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.
A Rabbinic giant with a special soul
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.
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.
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.
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
construct and maintain a panel of genetic tests such that, based on Rabbinical advice, if two people are recessive carriers of a gene on that panel, they would be advised not to court each other.
test two people, each of whom is identified by a secret unique number, and give a binary answer of yes or no, in respect of whether they may court each other (as defined by the particular panel of tests).
There have been two great achievements by Dor Yeshorim.
Dor Yeshorim have been almost singularly responsible for removing certain genetic diseases from Jewish people. An example that is cited is Tay Sachs disease. I do believe this is true of the USA, however, in Israel there were and perhaps still are people who are ready to “roll the dice” and go out without knowing if they carry a deadly disease (this could be described as a misdirected exercise in תמים תהיה עם ה׳ אלוקך. [In this vein, when Rav Gavriel Holtzberg הי׳׳ד confided that his first son had Tay Sachs, I asked him whether he and his wife had been tested prior to marriage. Unfortunately, they had not. Their two eldest boys passed away miserably רחמנא ליצלן in a home for terminally ill children in Israel. The third son, the highly celebrated miracle Moshe Holtzberg, is a story in of itself and this post isn’t the place to discuss it. The point being though that (in my estimation) the more Charedi a couple is (unless they are Chassidim and their Rebbe has made a גזירה) the more likely they are to be חסידים שוטים and rely on תמים תהיה עם ה׳ אלקיך and שומר פתאים ה׳ and take easily avoidable and unecessary mortal risks, as Dor Yeshorim has demonstrated to date.
Dor Yeshorim has managed to protect the privacy of couples, one or both of whom are carriers, and in this way engineered a much safer Shidduch environment. Indeed, if one loses their identification number, they will need be re-tested all over again. Since the testing regime is entirely anonymous, Dor Yeshorim cannot connect a person with their test results, were they to misplace their identification number.
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 offspringwill 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:
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!
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.
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’.
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 Noachidelaws 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 האדםלבדו“. 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 האדםלבדו“. 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]
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.
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 theextent 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.
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.
For those who might not see society swimming openly into new waters, be aware of this and this as they may also be genetic dispositions, nebach, רחמנא ליצלן.
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.
Some of the people asking others to protest are carrying some very serious baggage. They know who they are. They should back off now and stop the charade.
Rav Schachter, senior Posek of the OU, Rosh Yeshivah and Rosh Kollel of YU for the last 50 years, and widely considered the senior Posek of both the Rabbinic Council of America and Centrist/Modern Orthodoxy stated that it would be a very bad idea to protest. The only thing a protest would achieve is to harden the hearts of participants and Rabbi Genende; give more publicity to the event; cause a חילול שם שמים if the non-Jewish Secular Press, as well as the Jewish Secular Press (the Australian Jewish News) were to blow up the issue so they can foment further division and sell more papers; and finally it would be met head on by the ‘we think we are Orthodox too’ left wing Jews of Golus Australis, who would relish the opportunity to counter protest.
There is no חיוב today to give תוכחה in this way today.
The best way to win over people’s hearts is to engage their minds. At least one person of Torah knowledge should be there and ask Rabbi Genende to speak at another event once Greenberg has departed on the topic of ‘Why Steven Greenberg is not Orthodox’.
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 samegender 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 inaShule 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.
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.
PS. I haven’t read this. I just typed it in in one go, so there are bound to be English errors and typos. Forgive these please.
PPS. I just got a new book on the Parsha written by one of his students. Let me know if you want to borrow it.
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 encouragethem 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.
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 notact 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.
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.
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. Hineni, hineni
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.
In an essay in the book “Orot” about the disputes on opinions and faith, Rav Kook explains his approach to the issues of fanaticism and tolerance. On one hand there is fanaticism, which believes that its approach and its religion are absolute and immutable truth, and which denies that any other movement has any truth to it at all.
As opposed to this, there is a more tolerant viewpoint which believes that all of the movements have some basis of truth, and that by gathering together the items of truth in all the different movements we will be able to achieve absolute truth and there will be peace in the world.
Rav Kook claims that both of these approaches are erroneous. We, in Judaism, do not merely have part of the truth, which would mean that we are in need of additional information from an external source to complete our knowledge.
At the same time, we do not subscribe to the infectious fanaticism which claims that we exclusively possess absolute truth and there is nothing left to learn from others.
“It is a bad sign for a party if it thinks that it alone is in possession of a living source of all wisdom and honesty – and that everything else is empty and void of any meaning.” [Igrot Re’iyah volume 1, page 17].
Here is the correct way of looking at things: Judaism does indeed include everything, but it does not deny that others also have parts of this whole. Even more than this, the power of every movement and every ideology stems from its specific point of truth. If it did not have at least one absolute truth it would not exist at all.
The sages taught us that “falsehood cannot continue to exist.” [Shabbat 104a]. Falsehood has no way to stand up. All the letters of “sheker” stand on a single leg, as opposed to truth, “emet,” all of whose letters stand on a solid base of two legs.
It is therefore important to reveal the elements of truth in every movement in order to know how to struggle against the movement. Only something that is totally false must be eradicated from the world. But if it has at least one element of truth there must not be any attempt to destroy it, because if you do so you are fighting against truth, and any such action is doomed to failure.
And for this reason Rav Kook felt that it was wrong to struggle against secular Zionism in a bitter fight to the end, as others did, since it is based on some true ideas.
Some people said: If they move to Eretz Yisrael we will not do so. If they speak Hebrew, we will speak Yiddish.
Rav Kook disagreed with these ideas. He insisted that the issues supported by Zionism are words of Torah which also obligate us. Therefore we must show our appreciation for the positive elements of truth in their approach and only afterwards argue against the falsehoods.
Rav Kook gave similar advice to parents in Russia whose children were caught up in the Communist movement. He said we should tell them that we appreciate their demands for social justice, because this is based on the Torah and on Judaism, and that there is no need to move away from Judaism in order to embrace the concept of socialism.
This can also help us understand Rav Kook’s analysis with respect to Eisav:
“Let me tell you my opinion regarding foreign beliefs. The light of Yisrael should not try to destroy them, just as we do not intend to cause general destruction of the world and of all its nations, but rather to mend their ways and raise them up…
The words of the GRA are enlightening: ‘I had hatred for Eisav’ [Malachi 1:3]. The hatred was for the things that had been added on. But the main thing, his head, was buried together with the great people of the world.’”
Even Eisav had a point of truth which was put to rest near the Patriarchs.
My journey has almost done a full circle. The topic concerned two of the greatest leaders of our generation: the Rav (Soloveitchik) and the Rebbe (Lubavitcher).
It was 2011. I conveyed some thoughts back then in this blog post. My impression was that the Rebbe was not at one with the Rav’s approach to Yahadus, as exemplified by an issue which was the subject of a revealing letter published in that post and reproduced again below.
Certainly the Rav wasn’t a Chossid; he had a strong connection with Chabad through the Rayatz, the Rebbe’s father in law and this also stemmed from his youth in a Chabad town. There are many anecdotes and written accounts of a certain closeness. I would tend to categorise it as mutual admiration and respect. I don’t think the Rebbe and his romantic nostalgic relationship with Chabad were the same notion. The Rebbe was single-minded in his approach. The Rav, ironically given his heritage, had a more pluralistic acceptance of different segments of Orthodox Jewry, and was often a featured as the star orator. The Rebbe could be described as reclusive or too busy, at the same time he was warm and insightful. He was tethered to his headquarters in 770 to the extent that he eventually decided he would not leave 770 for various purposes, apart from the daily cup of tea with his dear wife, and rare occasions. There are those who surmise that each of these revolutionary Rabbis’ wives were their only true confidants. The Rav’s wife had a PhD and was an educator whose mission revolved around the excellence of the Maimonides School that was established to resuscitate the Boston she and the Rav met on their arrival. The Rebbetzin was ever reclusive and kept to herself in an understated way.
One day, I became privy to what I (and others) considered to be some clearer views from the Rebbe about the Rav in the form of a snippet from a letter. This letter, as I understand it, was not known and rather sequestered. I surmise with some confidence based on the secrecy, that it was placed under an unofficial embargo. What made the snippet so interesting to me? As noted in that blog post, it clearly implied that the Rebbe had his differences and criticisms with the Rav (from the vantage of the Rebbe’s Weltanschauung and approach).
The Rebbe was a Manhig, a global director with firm views, and was not limited to Crown Heights, Brooklyn or the USA. The Rav described himself a “Melamed.” Everyone knew this was a self-deprecating description of a most brilliant Torah Rosh Yeshivah steeped in the Brisker tradition of his illustrious family. The Rav described how he was struck and impressed by the Lubavitcher Chassidim who lived in the town where his father, Reb Moshe, the elder son of Reb Chaim Brisker, was Rav for a few years. The Rav experienced the Chassidim’s Emesdike, heart-felt, even romantic approach to Judaism, though many were not apparent scholars (the antithesis of the highly intellectual Brisk he had been exposed to). That’s not to say that Chabad didn’t include high calibre Talmidei Chachomim, rather, they also embraced simple people within those people’s abilities and made them all realise that they could achieve plenty. They managed to produce outcomes that were somewhat foreign to Beis HoRav, Volozhin and Brisker tradition. Whilst Rav Chaim, the Rav’s grandfather was far from a “snob” and embraced the impoverished with all his might and kindness, Chabad made them feel holy.
I speculated more about the relationship between the Rav and the Rebbe in another blog post of 2011. The letter below appeared (and I might say curiously) later as a page in a pamphlet given out as a wedding memento (of all things).
The cat was out of the bag through that snippet. Would anyone notice it or comment, I thought.
The central questions given the letter were,
how was a Lubavitcher now meant to relate to the Rav, and vice versa,and
how was someone from Yeshivas Yitzchak Elchonon meant to relate to the Rebbe, given what had been written.
I was unable to advance knowledge of the context of the letter and those who I asked from both sides, seemed unaware or were reluctant. I suspect in Lubavitch some were aware, but I doubt that this snippet was ever seen by the Rav or indeed his Talmidim.
An anonymous Chabad researcher of note, recently revealed the issue as being in the context of the Rebbe writing disapprovingly of the Rav’s alleged predilection to “change his mind on matters of Halacha“, for various reasons, although the “Rav himself is a complete Yiras Shomayim.”
The study of Chabad Chassidus was growing. It appeared in some Hesder Yeshivos over the last ten years, and before long there were students who studied Tanya. This was not surprising given that the current generation of some youth seemingly less pre-occupied with minutiae and seeking a more mystical understanding of their faith. My Posek, Rav Schachter, a Talmid of the Rav, often quotes the Tanya, so it was certainly an important Sefer in Yeshivas Yitzchak Elchonon.
More recently, Yeshivas Yitzchak Elchonon (RIETS) had no issue with a Tanya Chabura, and past lectures can be heard online and were taught by YU Rabbonim. Certainly, Rabbi Reichman, one of the Roshei Yeshivah has been teaching a variety of Chassidus for many years, even though he describes himself as a Litvak. One of his sons has studied Tanya in Israel through both Lubavitch and non Lubavitch spectacles (if I’m not mistaken he studied it also with another Chassidic Rebbe, one on one)
A Symposium was held at YU on the Rav and the Rebbe. I blogged about that symposium. Again, I felt that to talk about this topic and not mention this letter left a gaping hole. The academic in me felt it was verging on dishonest because I was sure the Chabad speakers knew about the letter. Its absence could be considered, purposefully misleading. Rabbi Yossi Jacobson disagreed with me on that point in private correspondence.
A new book was recently announced on the Rav and the Rebbe by Rabbi Chaim Dalfin. I reviewed the book. Rabbi Dalfin knew about the letter and had asked me a while back if I knew more about it. I did not. The letter existed, however, and he knew about it. The letter was not mentioned in Rabbi Chaim Dalfin’s book. In subsequent correspondence with me, Rabbi Dalfin claimed that without knowing the full letter and its context he didn’t think he should include it. I disagreed vehemently. Perhaps that’s due to my academic training. Whichever way one looks the Rebbe makes clear statements. I appreciate that a Chassid doesn’t want to double guess what their Rebbe meant.
The mystery is now revealed. The letter was addressed to the famous Rav Zevin, the master editor and compiler of the earlier volumes of the Encyclopaedia Talmudis. [ Later volumes, whilst very good, don’t quite reach his enormous ability and articulate summarisation]
It can be argued that there are other things in the letter, but that is immaterial, at least, to me. If it had to do with the same issue it would also have been published (unless it said worse things!). Either way, choosing not to include this snippet can be viewed as a form of sublime revisionism, parading behind a façade of ‘I need full research on the letter’.
The reality is that the comments addressed in the letter were known in Chabad, but kept quiet. I again surmise that it was kept quiet because nobody wanted such comments in the public sphere.
As I have written, a full understanding of the Rav, encompasses his enormous strength and integrity in being able to change his mind if he felt a situation was different, or he felt a compelling new reason. This makes him stronger in my eyes; not wishy-washy by nature, as seemingly implied in the letter. That being said, it would seem that was not even the case here, anyway.
Let’s call a “spade a spade”, and I don’t just mean Rabbi Dalfin. I include Rabbi Jacobson. Who are we kidding? When Lubavitch poached the head master of Maimonides in Boston there was acrimony that lasted some ten years. The Rav would never have allowed this in reverse in this way. The Rav went to Chinuch Atzmoi as a Mizrachist, albeit a nuanced variety thereof.
As to the Rav being some type of closet Chabadnik. The Rav stated many times he was a Litvak, who liked lots about Lubavitch and had a romantic attraction to them stemming from his youth. He was also a big fan of the writings of the Alter Rebbe.
The agenda of Rabbi Dalfin’s book was to gloss over these things and convince the reader through some dubious logic that they were much closer than they were (even though the Rebbe wrote a letter saying they were closer than people knew). The Rav’s head was in Shas and Poskim, all his life. Only certain Rishonim mattered, and he didn’t read the others. Philosophy was a wrapper to make sense of Judaism through a modern prism and paradigm.
[Hat tip anonymous] The snippet was about the Zim Israeli Shipping Company controversy. Zim proposed to sail also on Shabbos. In response to the fact that sailors, engineers etc would have to be mechalel shabbos to do so, Zim claimed that the ship could travel on auto-pilot. The Lubavitcher Rebbe completed an Engineering degree in a Paris College (not the Sorbonne) and, as the Ramash, worked in the Naval Shipping Yards in the USA as an engineer when he arrived. The Rebbe clearly had technical scientific expertise and of course was also a Gaon in Torah. As such, he vociferously held, and mounted a wide campaign to stop Zim, enlisting the help of many other Rabbis of note, including Rav Hertzog the then Chief Rabbi. According to the Rebbe, it was impossible for the ship to travel in “auto pilot” without some chillul shabbos from staff.
[Hat tip DH and AR] The Rav was asked to offer his view. The Rav had a policy of not paskening about matters pertaining to Israel. He felt that this was the domain of the Chief Rabbinate and not that of a resident of Boston and Rosh Yeshivah in RIETS. He also held the policy that Rabbis must consult experts in questions of Halacha involving matters that were not known by them. This is reflected in his view that the question of returning territories was a matter of Pikuach Nefesh that had to be determined by Generals and not Rabbis or Politicians. The Lubavitcher Rebbe was a Rebbe and Manhig and proffered his Halachic opinion that no inch of land be ceded. The Lubavitcher Rebbe had a different approach.
Unless someone has more information: I have consulted world-wide authorities on the Rav, and knowledgeable people about the Rebbe, I cannot understand how the Rebbe could come to his conclusion about the Rav. The Rebbe obviously expected the Rav to join him, as he knew this would be very powerful. The Rav was always his own man. He had views on protests for Russian Jewry as did the Agudah, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe had different views. This, however, does not make him prone to change his opinion, as implied by the snippet.
I have already covered the microphone issue, and that is a long bow. I can’t find the blog post though 🙂
In conclusion, those who wish to argue that they were close, can do so, but my view is that they held fundamentally opposing approaches and views and to intimate a special bond through a symposium or through Rabbi Dalfin’s book doesn’t stand up to academic muster.
Accounts of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s campaign re Tzim and influencing the Chief Rabbinate can be seen here and here and here (in Ivrit).
Unfortunately, in correspondence from Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet, he advised me that the two people who would have known more details about the Rav’s involvement have both passed away. He referred me to a son who shed some light.
If anyone can elucidate with any more material on this I’d be interested. At this stage, I stand by the feelings expressed in blog posts dating back to 2011.
I should say, that I have held off making any comment on this issue, as I don’t think my comments would help in any way. I’m viewed as an outsider. That being said, neither will this post contribute. But, it’s been on my mind, so I now give it voice through my blog.
I am not a member of the organisation, although we do have two seats for historic/emotional reasons. I didn’t join as I tend not to join things generally and I didn’t understand the complicated structures anyway.
On the issue of a history of offences of a sexual nature perpetrated by low lives and sick people and blind observers who perhaps medicine will one day discover a way to ‘control’, my wish is that we never hear of such occurrences in the future in any School or Institution, and where there is some remote suggestion that something may have happened, this be reported to the justice system to test, immediately.
It is true, that some lay and non lay people were members of committees when offences were alleged to be occurring. Governance would suggest that unless there was a cone of silence that precluded them knowing, that they now give consideration to new people to take their place, simply on that basis. Those new people should not be “angry ones” or those with a vendetta. They need to be level-headed, thinking, and respected Ba’alei Batim with Chabad’s interests at heart.
It is also true that nobody can fully understand the victim who still suffers, and all assistance—psychologically and financially and apologetically—to help re-route especially those whose lives have fallen apart “back to a happier road” and that must be completed. Some of this has taken place. No doubt some has not. Having never been in the shoes of this type of victim, I am in no place to comment on the effects nor the approaches required to help lessen these effects or give advice.
It may be the result of the Royal Commission, or presumed result of that commission, but I’ve seen snippets of a new constitution and various concerned parents’ minutes. To be honest, I haven’t paid much attention to the details as they seem legalistic structures that are not my forte and I also lost interest and respect when someone close to me was scandalously marginalised within the School system, but not over anything related to the above. Those are matters for the new “structure” whatever that structure means in practice.
So why I am writing this post, and what is my message?
To me, Chabad is the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe is Chabad (a continuation of previous Rebbes agenda). It is a top-down hierarchy with the top now missing. I always had the very strong feeling that he had a finger on the pulse of any issue brought to his attention. He was a moral, unimpeachable genius who I am sure would have provided correct Halachic and personal advice if consulted. What actually transpired is anyone’s guess, but I certainly don’t hold him responsible and it doesn’t affect Chabad’s powerful philosophy and approach to Judaism and successes.
Democracy is a great thing—ask Donald Trump. Chabad or indeed any Chassidic group or institution cannot by definition be run by a vote of mass hands. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, upon the death of his Rebetzin, wrote a powerful Sicha, entitled בואו ונחשוב חשבונו של עולם. This Sicha, which was short and very powerful was not published or provided for his proof-reading. It was hidden from him a few times. People didn’t want it coming out. He lays out guidelines about how Chabad and private people should function should he pass on before Moshiach (but he didn’t say that fact explicitly). I don’t have a link to the Sicha, it is now printed at the back of Toras Menachem, but there IS a Video of him saying it on the stairs leading down, at 770, and those who were there were in shock. If someone finds it and posts the link, I will update the post. I don’t know if it’s been translated.
Accordingly, I would not deviate one iota from his wishes and those of his forebears. He asked that a committee of three unimpeachable expert and universally recognised Chabad Rabbis/Mashpiim oversee major decisions. They could be in different countries. Someone correct me if I have misunderstood. I can think of suitable apolitical candidates in other countries who are not part of the current power boards of Chabad.
There is now power play, politics and “rights of Yerusha” in Melbourne for there to be anyone unbiased in Melbourne that could consider this, as a group of three. They would not need to build a tome of complicated constitution, but would certainly need to lay down the guidelines about how voices from the Kehilla would be considered and respectfully responded to.
Nepotism must be eradicated. It is a plague. Excellence should be the only criteria.
There was, to my knowledge, never an instruction to insert a letter into his Igros and derive a conclusion about how to go ahead. We all know of “incredible” cases where direct advice was on the page, but we also know of the myriad of people who found nothing remotely connected, and that didn’t have anything to do with their lack of knowledge or depth. You can say the person wasn’t fit or ready, but you can also say anything.
I’m most disappointed that Chabad, which should be cohesive, has factionalism. They can’t even close down unsanctioned infamous Melbourne CBD “Chabad houses”, let alone expel the Tzfatim from 770. This is the anti-thesis of Hiskashrus. Sadly, we have too few great and straight Chassidim in Melbourne to look at the issue dispassionately, and through proper Halacha, which I have no doubt who would also comply with secular requirements, sans ego.
I also see strange “innovations” ever-creeping into the main Shule, none of which I saw in 45 years, and which are on the rise. These emanate mainly from those who are new to Chabad (not born into the dynasty) and I find them most alienating to those who are mainstream mispallelim davening in a Chabad Shule. Rabbi Groner never made someone feel alienated in the Shule. He even allowed a pregnant pause so people could say Veshomru on Friday night. This pause is now proudly circumcised as a sign of purity.
