved for only the best of us. May his memory be a blessing to all of us, and may all the mourners receive comfort from the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
Human logic-based Egalitarianism is Halachically problematic and is inconsistent with the stratified roles defined by the Torah.
Korach is the philosophical progenitor of postmodern egalitarianism. Suffused with self-allocated, chimeric rank, Korach attempts to deconstruct the assigned and stratified roles legally ordained through Moshe’s direct Godly interaction. There is a biblical prohibition, with tenure today,
“not to be like Korach and his assemblage.”
The parameters of this prohibition are not singular. One parameter is defined as negating the importance of every Jew attaching themselves to an exemplary teacher and role model of Torah.
This morning as I watched an unrelated youtube snippet sent to me, the
“next suggested youtube”
was of the last Lubavitcher Rebbe z’l, whose Yohr Tzeit is on Shabbos. I clicked.
Fortuitously, the Rebbe asked,
“the Talmud says that the teacher one should adhere to, is the imitato dei (as characterised by a holy angel). However, if one has never even seen a holy angel how does one choose the virtuous teacher?”
He answered, quoting the Talmud in Yevamos, that the archetypical Jew exudes the traits of mercy, self-effacedness and kindness. Furthermore, these traits are self-evident and not “advertised”.
Indeed, after he left his father’s house, the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s own role-modeled teacher became his father-in-law, the Rayatz. As noted by Rav Soloveitchik* (whose role model after he left his father’s house, was Rav Chaim Heller), based on an explicit Rashi in the book of Bereishis, even after a prime teacher’s demise, one should implant the teacher, who is spiritually a part of the mosaic soul, in front of him and interrogate that behavioural reality to determine major decisions we confront in life.
There is no antinomian expression intended in the above. Both sides of the coin: the Baal HaTanya and the Nefesh HaChaim describe the soul of the Tzadik teacher and mentor through the same prism.
I’m still on about this topic having attended a memorial service (void of any religious connotation or indeed coffin — I am a Cohen). It was a moving affair with a “who’s who” of music in Melbourne in attendance. I hadn’t seen many of the musicians in a while and some of them seemed to have aged less gracefully than others. It did occur to me that they were likely thinking the same about me. I met Wilbur Wilde who graciously introduced himself to me and seemed to know all about the band.
Schnapps’ tenor saxophone player, William Leonard Horowitz, presented a musical history of Peter’s life, peppered with amusing anecdotes. Peter had performed on literally just about every live Channel Nine program, going way back to the Bert Newton show and much more. He’d played on well-known Australian movies all the way down to the “Pot of Luck” live talent show (and yes, Young Talent Time too).
I was just looking at my iTunes library and noticed a ballad, מהרה ה׳ by Shwekey, which I had performed with him four years ago. Remember, Peter was close to deaf, and there was no chart, and we hadn’t played this in a while. Please excuse my mistake at the end [ … my head was somewhere else. It was my daughter’s wedding and I sang and danced live … not easy]
My career with the Schnapps band began some 35 years ago. I didn’t run the band then but was brought in as the singer when the wedding was Frum. In those days the lineup and style was different. Norman Czarny ז׳ל was the accordionist and his particular sound was distinct. When Schnapps back then began to wind up, I took over the band and remodelled it, bringing in a more regular line up. Whilst Norman could read music, Schnapps in the old days used to ‘know the songs’ and play from memory. I didn’t have that luxury and needed to find musicians that were both excellent readers, and able to adapt to the genre. I encouraged re-interpretation, spontaneity and soloing. Alas, whilst I wasn’t a good fiddle player, I was blessed with a good ear and could not tolerate a musician unless they were absolutely top shelf.
My trumpet player suggested that the best person to anchor the band on keyboards was Peter McCutcheon. Peter was known visually and personally to those who watched the well-regarded Hey Hey it’s Saturday live show and especially its Red Faces segment. I spent lots of time preparing for my first transition Gig, trying to better organise the existing repertoire. I recalled how Schnapps would sometimes struggle to find the right tune amongst a heap of one or two page scores. After coming up with my system, the stage was set.
I was nervous and although I don’t remember the reason, I felt I needed to call Peter before the gig. So, one morning, about 10am I called Peter’s house. The phone call was some 5 minutes duration. At first Peter seemed stilted, but I attributed this to musicians tending to be late risers. Some years later (perhaps 8 years), when Peter was ensconced as the pianist and Schnapps was getting regular work, he casually mentioned to me at a Wedding we were doing, that I had called him on Xmas morning! Of course, for me it was just the next day, and I wasn’t duly sensitised to consider not ringing on that morning! He noted, gently and using his dry wit, that it was a bit of a strange encounter for him. He was such a giant of spirit though, that he was sensitised (despite not having yet done a gig) to realise that I practiced another religion and was simply clueless as opposed to bulldozing through sensitivities. Suffice it to say that I was mortified when he brought this to my attention years later. With a smile on his face, those band members within ear shot had a healthy chuckle. By now, Peter knew my character and was sure that I had not intended anything.
Peter was like a musical computer. Some musicians are jazz oriented; others are Rock oriented, and others are great classical pianists who have marvellous reading skills. I used to marvel at the interpretation of songs that Peter would create. He mentioned that he always intended to have a most diverse musical experience, and as I recall he had worked in a Bavarian restaurant for a several years. As I settled into my role as band leader and singer, I allowed myself to bring, through my voice and fiddle, my own overlays onto songs. I used to stress to the band members that though many of the tunes we played were rather simple, and had simple Concert Melody/Chord charts, I wanted them to “let go” and wander through the tapestry of the progressions.
Peter was a great reader of music. I was most jealous. He was literally like a computer. Sometimes a ‘must play’ song materialised in the middle of a wedding. The band members were gentiles, except for me. They didn’t know the song. I turned to Peter to write the song out. Little did I realise that as I sang the tune into his ear, while he was perched over his keyboard with a pencil and blank score, he would translate my voice into a perfectly formed chart. On the odd occasion where he would need to rub something out, that was mostly due to me not intonating properly or not remembering the song routine well enough. His skill in this regard, in real-time, was mind-blowing. Other musicians would sometimes watch on from the side, and when I shook my head in amazement, they would shake theirs as well, mumbling “he’s a monster”.
Musicians are a strange lot. They range from the bohemic to the fastidiously rigid. They mostly wear their hearts on their sleeves, and are notorious for being “too precious” over what I thought were the most trivial of matters. Sure, it’s a right royal pain to come to a venue with your heavy gear, only to be told by some over officious attendant that you had to park your car further away and could not park near the loading bay. I got used to frustrated musicians, with furrowed brows mumbling inanities and hurling invective because of a logistic problem. It was in my interest to calm the musicians down. A happy musician is a well-performing musician. Incredibly, irrespective of what the logistic or other issue was which may have interfered with a smooth set up on stage, Peter never showed the slightest inkling that he was annoyed, let alone affected. In early days one took this for granted. After a while, it was plain that his great nature as a human being meant that he rose above these impediments. He appreciated that the band leader had much stress at this time and was professional enough not to add to that pressure. The most I ever heard from him was after a few decades. One venue was notoriously difficult. They seemed to delight in placing more and more ridiculous impediments in front of professional musicians. I was fed up myself. One day, Peter mentioned that he could not play at that venue unless his gear was delivered earlier on stage. In fact all musicians felt this way, only Peter was one of the last to say so, and he never did this bombastically.
Especially in the early days, there were some venues/caterers whose food may have been kosher, but the kitchen therein wouldn’t have survived a health and safety audit. One Sunday we had a midday gig. The Saxophone player had already crossed words with the caterer (who was notorious). The caterer had made the musician feel like a little boy and was ordering him around. When the food arrived, and it was always 2 minutes before we were due to go back on stage, it was an experience in crazed ׳wolfing׳ down the already frazzled foodstuff on the plate.
After the first course, some of the band members were feeling ill. By the time the main course had been consumed, the singer for the secular music was running from the stage to the toilets and back. The rest of the band had stories to tell about ‘the day after’. I vividly recall sitting down at the next gig with the musicians relating how their stomachs had been abused. Only one musician, Peter, had no problems. We called him ‘garbage guts’. He could eat anything. Indeed, he would go back for seconds of a dessert buffet with a plate that initiated engorgement by just looking!
Chuppas are a focus for musicians. We don’t have many instruments. It is usually very quiet and any mistake is certainly noticed (by those blessed with a degree of musical ear). We have certainly done our fair share of these, ranging from the grandiose Chuppa where we did have 5 Musicians or more serenading each separate entry, through to the more usual variety where it was just Peter on Keyboard and me on Violin (and sometimes Voice).
Sometimes there is a special request for an obtuse or not well-known tune as the Kallah circumnavigates the Chosson, or similar. I recall one event in a swish hotel with all the guests decked out in their evening wear. Peter arrived and we had zero time to look at the score. It was, as I recall some 4 pages long and had changes in tempo with brief 1 or 2 bar interludes to boot. I always relied on Peter to cover my less than wonderful Violin playing, and on this occasion, I didn’t know the tune off-hand and so I was reading as well. I had an advantage in that I knew the feel and the changes. To say I was nervous was an understatement, even if I had imbibed a couple of quick schnapps beforehand. As usual Peter was perfection personified. Every nuanced change, be it from me leading in a little early on my violin, or motioning with my head or indeed using other gesticulatory cues were picked up while at the same time Peter’s left and right hands glided across the keyboard.
When I did Jewish dinner music, I had a penchant for re-interpreting old, but beautiful songs. Even the decidedly aged “Amar Rabbi Akiva” became a Phrygian jazz experience. I only had to gently intimate a “feel” and Peter would be “onto it” immediately, adding his lavish chords and arpeggio runs. Just to mind: one crowd favourite for many years was “Al Kol Eleh” or
“Uncle Ayley” as my band called it. The ending was something that just came to be and was our unique blend. One evening, my voice was in fine form and we must have gone up a half a tone at least six times. Peter just smiled as I indicated “up” yet again, and accompanied me with his usual aplomb.
How many times did the great Schnapps band accompany visiting world stars, including Avraham Fried, the Chevrah and many more. We don’t forget the functions where there was also a youth choir. On the latter, Peter wrote some beautiful charts. I remember (at my suggestion) he converted the legendary Pirchei song, “Eleycho” into 6th Chords and the Asian feel was just magnificent (I’m sure some ears thought it was “wrong” though).
Chanuka in the Park. It was rarely easy to get into the venue, let alone get out. I just remember when we had to support Lipa Schmeltzer one time and the late Piamenta flautist. Let’s just say the charts were “challenging”. Peter never complained. He was the consummate professional.
It is easy to write about Peter. Just over two weeks ago I organised a lunch at Spot On for the immediate band members and Peter. Peter, who had a bout of prostate cancer several years ago, and recovered, suddenly found his body wracked with cancer. His rather emaciated figure emerged from the car and I found it terribly sad to see him in this situation. We had a wonderful meal, laced with GlenSomething and some great wine. When the time came for it all to end, Peter’s eyes welled up with tears. I don’t think I had ever seen him teary. I can’t repeat the collective noun he used for the members of the band, but he effectively said
It’s hard for me to imagine that I’m not going to see you guys again
I retorted that he should be positive (cheap words from me) and allow the new treatment to perform a miracle. Peter knew what was coming. I did have an opportunity 2 or 3 days before he passed away, a few short weeks after, but decided that I didn’t want to see him struggling for air, in and out of drug induced sleep.
Peter was not a religious man, but gave enormous respect to those who were sincerely religious. Melbourne has lost one of its finest musical figures and I have lost a wonderful friend and colleague.
PS. I will let you in on a secret. Peter had congenital deafness (no, nothing to do with the band volume). For approximately the last ten years, he played “deaf”. He could hear the bass and drums, and followed the charts as need be. That sort of challenge can only be overcome by Peter Ian McCutcheon, of blessed memory.
ברוך דיין אמת
There is no doubt that many people will be inclined to watch the nuptials of the latest Royal Wedding. Some will feel magnetised by the moment, others will be eager to see the habilment. One needs to remember, though, that even clothes will include vestments and the marriage is a formal Xtian marriage in a Church (כנסיה).
Those who may watch the wedding ceremony will do so through their Television or the Internet. Is there any halachic issue?
Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 3:129) stressed that it is not permitted to enter a Church, even if one only intended to admire the architecture or art. In Yoreh Deah (3:77) he goes as far as not permitting the use of Church facilities for a Talmud Torah where that Talmud Torah had difficulty finding accomodation. Mori V’Rabbi, the Rav was asked after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, whether it was permitted to watch the service on the Television. Rav Soloveitchik responded that in the same way that it was forbidden to enter a כנסיה, it was equally forbidden to bring the כנסיה into one’s house. He noted that the clergy at the time encouraged those who were not able to attend, to avail themselves of participation in the service by watching through the Television.
In summary, it is best to spend one’s time on permitted activities, and how much more so, by having a Shiur or learning from a Sefer at that time.
STOP PRESS: I am advised that this Wedding is being held on a day that one is forbidden to watch ANY Television (Melacha). That being said, many will I estimate wish to “catch up” and watch some highlights.
It is impossible to allow such an auspicious day pass without reflecting on the contribution of האי גברא רבא, פה מפיק מרגליות, חכם בקי וחריף, איש החסד, גזע תרשישים מורי ורבי הרב יוסף דוב הלוי למשפחת Soloveitchik.
I am indebted to Yeshivas Yitzchok Elchanan (RIETS) for its incredible resource yutorah.org an organic burgeoning library of Torah.
Nothing I can write from a second or third hand indirect ‘knowledge’ can do justice to the legacy of ‘the Rav of Rabonim’.
I highly recommend this discussion Chaired by Rabbi Brander, including three prime and great Talmidim, מורי ורבי ר׳ Rav Hershel Schachter, Rav Menachem Genack and Rav Mayer Twerski, one of the Rav’s auspicious grandsons. The parent link is here.
It is natural that a lad be addressed on his Bar Mitzvah by the Rabbi. It is also expected that a lad be more attuned to happenings in the modern secular world. A Rabbi’s holy task then, a most difficult task, is to bring the Parsha of the week, a Jewish happening, or an aligned Jewish teaching to the pulpit and to translate this into a modern, inspiring message using the language of the lad. Speeches at Bar Mitzvah ceremonies have witnessed a decaying level of Jewish content. This is manifest in “themes” that are invented and shallow.
Filling the Jewish void, is an unenviable task. It is one of the modern roles and challenges of the Rabbi. How can he steer the discussion to items of Jewish importance? It is after all a Bar Mitzvah, one of the classic days in the life of a Jewish male. The opportunity manifests itself at Shule. It’s not really the ideal place, but that’s the way it is. These days the Rabbi is unlikely to be invited to the party celebration; more evidence of Jewish decay. Imagine. The moment has come. The Rabbi has this unique and perhaps only chance to inject an authentic Jewish message into the ensuing celebration of ‘coming of Jewish age’.
It is also the week that physicist Professor Stephen Hawking dies. The Rabbi decides to couch his message in the framework of a Bar Mitzvah by adopting “role models”. Here is a great opportunity: Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rivkah, Jacob, Rachel, Miriam, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, and Deborah; there is no shortage of personality whose example can be taught as an inspiration. It is precisely the Rabbi, who is relatively deep in Torah learning, who is able to expertly weave these Jewish role models into the tapestry of society today.
For some inexplicable reason the Rabbi chooses not to employ a Jewish role model on the day a boy becomes Jewishly relevant! Instead Nelson Mandela and Stephen Hawking are revered on the pulpit. Elements of the audience, those who have a good working relationship with Judaism, are somewhat uncomfortable given that Mandela and Hawking are paraded as the “Torah’s message to a Bar Mitzvah”.
I’m not writing to “attack” Mandela or Hawking or anyone. The two had many fine attributes. For the Jew, however, in context, let’s consider the challenges these gentlemen present to a Rabbi, and a fortiori, a Bar Mitzvah.
Now, to be fair, there will be those who consider Hawking “unwise” but not an anti-Semite, and those who will consider Mandela similarly. Perhaps this is something they discuss in Limud Oz.
My question though is, does a Bar Mitzvah have any knowledge about these issues? Are these going to build his authentic Jewish identity? Why does an Orthodox Rabbi not use other strings to his bow when trying to unearth a role model for a Jewish boy’s coming of age–as a person who is now commanded to keep Torah and Mitzvos.
Yes, Stephen Hawking was a brilliant physicist, but let’s keep things in perspective, perhaps? We know that Jews have been recipients of more Nobel prizes in science than any other minority group on the face of the planet! Some examples are Adolf von Baeyer, Robert Lefkowitz and Serge Haroche. As for development of contributions to science, Hawking knew all about the great Jewish scientific minds, including Albert Einstein, John Von Neumann, and Leó Szilard. Indeed, Hawking’s arguably most important result was through the modern orthodox, Kippah wearing Jew, Professor Jacob Bekenstein ז׳ל! Some consider the young Bekenstein the man who “taught Hawking a thing or two about black holes“. Hawking detracted Bekenstein’s PhD thesis at a conference and ganged up on him with two others to berate Bekenstein that he didn’t know what he was talking about. Eventually Hawking embraced the Israeli scientist’s groundbreaking ideas, which served as the basis for his own revolutionary theory that black holes give off radiation. That’s not to minimise Hawking’s contribution!
Likely, the Rabbi wanted to use Hawking as an example of someone able to overcome horrible physical constraints? Sadly, Israel has a myriad of institutions set up to aid both financially and technologically, the disabled and maimed of Israel? These are over represented because of War. Perhaps the people who run these institutions or finance them or serve in them are inspiring examples that someone blessed to be able to walk unaided and talk unaided should follow?
Why Mandela? Was it because he sat in prison due to the fact that he was not white? Yes, that’s something we can respect: courage and commitment. In context though, I wonder if one could have used, say, the example of Chief Rabbi Lau and his imprisonment as a Jewish child in Buchenwald? The story of Rabbi Nisan Mangel in Auschwitz is another horror story of triumph. Perhaps the boy could have been encouraged to seek out and together with his friends (who will be celebrating their Bar Mitzvah in the year) support those Israelis who spent time, long time, in dark, terrorist prisons? Perhaps telling the young Bar Mitzvah boy the story of Gilad Shalit and contrasting his prison conditions to Mandelas? I have specifically mentioned examples that are recent. No doubt there are better suggestions than the ones I have mentioned. What about re-telling the towering, inspirational story of the famed Rabbi Meir of Rotenburg and his personal refusal to be freed for money.
From my vantage point it seems as if some Rabbis feel there is “no personality that is worthwhile” from an authentic Jewish religious experience that is seen fit to be employed as part of a modern sermon. Please tell me I’m wrong?
[Postscript. One of my readers and contributors, R’ Meir Deutsch davened in the same Shule as Professor Bekenstein ז׳ל and he relayed the following vignette]
I just want to mention Prof. Beckenstein who was a member of our synagogue. Had he not died suddenly he probably would have been nominated for the Nobel Prize.
During one of my lectures in the synagogue on Parashat Bereshit, I asked for his acknowledgment of some facts. Here is the interchange:
As the liturgical poet ר’ משולם ברבי קלונימוס wrote:
“אך יסדת תבל על בלימה: בהיות עולם חושך וצלמוות.”
“Even the foundation of the world is on the brink: the world of darkness and the shadow of death.”
Chazal said (Haggiga 11: 2):
“אין דורשין בעריות בשלושה, ולא במעשה בראשית בשניים”
Our Sages also say (ibid.): “Anyone who investigates four certain things, it is better if he did not come into the world: [what are the four?] what is above, what is below, what is ahead and what is at the back.”
Tosafot interpret there “what is ahead as what was before the world was created“.
Neither the physicists nor the cosmologists know or discuss what happened before the big bang.
Is it true that the whole theory begins only when the dense and hot body disintegrated and began to disperse and cool?
Professor Bekenstein responded:
“I do not want to go over Chazal’s words, so I will not discuss the subject, but I will only try to think about it.”
was from Har Bracha. Rabbi Shevach’s murderers were captured a months ago. A few moments ago my watch buzzed and I saw that they had captured Rabbi Ben-Gal’s murderer. Last week, I chanced on an article in twitter about Rabbi Ben-Gal, where his father Rabbi Daniel was also mentioned. I noticed that next to Ben-Gal, there was the name “Buzaglo” in brackets. My heart missed a few beats. My afternoon Chevrusa at Kerem B’Yavneh was Daniel Buzaglo.
[Thanks to R’ Meir Deutsch שליט׳א]
רשותמשפטיתעליונה – הסנהדרין – ואםכלעדתישראלישגו
© מאיר דויטש
פרשתנו, פרשתויקרא, מונהסוגיקורבנות, ביניהם“נפשכיתחטא“, “אםהכהןהמשיחיחטא” ולבסוף “ואםכלעדתבניישראלישגו […] ואשמו“. אנונתרכזבאחרון.
בספר דברים נאמר: ” כי יפלא ממך דבר למשפט בין דם לדם בין דין לדין ובין נגע לנגע דברי ריבת בשעריך וקמת ועלית אל המקום אשר יבחר ה’ אלהיך בו. ובאת אל הכהנים הלוים ואל השפט אשר יהיה בימים ההם ודרשת והגידו לך את דבר המשפט. ועשית על פי הדבר אשר יגידו לך מן המקום ההוא אשר יבחר ה’ ושמרת לעשות ככל אשר יורוך. על פי התורה אשר יורוך ועל המשפט אשר יאמרו לך תעשה לא תסור מן הדבר אשר יגידו לך ימין ושמאל.”
רש”י מפרש:” ימין ושמאל – אפילו אומר לך על ימין שהוא שמאל ועל שמאל שהוא ימין, וכל שכן שאומר לך על ימין ימין ועל שמאל שמאל”. והספרי אומר:” לא תסור מן התורה אשר יגידו לך, מצות לא תעשה, ימין ושמאל, אפילו מראים בעיניך על ימין שהוא שמאל ועל שמאל שהוא ימין שמע להם. “הרמב”ן כותב על פסוק זה: ” ימין ושמאל – אפילו אם אומר לך על ימין שהוא שמאל או על שמאל שהוא ימין, לשון רש”י. וענינו, אפילו תחשוב בלבך שהם טועים, והדבר פשוט בעיניך כאשר אתה יודע בין ימינך לשמאלך, תעשה כמצותם,
וחתך לנו הכתוב הדין, שנשמע לבית דין הגדול העומד לפני השם במקום אשר יבחר בכל מה שיאמרו לנו בפירוש התורה, בין שקבלו פירושו עד מפי עד ומשה מפי הגבורה, או שיאמרו כן לפי משמעות המקרא או כוונתה, כי על הדעת שלהם הוא נותן (ס”א לנו) להם התורה, אפילו יהיה בעיניך כמחליף הימין בשמאל, וכל שכן שיש לך לחשוב שהם אומרים על ימין שהוא ימין.
כאן נקבע כי יש לקבל את פס”ד הסנהדרין, אפילו אם לדעתנו הם טועים. היש לנו הסכמה?
ספר החינוך – ועל דרך ענין זה שעוררתיך בני עליו אפרש לך אגדה אחת שהיא בבבא מציעא בסוף פרק הזהב [נ”ט ע”ב] גבי ההוא מעשה דרבי אליעזר בתנורו של עכנאי המתמהת כל שומעה.
בברייתא, ב”תנורו של עכנאי” בבא מציעא (נט, ע”ב) “, “השיב רבי אליעזר כל תשובות שבעולם ולא קיבלו הימנו” למרות כל ההוכחות בניסים וגם בת הקול מהשמיים שאמרה שהלכה כמותו. “עמד רבי יהושע על רגליו ואמר: לא בשמיים היא … שכבר ניתנה תורה מהר סיני אין אנו משגיחין בבת קול, שכבר כתבה תורה – אחרי רבים להטות”. והגמרא שואלת: “מאי עביד הקב”ה בההיא שעתה? אמר לי קא חייך ואמר: נצחוני בני, נצחוני בני”.
את החשיבות בעמידה בפסיקה שנשמעה מפי הרבים אנו יכולים לראות אצל עקביא בן מהללאל: “עקביא בן מהללאל העיד ארבעה דברים, אמרו לו עקביא חזור בך מארבעה דברים שהיית אומר (ששמע מפי המרובים) ונעשך לאב בית דין לישראל. אמר להן: מוטב לי להקרא שוטה כל ימי ולא להעשות שעה אחת רשע לפני המקום שלא יהיו אומרים: בשביל שררה חזר בו”. מה שעבר על עקביא בן מהללאל בגלל שעמד איתן על הדעות ששמע מפי רבים הרי הם ידועים. עקביא רצה בכל זאת לשנות את הפסיקה ששמע מפי הרבים ומצא דרך לעשות זאת, כך אומרת המשנה: “בשעת מיתתו [של עקביא] אמר לבנו חזור בך מארבעה דברים שהייתי אומר. אמר לו [בנו]: ולמה לא חזרת בך? אמר לו [עקביא]: אני שמעתי מפי המרובים והם שמעו מפי המרובים, אני עמדתי במשמועתי והם עמדו במשמועתן, אבל אתה ששמעת מפי היחיד ומפי המרובין מוטב להניח דברי היחיד [דברי] ולאחוז בדברי המרובין”.
המשנה אומרת: “ולמה מזכירין דברי היחיד בין המרובין הואיל ואין הלכה אלא בדברי המרובין, שאם יראה בית דין את דברי היחיד ויסמוך עליו, שאין בית דין יכול לבטל דברי בית דין חברו עד שיהיה גדול ממנו בחכמה ובמנין. היה גדול ממנו בחכמה אבל לא במנין, במנין אבל לא בחכמה אינו יכול לבטל דבריו עד שיהיה גדול ממנו בחכמה ובמנין”. לפי דעת המשנה שלפנינו יכול בית דין לבטל פסיקה קודמת אם יעמוד בתנאים המוכתבים. אחרי רבים להטות, בכל פס”ד.
יש שתי גישות לפסיקת ההלכה – השמרנית: שאינה מאפשרת כל שינוי בנושא שנפסק בעבר, גם אם חל שינוי בעובדות או שחלה התפתחות בשטח. לעומתה, הדינמית: שרואה בהתפתחות ובשינויים שחלו צורך לדון מחדש בשאלות שכבר נפסקו בעבר.
לפי השיטה השמרנית דיון בהלכה אפשרי רק בנושא שלגביו טרם נפסקה הלכה. הלכה שנפסקה אין אפשרות לשנותה, גם אם התנאים והטעמים לפיה נפסקה השתנו או הופרכו. הטעמים השונים המהווים את גרעין הפסיקה קיימים כל עוד לא נפסקה ההלכה, לאחר מכן אין עוד לדון באותה הלכה פסוקה.
נעיין במשנה בסנהדרין: “(דברים יז) כי יפלא ממך דבר למשפט וגו’, שלשה בתי דינין היו שם. אחד יושב על פתח הר הבית ואחד יושב על פתח העזרה ואחד יושב בלשכת הגזית. באים לזה שעל פתח הר הבית ואומר כך דרשתי וכן דרשו חבירי כך לימדתי וכך לימדו חבירי, אם שמעו (פסק דין בנושא) אומרים להם ואם לאו באין להן לאותן שעל פתח העזרה ואומר כך דרשתי וכן דרשו חבירי כך לימדתי וכך לימדו חבירי, אם שמעו אומרים להם ואם לאו אלו ואלו באים לבית דין הגדול שבלשכת הגזית שממנו יוצאת תורה לכל ישראל שנאמר (דברים יז): מן המקום ההוא אשר יבחר ה”. ממשנה זו אנו רואים כי כל בתי הדין רשאים להורות רק לפי הלכה פסוקה (אם שמעו), מלבד בית הדין הגדול שרשאי לפסוק בנושא שטרם נדון ואין לגביו הלכה פסוקה. מתוך המשנה נראה כי לא קיימת הגבלה שבית הדין הגדול ידון גם בהלכה פסוקה.
לעומת המשנה שלפנינו הדיון בתוספתא בנושא הוא שמרני “הולכין לבית דין הגדול שבלשכת הגזית … נשאלת שאילה אם שמעו אמרו להם ואם לאו עומדין למינין. רבו המטמאין טימאו, רבו המטהרין טהרו משם היה יוצאת הלכה ורווחת בישראל”. לפי התוספתא גם בית הדין הגדול לא יכול לשנות שאלה שנפסקה (אם שמעו אמרו להם), רק אם לא שמעו עומדים למניין וקובעים הלכה.
במחלוקת בתוספתא: “לעולם הלכה לפי המרובין. לא נזכרו דברי היחיד בין המרובין אלא לבטלן. ר’ יהודה אומר: לא הוזכרו דברי היחיד בין המרובין אלא שמא תיצרך להן שעה ויסמכו עליהן”. לפי הרישא דברי היחיד הוזכרו כדי שנדע שנדחו מפני הרבים וישארו דחויים לעולם.
את השמרנות הקלאסית נוכל לראות אצל רבי אליעזר בן הורקנוס, ואצטט ברייתא: “תנו רבנן: מעשה ברבי אליעזר ששבת בגליל העליון ושאלוהו שלושים הלכות בהלכות סוכה, שתים עשרה אמר להם שמעתי, שמונה עשר אמר להם לא שמעתי. רבי יוסי בר’ יהודה אומר: חילוף הדברים, שמונה עשר אמר להם שמעתי שתי עשר אמר להם לא שמעתי. אמרו לו: כל דבריך אינן אלא מפי שמועה? אמר להם: הזקקתוני לומר דבר שלא שמעתי מפי רבותי. מימי לא קדמני אדם בבית המדרש, ולא ישנתי בבית המדרש לא שינת קבע ולא שינת ארעי, ולא הנחתי אדם בבית המדרש ויצאתי, ולא שחתי שיחת חולין ולא אמרתי דבר שלא שמעתי מפי רבי מעולם”.
ממה שאנו רואים עד כאן; יש לקבל את פסק הדין של הסנהדרין אפילו אם אנו בדעה כי טעו.
אנו מוצאים גם דעות חלוקות בין התלמוד לבין התוספתא, אם הסנהדרין היושבת בלשכת הגזית, יכולה לשנות הלכה שנפסקה כבר בעבר. יש לקבל את דעת הרוב בפסקי הדין.
האם היסודות מוצקים דיים בנושא? אם כן אנו יכולים להמשיך.
“וידבר ה’ אל משה לאמר. דבר אל בני ישראל לאמר נפש כי תחטא בשגגה מכל מצות ה’ אשר לא תעשינה ועשה אחת מהנה. אם הכהן המשיח יחטא לאשמת העם והקריב על חטאתו אשר חטא פר בן בקר תמים לה’ לחטאת.”
“ואם כל עדת ישראל ישגו ונעלם דבר מעיני הקהל ועשו אחת מכל מצות ה’ אשר לא תעשינה ואשמו.”
כבר ראינו למעלה, מספר החינוך, כי “אפילו יהיו הם טועים”. מה קורה כאשר הם טועים? מתוך קטע החטאת שבספר ויקרא אנו רואים בפסוק יג האומר: “ואם כל עדת ישראל ישגו וגו'”. מי הם “כל עדת ישראל”? נעיין בספרא: “עדת ישראל יכול בכל העדה הכתוב מדבר תלמוד לומר כאן עדה ולהלן נאמר עדה, מה עדה אמורה להלן ב”ד, אף כאן ב”ד, ת”ל עדת ישראל, העדה המיוחדת שבישראל ואי זו זו, זו סנהדרי גדולה היושבת בלשכת הגזית.”