On Shemini Atzeres, at Hakafos in the main Shule, the audible calling up of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to “say” the first Hakofo occurred. I know some long term mispallelim who left the Shule at that point in disbelief. This is too much and is far removed from normative Jewish practice. Everyone will recall the Gerrer Rebbe encouraging Breslaver Chassidim to give Rav Nachman Hagbah.
There may well be a valid feeling that a Chassid feels internally that he would like nothing more than the Rebbe saying the first Hakofa. Have that feeling. Internalise it, and if it doesn’t happen, go home and weep, by all means, or find strength. But as part of a formal Tefilla and practice, I find it very hard to cope with and I’m not aware of a Halachic source for such a practice. Someone enlighten me.
I have a soft spot for the Shemini Atzeres Farbrengen at Yeshivah which was always regaled by Rabbi Groner and whilst the format was new this year, I was interested. I was upset though that when the elderly R’ Mendel New got up to say a few words, albeit in a weak voice, there was a cacophony. Silence—complete silence, is what should have taken place, and there was nobody of authority to make sure that such should take place. He was talking about keeping Shabbos in the old days. Rabbi Groner would have yelled out (as he used to do with waiters at Simchas) that everyone zip their mouths. I was embarrassed, and moved right up to R’ Mendel and listened to his story, though I had heard it.
There were a few very learned Rabbis close by where I sat, and they are not drinkers. After kiddush on Vodka, as is the custom, though, it went straight to their heads. The result? Inhibitions were discarded and they started singing “Yechi”. I left the farbrengen immediately, although discretely. It’s a great turn off for me and legions of others, but Chabad don’t care (though the Rebbe did). Ditto with the signage in some Shules and the other useless paraphernalia.
“Yechi” needs to become an internalised hergesh/feeling that materialises into positive action that people feel genuinely and materialise into lamplighters. Gyrating and singing the song, or plastering signs up in Shules only achieves acrimony from those who find this
not part of davening, before or after
not part of a shule’s decoration.
well passed its use by date
Is this the Chabad “Na Na Nachman”. What has that achieved apart from party revellers joining in.
I have grandchildren in the School, and I only pray that the place returns to becoming a bastion of normative behaviour with a Chassidic bent, staffed by honest, talented, trustworthy people with no other agenda except quality education (yes, and I include secular education). People who don’t live to fill their egos.
I couldn’t believe the article I read in yediot, where the Aguda’s Rabbi Litzman had reservations about the legislation to limit the volume of the call to prayers, mainly used by Muslims, but also to usher the Shabbos.
When I travelled to India, I disliked my trips to Hyderabad. My hotel was decent, one of the few, but each morning I was woken by a cacophony of calls for prayer coming from outside, far away. I also heard this in Kochin (where the Muslims and Hindus said it at the same time and it was a war of blaring stupid sounds). Why should anyone who is asleep be woken by an antiquated method to remind people of the time(s) of prayer? At 3am and 4am and whenever?
People used to have a “Shabbos Zayger (timepiece)” which was more ornate so that they could wear it in a place where there was no Eruv because it was a piece of Jewellery as well as being functional and according to most opinions permitted to wear. I know that some Charedim forbid “smart phones”, but even dumb phones can get an SMS. I can think of many other ways of alerting people to Shabbos. There could be lights that go on and off, and change colours. They could even indicate when Shabbos was out according to both opinions. These don’t cost the earth. They could easily be installed in the entrance of Shules and Shtieblach for those who are chronologically challenged and unable to discern that the widely known time for Shabbos coincides with the timepiece on their hand.
Charedi/Muslim Entrepreneurs this is a business opportunity!
In days of old, there was a custom for someone to knock on the doors of each house to announce Shacharis, the morning prayer. It made sense. They didn’t all have clocks, and even today, an alarm clack is used by many, even in the guise of a smart phone alert. When I learned at Kerem B’Yavneh, the last people on guard duty knocked on each door to arouse us from our slumber. Okay. That’s fine. It didn’t wake up the people in Kibbutz Yavneh a few kilometres away.
There is no place, in my view, to disturb anyone’s sleep in today’s age, because of one group (be it any religion—the Hindus do it in India to counter the Muslims) wanting to announce prayers. Let me correct that, there is a place: in a village where everyone wants it, and the sound doesn’t disturb neighbouring areas, that’s acceptable. But if one person objects (they might even be sick!) then they should desist and find another solution.
All this does is reinforce in my mind, that people have taken mimesis to a level that goes well beyond the concept of Mesora. There are Halachos which pertain to sounds: shofar, trumpets for war etc. These are not daily occurrences nor are they simply mimetic. It seems that it’s not only the medieval style of dress, which Moshe Rabbeinu didn’t wear, and which is Kodesh Kodoshim is now being extended to a siren as THE only way to make sure people are aware that Shabbos is happening. Halachically, it might even be better not to blow such a siren in areas of irreligious. It’s better they do things unknowingly, than knowingly.
Rabbi Litzman should go to Machon Tzomet, and arrange for a pocket tiny device to be put in the hat and tichels/sheitels of those who wish to have personal shabbos alarms, send them a mild electric shock heralding that Shabbos is coming in. It could be sold to Muslims to insert for their times of reminding. Come on, we aren’t living in the dark ages. We are fully able to observe Shabbos without disturbing anyone else, and Muslims are fully capable of finding ways to wake up for prayers without someone yelling across the mountains from a fancy modern sound system which is hooked up (heaven forbid) to electricity (another new innovation).
Ultra-Orthodox minister blocks ‘Muezzin Bill’
The “Muezzin Bill,” which aims to prevent mosques from using loudspeakers to announce prayer times, is raising a great deal of opposition, with Arab MKs and activists protesting Tuesday in the Arab city of Sakhnin and planning additional protests on Wednesday in Jaffa and the Arab city of Baqa al-Gharbiyye.
A surprising bit of opposition, though, has emerged from among the ultra-Orthodox community, with Health Minister Yakov Litzman filing an appeal on Tuesday to prevent the Knesset from voting on the Muezzin Bill, thereby sending it back to the government for further review. This will also force Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has already voiced his support of the bill, to weigh in on the matter.
In his appeal, Litzman referred to the similarities between the muezzin calls and the call announcing the beginning of Shabbat. “For thousands of years, different instruments have been used for this purpose, including the shofar and trumpet. With the advancement of technology, loudspeakers are now used to announce the beginning of Shabbat while respecting the allowed volume and in accordance to the law.”
The appeal continued by saying, “The bill in its current phrasing and following the discussions that it will bring on may harm the status quo, and so in accordance to governmental protocol, this appeal is hereby submitted for further review.”
While Litzman’s concern is mainly over breaking the status quo, the bill has angered both Arab MKs, Arab activists and the country of Jordan. The Jordanian Head of Al-Aqsa Mosque Affairs and the Ministry of Religious Endowments, Abdullah Al Awadi, expressed his objection by saying, “In accordance with international law, the occupier cannot make any historic changes in the city that it occupies and it is required to leave things as they are,” he continued. “This proves that any Israeli decision on Jerusalem is null and void.” MK Hanin Zoabi (Joint List) objected to the bill, as well. “This is a law against Palestinian presence in our homeland. It isn’t the noise that is harmful, but the outspoken presence of the Arab language that emphasizes the place’s identity, along with a certain level of controlling the space. It is a fight over it and control of it. If the will pass, we won’t respect it. We won’t lower our voice in our own space.”
Another MK to raise his voice was Jamal Zahalka (Joint List), who targeted Netanyahu in his objection. “Netanyahu has shown clear signs of chronic Islamophobia and needs immediate help, because his episodes are beginning to become dangerously combustible.” He added that “This isn’t Europe. This is where the muezzin has been making his voice heard for over a thousand years, and where Muslims will go on living …
Whomever can’t stand the sound of the muezzin is welcome to go back to where they won’t hear such sounds.” The Palestinian Authority also criticized the bill. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s office warned against the ramifications of voting the bill into law and threatened to turn to the UN Security Council and other international organizations if this were to happen.
I can’t wait for Abbas to bring this issue to the Security Council. He’d better dress up his representative as a clown when he brings the issue forward. Can people get real. Freedom of prayer is sustained. Methods of waking people up have and do change and are not part of ANY religion that I know of. Sheesh.
Maybe Rav Litzman thinks he needs a Beis Din to annul the Siren minhag on Shabbos because it is halachically a practice akin to a “vow”.
Maybe Abbas needs Arafat to rise from his grave and address the security council about this grave matter (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun)
Probably in Gulf states they have sound proof rooms for international guests or give them sound cancelling ear plugs 😦
I’ve thought about how I will comment on this book. I decided not to review it from a purely academic perspective, as I don’t see the book in the more traditional academic light; there is abundant speculation and innuendo, interspersed both under the surface and visibly, for it to be considered as such. An academic work would seek to start with no or few assumptions let alone perceived bias, and would attempt to conclude and prove on the basis of “raw” facts, without an undercurrent that seems to be attempting to convince the reader to embrace a particular approach a priori. To be fair, towards the end of the book, the author doesn’t deny this and is honest. The author has tried his best.
That’s not to say that the book doesn’t contain useful information; it does: I am always (addictively, one might say) interested in discovering new things about Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik (the Rav) and Rav Menachem Mendel Schneersohn (the Rebbe), although not so much in the sole sense of their relationship, but rather their philosophies, deeds, accomplishments, and advice for living a fulfilling Torah life. These were two unparalleled leaders of our time with enormous accomplishments. Sadly, I didn’t possess the maturity or have the opportunity of interaction to appreciate them while they were living in our world. Perhaps I’d be less perplexed or even less universalistic than I tend to be.
As background, it behoves me to re-state that I studied in Chabad during my entire schooling and am thankful for the Rayatz for setting up a School in the antipodes which served the children of Holocaust survivors. I gained a methodological approach to “learn” at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh in Israel after that. These days I attend varied Shules that follow Nusach Chabad (I used to go to Mizrachi and Elwood, mainly, as that is where my father davened, and I was also Shaliach Tzibbur on Yomim Noroim). One is often influenced to be where their grandchildren are. It is good for them to see Zayda at Shule. I need to do more of that.
A keen sense of Chabad doesn’t elude me, having three sons-in-law and a son who consider themselves Chabad Chassidim of various shades. I don’t have any problems with that, and I hope they don’t have any problems with me having my own approach. In fact, I encourage them to adhere to their principles.
I only visited 770 once, a few years ago, and although I was in New York many years prior, never felt a sense of self-importance to go to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. At that time I convinced myself that I had nothing burning to justify disturbing a busy Rebbe. I did enjoy the shtetl-like Crown Heights and managed to speak with many of the older, well-known personalities. This is another penchant of mine as they are a fountain of experience and wisdom.
The Rav, on the other hand, wasn’t part of my life until much later. I wouldn’t have asked him for a Brocha per se if I’d seen him. He was not a Rebbe. More likely, I would have taken a back seat and listened and tried to absorb. He had passed away by the time I felt the magnetism. I was and am exposed to him through his writings, talks, and the material from his students: one of whom is my primary Posek. The Rav is a source of fascination. A brilliant Brisker Talmudist, primarily, who taught a solid Mesora to legions of Rabbis, he also acquired a PhD in Philosophy (which he originally wanted to write about the Rambam but could not, as there wasn’t a qualified supervisor willing to supervise him in Berlin). My own career in University, although not in Philosophy, may be a factor in that attraction, but I’m not sure of that.
I have written a few blog posts on the topic with some documentary evidence and my own speculation. There should be no doubt, however, that the Rebbe had halachically and personally derived respect for the Rav. He stood upright at a Farbrengen as the Rav walked in, and remained standing when the Rav left. This has its roots in Halacha, and is most significant, even for a Chassid. I do get offended when the Rav is referred to as “J.B”. I hear this from Lubavitchersand some others. I find this an enormous Bizayon HaTorah, and make my feelings known vociferously. Can one imagine calling the Rebbe “M.M”? It’s a Chutzpah.
This was some background. I felt it important to mention, lest it biased my reading. It’s up to other readers to decide that, though, and I welcome any of their reflections.
Rabbi Dalfin’s book was been proof-read, and although there are some English errors, I sense English expression isn’t his forte. It reads more as a communicative attempt to search for commonalities, even obscure, irrelevant, and quite subjective ones, as a means to unite the two giants.
The purpose of this attempt at uniting and attempt at commonality is clear: it is to make Chabad more palatable or desirable for YU-style Talmidim. I didn’t find, though, any reciprocal exhortation or suggestion that someone from Chabad read, for example “Abraham’s Journey” while we are in the midst of B’Reishis. It’s a very good read, by the way.
I have never met Rabbi Dalfin, and that is probably good, as I maintained an open mind. I am acquainted with his ex-Melbournian wife and know his famed mother-in-law, but that is tangential. Notwithstandingly, the book I see the book as a pseudo-academic work designed to also function as a soft and diplomatic/disguised approach to convince the non Chabad students of Toras Rav, that:
the distance between Chabad and the Rav’s Mesora is closer than they think;
since the Rav was exposed to Chassidus as a child it not only affected his vista of Yahadus, but the Rav’s Talmidim should do likewise; and
the Rav continued being an avid reader of Chassidus.
Rabbi Dalfin is aware that these accusations would be forthcoming and I feel he did his best to submerge them. In the process, I am sure (or hope) Rabbi Dalfin also gained an enormous respect for the Rav. At the end of the day, though, Rabbi Dalfin is a Chabad Chassid first and last, and that commits a person to clear boundaries and conclusions. It’s not my way, but it’s a valid approach.
There has been a group in YU who learn Chassidus already for some years. This also manifests itself amongst some in Yeshivot Hesder. Rav Hershel Reichman, one of the Roshei Yeshivah, has taught Chassidus for eons and visited the Rebbe at least three times, and one of the newer Mashgichim at YU is the charismatic Eish Kodesh of Woodmere, a fully-fledged Chassid (but not of Chabad per se). One can even download on yutorah.org (I think two) sets of Shiurim on the complete Tanya.
None of this is surprising due to the fact that at YU and RIETS, one isn’t shackled. In Chabad, one is more limited to a pre-defined set of Seforim. Individual Chabadniks, often the most impressive messengers of Chabad’s mission, are the ones who have also read more widely. The stock standard Chassid limits themselves safely to Toras Chabad and Torah She Baal Peh and Biksav. Personally, I appreciate it when someone tries to imbue a new insight, irrespective of what it’s based upon.
Chakira-philosophically styled works-is not encouraged in Chabad institutions today to my knowledge, and yet, I believe the original students of the famed Tomchei Temimim needed to know Kuzari and Moreh Nevuchim, before being admitted. The argument might be that in our day, people are not at that level and not equipped to deal with the challenges. This is cogent, but is it universally effective? Alternatively, the Lubavitcher Rebbe provided a comprehensive and firm formula relating to Jews which navigates around these types of seforim and provides an alternate approach, even though an enquiring mind may want to dip their toe into philosophical questions. Lubavitch emphasises Bitul, and Chakira involves questioning. Are they mutually exclusive?
For Chabad, there is only Chabad Chassidus, and it is often referred to as the Shaar HaKollel, the gate that all and everyone should enter, and Chassidus must be spread far and wide as a pre-condition for Moshiach. I don’t even think Rabbi Dalfin would agree that this was the view of the Rav or his Talmidim! In that sense, the Rav and the Rebbe were worlds apart. Perhaps they completed each other? One manifested their inherent gifts as a “Melamed/Rosh Yeshivah/Posek for the RCA” and the other as a “Manhig for all Jews”. They are different categories of leadership and contribution. Both were intellectually and intuitively well advanced over stock Rabbis in their generation, and were the subject of unfound criticism, as a result. That has been a hallmark of Rabbinic history, sadly.
I found that there was repetition thoughout the book, and that it could have been cut down by perhaps one third. The most interesting things = were footnotes where the author had sought interviews with people, whom I had not heard of or read about. For this alone, it was certainly worthwhile, especially for a somewhat addicted one to these personalities.
I now make some non-exhuastive comments on various parts of the book. While I was reading, I placed an ear mark against something I felt warranted comment. I now go back to each ear mark and try to remember why I did so!
On page 43, Rabbi Dalfin notes that the Rebbe met Rav Hutner. I would expect that Rabbi Dalfin also knows that when Rav Hutner wanted to learn Chassidus, eventually he had a Friday night session with the Lubavitcher Rebbe (who was the Ramash at the time) at the explicit direction of the Rayatz, the Ramash’s father-in-law. The other brother in law, the Rashag, who was an important personality, was the original Chavrusa, but Rav Hutner needed more. Rabbi Dalfin didn’t need to tell us this, but it is an interesting historical fact.
I do not know where Rabbi Dalfin has information that the Rav ever spoke to or had anything to do with Nechama Leibowitz, even though she was there. She apparently sat in the library behind a mound of books. No doubt he would have nodded his head in passing. We do know, that the Lubavitcher Rebbe and others were in a tutorial with a series of august Rabbis, and were taught by Rav Aharon Kotler’s more controversial sister (this is documented in ‘The Making of a Gadol’ by Rav Kaminetzky, where she is alleged to have said who she thought was “smartest” of the talented group studying in Berlin).
As far as I know both the Rav and the Rebbe attended Rav Chaim Heller’s shiurim quite often. Rav Heller, however, maintained his relationship in the USA with the Rav, and the Rav’s hesped for Rav Heller was like a son for a father. It is one of the Rav’s classic hespedim.
The interchange about the Rambam at the Shiva call, seems to be questionable, or at least there are two versions. It would have been good if the actual letter from the Rebbe to the Rav was reproduced in the book. I’m sure it exists. The traditional story I read about and heard was that they discussed the laws of an Onen and Trumah and at one stage the Rebbe said “it is an open Rambam”. The Rav replied “there is no such Rambam”. Most of the discussion was in half sentences which the bystanders could not follow. One would start a Ma’amar Chazal, and the other would counter before they had finished their sentence. Subsequently, the Rebbe noted in his letter that it wasn’t actually in the Rambam’s Halachic writing, but appeared in the Rambam’s earlier glosses on Mishnayos and apologised for the misunderstanding.
On page 44, Rabbi Dalfin seems to be apologetic when saying that the Rebbe did not reciprocate a shiva call to the Rav because he stopped leaving 770 except to visit the grave of his father in law, the Rayatz. This may be true. Rabbi Dalfin notes however the phrase “with very few exceptions” that he did leave. I have little doubt that each such exception (prior to the early days when the Rebbe performed Chuppa/Kiddushin) were for important Chassidim or special cases/incidents. There were exceptions, though, and this can’t be glossed over: the Rav’s Aveilus was not one of them, though the thesis is that they were good friends. The Rebbe wrote as much. Clearly, visiting the Rav for a Shivah call was not one of those exceptions; the Rav saw it at least as an Halachik obligation to console the Rebbe personally. Indeed, the Rebbe subsequently wrote to the Rav, proposing that it might be possible to console a mourner through the written word. The Rebbe, also being felicitous to Halacha felt that he needed to explore and justify that one can be Menachem Avel through a letter. [I do not know if the Rebbe rang the Rav. If he did not, why not? If he did, I may have missed it in the book]
Page 46 (and other pages) In reference to the meetings of minds between the Rav and the Rashab at the Kinus HoRabonnim in Warsaw to oppose secular studies in the Yeshivas, as proposed by the Soviets, there seems to be no mention about the other recorded tradition. The Rashab was allegedly depressed because he felt he and Rav Chaim would lose the vote, being in the minority. The Rashab was weeping. Rav Chaim approached him and told him that he shouldn’t weep. Rav Chaim assured him that it would not happen. As I recall reading, just as the discussion/vote was to start, Rav Chaim rose and ascended to the Bima, banged his hand, and issued a formal Psak Din, that it was forbidden to listen to the Soviet proposal. None of the great Rabbonim who were present, was game to challenge Rav Chaim, even though they were great, and the meeting was over. I’m not sure why this version which has appeared in other places, isn’t mentioned.
On page 49, Rabbi Dalfin states that the Rav was a studious admirer of the Baal HaTanya. The Rav was certainly studious and was an admirer, but one needs to bring some evidence that the Rav learned Tanya regularly or semi-regularly following his youth to come to some of the conclusions Rabbi Dalfin seems to suggest. The Rav certainly knew the Tanya, as he did the Nefesh HaChaim of his ancestor, and he is one of the few who understood the differences. Unlike the noble recent translation of the Nefesh Hachaim by Avinoam Fraenkel, the Rav and the Rebbe both felt that the approaches to Tzimtzum were not the same. Either way, Tzimtzum isn’t something on my lips on a regular basis and I can’t say I think about it much. Ironically, I do when engaging a non Jewish students who wishes to talk!
The Rav was also a philosopher, yet Rabbi Dalfin states that in the Rav’s speech extolling the Rayatz, the Rav’s use of comparison between the Rayataz and Rabbi Chanina Ben Dosa, was inspired by the writings of the Alter Rebbe in Tanya. Supposition? The Rav knew Tanya and it’s there, he would have seen it and in Chazal. If he didn’t know Tanya, then he would have known the Chazals. It shouldn’t be remotely claimed that the Rav applying this praise to the Rayatz, was some type of pseudo plagiarism or an imperative derived from the Tanya. I got that message and didn’t appreciate it. Perhaps it is what gave the Rav the initial idea to create such a masterful Drosha, but the Rav was not a regular copyist (in fact, when he visited Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky he was quite upset as he perused Rav Chaim Ozer’s Seforim, because he saw many of his Chiddushim has been published by others, and he had not seen those Seforim until then).
The Rav was a Master darshan in his own right and had plenty to call upon. He didn’t need Tanya to construct his positive comments about the Rayatz, and one doesn’t need to justify saying something that appears in many places! By the way, to buttress my point, Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner told me that he was present for this particular Derosha from the Rav, and it was the best Drosha he had ever heard. Rabbi Groner was well acquainted with the Rayatz and the Tanya and the Rebbe.
On page 50, we come to a quandary. If the Rav was so infused with Chassidus Chabad, why did it apparently take his recovery from an illness to teach Chassidus for 15 minutes as a measure of Hakoras HaTov. Before the Hakoras HaTov, he didn’t find it important enough?
I don’t recall Rabbi Dalfin mentioning the Rav’s comment extolling that a unique greatness of the Rebbe was his ability to take Yahadus into Reshus HoRabbim and that this was something the rest of the Rabbinical world could not or would not do, with fervour, organisation and single mindedness. Many kirov organisations try to emulate the approach, but aren’t quite as effective due to the Mesiras Nefesh of the Chassid.
On page 53, Rabbi Dalfin brings no source for the alleged knowledge of Sam Cramer. If it is true, then the Rayatz’s wife and daughter would have known about it, in the least!
On page 59, Rabbi Dalfin mentioned Rav Mendel Vitebsker seemingly nonchalantly as someone who accompanied the Alter Rebbe to see the Gaon of Vilna (others say it was the Berditchever, as Rabbi Dalfin mentions later). Rabbi Dalfin will know that Rav Mendel, also known as R’ Mendel Horodoker, was explicitly referred to as Rebbe by the Baal HaTanya himself, and the Baal HaTanya followed his Rebbe physically as a chassid to Israel, until told to turn back by R’ Mendel and look after the diaspora in Russia. It has always been a mystery to me why Rav Mendel isn’t considered a Rebbe before the Baal HaTanya in the chain of Chabad lineage, given that the Baal HaTanya considered and wrote of him as his Rebbe. Perhaps it’s because he wasn’t related to the Schneersohn dynasty. Either way, that is a side issue, but one that has intrigued me. Indeed, when I spoke to the late and great Chassid and friend, R’ Aharon Eliezer Ceitlin about this point, he mentioned that someone had once asked the Rebbe this question at a farbrengen, and the Rebbe replied that “it was a good question”. Take it for what it’s worth. I’m repeating what I was told. There is probably another reason.
On page 61, Rabbi Dalfin concludes that early tradition guided much of the Rav’s acceptance of Chabad. I see no logical conclusion for that. The Vilna Gaon went into exile for months, climbing through a window and issued a Cherem! Yes, the Vilna Gaon may have been misled, but a better proof would have been from the Rav’s relative, Rav Chaim Volozhiner, who pointedly did not sign the Cherem, even though he wrote it!
On page 63 Rabbi Dalfin argues that the Rav wasn’t a traditional Misnaged. He doesn’t define Misnaged. They come in different modes today. He needs to. A full misnaged is opposed to all Chassidic groups! My Rov, Rav Boruch Abaranok used to say, “Halevai there were Misnagdim today and Halevei there were Chassidim”.
Rabbi Dalfin surmises that the Rav didn’t go to the Mikva every day “perhaps because learning was more important”. The Rav was the quintessential Halachic man. Perhaps he saw no Halacha vis a vis Takonas Ezra requiring him to go Mikvah. On the contrary, one could conclude that Chassidus had not enough effect on him when it was weighed against Halacha Peshuta and his Brisker Mesora. (Apart from the fact that the Rav presumably showered and according to his student Rav Schachter and others, this suffices for those who wish to keep Takonas Ezra today). In those days, Mikvaos were also the central place to have a Shvitz and a clean up of sorts.
I do not know what is meant by the misnaged approach to practical Halacha that Rabbi Dalfin writes about. If anything, Brisk was highly critical of the Litvishe Yeshivas engaged with Pilpul and not drilling down to Halacha. The Rav was quite sharp in criticising that aspect. This was also the view of Rav Kook who never finished the books he wanted to write (as opposed to the snippet of diary entries which have been morphed and altered into books and are therefore mired in controversy).
On page 64, Rabbi Dalfin concludes based on David Holtzer’s book that the Rav did not think much of Polish ChaGaS. The Rav was despite his strong persona, extremely tolerant. His views were firm, but if there was a Yid for whom ChaGaS was a major ingredient and perhaps suited their personality, I cannot imagine from the Rav’s writings, that he would have an issue with it, let alone tell the person to abandon ChaGaS. The Rav wrote what affected him. I am not sure he wrote to convince others to change their approach to Yahadus.
The Rav had a lot of time for the Tehillim Yidden in Khaslavich. These were indelible memories. Yet, saying Tehillim was not the Brisker way. Brisk were the elite. I’d venture to say that Rav Moshe, the Rav’s father was more elitist (call it extreme masoretic) than the Rav, but the Rav was not, even though he maintained a personal unshakeable fidelity. Rav Moshe preferred Mishnayos, as is known by the practice between the two on Rosh Hashona.
Rabbi Dalfin relates that the Rav was allegedly eventually convinced of the emotional style of attracting Jews practiced by the Bostoner Rebbe, with whom he was close. But, the Rav had an open mind, and when he saw it had a place for certain types of Jews he accepted it. I don’t find it surprising. Evidence is a powerful ingredient. [On taking fringe ground: Both the Rav and the Rebbe gave Rabbi Riskin permission to develop Lincoln Square Synagogue, but this was not advice for others.]
This is in stark contradiction to the general approach of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The Rebbe adhered to one way; Toras HaBaal HaTanya as successively elucidated and revealed by successive Rebbes. I can’t belittle such an approach. Why would I? I know many who are consumed by it. The Rebbe never deviated from it, and when in doubt, he followed what his father-in-law (as opposed to his more Kabbalistically inclined father) did. He was completely beholden to his father-in-law until his last breath, and felt he was an extension of his mission (in my opinion). In this sense the Rav and Rebbe were chalk and cheese. The Rav and Rav Moshe weren’t exactly kindred personalities but they had an understanding, a bond, perhaps a quietest bond void of emotions. The Rav, though, was not the pure extension of his father. That being said, he trembled to teach a Masechta that he had not learned with his father.
I recall reading a story that the Rav was to be a Sandek at a bris where they were going to do Metzitza using the mouth. The Rav who was Sandek, informed the Chassidic Mohel, that he forbade him to do so. The Rav was concerned for health reasons, and this was a matter of Halacha. Brisk are notorious for their stringency on matters of health, which results in leniencies. Two or three times they argued back and forth, and the Mohel refused to budge (he obviously didn’t think much of the Rav; Chassidim dismiss him as out of hand, but quietly admit that he was the inheritor of R’ Chaim’s brilliant mind). At that moment the Rav told the Mohel, “you are lucky that my father isn’t the Sandek. He wasn’t as tolerant as me. He would have walked out and refused to move one iota”. In this sense, I think Rav Moshe, the Rav’s father, was more like the Lubavitcher Rebbe showing a more singular unshakeable approach. He followed his Beis HoRav to the minutest detail [although in his later years he adopted the Tachkemoni approach, which didn’t work out for various reasons]. The Lubavitcher Rebbe had his singular vision and methodology and that could not be compromised and was a faithful brilliant continuation from the 1st Rebbe of Chabad.
On page 77, Rabbi Dalfin writes of an interchange with the venerable Rav Mendel Marosov regarding Mussar and Chassidus. One need not read the interchange in the way that Rabbi Dalfin interpreted it. Rather, the Rav could easily have been saying “Rabbi Marosov, you are a Chassid, you should be asking me not about Mussar but about Chassidus“. Neither implies that the Rav held that his Talmidim had to learn either. In Brisk they had a disdain for mussar (some called it Bitul Torah), and didn’t know of Chassidus. The Rav was exposed to Chassidus, and it gave him a non Brisker Geshmack in the same way that his mother did for the emotional side of Judaism and the secular scholarship of the world, in contrast to the more limited approach of his father.
Rabbi Dalfin states,
“if we truly respect the Rav and wish to fulfil his wishes(!) then Chassidus should be taught and studied at YU”.
This is a very long bow. Many of the Rav’s best Talmidim don’t study Chassidus regularly or at all, and were never asked to do so by the Rav! Certainly Rav Schachter quotes both from the Baal HaTanya and the Nefesh HaChaim and considers them both important Seforim. The thing I infer is that the Rav wanted to create original, halachically, sound-thinking, critical-thinking Rabonim, bound by a Mesora that behoved them to consult their Chaveirim if they had a Chiddush in Halacha, and then to do a PhD to enhance their ability to research with an academic nuance and think methodologically with the rigour he was exposed to in his University studies (and also relate to the new American, who spoke a different language).
On Page 86 Rabbi Dalfin notes “Some have criticised the Rav for being indecisive”. With this statement I believe Rabbi Dalfin is evasive for diplomatic or other reasons in order to further part of his agenda, and perhaps it indicates he doesn’t appreciate fully the Rav’s way. In fact it was the Lubavitcher Rebbe himself who noted the Rav was prone to sometimes change his mind.
In an interchange with Rabbi Dalfin, I criticised him for consciously leaving this letter out of his book and addressing it. He responded that he didn’t have the full context of the letter (and neither did I) and had consulted others as to whether to include it. It could well be that the rest of the letter had nothing to do with these comments, but it’s hard to imagine that the letter would be an expansion of what the Rebbe said, or a self-softening of what he said. My view is that they were intrinsically, also different.
Anyone who has seen Rav Schachter during Summer in Tannersville, knows that when he starts learning Gemora on his porch, he tells the many who wish to join him, that they must remove all their previous thoughts and knowledge about the Gemora and think originally again! This was what he learned from the Rav. It was about never being afraid to revisit an issue and conclude differently” (as did Rav Chaim Brisker famously in his inaugural lecture in the Volozhiner Yeshiva).
Some might say this indicates that the Rav vacillated, or was weak. [The episode of Kashrus in Boston, which Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky’s father experienced put paid to that. The Rav didn’t budge an iota when the Halacha was as clear as could be, and suffered (in his words) with the attempts to discredit him in court] To do so, in my opinion is to not understand his halachic honesty and his self-sacrificial fidelity to Mesora, that “every day it should be in your eyes, like something afresh”.
To Rabbi Dalfin I say, you should have published the part of the letter, translated it, and then made whatever comment you could or could not make. You could even have even left it to the reader. To leave it out, is not the way, and the book is poorer for not mentioning this. I was also critical of both Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky and Rabbi Yossi Jacobson for not addressing this letter in a forum about the Rav and the Rebbe at YU (such a forum wouldn’t happen at 770 🙂 and I corresponded with Rabbi Jacobson on this matter, privately. As I recall, we agreed to disagree.
The fact is that this letter was hidden, and only known about by few. I don’t usually look at statistics on my blog, as they don’t interest me; I write because I feel a need to, at times. The statistics spiked when I published the letter) wordpress had sent me an email. Note also that anything personal could have been redacted, and the entire letter published. Everyone knows the librarian at 770, and they can obtain this letter from him and do the needful, unless there was a specific command for the librarian not to release it (and if there was, one needs to ask why). There are other cases where Chassidim (not the Rebbe) tried to prevent the publication of something he said.
My view is that this letter does not mean the Lubavitcher Rebbe was not fond of or friendly with the Rav, but it does mean that aspects of the Rav’s Derech HaTorah were not in tune with the Rebbe. I believe this fact is inescapable.
The Rav was also misunderstood. Many a time a Talmid would come to “ask a Shayla”. The Rav nodded. When asked why he nodded when he was against the proposal put forth by the Talmid, the Rav said, that [young modern Rabbi, as Rav Hershel likes to put it] did not come to ask me a Shayla. He already had decided. He had some contorted opinion to rely on, but the Rav did not agree with it LeHalacha U’LeMaaseh. He was, however, not interested in the Rav’s Psak. Someone of this type doesn’t come to the Rav as a Talmid to a Rav.
There are many stories of people asking the Rav if a woman has to wear a head covering. The Rav answered “yes, definitely”. They were “smarter” than the Rav, and thought he was just giving a dry diplomatic answer given that his own wife didn’t wear one (for reasons I’m sure she could explain). The Rav answered honestly, I have no doubt, and this is what he held.
On page 87, Rabbi Dalfin states that the Rav tried to be lenient on some rulings! I don’t buy this for one second. The Rav paskened according to what he firmly concluded was Halacha, and like all Poskim, specifically for the person asking the question, and the circumstance. His grandfather used to find lenient positions to make a Chicken Kosher. Did this make Reb Chaim a Kal? The strength of a Hetter is more powerful. The Rav would never pasken unless he was confident and if something new (technologically or fact-wise) came to light, he was intellectually honest enough to change his ruling. This happened with electricity and microphones, for example. He wasn’t the only one. He saw no contradiction with that. It was an imperative. Rabbi Dalfin hints at this in the footnote, but that sort of comment is for the text, not a footnote.
I am sure that Rabbi Dalfin also knows that when it came to questions of Yichud and adopted children, the Rebbe often suggested the couple go to see the Rav in Boston for a Psak, rather than ask the Rebbe. Why would the Rebbe do that if he didn’t respect the Rav as a Posek with broad shoulders?
On page 102, Rabbi Dalfin takes a long bow and attempts to extrapolate that the Rav “learned from Chabad” that a simple Jew should fuse the spiritual and the mundane. Does this mean Chabad follow Torah U’Madda or Torah Im Derech Eretz? Absolutely not. Chabad astonished the young Rav when he observed that simple Jews displayed real Yiras Shomayim and yet did so without great Torah knowledge. This contradicted his Mesora. It’s irrelevant anyway now. Both Chabad and YU stress the need for great Torah knowledge, (Chabad still maintained its Mesorah for saying Tehillim, and Rav Moshe would still have encouraged learning Mishnayos)
On page 125, it is noted, that the Rav was not in the habit of going to hear Torah from a Torah Genius. It is true, he didn’t go to other tishes or farbrengens. He didn’t even learn in a mainstream Yeshivah. Today’s Yeshivas would have thrown him out! Look at the way the Aguda spitefully treat Rav Schachter at the Siyum Hashas. He is seated at a back table, despite the fact that he likely knows more than all those at the head dias. This is Kavod?
What would the Rav learn in Viznitz or Belz! He did go to Rav Chaim Heller, as did the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and Rav Heller was a genius but was not gifted as an orator and those around him often didn’t understand what he was saying. The Rav would elucidate. This doesn’t contradict Rabbi Rakkefet’s comment brought in the footnote that the Rav would interrupt, as if to imply he didn’t have respect for Rav Heller’s Torah or think it was worthwhile attending! The Rav, however, had very firm views of the standard of Torah of others. Rav Shimon Shkop was a Rosh Yeshivah at YU until his students sadly cajoled him to go back to Europe. The Rav didn’t feel at all inferior to the Rav Shimon Shkops and other luminaries at YU. He taught his way.
The Rav discussed Torah with Rav Aharon Kotler and Reb Moshe Feinstein, and visited sick Gedolai HaTorah who were in hospital who were visiting from overseas, and lifted their spirits through Torah interchanges. He was also the Chairman for the Chinuch Atzmoi at the behest of Rav Kotler because even though he had moved philosophically towards the vision of Mizrachi, he never minimised the importance of Rav Kotler’s work, and he also used to interchange Toras HoRambam with his Uncle, Reb Velvele (although the shameful ones removed the Rav’s name as the author of the letters). The Rav used to ironically send money to his Uncle to support his institutions! He was tolerant to those who learned Torah; even the Neturei Karta.
One can conclude that the Rav thought enough of the Rebbe based on personal interaction that he would come to part of an important farbrengen. It is not surprising that hearing the Torah there, he stayed as long as he felt well enough. Why wouldn’t he? The Rebbe was a genius. I don’t think that had to do with friendship per se. There was some Hakoras HaTov, but in the main, he was attracted to what he was hearing.
There is a theory, I think Rabbi Jacobson mentioned it, that the Rebbe tailored what he was saying, to respond to some of the issues the Rav had written about in the Rav’s Seforim. I’m not at the level to understand that. If I ever meet Rabbi Jacobson, I’d be interested to try and understand.
I wish to note another comment that I read in Rabbi Sholem Ber Kowalsky’s book, which I bought for some reason. He had been in the car, as I recall. Someone “borrowed” the book from me, and I haven’t seen it in years. Bring it back! In addition to what the Rav said in the car on the way back as reported by Rabbi Dalfin, the Rav also is reputed to have said that “Er meint az er iz Moshiach”, that the Lubavitcher Rebbe thought he was Moshiach. I know there is a JEM video with Rabbi Kowalsky and I don’t recall him saying that phrase in the video, but I clearly remember reading it, as it hit me between the eyes at the time. I don’t have a clue if it bothered the Rav in any way; I doubt it. I think his mind would be on the Shiurim he was to deliver.
Rabbi Dalfin seems to associate the Rebbe standing when the Rav entered the farbrengen as some sort of reciprocation. How does Rabbi Dalfin know that the Rebbe reciprocated because he saw the effort the Rav made (as a sick man who found it difficult to sit with sciatica) to come. Does Rabbi Dalfin, a Chabad Chassid not consider that the Rebbe stood because that is the Halacha for people of the calibre of the Rav!?! I guess for a Chassid, that just doesn’t work.
The size of the Shule that the Rav davened in as described in page 170 was small. The Rav wanted to teach students how to learn according to his Mesorah. He wasn’t a Rebbe, and saw no need for them to follow his personal Minhogim and styles. The Rav davened quickly, for example.
Both the Rav and the Rebbe were snappy dressers in Berlin. For the Rebbe, this was a negative amongst older Chassidim who were displeased that he wore white gloves to the Seuda for his Wedding, and had removed his Kapote, as described in the Warsaw press, at that time in the early hours of the morning. (The article from the press appears in “Larger than life” and is very detailed; it was a big story). I have both volumes of Larger than life if anyone is interested. I know the author is derided.
On page 140, Rabbi Dalfin claims that they had a different view of active messianism. I’m not sure why there is at least no footnote of evidence to support this statement. Rabbi Dalfin seems to forget that studying Kodshim, which is a Brisker emphasis, has plenty to do with being ready for the immanence of Moshiach. It is a Torah-study based activism and preparation (the same view was held by the Chafetz Chaim and Rav Kook). I’m not arguing the point, but just wondering if he had evidence that the Rav was opposed to the Rebbe’s approach. Could they not be complementary? After all, the Rebbe inaugurated the learning of the Rambam daily because it covered all aspects of Halacha and was unique, including the times of Moshiach and Kodshim and Tahara etc
On page 142, it is claimed that the Brisker tradition meant that the Rav may have been “less forgiving” in dialogue with visitors than the Rebbe. I think Rabbi Dalfin forgets that Rav Chaim left a specific command that only “Ish Hachesed” should be left on his tombstone. Rav Chaim was known to be very soft with the people, but tough in Torah discussion. The Rav was no Rogatchover firebrand with visitors, although he burned with Torah, and indeed, the Rav was very different to his father, possibly on account of the influence of his mother. Whilst in the early days of Shiur, the Rav “took no prisoners”, I’m not aware that he treated each person who came to his house with pure graciousness as per Halacha. If Rabbi Dalfin has evidence to the contrary, it should be presented.
On page 143, there is not enough evidence for the claim that the Rav studied the Moreh Nevuchim (regularly or semi-regularly). Of course he had studied it. We know he gave a year-long shiur on the topic that has been masterfully put together into a book by Professor Lawrence Kaplan recently, however, in the scheme of things, the Rav was much more of a “Melamed” of Shas and Poskim, then a teacher of philosophy. I wonder how often he picked up the Moreh Nevuchim later? How many of he Rav’s shiurim diverged into Philosophy or Chakirah? Do they sit in a filing cabinet?
Asking what the Brisker fascination with the Rambam was, is like asking why the Lubavitcher Rabbi had a fascination with every nuanced word of Rashi on the Torah. What about it? The Rambam wasunique, as expressed by the Beis Yosef himself. There is no doubt about that. Indeed, at a Shiva call, the Rebbe asked the Rav, what his opinion was about the Philosophy of the Alter Rebbe, given that the Rav was ‘a philosoph’. The Rav responded that since the Rambam, there has been no greater Jewish (or non Jewish) philosopher than the Alter Rebbe. I heard and saw this stated from the mouth of Rav Hershel Reichman, who was in the room at the time, and is one of the Roshei Yeshiva at YU.