גם רש”י מפרש את הפסוק כך:
“עדת ישראל – אלו סנהדרין:
ונעלם דבר – טעו להורות באחת מכל כריתות שבתורה שהוא מותר:
הקהל ועשו – שעשו צבור על פיהם”.
לפיכך, כמו שכותב הרמב”ם ” כל דבר שחייבין על שגגתו חטאת קבועה אם שגגו בית דין הגדול בהוראה והורו להתירו ושגגו העם בהוראתן ועשו העם והם סומכין על הוראתן ואחר כך נודע לבית דין שטעו, הרי בית דין חייבין להביא קרבן חטאת על שגגתן בהוראה ואע”פ שלא עשו הן בעצמן מעשה שאין משגיחין על עשיית בית דין כלל בין עשו בין לא עשו אלא על הוראתן בלבד, ושאר העם פטורין מן הקרבן ואע”פ שהם העושין מפני שתלו בבית דין.”, אם הסנהדרין טעו הם מביאים פר בן בקר לחטאת והעם, שקיבל את הוראת בית הדין, פטור כי סמך על בית הדין, ולמרות שעשו דבר שאסור הם לא שוגגים.
האם על כולם להסתמך על פסיקת בית הדין? האם כל העושים כפסיקה פטורים? לכאורה נראה מהנאמר כי כך הדבר, אולם ננסה לבדוק העניין. ראשית נברר:
הרמב”ם מרחיב בנושא: ” וכן אם הורו בית דין הגדול שדם הלב מותר ולא היה ראש ישיבה עמהן או שהיה אחד מהן אינו ראוי להיות ממונה בסנהדרין כגון שהיה גר או ממזר או זקן או שלא ראה בנים וכיוצא בהן ועשו העם על פיהם ואכלו דם הלב הרי בית דין פטורין וכל מי שאכל מביא חטאת קבועה על שגגתו. ומנין שאין הכתוב מדבר אלא בבית דין הגדול שנאמר ואם כל עדת ישראל ישגו וגו’, ומנין שעד שיהיו כולן ראויין להוראה שנאמר ואם מעיני העדה עד שיהיו להם כעינים, ולהלן הוא אומר ושפטו העדה מה העדה האמורה בדיני נפשות כולן ראויין להוראה אף עדה האמורה בשגגה זו עד שיהיו כולן ראויין להוראה “.
מכאן נראה כי יש לבדוק את כשרותה של הסנהדרין ולברר מי ישב בדין לפני שנפעל לפי פסה”ד.
האם על כולם להסתמך על פסיקת בית הדין? האם כל העושים כפסיקה פטורים? לכאורה נראה מהנאמר כי כך הדבר, אולם ננסה לבדוק העניין.
בירושלמי אנו מוצאים כבר פירוש אחר על הפסוק ימין ושמאל ” דתני יכול אם יאמרו לך על ימין שהיא שמאל ועל שמאל שהיא ימין תשמע להם תלמוד לומר ללכת ימין ושמאל שיאמרו לך על ימין שהוא ימין ועל שמאל שהיא שמאל מאי כדון רבי יוסי בשם רבי הילא לפי שבכל מקום שוגג פטור ומזיד חייב וכאן אפילו מזיד פטור מפני שתלה בבית דין.”, אבל עדיין מי שתולה בבית דין פטור.
התלמוד מנסה לקבוע מי הוא זה התולה עשייתו בפסיקת בית הדין: “הורו בית דין לעבור על אחת מכל מצות האמורות בתורה, והלך היחיד ועשה שוגג על פיהם, בין שעשו ועשה עמהן, בין שעשו ועשה אחריהן, בין שלא עשו ועשה – פטור, מפני שתלה בב”ד. הורו ב”ד, וידע אחד מהן שטעו או תלמיד והוא ראוי להוראה, והלך ועשה על פיהן, בין שעשו ועשה עמהן, בין שעשו ועשה אחריהן, בין שלא עשו ועשה – הרי זה חייב, מפני שלא תלה בב”ד. זה הכלל: התולה בעצמו – חייב, והתולה בב”ד – פטור.”
כאן אומרת המשנה כי אם אחד הדיינים, או אפילו תלמיד ראוי להוראה, ידע כי בית הדין טעה בפסיקתו אינו רשאי לקבל את דעת בית הדין ואם עשה כפי שהורו הוא חייב כי לא תלה עשייתו בבית הדין כי לדעתו בית הדין טעה.
נביא גם את הרמב”ם בנושא:
“כיצד הורו בית דין לאכול חלב הקיבה כולו, וידע אחד מן הקהל שטעו ושחלב הקיבה אסורואכלו מפני הוראתן, שהיה עולה על דעתו שמצוה לשמוע מבית דין אע”פ שהם טועים, הרי זה האוכל חייב חטאת קבועה על אכילתו, ואינו מצטרף למנין השוגגים על פיהם, במה דברים אמורים כשהיה זה שידע שטעו חכם או תלמיד שהגיע להוראה אבל אם היה עם הארץ הרי זה פטור שאין ידיעתו באיסורין ידיעה ודאית ומצטרף לכלל השוגגים על פיהם.”
חכם, או אפילו תלמיד שהגיע להוראה אינו יכול לסמוך על פסיקת הסנהדרין אם לדעתו טעו.
הרמב”ם – (באותו מאמר שלעיל) וכן אם הורו [הסנהדרין] וידע אחד מהן שטעו ואמר להם טועים אתם ורבו עליו המתירים והתירו, הרי בית דין פטורין וכל מי שעשה על פיהם חייב להביא חטאת קבועה על שגגתו, שנאמר ואם כל עדת ישראל ישגו עד שישגו כל הסנהדרין.
ידע אחד מן הסנהדרין או מיעוטן שטעו המתירין ושתקו הואיל והורו ולא היה שם חולק ופשטה ההוראה ברוב הקהל הרי בית דין חייבין בקרבן וכל שעשה על פיהם פטור, ואלו ששתקו אם עשו על פי אלו שהורו הרי אלו חייבין מפני שלא תלו בבית דין,
וכן אם נשאו ונתנו בדבר ואמרו דבר זה מותר הוא ולא הורו לעם ולא אמרו להם מותרין אתם לעשות ושמע השומע מהן בעת שגמרו מותר והלך ועשה כפי מה ששמע הרי כל העושה חייב חטאת קבועה ובית דין פטורין שהרי לא הורו להם בפירוש לעשות, וכן אם הורו ועשו מיעוט הקהל על פיהם ונודעה השגגה, הרי בית דין פטורין ואלו המיעוט שעשו חייבין וכל אחד ואחד מביא חטאתו.”
כאן מובהרת לנו הפסיקה של הסנהדרין.
כאשר אנו אומרים שתלמיד הראוי להוראה יכול לחלוק על הסנהדרין, האין כאן איסור של “מורה הלכה בפני רבו”? ננסה לבדוק נושא זה.
רבי יעקב בן צבי (הירש אשכנזי) עמדין כותב בנושא: “דשייך בכל ההוראות שאם התלמיד לפי דעתו רואה שרבו טועה בדין. צריך וחובה הוא עליו לאומרו ולא ישתוק כדי שלא יכשל בהוראת טעות (והא נמי נפקא מקרא דמדבר שקר תרחק דכייל כל דבר שקר). ואפי’ מילי דעלמא בכלל כדאיתא פ”ב דכתובות כ”ש מילי דאורייתא ולא הוי מורה הלכה בפני רבו בהכי דאיתסר ליה משום כבוד רבו דמיחזי כי אפקרותא שקופץ להורות ואינו ממתין לשמוע דברי הרב דאכתי לא ידע מאי דקאמר רביה. […] אי לאו בר הכי הוא כי לא כל הרוצה ליטול את השם יטול דחיישינן ליוהרא אבל אם שמע דעת רבו וכסבור התלמיד שטועה הוא בדין והוראה מותר לו לסתור דבריו ומצוה היא דהויא לאפרושי מאיסורא כי אין עצה ואין תבונה לנגד ה’. ולאו דוקא לאפרושי מאיסורא אלא אפי’ היה רבו טועה לחומרא שרי לי’ לתלמיד’ לאודועי’ ואיכא נמי מצו’ שכשם שאסור להתיר את האסור כן אסור לאסור את המותר וכל שכן כי אית ביה דררא דממונא והפסד שלא כדין בהוראתו, דודאי מצוה שלא לשתוק.”
כך אנו רואים כי אין בעייה עם “מורה הלכה בפני רבו”.
השתלשלות העניינים להגדיר חכם המגיע להוראה כזקן ממרא מוצגת ברמב”ם כך: ” […] בעת שיפלא דבר ויורה בו חכם המגיע להוראה בין בדבר שיראה בעיניו בין בדבר שקבל מרבותיו, הרי הוא והחולקין עמו עולין לירושלים ובאין לבית דין שעל פתח הר הבית, אומרים להן בית דין כך הוא הדין, אם שמע וקבל מוטב ואם לאו באין כולן לבית דין שעל פתח העזרה ואומרים להם גם הם כך הוא הדין, אם קבלו ילכו להן ואם לאו כולן באין לבית דין הגדול ללשכת הגזית שמשם תורה יוצאת לכל ישראל שנאמר מן המקום ההוא אשר יבחר ה’, ובית דין אומר להם כך הוא הדין ויוצאין כולן, חזר זה החכם לעירו ושנה ולמד כדרך שהוא למוד הרי זה פטור, הורה לעשות או שעשה כהוראתו חייב מיתה ואינו צריך התראה, אפילו נתן טעם לדבריו אין שומעין לו […]”
מי הוא זקן ממרא? הגמרא אומרת: “אמר אביי, אף אנן נמי תנינא: חזר לעירו, שנה ולימד כדרך שלימד – פטור, הורה לעשות – חייב.” במסכת סנהדרין אנו רואים כי גם אם לא הורה לאחרים אלא רק עשה כהוראתו הוא נעשה זקן ממרא: “חזר לעירו ושנה. תנו רבנן: אינו חייב עד שיעשה כהוראתו, או שיורה לאחרים ויעשו כהוראתו.”
לפי ר’ זעירה אם רצה בית דין למחול לזקן ממרא הם רשאים למחול: “דאמר רבי יאשיה: שלשה דברים סח לי זעירא מאנשי ירושלים. בעל שמחל על קינויו – קינויו מחול בן סורר ומורה שרצו אביו ואמו למחול לו – מוחלין לו, זקן ממרא שרצו בית דינו למחול לו – מוחלין לו. וכשבאתי אצל חבירי שבדרום, על שנים הודו לי, על זקן ממרא – לא הודו לי, כדי שלא ירבו מחלוקת בישראל”.
גם הרמב”ם אינו מקבל את דעתו של ר’ זעירא, ומגדיר “זקן ממרא” כך:
“אבל זקן ממרא האמור בתורה הוא חכם אחד מחכמי ישראל שיש בידו קבלה ודן ומורה בדברי תורה כמו שידונו ויורו כל חכמי ישראל שבאת לו מחלוקת בדין מן הדינים עם בית דין הגדול, ולא חזר לדבריהם אלא חלק עליהם והורה לעשות שלא כהוראתן, גזרה עליו תורה מיתה ומתודה ויש לו חלק לעולם הבא, אף על פי שהוא דן והן דנים הוא קבל והם קבלו הרי התורה חלקה להם כבוד, ואם רצו בית דין למחול על כבודן ולהניחו אינן יכולין כדי שלא ירבו מחלוקת בישראל.
היה חכם מופלא של בית דין וחלק ושנה ולמד לאחרים כדבריו אבל לא הורה לעשות פטור, שנאמר והאיש אשר יעשה בזדון לא שיאמר בזדון אלא יורה לעשות או יעשה הוא בעצמו.”
זקן ממרא הוא “חכם המגיע להוראה” ויש החולקים עליו. הם מופיעים לפני בית דין הגדול בלשכת הגזית הפוסק הלכה כדעת החולקים עליו. עם הוא ממשיך ללמד כדרך שלימד בראשונה, המנוגדת לפסק הדין של הסנהדרין, אין הוא זקן ממרא עד שיורה לעשות (לפסוק) כהוראתו, המנוגדת לפסק הסנהדרין.
אבל הרמב”ם, המאמץ את הנאמר במסכת סנהדרין (פח, ע”ב), אומר גם דבר נוסף “או שעשה כהוראתו”, דהיינו, הוא עשה דבר הנוגד את פסק הדין של הסנהדרין, גם אז הוא זקן ממרא.
כאן אנו בבעיה. המשנה אומרת:
“הורו בית דין לעבור על אחת מכל מצות האמורות בתורה, והלך היחיד ועשה שוגג על פיהם, בין שעשו ועשה עמהן, בין שעשו ועשה אחריהן, בין שלא עשו ועשה – פטור, מפני שתלה בב”ד. הורו ב”ד, וידע אחד מהן שטעו או תלמיד והוא ראוי להוראה, והלך ועשה על פיהן, בין שעשו ועשה עמהן, בין שעשו ועשה אחריהן, בין שלא עשו ועשה – הרי זה חייב, מפני שלא תלה בב”ד. זה הכלל: התולה בעצמו – חייב, והתולה בב”ד – פטור.” דהיינו אם הראוי להוראה בדעה שבית הדין טעה אין הוא יכול להיתלות על פסק בית הדין ועליו לעשות כדעתו אחרת יהיה חייב. אבל
אם יעשה כדעתו הרי הוא יהיה “זקן ממרא”. כיצד יצא מהמילכוד?
רציתי רק לגעת בנושא הפסיקה של הסנהדרין, החכם, התלמיד שהגיע להוראה (גמיר וסביר) ואת מי מחייבת פסיקת הסנהדרין.
מה שאנו יכולים לראות מהנדון כי יש בקרה וביקורת תמידית על פסיקות ביה”ד.
ראינו במסכת הוריות כי תלמיד הראוי להוראה אינו מקבל את פסקי הדין של הסנהדרין היושבים בלשכת הגזית כדבר המובן מאליו. אם הוא בדעה שבית הדין שגה בפסיקה עליו לדחותה ולנהוג כפי שהוא רואה לנכון. יוצא מזה, כי ההתייחסות לפסיקה של בית הדין היא שונה עבורו לעומת שאר פשוטי העם. אם הדבר נכון לתלמיד הראוי להוראה, הוא ודאי כך לגבי חכם המגיע להוראה.
במחלוקת אם בית דין יכול למחול לזקן ממרא הרמב”ם מאמץ את הדעה שאינו יכול למחול. לא מצאתי מה קורה כאשר ביה”ד משנה פסיקתו ומאמץ דעת הזקן ממרא.
כל הנאמר הוא בזמן שהייתה סנהדרין שישבה בלשכת הגזית. סנהדרין שמחוץ ללשכת הגזית אינה מחייבת שנאמר מן המקום ההוא. היום הכל השתנה: לכל עדה ולכל חסידות יש פוסקים משלהן, האין זה מרבה מחלקות בישראל. אנו לפני חג המצות. יש הכשר לספרדים, יש הכשר לאוכלי קטניות, יש הכשר לאוכלי לפתית, ויש הכשר לאוכלי קנולה. אבל זה לא הכל. שמן בוטנים בפסח היה מותר לאשכנזים ופתאום נאסר בשנות הששים של המאה שעברה. או, למשל: בישראל אין לאשכנזים הכשר למרגרינה לפסח. בית דין לונדון הכשיר את המרגרינה שם, כאשר היא מכילה את אותם המרכיבים של המרגרינה הישראלית. עולי בריטניה בארץ מייבאים לפסח את המרגרינה בהכשר בי”ד לונדון. הבנתם!
 עדויותפרקא, משנהה
 גםתנאיזהאינומחויבתמידכפישאנורואים: “יהיהגדולבחכמהוכו‘” א“אעיטורשוקיירושליםבפירותקשיאעליהשהראשוניםתקנוהוור‘ יוחנןבןזכאיביטלהלאחרחרבןמפנישנתבטלהטעםלראשוניםולאהיהגדולכראשונים (השגתהראב“דרמב“םהלכותממריםפרקבהלכהב). כאןאנורואיםבטלהטעםבטילהההלכה. אבלהרמב“םכותב: “אפילובטלהטעםשבגללוגזרוהראשוניםאוהתקינואיןהאחרוניםיכוליןלבטלעדשיהיוגדוליםמהם” (רמב“םשם). אבלאםנמצאלסתורפסקדיןאומרהרמב“ם: “ב“דגדולשדרשובאחתמןהמדותכפימהשנראהבעיניהםשהדיןכךודנודין, ועמדאחריהםב“דאחרונראהלוטעםאחרלסתוראותוהריזהסותרודןכפימהשנראהבעיניו, שנאמראלהשופטאשריהיהבימיםההם, אינךחייבללכתאלאאחרביתדיןשבדורך (רמב“םשםהלכהא).
ראהגםשו“תהרי“דסימןצגד“הוראיתישכתב: “ואע“גדהןיחידורביםוהלכהכרביםהנימיליבדלאפסקיאמוראיהלכהכיחיד, אבלהיכאדאמוראיפסקיכיחידאאמוראיסמכינןושבקינןלכללאדיחידורביםהלכהכרבים (אע“גדגםעלהאמוראיםמקשההתלמודדשביקרביםועשהכיחידכדמצינובסוכהיט, ב: אבייאשכחי‘ לרביוסףדקאגניבכילתחתניםבסוכה, אמרליהכמאןכר“אשבקתרבנןועבדתכר“א, אמרליהברייתאאיפכאתני, מ“ממצינוהרבהפעמיםבש“סדאמוראיםפסקיכיחידבמקוםרביםולאמקשיםעליהם, עייןהמאורומלחמותב“קצו, ב.)”
 תוספתאסנהדריןפרקז, הל‘ א
 שםעדויותפרקא, הל‘ ד
 ספראויקרא – דבוראדחובהפרשהד
 ירושלמימסכתהוריותפרקאדףמהעמודד /ה“א
 והסנהדריןעצמןשעשובהוראתןאינןמצטרפיןלרובהקהל, עדשיהיוהרובשעשוחוץמןהסנהדרין, עשורובאנשיארץישראלעלפיהם, אע“פשאלוהעושיםשבטאחד, וכןאםעשורובהשבטיםאע“פשהןמיעוטהקהל, ביתדיןחייביםוהעושיןפטורין, כיצדהיויושביארץישראלששמאותאלףואחד, והיוהעושיןבהוראתביתדיןשלשמאותאלףואחדוהריכולןבנייהודהבלבד, אושהיוהעושיםבנישבעהשבטיםכולןאע“פשישבהןמאהאלף, הריביתדיןחייביןוכלהעושיםעלפיהםפטוריןואיןמשגיחיןעליושביחוצהלארץשאיןקרויקהלאלאבניארץישראל, ושבטמנשהואפריםאינןחשוביןכשנישבטיםלעניןהזהאלאשניהםשבטאחד (רמב“םהלכותשגגותפרקיגהלכהב)
In their haste to show they are sensitive new age religionists, the Hartman name has been known to leak across acceptable boundaries. I won’t go there. Consider two articles, one is the easy, feel good, new age sensistive approach from a Hartman, and the other is a fact based analysis by someone who is scientific in their approach. I know who is correct.
I am sure there will be a number of Melbourne Rabbis too quick to jump on the Hartman #metoo wagon, in the name of ‘tikkun olam’. Pity they don’t consider the facts.
There is zero tolerance for the Leifers of this world. There is great sympathy for those who have suffered under the hands of the Leifers of this world. Who would not like to see each Leifer prosecuted in a fair trial? I have blogged exasperatingly about Leifer and the situation which led up to her perpetrating and leaving, from day one.
Notwithstanding all the above, is it reasonable to imply that the Israeli Court System and its Judges are in any way inferior to the Australian Court System? Can one rule that Israeli psychiatrists are in any way less able to make an informed judgement on Leifer’s state of mind and ability to take part in a fair trial than Australian psychiatrists? Is not any nuanced comment that ultimately reflects negatively on the Israeli judicial or medical system misplaced, and when stated by someone who was not a victim, offensive?
It is very important, for many reasons, that Leifer stand trial as soon as possible. The decision rendering her unfit, should be revisited regularly without an expiry date. Reading about ‘pressure’ on Israel over this issue leaves me with a bad taste. This is not a decision of Government. There is no Charedi judiciary, and the psychiatrists are not (all) Charedi either (seemingly).
As horrible as it is for victims and more, the pursuit must not be given up, but the notion of “applying pressure” needs to be retired. Is it really proper for Dan Andrews, a Premier of Victoria to pressure Israel? Is it right that Malcolm Turnbull or Mark Dreyfus make guarded comments?
We have full faith in the Israeli Judiciary and Medical Fraternity and look forward to Leifer facing the music, sooner than later. Politics has no place in this domain, and should be rejected.
I was surprised and then annoyed with myself for not adequately appreciating the differences between Charedi Orthodoxy and Centrist (or Modern) Orthodoxy, in practical terms. Often, we try to understand the difference between these groups through slogans: eg. תורה לשמה and תורה עם דרך ארץ and תורה ומדע. In particular, when one identifies with Centrist Orthodox, unless they also have a deeper understanding of its approach to Yahadus, it can easily become a club or vehicle for those who promote left-wing, more compromising, approaches to Halacha, or regrettably, boundaries outside of accepted Halacha.
Sadly, first steps are often after the fact. Individuals first assume an approach to Jewish Life and then identify themselves as Centrist (or Modern) Orthodox because they perceive more opportunity to mould that philosophy to accommodate their behaviours. Subsequent attempts to study Hirschian תורה עם דרך ארץ (a virulently anti-Zionist approach) or תורה ומדע (as described by Rabbi Dr Norman Lamm) are forays seeking to ascribe post facto legitimacy to existing behaviours and beliefs, some of which may well fall outside the Orthodox boundaries. There is much more to Centrist Orthodoxy than that, however. A failure to respect the solid foundations upon which Centrist Orthodoxy stands, is also an unfortunate, regrettable, hallmark of those who are identified with the right-wing.
It’s often easy to lose track of the importance of Centrist Orthodoxy because of the complex Weltanschauung it weaves and the friction it must deal with due to Centrist Orthodoxy not being an isolationist approach. Indeed, as a result, many who were Centrist become more Charedi, because the latter is actually simpler on the surface and perceived to be ‘more religious’. A seriously grounded and informed Centrist Orthodox Jew, however, is just as likely to have more fidelity to Halacha than a Charedi Jew! I won’t expand on this point in general terms; it’s pointless. Instead, I will reflect on a burning issue which is being actively discussed. Through this issue, it is possible to discern an important difference in approach of Centrist versus Charedi, and, in my view, the superiority of the Centrist view is clearly manifest.
The Charedi community, influenced by a פסק from Rav Moshe Feinstein ז׳ל about testing for genetic markers, gave birth to the laudable and groundbreaking organisation Dor Yeshorim. The premise of Dor Yeshorim is not medical. Its aim is to
There have been two great achievements by Dor Yeshorim.
How does Dor Yeshorim decide what to test? Their website claims
Dor Yeshorim’s panel of tests therefore currently screens for debilitating and recessive genetic diseases most commonly occurring within the Jewish community. These specific tests have been painstakingly researched and chosen based on their frequency and severity of symptoms. The decision to add a disease to the Dor Yeshorim panel of tests is not a simple one. We are forever mindful of our mission to ensure healthy families. At the same time, we must employ a balanced approach to adding a test to the panel; just because a test exists for the disease, does not mean it warrants screening.
The issue of what can and should be tested has hotted up, of late. There are apparently some 39 life-threatening Ashkenazic diseases, (the number 39 and its connected to מלקות is chilling) made up of hundreds of mutations. Dor Yeshorim has chosen to focus on some 14 diseases. Since the diseases are life-threatening, one might assume that Dor Yeshorim has made the halachic call to screen for all 39. It should be noted, and this is important, that it is no more expensive for a testing laboratory to scan and report on 200 versus 39 versus 14. Therefore, there ought be no argument of cost vis-à-vis less prevalent carriers of disease. In the Dor Yeshorim system, nobody knows which of the two (or both) is positive for any particular marker. In addition, the set of tests is determined by Dor Yeshorim in consultation with its Poskim. The reality is that Dor Yeshorim has not extended to many more markers even though this ought be cost neutral. A result of Dor Yeshorim’s stance is that there is a new agency, known as JScreen.
JScreen looks at some 200+ diseases. The list is here.
The question now becomes, should one prefer JScreen as this is medically and scientifically a more expansive panel that will show up less prevalent diseases? Note, even if a disease is very rare, for example there is only a 1/10000 probability that a person is carrying the disease, then, for both the male and female to both be carriers, the chance of that occurring is, therefore, 1/100000000 (= 1/10000 squared=0.0001), nevertheless, it is a 25% chance! that the couple’s offspring will have the disease! This probability is constant and does not relate to the prevalence of the disease, and importantly does not impinge on the “Shidduch Crisis” because the chance of both people being carriers is 0.0001! I fear that some Poskim are simply not aware of the statistics and have an arcane notion that the more one tests the greater the effect on the Shidduch Crisis. This is not the case. Indeed, if a disease is incredibly remote (say one in a million probablity), but horribly destructive, then
the chance of a prospective couple going on a Shidduch date both carrying this rare gene, is 0.000000000001 !!!
Should anyone be afraid that this will cut them out of Shidduchim? Not in my mind.
With the above in mind, I was listening to a fascinating podcast hosted by the impressive Rabbi Dovid Lichtenstein on this exact topic.
Rabbi Lichtenstein invited two world-famous Poskim to be live on his podcast. The first was מורי ורבי HaRav Hershel Schachter שליט׳׳א and the second was HaRav Binyamin Forst שליט׳׳א. Rav Schachter was gently firm and stated that there really ought to be no reason we aren’t finding out whatever we can to prevent a calumny. (It should be noted that it is estimated that couples who have a seriously ill child, have a 50% divorce rate, due to the incredible and inevitable pressure on a marriage). In Rav Schachter’s eyes, it is the plain Halacha in Shulchan Aruch אבן העזר, סימן ב which determines practice:
לֹא יִשָּׂא אָדָם אִשָּׁה לֹא מִמִּשְׁפַּחַת מְצֹרָעִין וְלֹא מִמִּשְׁפַּחַת נִכְפִּין, וְהוּא שֶׁהֻחְזַק שָׁלֹשׁ פְּעָמִים שֶׁיָּבוֹאוּ בְּנֵיהֶם לִידֵי כָּךְ:
A man shouldn’t marry a women from a leprous family nor from a nekafim. If a family has three instances the next children will have the presumption of being this way.
Seemingly, the only counter-argument is that we should be careful not to ‘play God’ and if we use medical research to such an extent, it could be viewed as “interfering” with creation. (We do interfere with creation though—we’ve basically eradicated Polio … is that a bad thing!?)
Rav Forst, who is a widely accepted Charedi Posek in the United States, was not happy about using JScreen over Dor Yeshorim, and advised that he cannot understand why one should look for such uncommon diseases, and that we should have more faith in Hashem. He goes as far as stating (I assume that he didn’t know Rav Schachter had been on before him) that no respectable Posek would suggest that couples undertake a larger panel of tests, per JScreen. Indeed, not only Rav Schachter but also Rav Dr. J. David Bleich are strongly in favour of wider testing. It could be argued that R’ Moshe Feinstein ז׳ל would also have agreed with that stance. Critically, I am not sure whether Rabbi Forst knew the מציאות that if the male and female carry the remote disease, that there is always a constant 25% chance (one in four!) that a child will inherit it.
This is a poignant example which amplifies a difference between Centrist Orthodoxy and Charedi Judaism. The Charedi approach appears to be reluctantly using Science as an ingredient in a kosher Jewish existence. When they do engage with Science, they are careful to limit this so that uncommon cases are not tested. There is a latent Charedi feeling (הרגש) that too much science implies that God is lessened in the equation of השגחה. Accordingly, they quote the verse of תמים תהיה עם ה׳ אלוקיך. It is important to be über pure in one’s relationship with God, and testing for “remote” diseases expresses a lack of faith in God’s choices and a lack of Bitachon!
Rav Schachter, however, uses the poignant example of a blind person who is playing near the seashore and is easily swept into the water. If we can see: that is, Science is able to help us, then there is no excuse to make oneself ‘blind’ and ignore what is easily found out. Rav Schachter is not challenged by Science. In his worldview, the Doctor has been given the Torah right to heal. Yes, they do interfere with the progression of illness! Furthermore, a Doctor who does not use the best medicine of his or her time is grossly negligent. Rav Schachter sees the advice of Tannaim in the Gemora in respect of Medicine, and the same applies to the Rambam, as being the best medicine of that time. We don’t follow that today! We also continue to follow the best medicine of our time. That is the Halachic imperative.
This chasm between the reality of medical-cum-scientific endeavour and the feeling that it is external to our Torah mandated Halacha (because its source is secular) is an important and critical distinction between Centrist (or Modern) Orthodoxy and Charedi versions of Orthodoxy.
Reb Moshe, himself, was never a predictable “all is forbidden” style Posek. This is one of the things that made him so very great. Reb Moshe would often rule in a lenient way and buttress his argument with prime sources, as opposed to later Acharonim. He is described as having ‘broad shoulders’. Consider this: even though Reb Moshe, for example, was stringent on himself not to use milk which was produced under the regulation of a Government, he had such milk at home, and his family partook of it. Indeed, his son Reb Dovid, who is a prominent Posek, still does. Reb Moshe was certainly not a ‘standard’ Charedi Posek. On this matter, Reb Moshe in a responsum on Tay Sachs balances these opposing concepts in his discussion about genetic testing before marriage (Igros Moshe EH 4:10). First, he writes, since the probability of both spouses being carriers is minute it may be included in the precept of “תמים תהיה” according to Rashi, which instructs us not to delve into the future. However, he then writes, since the test is easily available and if an inflicted child is born it is devastating, the public should be educated about their options! Reb Moshe was the real deal, a truly great Posek, without fear or favour, and with a sensitive social understanding.
We close noting that Rabbi Forst advocates that women not test themselves for the BRCA gene, a gene associated רחמנא ליצלן to breast and ovarian cancer, until they are 40+. The illness is not dependent on a husband. Rabbi Forst argues that the knowledge serves no real purpose since the women can have surgery at 40+ and remove the chances of cancer. I am not sure I understand. The surgery is radical and not at all easy for a woman. Rabbi Forst comes across as if it’s another (routine) surgery (Tonsilectomy?). Secondly, I would have thought that if we can aid medical and scientific research by attempting treatments on people before they are 40 (after finding out through a test) then we should do so! Imagine if they come up with a simpler treatment via some injection of specially designed stem cells. Would we not be involved in that from day 1? As I understand it, there is a higher incidence of problematic BRCA genes in Jewish people. Indeed, Rabbi Bleich suggests that we should, if possible, find out as much as we can by testing at birth. Of course, we do now test at birth, but only for those illnesses that can be treated.