On page 170, Rabbi Dalfin seems surprised that Mori V’Rabbi Rav Hershel Schachter didn’t “hang out to daven” wherever the Rav was davening. I’m not sure why Rabbi Dalfin was so surprised. Prior to the current Litvishe Rabbis effectively imitating the ways of the Chassidishe Rabbis in that they became the locus of all activity, the Rav did not like anyone simply following his practices because he did them. He respected that there were family customs; his job was to teach Torah. He wasn’t taking the place of his father or grandfather and expanding the Shule he attended into an enormous gathering of Chassidim. Chassidim emulate every aspect of their Rebbe. They even clap their hands in the same style, and reshape their hats with a Kneich in the same way. This is totally foreign to a Brisker Litvak like the Rav.
On page 175, Rabbi Dalfin describes the non Brisker message the Rav derived from the simple Chassidim of his youth. The Rav has written about it. Nowhere did I find support for Rabbi Dalfin’s comment that this was attained through attending farbrengens! I can’t even imagine Reb Moshe allowing his son to attend. If I recall, the Rav retells how at Melave Malka he experienced the longing of Chassidim to extend the Shabbos and how that impressed him greatly (and yes, the Rav kept Rabbeinu Tam’s times for Shabbos). I haven’t read anywhere about the effect of any farbrengens per se on the Rav.
On page 198. Rabbi Dalfin quotes an exchange with Rabbi Fund. It is interesting, but I don’t think Rabbi Dalfin sees the message adequately, that when the Rav learned Likutei Torah, Rabbi Fund states that he only elaborated on topics that he recognised, and that he didn’t use Chassidic language. Most importantly, contradicting the undertones of Rabbi Dalfin’s book, is that Rabbi Fund states that
“His [the Rav’s] exposure to Chassidus was limited“
Rabbi Dalfin attempts to connect the teaching styles of Reb Yoel Kahn and the Rav. I once tried to listen to Reb Yoel Kahn, and found his delivery very difficult to follow. I think this was due to a speech impediment. The Rav was an orator. But more to the point, the Rav was a Mechadesh. Does anyone in Chabad think that Reb Yoel Kahn said or wrote original Chidushim in Chassidus? Surely he crystallised the thoughts of the Rebbes for the masses and is most influential in that way.
On page 225, Rabbi Dalfin recounts the Shavuos meal shared by the Rashab and R’ Chaim as retold by the Rayatz. I do not understand why Rabbi Dalfin didn’t mention that in response to the Rashab, R’ Chaim provided his own Torah in response, let alone reflect on what R’ Chaim was trying to say )I read this in Nefesh HoRav, I believe). I read the episode as two Torah giants exchanging Torah at a meal with mutual respect. I’m not sure how one reads Rabbi Dalfin or the Chassid with whom he discussed it and the novel explanation, without the context of R’ Chaim’s Torah at that same time. In addition, was there any evidence of “push back” from the Rav to learning Chassidus. I know that when he did take that initiative, he stopped Likutei Torah, and tore strips off Rabbi Menachem Genack, and said that this study was not for those who couldn’t use their heart, and stop focussing on the Rav’s brain.
On page 230, Rabbi Dalfin seems to imply that there is a paucity of “mimic acceptance” amongst Chassidim. My understanding is that Chassidim first do accept anything the Rebbe says or does, and then try to understand it (if they are successful). The Rav, was a great supporter of mimetic tradition, when it came to Mesorah (his son R’ Chaym famously writes about the concept in Tradition), but when it came to learning the truth of Torah, he had no place for non-critical regurgitation. One needed to personally work to come to sound conclusions. This was his definition of proper Torah study LiShma. Indeed, as a simple example, the Rav never accepted the new Techeles, not because he had some scientific or halachic objection, but because a Mesora had been broken. Yet, his student, Mori V’Rabbi Rav Hershel Schachter, does wear Techeles, and brings cogent arguments as to why one should do so as a Halachic preference. The Rav would have had no issue with a Talmid Muvhak, deciding in this way.
On page 236, Rabbi Dalfin wonders how the left of the RCA were becoming more dominant. For one, the left has effectively gone to YCT and has been rejected by the RCA. Secondly, to conjecture that this is the Rav’s fault because he encouraged individualism, is to ignore that the Rav over-rode individualism on matters of great importance, and the RCA does the same to this day. Furthermore, this line of argument, is akin to claiming that the plainly lunatic meshichist elohisten who stand in line for Kos Shel Brocho and think the Rebbe is literally alive, are the fault of the Rebbe because he should have been more forthright in stopping Rav Wolpe from writing his book on Moshiach. I heard that exchange on video, and I can’t see what the Rebbe could have said with more intent. Rav Wolpe though thought and thinks he knows what the Rebbe wanted and went ahead, even though the Rebbe told him to desist. There are many examples of Chassidim (with Hiskashrus) who do things today that they never would have done in the days when the Rebbe was in this world. One could “blame” the Rebbe or “blame” the Rav, but I think this is too simplistic. We are responsible for our actions. That being said, Open Orthodoxy is the new Conservative, and there have been some good articles exposing them of late. On that matter I have concerns for some Shules in Melbourne that are left wing enough to gravitate to a YCT-style approach.
On page 237, Rabbi Dalfin notes that the Rav didn’t visit the graves of his father or grandfather to communicate with them in the way the Lubavitcher Rebbe always went to his father-in-law’s grave. I think that Rabbi Dalfin has forgotten one thing: Brisker do not visit graves. They consider them Avi Avos HaTuma, and Halachically, they are not places one should frequent or expose themselves to. Mori V’Rabbi Rav Hershel Schachter doesn’t visit the cemetery. The Rav himself broke the rule when his wife passed away and admitted he allowed his emotions to rule (he did jokingly justify it with a positive outcome for the Yeshivah).
Rabbi Dalfin discusses Lubavitch and Women in respect of half, full or otherwise ordination and says it’s not even on an agenda. He is right. Traditional titles will never be used in Chabad. However, Chabad has its own title, namely, Shlucha. Depending on the Shlucha, who is as important as the Shaliach in respect of a Chabad house, many of the activities of the Shlucha share a commonality with the pastoral care that some women assume as their roles assisting a Rabbi. This used to be the role of a Rebbetzin, however, sadly, many Rebbetzins don’t see it that way any longer and their roles have changed, and some were not as learned. For the record, I am pro Yoatzot Halacha, as in those who study in Nishmat under Rav Henkin, but I draw the line there. A Yoetzet Halacha doesn’t pasken. She transmits a psak according to the case, and asks Rav Henkin when she does not know or is not sure.
On page 238, Rabbi Dalfin claims contradictions between the Halachic and philosophical positions. I am not sure what he is driving at, in the context of the relationship with the Rav. If his point is that there were no contradictions between the Rebbe’s halachic stances and the Rav’s philosophy, the two were writing in two completely different loci. One was expounding chassidism, while the other also related the conceptual illumination of philosophy to Halachic imperatives. The Rav, was also refreshingly open about his personal feelings. The Rebbe, in the words of the Rav, was a Nistar by nature. One would imagine that he only discussed private matters with his wife when they shared a cup of tea each day. The Rav and Rebbe were chalk and cheese on matters of self, and expressing their personal struggles.
On page 241, Rabbi Dalfin quotes from the Rayatz and the Rebbe, regarding R’ Chaim being someone ‘who did as much as humanely possible and then leaving the rest to God’. The Rashab, wasn’t satisfied with that. The Rebbe saw in this R’ Chaim exercising a halachic view. I am not here to argue with the Rebbe’s interpretation, however, when Brisk burned down, and they rebuilt it, the last person to move into their house was R’ Chaim, even though it was immediately rebuilt. He slept in the street until every pauper had their house rebuilt. According to Halacha he didn’t need to do that! An equally plausible explanation is therefore that R’ Chaim wasn’t saying there is nothing more to do, but rather, we need Siyata Dishmaya to achieve more. I see nothing untoward in such a thought. I also read that the Rashab couldn’t believe that R’ Chaim’s Shamash (and paupers) often slept in R’ Chaim’s bed forcing the Rebbetzin to sleep in the kitchen. He had a rule with his Shamash: whoever went to bed first, slept in the bed. That doesn’t sound like man who pursued honour to me. The Rav also didn’t pursue honour. He knew his task, and gave his life to fulfil it.
On page 254 Rabbi Dalfin mentioned the Chabad-YU conference on the Rav and the Rebbe. I ask Rabbi Dalfin would such a thing ever be held at 770 in the Zal?
I find Rabbi Dalfins comment that
“More young Israel congregations should hire Chabad Rabbis and Chabad must start to include more young Israel Rabbis as speakers and teachers at their events
one of the most revealing biases in the book! Chabad’s strength is with the non-affiliated using their non judgmental approach. Many a Chabad Rabbi is ill-equipped to lead a young israel shule. They do not have the secular background to connect, and it is only the crème de la crème that can do so. Having said that, this comment is demeaning and I don’t think Rabbi Dalfin would agree that the Rav would agree with it! And why aren’t young Israel Rabbis more than speakers! Their Smicha is excellent and includes important new training.
Finally, Footnote 519 lists Rabbis Boruch Reichman. It fact it was his father Rav Hershel Reichman who was in the room and heard the statement.
Here is a Pesach letter from the Rav to the Rebbe, and this is a letter from the Rayatz extolling the Rav. Apologies for any typos, but I don’t spend much time re-reading what I wrote, especially when it’s this long, and I’ve probably lost the reader already.
This sounds like a strange heading for a blog post. Let me explain. In the last few months, we merited having two grandsons born to my younger two daughters. They and their husbands named both their sons Shaul Zelig, שאול זעליג after my dear father ז׳ל. I was honoured and, of course, this was due to my father’s very close relationship with each and every one of his grandchildren.
In the 1600’s, Rav Eliyahu Shapira in his famous work Eliyahu Rabo, quotes the Beis Yosef, Rav Yosef Karo, author of the Shulchan Aruch, that just before saying the Oseh Shalom עושה שלום of Shemoneh Esreh, one should say a Pasuk from Tanach whose first letter corresponds to the first letter of one’s name, and such that the passuk ends with the last letter of one’s name.
One of my sons-in-law, had quickly taken on the custom to say his new son’s Pesukim for both שאול and זעליג as well as his own, until his son was old enough to do so. The other soon followed. I did not know but he had asked some Rabonim in Shule because he could not find a single Passuk in Tanach which started with letter Zayin and ended with a Gimmel. Eventually, it was concluded, thanks to computers, that there was no such Passuk. The question then arose, so what does one say if they practice this custom?
The Arizal and the Shelah Hakadosh both write about this concept and the latter mentions in his Sefer, that it is a tool or device to help one after 120 years, when facing God, and when asked their name (this would be something mystical that is beyond me). We will be in fear and the saying of this Passuk will jog our memory from its expected momentary freeze. (Some say the Passuk 18 times by the way). It is clearly a Kabbalistic/Mystical notion, however, I am accustomed to saying my name as well, because that’s what I was taught when I was a boy, and assumed this was mainstream practice. I don’t know whether Germanic, Oberlander or other Ashkenazic traditions also have this Minhag/practice. I would imagine that Sephardim do.
Either way, the advice one son-in-law was given was a bit of a compromise. He was to say a passuk that had a word in it that began with zayin and ended in gimmel. That’s not to say it wouldn’t work. I saw some opinions that indeed suggest this.
I was intrigued when I learned about this reality and started scouring (I don’t have Bar Ilan or Otzar HaChochma databases though). I found that some have a custom to say one passuk which would starts with a Shin for Shaul and ended with a Gimel for Zelig. This was legitimately sourced, however, both my sons-in-law both follow the Chabad custom, so I set about to find out what, if anything, Chabad does in such a situation (or indeed any group that says two Pesukim for two names).
I immediately thought to ring Dayan Usher Zelig Weiss, Rav of Shaarei Tzedek Hospital and a world-famous Posek. After all, his middle name is Zelig, and I have spoken to him before. I got an answer almost immediately that the Passuk that should be used is:
The reasoning is because in pronunciation the Gimel actually sounds like a Kuf. Indeed it does. I can still hear my father say it that way unwittingly.
Certainly, in Hilchos Gittin, where names and nicknames are most critical, I could see this as being significant. There are various theories about the origin of the name Zelig. In my father’s case (I surmise Dayan Usher Zelig Weiss, the Zelig was considered a coupled/translation of Osher (Usher) as in Dov Ber, Yehuda Aryeh Leib, Menachem Mendel, etc. I knew my father’s middle name came from his grandfather who was also called Osher (who was Yitzchak Osher Amzel or Reb Yitzchak Bogoshitzer) but since my father’s other grandfather was named Yitzchak, and was still alive, he couldn’t get the name Yitzchak Osher. I got the name Yitzchak later, as did my cousin Ya׳akov Yitzchak Balbin ז׳ל.
An oracular friend in the USA, Rabbi Michoel Seligson, sent me the following letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe in response to someone who asked exactly this question (it’s reprinted from a couple’s wedding booklet gift to their guests).
where the Kav Noki quotes the Mahari Mintz (need time to look at that) supporting equivalence as in soundex. Clearly, soundex was extended to the Possuk as well, as a device for memorisation.
Zelig more recently was the same as Germanic Selik or Selig. Rabbi Selig Baumgarten comes to mind. Again, accents/pronunciation are evident. Zelig seems to be derived from Old German meaning “chosen” or “blessed”. It is also found in Old English and may have become the word “select“.
We also find it in Yiddish with this meaning as in “a zointz un a zelig(ch)s”
Back to the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
I am intrigued by the last words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe above which state that this is the Pasuk “until you find an exact pasuk”. I thought to myself, there are a finite number of Pesukim. Either it exists or it doesn’t exist. What possibly could the Lubavitcher Rebbe have meant “until you find“. You’d never find it! One could surmise he was hinting that when saying Pesukim in general, never stop paying careful attention to each letter of each Passuk.
I had another thought, for which I have no support. The tradition is that when the Moshiach comes a “new Torah” will sprout תורה חדשה. Perhaps, given the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s single-minded focus on causing Moshiach to come sooner, he was hinting that such a Passuk may come into existence in times to come? I don’t know. I’m certainly not qualified to double guess what he meant. It might be an explanation.
Either way, I found it an interesting tidbit, especially for those who have the name זעליג!
The Jerusalem Post indicates that Rabbi David Lau is not opposed to the conversions performed by the Beth Din of America, however, Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef prefers to treat each convert individually. I do not understand the rationale from Rabbi Yosef. Unless the Beth Din is Pasul, the conversion has occurred (except in very extenuating circumstances which would have been in existence before the conversion). I am not at all sure Rabbi Yosef’s father, Chacham Ovadia ז׳ל would agree with his son.
For the record: All Geirim need to go through a proper process of learning and should be accepting of the yoke of Mitzvos. That is independent. I believe this would certainly be the case for the Beth Din of America.
Understandings reached in 2008 between the Chief Rabbinate and the Rabbinical Council of America stated that an Orthodox conversion performed in America and given formal approval by a rabbinical judge from the Beth Din of America would be recognized as valid in Israel by the Chief Rabbinate.
However, this agreement has been unraveling in recent years, as numerous cases have occurred in which conversion approvals from the Beth Din of America and its most senior judge, Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, have been rejected.
It is the rabbinate’s Department of Marriage and Conversion, run by Rabbi Itamar Tubul, which has been directly responsible for these rejections.
The department is under the authority of Yosef in his position as president of the Supreme Rabbinical Court, and sources in the Chief Rabbinate have indicated that he is responsible for instructing Tubul to adopt this new approach.
On Monday, an aide to Lau wrote a letter to Tubul, obtained by The Jerusalem Post, in which he stated that Lau had asked him to clarify to Tubul “once again” that “approvals issued by the Beth Din of America and signed by Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz should be recognized, and that they should be relied upon for the purposes of approving [conversion] certificates which are received from the US.”
Yosef’s office declined to answer an inquiry made by the Post as to whether the chief rabbi considers the understandings of 2008 as still operative.
On Sunday, a spokesperson for the Chief Rabbinate said that every case requiring conversion verification from the US “is examined on an individual basis,” and that “there are no all-inclusive approvals or rejections,” indicating that the Chief Rabbinate, under Yosef’s direction, no longer considers the 2008 agreement to be binding.
Lau and Yosef have had a high-profile quarrel for several months over various issues.
The ITIM religious services advisory group, which has represented many of the converts requiring recognition by the Chief Rabbinate, welcomed Lau’s comments to Tubul, but was critical of the fight between the two chief rabbis.
“The internal bickering in the rabbinate is taking place while converts are suffering. This is un-halachic and inhuman,” said ITIM director Rabbi Seth Farber.
“We call upon the Chief Rabbinate to immediately disband the department and issue a statement that all conversions done under the auspices of rabbis from halachic institutions will be automatically recognized. This is what was always accepted in traditional Jewish society and this should be today’s standard.”
The Chief Rabbinate has had the temerity, and I used this word with intent, to turn down some conversions of the Av Beis Din of the Beis Din of America, Rav Gedalia Dov Schwartz. I had the opportunity to speak with Rav Gedalia, when he came to Melbourne for the wedding of one of his students. I was merely the singer of our band Schnapps, but I took every opportunity to approach him at the head table and talk. I found a humble, knowledgeable, worldly, Talmid Chacham. He is ill at present and we wish him a Refuah Shelema.
The Chief Rabbinate which has been mired in corrupt controversy over the last few years and is a pale comparison to the greats who occupied the Chairs in days gone by, would do better to ensure that the Kashrus of their products throughout Israel were acceptable. As most people know, it is not a simple matter to walk into a restaurant under the Rabbanut and actually eat supervised food of an acceptable standard. I encourage people not to say “Ah well, it’s their sin, they have a certificate” but rather to ask to see and speak with the Mashgiach. Many times, you won’t find the Mashgiach. Let them get their house in order before they have the unmitigated Chutzpa to reject a conversion from the universally respected Av Beis Din of America. By contrast Rav Schwartz oversees the cRc, the Chicago Rabbinical Council’s Kashrus, upon which everyone relies. Indeed, their app, is the one you consult when it comes to the Kashrus of alcoholic beverages, as an aside.
Ironically, the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau, spoke in honour or Rav Schwartz’s 90th birthday.
In a letter to the Australian Jewish News, Anthony Raitman does a good job of explaining that Shules need to become part of Centres of Orthodox Jewish interest attracting more people. The days of people who simply buy a seat are perhaps waning. Yes, if one attends 3 days a year, even if you have a great Chazan supported by a great Choir, there are challenges charging only for this. In days gone by, this was not the case. The community attended more often, many daily. This was a year long rental of a seat and all that goes with it, and a reasonable price. Caulfield Shule, which classes itself as Modern Orthodox does a great job at hosting and innovating new activities to attract people into the building.
Anthony, however, has missed one important point in my view. This relates to whatever the mission statement of the Shule may be. All the activities are means to an end. The end, though, is to have people feel affiliated to the extent that they will come to shule on more than 3 days. Many don’t come for Yizkor, let alone “Bar Mitzvah” anniversaries and all the new techniques. Ultimately, the cornerstone of all activities must be serious weekly and varied Jewish education, as part of the mix. Without that, people can see it as a Modern Orthodox Beth Weizman. I don’t think this was ever the view of the father of Centrist Orthodoxy, Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik. Serious Torah learning, varied, specialised classes for women on topics that relate specifically to them, etc must accompany all entrepreneurial approaches. Shule can’t simply be a performance. People must be transformed, and transformation can only apply through quality education.
I would hope that more Shules would adopt this as part of their mission statement. Some Chabad shules seizing on the opportunity, simply shift the financial onus from seat rental to raising money. However, they too need to be involved in not just the ‘feel good’ aspects. Torah education must be central to a centrist Orthodox Shule.
Unfortunately, Melbourne did not make use of Rabbi Kenneth Brander from YU, who turned a Shule from 60 members to 600 and is in charge of Yeshivah Universities outreach. He offered lots of free follow-up. I know of many Rabbis who haven’t even made contact with him. Yes, they have their own networks, but you can see the copycat styles even to the extent of canned pre-prepared Shiurim. Whilst pastoral care is critical, education is even more critical as it ensures continuity and revival.
How many Shules offer to say Kaddish on a Yohr Tzeit etc but could do it better by actually meeting the people, re-acquainting them with Kaddish and having them come to Shule and say it, with Tefillin? That’s a level higher.
The Rabbinic Council of America again leads the way on this matter. The pioneering work by noted Posek, Rav Mordechai Willig on this matter, will now become compulsory for member Rabbis. Rav Willig had discussed his method with leading Rabbis around the world some years ago and received their Halachic agreement. In Victoria, Australia, I understand there are some local legal impediments preventing this method ‘having teeth’. I trust that the RCV, the Rabbinic Council of Victoria are working overtime with both parties to make sure this is overcome. It is high time the Rabbanut in Israel enforced the same on all its Rabbis. I don’t know what other Rabbinic groups such as the Aguda opine, but given the number of very public issues in that sphere of late, it would be nice to see them follow suit.