In summary: one in four ought never be שומר פתאים ה׳ and the importance of Halacha engaging with the quality Science we have available, is critical!
לעלוי נשמת אבי מורי ר’ שאול זעליג בר׳ יהודה הכהן בלבין
נפטר ג’ שבט תשע״ג
In memory of the fifth Yohr Tzeit of my dear father,
R’ Shaul Zelig HaCohen Balbin ז׳ל
בְּרָב עָם הַדְרַת מֶלֶךְ
“The splendour of a King (God) is manifest through fulsome participation“
This phrase appears in Tanach, Mishlei (14:28). שלמה המלך notes that the quality of a מצווה is enhanced when that מצווה is performed in the context of a bigger group of people. The commentary מצודת דוד supports this plain understanding, which is also the simple meaning implied in the גמרא Pesachim 64B.
What are the parameters of this phrase? What is bigger? Is three enough? ten? As many as possible? Is such a larger participatory group to be understood as a הידור מצווה, a better way to do a מצווה or is it intrinsic to the required quality of said מצווה to the extent that it is required. For example—and this example motivated this essay—assume a person is davening in a Shule which has twenty people for Maariv. Of those twenty people, two are חיובים (such as one may be a mourner in the 11 months and the other may have Yohr Tzeit on that night). Assume that both have a custom to lead the davening and say קדיש. There is now a choice:
Assuming the interpretation that בְּרָב עָם הַדְרַת מֶלֶךְ is a הידור מצווה one may rationalise splitting the מנין on the grounds that a person affects a הידור only once the fundamental מצווה has been established. Given that two people consider it their fundamental need to lead the davening (because they wish to give נחת to the נפטר so that they will have an עלית נשמה), perhaps one could argue that every group of two additional people who may subsequently arrive, ought to be split evenly between the two מנינים, so that each has ‘maximised’ its size vis-à-vis בְּרָב עָם. The other approach, which perhaps sits a little easier?, is that a-priori, when one has a מצווה to fulfill, one should do that מצווה with as many people as possible לכתחילה. Of course, if there aren’t many people then the basic מצווה is still achieved. Its beauty, however, is enhanced, like the beauty of an אתרוג, when it is possible to meet the “A grade” version of the מצווה through a bigger crowd or participation.
Consider this example. The Midrash (תורת כהנים (9:2 describes the process of קמיצה, where the כהן takes some fine flour for the קרבן מנחה and with three of his fingers holds onto a blob of flour, while the top and bottom fingers (index and pinky) are used to ‘smooth off’ any protruding flour. In that process, it is possible that the one כהן performs all the actions of קמיצה. That כהן happens to be on scheduled guard duty. There are, however, other כהנים who potentially can help. Consequently, the Midrash quotes בְּרָב עָם הַדְרַת מֶלֶךְ and suggests that each step of the process be performed by a different כהן, and in this way, since more people are involved in the real מצווה of קמיצה, God’s majesty is enhanced. (One כהן passes the flour, another holds the special vessel and another performs the rounding off the flour. Alternatively, where oil is mixed with the flour, one measures, another kneads with the oil, and the third rounds off the flour, see (תוספות ר’’ש משאנץ שם). The Midrash derives this approach from the פסוק which states והביאה אל בני אהרן הכהנים. The plural indicates a Torah preference for more people to be involved.
The plural is used to increase the number involved in the מצווה. It seems that the preference to have more people involved in a מצווה is more than a qualitative improvement. Since the תורה explicitly advises that more כהנים are required, we might learn from this that in all cases “the more the merrier” is a fundamental aspect of the מצווה. On the other hand, one could argue the opposite. The תורה had to tell us to use more כהנים here (as per גמרא Menachos 7a) because בְּרָב עָם on its own, is not an imperative in general, but rather a better way to do things.
An example involving the sprinkling of the blood: the משנה in Pesachim (5:6) states explicitly that once the blood of a קרבן was collected and passed from one כהן to another, this is performed through a chain of Cohanim until the last Cohen nearest to the מזבח performs the זריקה sprinkling. The גמרא Pesachim 64B states that the reason many כהנים are involved is to make sure as many people are taking part in the מצווה as per the פסוק of בְּרָב עָם הַדְרַת מֶלֶךְ .
Indeed the אור זרוע: קטח is of the view that for every מצווה that can be broken up into parts (eg תפילה בציבור) it is better if partial honours are undertaken by different people, as opposed to one person doing all the davening, layning, and then saying haftora.
Another example is brought by the רמב’’ם in (הלכות בכורים (4:16, where the רמב’’ם notes that as the farmers approach ירושלים to present their first fruits, they pause and gather together in the central town of the regional area and then march en masse in the morning to ירושלים עיר הקודש to offer their first fruits. Why don’t they go up in the order that they happen to arrive? Why do they gather in a central town first and arrive in a block? The רמב’’ם explicitly states that it is required that they come as a larger block and not as individuals. Again, we see the importance of involving a crowd in the performance of a מצווה. One might argue that the רמב’’ם needed to tell us this law because we would not have done so in a large group otherwise. Alternatively, one could argue that בְּרָב עָם is always a requirement. However, sometimes we are directed in the method through which many people can indeed be involved.
An unrelated but similarly qualitative approach to a מצווה is the concept of זריזים מקדימין למצוות—those who are punctilious observe a מצווה at the earliest opportunity. A well-known example is that of ברית מילה which is done first thing in the morning, even though it might be easier for people wishing to attend an accompanying סעודה to have the ברית in the evening. We learn this from אברהם אבינו and וישכם אברהם בבקר.
What do we do when זריזים מקדימין למצוות clashes with בְּרָב עָם? For example, if there is a small crowd on time for מעריב during the week, should they wait a little longer as there would certainly be a bigger מנין? On the other hand, since the gazetted time has been reached and there is a מנין there is excitement to daven מעריב (yes I know it’s a רשות) so perhaps one should Daven immediately at the first opportunity. The חיי אדם in הלכות זהירות מצווה 58:7 states that זריזים מקדימין למצוות has preference over בְּרָב עָם based on the גמרא Rosh Hashana 32B. The גמרא asks about the place for the saying of הלל in שחרית. If we do so at the first opportunity then it is immediately after שחרית, and is an example of זריזים מקדימים. On the other hand we could have delayed הלל to מוסף where there would be more people and בְּרָב עָם. We see from this משנה and גמרא that we prefer זריזים over בְּרָב עָם.
Another example of בְּרָב עָם occurs when one wishes to bless the Moon after ראש חדש. We know that one is able to do so until the 10th of the month. Imagine it is day 8, and one observes a clear moon. In such a case a person is able to say the blessing over the moon without any crowd, on his own. Should he wait until מוצאי שבת that is approaching where, if the moon is visible, there will be a nice crowd of people => בְּרָב עָם הַדְרַת מֶלֶךְ saying it together? The ביאור הלכה on הלכות ראש חדש ס’ תכו:ב states explicitly that לכתחילה, in the first instance, it is better to say it בְּרָב עָם. In other words, wait until מוצאי שבת (if it is before the 10th) and do away with זריזים מקדימים!
We could argue that the limits for בְּרָב עָם are that the מצווה itself is not a private מצווה. Therefore, for ברית מילה there would be no בְּרָב עָם whereas for a מצווה which is done for a ציבור or by the ציבור we do have בְּרָב עָם. An example of the ציבור would be saying בורא מאורי האש for many people as opposed to few. Others say that בְּרָב עָם doesn’t apply to ברכות הנאה (like בורא מאורי האש) and only to ברכת המצווה. That is a separate topic.
One more example is in the שולחן ערוך Orach Chaim (90:9) where the מחבר recommends that a person should try to daven with a מנין in Shule. The משנה ברורה 28 (ibid) notes that if one has two Shules nearby and one Shule has a bigger מנין, and otherwise both מנינים are decorous, then one should daven in the מנין that has the bigger crowd because of בְּרָב עָם. (This also finds its way in Halacha where people make Minyanim in their houses, say, on Friday Night instead of davening in a nearby Shule. One should ask their Local Orthodox Rabbi. From where I stand, it would appear to be a practice that is contraindicated according to Halacha. This is also similar to layning the Megilla privately when it could be done בְּרָב עָם at Shule)
I have not in any way exhausted the different considerations with respect to this notion. The topic certainly isn’t done justice by this short essay. That being said, let us now return to the example mentioned initially:
where there are twenty people and two are חיובים, and as a result the twenty is split into two מנינים of ten, should one split the מנין or is it better to split the service itself where possible between two חזנים!
It could be argued that the חיובים of a mourner are not a true Halachic imperative. Rather, they are מנהגים that have been adopted with the single aim of giving נחת to the departed, so that the נפטר will attain an עלית נשמה. Accordingly, if the מנין is split, and there is (apparently) no הדרת מלך, we need to ask ourselves if in fact the נפטר would draw נחת from an act which ignores the הדרת מלך of הקב”ה and creates small adjacent minyanim?
There is an interesting text in גמרא Succa 51B. The Gemora describes an enormous Basilica Synagogue in Alexandria, Egypt, which could hold six hundred thousand people, or even twice that. That number may be an exaggeration; I don’t know. Either way, the Synagogue held very many people to the extent that there was no way to actually hear the חזן and know when to answer the חזן’s קדיש. The solution to this problem was to use flags, which acted as a semaphore, so that the people knew when to say אמן. A raised flag might have meant “time to say אמן”. Mori V’Rabbi Rav Hershel Schachter שליט”א informed me of the פירוש of the חיד”א in his פתח עינים on עין יעקב, in reference to that גמרא in Succa 51B. The חיד”א asks a good question. Surely, if there were so many people in that Alexandrian Basilica Shule, the solution to the problem of the חזן being inaccessible would be to split the מנינים into smaller parts such that each חזן was heard and there would be no need for flags. I don’t know how that would work logistically, but it’s certainly a logical approach to ameliorating the problem. Answers the חיד”א, this solution was not permitted, that is, they were not permitted to split the large מנין. Why? Because a large מנין personified the majesty of a great and large crowd, all davening at the same time. That is, it would have been prohibited to split given בְּרָב עָם הַדְרַת מֶלֶךְ!
Whatever the case, it is somewhat difficult to understand why some split מנינים. This is especially so when one can hear parts of the davening from a split מנין that is within ear shot.
After I finished this essay, I came across a talk from Dayan Osher Weiss on this topic. If your hebrew is reasonable, you should be able to understand. (At the time of writing, I haven’t yet listened to the Shiur). I also found that the נטאי גבריאל brings two Responsa which give permission to split the minyan. Alas, I haven’t yet looked into these via hebrewbooks.org)
[hat tip Anon]
(I refrain from commenting on the permissibility of davening with instruments and assume without probity that עת לעשות לה׳ הפרו תורתך)
[Hat tip Fendi]
There is a new definition of moral hypocrisy. This is (especially an egalitarian neo orthodox minyan) a Shule, Minyan, Temple or women’s service that still utilises Shlomo Carlebach’s tunes.
His daughter clearly knows of her fathers misdeeds and suffered herself as a victim.
See Here for the story.
His tunes are stained and belong in oblivion. They cannot conjure spirituality. The analog of a person dipping in a Mikva while holding something impure, readily comes to mind.
There is no defence.
I am as guilty of this phenomenon as anyone. When one stops to think for a moment, these choices are the last any ‘diplomat’ would feel comfortable with.
have in common.
It’s amazing and I’m not sure we stop and think about it and soberly give הכרת הטוב adequately.
If you were Abbas, you could be forgiven for thinking that things aren’t going your way. That being said, happenings, as opposed to the ineffective wait and see of Obama, and useless shuffling of John Kerry, have caused realpolitik to materialise.
All these happenings appear to be consistent with an eschatological redemptive process. I find the lack of precedent for such a quartet of advisors, truly stunning. The anti Semitic elements in the State Department will be doing everything to undermine Trump.
I recall, in my twenties, that the Rabbanut in Israel had chosen the Tenth of Teves as an appropriate day for which Kaddish should be recited for those who were murdered in the Holocaust and about whom we do not have the date of their cruel demise. If I remember correctly, it was also when I learned Rabbi Chaim David Halevi’s עשה לך רב, that I came across this idea. That background also prompted me to buy and read his biography, more recently. If you haven’t come across R Chaim David Halevi’s scholarship, I recommend it.
What is the importance of the Tenth of Teves? It is one of the minor fasts that are described explicitly in Tanach. The siege of Yerushalayim our Holy City, during the 1st Temple, began on the 10th of Teves. Symbolically this represented the beginning of a tragic, calamitous, series of unfolding Galus-oriented historical events. Indeed, the 8th and 9th of the Month are also recorded as days identified as sorrowful. This fast represents our existential Galus state and is observed even if it turns out on Friday, Erev Shabbos.
The words used by God to describe these events to the Prophet Yechezkel were the same words used in conjunction with the description of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, on which we fast even if the day falls out on the Shabbos: the words “On this very day” “B’etzem hayom hazeh.”
The Israeli Chief Rabbinate saw in that date, an appropriate day to add the mourning for those who were murdered in the Holocaust. In particular, that date was also chosen as the one to say Kaddish for those whose date of murder is unknown. The policy has been that we have enough sad days and associated fasts, and whilst the Holocaust is surely the major calamity in our history after the temples were destroyed, commemorating it during Nissan isn’t recommended (via Yom Hashoa) because we don’t utilise Nissan for sad events.
The link between the Tenth of Teves and the Holocaust is clear. The fact that the Jews were removed from their Capital Holy city of Jerusalem, and its Holy Temple represents the existential Galus which we find ourselves in today, and which will only be terminated once the Redeemer comes upon Zion, gives it a pointed segue.
In the past, this detail didn’t mean too much to me because I didn’t say Kaddish and sadly, I don’t see many Shules choosing this day (or the ninth of Av) as formally remembering the Holocaust. I do not know why the 10th of Teves would be objectionable to anyone.
These days, I say Kaddish on my father’s a’h Yohr Tzeit, and those of my parent’s parents, and other members of the family who for whom nobody says Kaddish. Accordingly, I now ask myself whether I should also say Kaddish on the Tenth of Teves for members of our family who were murdered on an unknown day during the Holocaust. I can’t think of a reason why I would not. Indeed, I ask myself why anyone who is able to say Kaddish, and knows they had family members who were murdered on an unknown date, would not say Kaddish? It seems straightforward that they should. The only reason I can think of is that this fast is mentioned in Tanach and tacking on other reasons might not be appropriate. I don’t agree however. History for Jews is a chain reaction. It is not the outcome of disparate discrete events.
What a great surprise.
I had to obtain an item and the gentleman on the other end of WhatsApp and I arranged for a time when I would pick up said item.
Let’s call this gentleman Mr. M.
Mr. M asked if I wanted to pick the item up from his house or from his workplace. It transpired that he lives around the corner, so I suggested that if it wasn’t a problem, to nominate a suitable time/day and I would pick up the item from his home. A day and time were chosen and I went to M’s home.
M is a Holocaust survivor in his nineties, most articulate, speaking an impeccable English. Sitting in his living room, it was apparent that his wife had passed away and M lived alone. I have a nostalgic attraction to older people who can describe the world prior to the Holocaust, and in Mr. M, I had a survivor who had not lost the sharp mind of his youth, and who seemed to remember everything. Stemming from our conversation, it was plain that Mr. M was struggling with the meaning of the Holocaust and the role of God. Indeed, this was subsequently confirmed at our second meeting today.
We didn’t speak Yiddish, although I suspect we could have. In fact, I know we could have. Mr. M was born in Vilna. Every person I had met from Vilna, was super proud that they came from Vilna. This was a badge of honour. Vilna! One thinks immediately of the great Gaon of Vilna, Rav Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman, the Gra, זצ׳ל.
Facing this holocaust survivor, I didn’t mention the Gra as Mr. M would have heard about him but not seen him, of course. Instead, I said
“Vilna! let me tell you that you had the world’s number one Posek at that time, Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, after which I mentioned some of Rav Chaim Ozer’s famous Piskei Halacha (see שו”ת אחיעזר). I sensed some satisfaction from M, that I had a theological connection with Vilna”
I could tell that he was somewhat drawn to me because I was “modern”, in the Secular world of academia, and yet committed. It was clear that his view of religious Jews was limited to the Charedi style of Jew. I mentioned Rav Chaim Ozer’s view about electricity. Rav Chaim Ozer held that a bulb with a filament was no different to a candle, and as such, he (like Rav Chaim Brisker and others) used an electric bulb בדווקא for Havdala, and with a Bracha.
Here I was, a middle-aged upstart, trying to impress this survivor with my knowledge of Vilna; a tad anachronistic. Rav Chaim Ozer was an immense scholar, and מורי ורבי, Rav Soloveitchik ז׳ל gave a momentous hesped after Rav Chaim Ozer passed away, when Rav Soloveitchik was still senior in the Aguda.
Casually, Mr. M exclaimed
“I knew Rav Chaim Ozer personally.”
Flabbergasted, I asked
“how did you come to know him?”
to which he answered
“he was our next door neighbour.”
I was floored! Feeling mostly trivial, I asked if he could relay a story about Rav Chaim Ozer and himself. He had mentioned that his grandfather was very religious, as was his father. Mr. M remembers as a little boy, people coming over and there were huge disagreements about a Talmudic question.
One Shabbos afternoon, a young Mr. M, was famished. He was not yet Bar Mitzvah and decided to sneak into the nearby forest to find some food. Chancing on some mushrooms, Mr. M gathered the mushrooms and realised that because it was Shabbos, he would be unable to bring the mushrooms back to his house without people noticing. This was not something one did on Shabbos, especially living next door to Rav Chaim Ozer. Mr. M noted the tallest nearby tree and dug a hole to bury his booty at the base of the tree. The forest didn’t present any formal pathways, and the tree served as a semaphore in retrieving the mushrooms the next day. As. Mr. M was starting to bury the mushrooms, he was startled to hear someone trudging through the forest nearby. Looking up, mushrooms in hand, he was face to face with the great Gaon, Rav Chaim Ozer! (Mr. M noted that Rav Chaim Ozer would often go for a walk every day, alone, and this was not unusual.) M’s face turned bright red with embarrassment, as he stood up slowly, allowing the mushrooms to slip from his grasp. Rav Chaim Ozer, sensing that Mr. M was embarrassed to be ‘caught’, put his arm on the shoulder of Mr. M and said,
“Don’t worry, this is not work”
I was struck by Rav Chaim Ozer’s sensitivity. He had chosen the right words because Mr. M said that after he heard this from the mouth of Rav Chaim Ozer, he felt more comfortable with his religion. (he had mentioned that people talking in Shule in Vilna, annoyed him because they seemed insincere, and he seemed hypersensitive about hypocrisy)
I sensed that Mr. M didn’t appreciate that Rav Chaim Ozer was diplomatically placating him, rather than stating a coarse halacha to a boy. It didn’t matter.
We spoke again today for another 1.5 hours, at his request, and I was rather pleased that our discussion apparently went some way to alleviating some lingering questions that he had.
For example, today, he asked me point-blank “Who perpetrated the Holocaust, God or man?” I answered that the Holocaust was a tragic exercise of free will, given to humanity. He appeared surprised and was glad I didn’t answer that it was “a punishment for burying mushrooms on Shabbos”.
Sadly, there aren’t too many Mr. M’s remaining. I will make an effort to revisit him.
[hat tip ZAB]
I don’t know that the tragic events of today are even related to a Muslim nor do I have a sense that it was a terrorist attack at this stage (it certainly has all the hallmarks). Yet, this Imam seems somehow convinced and offers his solution. The one thing I will say about him, is that he comes across as very sincere.
Judge for yourself
[Hat tip Krakower]
I’m scratching my head trying to understand why it is that seemingly only academic left wingers fail to understand the bleedingly obvious realpolitik of Jordanian Arabs who live in Israel and who post 1967 considered themselves the only Palestinians. Even if I don’t understand why the chardonnay left shuns their own basic identity in favour of some feel-good Reconstructionist manifesto, they would do well to listen to Israel’s left-wing paragon, David Ben Gurion. Ben Gurion didn’t live outside Israel in the plush and dislocating comfort of a University Judaic Department. Let them listen to the father of the left-wing, and what he has to say about giving ירושלים עיר הקודש or הגולן
After consuming that video, even the secular Ben Gurion felt it was a bridge too far to abandon even part of ירושלים עיר הקודש.
As self-described University Scholars, they can be expected to have read basic history. Here is the case, laid out in simple but compelling terms. Is Danny Ayalon wrong?
By now, you must be asking yourself, Nu!, what is this statement all about. [Edited emphasis is from me].
We write as Jewish Studies scholars to express our dismay at the Trump administration’s decision to reverse decades of bipartisan U.S. policy by declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel, and authorizing the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv, outside of a negotiated political framework that ends the legal state of occupation and ensures respect for the rights of all Israelis and Palestinians to Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is of immense religious and thus emotional significance to Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike. It is the focus of national aspirations for both Israelis and Palestinians. We hope one day to see a world in which all inhabitants of the land enjoy equal access to the city’s cultural and material resources. Today, unfortunately, that is not the case.
As the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem* has documented, Palestinian residents of Jerusalem endure systematic inequalities, including an inequitable distribution of the city’s budget and municipal services, routine denial of building permits that are granted to Jewish residents, home demolitions, and legal confiscation of property for Jewish settlement. In addition, Palestinians in the West Bank, unlike Jewish Israelis resident in that territory, require a special permit to visit Jerusalem’s holy sites.
In this context, a declaration from the United States government that appears to endorse sole Jewish proprietorship over Jerusalem adds insult to ongoing injury and is practically guaranteed to fan the flames of violence. We therefore call on the U.S. government to take immediate steps to deescalate the tensions resulting from the President’s declaration and to clarify Palestinians’ legitimate stake in the future of Jerusalem.
You can see the embarrassing list signatories here. (Can you find the well-known Melbourne signatory in the first ten? Shocked?) Perform a search across random names, you will find a common thread, and it isn’t ירושלים עיר הקודש.
We in Australia, should feel ‘honoured’ and not surprised by the current number 5. Even the Saudis suggested that Abu Dis had as much meaning for the Arab Palestinians as Jerusalem. Obdurate countries will admit privately that only Israel can guarantee religious freedom to all religions as they have done.
Let’s make just a few observations about the highlighted emphases in the letter.
One more thing: the Scholars write about decades of USA “bi-partisan” agreement about Jerusalem. That is true. Both the Democrats (too right-wing?) and the Republicans had actually voted to move the Embassy. It was only successive presidential fiat that stopped this happening. Why did presidents not carry out the democratic will of the Congress and Senate? Was there a letter from the Scholars about the threat to democracy?
Finally, unless Trump is going to build the embassy in East Jerusalem, why would anyone but a self-hating Jew have an issue with the reality that a modern state of 70 years has a right to host embassies on unoccupied (according to the holy UN) tracts of Western Jerusalem. Clearly not doing so has failed miserably.
It can be most cogently argued that the only way to make peace is for the other side to accept the reality that Israel is the homeland for all Jews.
Surely the Scholars aren’t bluffed and know that settlements aren’t the reason Arafat and Holocaust-denier Abbas, fail to accept this fact! For them, we all know that Tel Aviv, Haifa etc are also settlements.
Even J-Street were forced to come out and make statements condemning those who consider Tel Aviv … West Jerusalem as settlements.
The argument is patently simple. If an embassy is built at non settlement Tel Aviv, then why oh why should it not also be moved to non settlement (West) Jerusalem in the least? The answer is obvious. Tel Aviv is a settlement too in their eyes.
Technically speaking, Mark Dreyfus QC, of the Australian Labor party, wonders whether Josh Freydenberg, a member of the Liberal party may have dual citizenship because Josh’s mother was evicted from Hungary during the holocaust and arrived stateless to Australia.
It is true that Hungarian law may consider Freydenberg himself an Hungarian citizen as a child of his pre-Holocaust Hungarian mother’s citizenship and thereby Freydenberg would be considered as an Australian and Hungarian citizen and ineligible to hold his seat.
Dreyfus, whose paternal grandfather was Jewish fled Germany after Krystallnacht and is the shadow attorney general.
Everyone is well aware of the level of complicity afforded to Hitler by Hungarians. Even if there is something salivatingly purist in Dreyfus suggesting that Freydenberg needs to show he isn’t a Hungarian citizen, surely one Jew would never make such a suggestion against a fellow Jew especially in this context?
This episode where he excites in pursuing Freydenberg for political and/or legal reasons is unsurprising and typical of politicians.
In simple terms, if Mark wants to engage in punctilious discovery of Josh’s roots, he might expect the same in return.
While everyone talks about the positives after the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the #metoo hash tag, we need to wake up to a reality that cannot be ignored.
Shlomo Carlebach is the love child of postmodernist left and right wing Jews. A brilliant man with oodles of charisma, his only defence against potent and cogent #metoo is that the dead can’t defend themselves.
The cloud over his activities though has been ignored by the sanctimonious left #metoo for whom his songs appear to be the ‘holy of Holies’
It is hard for me to understand how the egalitarian ones at Shira Chadasha and the Open Orthodox types still continue to regale in his production. How dare they preach while they choose to ignore #metoo #rebshlomo
The Lubavitcher Rebbe z’l clearly said that Carlebach material should not be used in any Chabad Shule and, when Shlomo was still alive, he said efforts to bring him to Repentance should take place, but not within Chabad.
Another link in this old chain was published in the forward.
It’s time to call out the tree huggers and right wingers who cleave to his music as if it is the pinnacle of ‘spirituality’.
Is Carlebach beyond #metoo?
If so, why so?
Unsurprisingly the majority of voters decided that they were in favour of homosexual marriage. Perhaps thirty years ago the vote would have been different, but lots of things were different then.
So, how should the Jew react. I do not address myself to those whose religions are based on Orthodox Judaism. They aren’t interested in my opinion, and I feel sorry that they harbour certain beliefs that they do.
I ask the question of Orthodox, practicing or otherwise, Jews. I believe the answer to this question will be addressed from the pulpit by the Orthodox Rabbis of our Shules; at least most of them (especially those who speak more about the goings on in the world than the weekly portion of the Torah).
I predict there will be (at least) the following five approaches:
The safe option: Say nothing. Congregants who are against it will remain so, and those who are for it, may come to dislike the Rabbi and/or Judaism and move to greener pastures. This is halachically שב ואל תעשה. It has a place and is an approach with some basis.
The bold option: Say that we live in a democracy and this allows us our freedoms, including our freedom to practice our own religion. That society (and yes, the ‘Jewish’ seats of Melbourne Ports and Wentworth were very strong supporters of homosexual marriage) chose this new path means that we should hold on ever so much more forcefully to the unambiguous Torah Law, and never allow these arrangements in a Jewish (Orthodox) setting.
A variation of the bold option, is the populist option. It is akin to the Rabbi who is more of a friend than a spiritual mentor who is friendly. They will talk about democracy as above and free choice, but will stop short of making statements which unambiguously present the view that the choice itself is not in accordance with Halacha, be it Jewish or Noachide.
The delusional option: these will be words along the lines of the populist option but without any whiff of negativity. Remember, a child “doesn’t get dirty at school”, rather, “one part of their clothes comes home clean”. The delusional ones oversee a void of suitable educational programs. Their congregants come only three times (now it’s two, and yizkor is all but forgotten) a year. Every manner of schtick is used to herd them to an event. In the end though, congregants cannot navigate the basics of a siddur, the true spiritual transmission from the well-intentioned Rabbi approaches zero and the role occupies a cross between a popularity contest and a feel good eloquent sermon.
The marginal option: this one is seemingly akin to the delusional approach but falls outside that boundary. It is known as Open Orthodoxy. They actually announce Mazel Tovs and the like for such unions. This is beyond the Orthodox pale.
Where will your Shule/Synagogue/Shtiebel/Temple align itself?
[There is a sixth approach of ‘fire and brimstone’ but I consider that approach a waste of time]
Free Choice is a critical component of Judaism. Without free choice, there is no notion of reward and punishment. However, free choice does not mean that the actual choice taken must be supported or considered in keeping with a God-defined morality. As such, a choice antithetical to Torah must be respectfully disagreed with as being incongruent with Torah.
[ Ironically, it wasn’t long ago that people were downplaying the importance of the marriage institution and strongly promoting the “partnership”/”de facto” model. Even today’s society wouldn’t say that one must get married, would it?]
We don’t have marriage anyway. We have Kiddushin. We also respect those created in the image of God, but we do not have to agree with all that they propose or practice.
If it ever got to a point where a religious functionary had to carry out a homosexual marriage according to secular law, then it would be ייהרג ואל יעבור and pack your bags and hop onto a flight to ארץ הקודש sooner.
Although many social studies are by their nature bound to be imperfect due to the preponderance of unknown variables and the law of the excluded middle, there has been a consistent statistic that over 95% of men and women are heterosexual. Despite the sweeping feeling that marriage was ‘unnecessary’ and fewer were ‘bothering’ to engage in the ritual, preferring the ‘de facto’ status, these numbers represent an existential reality that attracts foul-mouthed, uncouth, violent, intolerant and extreme undercurrents of pseudo-fascist protest that have given birth to scenes reminiscent of the drug infested, psychedelic 1960’s where “no war” was the catch cry. In some work places, those who had “Vote No” signs on their doors, found these signs violently torn asunder. So much for the death of Stalin and Marx.
This blog is not and has not ever been a blog void of the influence and directives of Centrist Orthodoxy. Wherever possible, I have attempted to both write the mainstream centrist Orthodox view on contemporary issues and resisted the temptation to assume that I had some ‘holier than though’ view which transcended it. I have also attempted to avoid a metastasized Torah void , Masoretically vacuous view that purports to vaguely occupy the pedestal of organised, resilient, religion-את גאון יעקב אשר אהב סלה.
There are many places of work who have felt compelled to emblazon rainbows and posters, and principally declared a “collective” view that distances itself from the institution of heterosexual marriage, though such predictive sexual attraction stands at 95%. Contrary views are anathema and stand accused of a homophobic, cruel, uncaring, anti-civil rights opposition. Who is the judge and who is the jury? Who stands condemned without trial? Who are the harbingers of Judaism as opposed to secular mandrakes?
Truth is the first casualty in such emotive and redemptive moments?
I steer away arguing from a point of personal preference or philosophical bent. My life only allows personal preference in as much as the ד׳ אמות של הלכה permits within its hallowed inviolable boundaries.
Curiously, there seems to be a correlation, or is it a causation, that removing elements of עול מלכות שמים in Open Orthodox, Shira Chadasha outliers, leads to a steady succession of less mainstream and über emancipated strains of Judaic practice hovering between Open Orthodox and Conservative movements.
I have been disappointed that so many Jewish brethren and sisters fail to see their lives and life choices through the prism of a collective corpus of rich Jewish Religion. What else has been the mainstay of untainted Jewish and remotely Jewish culture.
Let us begin from the simple to the more complex.
A man comes home and informs his parents that he has met a lovely non-Jewish girl at University. Now turn back the clock fifty years. The door would be firmly shut. The man would be on one side of the door or on the other side of the door. Rarely, and this most certainly does happen in our day, the girl (or indeed male) is genuinely attracted to Judaism and wishes to become one of our people, in the same way that Ruth became a righteous convert and was the progenitor of the Messiah the son of David, no less.
Now let us turn the clock forward only 20 years. It’s a new world. What was holy, inviolable and intractable, is now quite common. The male or female gentile is invited to the traditional Friday night dinner with gefilte fish and chicken soup as the remnant of a transmogrified epicurean cholesterol enema.
The children have רחמנא ליצלן shacked up with their new “partner”-a euphemism for a possibly “penultimate” marriage, union, coupling, conjugal bond, civil partnership, hookup, defacto, or other synonym connoting anything but the legal entity of ‘shudder’ marriage. Pseudo spouses are now welcomed with a shrug of the shoulders and the refrain “what can I do? I can love them or lose them”. Echoes morbidly in the silence of Springvale.
It’s never quite as tragic if the female is Jewish, but you need to ask why the über modern types haven’t overturned the תורה שבעל פה and decided the הלכה according to the discarded view of the Tanna so that they adopt the equanimous male lineage!
Let’s now turn out attention to today’s burning issue, in Australia, where our surveys, ironically filled in by not yet religious people of all shades, are now empowered to redefine a uniquely religious concept! Do they care about religious concepts? If it’s all about having the same rights, then there are enough unemployed lawyers to re-jig laws where mummy and daddy, mummy and mummy, and daddy and daddy, mummy/daddy and daddy/mummy will soon enjoy the same cornucopia of legal rights. Why, the family court already recognises the dog and cat and their gender is quite irrelevant unless there is a brood.
If this was a vote of Jews only, I am afraid to break the news to fringe dwellers that it is מושבע ועמד מהר סיני. Your view, Jew or Jewess, is irrelevant. This isn’t feel good, anything goes, Reform. That is now acknowledged demographically as a dying appendage.
There is a middle ground here. One could argue that this is a vote of Jews (albeit a tiny minority) and non-Jews (including various religionists). In such a case, perhaps שב ואל תעשה might be the (typically diasporan) response.
“Let’s stay out of this, after all, we want to practice our own religion in freedom”.
I hear this argument but it needs to be buttressed by Halachic underpinnings. Whether we like it or not, Maimonides has coded that non-Jews are encouraged to adopt the minimalist Noachide laws. The Noachide Laws prohibit non-heterosexual sexual acts. The question really is, does one need to teach the Noachide laws or make gentiles aware of these? (Note, these need to be done out of a belief in God, and not some “morality”.)
I wonder whether you find it deliciously ironic, that those Jews who love to quote Yeshayahu (42:6) that we must be a “light unto the nations”
אני ה׳ קראתיך בצדק ואצרך ואתנך לברית עם לאור גויים
I ask them to read what Rashi (and others) says about this Passuk. It will surprise them (Radak excluded)
A perhaps more pertinent verse (49:60) is
והלכו גויים לאורך
See the following via Chabad who championed this outreaching approach, which was endorsed by President George W. Bush.
Now, I am not one who is in a position to say whether this approach or the more insular approach taken (at least in Melbourne) by other Chassidim, and of course Litvaks from the Lakewood Kollel is the correct approach. Mizrachi is an unknown, as they have a long history of not giving respect to halachic pronouncements of their Rabbi unless it is in the ritual sphere alone.
The left-wing of Rabbi Ralph Genende’s Caulfield Shule who want a bit each way (and who unbelievably caused a massive חילול השם when they invited Stephen Greenberg to the edifice in which Rabbi Genende has halachic oversight), and Rabbi Shamir Kaplan of Beit Aharon who makes Rabbi Ralph’s views appear right-wing, are nothing short of incredulous. Clearly, Rabbi Shamir felt the need to not only state his view, but take a secular view. He’s a very likeable man, but if he could tell us which Posek advised him, I’d be obliged.
Is Rabbi Ralph game to tell us whether he voted yes or no, and on what halachic basis he did so? If he’s not, why not? Who Paskened that it’s indeed not an halachic imperative to state a view whether one is a member of the COSV or not.
Nothing I have written above is new or startling, although many are terrified of weighing into the issue if they are classed as bigots or attacked by murky clam-shells dragging their anatomy through the mud.
I do not include the “Open Orthodox” cum Shira Chadasha in this context, where the
“I’m a functionary, no, I’m not really a functionary, but I advertise on facebook that I will “marry anyone” who breathes some form of Judaism, as long as I find at least one pseudo-orthodox minister who I can “blame” for the emancipated, emasculated service of vows that I feel ‘educated’ to perform.
Some of you will be “new” to Open Orthodoxy (YCT) especially in Australia. Rabbi Dr. Benjamin Elton of the Great Synagogue is a right-wing member of this group. He has distanced himself from some of the more extreme YCT members, to his credit. I wonder how many more members have joined or participated since Steven Greenberg felt he had to publicise a personal issue in the edifices, under the aegis of Rabbi Ralph.
Here are a group of choice quotes from the “open” neo-manifesto YCT Open Orthodoxy (sources available upon request)
In 2010, rabbi Asher Lopatin, President of YCT (Open Orthodoxy) participated in the LGBT change prayer breakfast in Chicago Illinois, “The focus of the event was to unite (thus used) local faith-based leaders in a rare gathering that galvanised renewed support and affirmation from the faith community for same-sex civil unions and equality for LGBT people. Lopatin delivered the following message:
Master of the Universe, you instructed us in your wisdom and your understanding in the Torah, in the book of Genesis
“לא טוב היות האדם לבדו“. God in your mercy you told us to establish a society and a community in a way that allows for a person to find a life partner to live a life of companionship and love, with equality, and without discrimination (?) So God bless our public servants to find that life filled with love for themselves and to be able to work hard to make sure that our state and community lives up to God’s merciful and just standards to make sure that everyone has a “right” to seek out that life partner and to live and love together with the full “right” with that person. “לא טוב היות האדם לבדו“. Every person has a right to togetherness and a life filled with love. A life blessed by God, our fate, and our society Amen.
It is perhaps ironic that Lopatin leaves all mention of the word “sex” in his feel-good “between the lines”, new Open non Masoretic “Torah She Bal Peh”.
Professor Daniel Sperber, one of the dwindling few, who Open Orthodoxy lean on as a spiritual guide, entertains the possibility that Orthodox rabbis may perform same-gender marriages. rabbi Ysoscher Katz does not believe Rabbis will ever agree to these alternate unions, though.
I wonder if there is now an halachic imperative to remove Sperber’s books, valuable as they may be, from every Kollel?
It beggars belief that someone like Professor Sperber, who compiled a magnificent work on the etymology of Jewish Minhagim could so profanely and wilfully “white-out” an explicit law in Even HoEzer which (in my reading, for our time) prohibits Yichud during times of חשד.
There is plenty more outrageous material from Open Orthodoxy, but I will limit myself to the above.
This then brings us to the question of do we have to make our views known to the B’nei Noach? Doing so, is clearly a fulfillment of teaching them Torah that they need to know. Certainly we don’t do that filling in a Survey, but a Rabbinic Body should not be afraid to state the Jewish view.
There is a Tosfos in Chagiga 13a and a Gemara in Baba Kama (38a) which seeks to take the opposite view. See R’ Moshe Feinstein in Yoreh Deah (3:89) and others, who take the Tosfos in Chagiga’s view as the final definitive Halacha.
Your mileage may, however, vary. But for God’s sake, don’t make up your own views or be less than careful with your language. Speak to your Competent Local Orthodox Rabbi (CLOR). R’ Moshe Shternbuch of the Eida Charedis (Teshuvos VeHanhagos 3:37) takes a different view to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Reb Moshe, Rav Elyashiv and others. I would imagine that insular view matches most Charedim in Melbourne.
It comes down to the old insular shtetl view versus the אור לגויים approach, except that on this issue those who want us to spread the light ironically, would prefer if we turned down the dimmer. Go figure. איפכא מסתברא!
To young, well-meaning Rabbis, I say, leave the personality contests and the point scoring within your communities.
I wouldn’t give the Jewish News a single quote! What for? They are avowed anti-Orthodox. They are not your friends. They never do you any good. Choose your words very carefully, and behave with real warmth, but let’s not pretend that by using lovely prose and soulful apologies we do anything.
I close with the powerful eternal words of my teacher מורי ורבי הרב Soloveitchik ז׳ל
It is my opinion that Orthodoxy cannot and should not unite with such groups which deny the fundamentals of our Weltanschauung. It is impossible for me to comprehend, for example, how Orthodox Rabbis who spent their best years and absorbed the spirit of Torah She Baal Peh and its traditions, for whom Rabbi Akiva, The Rambam, the Rema, the Gra, Rav Chaim Brisker and other Jewish Sages are the pillars upon which the spiritual world rests, can join with the spiritual leaders for whom this is worthless… From the point of view of the Torah we find the difference between reform and Orthodox much greater than what separated the Perushim and the Tzedukim in the days of the Bayis Sheni, and between the Karaim and the traditionalists in the Gaonic era. Has Jewish History ever recorded an instance of a joint community council that consisted of Karaim and Torah-true Jews.
[from the 1954 Yiddish article in Der Tog Morgen Journey]
Wasnt it a matter of some mirth to find the JCCV (Jewish Community Council of Victoria) taking a view on same-sex marriage! Not only aren’t they democratically elected, and not only did they not seek the views of their constituent members, they didn’t have the common sense to say nothing (שתיקה סייג לחכמה) If it was going to oppose thousands and thousands who do adhere to our tradition, who needs their opinion? Are they that deluded to think that their regal proclamation will make people change their vote? I guess the National Council of Jewish Women (who also only allow left-wing lectures on their premises should hang their heads in shame).
The Holocaust survivors who funded infrastructure would have baulked at the left-leaning Marxist tendencies now being promulgated in the name of “equality” and “human rights”.
[Some source material has been gleaned from the excellent Headlines books by Rabbi Dovid Lichtenstein]
The story of the two sons of Aaron, who played with fire, but followed their own mode of worship is one of the best-known tragedies.
Recently, I chanced upon a piece by Shneur Zalman Reti Waks, current Rabbi of the Ark Centre, here in Melbourne. Reti Waks has also been outspoken about conversions outside the aegis of the Melbourne Beth Din and for strange practices as part of services at the Ark Centre. He wrote:
He wrote in regards the well-known view of the Ibn Ezra on the verses describing the death of Moshe:
The ‘secret of the twelve’ is a reference to his opinion that the last twelve verses of the Torah were not written by Moshe but by Joshua, because they speak about Moshe’s death and the mourning of the Israelites. What we can understand from Ibn Ezra here is that the last twelve verses of the Torah are an example of a broader phenomenon of later editorial comments in the Torah.
I’ve often referred to certain Eureka moments I experienced along the way during different aspects of my education. Well, this Ibn Ezra is a Eureka as good as any other.
Let me explain why this is so. Growing up I was taught, consistent with ultra-orthodox philosophy, that that every word, every syllable, and every letter in the Torah is the word of God, verbatim, as dictated to Moshe.
What we can understand the Ibn Ezra to be is saying is that there is another view. The belief that the Torah is from God, a basic tenet of Judaism, is not at all at odds with the idea that the Torah as we have it contains many passages which were only recorded much after the death of Moshe.
This is perhaps very unsettling to some which is precisely why the Ibn Ezra speaks about it in the most coded fashion.
I believe this teaching to be truly liberating and magnificent. Liberating, because it allows us to divest ourselves of the intellectual straight-jacket imposed by some of the more narrow views of the divine authorship. And magnificent because it has the potential to answer so many seeming inconsistencies in the Torah which hitherto have often been answered inadequately. This idea of a third-party narrator has the promise to explain so much of that away, and it predates modern biblical scholarship, which arrives at a similar conclusion, by 800 years or so!
The Ibn Ezra is most certainly not “another view” which questions “that the Torah is from God”. חס ושלום! To say I was flabbergasted reading Reti Waks’s “discovery” is an understatement. This transcends the Ibn Ezra! It is an open Gemara in Baba Basra (15b) where two Tannaim argue concerning who wrote the verses describing Moshe’s death, as dictated by God Almighty!
It seems Reti Waks, through the Ibn Ezra, has discovered the view of Rabbi Yehuda in the Talmud. This opinion is part and parcel of every “ultra orthodox” curriculum! I am not sure where Reti Waks discovered the “intellectual straight jacket” that he describes, and why it is an affliction.
It would be remiss of me, in context, if I didn’t mention that the Ibn Ezra’s view is not universally held. That is part and parcel of almost every verse in the Torah vis a vis the different views of Rishonim. It would also be remiss of me to fail to note that Reti Waks’s later statements are not those of the Ibn Ezra, or indeed any Orthodox commentator that I can find. When Reti Waks describes a third-party narrator akin to the later “modern biblical scholarship” and attempts to line this up with R’ Avraham Ibn Ezra, Reti Waks is not describing an Orthodox view held by either opponents of Ibn Ezra or the Ibn Ezra himself. Indeed, it could also be considered insulting to the so-called “modern biblical scholars!” Does Reti Waks imagine that these (mostly heretical) scholars were ignorant of the discussions in the Talmud and various commentators? [ Eight of the twelve verses are also the subject of a disagreement between the Rambam and the Raavad about whether they require a minyan (see Menachos 30). ]
What is clear, however, is that Reti Waks is treading along the exact path which the Or HaChaim Hakadosh warned us against, in the precise context of the Or HaChaim’s comments on these verses and the Ohr HaChaim’s own disagreement with the Ibn Ezra. The Ohr Hachaim states
It is not appropriate to write these thoughts (i.e the view of the Ibn Ezra) because I (the Ohr HaChaim) have heard people discussing these verses and becoming entangled in them, to the extent that they end up expressing views which can only be described as heresy.
Rabbinic scholars wondered why the Ohr HaChaim used such strong language. After all, it is the view of Rabbi Yehuda in Baba Basra (ibid). Having read the piece from Reti Waks, I see (once more) that the Ohr HaChaim certainly deserves the honoured prophetic appellation of “HaKadosh”.
[Hat tip NB]
I received the following article by Rabbi Baruch Efrati?
I had not heard of him until today.
According to the internet, Rabbi Baruch Efrati is a prolific writer. Rabbi Baruch Efrati is also the head of the ‘Rabbanei Derech Emuna’ organisation, and teaches in a number of High level Yeshivas, and is (ironically) a Rabbi in the town of Efrat. I found the article sent to me, in Arutz Sheva.
I admit to feeling somewhat justified when I noted that Rabbi Efrati also brought the example of Yichud from Shulchan Aruch, as I did (and which some commenters questioned in regards to my blog post on the ill-advised hosting of Steven Greenberg in Melbourne).
Here is the article from Rabbi Efrati..
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s remarks on homosexual relations: A response
This response to a controversial interview given by Rabbi Riskin, translated from the Hebrew press, was written by a young rabbi who heads the Israeli Rabbanei Emunah mainstream Orthodox young rabbis’ group.
Recently, there has been a whole spate of articles on Jewish attitudes to homosexuality, some of them using the subject as an opportunity for self-praise, lauding the writer’s empathy and love of humanity, subtly hinting that this is in contrast to the attitude of mainstream Modern Orthodox and haredi communities. Others have lashed out openly at these two mainstream Orthodox sectors for what they call backwardness, closed mindedness and lack of inclusivity, alleging humiliation of homosexual partners.
This is certainly a way to gain approval from people who do not know the fact that mainstream Orthodoxy does not reject people with homosexual natures, but that Orthodoxy does strongly reject the homosexual act, calling it an “abomination.”That is what the Torah says – and it does so explicitly. Modern Orthodox and haredi rabbis are therefore against the recognition or public display of same-sex relationships.
Two names of world-renowned rabbis who have dealt with the issues are Rabbi Yaakov Meidan, head of the prestigious religious Zionist Har Etzion Hesder Yeshiva in Gush Etzion and Rabbi Aharon Feldman of the also prestigious haredi Ner Yisrael Yeshiva of Baltimore. Both have had the forthrightness to explain the Torah way of looking at same-sex relations: There is no loophole to allow the act, they say, and observant people who cannot overcome such tendencies are faced with the need to refrain from acting upon them, difficult as that may be. Rabbi Meidan has said that he considers the students who told him that they have decided to live celibate lives because of this prohibition, “tzaddikim.”
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat, Gush Etzion, was interviewed last week in Hebrew by the Israeli liberal-religious Makor Rishon newspaper, where his unprecedented words on homosexuals caused a strong backlash in the mainstream Orthodox rabbinic world in Israel – and abroad.
Response to Rabbi Riskin:
I beg to differ absolutely with Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s claim that a person with same-sex tendencies cannot be called a transgressor, a declaration in which he says that this person is in the halakhic category of “Ones Rachmana patreh” –“someone who is coerced to commit a transgression and therefore unaccountable,” as, after all, he was born that way. This is a basic error in the way halakhic decisions are made, and one which can cause this prohibited behavior to proliferate among the people of Israel.
In an interview with the Makor Rishon newspaper, the rabbi said other things I found unacceptable, some philosophical and others halakhic, some with regard to great Torah Sages. However, the same-sex relationship topic is such a basic one that it is impossible to remain silent in the face of the misinterpretation, some might say distortion, of Torah laws by someone who is the rabbi of a city in the state of Israel.
Rabbi Riskin is known as a Jewish thinker and exceptional orator on many subjects as well as a rabbi with a wonderful rapport with his followers. However, he is not known as a major and expert halakhic decisor. I do not know of any books of halakhic decisions on Orach Chaim, Even Haezer or Choshen Mishpat (three of the four sections of the Code of Jewish Law, ed.) published by Rabbi Riskin. I have not heard of any general halakhic decisions made by him on topics of kashrut, ritual purity, the Sabbath or washing one’s hands for bread.
How unfortunate it is if rabbis are only heard from on halakhic issues when they decide to twist them to suit imported liberal culture, lacking organized halakhic sources and sans halakhic precedents.
If the “Torah is as a light unto our feet,” we must study its laws in their entirety, not just the ones that are of sudden interest in liberal circles..
The rabbi’s error springs from several basic premises:
1.It is important to note that same-sex tendencies are not always inborn but can be a result of the pressures of secular culture and society. Some are, however, innate, and those whose tendencies are innate and who withstand the temptation to engage in those relations, are truly holy.
There are also some people who choose this way of life intentionally, and their attempts to create a society that chooses to sin (an abomination in the Torah’s words) must be fought openly.
2.Despite the fact that there are inborn tendencies for same-sex desire, there is no way to permit the act to take place, certainly not using the halakhic expression, as Rabbi Riskin did, of “he who is coerced is not responsible [for his transgression].” On the contrary, strength and willpower must be doubly increased in order to withstand the temptation to sin with those of the same sex.
Maimonides writes in Laws of Repentance that everyone has free will. He writes that someone who says he has no choice other than to sin because G-d created him with powerful inclinations and other weaknesses that leave him with no free will and force him to sin – is a person denying a basic premise of Torah, the free will granted to all of creation.
3.Modern science does not set our values. It draws a map of reality, but cannot interpret it. Moral interpretation and halakhic teachings are the exclusive purview of G-d’s Torah for Jews.
The phenomenon of homosexual inclinations is as old as the world, but in all the halakhic responsa of our sages there is not one instance of a rabbi allowing homosexual relations because the person “is coerced by his inclinations” – just the opposite is the case. There is a strong call to be of courage and resist committing sexual transgressions even when this way of life is extremely painful and difficult to attain.
The author of the Code of Jewish Law publicized a special degree for his geographic area prohibiting a man from being alone in a closed room with another man. Commentators explained that homosexuality was rampant in his area, causing him to declare this new limitation so as to prevent people from sin. But couldn’t the Rema have said such men “are coerced to commit a transgression,” as Rabbi Riskin does, and allow for leniency on this prohibition?? Why did he declare limitations to prevent homosexual relations?
4. G-d willed us to have lust, desire and inclinations, but G-d also told us the permissible way to gratify them. If there is no halakhically lenient way to allow something, no matter how much it is desired, it cannot be done. Halakhic morality is above the reality of the present. Sometimes man finds himself at a dead end, and we must offer him every support, but not to the extent of permitting that which is forbidden in order to make his life easier.
Rabbi Riskin’s words are in direct contradiction to those of the saintly religious Zionist icon Rabbi Isaac HaCohen Kook in Orot Hakodesh, paraphrased here, but appearing in full in his work, Eight Collections:Collection 6, 99:
Modern science’s revelation that homosexual tendencies are natural and inborn, leading them to uproot the moral protest against them, will be met by “our G-d’s words are eternal.”
Those who believe that if there is a natural tendency discovered by science, the sinner is not responsible for his actions but is “coerced,” are mistaken and do not realize the place of Torah vis a vis science.
Science describes the world, while the Torah directs it.
That is why, whether or not science defines homosexual tendencies as innate traits, is irrelevant. It does not obviate the moral responsibility we have to protest acting upon this tendency. It says so clearly in the Talmud (Tractate Yevamot 53 and Tosaphot there):
‘This is not considered “coercion.”‘
That is what our sages continued saying in decisions generation after generation (Rishonim and Achronim).
And the Talmudic scholar Rabbi Kapra said the Hebrew word for abomination,Toeva, can be seen as an acronym for Toeh Ata Ba – you are going astray on this issue –meaning that this is a negative tendency, which man must combat.
It is a mistake to think that there is no choice because a desire is natural or inborn, that things are permitted morally or halakhically in that case. On the contrary, one must fight the inclination and overcome it.
Continuing, Rabbi Kook relates to the Talmud (Nedarim), saying that there are some unconquerable inclinations which the rabbis allowed a priori by allowing them to be gratified within a normative marriage. This ruling is meant for someone with inborn desires for whom the sages had pity, ruling that a man and his wife’s personal sexual preferences are acceptable and can be a way to find release for someone with same-sex tendencies.
The Rema (Rabbi Moshe Isserles, writer of the Ashkenazi Code of Law) made the same halakhic decision in Even Haezer 25, pp. 2, positing that it is preferable to avoid unnatural forms of conjugal relations even with one’s wife, and attempt instead to remain holy by overcoming such desires. The lenient possibility exists, however, and is only allowed in situations where the person’s inborn tendency is for same-sex relations and this is an outlet for them.
So I ask, why should someone with same-sex tendencies be considered “coerced” and “free of prohibition” – someone who is above judgment? Since when are halakhot (rather than specific instances of unavoidable sinning from whence the concept arises) decided on this premise? There is truth and there is falsehood, good and bad, there is always individual choice, especially in the case of sexuality and sin.
For years now, I have been guiding tens of men and women with same-sex inclinations. I know how difficult their world is and I counsel them on how they can keep halakha despite their strong inclinations. Many of them are G-d fearing, wonderful people who struggle and manage to control their desires. Rabbi Riskin’s words are in contradiction to the Rambam, the Rema and Rabbi Kook, but just as seriously, they are not said in a vacuum and may cause some of the people I help – to fall.
We trust the words of the Talmud in Yevamot, we trust the words of Rabbi Kook – therefore, the rabbis who protest those who transgress are correct in their moral protests against the trend to be inclusive towards openly living an alternative lifestyle. Rabbi Riskin is entirely mistaken in proclaiming that those with same-sex tendencies are in the halakhic category of :”coerced and therefore not accountable.” This can cause many good people to err.
We do not make halakhic decisions based on the spirit of the times, but according to the eternal words of G-d.
[hat tip BA]
I am shocked at the latest pronouncement of Rabbi Riskin. The things we should all agree with are:
Rabbi Riskin’s pronouncements have already led to Steven Greenberg penning an article of excited support. This is hardly surprising.
I close with the immortal words of Rav Chaim Brisker (Soloveitchik) ז׳ל
“נעבאך אן אפיקורוס איז אויך אן אפיקורוס’’
The MALBIM would seem to have the cogent literal and contextual interpretation of the Pesukim in the Haftora of Parshas Eikev. It would seem (to me Isaac Balbin) that other Rishonim and Acharonim had a Pshat based on a Mesora of Torah She Baal Peh?
[By Meir Deutsch, with light editing]
© מאיר דויטש – מנ”א התשע”ז
We just reached the second SHABBAT of the NECHAMA SHABBATOT. The verses of Nechama are in the Haftarot, all of them from the book of YESHA’YAHU/Isaiah. Let us see what he says. Here are the first verses of the Haftara of ‘EQEV:
ישעיהו פרק מט
(יד) וַתֹּ֥אמֶר צִיּ֖וֹן עֲזָבַ֣נִי ה’ וַאדֹנָ֖י שְׁכֵחָֽנִי:
(טו) הֲתִשְׁכַּ֤ח אִשָּׁה֙ עוּלָ֔הּ מֵרַחֵ֖ם בֶּן־בִּטְנָ֑הּ גַּם־אֵ֣לֶּה תִשְׁכַּ֔חְנָה וְאָנֹכִ֖י לֹ֥א אֶשְׁכָּחֵֽךְ:
(טז) הֵ֥ן עַל־כַּפַּ֖יִם חַקֹּתִ֑יךְ חוֹמֹתַ֥יִךְ נֶגְדִּ֖י תָּמִֽיד:
(יז) מִֽהֲר֖וּ בָּנָ֑יִךְ מְהָֽרְסַ֥יִךְ וּמַחֲרִבַ֖יִךְ מִמֵּ֥ךְ יֵצֵֽאוּ:
(יח) שְׂאִֽי־סָבִ֤יב עֵינַ֙יִךְ֙ וּרְאִ֔י כֻּלָּ֖ם נִקְבְּצ֣וּ בָֽאוּ־לָ֑ךְ חַי־אָ֣נִי נְאֻם־ה’ כִּ֤י כֻלָּם֙ כָּעֲדִ֣י תִלְבָּ֔שִׁי וּֽתְקַשְּׁרִ֖ים כַּכַּלָּֽה:
(יט) כִּ֤י חָרְבֹתַ֙יִךְ֙ וְשֹׁ֣מְמֹתַ֔יִךְ וְאֶ֖רֶץ הֲרִֽסֻתֵ֑יךְ כִּ֤י עַתָּה֙ תֵּצְרִ֣י מִיּוֹשֵׁ֔ב וְרָחֲק֖וּ מְבַלְּעָֽיִךְ:
(כ) ע֚וֹד יֹאמְר֣וּ בְאָזְנַ֔יִךְ בְּנֵ֖י שִׁכֻּלָ֑יִךְ צַר־לִ֥י הַמָּק֖וֹם גְּשָׁה־לִּ֥י וְאֵשֵֽׁבָה:
(כא) וְאָמַ֣רְתְּ בִּלְבָבֵ֗ךְ מִ֤י יָֽלַד־לִי֙ אֶת־אֵ֔לֶּה וַאֲנִ֥י שְׁכוּלָ֖ה וְגַלְמוּדָ֑ה גֹּלָ֣ה׀ וְסוּרָ֗ה וְאֵ֙לֶּה֙ מִ֣י גִדֵּ֔ל הֵ֤ן אֲנִי֙ נִשְׁאַ֣רְתִּי לְבַדִּ֔י אֵ֖לֶּה אֵיפֹ֥ה הֵֽם:
(כב) כֹּֽה־אָמַ֞ר אֲדֹנָ֣י ה’ הִנֵּ֨ה אֶשָּׂ֤א אֶל־גּוֹיִם֙ יָדִ֔י וְאֶל־עַמִּ֖ים אָרִ֣ים נִסִּ֑י וְהֵבִ֤יאוּ בָנַ֙יִךְ֙ בְּחֹ֔צֶן וּבְנֹתַ֖יִךְ עַל־כָּתֵ֥ף תִּנָּשֶֽׂאנָה:
(כג) וְהָי֨וּ מְלָכִ֜ים אֹֽמְנַ֗יִךְ וְשָׂרֽוֹתֵיהֶם֙ מֵינִ֣יקֹתַ֔יִךְ אַפַּ֗יִם אֶ֚רֶץ יִשְׁתַּ֣חֲווּ לָ֔ךְ וַעֲפַ֥ר רַגְלַ֖יִךְ יְלַחֵ֑כוּ וְיָדַ֙עַתְּ֙ כִּֽי־אֲנִ֣י ה’ אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא־יֵבֹ֖שׁוּ קֹוָֽי:
(כד) הֲיֻקַּ֥ח מִגִּבּ֖וֹר מַלְק֑וֹחַ וְאִם־שְׁבִ֥י צַדִּ֖יק יִמָּלֵֽט:
(כה) כִּי־כֹ֣ה׀ אָמַ֣ר ה’ גַּם־שְׁבִ֤י גִבּוֹר֙ יֻקָּ֔ח וּמַלְק֥וֹחַ עָרִ֖יץ יִמָּלֵ֑ט וְאֶת־יְרִיבֵךְ֙ אָנֹכִ֣י אָרִ֔יב וְאֶת־בָּנַ֖יִךְ אָנֹכִ֥י אוֹשִֽׁיעַ:
(כו) וְהַאֲכַלְתִּ֤י אֶת־מוֹנַ֙יִךְ֙ אֶת־בְּשָׂרָ֔ם וְכֶעָסִ֖יס דָּמָ֣ם יִשְׁכָּר֑וּן וְיָדְע֣וּ כָל־בָּשָׂ֗ר כִּ֣י אֲנִ֤י ה’ מֽוֹשִׁיעֵ֔ךְ וְגֹאֲלֵ֖ךְ אֲבִ֥יר יַעֲקֹֽב:
Let us look at the translation:
14. But Ziyyon said, The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.
Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget thee.
Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.
The explanation of verse 17, given by most MEFARSHIM always surprised me. “מִֽהֲר֖וּ בָּנָ֑יִךְ מְהָֽרְסַ֥יִךְ וּמַחֲרִבַ֖יִךְ מִמֵּ֥ךְ יֵצֵֽאוּ.”. They interpret the מְהָֽרְסַ֥יִךְ וּמַחֲרִבַ֖יִךְ מִמֵּ֥ךְ יֵצֵֽאוּ as some kind of collaborators, evil people or criminals, even traitors. If we look at רד”ק, he interprets it: there will not be amongst you an evil person or criminal. The “מצודת דוד” says: the evil amongst you… We see the same in many Responsa books.
Here are a few examples:
כת הקראים נוצרה וקמה לרועץ מקרבנו בבחינה של מהרסיך ומחריביך ממך יצאו בערך מסביב לשנת ד’ אלפים תקי”ב לבריאת עולם[…] (שו”ת ציץ אליעזר חלק ה סימן טז – הרב אליעזר יהודה ולדנברג).
ובארתי בזה הכתוב – “מהרסיך ומחריביך ממך יצאו”. ישעי’ (מט) הרצון בזה – שיש שונאים הנראים כאוהבים ומתאחדים עם שלומי אמוני ישראל וטובם כחדק נהפך למרורת פתנים ומסך רוח, עושים להפריד בין אחים ובין אביהם של ישראל. והמה מהרסיך כאיש שונאי ישראל בגלוי. (שו”ת מהרא”ש הקדמה ותוכן עניינים – רבי אלכסנדר שמואל ב”ר פינחס דוד היילפרין).
והרבה יש להתאונן כמאמר הנביא מהרסיך ומחרביך ממך יצאו אשר גם בקהלות קטנות ימצאו העורבים המצפצפים ומהרסים לתקנת דת ישראל שתיקן הרב מרא דאתרא. (שו”ת מנחת אלעזר חלק ג סימן לו – רבי חיים אלעזר ב”ר צבי שפירא).