A Powerful Advance to Prevent Using Jewish Law to Cause Human Suffering
Sep 22, 2016 — “The Rabbinical Council of America today takes a major step forward toward alleviating the suffering of those who cannot successfully end marriages due to the refusal of one of the parties to participate in effecting a Jewish divorce,” said Rabbi Shalom Baum, president of the RCA. A resolution adopted by the RCA now requires “each of its members [to] utilize, in any wedding at which he is the officiant (mesader kiddushin), in addition to a ketubah, a rabbinically-sanctioned prenuptial agreement, where available, that aids in our community’s efforts to ensure the timely and unconditional issuance of a get.”
According to Jewish law, both the husband and the wife must participate willingly in the delivery and acceptance of a get, a Jewish divorce document, without which neither party can remarry. Most divorcing couples understand the need for the get, and are cooperative and respectful of the process. In some cases, however, one spouse inappropriately uses the get as a bargaining chip to gain concessions in other areas surrounding the divorce such as financial settlements or child custody, or as a tool to torment a former spouse. This is an abuse of Jewish law as well as a form of spousal abuse that uses religious practice as a tool of manipulation and control. A rabbinic tribunal often does not have the authority or capability of forcing a recalcitrant spouse to cooperate, and there are those whose marriages have functionally ended but who tragically cannot remarry due to their religious convictions. A woman who cannot remarry is referred to as an agunah; a man is an agun.
One effective way to prevent get-abuse is the “Halachic Prenup.” Drafted by Rabbi Mordechai Willig, Sgan Av Beth Din of the Beth Din of America and a Rosh Yeshiva at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) of Yeshiva University, in consultation with halachic and legal experts, the Halachic Prenup has been advocated by the RCA since 1993. The agreement received wide-spread endorsement of leading rabbinic authorities in Israel and the United States, and is based on much older documents, dating back hundreds of years. This prenuptial agreement both designates the rabbinic forum in which claims for a get will be adjudicated and creates financial incentives for both parties to effect the Jewish divorce in a timely manner. There are other prenuptial agreements that are used as well.
Rabbi Shlomo Weissmann, Director of the Beth Din of America maintains that “”we have seen, over and over again, that the existence of a halachic prenup dramatically changes the dynamics of contentious divorce cases and virtually eliminates the risk that the get will be improperly used as a tool for leverage or extortion.”
Rabbi Jeremy Stern, Executive Director of The Organization for the Resolution of Agunot (ORA), a group that seeks to eliminate abuse from the Jewish divorce process and which was instrumental in drafting and advocating for this resolution, reports that in well over 1,000 contentious Jewish divorce cases with which his organization has been involved, “we have never seen a case of get-refusal in which the halachic prenup did not work. In numerous divorce cases in which the husband began to posture that he would refuse to issue a get, the halachic prenup secured the issuance of a timely and unconditional get.”
While until now the vast majority of RCA rabbis have counseled their congregants to enter into halakhic prenuptial agreements, and while many of them refused to officiate at weddings in which these documents were not first signed, this new resolution now requires all RCA-member rabbis to require the use of prenuptial agreements. There is reason to believe that this new mandate will help to prevent or alleviate many agunah cases. Most importantly, it will remove any perceived stigma associated with signing the agreement. Requiring rabbis to officiate only at weddings with halachic prenups eliminates the concern often expressed by about-to-be married couples that signing a prenup casts aspersions on their characters or their marriage.
With the adoption of this new resolution, signing the prenup is now no longer about the couple and the expectations that its rabbi has of them, but is about the rabbi and the professional standards that he must maintain. Rabbi Shalom Baum announced that the RCA will embark on a number of initiatives to help rabbis better implement this new mandate, as well as community programs to encourage the understanding and signing of prenups.
Rabbi Elazar Muskin, Vice President of the RCA said, “Seeing that there is a halakhic prenup at every wedding is everybody’s responsibility. Mothers and fathers should not walk their children to the chuppah unless a prenup has been signed. Friends should not let friends get married unless a prenup is signed.”
Rabbi Mark Dratch, Executive Vice President of the RCA said, “Supporting members of the community and relieving their distress are among the top priorities of rabbis. If the definition of a religious scholar is one who increases peace in the world (Berachot 64a), then rabbis must certainly step into the forefront when use of halachically acceptable tools are available to prevent the abuse of the vulnerable. Otherwise, we forfeit our claim to the title ‘rabbi.’”
I thought I’d seen just about everything, but this just goes from the sublime to the ridiculous. Oh, and if you are wondering whether I’d call out a Tallis that had a Magen Dovid or something woven in the same way on the back, I would do so, if the purpose wasn’t decorative.
In my opinion, and I know this is shared by others in the main Yeshivah Shule in Melbourne, the sign up the back has passed its use by date. Indeed, I heard Rabbi Telsner last week in a speech refer to the Lubavitcher Rebbe as Nishmoso Eden נ׳׳ע … given he is a Meshichist, my ears were sensitised. The final decision rests with Rabbi Chaim Tzvi Groner in my opinion, and it’s time the Shule was normalised to look like Shules always looked, without placards etc.
On my sole visit to 770, I didn’t go downstairs because that Minyan, the main minyan, is just surrounded by placards. Chabad agonise about putting a Tefilla on a wall as it’s not considered Minhag Chabad. Enough of this. If he turns out to be Moshiach, it doesn’t bother me. If it turns out that he’s not, then it doesn’t bother me. In the meanwhile can we give all this constant advertising and chanting a rest? If someone really feels that removing these things is tantamount to a cutting off of their Hiskashrus (connection) to the Rebbe and/or not recognising him as their Manhig, I’d suggest that they concentrate on being a proper Chassid and not being part of all this Chitzoniyus (external stuff) which you are more likely to find in the non-Jewish world, or on bill boards daily in Meah Shearim.
R Meir’s reactions to my original post (which is in italicised black) are in red. My reactions to R’ Meir are in blue
About your article concerning Tischa b’Av, here are some of my observations. About your AL CHETs (“Who can” and “Who cannot”); you mention daily events at present, not Tisha B’Av ones. Maybe we should read it on Yom Ha’Atzmaut or on its eve, Yom Ha’Zikaron to remind us that we were a nation before and take care at present that we remain one?
These are just my thoughts.
I see all terrible things, whether remembered or not remembered encapsulated in the overarching Galus. Galus, is of course not just a geographical location. It certainly includes geographic considerations which are reflected by more than 200 Mitzvos which only apply, many Rabbinically at the moment, only in our Holy Land. I stress our Holy Land because it remains Holy to this day according to Halacha. However, even with the Second Beis Hamikdosh, while some Jews lived in the Diaspora (something I find difficult to comprehend) and others actually defiled it in horrible ways that are beyond belief (as described in the Medrash), my personal feeling has always been that whilst steps are taken, miracles happen, and renaissance occurs, all of that is secondary to the eschatological final redemption. On Tisha B’Av, bdavka, I can’t help but think that גלינו מארצינו has both aspects, and is a sad reality. It is one day of mourning, akin to Shiva, where we remember עטרת ראשינו which is not perched in its proper place. And while we have דומה דודי כצבי and are sometimes seemingly teased in directions of euphoria, we then find ourselves, yes even the second-rate ones like me sitting in Australia, depressed about the state of our existence. It extends through the trio: תורת ישראל, עם ישראל and ארץ ישראל all of which portray levels of Galut which should not make it sensible to join our fellow Jews, and recite Eicha together, in a low light, and mournful tone. The qualitative aspect cannot be seen to be ideal today, and just like one doesn’t read Bereishis literally, someone of the stature of Rabbi Cardozo, would surely be able to see between lines, and interpret poetically and midrashically, without the feelings of (not a quote) “what am I doing in Shule with everyone saying Eicha, let me say it alone at home, as it’s challenging to swallow”
I read with incredulity the continuing slide to the left
What do you mean by that? .ימין ושמאל תפרוצי. What is meant by left. by respected people, such as Rabbi Dr Nathan Lopez Cardozo
Rabbi Dr Cardozo is a thinker. This is a hallmark of those with intellect. At the same time intellect may preclude a level of Bittul. I don’t have his intellect, but I’m often accused of not being able to exhibit Bittul. Indeed, this week’s parsha includes a wonderful vort from Rav Soloveitchik which sums up this concept. I wrote it for another forum and will put it up before Shabbos. It tends to be those who are more inclined to mould judaism into new trends, that I refer to as the left. Open Orthodoxy and Partnership Minyanim, and things of that nature (as opposed to Yoatzot Halacha) are the types of things which I call “left” wing. Rabbi Benny Lau is another who I see sometimes express himself this way. I don’t see Rabonim who live in this world and are not cloistered in an attic, like Mori V’Rabbi Rav Hershel Schachter, as ‘right wing fundamentalists’. He is at YU and heads Psak at the OU, and in all my correspondence with him, I have found him to be as straight as an arrow, and moderate, maintaining the strong Menorah base transmitted to him from Rav Soloveitchik. One thing he isn’t, is a philosopher.
Who can not find a day to be sad when a Jew from Jerusalem is called up to the Torah and is asked “what is your name”, and they answer “Chaim”. And after being asked “Ben?” they say “Ben Esrim V’shmoneh”? It’s not funny.
On the other hand, a relative of mine was called up in the diaspora. He said his name: Ra’anan Lior ben Avraham, the Gabai said: not your secular name, your Hebrew name.
I find that just as sad. It’s not a contest. It’s a reflection of the poor quality of Jewish Education that the Mapai have managed to infuse into Israeli society and which the religious zionists ignored for too long while they were perhaps over focussed on outposts at the expense of spreading good Jewish education in Tel Aviv etc
I am not sure how Rabbi Cardozo qualitatively defines the Messianic era, but it seems to me, if he enunciated that, he’d have no issue, on the saddest day of the year, to join in the Shiva, that we all take part in. Don’t we eat meat and drink wine during the Shiva? On Yahrzeit we have a Kiddush (not our minhag). It is true, that our Rabbis also promised us that this will be transformed to a day of Yom Tov. We still do not have a Temple, but we have a Yerushalayim. Is it the time to transform it to a Yom Tov?
We changed the “l’Shana ha’Ba’a Bi’Yrushalayim” to “l’Shana ha’Ba’a Bi’Yrushalayim HABNUYA” the addition is for the Temple – we already are in Yerushalayim.
I feel this is syntactic and in fact supports my comments and not opposes them. Halachically, it is true, that there are ramifications being in Yerushalayim: for example Korban Pesach.
Rabbi Cardozo, surely you aren’t suggesting you see the Yom Tov, but are blind to the myriad of reasons to be sad?
I attend Yom Hashoa out of solidarity, but my real Yom Hashoa tacks onto Tisha B’Av. Each one with his own feelings and customs.
I ask myself: Why would G-d destroy HIS home? It was a place where the Jews worshiped G-d, and not a home of his people. I do not know G-d’s intentions, but shall try my understandings or reasoning. Can one imagine anyone bringing today sacrifices? How would Judaism look if they did? Can it be that G-d’s intention was to stop those sacrifices, and the best way was to destroy the building? ונשלמה פרים שפתינו.
These are questions beyond our human understanding. The Rambam who to my knowledge is the only one who codifies the Halachos of Beis Habechirah and the times of the Mashiach, is certainly not suggesting that there won’t be sacrifices. I know there are those who interpret Rav Kook as implying there may be Korbanos Mincha. At the end of the day, as the Rambam notes, we lack a certain Mesora for these times, because they were hidden from us, and could not have been passed down. He says explicitly words that “all these details we will truly properly know at the time when they happen”
About Yom Hashoa: I was interviewed by GINZACH KIDUSH HASHEM (the Charedi Yad Vashem), and asked: how can you explain the Shoah? My reply was:
We have quite a limited view of the world and its future, as against G-d who has a wider one. At the destruction of the Temple, the Jews were driven out of their city Jerusalem, many were killed others dispersed among the Nations, and many were sold to slavery. They did not enjoy those days, they suffered quite a bit. They probably said Kinot. But G-d had a wider view; my children are going to dwell all over the globe, learn different trades and cultures. Had we stayed in our country, with the Temple, I (or probably also you) would surely dwell in my tent in the Negev as a shepherd looking after my flock – just like a Bedouin. The same with the holocaust, I can still not see the whole picture, but one is that the Jews, after the terrible holocaust, are again a NATION with their own country. Would the world grant us a piece of land if there was no holocaust? Would the Jews come to Eretz Yisrael, the land of desert and camels? Maybe it isn’t yet a full Geula, but surely a beginning. Why did we need six million sacrifices? Would not one million or fewer be enough? Please do not put this question to me. I am not G-d’s accountant.
By the way, in one of the Agudat Yisrael Knesiot (5679 Zurich) there was a discussion whether Jews are a Mosaic sect or a Nation! Because of such a question my father in law, and other German Rabbis left Agudat Yisrael. I thought that Yetziat Mitzraim was our transformation from a nomadic tribe into a Nation. Was I wrong?
I’m a second generation holocaust generation, but feel it acutely, likely due to the fact that for most of my life, I was surrounded only by holocaust survivors, who would challenge my religiosity, even when I was 10 years of age and ask me questions that I could not and dared not answer. It is certainly the case that history would record that an outcome of the holocaust was the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland. These are happenings that I don’t understand either. Do I have to pay 6 million lives to acquire something that we have already been promised? Did God not have other more gentle ways to somehow not interfere and yet interfere in the ways of the world so we would have the same outcome? Why didn’t he send Eliyahu down before the final solution and say ENOUGH. ושבו בנים לגבולם. I don’t know and I don’t believe anyone knows, despite the Satmar and other rhetoric. Indeed, on Tisha B’Av, as we sit on the eve of the full redemption, we can only sit exasperated while more human korbanos occur, and anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism, and Tisha B’Av encompasses all that.
Sure, on Yom Ha’atzmaut and on Yom Yerushalayim, when I was a student in Israel, I celebrated. I went to Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav, and euphorically danced all the way to the Kosel, and for the entire night danced until we davened Vatikin. We know how important it is to sing and give praise. Chizkiyahu Hamelech would have been Mashiach if he had sung, as openly stated by the Gemora in Sanhedrin (from memory).
I just expressed my humble thoughts.
And I thank you so much for sharing them. I heard second-hand, that Rabbi Cardozo felt I had not understood his points. That maybe so. As it is the Yohr Tzeit of the famed R’ Chaim Brisker now, I’d like to express that his Neshomo should have an Aliya. He revolutionised Torah learning.
I’m accused by what I suspect to be elements of the Adass Israel Congregation of being “anti charedi”. Let’s be clear. The term “anti charedi” use used to maximise the impression of an irrational opposition to a specific approach to Judaism. It should be noted that Rav Kook זצ׳ל was definitely also Charedi. Whilst there is a common element encapsulated in the term Charedi, and that is something that sociologists observe, as well as halachists, the use of catch calls like “anti charedi” is creating a diversion from the specificity of philosophies and actions which occur among specific groups, that may be described as Charedi.
The Adass Israel community in Melbourne is unique, I believe, in our current Jewish world. Borne by founders who may not recognise some of the direction that it has now taken, it represented a specific firm adherence to religious tenets and approaches that were brought from Europe to Melbourne. It was very common that the children of the founders of Adass, were encouraged to obtain secular education. If my memory serves me correctly, a number attended Prahran Technical School in order to obtain certifications required to make a living which didn’t require seeking handouts in order to survive. I see some of those people, today, and interact with them freely and in a friendly manner. They tend to understand the world and the different types of people comprising the world, not to mention the Chochma BaGoyim (the wisdom of a gentile population) as opportunities as opposed to hindrances to their development. Certainly, many of the original members were clean shaven (often with a moustache) and their children, often sport a neat beard, or no beard. Some have morphed into Litvaks. They do respect the Chassidic Adass community that eventually integrated into Adass, but they don’t necessarily share the more extreme range of views expressed by elements of that community. They generally, and sometimes diplomatically, keep their thoughts to themselves. For reasons of cohesiveness, and indeed economic survival, this may well be a necessarily formula, and a secret of success.
The relatively smaller size of the Melbourne Community, together with the economic reality of needing to live within such a community, means that Adass incorporates a cornucopia of different types. The reverence for Rav Beck is a hallmark and something to be admired. There have been a number of leaders ranging from the charismatic Rav Ashkenazi to the Genius Halachist Rav Betzalel Stern, the B’Tzel Hachochma.
Bearing this in mind, we read about different communities around the world where there is homogeneity. Especially in the USA, and to some extent the UK, particular Chassidic groups are grouped entirely amongst themselves. There will be a Satmar, Belz, Munkatcher, Vishnitzer, et al community. They will have their own organisations and pray in their own Shules and Shteiblach.
Melbourne is unique in that all these groups are housed and cooperate together, and the economic reality perhaps dictates that they must remain so, at least for the foreseeable future. It is true there has been one more radical breakaway (Divrei Emina). This may portend future developments, although I prefer an eschatological reality, where we are united in Yerusholayim Ir HaKodesh, well before such events occur.
A number of my readers sent me the article where young groups of both Satmar Chassidim (there are two Rebbes who are brothers) were displaying acts of loathing and violence towards anything to do with the State of Israel. I had seen these and found them a repeat of many other regrettable approaches to education that are used to channel children into a line of thinking where the love of a fellow Jew, dissipates into a hate-filled, dark room of horror. On occasion when I’ve been at Adass, I’ve discretly listened in to lessons to young children and have been disturbed by the time spent on running down the “sinners” and effectively sending them to a fiery hell.
Would the acts reported in the electronic media happen in Melbourne? My answer is that while there may be small pockets of like-minded people, it is unlikely that the collective whole, which comprises Adass, would allow this to occur. Let us not forget that many are also reliant on business dealings with the very same people they consider beyond the pale. There is no doubt this is at least one reason why a documentary featuring especially chosen people from Adass featured on Melbourne Television. (I didn’t watch it; about the only television I watch is a St Kilda or Liverpool game or cricket). Economic reality is a potent force. In addition, Melbourne has been a veritable bastion of pro-Israel sentiment, especially due to the sadly dwindling, but once enormous group of charismatic and determined Holocaust survivors, many of whom sported long payos, and untouched beards before the war.
Adass, like any community, has its occasional crisis or issue. At the moment, there is a concern about the number of divorces and, to their credit, Adass have brought out two experts, to address issues related to this as a means to stem the tide. These experts would have been chosen in the context of meeting the specific environment that Adass couples live within.
If Adass were to splinter, and say, a Satmar group became self-sufficient and had its own organisations, I expect that the same sort of offensive behaviour we have seen splashed over web pages, of children throwing eggs and more, may indeed become part of the Melbourne landscape.
I think its in everyone’s interests that Adass stays together. One group has a grounding and moderating effect on the other; it’s like a semi-forced integration. The concept of being true to one’s ideals and yet be able to compromise on things that are not seriously important, is a plus.
I wouldn’t like to see Adass splinter. Indeed, I have the same view of the Chabad offshoot “Cheder Levi Yitzchok”. In my own dealings with a paraprofessional who helped me health wise when I sustained some serious ankle injury, I am amazed, that due to our respectful interaction, he now sees me as his “oracle” on matters Jewish. I will receive texts out of the blue asking me questions, and where I am able to answer without consulting expert Rabbi’s I do so. I am able to do so because I know him. I know his way of thinking, and I know his challenges. This comes through interaction. At the same time, I also know and recognise some of his qualities. Splintering means the side effect of cutting oneself off from the broader community. With apathy and assimilation from the children and grandchildren of challenged and sometimes disturbed holocaust survivors, it has been my view that one needs to find “kosher” ways of reaching out and incorporating people into Yahadus. I feel this is essentially the process of Teshuva, and indeed, the formula for Geulah. It is clearly stated in Shas and the Rambam. We can sit on our hands, and focus on Bein Odom Lamokom, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the Aybishter is quite interested in our ability to relate to Chavero, their fellow Jew. We don’t know how to admonish, and in any case, admonishments have zero effect today.
The answer is not, of course, to make plasticine out of Judaism, and find academic loop holes, some of which are questionable, in order to make Judaism fit the modern world, the world of Science, the world of Philosophy, the world of Linguistics, etc none of which I see as a threat to my belief system and the practices that flow from it. Rather, the answer is to mould people, and that can only done by engagement, interaction, and above all setting an example. That example has been damaged through the open world we live in, which is able to promulgate every act of every crooked religious person, and thereby lesson Kavod HaTorah. It is easy for the not yet committed Jew to feel let down by people they thought were respectable.
Especially in a world which looks at religion as the cause of all terror and misery, it is critical that we, as Jew, work in the opposite direction.
How many of us, will pass a Jew, let alone a gentile, and simply not say Good Morning? Why not? These small acts, have potentially great outcomes.
I don’t know how much of this is true; it may all well be true, and not all of it be found guilty. I’m not being judge. But, where there is smoke there is fire. These stories and accusations do not just come into existence יש מאין, ex nihilo. This report is from Yediot and made me feel ill.
Teachers at Hasidic school accused of sexually abusing students
Six teachers from a Talmud Torah school (“Cheder”) belonging to the Belz Hasidic dynasty were indicted on Tuesday for the abuse and assault of minors, with the main defendant accused of many cases of sodomy with minors, indecent assault, and extortion.
According to the indictments, the offenses were allegedly committed over the course of 11 years from 2000 to 2011 against 22 complainants aged 3-10, who were taught by the defendants. During that time, the defendants committed daily physical and emotional violence against the students, which was characterized by cruelty, humiliation, and intimidation.
According to the indictments, the students called the school “Bergen-Belsen,” referring to the Nazi concentration camp, while the main defendant, 49-year-old Avraham Mordechai Rosenfeld, was dubbed “Rosenazi.” Rosenfeld, the indictment states, brought students to a lounge at the school that contained beds and a closet in which he kept sweets, some of which he confiscated from the students. He allegedly ordered the students to come with him into the room, where he sexually assaulted them. After they stopped crying, he gave them sweets and sent them on their way. In many of the cases, Rosenfeld beat the students using wooden sticks or planks that he ordered the students to gather during recess. The indictment also details some instances in which Rosenfeld tied the students to chairs or desks using ropes or cable ties and had them stand in class with their hands and feet bound. While tied, he force-fed them a spoonful of black pepper or soap and forbade them from washing their mouths after. In other cases, he forbade students from going to the bathroom, or otherwise forced them to relieve themselves in their pants while sitting in class. Rosenfeld is also charged with animal abuse. In one instance, when a cat entered the classroom in which Rosenfeld was teaching, he beat it in front of the students with an umbrella or wooden sticks, and eventually shoved it out of the window, killing the cat. Additionally, Rosenfeld is suspected of terrorizing his wife and children at home. He allegedly subjected one of his children to abuse for years until the child left home. His wife claimed he threatened to keep her from their children, threatened to divorce her, and controlled the food in the house. The other five defendants are Yisrael Haim Shapira, 65, Haim Fishgrond, 69, Moshe Hirsch, 39, Menachem Alberstein, 63, and Avraham Pinchas Deytsch, 53. The six defendants denied the offenses attributed to them, with each providing explanations and interpretations of the incidents, claiming they did not intend to harm the minors. Some admitted to some of the less serious incidents, while presenting them as mere jokes. Apart from Rosenfeld, the other five teachers were released from detention under restrictive conditions. Zion Amir, who also represented former president and convicted rapist Moshe Katsav, now represents some of the defendants. “Some of the people I represent completely deny the allegations against them,” he said. “There is going to be a long trial that will acquit whoever needs to be acquitted from this important community.” Rosenfeld’s lawyer, Yehuda Fried, claimed that “the acts described in the indictment are exaggerated. Regarding his family, the accusations are completely made up by those seeking to get between him and his wife.”
If one is Orthodox and as a matter of belief, the Torah is the word of God, then one cannot escape that certain acts of sexual relations are forbidden, including some of those being exposed through a march.
In Halacha, there are several categories of people who perform acts which constitute sin, many unrelated to sexual acts, where their capacity to act as Torah ordained witnesses is diminished. There are some who do this out of want, and others who do this out of rebellion against the Torah.
I have no doubt that there are many people who struggle with the fact that their desires, sexually, are considered a matter of shame to the extent that they don’t wish to disclose this information, except in trusted (safe) environments. Berating someone for having such desires, or call it a disposition (research on this will emerge over the next ten years, have no doubt), is not of value in this day. Indeed, it could cause someone to feel that they are so hopeless, that they make take their own life in the worst case, or become so depressed that they cannot function as a human being.
It is known that many contemporary sages have said that we no longer have the skill of “telling someone off” for straying from Torah. I believe this is true. The best way to influence someone is to be a living and shining example of what a Jew with unconditional belief, and intellectual submission to the Torah means, and that such a person can be pleasant and sensitive, as can the Judaism they practice.
Intellectual submission to Torah in the form of Emunah is something that is axiomatic for the practicing Orthodox Jewish person. Belief, by its nature transcends intellect. Reasons for commands are there primarily to explore the “what can be derived” from Judaism, as Rav Soloveitchik explained, however, reasons, do not have a place in the “why must I do this command”. The why question exists only when there isn’t submission. In Chassidic terminology this may be termed Bitul.
I understand, and I am happy to be corrected that there may be two motives for a parade of this sort:
To promote the life style as being acceptable
To express the view that nobody should live in fear, or be cut off, as a result of their orientation.
Promotion of such a life style is not compatible with Torah. To put it crudely, one would also be against a march which said “It’s okay to do away with Shabbat”. The common element is that they are immutable Torah imperatives, and the quest to seek adherents to such views is anathema to a Torah observant Jew. Indeed, we find great Halachic difference in the Jew who breaks the Sabbath in private versus the one who honks the horn when passing the Rabbi walking to Shule, with the aim of showing that “I don’t care about Sabbath”, or the person who eats prawns because they “just love the taste”.
In terms of the Gay Pride march, if the aim is point 2 above, then I think its existence transcends religion. There are various types of people who don’t accept this reality for other reasons. It is important to make sure that all those who have predilections and quandaries, are not made to feel that they are “outside the tent”. They are in the tent. A more sophisticated approach would be how to engage them, should they personally wish to be engaged on the topic, and make them feel that there are hundreds of Mitzvos that are applicable to them, as much as anyone else. On this point, it would be useful if Rabbis of skill got together and devised some guidelines.
With that in mind, I felt the statements of some 300 Religious Zionist Rabbis achieved nothing positive in respect of the marchers, except for Nir Barkat choosing to remain Pareve and not attend for what he called “sensitivity” reasons. If those Rabbis thought that there was a lack of knowledge about various sins and how they are treated in Judaism, then there are other ways to interact with the various groups. The religious group need a different approach than the one of the non practicing variety. Those approaches need to be advanced and not simple. Quoting a verse, for which the irreligious marchers have no regard, is a waste of time. Do they not know this already?
Point 1 though is something that I do not think should happen from a Halachic viewpoint. I do not see a reason to seek recruits to swell the numbers engaging in such a life style.
The gay pride movement is not without blame here, either. They have much to answer for. Jerusalem is the Holiest City, as such, sensitivity, indeed the same sort of sensitivity they demand when respecting their sexual orientation, should imply that this is definitely not the City where one chooses to march. In the process, they are trampling on sensitivities that they do not understand and in some cases are antagonistic towards. Why do this? It only creates antipathy and division. Of course, this does not mean that there are people in Jerusalem who are confronted with the issue of being gay (or GBLTIQ). They are in Rishon LeTzion, Haifa, and not confined to some geographic point in Israel.
If they have had an Israel march in Tel Aviv, then it’s happened. It can be marketed as such: the location of the march doesn’t signify that it is only for those who live in Tel Aviv. There is no need to offend the Torah based sensibilities in Jerusalem, the Holy City, when sensible alternatives which achieve the same aim are possible. Some of the responsibility for the rhetoric that has occurred, rests with those who also wish to remove the notion that Jerusalem is any holier a place, in Israel. Ironically, that’s what the Arabs do. It is not what Jews do: be they practicing orthodox or otherwise. If they throw a spark into flammable material, then expect a raging fire.
I would have liked to have seen two outcomes from the march:
Jerusalem is considered a no go zone for such marches as the outcome is to cause more antipathy, and that’s precisely what they are trying to overcome. It will actually heighten the problem for GBLTIQ people who will feel minimised.
The Rabbis, need to be more sophisticated in the statements that they put out in response to such events. There should have been meetings beforehand between the organisers and Rabbinic leaders and I expect that a better outcome would have occurred. Of course any Orthodox Rabbi will quote the Torah here if asked. The Torah’s views are not hidden, nor are they unknown. However, I do not know what is achieved by calling such people names as a method to reduce the occurrence of people performing forbidden acts of the Torah.
It is a democracy. That also implies that the Jews of Jerusalem should have a say about the compatibility of the event occurring also in Jerusalem. If the motive is to preach secularism, then it is secularism, not being Gay, that is the issue here. Silent peaceful marches against creeping secularism where Israelis are identifying as nothing different to a non-Jew who lives in Israel (and sees Israel as their secular home country). This may even come to resemble the French Republican model.
It is at times like this, that we need the wise counsel of the lover of all Jews in Israel, Rav Kook. He knew how to ignite the spark of Judaism in Jews who were adopting other isms in Israel and he did so through positive acts. It is time the Rabbis examined their methods of protest and became more advanced in their way of expounding the real basis and foundation for which Jews live in Israel in the first place.
Some will sophomorically claim that this is just the Charedi Leumi section of Religious Zionism, and that they are no different to other Charedim in 90% of their outlook. Rav Kook was a Charedi; there is no doubt about that. One does not have to become a wishy-washy, left-wing, tree-hugging, apologetic Rabbi with a community of people who are lax in increasing numbers, to be qualified to respond to these events.
Unfortunately, our generation doesn’t have a Rav Kook. It doesn’t have a Lubavitcher Rebbe or a Rav Soloveitchik. Apart from Rabbi Sacks who is wonderfully adept at expressing Torah views without causing others to become anti-Torah, we are lacking Rabbinic leaders who understand people, and not only the four sections of the Shulchan Aruch.
I do not know the answer to this question, but non orthodox feminists may be upset to find out that males do not pass on the irrevocable portion of membership of the Jewish religion.
The press tells us there are 5 Jewish members. Of course, there may be some who have legitimately converted in orthodox tradition. Others and/or their mothers may not have.
As I recall this was a Machlokes Tanoim?, and tradition/Mesora has unquestionably gone via the mother. I guess the egalitarians should be up in arms and demand equality: viz both parents should be jewish.
Of course those who follow the modern egalitarian/equality religion with sprinklings of traditional Judaic practice, you know, the one Moses didn’t bring down from Sinai, ought to really be arguing that being a Cohen or Levi should be a matter of choice for the child, just like male circumcision. Where the mother is the daughter of Cohen and the father is a Levi, say, you’d leave it to the child to decide, and I guess they could also change their mind depending on their spiritual development at a given point in time? Come to think of it they should call up their women as cohenet or levitate, or … I’m of course tongue in cheek, but it follows for those for whom equality is their religion and Judaism is their cultural affiliation. I haven’t got the foggiest idea what their pronouncements are in such matters with respect to Trans or fluid genders.
There are some in the USA who are intellectually honest enough to do away with Cohen, Levi and Yisrael and make them all equal. Then again, these are also the same Bernie Sanders types, who had every mention of Zion removed from prayer books (Reform Judaism).
I know Michael Danby gets Aliyos at Elwood where the Head of the Beth Din of Melbourne is the religious authority, and is Jewish, and that Josh Frydenberg is also halachically one of the tribe, but I don’t know enough about the other three to make claims either way with the same confidence that the ‘Beth Din’ of the Jewish News does. Does the Jewish News use the Nazi definition or the ‘I fought in the IDF definition’ or I have ‘latkes and dreidels with Father Xmas rule’? I’m not sure they have ever defined Jew.
I do know that Lee Rhiannon of the anti Zionist Greens is Halachically Jewish and her surname is/was Brown. Perhaps she should have called herself Lee Green. The worst political types are often fully Jews. Jon Faine the left wing national radio personality, of course is Jewish, but unlike his mate Waleed makes every effort to distance himself from the tradition of his parents ostensibly in the name of leftist equality. We Jews are very good at apologising for our identity by running away from it.
In the Victorian State parliament there maybe one person? I guess the Australian Jewish News is the arbiter on such matters and promulgates its pronouncements to be gobbled up by the non Jewish Press as gospel. They may in fact be gospel!
I heard or read that Malcolm Turnbull may actually be Jewish? Is that true? I don’t know what the Beth Din of the Australian Jewish News has determined, as they don’t seem to have a formal responsa on the matter.
As a side note the great modern sages: Rabbi Yosef Dov HaLevi Soleveitchik and the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn both foresaw the issue of Yichus as critical in a nation prone to assimilation and encouraged men to always note in their names that they were a Cohen or Levi.
Rabbi Stav of Tzohar is visiting Melbourne this week. Perhaps someone can inform him and ask him for an authentic halachic ruling as opposed to the ‘feel good’ or ‘kosher style’ approach of the Australian Jewish News where almost anything flies.
Hopefully this will see ‘Beit HaRoeh’ move en masse into the main Shule!
From Danny Lamm, the president of Mizrachi in Melbourne.
Dear Members,I was informed earlier today by Mizrachi’s auditors that members had voted overwhelmingly (97%) in support of the Mizrachi Committee’s decision to offer the position of Senior Rabbi of the Mizrachi Organisation to Rabbi Danny Mirvis for a term of 4 years with such appointment to take effect from Rosh Chodesh Ellul 5776 (4 September 2016).
I have, of course, informed Rav Danny and Althea of the outcome which reflect’s the extraordinary support they have already received following the announcement of their proposed appointment.
I am delighted to inform you that a formal induction ceremony will take place in late August and that Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Rebbetzin Valerie Mirvis will make a special visit to Melbourne to participate in this auspicious event.
Check this out from Times of Israel. [ Hat tip Magyar.]
You’d NEVER get an editorial from the Australian Jewish News on this. Might be a Magid legacy? Maybe newly honoured Jeffery Kamins would comment?
PHILADELPHIA (JTA) — Sandra Lawson didn’t expect to perform a public benediction at her local pub in this city’s Roxborough neighborhood.
But when her friend Jay, who was entering firefighter training, asked her for a blessing earlier this year, she stood with him in the middle of the room and put her rabbinical school training into action.
“Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, please bless Jay on his journey of being a firefighter,” she said, placing her hand on his shoulder. “Come back and have a beer with me.”
For Lawson, a bar is a natural place to create a Jewish ceremony. As a rabbi in training who herself is breaking barriers, Lawson is eager to take Jewish practice outside the traditional bounds of the synagogue.
Lawson, 45, lives at the intersection of several communities while being in a small demographic within the American Jewish world. As an African-American lesbian who converted to Judaism, eats vegan and is now studying to be a rabbi at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Lawson believes American Jews need to rethink how their community looks and where it should congregate.
“Redefining or helping people understand what the Jewish community looks like today is something I want to do,” Lawson told JTA in a vegan cafe where she holds Friday night services.
‘People can deal with a female rabbi, a queer rabbi. But, “Oh, you’re black, too? That’s too much to deal with in one day”‘
“In the US, people can deal with a female rabbi, a queer rabbi,” she continued. “But, ‘Oh, you’re black, too? That’s too much to deal with in one day.’ When you put those identities together, it’s too much to handle.”
Lawson grew up in a military family and, while Christian, wasn’t raised religious. Her first exposure to Judaism came in an Old Testament course at St. Leo University in Florida while she was serving in the Army as a military police officer. Following military service, Lawson became a personal trainer in Atlanta, where one of her clients was Joshua Lesser, a Reconstructionist rabbi and local activist for racial justice. She began attending services at his Congregation Beth Haverim, a synagogue for the LGBT community, and converted in 2004.
Sandra Lawson with her wife, Susan Hurrey. Lawson is due to receive her rabbinic ordination in 2018. (Courtesy of Lawson/via JTA)
Sandra Lawson with her wife, Susan Hurrey. Lawson is due to receive her rabbinic ordination in 2018. (Courtesy of Lawson/via JTA)
She decided to become a rabbi after representing the Jewish community at a LGBT memorial service for Coretta Scott King, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s wife. She realized there that being an African-American Jew could allow her to strengthen connections among communities. She’s on track to graduate from rabbinical school in 2018.
“I was able to help make those connections and build some of those bridges by being someone who wants to be clergy and help build more trust around interfaith stuff,” Lawson said. She wants to get to a point where “when I Google ‘rabbi,’ I see someone other than a bearded white guy.”
(Indeed, when you Google “rabbi,” all you see initially are bearded white men.)
Lawson says “nobody’s been horrible to me,” but she has encountered different challenges to her identity, depending on where she is. At one synagogue, she was standing in a prayer shawl and kippah with a friend when a congregant approached her friend and asked him if she was Jewish.
‘Every community has their own idea of who is a Jew and what does a Jew look like’
“I don’t know anyone who goes to a synagogue, wears a kippah and a talit Saturday morning who is not Jewish,” she said. “Every community has their own idea of who is a Jew and what does a Jew look like. If you don’t fit that framework, they don’t think you’re Jewish.”
Studying last year in Israel, Lawson said she would encounter trouble when visiting the Western Wall. Attendants saw her haircut and told her on three separate occasions to go to the men’s section. Once she had to grab her breasts to show she was a woman.
Diane Tobin, founder of Be’chol Lashon, a group that advocates for Jews of color, says that in many cases, white Jews address race crudely because they lack the language skills to talk sensitively about it. Lawson, she says, “is the embodiment of a younger generation of Jews who have intersecting identities.”
Lawson wants to expand the Jewish conversation in part by taking it outside its traditional setting. She would rather lead services in a park, or address the concerns of Jews and non-Jews in inner cities, than be a full-time pulpit rabbi. Every month she runs a Friday night service at Arnold’s Way, a vegan cafe and health store near Philadelphia, which she begins with a song she wrote based on a verse from Psalms.
‘If you’re going to wait for people to come to your synagogue, your JCC, you’ll be waiting a long time’
Lawson also uses social media and live video feeds to spread Jewish content. On Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, traditionally the days when the Torah is read, she will put out a stream of video content on Snapchat featuring Torah study interspersed with humorous images. On June 16, her thoughts about the weekly Torah portion came after images of her face overlaid with dog ears and her cheeks inflated.
“The model of the synagogue, where you have to pay large dues, pay to come to High Holidays, is not a model I want to duplicate,” she said. “We live in a different world now. If you’re going to wait for people to come to your synagogue, your JCC, you’ll be waiting a long time.”
Lawson’s personal Jewish practice also happens at unexpected places. Because her iPod has pop music interspersed with Jewish liturgy — like “Modeh Ani,” the prayer said upon waking up — she’ll sometimes find herself praying while working out. Because she also plays a zombie game on the device while she runs, things can become confusing. But she doesn’t let that faze her.
“I have the Bee Gees on my iPod, and the next thing is Modeh Ani,” she said. “I’m being chased by zombies and the Shema would come on. It’s Saturday morning, [I’m] wearing a Superman shirt, running, being chased by zombies, and I sing along.”
Do we have any in Melbourne? Non Rabbis we certainly do. They are so so morally decrepit… Like the NEW Israel Fund which should be cremated according to Reform Judaism rights (where they removed all references to Zion from their prayer books because they were so ‘enlightened’ and PROGRESSIVE.
Tolerance only works if it goes both ways.
At Muhammad Ali’s funeral, Rabbi Michael Lerner, founder of Tikkun Magazine and the Network of Spiritual Progressives, gave a stirring speech that was roundly applauded. I agree with almost everything he said. We must stop victimizing, generalizing and hating people who are different in color, creed and practice. We live in a world where power corrupts. Inequality and exploitation are everywhere and infiltrate every ideology, religion and creed. Racism, victimization, greed and violence pervade every society. Obviously, some more than others. Otherwise, no one would ever want to move to a different country for a better quality of life and greater freedom.
The message that Rabbi Lerner advocated was the message of every idealist. We must love our neighbors. Do unto others as we would be done by. Yet for some reason, despite technological, scientific and humanitarian progress, despite a reduction in poverty, an increase in food production, welfare systems, huge charitable enterprises and benevolence, we are still way, way off from achieving what we have been preaching. We still live in a world of either imperfect or evil regimes. But we still yearn for freedom, equality, friendship and benevolence. We like the good. But we are not all capable of pursuing it.
Muhammad Ali was a remarkable character, as well as a brilliant athlete. No one is perfect. Not even he. He picked up too many anti-white and anti-Zionist hate tropes from mentors Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan. But he fought for his people and for freedom. How ironic that he had a Jewish grandson and went to his bar mitzvah. But still, it is so important, and after Orlando even more so, to use every opportunity to speak out against racism and prejudice, and that was what Rabbi Lerner rightly did.
I was pleased that he went to the funeral. It was, in its way, a kiddush hashem (sanctifying of the name of God), even if he had absolutely no right to say he was representing American Jewry. It seems any rabbi who gets exposure claims that nowadays. But I am sorry he so overtly politicized his message by spouting left-wing Bernie nostra as if they would solve the problems of the world, let alone America.
Governments that want to create a utopia often have to concede that they either do not have the financial means or the population to achieve it. We all want it in theory, on our terms. Since the days of Plato and his Republic, we have dreamed and planned, but we are still a long way off. With our societies we have the idealists and the pragmatists, the capitalists and the socialists, and no one system is perfect or has ever been. But still we must dream, we should dream, and we need to be reminded of our dreams.
In all my days in the rabbinate, whenever I was stuck for a sermon I knew I could always fall back on preaching ideals, excoriating those who betray our ideals and standing against hypocrisy. And after every such sermon someone would always come up to me and say, “Rabbi, great sermon, you really gave it to them today.” Or words to that effect. It was always, “You told them.” It was never, “You told me.”
On the same day as Ali’s funeral, an American Muslim wrote in the New York Times about how his young daughter was picked on in a restaurant for wearing a headscarf. He ended by wondering why we hate people for their religion or race. Yes, of course, I agreed, because I wonder why so many Muslims and Christians still hate Jews for being Jews, or hate people of different sexual orientation. We are so good at seeing the mote in the eyes of others, but not the beam in our own. Or as the Talmud says (Bava Batra 15b), “Don’t tell me to do something about my toothpick when you have a whole plank of wood to deal with.”