Let us try and understand what the Prophet Yesha’yahu said. He said: Do you think that the Lord left you, his people, no – I will not forget thee. The walls are continually before me. Thy children make haste [to come back to Zion], as the [enemy] that destroyed and wasted it will go away from thee [the city].
We can see that the prophet continues:
18. Lift up thy eyes round about, and behold: all these gather themselves together and come to thee.
The settling again in the waste and the destruction will expand and “shall be now too narrow for the inhabitants, and they that swallowed thee up shall be far away”.
Do we see any connection to traitors amongst the population in the prophet’s saying? I cannot find one. Yesha’yahu does not mention any punishment or condemnations of them. All he is telling us that the enemy that destroyed the city will leave it. If he was talking about traitors, than what does he mean by the beginning of that verse: Thy children make haste… where too? What for?
The IBN EZRA writes: “Here your sons came and your destroyers left”. It might be not clear enough what he means by “your destroyers”, but he translates ממך יצאו = “leave you” and not “originate from you”. The MALBIM is clearer, and says: “your enemies that destroyed you have left. Here we see clearly that the MALBIM sees here the enemies of Israel that destroyed Zion and not traitors amongst you.
Let us go back to our quotation.
(יז) מִֽהֲר֖וּ בָּנָ֑יִךְ מְהָֽרְסַ֥יִךְ וּמַחֲרִבַ֖יִךְ מִמֵּ֥ךְ יֵצֵֽאוּ:
And in English:
17. Thy children make haste, thy destroyers and they that made thee waste go away from thee.
Does the translation into English of verse 17 sound clearer?
The translator knew both languages well. The English translation is from: Koren, The Jerusalem Bible, Jerusalem 1969, with the English text by Harold Fisch.
Were the Hebrew words taken out of context?
We still refer to the text מְהָֽרְסַ֥יִךְ וּמַחֲרִבַ֖יִךְ מִמֵּ֥ךְ יֵצֵֽאוּ as referring to the destroyers among our people. Are we following our Mefarshim and Responsa and using them to describe traitors of the nation or fifth columnists?
It reminds me of another verse – in TEHILIM:
כָּל־כְּבוּדָּ֣ה בַת־מֶ֣לֶךְ פְּנִ֑ימָה מִֽמִּשְׁבְּצ֖וֹת זָהָ֣ב לְבוּשָֽׁהּ (תהלים פרק מה, יד):
To whom does this verse refer to?
From the previous verse there, we see it is the daughter of the king of Zor, not a Jewish princess. The verse says: KVUDA (with a SHURUK), but some Meforshin and many Responsa = שו”ת read it as KVODA.
Were they reading it without the vowels = NIKUD? Let us look at some examples:
אבן עזרא: כל כבודה – וטעם פנימה שהיתה שוכנת לפנים בארמונה ולא היתה נראית לכל:
מצודת דוד: כל כבודה – כל אשה מכובדה ובת מלך היושבת פנימה
בחדרה לפי רוב כבודה אשר לבושה עשוי ממשבצות זהב.
I think that the MALBIM, as in our Haftara, is the only one whose explanation is consonant with the context.
We have got his interpretations:
1. כל כבודה בת מלך פנימה, בארגז שהביא למנחה הונח פנימה כל כבודה של בת מלך, כל דברים היקרים ונכבדים הראוים לבת מלך, תכשיטין יקרים וכדומה, וגם הונח שם לבושה ממשבצות זהב, לבוש יקר הנעשה ממשבצות זהב, זה המנחה שהביאו עשירי עם:
2. ומה היא המנחה כל כבודה בת מלך, דברים מכובדים וענינים נפשיים הראוים לבת מלך, שבתוך הארגז של המנחה נמצא לבושה ממשבצות זהב, לבוש מלכות שבו תלביש הנפש שהם מדות יקרות מאד מזהב ומפז:
3. מלבי”ם ביאור המילות: כבודה כמו ואת הכבודה לפניהם (שופטים י”ח). פנימה, בתוך דבר. ר”ל בפנים של הארגז נמצא כל כבודה של בת מלך:
The verse is literally about a container – chest (or a suitcase as the airlines call it today) = Kvuda; not about honour or dignity = Kavod
Let us go back to our Haftara. We should not forget that it is one of the NECHAMA HAFTAROT, dealing with the return to Zion. Based on a contextual literal reading it has nothing to do with fifth columnists.
Lift up thy eyes round about, and behold: all these gather themselves together
שְׂאִֽי־סָבִ֤יב עֵינַ֙יִךְ֙ וּרְאִ֔י כֻּלָּ֖ם נִקְבְּצ֣וּבָֽאוּ־לָ֑ךְ…
If we look further, verse 22, who is going to be punished: הִנֵּ֨ה אֶשָּׂ֤א אֶל־גּוֹיִם֙ יָדִ֔י וְאֶל־עַמִּ֖ים אָרִ֣ים נִסִּ֑י. It is not your people, not the traitors.
South Head Shule is in Sydney, Australia. It has had a Chabad Rabbi for 30+ years. He is Rabbi Bentzion Milecki, who I recall from School Days at Yeshivah College in Melbourne. I also recall that he got straight A’s in his Year 12, and is very bright. His father used to have a well-known health food store in Carlisle Street, also in Melbourne. Indeed, when I returned from studying in Israel, many moons ago, I used to pick up Rabbi Milecki from his apartment in Melbourne, to give a Gemorra Shiur, in the board room of Mizrachi.
I have seen interchanges, back and forth. It would seem that the issue of a “younger Rabbi” is a concern for the President, and most members. It is claimed that membership is falling, and they seek “renewal” with a younger Rabbi, to arrest this claimed decline.
Whoever was in charge of South Head when Rabbi Milecki was hired may have let their community down. The contract was for a salary, which if true, could be described as ‘astronomical’ . In addition, they agreed that disputes surrounding the Rabbi’s tenure would be dealt with according to Halacha.
The issue reached a stalemate.
The Court in Australia upheld the view that Halacha was consideration of the contract, and Rabbi Milecki’s disembowelment from his position was considered illegal by the secular court which upheld the initial contract requiring the Halacha to determine the outcome.
In the meanwhile, there were all sorts of legal attempts at cutting off Rabbi Milecki from his position. Rabbi Milecki was quick to defend himself on many occasions. Rabbi Milecki claimed that he is entitled to tenure on the basis of Chazoko, and whilst there have apparently been attempts to pay Rabbi Milecki out, it would seem that he sees himself as the main Halachic presence in any new arrangement, whereas most members wish to pay him out and retain him in an emeritus role, removed from decision making.
I was asked why I haven’t stated my view. In essence, I was waiting for this issue to play out. It seems that it has, with the Shule now sadly in liquidation.
My view is:
Where any community hires a Chabad Rabbi, they need to realise that it is not a regular appointment. Any Chabad Rabbi around my age or older will have received a blessing from the last Lubavitcher Rebbe נ׳ע. As such, their position is interpreted as one of an emissary to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. This status is higher and more cogent than any contract or position in the eyes of such a Rabbi.
Ironically, nobody expressed the view that the Lubavitcher Rebbe was too old for his position! He was, however, an expert in relating to people of all ages. This is the key. In addition, even when older and more feeble, he kept up a punishing timetable of learning and consultation with which a younger person would have struggled.
If a Chabad Rabbi, who is hired by a community, as opposed to running his own Chabad house, is asked to move on because ostensibly the younger generation is apparently not relating to him or his leadership is losing its impact, and that Chabad Rabbi has received blessings for success from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, then there is little chance, since the Rabbi is “connected” to his Rebbe, that he will give up his post. Doing so, is an abandonment tantamount to cancelling his position as an emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe! Being an emissary is the highest status for a Chossid.
Notwithstanding all the above, there is, in my view a higher imperative. That higher imperative is the possibility of a Chillul Hashem, or a Zilzul (cheapening) of the status of a Rabbi (and indeed Chabad).
The tax-free salary in this case can be argued to be beyond the pale and not conducive to כבוד התורה.
Most importantly, a Rabbi should not find himself in a situation where he has lost most his congregation. These might still be members, but there has been a process of alienation and loss of real authority. If this occurs, then there should be consideration of compensation/pay out in keeping with the years of faithful service. Following this, a Rabbi should leave quietly rather than fight a battle for the minority.
In short we have a clash of cultures: a western style appointment to a position vs a Rabbinic appointment vs a Chabad Rabbinic appointment.
My view is that Rabbi Milecki should start an actual Chabad House of his own, in South Head. They might daven in his house initially. If he has support, he will acquire premises and he can function in this more traditional Chabad way where the Rabbi is CEO and unimpeachable except in the worst circumstance. In such an arrangement, he will have life tenure and pass the baton on to one of his children after 120.
I contend that he needs to forget about South Head per se because a person should not force himself on a Kehilla. The fact that many people came together and davened elsewhere should indicate that his time was definitely up.
Melbourne has other examples of Rabbis who appear not to enjoy support. Rabbi Riesenberg of Central cannot be dismissed, as per the constitution he apparently oversaw. Whilst he is legally correct, perhaps he should re-ask himself if he is raising the crown of Torah by staying in his position, as opposed to a pay out and moving elsewhere.
My former Shule, Elwood, did the right thing with Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick. Rabbi Gutnick also offered the honourable thing and stepped aside for an incumbent youth Rabbi. The incumbent has plenty of work to do if success is measured by paid members and attendance on a Shabbos. We wish him success!
Ironically, my mind goes back to Rabbi Silberman ז׳ל who ironically used to be the South Head Rabbi, and then retired to the Gold Coast, where he was very careful not to step on the toes of the Rabbi of Surfers Paradise (also from Chabad). Rabbi Silberman managed to move sideways creating a Kiddush Hashem.
This is a remarkable decision. Rabbi Milecki, a Lubavitcher, and long time Rabbi of South Head Synagogue, was effectively sacked by his board through some clever manoeuvering involving the Shule going into liquidation.
One assumes that Rabbi Milecki tried to take the Board to a Din Torah and failed. He then received permission to take it to the secular court in New South Wales, Australia.
The Supreme Court ruled, quite incredibly that the South Head Board had wrongfully dismissed Rabbi Milecki and they needed to take the case to a Din Torah.
This shows that the court is culturally sensitive and doesn’t want to trample on such mores, unless forced.
One implication for this, and I assume the decision will be appealed to a higher court, is that if we want to get the court to assist us in having compulsory Halachic prenuptial agreements whereby a male or female could not withhold a Get/divorce, may be more difficult as they may not wish to be involved.
You can read the ruling here.
[Update: in case you thought this was a new precedent. As per legal advice, it follows Gutnick v Mizrachi where court sent matter to Din Torah
Also in Mond v Caulfield Hebrew Congregation where the court granted injunction and sent matter to a Din Torah.
Very strange that Shul’s administrators argued that the contract with Rabbi Milecki was not subject to Halacha. ]
The prime supporter and collector to fund Steven Greenberg is allegedly non other than that famous Jewish personality, who spoke at Habonim on Shavuos about how he ‘finally managed to break away from Orthodox Judaism’ -Mark Cherny.
We love you Mark, not just because you are a mad St Kilda supporter, but because despite what comes out of your mouth, you cannot break away. No Jew can give away their essence, which contains Godliness. Yes, I’m aware that Science maybe your god, and I’m not getting into that topic here.
It is ironic that Mark who disavows Orthodoxy, is finding the funds to enable the non Orthodox Steven Greenberg to speak at an Orthodox Shule! Can you see what I see? As I understand it, all Orthodox Shules turned down Mark, except for Caulfield. Perhaps Steven Greenberg himself can convince Mark to remove the shade covering his glowing inner Jew-the Neshoma he disavows because it’s not in a test tube.
What I don’t understand is why Rabbi Genende was seemingly seduced by cheap populism. Modern Orthodoxy opposes Steven Greenberg and his husband. I’m sure Rabbi Genende will vigorously oppose Steven Greenberg, but is a function for young adults the correct address for this discussion?
By now, everyone knows that the ARK Centre and Shira Chadasha are the two outliers that have welcomed Steven. No shock horror in those two places opening their arms.
Bottom line: It should have stayed with ARK and Shira Chadasha and Michael Barnett’s group, which includes ‘intermarried homosexuals’, no less. Maybe Steven will try to convince intermarried homosexuals to stop their relationship because they are assisting a Ben Noach to sin?
Stop press: Those who we’re going to protest are no longer going to do so. They had mistakenly asssumed that the RCV were complicit in turning a blind eye to their Vice President Genende. This is untrue. Rabbi Genende either goes his own way or has a Psak he has not yet shared.
Firstly let’s be clear without wishing to sound condescending. It is the EASIEST thing on earth to give the go ahead for Steven Greenberg if you simply go your own way. Rabbi Genende has done that. Let him publish the names of those Rabbis in the RCV who agree with him? If, however, Rabbi Genende is brave he should easily be able to demonstrate to everyone at the talk that Steven Greenberg is nebach not Orthodox. Yes, be polite, and put it diplomatically but this is a clear example of
עת לעשות לה׳ הפרו תורתיך
Rabbi Genende has tacitly resisted all attempts to suggest that he ‘pass’ on the event of Steven Greenberg’s heresy, to another organisation.
The following was sent to me. Hat tip WK.
This is from the Algemeiner Journal
In response to a recent “Orthodox” same-sex marriage ceremony conducted in Washington, D.C. by Rabbi Steve Greenberg, – who is openly gay, and married Yoni Bock and Ron Kaplan at the 6th & I Synagogue (non orthodox temple) in Washington in November – over 100 Orthodox Rabbis – among them some of the most prominent rabbinic figures in the Modern Orthodox Jewish world, including Rabbi Hershel Schachter and Rabbi Hershel Reichman of Yeshiva University and Rabbi Elie Abadie of the Safra Synagogue – issued a statement declaring that, “By definition, a union that is not sanctioned by Torah law is not an Orthodox wedding, and by definition a person who conducts such a ceremony is not an Orthodox rabbi.” They also dispelled any doubt over possible flexibility on the matter in the future, writing, “We strongly object to this desecration of Torah values and to the subsequent misleading reportage…the public should not be misled into thinking that Orthodox Jewish values on this issue can change, are changing, or might someday change…any claims to the contrary are inaccurate and false.” (For the full statement and list of signatures see below)
Many Orthodox congregations have homosexuals as members, and generally speaking, they are accepted without reservations. One Orthodox rabbi – who did not wish to be named – who has homosexual and trans-gender members in his congregation told the Algemeiner: “There is no such thing as a Jew who does not have spiritual struggles and challenges. We accept Jews who do not fully observe the Sabbath and do not keep kosher, and we accept those who struggle with sexual issues. However, just as we cannot accept someone who promotes desecration of the Sabbath and abandoning the laws of kashrut(kosher), or actively advocates adultery, we cannot accept someone who actively and publicly, promotes the practice of homosexuality.”
Although the 100+ rabbis take a firm stand against same-gender marriage, they are also sympathetic to to those of alternate sexual orientation, describing them as “challenged” they add, “We as rabbis, lovingly play a crucial role in helping Jews who may be facing great personal challenges to feel comfortable and welcome in our communities…some individuals experience deep inner conflict as they seek a holy path to serve God…we devote our lives towards helping all those in our broader community achieve their loftiest spiritual potential, while fully upholding the timeless values expressed in our Holy Torah.”
The full statement and list of signatures:
Orthodox Rabbis Stand On Principle
Recently, an American Jewish clergyman officiated at a matrimonial ceremony that is incorrectly being reported by some in the media as “the first time that an ordained Orthodox Rabbi has officiated at a same-sex marriage in the United States.”
We, as rabbis from a broad spectrum of the Orthodox community around the world, wish to correct the false impression that an Orthodox-approved same-gender wedding took place. By definition, a union that is not sanctioned by Torah law is not an Orthodox wedding, and by definition a person who conducts such a ceremony is not an Orthodox rabbi.
Jewish tradition unequivocally teaches that marriage can only exist as a union between a man and a woman, to the exclusion of a homosexual relationship. It is a distortion of Torah to confound that sacred principle. We strongly object to this desecration of Torah values and to the subsequent misleading reportage.
We appreciate the sensitive nature of intimacy. We, as rabbis, lovingly play a crucial role in helping Jews who may be facing great personal challenges to feel comfortable and welcome in our communities. Rabbis are always available to discuss congregants’ personal issues, including intimacy. We understand from our experiences in offering pastoral care that some individuals experience deep inner conflict as they seek a holy path to serve G-d and to fulfill their spiritual needs. As rabbis, we devote our lives towards helping all those in our broader community achieve their loftiest spiritual potential, while fully upholding the timeless values expressed in our Holy Torah.
The public should not be misled into thinking that Orthodox Jewish views on this issue can change, are changing, or might someday change. The Rabbinical Council of America recently declared that “the Torah, which forbids homosexual activity, sanctions only the union of a man and a woman in matrimony.” This is the only statement on this matter that can reflect Orthodox Judaism. Any claims or statements to the contrary are inaccurate and false.
Rabbi Elie Abadie – New York, NY
Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein – Los Angeles, CA
Rabbi Eitan Allen – Fairfield, CT
Rabbi Sol Appleman – Woodsburgh, NY
Rabbi Moshe Averick – Chicago, IL
Rabbi Ian Bailey – Silver Spring, MD
Rabbi Yisroel Bendelstein – Brooklyn, NY
Rabbi Etan Berman – New York, NY
Rabbi Azriel Blumberg – Brighton, MA
Rabbi Heshy Blumstein – Hewlett, NY
Rabbi Avram Bogopulsky – San Diego, CA
Rabbi Kenneth Brodkin – Portland, OR
Rabbi Zev Cinamon – West Hempstead, NY
Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen – West Palm Beach, FL
Rabbi Judah Z. Cohen – Hewlett, NY
Rabbi Yitzchok Cohen, New York, NY
Rabbi Mordechai Cohen – Milwaukee, WI
Rabbi Yosef Cohen – West Hartford, CT
Rabbi Nissim Davidi – Los Angeles, CA
Rabbi Eliezer Eidlitz – Valley Village, CA
Rabbi Ari Enkin – Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel
Rabbi Ephraim Epstein – Cherry Hill, NJ
Rabbi Aaron Feigenbaum – Memphis, TN
Rabbi Dovid Feinberg – Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman – Jerusalem, Israel
Rabbi Ilan Feldman – Atlanta, GA
Rabbi Eliyahu Ferrell – Passaic, NJ
Rabbi Yitzchok Fingerer – Brooklyn, NY
Rabbi Shmuel Fink – Lawrence, NY
Rabbi Dov Fischer – Orange County, CA
Rabbi Arie Folger – Munich, Germany
Rabbi Barry Freundel – Washington, DC
Rabbi Zvi Friedlander – New York, NY
Rabbi Cary Friedman – Passaic, NJ
Rabbi Zev Friedman – Lawrence, NY
Rabbi Mallen Galinsky – Jerusalem, Israel
Rabbi Benjamin Geiger – Forest Hills, NY
Rabbi Avraham Ginzburg – Forest Hills, NY
Rabbi Saul Gold – Brooklyn, NY
Rabbi Jay H. Goldberg – Far Rockaway, NY
Rabbi Chaim Goldberger – Minneapolis, MN
Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer – New York, NY
Rabbi Shlomo Grafstein – New York, NY
Rabbi Alan Greenspan – Jerusalem, Israel
Rabbi Yonah Gross – Wynnewood, PA
Rabbi Yosef Grossman – Monsey, NY
Rabbi Ben Hecht – Toronto, Canada
Rabbi Ari Jacobson – Monsey, NY
Rabbi Ari Kahn – Givat Ze’ev, Israel
Rabbi Howard Katzenstein – Brooklyn, NY
Rabbi Joseph Kolakowski – Richmond, VA
Rabbi Ira Kronenberg – Passaic, NJ
Rabbi Pinchas L. Landis – Cincinnati, OH
Rabbi Eliezer Langer – Austin, TX
Rabbi Levi Langer – Pittsburgh, PA
Rabbi Avi Lebowitz – Palo Alto, CA
Rabbi Yonah Levant – Queens, NY
Rabbi Menachem Levine – San Jose, CA
Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz – Chicago, IL
Rabbi Yaakov Luban – Highland Park, NJ
Rabbi Avraham Maimon – Sunnyvale, CA
Rabbi Reuven Mann – Phoenix, AZ
Rabbi Harry Maryles – Chicago, IL
Rabbi Baruch Pesach Mendelson – Brooklyn, NY
Rabbi Jacob B. Mendelson – Bridgeport, CT
Rabbi Yossi Mendelson – Queens, NY
Rabbi Lester Miller – Brooklyn, NY
Rabbi Yerachmiel Morrison – Lakewood, NJ
Rabbi Jonathan Muskat – Oceanside, NY
Rabbi Yehuda L. Oppenheimer – Forest Hills, NY
Rabbi Gavriel Price – Passaic, NJ
Rabbi Steven Pruzansky – Teaneck, NJ
Rabbi Aharon Rakeffet – Jerusalem, Israel
Rabbi Michael Rapps – Far Rockaway, NY
Rabbi Hershel Reichman – New York, NY
Rabbi Rachmiel Rothberger – New York, NY
Rabbi Gidon Rothstein – Riverdale, NY
Rabbi Lawrence Rothwachs – Teaneck, N
Rabbi Yackov Saacks – Dix Hills, NY
Rabbi Nosson Sachs – Pittsburgh, PA
Rabbi Nachum Sauer – Los Angeles, CA
Rabbi Hershel Schachter – New York, NY
Rabbi Moshe Schapiro – Bergenfield, NJ
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld – Queens, NY
Rabbi Zev Schostak – Queens, NY
Rabbi Tsvi G. Schur – Baltimore, MD
Rabbi David Shabtai – New York, NY
Rabbi Dov Shapiro – Spring Valley, NY
Rabbi Jay C. Shoulson – Long Island City, NY
Rabbi Zecharia Sionit – Dallas, TX
Rabbi Ze’ev Smason – St. Louis, MO
Rabbi Aryeh Sokoloff – Queens, NY
Rabbi Aryeh Spero – Great Neck, NY
Rabbi Reuven Spolter -Yad Binyamin, Israel
Rabbi Leonard Steinberg – Brooklyn, NY
Rabbi Gil Student – Brooklyn, NY
Rabbi Michael Taubes – Teaneck, NJ
Rabbi Moses David Tendler – Monsey, NY
Rabbi Benzion Twerski – Milwaukee, WI
Rabbi Michel Twerski – Milwaukee, WI
Rabbi Avrohom Union – Los Angeles, CA
Rabbi Noach Vogel – San Jose, CA
Rabbi Gedalia Walls – Potomac, MD
Rabbi Yaakov Wasser – East Brunswick, NJ
Rabbi Philip Weinberger – Teaneck, NJ
Rabbi Matan Wexler – New York, NY
Rabbi Ari Zahtz – Teaneck, NJ
Rabbi Asher Zeilingold – St. Paul, MN
Rabbi Aharon Ziegler – Jerusalem, Israel
I am acquainted with some of the Rabbonim on the list; and it’s a compelling list.
I know of no list where Orthodox Rabbis agree that Greenberg is Orthodox.
I was also sent a video of Steven conducting a homosexual union service. He can do what he wants but he cannot call this Orthodox by any stretch. It is simply an halachic fraud.
Those of you who want to hear what he has to say without going to Caulfield Shule’s Hall, can hear him here. I listened for about 5 minutes and the dangerous thing is his misguided sincerity. Even his comment that his invitation to speak was ‘hachnasat orchim’, I believe is halachically not correct. He is a charmer, and seems like a nice, but challenged individual.
Is Steven being paid from Melbourne? If so, is Caulfield contributing? I can certainly think of more important speakers to sponsor in terms of influencing young adults to re-connect with their identity/religion. I wonder how many people who will go to the talk will be influenced by Rabbi Genende to attend Genende’s shiurim.
I wonder if Rabbi Genende would invite Pastor Margaret Court and one of his Muslim Imam colleagues to address whether they would host somebody who espouses different religious view than them and claims fidelity, in the walls of their organisation? If he is to be consistent, I expect that Rabbi Genende would not be a Margaret Court critic in terms of her views being out of bounds? She should ‘be treated with compassion and inclusiveness’.
I wonder, given the gravity of the question, whether Rabbi Genende asked his own Posek. Rabbis as great as Rav Aharon Lichtenstein z’l, who was more than capable of deciding Halacha, went to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach z’l to ask more grave questions. There is no shame doing so. I know that Rav Hershel Schachter sometimes discussed important matters with Rav Elyashiv z’l, but in the end he has the shoulders to disagree, and when he does, he explicitly mentions Rav Elyashiv, explains his view and explains his own.
I stress and restress, homosexuals should not need their own place of worship. Orthodox Shules perhaps with the exception of Adass, Rabbi Donenbaum’s Shule and the Gerrer Shtiebel would treat them no differently to anyone else. That being said, if they come with their partner, then it will be akin to a man sitting with his wife and other women! There must be awfully difficult temptations for those so inclined. ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם ואחרי עיניכם would apply, I believe.
I am aware of an email with certain people exhorting sincere Jews to protest the purported ‘justification’ of Homosexuality in Judaism by Steven Greenberg, under the watch of Rabbi Ralph Genende.
I want to stress and repeat. I have only heard good things about Steven as a human being and his keeping of other commandments. He was created in the Image of God, as were we. Therefore, irrespective of him espousing the likely heresy he is known for, one should behave properly and not display antipathy towards him. Nebach, he has a tendency. In his hearts of hearts I am sure he’d rather have no controversy and have heterosexual tendencies, as per the existential immutable reality of Yahadus.
I repeat, please do NOT protest and if you agree please spread the word; I implore you.
We are enjoined not to judge anyone until we are proverbially ‘in their shoes’. Caulfield Hebrew Congregation, with the agreement of its Senior Rabbinic Authority, Rabbi Ralph Genende, have invited members of the community to hear a self-professed homosexual, and self-professed Orthodox Jew, once ordained at YU, named Stephen Greenberg, to address his homosexual struggle, contextualised with his ‘partner’ and ‘daughter’.
If we accept the theory that Steven was born with a predisposition of sexual attraction to the same gender, then we must ask whether he consulted his teachers at YU. As someone who was ordained, this is even more of an imperative given the gravity of the issue and the world trip, crusader-like approach.
The Shulchan Aruch is acutely aware that some will have a tendency to be attracted to the same gender. It is unambiguous in describing what a person should do if they are indeed inclined that way.
There are well-known prohibitions in respect to a heterosexual male being alone with a heterosexual female. Whether this is a Torah infraction or a Rabbinic one, is a dispute between the Rambam and other Rishonim. Whatever the case, the laws of Yichud, being alone, are there to protect against a potentially more serious consequence, that may lead to prohibited sexual relations.
What is not well known is that the Shulchan Aruch codified the self-same laws of Yichud, in regards to same gender seclusion/Yichud (See Even HoEzer 24:1)
If a male has a homosexual predilection, then it is forbidden to be halachically alone with another male. There is no argument about this Halacha and there can certainly be no argument of its applicability in our age.
The Rambam in his glosses on the Mishna in Sanhedrin 7, states that a Jew is not suspected of homosexuality or bestiality as they are both unnatural. The Rambam could not envisage someone with a Jewish Soul having such proclivity.
As I understand it, Steven claims to adhere to all laws of Judaism give or take the odd stumble that we all experience. If Steven lives with his male partner he most certainly is choosing to ignore a Halacha. I am not referring to the likely outcome of homosexual sex; rather, Yichud—being alone. If he does not, then kudos to him.
I would assume that Steven, who Rabbi Genende also describes as an Orthdox Rabbi, does not live under the same roof as his partner, and they perhaps take turns looking after the daughter? If that is not the case, it is difficult to accept the description of Orthodox.
Technically, one or both males, might not be the biological father, which also raises another hornets nest in respect to Yichud with an adopted child. The Lubavitcher Rebbe amongst many others had grave problems giving permission for Yichud with an adopted child. Others are more lenient, including Rav Soloveitchik, to whom the Lubavitcher Rebbe sent some Lubavitch couples (see Nefesh HoRav from Rav Schachter) who wanted to adopt and needed the Psak Din of a World renowned Rabbi.
At this point I trust that even the far left are not churlishly dismissing me as homophobic, based on what I have written.
One expects that the otherwise religiously-oriented homosexual Jew feels more self-guilt than the secular homosexual Jew. This is not because people are more derisive to the religious one. Rather, it’s because he feels he has been born with an impediment to keep Halacha.
Some will deal with it by disappearing into new social circles where they potentially practice less Judaism as time goes by. Others, such as Steven presumably blame their genetic marker for their predilection and will wrestle with God about why they weren’t given heterosexual genes.
I would hope that if Steven was asked, ‘Would you have preferred if God had made you heterosexual’, that Steven would answer in the affirmative. If he does not, I’m not sure why Rabbi Genende as Vice President of the Rabbinic Council of Victoria would invite him to espouse his views!
We should consider why Stephen isn’t addressing one of the homosexual groups where he may encourage people to keep all the other laws of Judaism and give them confidence to do so. Perhaps he will do so. I do not know, but I think that would be a positive thing.
I have not ever come across anyone not being welcomed in Shule because they were homosexual. I would imagine they are shunned by Hungarian Chassidic communities.
To be sure, even Chabad who welcome all, have some restrictions. When Shlomo Carlebach started diverging from an Orthodox path, Rabbi Y. D. Groner z’l, who had been a study partner of Shlomo, asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe נ׳ע whether he should try and bring Shlomo ‘back’ through Kiruv. The Lubavitcher Rebbe answered that Rabbi Groner should do so, but never within the walls of a Lubavitch institution lest anyone think that what Shlomo does is acceptable etc. Why did Steven have to speak within Caulfield Shule’s property? Having Steven at a congregational function definitely stretches the boundaries of what is tolerable. Given Rabbi Genende’s professed opposition to Steven’s approach in a letter to his congregants one wonders why Rabbi Genende didn’t choose to debate Steven?
The menagerie of congregants at Caulfield on a standard Shabbos will not likely include the young adults who will attend Steven’s talk. Caulfield do a great job, given their ability to pull in big donations to lure world class performances via a choir from Israel. They are a vibrant Shule with an active and dedicated committee.
I’m sure these activities are roundly enjoyed, but will a ‘voyeuristic’ gaze into the house of a religiously inclined homosexual Jew translate to attendance at Shule or Rabbi Genende’s educational programme? I think not, especially if Rabbi Genende disagrees with Steven’s interpretation of Scripture anyway!
Imagine, if you will, that instead of Steven, the guest speaker was a ‘religious’ adulterer/womaniser. Perhaps not a Rabbi, but someone well known. Imagine this person wanted to speak about his problem of wandering eyes which lead to covert forbidden sexual relations. It could be argued that he too has a proclivity. Is there a genetic link? My question then to Rabbi Genende is, would you give such a person a podium to speak of his struggles to keep his pants on when his eyes wander? Something tells me that Rabbi Genende would not allow such a talk. Why? Marriage is sacred and such acts are abominable and don’t deserve a podium. If I am right, the podium should be reserved for the types of Jews who are inspirational. I am more inspired to hear of those homosexual religious Jews who courageously don’t give in to a basic tenet.
Did Rabbi Genende consult leading centrist/modern Poskim. It would appear that his colleagues in the Rabbinic Council of Victoria are far from enamoured by his ‘go it alone’ approach. If he has support from a Posek who knows Steven then Rabbi Genende should at least inform his colleagues in the Rabbinate.
I have heard that some intend to protest. In my mind this is not only stupid in the extreme, but halachically questionable. On that matter I also have Rabbinic agreement. Mori V’Rabbi Rav Hershel Schachter שליט׳א made it clear in our phone call that one should not go to Caulfield, either to protest or to listen to Steven.
There is a valid question about calling up to the Torah someone who advertises their homosexuality and the acts which result. These types of questions arose in the Halachic literature regarding those who have married out and those who publicly break the Sabbath in a ‘look, Shabbos doesn’t mean anything’ attitude. I know that in Elwood Shule, there is a Shule goer who married out. He comes on Shabbos fairly often. Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick instructed the Gaboim not to give him an Aliya, as I recall. This is consistent with the view of R’ Moshe Feinstein ז׳ל.
Turning our attention towards Sabbath desecrators, I know that the late Rav Chaim Gutnick z’l would wait in his office until everyone had left and then walk home. He knew that his community of Holocaust survivors were theologically and psychologically challenged and displayed peculiar traits: they came to Shule but drove there. They didn’t eat Kosher but would never eat Pork. When such a damaged person came to Shule, Rabbi Chaim Gutnick only saw their holy soul and did not see any infractions.
What about Steven Greenberg? To my mind, he does not need an audience of voyeuristic heterosexuals. The need to treat people as created in the image of God should be taught by those who are not involved in Torah infractions. I interact every now and again with a homosexual Talmid Chacham, who I believe to be celibate.
Does one give Steven Greenberg an Aliyah? My personal answer would have been yes, if he was a ‘mind your own business’ private type. If however he was advertising his homosexuality and seeking acceptance according to the Torah then I would be inclined not give an Aliya to the Torah. I don’t rely on my own feelings in such a grave case, and discussed this with my Posek today. He fully agreed with me that protesting was definitely not the correct approach. It would also not be advised for an Orthodox person to attend such a talk. In respect of giving him an Aliyah he opined that in a Shule where people have lots of different baggage of aveyros, and wouldn’t be alarmed in the slightest, then he is not considered an outlier in that particular congregation and can be called up.
In the end, we must try to focus on the Godly soul of individuals who face big challenges to keep Torah and Mitzvos and try to have them attend davening, go to Shiurim etc.
My view is that this is for the ‘ordinary’ person. The one who has ordination and travels the world talking about his anti Torah proclivities should not be afforded an outlet connected to an Orthodox Shule.
It is ironic that many of those making noise against him are defending the despicably accused Malka Leifer. I just hope that she isn’t duping the psychs in Israel who are evaluating her state of mind and that she be promptly brought to face Justice in Melbourne, and should she be found guilty, they could put her in a psychiatric prison if she is indeed impaired in that way.
PS. YU does not revoke Smicha, but would have revoked Steven’s if they had that policy. I discussed this with those who give YU’s respected and high standard Smicha today.
It is well-known that the Lubavitcher Rebbe, זכותו יגן עלינו, liked this drink and had it on his table for the tish. It is also well-known that it (once) had some Xtian cross emblazoned and supposedly someone mentioned that there might be a wine (סתם יינם) issue with the drink. I am told the drink suddenly disappeared from the Tish where the Lubavitcher Rebbe used to farbreng. The reason it disappeared was explained later by the Rebbe himself “due to those מרה שחורה’ניקעס (party poopers) who have cast aspersions on it”. I am not going to pretend that I understand why that bothered the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and I won’t second guess him.
Now, like Coca-Cola, the actual recipe of Bénédictine is a secret. The most reputable Kashrus Agencies in the world, however, advised consumers that it was not to be quaffed. In Melbourne, the Rabbi who is the Chief Posek for Kosher Australia is Mordechai Gutnick and he is a Lubavitcher. However, he pronounced that it was not recommended. I spoke to the head chemist of Kosher Australia, Kasriel Oliver, also a Lubavitcher, he told me in no uncertain terms that it was not to be consumed irrespective of what the Lubavitcher Rebbe had done in days gone by.
The Chicago Rabbinic Council do lots of investigating of spirits and liqueurs as does the London Beth Din. If Chicago pronounces that something is not recommended, other respectable agencies follow their finding. (I don’t include the private little (not to be trusted) Kashrus agencies where the person giving the hechsher is also paying himself a tidy wage). Proper authorities, like Kosher Australia, cRc, OU and a host of other respectable agencies still do not recommend Bénédictine.
Now, I read an essay from the cRc about Bénédictine here and apart from Rabbi Moshe Gutnick’s view (which was not based on visiting the premises) it seemed they were having it a “bit both ways”. Moshe is one of Mordechai’s younger brothers and oversees a large Kashrus organisation in Sydney for many years.
I am not a lover of liqueurs in particular, but I thought that something just wasn’t right. Were the Dominican Monks not allowing any agency in? That seems incorrect. If so, why hadn’t any of the European agencies gone in and investigated it properly. Why hadn’t the Lubavitchers investigated? Were they afraid it might be forbidden? I sent an email to the cRc and copied it to Rabbi Gutnick where I wrote
HiI read the article on thisand do not understand why R Msika doesn’t drink non B&B.Is this because of the cRc comments or is it because he only drinks Mehadrin with a Mashgiach at least Yotze VeNichnas, is it political, or a personal Chumra.Does the Beth Din of America accept it?In Melbourne it is not recommendedI have never had itI am not a LubavitcherMy Posek is Rav Schachter
All are bottled in the same bottling machine, but there is a full
cleaning cycle between each product bottled.
Ho Hum. Take a Bex and lie down for a rest Alex.
Someone just sent me your response to what I wrote. (I will reproduce it below) I understand that a mother, like a lion, looks after her cubs; one has a natural inclination to protect, but I can assure you that:
a) It didn’t take me long to write; and
b) I have read gone with the wind; and
c) I have four University degrees, including a PhD, so please don’t place me in your preconceived bed pan of medieval street sweepers; and
d) I have met you and found you pleasant and have actually written a piece in Generation which I believe you were involved with; and
e) A cousin of Yaron is a cousin of mine.
If you want to argue facts or claim I have been unkind, then I’m all ears.
Failing that, enjoy your Matza Balls (if you are allowed them … I have to wait till the last day)
My goodness, Cousin of Yaron. It was such a pleasure to read your response to Alex’s post. The fact that it was only slightly shorter than “Gone With the Wind” (that’s a secular book you may have been forbidden to read) is a clear indicator of how much you respect her thoughts and ideas. Taking so
much time to reply – and I’m a writer so I know these things -must have
taken you hours. We are indeed privileged to share your acumen and erudition. I hope there’s more on the way. Also, if you feel compelled to reply, please know that I will not re-engage. I’ve said my piece.
(Disclosure: I am Mother of Alex.)
I need to start with the disclaimer. I bear no personal antipathy towards Alex. She is married to my cousin Yaron Gottlieb, and I remember their wedding fondly (the band in particular were incredible).
I’ve been busy of late, involved in matters that rather wouldn’t have required my attention. Such is life. Today, however, I received an email (allegedly) being an article just written by Alex. I don’t feel an imperative to read Galus Australis given the stack of things I haven’t read next to my bed. (I was chuffed to see its roots though included the daughter of a colleague of mine, Dr Ron Sacks-Davis. Ron is a mild-mannered lovely person who recruited me to RMIT more years ago than I care to admit.
I read a few lines of Alex’s alleged comments and saw that it involved my Rav Hamuvhak (my primary Rabbi and teacher), the world-renowned Halachic Decisor for the OU (currently the only Halachic Consultant since Rav Belsky’s recent passing), the Rabbi of the Rabbis of the Rabbinic Council of America, someone who just celebrated 50 years as a Rosh Yeshiva and Rosh Kollel at Yeshivah University, who has a degree in Science, the youngest Rosh Yeshivah appointed by Yeshivah University, the brilliant Rabbi who could recall just about every word he heard from his teacher, the enormous father of Centrist Orthodoxy, Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik ז׳ל. More recently, three of his books have been published where he recounts the Mesora, approach and words that he heard either with his own ears, or from someone else (always naming his source). He also had a serious of Halachic treatises. One includes his decision that it is forbidden according to Halacha to return parts of Israel. No doubt, that of itself would be something that Alex would not accept, though she could not build a counter halachic argument, despite frequenting partnership minyanim which seek to raise the prominence of women in all facets of Judaism (perhaps with the exception of circumcision, although I suspect Alex might be against it because the male child hasn’t been asked whether they actually want it). Alex and Yaron now have two charming daughters.
I have a copy of every book that Mori V’Rabbi Rav Schachter has written. Steve Jobs can be credited with introducing me, and even forcing me (due to a bluetooth firmware bug in some 3rd party radios used in today’s cars) to listen to my iPhone in the car for some 40 minutes each day driving to works and then back. I’m sorry I was using green house gasses, however, I was fulfilling כיבוד אב ואם. I now use more green house gasses, via the public tram system, but let’s not go there.
Despite being a musician for longer than I’ve been an academic, the only song that might be on my iPhone at a given moment is one I need to learn for a wedding and require a refresher. 99.9% of the 128 Gigabytes, yes, Gigabytes, contain Torah Shiurim. Due to the bug in the blue tooth, as soon as I turn the car on, a random Shiur starts (or sometimes the Shiur I was listening to resumes). I just checked my iTunes list and found that I had downloaded locally 1000 Shiurim. If one visits yu.org, which is one of the biggest sanctifications of God’s name, one finds that Rav Schachter has 4,880 Shiurim. Now Alex is good with her pen (although I find her descent into profanities unbecoming and bordering on unfitting illiterate Bogan culture, let alone something that is forbidden by the Judaism that Alex loves (even by “non” fundamentalists).
My first question is, how many of the published 4,880 Shiurim of Mori V’Rabbi Rav Schachter, has Alex listened to? I would venture to say that two digits would be a stretch. As such, her personal exposure to his style, character, integrity, let alone his learning and dignity, is approaching ZERO.
My next question is, how many of Rav Schachter’s Seforim has Alex learned or studied with or without someone. Again, I venture to say none given that since they don’t seem to fall under the rubric of a quote from Wikipedia (I got a shock when I saw she has an entry)
In one article, a conservative community activist whom she had criticised accused her of an ‘evidence-light prosecutorial indictment of the community.’ Fein responded to this criticism by saying that it was this very style of argument that was driving away an entire generation of young Jews.
Fein, for example is certainly unaware that Rav Schachter is the Halachic authority that is relied upon by a movement which rallies against outing men (not sure if they are involved in women not accepting a Gett) and putting them under pressure, demonstrations etc. I will leave Alex to find out about that. Rav Schachter, though, doesn’t do things because he thinks they sit well with his “feelings”. He does them because Halacha and his feelings coincide, with the former being the last words. He is afraid of nobody and states his opinion without fear or favour.
My next question to Alex is how many times she has spoken to Rav Schachter? I speak to him semi-regularly. I gather the questions that I have (which are not klotz kashes) and late in the evening in New York he always takes my call, and did so the first time without knowing me from a herring. He speaks with incredible humility and I have never, I repeat, never, heard a Rav say “I don’t know”, as often as I hear Rav Schachter say that in Shiurim, and sometimes on the phone. So Alex, being such an accomplished writer and journalist would you like to ring him cold and ask him your questions? You might want to read him one of your diatribes where you state
For some reason, I consent to be a part of a congregation that does not count me as an adult human.
Only adult men can form the quorum required for certain prayers. Every time I set foot in my synagogue or participate in Orthodox Jewish life, I leave my civil society feminism at the door and therefore comply with something that erases a massive part of myself.
There are plenty of rabbis prepared to insult our intelligence. They’ll tell us that all the things women cannot do in Orthodoxy—bearing witness and initiating divorce being two of the biggest—are simply because women are more spiritual than men and should not have to dirty themselves with… what? Real life and power, among other things.
How can I consent to this oppression in any intellectually honest way and still call myself a feminist?
Alex, maybe you can’t call yourself a feminist. Instead, try Jewish Orthodox person, and learn from prime sources. You do know that Rav Soloveitchik, Rav Schachter’s prime teacher encouraged women to study the Torah including the Talmud. Undoubtedly you also know that Rav Moshe Feinstein z’l explicitly forbade anything that remotely smelled of feminism. I’m not sure why that defines you more than Judaism? Does it?
By the way, just to set the record straight if you may have received the message incorrectly: Rav Schachter ruled that any functionary of a partnership prayer group, should be banned from leading services in an Orthodox Shule. Now this was one of a batch of questions on my list to ask. A number of Rabbis know that I have access to Rav Schachter, and they ask me to ask him a question on their behalf. And no, they don’t always like the answers. The issue of your own husband not being permitted to be a functionary, is an outcome of that halachic decision. It was not initiated by me in any way whatsoever. I’m sure it gnaws at you though, incessantly.
Okay, let me now get to your article Alex. You are an intelligent girl, and I know you mean well and I have zero negativity towards you.
My comments in response to your prose will be in red
Good morning kvetchers.
There’s a rabbinic shit fight* going on that we all need to pay attention to, even those of us who are not Orthodox or have no interest in religion.**
Dear Alex, we don’t use words like that. Get a thesaurus. They are online. Furthermore, we certainly don’t have to pay attention to it when we haven’t got the foggiest idea what is behind it.
This fight represents a broader struggle for the soul of our worldwide community.
Alex, your knowledge, or should I say complete ignorance of Rav Schachter is showing ingloriously. This has nothing to do with the soul, nothing to do with the worldwide community. Rav Schachter happens to have definitional and methodological problems with the other Rabbi, and feels very strongly about those, in the same way that his teacher Rav Soloveitchik felt about Reform and Conservative, and how his approach decimated their charlatan forms of our religion.
It is a clear cut case of fundamentalist intolerance versus moderate reason.
Define your terms please Alex. What is a fundamentalist? Someone who ascribes to the Rambam’s 13 fundamentals or the 620 Mitzvos, 613 +7. And who in God’s name or his writings defines moderation as being abandoning fundamentals. You really can’t write cheap one liners like that. You are more intelligent than to descend into the one line headline grabbers of the Greens.
This fight has material implications for our collective long term future because of the current Orthodox stranglehold in Israel and over many communities, (including Australia) regarding personal status (who is a Jew, agunot, etc.)
It has personal ramifications for Orthodox, frum women like me who have felt asphyxiated by rabbinic irrationality and abrogations of historicity.
Can you please give us examples of your eruditely researched Rabbinic Irrationality. Without it, your statement is vacuous despite its clarion call to history.
What started with Rabbi Herscel Schacter – a major (fundamentalist) figure at Yeshiva Uni – tearing down the posters advertising a lecture by a rigorous but moderate rabbi, Aryeh Klapper, is transforming into a very exciting story.
Hmmm, we don’t know what fundamentalist means, but Alex has crowned Rav Schachterwith the term; someone who ordains Rabbis after a four year course fir the last 50 years! (give me a call Alex, I will tell you some of the fantastic innovations they have there which are being introduced elsewhere).
The Rabbi Klapper incident is a Machlokes L’Shem Shomayim. Rav Schachter will have his reasons, and they will be most cogently argued as to why he doesn’t think Rabbi Klapper isn’t following Mesora and thereby should not speak at YU. To be honest, it doesn’t even interest me. That Rav Schachter took off the posters? Big deal. He felt it was a Bizayon HaTorah.
But you know Alex, there is a thing called Divine Providence, which doesn’t have a special relationship with feminism or fundamentalism. I hopped into my car tonight to get home. As I mentioned above, a random Shiur started. Guess what, the Shiur was from Torahweb.org (he has Shiurim there and elsewhere as well) and the speaker was Mori V’Rabbi Rav Schachter. Guess what his topic was? “Why are Jews so intolerant”. He dissected the issue nicely, and I urge you to find it (I will send it if you can’t) and you will find a man who has one thing greater than his learning. His Middos. He is one of the most self-effacing humble people I have met, and he is the real thing.
This now about Orthodox Jews saying to a cabal of intolerant rabbis: enough!
Do me a favour the new Victorian Rabbinate Leadership is hardly a cabal let alone intolerant. You’ve been accused before for making statements without back up. You have done so again. If you were my student, I’d give you zero for that statement. It’s just an attack.
You do not have a hotline to God that you can steamroll opposition to your dystopian, misogynist, racist, and homophobic view of our religion.
Alex, are you working for Richard Di Natale? You have simply trotted out a series of “modern” slogans and have not linked them to an allegation that you made. It does not become someone of your intelligence to descend into cheap sloganeering.
Some important points:
The rabbi tearing down the posters, Rabbi Schacter, is considered by many a giant of Torah learning.
You can say, He IS a giant of Torah learning. The world knows that. He is a prodigy.
.He has, however, an unfortunate world view. He famously told a group of rabbis that informing the police of child rape would endanger the rapist by placing him “in a cell with a shvartze, in a cell with a Muslim, a black Muslim who wants to kill all the Jews.”
You and the forward are so damned misinformed. You take the quote and you don’t actually listen to his Halachic analysis which is valid and in-depth. Rav Schachter actually says that they must be reported to the police, however, he raised the halachic issue of sending someone to the type of prison which is against the Torah (e.g., where they get raped and beaten up). He suggested the Prison System needs to be reformed. There you go Alex, how about taking that on. I think they should be reported and if found guilty go to prison, but I do not think it is halachically (or morally) correct that they are subject to rape, and sticks up their behinds, and beatings. Do you?
. Schachter also believes women have *zero* role in public life *at all*. He doesn’t just oppose women’s ordination; he opposes their presence as public figures full stop.
You’ve dropped his title and simplified the issue to a two liner. He has many Shiurim on this topic where he dissects Rishonim and Acharonim. This isn’t about a western line of equality nor is it about sticking to medieval practices. It is about interpreting Halacha for our times. Let me remind you, Rabbi Schachter is exactly that-the biggest Talmid Chacham in Centrist/Modern Orthodoxy. Guess what Alex. His wife has Shiurim on yutorah.org (heaven forbid!) You really have zero idea and just shoot with no bullets in your pop gun.
.Rabbi Klapper is a straight down the line Modern Orthodox rabbi who sees a need to balance rigorous adherence to law with intelligent interpretations of that law. He is sympathetic to women’s desires not to be marginalised.
I’m not going to argue with you. I don’t know Rabbi Klapper from a bar of soap. However, Rav Schachter certainly knows his methodologies
. He is also someone who pauses from discussion of Halachic minutiae to think about other crucial, practical things impacting Jewish life, such as the cost of school fees
Are you just bigoted? This morning I heard a Shiur ALSO from Rav Schachter on this topic. You can call it minutiae but it is bemoaned by many and case in terms of Hilchos Tzedoko. If you like I can send you the Shiur. It was on the topic of Zikkuy HaGett but he went on a tangent (as he often does). You think these things don’t bother him and he’s only worried whether you eat Meir Rabbi’s mayonnaise for Pesach?
So it’s not surprising that a man like Schacter is not going to like a man like Klapper.
Like? Please educate yourself. Rav Schachter would have nothing to do with notions of whether he likes or doesn’t like Rabbi Klapper. Any objection would be firmly based on Halachic principles (things you seem to love like to denigrate and call minutiae). Rav Schachter says explicitly that when two Talmidei Chachomim have sound approaches which disagree on a conclusion, both conclusions are God’s word. I heard him say that in the car this afternoon. Rav Schachter will have his reasons. He didn’t just have a 50th year celebration and Sefer Torah dedication at YU because he’s some simple-minded automaton.
It’s also not surprising that a woman like Alex who knows ZERO about the Halachic/Mesora reasons Rabbi Schachter may have against Rabbis who take certain paths (which by the way may have to do with Ben Pekuah and not women) will make such a sciolistic and ignorant Gzeira Shava.
What *is* surprising, is that Schacter thought it was appropriate to refer to Klapper as an apostate and crazy person, when Schachter was asked why he ripped down posters advertising Klapper’s lecture.
Rav Schachter’s words are a matter of conjecture, as I expect you know by now. He can sometimes use inflamed expression. On the other hand, if he really believed Rabbi Klapper was an Apikorus (which you aren’t) he would be able to explain why but no doubt do that behind the closed doors of the RCA. He has a right to deny certain speakers, or do you deny him that too?
Schachter also said inviting Klapper to speak was as bad as inviting a Reform rabbi.
He uses that analogy all the time. It means, it’s as bad as inviting someone who doesn’t display fidelity to Mesorah and makes Judaism fit their world view and not the other way around.
I don’t know about you, but I’m personally thoroughly sick and tired of this disgusting attitude to people who have different religious beliefs.
I know a few Doctors if you are “thoroughly sick” but I suggest you educate yourself so that you don’t sit like one of the four daughters at the Pesach table.
I’m sick of bullies in positions of rabbinic power.
You mean people who said your husband’s involvement with partnership services is not kosher? It wasn’t my question, but I most certainly accept the answer, especially in Melbourne where many of the women eat out, and don’t keep many basic Mitzvos, but demand “a pulpit” to expectorate from (unlike the Jerusalem chapter where those women are consistently frum.
I’m sick of rabbis who hate women; who are openly racist; who think it’s OK to protect child rapists.
So am I, but I don’t know any now in Victoria.
. I’m sick of these men deciding on matters crucial to the future of our people.
If they were women, you’d feel better?
But this whole episode has a very, very bright side: I had never heard of Klapper before this incident, and neither had a lot of other people.
And how many of his shiurim have you listened to now? You should start by calling him Rabbi Klapper, otherwise we may need to resort to calling you Rebbetzin Gottlieb.
Schachter’s disgusting behaviour has done the exact opposite of what he intended: it has introduced us to a great Jewish thinker of our time.
Well go and ask Rabbi Klapper about Melbourne’s partnership services. One look at that service and it would not surprise me that he will be on a flight out.
This is not to say I agree with everything I’ve read (to date) of Klapper’s opinions. But his reason, rigour and blatant decency are so refreshing.
So is the furious response from young people who are enraged that Schachter tried to shut Klapper down. This whole incident makes me more optimistic than I have been for a while.
Young people? You think older people defer to the old sage. Oh boy, you have zero idea. Rav Schachter’s knowledge is idealised by boys of 18-24. Y.U. has a left wing and Commentary can easily inflame a situation, better than you can.
PS. You aren’t young anymore, Alex.
Great, I hope you have a nice Seder
We are just at the beginning of all of this.
I hope you are too.
Well no doubt you will regale both sedarim with fantastics divrei torah devoid of politics, sensationalism, and various modern appendages.
*It must be emphasised that the fight is very one sided. Klapper, as far as I know, has not engaged in any way. It is just Schacter calling him an apostate.
You could learn to spell Rav Schachter’s name, especially as there are two at YU who are not related. Finally, make it you next task to try and understand exactly why Rav Schachter does not like the approach to Halacha that Rabbi Klapper utilises.
Enjoy the Charoses. I hope its consumption doesn’t offend the green emission lobby.
I was sent this article, written by Mark Baker, an academic at Monash University (and family friend). Mark is alleged to have posted the article below on his facebook page. I received it by email and have never visited Mark’s facebook page. My reaction, over a few days, was that we had the mirror image of the boycott tactics used by Neturei Karta against the State except unlike Neturei Karta, this wasn’t about religion (Halacha doesn’t get a guernsey in Marks article). Rather it was the exasperated groans of a left-winger indelibly married to two “states”, even if one is effectively the mamzer Amalek.
I interspersed his facebook commentary with my understanding of why some of Mark’s views are blind post-liberal, and left-wing economic terrorism. The tone sounds an awful lot like the failed rhetoric we hear from J-Street, Bernie “the shhh I’m a Yid” Sanders, American reform and the Tikun (sic.) Olamniks of this world. They stem from superimposing a left-leaning view of the world, into some plasticine-like Zionism (and Judaism) as opposed to the other way around. In the other way around, Zionism and Judaism are already defined. They react to the world. They do not metamorphose to become something else to fit into some world views.
I will variegated Mark’s emotive outbursts with a critique of his post-liberalism. The rhetoric sounds like the extreme left views we hear from J-Street and Bernie “I’m not sure if my grandchildren will even be reconstructed cultural Jews” Sanders, feel-good American Reform clergy, and of course, the Tikun (sic) Olamniks of this world. I don’t mention the infamous Norman Finkelstein because Mark appears to be even more radical than Norman on BDS. Norman, one of many communist inventions of the Holocaust, actually opposes the very BDS that Mark claims he “quietly supports”. The left-leaning start with their vision of the Olam (world) which they conjure to appease an already morally corrupt world and then mould (sic) Judaism into having plasticine-like spinal characteristics that can be contorted any which way.
My comments are interspersed and not in italics. The original article from Mark is in italics. This should not be understood as an ad hominem attack on Mark; I’m sure he believes what he says and he is no Norman Finkelstein anymore than I am a Dershowitz or Benny Morris.
I was living in Israel in 1995 with my family. From our apartment, we could hear the crowds at Zion Square baying for Rabin’s blood, and holding up placards of the PM dressed as a Nazi and a terrorist. Bibi Netanyahu was standing on the balcony, whipping up a frenzy, which culminated in the assassination of Rabin.
Long time ago! This description is mendacious. Both the left and the right engaged and engage in spirited demonstration, but implicitly opening with a remark that is designed to ascribe the assassination of Rabin to Bibi is confounding and offensive, while it is woven indirectly as a deflection. Clearly this imagery and its conclusion is out of context. It was designed to paint the entrance to the rest of the article. First, “Bibi is responsible for Rabin’s assassination”. Now we’ve got you hating him for that episode, let’s continue.
Nothing has changed about Bibi in 22 years, except that he has stood at the helm of a government that has led the country literally into a dead-end.
People who don’t change their views in the face of unchanged oppression and rejectionism should not be held to ridicule. Let’s see what else hasn’t changed in 22 years.
- Arafat hopelessly let his people down (apart from Mrs Arafat’s fat bank account and the years of siphoning money to his cronies and the 1 Billion spent on the 1st intifada, 1/2 of which was funded by Saudi Arabia, and the massive corruption, which makes James Packer’s gifts insignificant. Even now, it is a brave person who claims that Abbas actually distributes international money to non political causes.
- He had Rabin, not Bibi, and Arafat still couldn’t bring himself to sign on for a two-state solution! Wasn’t there a proposal for this in 1948 too and before that? Note: it was in Arafat’s hands; not Bibi’s. What do we learn from that? That Israel didn’t offer enough? Come now! Everyone knows that simply wasn’t true. Arafat wanted to live another day. Peace would have meant his savage opponents would lop his head off-ISIS style. In the end, I believe this is why Arafat didn’t sign. Mark, perhaps tell us why you think Arafat didn’t sign off? Was it because he was actually born in Cairo and didn’t think he had the authority. Goodness me.
- They still want ALL of Israel. Is anyone in any doubt? When push comes to shove, Arafat, Abbas, all of them, simply do not accept the concept that there is a distinctive JEWISH Homeland. Does Mark really believe they don’t want to push us into the sea? What does “the” occupation mean? Mahmoud “Holocaust denier” Abbas, calls the idea of a Jewish Homeland “Racist”. A Chutzpa. Let him try to live in Jordan where most of his DNA-brethren live and where his genome is found. Perhaps he’d like Saudi Arabia or Yemen; maybe Syria?
- Post-holocaust, especially, endangering Israeli sovereignty is not negotiable. Not 22 years ago, while Mark sat on balconies sipping coffee, and not now. Since most Arabs still don’t accept that reality, we are delusional if we think otherwise. Instead they engage in diplobabble. Mark, falling for this, is no different to someone who takes all of Trumps rhetoric seriously.
- They should seek to confederate with the Hashemites in Jordan, most of whom are their blood cousins. Why do you respect Jordan so much Mark? When does Monash’s library make a big deal of that tribe. Is the Palestinian in Jordan different somehow or are you as afraid of the Hashemites as they are. Call the historic truth, not some temporal Ottoman historical relic.
- Israel is probably at its strongest point (although it should have listened to Bennett in respect of the Hamas tunnel tactics and not Bibi. Certainly Mr Morality Ya’alon is now finished in politics for his clumsy left-wing handling of the mortal threat of death tunnels.
- One cannot talk about a two state solution! One must talk about a three state solution. When someone can make Abbas, Hamas, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Hizbollah, Da’esh and Turkey’s dictators kiss and make up, they can cut the number to consideration of two states. Don’t hold your breath. Make sure you have done a course on disentangling diplomatic babble before you fall for the type of nonsense, that Rabin and Clinton did.
- And yet, we don’t hear anything about “the right” of return. Is this deemed acceptable by Mark? Is he expecting Abbas to move back to Tzfat and vote in the municipal elections and avail himself of Kupat Cholim for his hemorrhoids? Maybe he wants not an international Jerusalem, but an international Israel where we pay jizya or become Dhimmis. (Who were the first to call for an “international Jerusalem”? Of course, it was the Pope. Study Xtianity and the chosen people and you will understand why they had to say that).
- Palestinian PhD students in Melbourne who I talk to, make it VERY clear. They don’t want a Palestinian state under Abbas. I was actually shocked. They say they want ONE state (not two). They say that Abbas and Hamas and the lot of them are corrupt criminals. They say they are happy to live along Israelis and Jews and vote in elections. Sorry guys, that’s not a Jewish Homeland. We aren’t stupid. I didn’t say that in response, of course. I just listened to their view.
While he wasn’t the first to build settlements, he has deepened and permanently institutionalised the occupation, eroded Israeli democracy, continued to whip up racism against Arabs, propagated the myth that there is no peace deal to be made, turned Israel into a partisan issue in Congress and among Diaspora Jews, launched brutal wars that could have been avoided, created a diversionary campaign to fight the delegitimisation of Israel when he more than anyone has contributed to its delegitimisation, alienated Israel from world leaders by shunning international law, abused Holocaust memory by playing the victim card, exploited real threats in the region for his own political expediency, undermined the civil rights legacy of his own Likud party in exchange for a fascist impulse; created a settler state and given free rein to Jewish thuggery; and worst of all, he has paid lip-service to the two-state solution while creating a one-state reality, leading Israel (as warned by every PM before him) down the path of apartheid.
Now that’s a looong expectorating sentence, even if interspersed by stray semi colons. Lets take the allegations one by one so they can be swallowed slowly.
- Bibi wasn’t the first to build a “settlement”. I guess that’s a feather in Bibi’s cap. Indeed, tell us please what a settlement is. Is Efrat a settlement or are you upset only about 10-20 families in caravans on a hill-top? I trust you boycott Rabbi Riskin as well as Gush Etzyon. He’s here now. Go and demonstrate against him? Define your terms. I believe 2-3% of land is taken up by “settlements”. Are you going to tell Rabbi Riskin to pack up and go back to Lincoln Square because Arabs listened to their mufti in 1948 during a war?