So I ask myself, why in his speech did Lerner have to focus on Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and not Sunni-Shia internecine conflicts (which Ali felt equally strongly about), human rights in China and Russia, occupation in Tibet, Kashmir, or West Sahara, or Turkey’s treatment of Kurds, or North Korea? Why did he not excoriate the left-wing ideology that Chavez and Maduro have destroyed Venezuela with? Or indeed Cuba? Does he think there is no need for self-examination other than for Jews? Why no reciprocity? Did Israel start the wars? Do Israelis really not want peace desperately? Is there no other side to the argument?
We now live in a world of rights. Do not Jews have rights, too? Were Rabbi Lerner’s comments about Netanyahu just to pander to an audience that, at core, is now sadly so anti-Israel and antisemitic as to deny rights to Jews to defend themselves? He could have said that almost half of Israel opposes many of his policies and rhetoric. He spoke about how once Jew stood shoulder-to-shoulder with black civil rights leaders. He did not speak about why today antisemitism is so prevalent in black societies. Why Black Lives Matter has chosen to add Palestine to their agenda rather than any one of the other humanitarian causes with far greater casualties elsewhere in the world today. If Martin Luther King had been present, he would not have been so one-sided.
Of course, the Israeli Left, indeed any Left, has the right and should have the right to take whatever side it wants to. Of course, excess, corruption and inhumanity must be addressed. But one who excoriates Jews wherever they are, should have the honesty and morality to point out another point of view others political correctness and one-sidedness simply debases the debate. Why does no one mention the protests in Palestinian territory against the policies of their dogmatists and kleptocracy? When you pick on just one example, on just one argument, that is pure prejudice.
Not only, but look at how Lerner’s speech was reported — not as a critique of racism or prejudice wherever it comes from. Instead, look on the internet and see the headlines, “Rabbi Slams Israel in Muhammad Ali Funeral Speech.” Yes, just more fodder for the Jew-haters. He could have made all his major ethical points without having to pander to the tub-thumping anti-Israel, anti-Jewish amen chorus that has now taken over the Left (not to mention the Right) wherever it exists.
The same trope. Remove Israel and the Middle East will be peaceful. Sunni and Shia will love each other, as well as lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals. The Left has always had rose-colored spectacles. Remove the Kulaks, then the aristocrats, then the bourgeoisie, then the Jews and Russia will be paradise. Remove capitalists, and we will live in heaven. Remove religion, and we will get in with each other, make love, and we will all live happily ever after.
Life is not like that. I am glad Rabbi Lerner stands for what he stands for. We need contrarians and prophets. But my experience tells me that any dogma can be dangerous, and that any one sided argument is doomed.
All I seek is balance. By all means, criticize Netanyahu if you also criticize Abu Mazen. By all means, attack Israel if you also attack Hamas, Hezbollah and all the others who put war above human needs and human rights. Rabbi Lerner can and should demand rights. But I can demand mine, too.
This is from Rabbi Yoni Rosenzweig who was a Rosh Kollel in Mizrachi for a several years. I do not know him, and I think I only spoke to him once on Purim over a passuk in the Megilla at Rabbi Sprung’s house. I say I “think” because it was Purim and the memory is hazy 🙂
That being said, the interaction between my car and it’s bluetooth implementation and my phone, causes a shiur (I have about 2000 on my iPhone) to come on when I drive. On Friday, I heard part 2 of one from Rabbi Professor Sperber (who is known for his fantastic series on Minhagim). There were aspects that disturbed me. I will try to listen to Part 1 and 2 and blog about that in the future.
One thing I did come away with was that Professor Sperber’s description of his daughter’s Judaism, and what I know of Shira Chadasha in Melbourne are many many miles apart. Below, is what Rabbi Rosenzweig apparently wrote on Facebook in response to Rabbi Gordimer (I haven’t seen the original)
Rabbi Riskin gave an interview yesterday in which he posited that the Reform an Conservative movements are not enemies, but rather partners (see link in the comments). In response, Rabbi Gordimer wrote a scathing response (link below in the comments).
I must take issue with Rabbi Gordimer’s comments. I would like to start off by saying that as my family was also very close with The Rav, and also very much involved in YU, I have – despite my growing up here – always been privy to many stories regarding Rabbi Riskin, both positive and negative, and have been “kept in the loop” through those circles and connections.
But I never really knew Rabbi Riskin until I started working for him (and still work in one of his institutions). Throughout my work in Ohr Torah I have had many opportunities to sit with him, discuss both practical and theoretical issues, and hear his position on many a topic.
I can say two things without hesitation: (1) Rabbi Riskin and I disagree on a whole bunch of stuff. I can count on more than two hands the Halachic and philosophical positions he has taken which I disagree with. We have very different outlooks. (2) Rabbi Riskin is a completely authentic and genuine person. He doesn’t pander, doesn’t change his opinion in order to get as many “likes” as possible. That’s not his way. He really and genuinely believes in his positions, and thinks they will benefit the Jewish people.
Rabbi Gordimer’s insinuations otherwise are scandalous. To call Rabbi Riskin a “superstar Rabbi”, or to say he is just trying to be “politically correct” or to “gain popular appeal” – that’s just slander. If he wants to talk about the issues, he can do that, but to attack Rabbi Riskin’s character is off-the-wall, especially as it misses the mark completely.
Even to claim he is Open Orthodox is doubtful in my eyes. Look at the article Rabbi Riskin published in Techumin, regarding women receiving Aliyot to the Torah. He outright prohibits it. Is that the psak of an Open Orthodox Rabbi, trying to gain public appeal and score points with the liberal public? Or is that the position of someone who will tell you what he thinks is right, regardless of how it makes him look (and no doubt people looked to him to allow that as well)?
My father – who sat in The Rav’s shiur – once told me that no matter what, he believes anyone who was in The Rav’s shiur and was close with The Rav, is kept honest by that experience, because whenever he does anything, he sees The Rav’s face in front of him, and that keeps him from straying off the straight and narrow.
So I don’t worry about Rabbi Riskin, who has done so much for the Jewish people – even if you think his comment was mistaken this time around. I worry about that the people who slander him, that the flame of their self-righteousness shouldn’t blind them from seeing the forest from the trees.
The following is from Arutz Sheva from the respected Rabbi Gordimer re Rabbi Riskin’s creeping to the left.
[Hat tip DS]
Rabbi Gordimer is a member of the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America, and a member of the New York Bar. His writings on Jewish topics are published widely.
It is sometimes hard to believe what we are reading, as things are turned upside down in an effort to be politically correct and gain popular appeal. Orthodox Judaism has never sought to be politically correct – on the contrary, it has stood its guns no matter what direction the winds are blowing. Unfortunately, with the case of Modern Orthodox rabbis who have crossed the line into Open Orthodoxy, it has become almost commonplace to read the unbelievable, things that would never have been expressed were Rabbi Soloveitchik zt”l, the Torah luminary of American Modern Orthodoxy, still with us. Sometimes, shocking ideas are articulated in direct contravention of his views, with the excuse that “times have changed.” Since when has that wellworn excuse been used in Orthodoxy?
Although one could have otherwise, perhaps favorably interpreted Rabbi Riskin’s hair-raising idea in his recent public pronouncement on Arutz Sheva that the Reform and Conservative movements are partners in Jewish outreach to have been intended to express the demarcation between acceptance of Reform and Conservative Jews themselves and unequivocal opposition to their leaders and their interpretations of Judaism, a view held by respected rabbinic authorities, that is clearly not what Rabbi Riskin said. Rather, Rabbi Riskin stated: “They’re not tearing Jews away but bringing them closer…That may have been true at the beginning of the Reform Movement, but it’s very different now – they’re trying to bring Jews closer. Not to the wholeness, the fullness of Orthodox Judaism that I love and that I know, but nevertheless they’re trying to bring Jews closer.” In other words, it is the leadership of the Reform and Conservative movements whom Rabbi Riskin praises!
This leadership is bringing Jews closer to what? Intermarriage? Christmas trees and menorahs in the living room? A total departure from normative halakhic Judaism?
To endorse these movements as positive and as forces for bringing Jews closer to Judaism is downright wrong and even farcical. Although these groups may espouse some type of Jewish identity, they embody and encourage assimilation and the abandonment of Jewish tradition and commitment. And it is happening before our eyes.
Theologically, the Reform and Conservative (as well as the Reconstructionist) movements reject the Singular Divine Authorship of the Torah and the other Cardinal Principles of Faith, and they have disavowed the binding nature of halakha.
It is therefore not only incorrect to refer to these groups as partners in bringing Jews closer to Judaism, but it is dangerous, as such a statement empowers and validates groups which threaten the very integrity and future of authentic Judaism in every manner.
There is no need for elaboration, as the issue is not subtle or nuanced; endorsing the heterodox movements is tantamount to endorsing the dismantling and destruction of traditional Judaism.
Many of my friends were immensely impacted by Rabbi Riskin in a most positive way during his early tenure in the United States, as he energetically established Torah institutions of the highest caliber. My friends miss the old Rabbi Riskin. We all wish that he would return.
The views expressed in this article are solely the author’s opinion and do not represent any organizations.
No. they can’t tell you about mundane issues like “chicken” and Kashrus and Issurei D’Orayso.
Here is the new breed [Hat tip NB]
To me, these are the new “Chiropractors of Medicine”. They call themselves Dr as well and they are as well qualified but not as well paid as unskilled labourers in Melbourne.
What is it with titles, self-esteem, and the feeling that anything whatsoever will change that is outside millennium old Mesora.
Nothing will change. Like Reform and Conservative, either Geulah will be upon us, or they will be relegated to the politically charged Women of the Wall and the Bernie Sanders New Israel Fund types.
On Tuesday night, according to a report by Ynet, eight women received certificates of Orthodox Jewish ordination in Jerusalem and selected for themselves various equivalents to the commonly used “Rav” or “Rabbi” by males: some picked “Rav,” instantly making the title unisex; others went with “Rabba,” which would be the female conjugation of the male title, although the term is not in everyday use; some went with “Rabbi,” which in the genderless English grammar has been a common title for Reform and Conservative women clergy for decades.
One preferred to go with “Doctor,” possibly recalling the shamanist attributes for which some Jewish scholars were once renowned.
No one went with the prevalent “Rebbetzin,” presumably because to become Rebbetzin one doesn’t need to study, just marry well.
The ordination was given personally by Rabbi Daniel Landis, a YU graduate who is the head of the Pardes Institute, an open, co-ed and non-denominational Jewish learning community, based in Jerusalem and operating programs worldwide. Landis is also a senior member of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC).
In his message to the freshly ordained Orthodox female rabbis, Landis explored the fact that his graduates are different from ordinary ordained Orthodox rabbis not merely because of their sex, but in their emphasis on Jewish studies, and on any studying at all for that matter:
“I very quickly abandoned the ambition to achieve only rabbinic expertise, and moved on to the more important initiative of promoting you as creative scholars, with integrity, sensitivity and courage, who have access to the members of their generation,” Landis said.
“Yes, but can they paskin on a chicken?” you might ask. It appears that ruling on the mundane needs of rank and file Orthodox Jews was not the top priority of this ordination, which is not a comment on the quality of scholarship of the graduates. They simply appear to put a different emphasis on their future roles in the Jewish community:
Rav Avital Campbell-Hochstein, one of the graduates, said at the ordination ceremony: “Receiving the ordination is not merely a score for knowledge. Ordination, or permission, like halkha itself, is focusing on human beings, on the image of God. Human beings must be seen and heard. The halakha and the Torah are sensitive to the slimmest signs of humanness.” And so, she continued, “in order for halakha, which is an emanation of the will of God, to be relevant and applicable, we must first and foremost be attentive. Human dignity is our driving force. Halakha can be a divider and it can be a meeting ground. It can be a wall and it can be a bridge. Choosing between those component depends on the human beings who use it, and who represent it.”
So, basically, no paskining on chickens for now. Instead, there was a lot of talk about advancing the status of women in halakha and in Orthodox society. You may have to rely on someone else for your kashrut decisions, but in areas of marriage, conversion, and burial, these ordained female rabbis will make sure, as Rav Naama Levitz-Applbaum put it, “that women will be counted, in the full meaning of the word, and to feel as full partners along the path.”
Perhaps as the number of ordained Orthodox female rabbis grows and as each ordination ceases to be viewed as a revolution and starts to be more commonplace (as has been the case in every profession women have entered over the past two centuries) we’ll start hearing about women Orthodox rabbis who are not so heavily invested in the feminist politics of their role but in caring for their congregations. At which point we should be able to assess this fledgling but growing movement not based on our political views but instead on the concrete scholarship and the halakhic contribution of these female rabbis. Because, let’s face it, Orthodox Jews need rabbis to interpret halakha for them. They have plenty of social workers doing everything else
Chabad are everywhere except where they aren’t. They work hard at it, and some are very good at it. They are entitled to the fruits of many years of work.
Those remaining Rabbis who aren’t Chabad, are almost exclusively left-wing. You can’t be modern if you aren’t left-wing. Consider that the Rabbinic Council of Victoria cannot make a statement about Open Orthodoxy (which is today’s incarnation of Conservative Judaism, except, in the words of Mori V’Rabbi Rav Hershel Schachter, “they can’t learn and perverted Yahadus”.)
The Rabbinic Council, led by (Chabad) Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick knew about the issue in Melbourne before it occurred, but have chosen silence. This is misguided as it won’t go away. If you are a Chabad Rabbi, then you don’t really care. You only care about the Jew, not the labels. You perform the tasks you believe will cause the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s return from on high to lead the Jews out of Golus. In my view that is why the Rabbinic Council is toothless. Shules are there because they include Jews who need to have their Klipos removed. I don’t include mavericks like M.G. Rabi in this; he has no community, only kashrus businesses.
Case 1: Rabbi Shamir Caplan (who is a lovely soft person) of Beit Aharon invites a “Maharat” whose title then morphs in other later advertising to “Rabbi”.
Case 2: Rabbi Ralph Genende of Caulfield Shule (who seems to have a penchant for quoting non Torah literature in his speeches) has decided to host the cutely misnamed Rabbi Ysoscher Katz from YCT. YCT is the left-wing break away from YU which has been considered beyond the pale by the Rabbinic Council of America.
Who in Melbourne cares? If it isn’t obvious, Shules in Melbourne will be led by young “I’m your friend style, Chabad Rabbis OR left wingers like Rabbis Caplan and Genende.
In truth, Jews actually need knowledgeable centrist Rabbis who live in this world, and don’t have an agenda and who give Shiurim on a range of topics. Rabbis need to become educators again, not feel good functionaries. I can see Melbourne in 10 years deprecating into an architectural abyss of a former era. I’d rather Moshiach came NOW!
I haven’t mentioned Mizrachi because they are in their own category. They consider themselves as the only real religious zionist shule. I think it is true that more B’nei Akiva graduates go on Aliya, than any other congregation, but I’ve never been comfortable with them “owning” Yom Haatzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim services. I feel these should be held in a different Shule each year. That is a more positive thing to do.
Who is there to talk to? The moribund Council of Orthodox Synagogues of Victoria (COSV)-The “lay body”? Don’t waste your time. There are lots of old furniture still running that group and the meetings are thoroughly uninspiring. If there wasn’t an Eruv, they would be dead, ironically.
The Council of European Orthodox Rabbis agrees with the Rabbinic Council of America on this issue, and the general issue of YCT, and rabbi Avi Weiss et al. I don’t imagine the congregants of Caulfield Shule give a tinker’s cuss. These days, you do whatever you can to “bring them in”. How do they measure success? Seat Payments or regular Shabbos attendance or …
Oct 31, 2015 — Formally adopted by a direct vote of the RCA membership, the full text of “RCA Policy Concerning Women Rabbis” states:
Whereas, after much deliberation and discussion among its membership and after consultation with poskim, the Rabbinical Council of America unanimously passed the following convention resolution at its April 2010 convention:
The flowering of Torah study and teaching by God-fearing Orthodox women in recent decades stands as a significant achievement. The Rabbinical Council of America is gratified that our members have played a prominent role in facilitating these accomplishments.
We members of the Rabbinical Council of America see as our sacred and joyful duty the practice and transmission of Judaism in all of its extraordinary, multifaceted depth and richness – halakhah (Jewish law), hashkafah (Jewish thought), tradition and historical memory.
In light of the opportunity created by advanced women’s learning, the Rabbinical Council of America encourages a diversity of halakhically and communally appropriate professional opportunities for learned, committed women, in the service of our collective mission to preserve and transmit our heritage. Due to our aforesaid commitment to sacred continuity, however, we cannot accept either the ordination of women or the recognition of women as members of the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title.
Young Orthodox women are now being reared, educated, and inspired by mothers, teachers and mentors who are themselves beneficiaries of advanced women’s Torah education. As members of the new generation rise to positions of influence and stature, we pray that they will contribute to an ever-broadening and ever-deepening wellspring of talmud Torah (Torah study), yir’at Shamayim (fear of Heaven), and dikduk b’mitzvot (scrupulous observance of commandments).
And whereas on May 7, 2013, the RCA announced:
In light of the recent announcement that Yeshivat Maharat will celebrate the “ordination as clergy” of its first three graduates, and in response to the institution’s claim that it “is changing the communal landscape by actualizing the potential of Orthodox women as rabbinic leaders,” the Rabbinical Council of America reasserts its position as articulated in its resolution of April 27, 2010… The RCA views this event as a violation of our mesorah (tradition) and regrets that the leadership of the school has chosen a path that contradicts the norms of our community.
Therefore, the Rabbinical Council of America
Resolves to educate and inform our community that RCA members with positions in Orthodox institutions may not
Ordain women into the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title used; or
Hire or ratify the hiring of a woman into a rabbinic position at an Orthodox institution; or
Allow a title implying rabbinic ordination to be used by a teacher of Limudei Kodesh in an Orthodox institution; and,
Commits to an educational effort to publicize its policy by:
Republishing its policies on this matter; and,
Clearly communicating and disseminating these policies to its members and the community.
This resolution does not concern or address non-rabbinic positions such as Yoatzot Halacha, community scholars, Yeshiva University’s GPATS, and non-rabbinic school teachers. So long as no rabbinic or ordained title such as “Maharat” is used in these positions, and so long as there is no implication of ordination or a rabbinic status, this resolution is inapplicable.
If you haven’t read ‘she’s free to go’ in Israel until she gets better.
I’m waiting for the Adass Israel community to call for a day of prayer, so that Leifer, accused of 72 accounts of pedophilia gets better sooner so that her continued existence in this sick mental state subsides and the daily profanation of God’s name doesn’t continue to recur.
Does anybody want to take betting odds that this prayer day won’t occur and that it didn’t occur on the last prayer-filled event last week at the Hungarian Ultra Orthodox Haredi establishment in Melbourne?
I will bet her name wasn’t even mentioned in a prayer for a Refuah Shelema.
I seem to have unanswered questions on the 33rd day of the Omer. The Gemora in Yevamos tells us that on this day the Talmidim of Rabbi Akiva ceased to die. I haven’t yet understood why that should be a happy day. Why? Well, if they started dying again the next day (assuming the Ashkenazi tradition) then who would be “happy” that there was a day of remission to the extent that it has morphed to. Note: this is, to my knowledge, the only source in Torah Sh’Baal Peh (Gemora) describing this day. Someone sent me a page of the Chidushei Agados of the Maharal on this Gemora. I have it at home, but can’t recall ever looking that up. The Maharal has a really nice explanation. He says that on this day the decree was lifted. Yes, it’s true that those for whom the decree had already been decided continued dying until presumably Shavuos, but I still had problems with this answer. Firstly, assuming that it is the reason, I would have thought that it would have been really hard to “get happy” knowing people would continue dying? Secondly, all but a handful died. It was a potential disaster for Torah She’Baal Peh.
Tradition has it amongst some that this is also the Yohr Tzeit/Hillula of the Rashbi. The Rashbi, is considered to be the author of the Zohar (or if you follow some views, most of the Zohar, but let’s not go there). The Zohar is Toras HaNistar, the hidden Torah, or perhaps the more esoteric metaphysically modelled face of Torah. The Zohar wasn’t and isn’t anathema to Misnagdim or Litvaks (most), but is of course anathema to the DarDaim (of which Rav Yosef Kapach was prominent) who believe to this day that it’s not part of Torah. Either way, the issue of it being associated with Toras HaNistar is agreed, and yet, the Ari Zal, for example, never wrote that on this day Rashbi passed away.
The Aruch Hashulchan and others note that this is the day that the Rashbi emerged from the Cave he had been hidden in for 13 years. That was a day of Simcha because with his emergence, so did the emergence of the Zohar, and the continuation of the chain of Torah SheBaal Peh.
Even assuming it wasn’t his Yohr Tzeit, I understand happiness at his emergence. (The Chasam Sofer mentions that on this day the Manna in the desert started to fall). I also understand that being morose for long periods without a break isn’t the best thing, especially today where the importance of positive thinking and talking is stressed even by secular psychologists. The glass is always “Half Full”. I’m not getting into that topic because like anything, if one over-does this approach in educating their children, I feel it shields them from reality, although I do accept that it should be, especially today, the de jure approach to education.