- “The occupation”? I’m sorry, it’s disputed land. You live in an occupation. This is Aboriginal land. Have you bought it from them? I don’t know which of your teachers failed to teach you that Jews are the closest thing to indigenous natives, and Palestine is a recently promoted modern term used to confuse the neurone-deprived UN. Warren Mundine knows it. Why doesn’t Mark Baker?
- How is Israeli democracy eroded? Have people gotten into power unelected? Perhaps Trumps victory has you so upset that you’ve forgotten he was democratically elected. Maybe you want a new J-Street constitution?
- Where does Bibi whip-up racism against Arabs! He’s been hobnobbing with Sunni Arabs who are all too eager to join him and not face the brutal Shiite regime of Iran and its satellite terrorist puppets. Perhaps if God forbid one of their rockets hit your balcony in the 90’s you would have a more sober view of them. I know: Sunni, Shiite, what’s the difference, they are all fine people, full of democracy and tolerance. Did you know Iran is building underground factories for Hezbollah. You think Hezbollah care about Palestinian Arabs or Lebanon? The only thing that unites these people is hatred for YOU, yes you Mark Baker. Go back and look at the beheadings from ISIS. Do you think these savages would spare you?
- “Launched brutal wars?” What newspapers were you reading Mark, the Anarchist nonsense given out near Melbourne University or the Trade Union? Did you forget what the D in IDF stands for? That is the motive behind every interlocution. Oh, and don’t forget to read how the soft and fuzzy democrat Ya’alon and his mate Gantz let Israel down with their dismissal of the Hamas Tunnels. Would you ask them to resign. The report is out. Only Bennett comes out looking normal. You won’t enjoy reading how it placed Israelis in grave danger.
- “Abused Holocaust memory by playing the victim card.” Nobody is playing cards Mark. Did you borrow this line from Finkelstein? His parents were communists. Yours aren’t. This is for real, just like the Holocaust. How many times do you need “we will
drive them into the searepeated to you? Don’t you watch memri.org or is that also just a load of baloney? Guess what? Holocaust survivors like your parents Mark, actually like Bibi and support Jewish strength; not the pathetic ‘my grandchildren will never be Jews, Bernie Sanders nebachs’, and the libertarian, egalitarian Diaspora pontificators.
- You’ve chosen to only focus on the political machinations in the Likud. You think that the Labour party or the Mapai or the Mapam would stop at any political method to keep power? I have no doubt your new darling is Yair Lapid. Why? Because the left-wing is so morally bankrupt, even left wingers don’t take them seriously. Only Shimon Peres could get some attention with his one liners, but we know his part in Oslo. That wasn’t about power either, was it? He was as power drunk as the next politician. Jealous of Rabin?
- Alienated leaders? Oh spare me. Is Obama now your love child? Obama will go down as one of the most useless Presidents that existed. Yes, a nice fellow, smart, and great orator, but anyone who can stand and watch 450,000 Syrian casualties (those who do need Tikun Olam) and the best Obama can do in response is send the odd drone, smells morally corrupt and makes Obama a gutless wonder: take your pick. Oh, did you notice how the Africans are now lining up. Perhaps Mark you’d be more impressed if that English anti-Semite Corbyn or the genius Richard Gere was “happy” with Israel.
- What is a settler state? Define your terms. Stop with hyperbole. Maybe you mean the Charedim of Betar? Oh, we better not mention Betar. It’s a Jewish place, after all, and the Charedim are iconic “settlers”! I think it’s four minutes to cross Israel by plane. I imagine your microwave achieves more in less time, Mark.
- Free reign to Jewish Thuggery. I am a scientist. Perhaps you will quote some figures for us. Let’s go with statistics. You know you are wrong, and that’s even if the soldier who shot the dying terrorist was pardoned. Ask your acquaintance Zev Slonim why Zev’s son was held in prison without representation and democratic rights. He’s a right-winger. I thought Bibi only did that to lefties. Think again. Was that a ruse?
- Apartheid. Let’s see. I didn’t see it in Jerusalem. Did you see it while you were watching with your family on the porch, as you stated or while walking down Mamila? You obviously have a better understanding of how to defend ISRAELI cities and civilians from thugs, terrorists and murderers. Those who live their lives peacefully do so and nobody is bothered by them. There are plenty of Palestinian settlements (and Jewish ones) that are peaceful.
He is a liar like Trump, who will speak in Australia tonight by using his oratory skills to trade in fear, eternal victimhood, and despair – while claiming the high-moral ground that Israel is a beacon of light unto the world.
Trump is a liar. Okay, maybe, perhaps he is also a fool. Or maybe he is a clever non politician who has read the mood of the American people better than unelectable Clinton. I decided to judge Trump on what he does. What he says, is all part of the political game. Perhaps you think that Malcolm Turnbull was a sycophantic fool when he acknowledged that Israel had high democratic standards. I think your rhetoric Mark is more akin to the liar Richard Di Natale and his band of merry tree-hugging anti Semites or the repetitive letter writers in the Jewish News (e.g. Henry Herzog). I hope no Jew ever votes Green. The assimilated ones will. I have no doubt. The tree will be more important than the rotted root. The tree lives on. The rotted root stays that way. (By the way Mark, do you consider Mark Dreyfus Jewish? You claim to be “Orthodox” albeit partnership style. Ask Melanie Landau? )
He will go down in history as having unleashed the dark demons of hyper-nationalism that will kill the Zionist dream.
I can see exactly what Trump and Bibi are doing. I’m surprised you can’t. Either Abbas will come to the party (he’s gutless so forget that) or the status quo will continue. The Palestinians will have their own Arab global warming. They will fight: Fatah and Hamas and Dahlan and say “enough is enough” we don’t hate Jews like you’ve taught us.
It is not the anti-Zionists who should be shunning him, but those who care deeply about Israel and its future.
Those who care deeply about Israel can support Bibi whole heartedly unless he is found guilty of breaching ministerial standards. Why is the implication that only a Zionist lefty is a true Zionist. Now, that’s apartheid and bias. That’s the killing of democracy. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, about a “two state” solution. That arose in 1948 and was rejected by Hitler’s Mufti.
Nothing has changed for the better, it’s only become worse. Can I suggest concentrating on supporting the indigenous people of Australia? That’s where you and I live. Maybe we should give back their land, and their right of return (as Jews deserve in Israel).
Leave the defence of Israel and its decision-making to those who put their lives on the line–not me, nor you. We are just pontificating, opinion-bearing people. We are irrelevant.
Hey Mark, watch this video. Give me a mark out of 10 for the pathetic apologist.
But none of this is as expressive as your mentor, Mark, the venerable David Ben Gurion. Watch him here. If he heard you admit that you boycotted Israel “quietly” I suggest he’d call you a fool. As to why you continue to be funded through the community at Monash. That’s a mystery to me and I call on the community to redirect their money away from extreme left wingers.
Mark, what do you have to say about the difference between Ben Gurion and Bibi as per this video?
Perhaps, Mark, it’s time you stopped pretending and joined Noam Chomsky as a fully fledged egalitarian member of the Jewish Community where the notion of identity is erased, as per a communist manifesto and has little hope of surviving the next century.
PS. Anyone whose Hebrew isn’t good enough to understand Ben Gurion’s interview above MUST find someone to translate it to them. He didn’t sit on balconies sipping coffee.
רפואה שלמה ליהודה בן טובה גיטל תיכף ומיד
I read the publication put out by this Minyan because I’m halachically curious by nature and Rabbi Donnenbaum puts in a good effort.
One can have the odd quibble, and some are worth mentioning and others are probably not. For example, he mentions the custom to have a special reading of Parshas Zachor for women (even though they don’t need to hear it according to many opinions). There is a comment in bold that it is preferable that 10 men “be present” during the reading. The source is in Halichos Bas Yisroel which I have and just looked at. (I don’t own a Shevet Halevi so I didn’t check). Indeed, the author of Halichos Bas Yisroel notes that Rav Elyashiv z’l (among others) said to have ten men present. I had remembered, however, that Rav Gavriel Tzinner in Nitei Gavriel thought that was nonsensical unless the men had not heard Parshas Zachor. Those are minor things.
I was outraged however when I read the following
Women who want to participate in the first Megilla reading … and have arranged a non frum jewish baby sitter (eg Russian, Israeli), must ensure that the baby sitter not perform any Chillul Shabbos in order to arrive on time.
If someone can please explain to me why a Russian Jew or Jewess or an Israeli Jew or Jewess should be explicitly listed as examples of “non-frum”, I’d be interested. Indeed, why do I need examples?
This is what is wrong with some segments of Jewry. They are too quick to call people non-frum, too quick to make conclusions about who is likely to be non-frum and then do or say little positive in this regard, let alone Kiruv.
Why assume they don’t know what to do especially if they work for you and live within walking distance etc Why even mention Russian or Israeli. That is a massive put down and totally unnecessary. Sure, if it’s not a regular babysitter, then one needs to make sure they don’t cause them to sin, but if it’s a regular babysitter, you’ve probably already told them so much (“don’t warm up anything for the children?”, Meat and Milk and the list goes on.
Here is a better approach: pay the babysitter extra money and encourage them to hear a later reading of the Megila (when you come home) and invite them to your Seudas Purim (especially if you are so certain they are non-frum and clueless). Maybe tell them what Purim is all about? Drop off Shalach Monos? Perhaps Matonos LoEvyonim?
Really! We can be a bit more sophisticated and positive about doing good in this world than focussing on minutiae when bigger issues stare us in the face? What if the babysitter is indeed a Russian emigre with a husband (you have never seen), and both have never seen a Purim Seuda?
Sorry, Heichal HaTorah, there seems to be a lack of sensitivity, something that prevents Geula, rather than encourages it. Frankly, in the next edition, there should be an open apology. I think that’s at least as important as whatever else is written in the next edition.
Postscript: When I pressed post, WordPress the blog infrastructure suggested that “non-frum” be replaced with “no-trump”. I nearly fell off my chair.
A Freilichen Purim to all, frum and not yet frum.
I am going to confine this question initially to men; that is, those with homosexual preferences. I am also going to confine myself to religious men, because I don’t think that it is likely that non religious Jewish homosexuals would have any connection to this custom.
There is a custom mentioned in the Gemora, which was enacted as a Takana from the Prophet Ezra, that men should visit a (male) Mikvah when they had an ’emission’. It is also true that Mikva was used to purify: the Cohen Gadol used to immerse in a Mikva many times during the services on Yom Kippur. In the days of the Temple even if one was טהור the male went to the מקווה in order to enter the עזרה. Even today, some Chazonim will immerse themselves before certain parts of the davening and this is brought in Acharonim. [ When I led Tefillos on Rosh Hashono and Yom Kippur, I went to the Mikva (also Pesach and Shavuos)]
The main reason for טבילת עזרא (which actually was enacted for both women and men) appears in Talmud Bavli Brachos 22a, and Baba Kama 92a.
The purpose of the תקנה was to “cool down” the tendency to engage in marital relations in an unfettered way, and to keep it “regular” for want of a better term. I am not using the exact words of the Gemora.
The enactment of Ezra was annulled (אורח חיים סימן פח).
כל הטמאים קורין בתורה וקורין קריאת שמע ומתפללין חוץ מבעל קרי שהוציאו עזרא מכל הטמאים ואסרו בין בדברי תורה בין בקריאת שמע ותפלה עד שיטבול כדי שלא יהיו תלמידי חכמים מצויין אצל נשותיהן כתרנגולין ואחר כך בטלו אותה תקנה והעמידו הדבר על הדין שאף בעל קרי מותר בדברי תורה ובקריאת שמע ובתפלה בלא טבילה ובלא רחיצה דתשעה קבין וכן פשט המנהג.
All the impure read the Torah and Shema, and pray (Shemoneh Esreh) except for the one who had an emission, until they go to the Mikvah. The idea is that there is a “process” before marital relations resume, so that the men are not like unfettered birds who just do it when they want. Later they annulled this … and it was enough that the person has washed in 9 Kavin of water
Chassidim and I suspect Mekubalim say that the enactment was annulled only for learning Torah. However, before one could Daven, one still had to perform Tevilas Ezra daily. This is why one can witness many people go to the Mikva before they have davened.
There is a story from the genius Posek, R’ Avraham Chaim Naeh, the author of the highly regarded Ketzos HaShulchan,
(whose measurements for Mitzvos I’d say the majority of the world outside B’nei Brak follow), and who asked (or was asked) rhetorically, “the words of Torah can’t become Tameh” [so what’s wrong if someone learns Torah without being to the Mikva? R’ Chaim answered, yes, the Torah doesn’t become Tameh, but can the vessel which is receiving the Torah (the person) who is Tameh, absorb Torah.
These days, one sees Chassidim go to the Mikvah (on Shabbos, and every day) and they have a custom (I believe from the Shulchan Aruch HoRav) that the water should be warm.
Even though it seems the Rambam still engaged in Takonas Ezra (I saw this but alas can’t remember where). Many Brisker wouldn’t have even seen the inside of a male Mikva let alone gone into one. On the other hand, other Litvaks, such as Rav Kanievsky (who is also a Mekubal) certainly go to the Mikva on occasions (I do not think every day, but I stand to be corrected).
This brings me to my essential question, and I’d value the opinion especially of those Rabbis who laudably make a quiet but effective effort to ensure those of an LGBTIQA preference don’t feel ostracised in an Orthodox Shule. I mean strictly Orthodox, not “Open Orthodox” and various break aways.
Here is my question:
“What if a religious person knew that he had preferences towards men (he might not act on these, I assume). He doesn’t find himself attracted to women. If he goes to the male Mikva (daily) (where I regrettably note some of the pedophilia mentioned in the Royal Commission in Australia occurred in the Mikva), even for the holiest of purposes, he will see loads of men in various stages of nudity. The showers have no doors and it is completely Hefker in my experience. Indeed, if you want to turn a non-chassidic young kid off, take him to these types of Mikvaos, where they will also pick up tinea and feel very strange. I would imagine, this is akin to a man, going into a sauna (lehavdil) full of women, where the women are in various stages of nudity. (This is a practice in some parts of Scandinavia). In such a Mikva environment, it seems to be that attendance is stoking the fire, so to speak, and making it harder to avoid stirring up homosexual tendencies towards the forbidden act. The religious homosexual knows they may not do the homosexual act. This would introduce a huge temptation to such a person (outside of the Mikva). Should they be allowed to go to a Mikva given that the Takona has been annulled and the temptation is very real.
Those who still keep Takonas Ezra, do so as a matter of Kabalistic piety. If I was a Posek, I would make it known (in a quiet way—need to think how) that those with homosexual tendencies, should never visit a Mikva (unless they are the only person there) as they will be putting themselves into a place that will make it harder to keep the Torah, especially if another homosexual in the Mikva responds to various eye movements etc or even if they are stirred up by it all.
Equally, I would say (not in the spirit of egalitarianism) that a Mikva woman, should not be a Lesbian or the like, as that experience would likely “fuel her fires” in the same way.”
But I am not a Posek. How would Rabonim pasken?
Would we see the more left-wing types, forbid it, but the more Chassidic types cast a blind eye to this practice? Or would it be the other way around. Would left-wing types permit it (equal opportunity, they can control themselves) and the right-wing forbid it, in the same way they would forbid a man to walk into a woman’s sauna?
I know it’s not a comfortable topic, and I have long argued that there is an opportunity for someone to come up with a better specifically architected/engineered male mikva, such that there is no nudity on display, and the volume needed to be accommodated maintained.
In case you are wondering whether I am inventing new laws/problems, consider learning the laws of Yichud (being alone with someone) and you will find that in our own Shulchan Aruch אבה”ע סי’ כד, it states where there is a concern that men are attracted to each other, then they are not permitted to be alone, in the same way that a male and female are not permitted to be alone unless it’s in a public area with people still awake etc
“ובודרות הללו שרבו הפריצים יש להתרחק מלהתייחד עם הזכר”
I did ask Mori V’Rabbi, Rav Hershel Schachter this question (among others) and although he is certainly not a Chosid, he said it would be prohibited for someone with such tendencies/preferences to go to a male Mikva, where nudity is everywhere, as they would be making life harder for themselves. לפני עיוור לא תתן מכשול (don’t provide fodder to help someone do the wrong thing)
A desirable side effect of such a ruling is that potential abusers would not have the outlet they used, as outlined clearly in evidence in court, where abuse occurred with two people in the Mikva.
Please note: I have not engaged in the issue of homosexuality. Rather, the laws of Tzniyus as they pertain to different tendencies.
Ideally, I’d like to see someone clever come up with a new architecture for Mikvaos for men. I find them a tad gross, and I’m heterosexual.
People, some of you may have received this. If not, please
I am going to quote one of my favourite Jewish Academics, Rabbi Dr Shnayer Leiman.
This is the link
Yaakov Avinu was deeply concerned that he be buried in Eretz Yisrael as opposed to Egypt.
Thus, he taught us – his children – that protection of the dignity of remains after life is protection of the dignity and sanctity of life itself.
I am sharing a letter from Prof. Shnayer Leiman, the distinguished scholar whom we have had the opportunity to host as a Scholar-in-Residence on numerous occasions.
Please read it and join me in signing this important petition.
I don’t ordinarily get involved in signing petitions, but this is a matter that cries out for protest against the massive desecration that is about to take place. I’m sure you know that the Lithuanian government has announced plans to build a new convention center over the Old Jewish Cemetery of Vilna. Although the Vilna Gaon’s remains were removed from the Old Jewish Cemetery, the remains of hundreds, perhaps thousands of Jews are still buried in the Old Jewish cemetery. These include the remains of some of the greatest rabbis, Jewish martyrs, and pious women through the centuries, including R. Moshe Rivkes (d. 1671-2), author of the Be’er Ha-Golah on the Shulhan Arukh; R. Zelmele (i.e., R. Shlomo Zalman, d. 1788), brother of R. Hayyim of Volozhin and favorite disciple of the Vilna Gaon; R. Shmuel b. R. Avigdor (d. 1793), last Chief Rabbi of Vilna; R. Avraham b. Ha-Gra (d. 1809) ; the Ger Zedek of Vilna (d. 1749), whose remains were not removed from the Old Jewish cemetery (despite claims otherwise); and Traina (date of death unknown), mother of the Vilna Gaon; Chanah, first wife of the Vilna Gaon (d. 1782); and Gitel, second wife of the Vilna Gaon, who apparently outlived the Gaon (precise date of death unknown). Virtually every Jew who died in Vilna before the year 1831 was, in fact, buried in the Old Jewish Cemetery.
The petition does not call for the Lithuanian government to cancel plans for building a new convention center (funded largely by the EU). It simply asks that it be built at a different location in Vilnius – which can easily be done.
A wonderful Vilna resident, Ruta Bloshtein, a shomer shabbos woman who bakes challah for members of the Vilna kehillah every erev Shabbos, has taken upon herself the responsibility of spearheading this write-in campaign. She started some three weeks ago and has about 250 signatories so far. She needs at least 1000 signatures; if she doesn’t get them it will be a Chillul Ha-Shem even beyond the destruction of the Jewish cemetery itself. It will be a signal to the Lithuanian government that Jews neither care nor count. If she gets 3000 signatures, the political authorities will have little choice but to take the petition into account before making any hasty decision. She needs, and deserves, our help.
The two key Rabbonim in Lithuania today, Rabbi Krelin (Chief Rabbi of Lithuania) and Rabbi Krinsky (head of Chabad) are among the first 250 signatories. It seems to me this is a case of מת מצוה in more ways than one. Sefer Chasidim, §261 (ed. Margulies, p. 225) reads:
אהוב לך את המצוה הדומה למת מצוה שאין לה עוסקים, כגון שתראה מצוה בזויה או תורה שאין לה עוסקים, כגון שתראה שבני עירך לומדים מועד וסדר נשים, תלמוד סדר קדשים. ואם תראה שאין חוששים ללמוד מועד קטן, ופרק מי שמתו, אתה תלמדם, ותקבל שכר גדול כנגד כולם, כי הם דוגמת מת מצוה.
You should love mitzvos that have similar status to that of an abandoned corpse that no one attends to (and whose burial is obligatory on whoever finds it). Should you see a mitzvah that is denigrated, or a portion of Torah that is neglected, make a point of [doing the mitzvah and] studying the Torah that is neglected. Should you see the members of your community studying the Order of Mo’ed [the laws of the Festivals] and the order of Nashim [the laws pertaining to women], to the neglect of the other Orders, make sure that you study the Order of Kodoshim [the laws pertaining to sacred matters relating to the Temple sacrifices and service]. Should you see that no one concerns himself with the study of the talmudic tractate Mo’ed Katan, or the talmudic chapter Mi Shemeso [the third chapter of tractate Berakhos], make sure that you study them.
Your reward will be great, equal to that of all the others, for all these are samples of an abandoned corpse whose burial is obligatory on the one who finds it.
All one needs to do is to click on the link below, fill out the electronic form, and electronically sign their name. Please forward to others, so that they too can participate in this mitzvah. It is not a time to stand idly by.
With prayers for the success of our cause,
The following is from מו׳ר הגאון הגדול הרב Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik ז׳ל.
R’ Yosef Karo in the standard Shulchan Aruch (תרפא:ב) concludes that we light the Chanuka lights before the Havdolo candles. However, when one comes home after Shule, many follow the Taz, that first one performs Havdala and then lights Chanuka licht.
הגאון הגדול הרב Rav Moshe Soloveitchik ז׳ל (the Rav’s father, and eldest son of R’ Chaim Brisker) explains that there is a difference between lighting in Shule and lighting at home.
The prime purpose of lighting in Shule is a requirement on the congregation to publicise the miracle. As the Vilna Gaon is quoted by his students (note the Biur Hagro was not actually written by the Gaon, but by his students) (תרעא:ז) that every place where the Rabbis required the concept of publicising a miracle, they also required that this miracle is also publicised by the congregation. They bring a proof from Hallel on Pesach Night at Maariv (which by the way, the Rav used to say in davening even though he davened Nusach Ashkenaz; the Rav was not afraid to “correct Nusach” e.g. He also said the Avoda of Yom Kippur according to Nusach Sefard because he felt it was a Halachically more accurate description of the Avoda of the Cohen Gadol). On Pesach night, Chassidim, and those who daven Nusach Sefard, don’t follow the Ramoh and, per R’ Yosef Karo, the Mechaber
בשו”ע או”ח סי’ תפ”ז ס”ד “בליל ראשון של פסח גומרין ההלל בצבור בנעימה בברכה תחלה וסוף, וכן בליל שני של שני ימים טובים של גליות
[As an aside, I remember the Rabbi of an important Shule in Melbourne, who used to daven at Chabad in the evening on Pesach Night because it was near his home and his Shule probably didn’t have a Minyan or it was too far for him to walk to as he got older, and when Chabad/Nusach Sefard started Hallel, he would leave Shule. He sat behind me. I was young, but I thought and continue to think that this was not the correct behaviour, but I will leave that issue as he is in another world.]
Back to Pesach. Even though we are required to say Hallel over a cup of wine (at the Seder) that is our personal requirement. However, the congregation, has a separate requirement to say Hallel as a congregation ציבור. When does a congregation get the “halachic designation” of a congregation? If they davened Mincha together, they are a Tzibbur/Congregation that group “is existentially formed” and now must perform the congregational פרסומי ניסא. For this reason, we light in Shule between Mincha and Maariv, even though many have the custom to light after Maariv at home. The reason being that the congregation assumes it’s requirement to light, as soon as they are designated as a congregation, and that occurs immediately after Mincha, because they have an on following requirement to continue with Ma’ariv.
Therefore, in respect of Shule, after Ma’ariv, where they no longer have any congregational duties, there is no more “congregation” and no special requirement to have פרסומי ניסא. Most people might still be there, however, they aren’t halachically a congregation requiring the lighting once they have completed their davening.
So let’s turn to Motzai Shabbos where we can only light the candles once Shabbos goes out. It would seem that since they have already davened, they no longer are designated as a congregation and no longer a requirement to light as a congregation. In order to avoid this conundrum, the Minhag has become to light the Havdala, as a congregation, after Chanuka lights, because at that time, they are still a congregation requiring Havdala, and therefore the פרסומי ניסא of a congregation has not dissipated. Note that the definition of a congregation is not whether most are there or not. Rather, it is about whether those who are there, are still considered a congregation because they haven’t completed their full davening.
Rav Soloveitchik wondered about gatherings where there was no congregational activity, such as Ma’ariv, e.g. at a fundraiser or the like where most would have already davened Ma’ariv in their own congregations. As such, Rav Soloveitchik questioned whether in such circumstances there was a congregational פרסומי ניסא that was incumbent halachically.
One could turn attention to the “Chanuka in the Park” type celebrations. From my observation, it is sometimes dubious that there is a congregational requirement for publicising the miracle. However, if one assumes, quite reasonably, that many of the people will consider this their private and only lighting of Chanuka candles on that evening, it perhaps would be that an entrance fee be charged, nominally, so that they can become part of the pseudo-mega-household that is lighting the Menora (as opposed to a congregational Chiyuv) to do so. Yes, I see many Chabadniks put Tefillin on people, but the minute they have finished with their Tefillin, those people have done a personal Mitvah, but not a congregational activity that is still incomplete.
It is somewhat ironic, but exact, that congregation isn’t defined by numbers, but by responsibility. Even a group of 10 is a congregation, and as long as they still have a congregational task, they must light Chanuka lights in the Shule. Yet, one could have 5000 people with no Halachically congregational requirement to light Chanuka lights because they aren’t a צבור halachically, because they are not involved in a Tzibbur mandated affair.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not arguing against lighting Chanuka candles in public places. I’m simply repeating the precise halachic categorisation of these acts, as per the words of the Rav and his father.
There are other explanations, including the need to have Chanuka at home with food, and at Shule it’s only for those who don’t know how to perform at home. I’m not going there.
As expected, there is the usual back slapping and congratulating students on their results. I understand that. A year or so ago we had Yesodei HaTorah listing the names of the Yeshivas their students were admitted to (not that I know any of them) and then a nondescript line about their results void of statistics. Not exactly “Torah Im Derech Eretz”, but some modern Litvak way of saying what’s important and what is not.
As usual, the Jewish News were more interested in the advertising dollar, and simply published the carefully crafted statistics each school put out.
It’s a pity the Jewish News couldn’t give guidelines as to which bands and statistics were to be supplied. Even things like Class sizes are never mentioned, making it nigh on impossible to make one to one comparisons for those who like to do so.
I don’t know what sorts of projects our “Roof Bodies” do, but one which I think I’d like to see each year is the “6 years hence” statistics. Each Orthodox Shule, or Reform/Conservative Temple, or Shira Chadasha? would have a record of marriages. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see under each School’s name, the percentage of those who are known to be married within the faith? I’d be fascinated.
Imagine getting 50 for text and tradition and then marrying out. Would today’s parent accept that? No names, of course, but the trends would also become visible and we would see for the first? time what it means to be a JEWISH School and pay the fees. Yes, I know the home is critical, but the home has assigned the school this aspect in the main.
Are we impressed that someone gets 50 for Ivrit or Yiddish and marries out?
Yes, marrying out is the end game. Schools are halachically the agents of parents for these critical years. The students need to build an identity that can confidently answer and resist the many isms, they will confront in life.
We correctly pull up a School if they have been involved in something not right. Let’s see our “Roof Bodies” … the great unelected, hire demographers to follow these statistics.
Yes, I am aware that an argument can be put forward that some students in some schools are not technically Jewish in the first place. Let’s see if they marry such untechnically Jews later as well. Those are the statistics I’d like to see.
There are lots I don’t understand. One of the things I could never understand was the Jewish connection to Chanukah by those who otherwise have diminishing Judaism in their lives. The answer isn’t the massive Chanukah Menorah’s put up by Chabad, but they certainly are needed and help enormously. The assimilated Jew has his Pintele Yid, his Jewish Soul, so overcome by the goings on in a multicultural or Xtian dominated society, that they make the same types of rationalisations that they do with their diminishing Jewish identity. Let’s be clear. Identifying with Israel, which was such a positive force post holocaust, won’t wash with our tree-hugging, tikkun olam, social justice types. We now have the abhorrent New Israel Fund which is a direct outcome of this type of feeling. They hold onto the hope of a “two state solution” when one side (Abbas and Co) will simply never recognise Israel as a Jewish State, a home for Jews.
That being said, we must hang on and enhance those elements of truth, which emanate from the truly Jewish soul, and provide meaningful alternatives to counteract the cultural pressure so many seem to feel.
I was rather radical. For over 20 years, when they put up all the Xmas decorations in our University Department office, I refused to step in. I didn’t feel comfortable. I didn’t feel comfortable because they were Xtian symbols, but I felt uncomfortable that the money funding these things were the public purse, and that other days, from other religions weren’t able to acquire equal opportunity.
If someone wants to have a picture of Yoshke or a cross next to their desk, that’s none of my business. I avert my eyes and concentrate on the reason I came to speak with them.
Do we really believe that Chanukah means what it does to the almost assimilated? The miracle of Chanukah is debated among our Rabbis, and there are places where the WAR is the main miracle. There is even conjecture whether they lit Chanukah candles after Chanukah for some time, and whether that was a later custom which became incumbent on us all.
Ironically, Chanukah represents the triumph of those who want to INFILTRATE our culture (perhaps without intention these days unless they are missionaries). Can you imagine if Chanukah didn’t involve lights? It’s almost as if the almost assimilated, are relieved that they can find some link between the pagan Xmas tree lights and their religion, and luckily for them it turns out around the same time.
Nothing is by coincidence. Chanukah represents the challenge of not letting go of what gives us our own identity. Yet, like many challenges God gives us, he dresses them with an outer shell, and if we want to we can break that shell, and find the Jewish element, which represents the truth, as aligned with our heritage.
It took years of quiet diplomatic action, when I used to wish people a happy holiday break, or joked they shouldn’t eat too much at their parties, that they eventually realised I wasn’t joining them in their Pagan-cum-Xtian festival.
I greatly appreciate it when someone recognises this now, and doesn’t say “Merry Xmas”, and engages their brain. I notice that Muslims are less touchy are about this because they consider Yoshke some prophet (but of course lower than Mohammed) so they don’t have a problem saying that (at least in Melbourne). In Egypt, of course the Coptic Xtians are persecuted mercilessly and the world just stands by, as they do to Syrian atrocities. We live in a world of lies and fake feel good emotions.
One can feel good, and even better, simply by being a Mentch, and not being offensive, but religiously embracing Chanukah and Chanukah only.
Does anyone thing that those don’t South in the USA would even remotely contemplate adding Chanukah to their Xmas. Forget it. It is only the Schmaltz belts where people have compromised their values and heritage and succumbed to the gods of Mamon and Acceptability, that such morals outrageous posts, from the Times of Israel, even get published. By publishing this, I struggle with understanding what they achieve. Do they tell us a new reality or perhaps would they be better off encouraging Xtian friends to come to a latke and Ponchke night with candle lighting, but with ABSOLUTELY no hint of capitulation to either religious or capitalist opportunism afforded by the “necessary gifts” and the stress these seem to cause people.
Read the blog post below. Am I over reacting?
Imagine running an education evening entitled “the intersection between Chanukah and Xmas is that your kids are less likely to be Jewish” and having that run by Rabbinic orators and educationists of standing. I’d rather see articles from fellow bloggers like Rabbi Nathan Lopez Cardozo on these topics then some of the more esoteric ones he chooses.
This isn’t a case of mixing solid מין במינו … this is a דבר המעביד within two different מינים and is Treyf, לכל הדעות.
Oh, and PLEASE don’t forget, we give Chanuka Gelt and not presents.
As to “Sylvester” and “New Years Eve”, are we meant to celebrate two days because of Sfeka DeYoma? Yuck.
They say in the name of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, that a little light dispels darkness. I heard Mori V’Rabbi say that this is true, but often you need lots of light to get rid of the rampant thick darkness, and you can’t see to far ahead with minimal light. So to all wishing to reveal the light of the Neshoma, I wish you only success.
I will do my part at this year’s Chanukah celebration with my band Schnapps, as I have for many years. Everyone should try to be at the annual big celebration, sans any reference to Pagan rituals.
PS. We do not say Chag Sameach on Purim or Chanukah. We only say that when there was a Korban Musaf. Try Freilichen Purim, or Purim Sameach, or Chanuka Sameach or some other phrase.
I celebrate Hanukkah, but I love Christmas
Dilute that most wonderful time of the year into a Jewish minor holiday? No thanks, he’d rather enjoy the real thing
I grew up in suburban Chicago surrounded by my fellow Jews — at school, at camp, on the weekends, at my parents’ friends’ houses, in the streets and parks of my neighborhood.
Even then, I knew that Jews made up less than 2 percent of America’s population — but in my childhood world, we were the 99%. If you had stopped 11-year-old me on the street and asked, I could have recited lengthy Hebrew prayers by heart, or told you about the codifying of Jewish law in 200 CE. But when it came to Christianity, I had a basic idea of what Easter was, and could probably have provided a brief bio of Jesus, culled mostly from popular culture. That was about it.
Until December rolled around, that is. Christmas was inescapable — and I loved it. I still do.
Christmas is everywhere. It’s at the malls, in the candy aisle of the grocery store, on the radio and TV, and in the movie theater. And I get how it can all be overwhelming. I understand how it’s a bit much for people to be bombarded starting from Thanksgiving — make that Halloween — with carols and candy canes and Santa and reindeer and manger scenes and ornaments and mistletoe and trees. And I know that for lots of people, it’s bit much how everything is red and green, especially if it’s not even your holiday. Plus — on an intellectual level, at least — I object to the commercialism, the conspicuous consumption and the tackiness of it all.
But if I’m being honest: I love the tackiness. I love the manufactured happiness. I love feeling snow on my shoulders, walking into a heated cafe, sipping hot cider and hearing a Christmas song — probably written by a Jewish composer — on the speakers. I love the contrast between the terrible weather and the enveloping cheer, however artificial it is. I love being able to enjoy the Christmas spirit without having to worry about how it affects the way I celebrate Christmas.
Because I don’t celebrate Christmas. See, we Jews have our own winter festival — it’s called Hanukkah.
Don’t get me wrong: I like Hanukkah. But in America, it’s kind of weak sauce. If Christmas is a thick, juicy hamburger on a sesame bun, American Jews have tried to make Hanukkah into a black-bean burger — something that’s perfectly edible but, really, nothing like the real deal. Hanukkah, like black beans, would be fine as its own separate thing. But instead we’ve flattened it into a cheap imitation of something else.
I’m Jewish, so of course I celebrate Hanukkah. I’m down with the story, the victory of the weak over the strong, the faith fulfilled when a small flask of oil lasted eight days. I’ve even nerded out over the two alternate Hebrew spellings of “Maccabee” and how they correspond to today’s religious-secular divide in Israel.
But I’ve never liked how American Hanukkah in certain ways becomes a diluted, Jewish version of Christmas. So the Christians give presents for Christmas? Sure, we’ll give Hanukkah presents, too. They have tinsel? Sure, we’ll have tinsel, too. They have holiday sweaters? Sure, we’ll have those, too.
Just as I can enjoy the Christmas spirit because I don’t feel personally invested in the holiday, I feel disappointed in Hanukkah precisely because I am invested in it. And in any case, Hanukkah is a minor holiday. I don’t begrudge its significance for anyone, but in Jewish tradition, it’s treated as less important than Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Passover, and a couple others.
That’s why in Israel, where I lived for five years, Hanukkah is certainly celebrated, but doesn’t receive top billing. There are decorations, menorahs in the windows and sufganiyot — doughnuts filled with jelly or cream — on bakery shelves. Kids get a few days off to sing and play. Giving Hanukkah presents isn’t really a thing there.
Contrast that with the season that runs from Rosh Hashanah through Sukkot and Simchat Torah, a series of festivals and holidays that ended several weeks ago. In Israel, before Rosh Hashanah, supermarkets are stocked with apples, honey and pomegranates, and temporary stands sell greeting cards on the sidewalks. On Yom Kippur, the streets and shops are all closed. Religious people wear white and gravitate en masse to synagogue, while those who aren’t fasting crowd the empty streets with bikes. On Sukkot, there are temporary huts seemingly everywhere, from people’s porches to public squares.
For close to a month, little business gets done. Need to schedule a meeting or start a work project? “After the holidays” is the common refrain. The Jewish holidays there are celebrated on their own merits, not judged against the overwhelming dominance of another religion’s season.
So spare me your Chrismukkah and your Hanukkah bush, and let me culturally enjoy the most wonderful time of the year the way America clearly wants me to.
After all, if Bob Dylan can rock out to an album’s worth of Christmas music, so can I.
[I didn’t want to write on this topic as it’s too depressing and generates spite and heat. That’s not my intention. I won’t publish comments unless they are sufficiently motivated by language that is positive and helpful. I’m not writing to create a huge argument. Like all my posts, I just write what’s on my mind at some time]
There has been a lot of press and talk about the happenings (hopefully soon in the past) of a lack of requisite and proper immediate action in respect of cases of sexual abuse which occurred over time, some years ago. People certainly made horrid mistakes: sometimes it was out of sheer unbelievable ignorance about the ways of the world (sheltered lives void of Western Morals, which are Halachically mandated in such cases according to the Ramban as a Torah command?), and other times it was a clumsy or “too clever” misguided attempt to cover up, in the hope that it will “just go away”. Neither reason is an excuse or acceptable. Unfortunately, victims often take years to tell their stories. That’s apparently a known side-effect and a sad one as it means things are dealt with years later. Pedophiles spread their sick urges like uncontrollable vermin, wherever you place them. I do not know if they can be cured. This is not my area. Nor do I know the confidence intervals of such “cures”. I’m not sure if anyone knows.
Certainly, those who are and have been friends with a victim, and are able to express social compassion and support, outside of any governance structures, should continue to do so or see if they can commence doing so. [For my part, I spent many hours helping to out a shocking, perhaps the worst, pedophile (and those in the know, are well aware), and I really didn’t and don’t know victims on any personal let alone social level.] I hope there are many people of their age group, peers and friends, and I hope those people make an extra point engaging them, as I’m confident that can only contribute to them feeling less ostracised.
Those who were part of the YBR governance structure and knew of wrong doings, ought to move out of any governance role in any and all committee or decision-making roles. How long do they stay out of such positions or roles? I do not know. I expect it depends on the person and any metamorphosis they may undergo due to education and sincere Tshuva and Kapporo (accepted atonement). I’m not sure they have to be banished to a pseudo city of refuge, but they do need to undertake continuing education and deep introspection and I would go as far as suggesting they undertake voluntary pastoral roles where appropriate counselling and helping general victims (they don’t have to be Jewish) or if they are Jewish, we know that there were victims from a number of Schools in Melbourne that they can try to show they have acquired the requisite understanding and skills to empathise and support such people cope with living. Ultimately, I mean a pastoral role. Most victims will, I suspect, require psychological and/or psychiatric assistance to get them through the damage they experienced. I’d avoid counsellors. There are a myriad ways anyone can become a counsellor (you can even take a quick course for $900) and these courses lack scientific rigour or a proper roof body that can punish people for ethical breaches. There are many shonks out there.
That the Jewish News focusses negatively almost solely on Chabad is not surprising. Their approach has long been considered (on unrelated happenings) as anti-Orthodox and they have no qualms using a JEWISH News to advertise anti-Jewish practice. When Judaism morphs to solely Zionism, or some other single mode of expression more akin to culture, then the Jewish News will be part culpable for the alarming assimilation rate. In the USA it is, I believe 70% assimilation. Think about it. It’s an epic disaster.
Today, Love conquers all. “What can I do?” you hear the mother or Booba saying … When a boy brings home someone from another religion in a relationship, it no longer has stigma because “what can I do“. Once upon a time a kid knew they couldn’t do this and this actually prevented the mountain of growth of questionable conversions for a relationship. Once upon a time the boy was not permitted to come to the front door with that intention and was told by his parents to “fly a kite”. People were even afraid to consider assimilation because it meant saying goodbye to family. Yes, there is more to it, especially the new religions of egalitarianism, equality, “tikkun olam” and social justice and that’s that. Ironically, many who do convert sincerely, can’t get their husbands to go along with them. A house of holes and hypocrisy is born, and children who see this are statistically known to be more likely to intermarry or become fundamentalist.
When a girl is allowed to bring home a boy from another religion, then it’s “not so bad” (at least, the kids they might have are Jewish so all is “good”) although you won’t hear the champions of egalitarian approaches complaining about that. Matrilineal descent is fine, its only been Halacha for thousands of years. Reform recognise patrilineal descent, and we know that they are now forced to move more and more to tradition in order to proffer some Tachlis to their communities (who intermarry more than any; patrilineal descent has not helped at all). It is a plain fact that most households assume that to compromise for “family unity” is the answer. “What can I do?” is the refrain. What they are doing, is setting up a framework for Judaism to die in the ensuing generations just so they can eat a Seder together or Latkes on Chanuka and in some cases delude themselves that their grandchildren are Jewish. They don’t see that far ahead. Why? That’s a complex answer and another post. As to Yohr Tzeit and Yizkor? The next generation seems to take the money and run.
So how does Chabad fall into this discussion? I sense a reaction to the debacle of the pedophile issue, which also seeks to minimise all the good that Chabad has done and continues to do in preserving Jewish identity, by sparingly reporting positively on their work (save the usual pictures of an event). Chabad literally built Judaism in Melbourne. They are ubiquitous. They are unceasing in their efforts, non judgemental with irreligious people, but won’t leave you alone. They are nudniks when it comes to Jewish observance. They want you to connect to your roots so you can light up the world. That’s their way. You can’t change it, and there is no point even wanting or trying to change that approach.
I’m not a Chabad (or any) Chassid (I don’t fit) and am wary of any underlying philosophy proclaiming that there is only one way, but I am also loathe to support an undercurrent of “anti” Chabad to persist, even after they (hopefully) sort out their issues, and yes, it’s taking way too long because of a void in leadership.
Chabad don’t in general join other Rabbinic Organisations; Melbourne was exceptional because that’s just about all there was, so perhaps we’ve reached a point where they aren’t worried they don’t dominate these and don’t care if they resign. Those Rabbinic Organisations however are a reflection of what we are. The best they seem to be able to do is issue statements. Contrast this to the RCA and OU where education is at the forefront even though statements are made. Don’t even mention the Council of Orthodox Synagogues of Victoria, apart from the Eruv. That organisation is also crying out for new authentic leadership.
Where is the weekly lesson from the members of these Rabbinic organisations? Why aren’t sermons and shiurim podcasted later or published? Much more can be done.
I detect, with few exceptions, that Jewish Education, and here I mean the type which doesn’t just seek to indoctrinate, but simply learn for learning’s sake so that people can see the incredible beauty of the written and oral law and the commentaries surrounding these, has fallen by the wayside. It is the essence of Judaism, not the Kreplach, Choolent, Gefilte Fish and Chicken Soup.
I’d like a dollar for every Bar Mitzvah boy’s speech which isn’t about sport. Judaism just seems to have disappeared (together with the Rabbis who used to be at these events, and the Kosher Food that was a must at any Jewish Simcha … and yes, there are Jewish Simchas hosted by the very wealthy which are simply Trayf … uber fancy cuisine or the use of custom herds comes before heritage and tradition: great-grandparents turn in their graves).
Today, we see new ways (mostly copied) to draw people into a Shule, through some type of “program” which includes kids and food. For the older generation, it’s enough to offer whisky and herring and they flock. This is all fine. If, however, it doesn’t lead to further involvement, sans these ingredients, it has a limited shelf life and a shallow precarious continuation. Torah Education must be the cornerstone.
Many Rabbis, non Chabad and some Chabad, simply don’t engage their congregational youth in a serious study of Torah. Some can’t relate to the kids because they haven’t lived in a Western world or understand it. They need to. The Lubavitcher Rebbe and Rav Soloveitchik certainly understood the need to understand the Western worlds they lived in and studied in University. It’s not just about classes for a bride before she gets married.
Kids break their heads so that they can get an Aliya on their Bar Mitzvah and learn Haftora like a parrot. Would it not be better to have a policy in a Shule, in fact all Orthodox shules, that they only need to get an Aliyah without Haftorah, but should attend a weekly one hour shiur with the Rabbi (or some proper assistant) for a year to augment what they may (or may not study at School). Parents should be encouraged to attend too. This should also be provided to Bat Mitzvah girls (who I understand in many cases already have privately done such things) but they too should have a year-long initiation to Jewish Orthodox Learning, which after all, is the basis for everything and represents the true tradition from Moses to this day. The other flavours are western influenced portable religions that don’t survive the test of time. The USA experience has taught us that.
Chabad has done and continues to do much good. The Jewish News (and some blogs, and I honestly haven’t read these blogs, nor seek Facebook posts on the topic because I get too upset with the often generated unnecessary, anonymous and ad hominem attacks) really should also undergo a Bar Mitzvah for their staff journalists. I challenge them to have a weekly column which describes something a Chabadnik has done to touch and ignite Jewish souls in our community. There is plenty of material. Is it not newsworthy? It’s at least as newsworthy as pictures at a cultural event. Alternatively, let a capable Chabadnik give a weekly Shiur to journalists of the Jewish News?
My own feeling is that most want Chabad to get its house in order and continue the overwhelming good that they achieved. If they have papers like the Jewish News (and various web sites, and of course the left-wing Jewish Friendly “the Age”) seeking to minimise their enormous contribution to the community over decades, they will still survive, whether they are part of a Rabbinic Board or not. They will still have a profound positive effect. But, and I caution this most seriously: they must remove the stains, and embrace the reforms that are necessary, as we’ve seen across the spectrum of various Jewish and non-Jewish communities, and recognise that protection of children and education of educators and staff, are simply not negotiable and must be taken as seriously, if not more, than an infraction of eating Ham. If they do that effectively, and manage to sideline those who should have known better, and seek to re-engage (not just for PR) with victims (not all will want or be able to) of the past, then they will effectively continue their efforts to bring the redemption earlier. Jewish studies teachers without degrees should at least undertake correspondence courses in formal Education if they can’t/won’t attend University personally. I don’t see why it’s different to Kashrus, where Kosher Australia sponsored staff to undertake a Food Science degree at RMIT.
My own view is that they need to import a very talented, world standard, and worldly, Chabad Rabbi to re-invigorate and re-align the institutions. Yes, it will cost, but in the long run, it’s either that, or they will wallow in mediocrity.
If they do not do this, and continue to over argue little points that really should not be on the table, and keep faceless people and rampant nepotism, they will remain in this state of constant flux.
Chabad have done too much for Australia to stay in such a continued state of harmful flux, and I dare say, that some of the victims may actually agree with me. There were some aspects of their education and certain educators that left them with positive outcomes (at least I hope so! … their friends and family will know).
Here is something [Hat tip NB] just written by a Conservative rabbi (I don’t know the source)
Last Sunday night I checked the annual Chabad Kinus Sheluchim off of my bucket list – the annual gathering of Chabad emissaries from around the world. Over 4,500 rabbis from 90 countries convening for what is considered to be the largest such annual gathering of Jews in North America. Seventy-five years since the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson of blessed memory, arrived in America from war-torn Europe, Chabad is the fastest growing Jewish religious movement of our time. From Bangkok to Kenya, UCLA to Middlebury, Chabad houses, schools and mitzva tanks abound in numbers and vitality. The big announcement of the dinner was the appointment of Mendel and Mussie Alperowitz to Sioux Falls, South Dakota – a placement that secures a full-time Chabad presence in every single state.
As a Conservative rabbi I sat there marveling at the wonder that is Chabad. Not just its meteoric growth and ubiquitous presence, or its impassioned focus on the Rebbe.
Chabad’s secret sauce is personal relationships – on a street corner, a heimischy Friday night campus meal, or a one-on-one study session in a downtown office. The mission of a Chabad rabbi or rebbetzin is to draw out the pintele yid – the divine spark embedded in each and every Jew. What became clear to me last Sunday night is that the institution Chabad cares most about is not 770 Eastern Parkway or any campus Chabad; rather it is the institution of each and every unique Jewish soul yearning for expression.
The target audience of Chabad and the Conservative Movement is one and the same, our tactics are just different. The recently published Hertog study on Chabad on Campus makes clear that Chabad’s impact is greatest for those raised in Conservative and Reform households.
On a certain level, it makes no sense. Why would a movement that overlooks the Enlightenment, promotes a non-egalitarian expression of Jewish practice, is positively parochial in its posture and small “c” conservative in its politics captivate a liberally minded and often disengaged American Jewry? And yet, as the Hertog study explains, it is precisely these elements that help explain Chabad’s appeal.
In a frenetically paced world of online and superficial connection, where all of us stand to be alienated from each other and ourselves, Chabad provides an intimacy that is a deeply valued commodity. The free food and drink on campus undoubtedly doesn’t hurt, but it is the prospect of a finding a personal connection, the belief that you matter to someone that speaks to the soul of American Jewry. One does not need to be a chabadnik or social scientist to understand the importance of cultivating individual relationships; that community building is a retail business, one person, one Shabbat table at a time.
And yet for all its successes, it is also by understanding Chabad’s limitations that one sheds light on the distinctive role of the Conservative Movement. The Hertog study documents that virtually no students affected positively by Chabad choose a Chabad lifestyle after college. Why? Because sensitive as Chabad may be to the soul of American Jewry, neither its theology nor its lifestyle reflect the hyphenated lives that American Jews actually lead. Chabad does not embrace the non-Jewish members of our Jewish families. Chabad does not seek to draw in Jews of patrilineal descent.
Chabad does not engage with all the counterclaims, intellectual and otherwise, that modernity brings.
Embracing as Chabad may be, it is not pluralistic.
These observations are not meant to be criticisms. They merely signal the need for a religious movement that can walk side-by-side with American Jewry throughout their Jewish journey; a religious movement both single-minded and open-minded in its efforts to draw out the pintele yid hidden within.
Conservative rabbis complain when their lay leaders provide financial support for Chabad when neither they, nor their children have any intention or desire to live a Chabad lifestyle. What we fail to see in our kvetching is that we ourselves have failed to provide a compelling alternative worthy of our leaders’ investment.
What if the Conservative Movement were able to adopt some of Chabad’s insights? What if we were able to corral an army of Jewish educators and set in motion home study sessions; for singles, young couples, empty nesters, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons or home-bound seniors? What if the Conservative Movement redoubled its outreach to interfaith couples, individuals exploring Judaism, considering conversion or maybe just trying to figure out how to get a foothold in the Jewish community? What if our community were able to rethink congregational education to include opportunities for families to learn with each other – building both Jewish literacy and community at the same time, one living room at a time? What if there were hours enough in a day that Conservative congregational rabbis could enter the offices, homes and lives of our congregants campaigning for nothing other than their Jewish souls? It would require a dramatic rethinking of how we conducted business and allocated resources.
But given the stakes – the infinite value of a Jewish soul – why wouldn’t we be filled with a mesirus nefesh, a missionary zeal for the Jewish future? The Jewish world would be strengthened by way of having parallel efforts working in concert with each other. As my Chabad friend said to me at the dinner the other night: “Elliot, you and I are traveling down the same highway, but our windows are rolled up.” Lets roll down the windows and work together, learn from each other, respect each other, celebrating each other’s achievements even as we recognize our differences. There is room enough for us all, more than enough lost sparks looking to light up the dark. Most of all, let’s recognize that we are all on the same team looking to build up the individual and collective soul of American Jewry.
The author is the senior rabbi of Park Avenue Synagogue, Manhattan.
who makes important points.
Would the Australian High Court judge whether Pauline Hanson was permitted to be a candidate in an election? Would a High Court decide whether a vote of politicians, a referendum, or a plebiscite is the appropriate mechanism to decide the acceptability of secular gay marriage?
There is certainly a friction between the courts carrying the law, and their seeming assumed role to define the parameters of Israeli life, culture, politics and values. The latter are safe in a sane democracy, which Israel is, albeit with the usual political compromises (one only has to watch Malcolm Turnbull in Australia have to encounter a range of single views in order to pursue the mandate he was given). When one puts the High or Supreme courts on pedestals that extend their brief, one is entitled to question this phenomenon.
It’s a very fundamental editorial and one that those from the left and right wing of our Society should think deeply about.
A few weeks before Leonard Cohen passed away, somebody sent me [hat tip AN] a youtube video of his new song ‘You want it darker’.
I was mesmerised. I loved the song. I have to admit to not being a big listener of Leonard Cohen but knew some of his better known tunes as we all do (eg, Halleluka — yes, I write it with a K, it’s a Machlokes Tannoim at the end of Psochim, but that’s how I was taught).
Some listen to a song but don’t really “hear” the lyrics. In general, this is me. Often, I think it is because the lyrics and the tune often have no relationship. When they do, the lyrics become relevant to me. The famous and great Rabbi Ben Tzion Shenker ז׳ל who recently passed away, wrote his songs FROM the lyrics. The songs emerged from the lyrics. I think that’s the right way around. Others seem to always know and remember lyrics to songs irrespective. On the other hand, as a band leader, I’m probably more attuned (sic) to the musicianship and pitch of the singer (mind you, so many sing through pitch controllers these days) and don’t focus on lyrics.
What surprised me about this song was that the lyrics hit me between the eyes. I sent a link of the song to our family whatsapp group and said
“He’s preparing for his death, and it’s so deep, he’s telling us what he’s going to say to God”
I had heard that he was ill but I wasn’t across his life history in much detail.
I am somewhat drier and like things in black and white without the cloudiness of interpretation. I don’t want to guess multiple meanings.I remember in year 7 our English teacher becoming so excited while reading poems. This did nothing for me. I guess I don’t have that aesthetically nuanced ingredient. It’s also the rare piece of Art that I will stop and appreciate. Abstract art is something that just passes me by.
Yet, somehow, this song grabbed me immediately and the lyrics were just luscious. I said at the time that I was going to write my commentary to them but hadn’t gotten around to it. Apparently, Rabbi Sacks wrote a masterpiece “drush” but it was only after I mentioned to my wife last night before retiring to bed, that I had written this piece, that she told me about Rabbi Sacks’s interpretation. I had mistakenly thought Rabbi Sacks had spoken about Cohen’s most famous song Halleluka. Since writing the draft post, I listened to Rabbi Sacks, and enjoyed his ever-brilliant take. You can watch it here
Just before writing this blog post, I looked up Leonard Cohen on wikipedia to learn a bit more about him. Cohen was seemingly an enigmatic thinker. He strangely stayed close to his Orthodox Synagogue and yet became involved with Zen Buddhism even becoming a Monk. He never abandoned his Judaism, although his life couldn’t be described as that of someone with complete fidelity to their religion’s tenets. He felt that there was no contradiction with Zen because his involvement never included another deity. There was only one God for Cohen. He believed that, it seems, all his life. There was only one Judaism as well, and it was Orthodox Judaism. Whatever the case, he was clearly monotheistic and believed he would confront God one day, as do we all. He was buried in a traditional Orthodox way, as was his wish.
Here are the lyrics and uncharacteristically my own thoughts, after I first heard it (and replayed it several times). I sent it to members of my band, and my non-Jewish Bass player responded with “brilliant” and went out to buy the CD. My interpretation isn’t set in Parshas Vayera. More likely it reflects some of my own feelings about the world today and that is why I connected with the lyrics in my own way. Maybe my teachers in year 7 were right after all
The lyrics are in red, below. My interpretation follows each line.
If you are the dealer, I’m out of the game
Here the ‘you’ is God. He is apprehensively asking about God’s nature. What is your role in this world I have lived in. Are you like the proverbial dealer in a card game? If so, since you are God, I’m bound to lose, and so I’m out of the game. I’m going to die. I’m about to meet my maker.
If you are the healer, it means I’m broken and lame
Cohen had cancer and it wasn’t going away. He tried to understand the meaning of God as a healer. This is what he knew. God could heal, but wasn’t healing him. Cohen was descending into the valley of death, and so he was broken by this realisation, and lame in the sense that he wouldn’t be able to go on doing what he had. He was perhaps wondering if his not being healed was due to the path he had chosen, or that he would soon need to account for it. I think he was addressing his preparation for addressing why he lived the way he did.
If thine is the glory then mine must be the shame
He self-reflects and in the face of death, considers himself and his life as inglorious. He was dying. Perhaps he regrets some of the things he had done. So he meekly points out that compared to God’s glory, what he has done must be considered shameful and hence his journey to the valley of death/heaven. Cohen seems to be saying is he about to say goodbye.
You want it darker
He is questioning God. Living is light, but ultimately our lives seem to be so unclear. We don’t see the light, so often. The world is such a dark place. Coming to the end of his life, Cohen is saying, well God, you don’t seem to need my light in this world, “you want it darker” because Cohen considered that he did offer some light. But, he is resigned. He knows he can’t win and the next line is
We kill the flame
Who is the we here? I think it is humanity, especially Jews or those who speak in the name of God. He is reminiscing now about others who have died and killed. He’s saying, there were times when God seemed to want it darker. The current state of affairs, where Jerusalem is dismembered from Jews and Jewish history is pretty dark. Cohen says, “have it your way”, you are the boss. We are ultimately responsible though for our actions, so perhaps then it is WE who kill the flame through either completing our task or polluting your world, in your name.
Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name
He’s acknowledging that he has inescapable deference for the Creator. God is by definition perfection, this is the essence of Kaddish, but
Vilified, crucified, in the human frame
We Jews have a tangible element of God within us, and yet, we Jews are vilified, crucified once that Godliness is within our human frame. The body isn’t a perfect receptacle to hold such a sanctified element, says Cohen. He is reasoning that God knows this, so how can he be critical of what we haven’t achieved and the state of this dark perverted world. Cohen, then goes to the great tragedy of Jewish mass murder
A million candles burning for the help that never came
He is “fighting back” in a presumably future dialogue and saying, but there were good people, good Jews, who did light up the darkness. Why then does God allow them to suffer. Why has this world become so dark. Where was God’s help that never came. The million candles lit up the world throughout history, but when they were bullied and murdered, he asks God why He didn’t intervene, and then says again.
You want it darker
Ultimately, you don’t seem to want that light, or it’s not enough for you, or Cohen has no explanation except that it is God’s “want” that this world seems so hopeless. He wants it darker.
So here I am. Here I am ready to be confronted, dressed down, analysed and judged. I am not hiding. I will engage you. Cohen submits himself to his end, and says
I’m ready, my lord
I’ve thought about it all. I am not apprehensive. I will engage in dialogue. I will ask questions. I’m ready. I’m ready to meet my maker.
There’s a lover in the story
Cohen is telling us that this isn’t a relationship of antagonism. He has a love of God despite what it might sound like. He stresses, that Cohen, is the lover, and he is part of the story of Jewish history, despite not understanding the darkness and the killing of the flame.
But the story’s still the same
Yet, even though Cohen tried to manifest his love, as did many others, the story of the fate of the Jewish people, the continuing pain and anguish at being persecuted for being different, is constant. Others have also perpetrated atrocities in God’s name.
There’s a lullaby for suffering
Yes, one can sing softly and meaningfully about the tragedy of the Jewish people’s suffering. We do so on Tisha B’Av and other occasions. It can rhyme beautifully, calm the nerves, and eventually put one to sleep, as well as …
And a paradox to blame
If we are the Chosen people, the ones charged with a holy mission that other nations refused, it is an extreme paradox that as a result of that choice, it’s all our fault? What a paradox. Cohen then says that it’s not just his feeling or interpretation. In fact,
But it’s written in the scriptures
The Torah forewarns us that we will go through periods of terrible suffering. The world will be an ugly place. The Esav’s will bite our neck, when they pretend to kiss us. Amalek will sneak up on us, and ultimately there will be an enormous battle of Gog and Magog. The prophets of the Scriptures have told us this would happen. So, please God, don’t think this is just Leonard Cohen’s poetry. In fact ..
And it’s not some idle claim
There is evidence that this is our destiny. You told us so. What do you want from Leonard Cohen. How could he change what you decreed. The fact is that, you God
You want it darker
For some reason that Cohen doesn’t understand, he accuses God of just “wanting” it to be darker, as Jewish lights are extinguished. He can’t understand it. The world is full of shameful darkness and lies. But, in the end, we submit and
We kill the flame
We go to our maker, vanquished, and resigned. It is our fate, we accept it and thereby kill the flame. But God, can’t you see that we are victims?
They’re lining up the prisoners
We were taken during the Holocaust and before and now are lined up against a wall as we were before. Is that called killing the flame? Who is killing? Who is making it darker? Why did this have to happen? What are we meant to do when ..
And the guards are taking aim
We face the barrels of a gun, aimed at us. Whether in the form of mass murder, murder tunnels, missiles, knives and now fire … We are in the aim of those who have us captured in our enclaves. How do you expect us to live the life you wanted us to live? Cohen is saying he was far from perfect, but he is one of a production line of historical tragedies that seem to have been foisted on him. He struggles to understand dark humanity
I struggled with some demons
Cohen didn’t give up. He might not have lived a proper Orthodox Jewish life, but he was proud that he was a Cohen, and he left strict instructions that he was to be buried as a Jew in a traditional Jewish way. He wrote acclaimed poems and songs. He gave voice to his struggles up and down the ladder of his human existence. He wasn’t a passive player.
They were middle class and tame
Yes, Cohen says, his struggles were with the pen, with the mind (probably his tuning out of the world through Zen) and through his guitar. The issues he struggled with were not those of a pauper nor those of a wild man. The demonic ideas and explanations that paraded in Cohen’s head were not extreme. They were plain and tame, somewhat middle class in their roots, much like the German Nazi middle class expected tameness … He didn’t go blowing himself up because he didn’t understand. His voice, words and music were rather an urbane reaction. Was that not enough for you, God, asks Cohen. Did you expect me to do more?
I didn’t know I had permission to murder and to maim
Cohen says he did what he could but he hadn’t been taught that weapons would be the mode of violence in the name of God, as we see all too often. He wasn’t that sort of person anyway. He gave voice. He wasn’t silent. He did his best, but he wasn’t ready to terrorise those who preferred the elimination of Jews even though they terrorise the world. He doesn’t understand, and repeats his mantra once more:
You want it darker
Which I see as question to God. Cohen replies rhetorically, okay then
We kill the flame
Have it your way. I have no choice. I’m ready to have a discussion with you, as I leave this world.