The Eidot HaMizrach have a different understanding. Yes, according to that Gemora in Yevamos 62B, the students stopped to die. They therefore cut off all Sefira mourning on midday of the next day (although this year being Erev Shabbos is likely more lenient — note, I’m writing this blog without looking things up, which is a bad thing, so remember that! Do your own checking up on what I claim 🙂 That approach makes sense to me, and always did. It’s also not as if the Beis Yosef as a father of Eidot HaMizrach wasn’t a Mekubal. He definitely was. Whether the Rambam was is an issue of contention. I have a book by Professor Menachem Kellner on this general topic, and I know (but haven’t seen) that the Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote a piece proving that the Rambam had access to the Zohar. Again, I digress.
Another question is why we don’t call it Lag Laomer, consonant with the way we count every night. A Rav pointed to a letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe where he says that we say Lag Baomer is because the numerical value of Lag Baomer is the same as Moshe, and just as Moshe Rabennu revealed the Torah Shebiksav, and Torah Shebaal Peh (Halocho LeMoshe MiSinai) the Rashbi was permitted to reveal the secrets of the Zohar, and the Rashbi was a spark (Nitzutz) of Moshe Rabennu, if you will.
In Shiur today, I made another observation. Tonight, Lag BaOmer, is the Yohr Tzeit of the great Remoh (רמ’’א) who is known to have written 33 Seforim (but it is contentious that he died at the age of 33 as well). The Remoh’s name was MOSHE and he was the greatest Posek Rishon for Ashkenazi Jewry through his glosses on the Tur in Darkei Moshe, but more importantly his glosses on the Shulchan Aruch proper, adding the Ashkenazi view where he disagreed with Rav Yosef Karo. Nu, I suggested that his name was Moshe, and it is fitting that also in PSAK, that perhaps a Nitzutz of Moshe who had the same name, passed on high on this day.
Food for thought. Happy for anyone to shred what I have written to ribbons as I have not opened a few Seforim which might help me and make this a better post.
If you haven’t noticed. These are Pitputim. No more.
Danny Lamm has not taken long before his committee (how many Lamms are on that committee, and people complain about Yeshiva!) has offered the position of Senior Rabbi to Rabbi Mirvis.
He ticks the boxes.
He is a Religious Zionist from a Hesder Yeshiva
He isn’t a Chabadnik (yes, I don’t believe Mizrachi would ever appoint a Chabadnik)
He was educated in the more politically moderate Yeshivat Har Etzion
He and his wife are charming and seem to be well-liked
He will likely complete a four-year stint before returning to Israel (preferably the stint will be a lot less due to Geulah being in place)
I have only shared a few lines of conversation with him, and heard him speak twice. He does his homework and is a likeable person. I do not know how he traverses the philosophies of Rav Amital vs Rav Lichtenstein, the former apparently having more of an influence on his outlook. Rav Amital and Rav Lichtenstein had enormous respect for each other but were very different, with Rav Amital having his own strong disagreements with R’ Tzvi Yehuda Kook on Rav Kook’s approach and the approach needed today.
Perhaps most tellingly 🙂 when I introduced myself he said “Oh, Jackie Bassin’s Zayda”. I was expecting, “Oh, Adina Waller’s brother”. I learned from that, that he obviously had exposure to our grandson, and appreciated him, and that this was perhaps more my Yichus than being my sister’s brother :-). If he’d known my father and not mentioned that I was his son, I might have had some misgivings. Rabbi Sprung knew my father and often asked him what his secret was. Sadly, Rabbi Mirvis won’t, but happily he will see some of my parents’ great grandchildren one on one.
He will give a more meaningful approach to Judaism than the more tree hugging, Tikun Olam, we embrace everything style of leadership or the “I do it different and I will shock you style from ARK”, and will respect Kashrus and support established authorities and ignore the communal maverick.
Prior to that, the name “Mirvis” only registered with me in respect of his Uncle Johnny. Johnny who is no doubt also a Rabbi, was in fifth year of Hesder at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh, when I joined Kerem B’Yavneh. I didn’t have much to do with him, partly because of my reclusive nature, and partly because he concentrated on the English and American Bochurim, for whom he was given a particular mashpia style role. I only knew of his father when he was appointed Chief Rabbi of the Commonwealth, although I need to declare that I am not a Monarchist, and consider both Philip and Elizabeth anti semites. The latter would visit a toilet in Ghana before stepping into Israel, and the former cantankerous oddity only goes to visit his mother’s grave, in a private capacity. Charles is hardly pro-Jewish either. Let me repeat what I have stated in other posts. If one claims to be against anti-Semitism and can’t call Israel the JEWISH State, they are an anti-Semite in my eyes, irrespective of where one sets borders.
Good luck. It’s not an easy community. You will be pushed around (older generation) by pseudo-Mevinim, but the youth will rally around you, and in that way, you will be successful. Now, if you can get the grandfathers and great grandfathers out of “Beit Haroeh” and hand it over to Ohr David, that would be a great start. Beit Haroeh has passed its used by date long ago and its time they grew up and moved into the Main Shule.
I also hope they let you influence Yavneh in respect to its Torah learning programs, and not write you out of that equation as they did with previous Rabbis.
From an interview at Har Etzion:
After numerous years as Director of the Yeshivat Har Etzion Center for Torah Leadership (CTL), Danny Mirvis is stepping down ahead of moving to Australia to assume a new position at the Mizrachi community in Melbourne. Dublin-born and London-raised, Danny has held numerous positions in the Yeshiva including Madrich of MTA, Racaz of the Overseas Program and most recently, Director of CTL. We asked him some questions about his time with CTL and plans for the future.
How has CTL changed over the years?
CTL started off as an exciting dream with many great ideas. Over the years, those ideas have been developed and organized to create three focused areas of activity:
1) Partner Projects – Supporting a broad range of educational and social initiatives of alumni from Yeshivat Har Etzion and Migdal Oz, including a focus on women’s learning.
2) Torah Leadership – Developing the connection with alumni actively involved in the Rabbinate and Chinuch across the world through ongoing contact, regular conferences and supporting different Torah publications.
3) Future Leaders – Identifying and investing in students and alumni with significant leadership potential, through leadership programs and CTL’s Winter Fellowships.
What have been the highlights of your time with CTL?
Rabbi Doniel Schreiber, the Dean and Founder of CTL, is a man of tremendous passion and vision. To work together with him and see how that vision has become a reality has been a privilege and pleasure.
For me, CTL’s proudest achievements have been the partner projects we identified and supported in their early stages, which have gone on to blossom and thrive on their own two feet. To give just a few examples, Garinei Ayala is now three times the size it was when they first came to our office to ask for assistance. The Shiurim in Givat Shmuel and Katamon are now self-sufficient and continue to grow and attract large crowds. The late night Beit Midrash at Penn turned to us for assistance at its inception and has gone on to become a fully-fledged part of Penn’s learning program.
How do you see CTL developing in the future?
CTL’s primary area of focus – the alumni of Yeshivat Har Etzion and Migdal Oz – is a talented, dynamic and growing group. It is through these alumni that CTL aims and hopes to make a positive impact and genuine contribution to the world around us. As our alumni progress and grow in number, new opportunities will develop for CTL to expand its programs and activities.
The same can be said for our alumni in Chinuch and the Rabbinate. I see great potential for CTL to increase its interaction with this group as it continues to grow in influence and number.
You have held numerous positions in the Yeshiva. How does it feel that your next position will be on the other side of the world?
Though I have held numerous positions in the Yeshiva, they have all shared the sense of mission of working towards the Yeshiva’s goals of being immersed in Torah and engaged with the world.
Mizrachi in Melbourne is a wonderful community with strong ties to the Yeshiva, a genuine appreciation for Torah and a deep love of Israel. Though it could not be much further away geographically from the Yeshiva, I see my role there as a continuation of the same mission.
What will you be able to take with you from your experiences with CTL to assist you with your future role?
First of all, thanks to CTL, I will belong to a global network of Rabbinic alumni from Yeshivat Har Etzion, which I will be able to draw on for ideas and advice.
I also hope to employ CTL’s educational and organizational philosophy in my new position. At CTL, we have not aimed to build our target audience around our programs and activities, but to build our programs and activities around our target audience. This is something I hope to continue in the future.”
PS. I had promised to show him my Shas, printed in Dublin on linen paper. He was astounded that such a thing existed. I suggested his father would know. It even has Chiddushim of the Satmar Rebbe at the back, and yes, there are still pages stuck together in my Shas, I never used it for Daf HaYomi 🙂
The Jerusalem Post, a middle to right wing paper, commented on some recent statistics in Israel. One that drew my attention was (emphasis is mine)
This year’s report also revealed a trend reversal in that transfers between educational streams show a move away from religiosity.
Among the Jewish population, the report noted, recent years have seen net migration from more religious to less religious school systems.
As such, more students have moved from haredi schools to state-religious and state- secular schools, and from state-religious schools to state-secular schools than in the opposite direction.
The largest number of transfers was from state-religious schools to state-secular schools, where in 2014/15, 14,700 pupils transferred.
The researchers called this “remarkable” since the national-religious population constitutes the smallest sector at 14-15% of the population.
We first note that the Jerusalem Post as opposed to any study that I am aware of concludes that this is a move away from religiosity. While that may be true, it is by no means a foregone conclusion.
Have they measured, for example, whether the hours saved (presumably) at the State School, are being used “more productively” through daily shiurim at yeshivas and the like?
Have they looked at the reasons given for the school moves?
A Charedi person may be just as frum, but may simply not be able to be burden costs
They have not discussed National Religious Charedi. There are many in this category and different approaches.
Have they defined religiosity
Is full observance in a State School a move away? Perhaps the longer term trend is that many of these students will influence more students to move toward “religiosity”?
Looking at it with a pessimistic slant, one may wish to consider whether
Parents being left of center in religious observance are more likely to have children who move further to the left than parents who have one or more “off the derech” children (I dislike the terminology and I do not know why we give it a classification category. Such categories can slur, and may become entrenched as something to feel more comfortable with. Let us not forget that the Torah itself did not like using negative language: animals that may not be consumed are called “not pure” as opposed to “trayf “.
How many teachers who practice orthodoxy are there in the State School system
How good is teacher training, especially in respect of pastoral care among State Religious teachers? Do they understand their pupils? It is far easier to simply teach in a State School in respect of the qualitative aspects of religion given a purely cultural/historical approach is most likely.
The Rambam preached the middle ground. Life has taught me that very few start and stay on the middle ground. Indeed moving further in observance and understanding of Yahadus when younger, is not a negative trait. It would seem that as people age, and I do not remove myself from any such consideration, their level of Jewish observance moves left. To lead a life in the middle ground may well mean an early foundational right of middle experience. I specifically do not include those who learn for a living, do not publish, are not gifted intellectually, and are a burden to those who work for a living.
Having not seen the statistical study and only read the Jerusalem Posts reporting on it, some of my comments may portray ignorance.
Whatever the case, what I took out of this, ostensibly, is that we need to increase in Torah Observance and Learning. In terms of observance, we must seek to minimise any negative proclivities. Those who have habituated a Chilul Hashem seen by the eyes of their children, are the greatest destroyers of Yahadus, and the continued promoters of a perverted Judaism of the worst shameful order.
The yearly prayer event which coincides with Ma’ariv is something I have attended for more years than I care to share. I do not recall but I believe I was unable to attend last year. In some years I was lecturing at the time, but I have attended almost every year.
I learned in a Hesder Yeshivah of note; the first Hesder Yeshiva in Israel. The Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Chaim Yaakov Goldvicht had the written and personal approval of the Chazon Ish. We dressed in our better finery and had a special dinner celebration of thanks. I lost my two Israeli room mates to War. I think about them often: Chovav Landau and Ze’ev Roitman HY’D. Chovav Landau’s wife was pregnant with their only child at the time. They were both in their fourth year of the five year program when I met them. I was closer to Ze’ev than Chovav. Ze’ev had lost his father to Yellow Fever, because a Doctor in Rechovot, had not changed needles after injecting an Arab patient. I felt his tragedy acutely. They both had machine guns locked in our room, and both perished when their tank was hit during the first Lebanon war.
The text of Ma’ariv in our Yeshiva was not the one adopted by the Kibbutz HaDati Movement (there was one next door) nor was it the text of newly published Koren Yom Haatzmaut Machzor. It was standard Ma’ariv.
The Yeshivah formally followed the ruling that full hallel be said in the morning but without a blessing. There was no Tachanun. This was not a statement of ‘less’ religious zionism. Rather, it represented delicate rulings related to liturgy and halacha.
As I recall, Ma’ariv had no additions. There was no Shofar etc I’m happy to be corrected. I do not know what current practice is followed. The Yeshivah did not affiliate with Bnei Akiva formally because of a concern for mixed gender functions. In my day Bnei Akiva in Jerusalem was gender separated.
Halachically, what one says before Ma’ariv and after the concluding Aleinu prayer is of lesser importance. When said in a Shule proper, there is also halachic import.
That being said, I was to learn, later in life that the famed Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik, otherwise known warmly as ‘the Rav’ was implacably opposed to additions to liturgy. This extended to the Holocaust and Kinos. He famously stormed out of RIETS when some ignored his ruling on Yom Haatzmaut.
Chabad’s Yeshivah and Beth Rivka Schools follow their choice. Chabad make no liturgical change and do say Tachanun. Whilst certainly not religious Zionist, they are not noted for the extreme anti Zionist rulings of the Adass Israel Congregation where Tachanun is especially said on Yom Ha’atzmaut even in the presence of a Bris Milah lest someone conclude that Adass saw any religious importance in the State of Israel’s Independence Day.
For decades, Chabad’s boys school principal would not attend the Chabad dominated Rabbinical Council of Victoria’s gazetted service at Mizrachi. Thee council is, I believe dominated by Chabad Rabbis. This is not surprising in Melbourne where the survival and resurgence of Judaism is due in major part to Chabad.
I have been opposed to the service only being held at Mizrachi as I do not consider Mizrachi to be the ‘owner’ of this style of service. I am certain, that, for example, Caulfield Shule would gladly offer their Synagogue.
Chabad now has only one Principal: the controversial Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler.
It was then interesting for me to note Rabbi Smukler’s front row appearance at Mizrachi last night, including his dancing circomvolution around the Bima. I concede that this may not have constituted halachic dancing (during Sefiras Haomer). He didn’t clap like Rabbi Cowen of Mizrachi’s Elsternwick Shule (Rabbi Cowen is considered a Chabad Chassid) nor did he sit on the Mizrachi wall like Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick, who spoke as President of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (and who is also a Chabad Chasid) and R Leor Broh (also a Chabad Chasid) of Mizrachi’s Beit Haroeh Shule (populated by once young marrieds, now grandfathers :-).
To be complete, unlike a general Yom Tov or a Chabad Yom Tov such as Yud Tes Kislev, I didn’t notice any Chabad Rabbi in attendance wearing their longer black Kappote).
We live in very interesting times.
May the State of Israel metamorphose into the Eretz Yisrael of our redemption, speedily, in our days, with the continued grace of God.
There is an existing Eruv supervised by Rabbi Unsdorfer which covers North Crown Heights. This doesn’t include Chabad. While there have been Eruvin in Chabad (in Liadi and Lubavitch itself) times have changed, and the last Lubavitcher Rebbe זי’’ע stated clearly that he was against Eruvin today and an example is Melbourne. Let me qualify that. One cannot be against Kosher Eruvin in the sense that they think an Eruv is an unnecessary concept. That is a view likely held by Reform or “reconstructionist/new age” Jews. I would like to think that those who are less practicing but when they do practice, do so, according to traditional Orthodox Judaism also have no issue with the concept of a Kosher Eruv and would consider supporting such.
I was privy to details of the first (unkosher) Eruv constructed in Melbourne many years ago through the office of the then Mizrachi Organisation’s Rabbi (not the venerable Rav Abaranok ז’ל), and heard the tapes of Rabbi Groner ז’ל discussing the issue forcefully with Rabbi M.D. Tendler and read booklets from Rabbi M. Krasnjanski and Rabbi Yosef Bechoffer and more.
Melbourne now has a world-class Kosher Eruv, which is, I believe, under the supervision of Rav Gavriel Tzinner (who has mashgichim here through the Council of Orthodox Judaism of Victoria) and visits these shores from time to time. It is trusted by those who avail themselves of its facility, and this includes the ultra orthodox, generally secessionist, Adass Israel Congregation.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe did not issue Halachic decisions as a rule, but did do so from time to time if he felt it was important to identify and/or stress a Chabad custom, or if he deemed the matter to be of a level of importance to the extent that he did so.
On the issue of Eruvin, as I understand it, the Lubavitcher Rebbe preferred to build a quiet unannounced but strictly Kosher Eruv for the purposes of minimising the possibility of someone carrying by accident. I understand that he was concerned that, in our day, a proliferation of Eruvin would imply that ordinary Jews would forget there was a prohibition to carry. Indeed, on several occasions I have witnessed Jews, especially from Israel where there are Eruvin all over the place, not even be aware that one should not carry on Shabbos, as a matter of Torah law.
Since the Lubavitcher Rebbe passed away, as I saw in videos and written material, and as affirmed in the book by Rabbi Eliezrie which I happened to finish one week prior to this post, the LR specified that issues in “the future” for Chabad Chassidim (which undoubtedly included the possibility that he would not live to see the redemption before he passed away) should be decided by Vaad Rabbonei Lubavitch or Mercaz etc depending on the type of issue. I do not recall reading or hearing the notion that one decides based on opening a random page of his Torah, a practice which many Rabbis forbid or do not encourage, including some Chabad-ordained Rabbis, since even the Goral HaGro (and yes there is also a Gemora גיטין דף סח) was only used with Tanach.
I therefore close with my opinion that those who are now starting a public campaign to raise money for a more expansive Eruv in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, should only be doing so if they are not Chabad Chassidim, or they have express permission from the aforementioned Beis Din of Lubavitch.
I am not here to discuss the merits of an Eruv. In days gone by Eruvin were critical. They allowed one to bring home the pot of choolent, which was warming in the baker’s oven (I presume the baker had a fleshig section or the heavy pots never had enough to overflow 😦 ) for lunch after davening. It is a halakhic requirement to have something warm on Shabbos, and from there, Choolent, Chamin and the like emerged (in my opinion). As an aside, PLEASE don’t use the term Pareve Choolent. There is no such thing. Call it Potato Stew or slow cooked Potato or whatever. A choolent without meat, was unfortunately something which the poor suffered who couldn’t even get bones to put in their choolent.
Back to the issue. My view on the online appeal for money to support a wider Eruv in Crown Heights are:
It should not be supported publicly by Rabbonei Lubavitch
It should not be used by Chasidim of Chabad
It should be constructed by a Rabbi of world-renowned expertise in Eruvin
Others should follow their own Posek, and if their Posek allows it, by all means, use it
Those who are not of Chabad persuasion who want to be personally stringent should only do so for themselves. They should not impose the stringency on their family. If they wish to change their mind and use the Eruv later on, they will need Hatoras Nedorim (annulment of vows, given the views of the Rambam on Reshus HoRabbim D’Orayso, which is also a Chumra of Briskers and I believe the Rav was also reluctant to use Eruvin)
In summary, it would have been better, given the relative paltry sum required from the vantage point of a Gvir, to have done this without fanfare, if one followed the late and great Lubavitcher Rebbe. Indeed, who knows if an Eruv was built in secret. It’s not in any book I’ve read (and I have read four relatively good ones on Chabad in the last year, especially when compared with the poor book by Heilman et al which was taken apart by Rabbi Rapoport of England)
Disclaimer: I aspire to be an ordinary Jew. I am not a card-carrying member of any group, although I would be most inclined to follow Rav Soloveitchik if he were בעולם דידן. One can only surmise if the Lubavitcher Rebbe would have a different opinion. Those who try to second guess him, should give up now. There is no ability to do that. Like the Rav, the Lubavitcher Rebbe was a super genius.
ZAKA chairman Yehuda Meshi Zahav describes sparingly and with restraint the things he and thousands of his volunteers at ZAKA do. ZAKA is a haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jewish) organization that rescues, identifies, and traces Jewish disaster victims in Israel and all over the world under sometimes virtually impossible conditions. Such a mission requires love of one’s fellow man, great empathy, faith, and a belief that good will come of it. It requires Zahav, a man with impeccable curly white payess (sidecurls).
Two months ago, following a four-year struggle, ZAKA won recognition as an official UN consultant and observer. The eventual decision was taken unanimously by a special UN committee composed of representatives of 19 countries, including Iran, Sudan, Venezuela, Cuba, Turkey, China, Russia, Pakistan, Uruguay, Burundi, Greece, the US, and Israel.
“Globes”: Did Iran and Pakistan also vote in favor?
Zahav: “There was no opposition, not even one country. We sent our representative, who met with every one of the committee members. The Iranians asked us if the report that ZAKA treats Jews first and Arabs later at terrorist events was true. We said that they hadn’t read it correctly. We treat the victim first, and then the murderer, regardless of nationality. They realized this, and voted in favor.”
About-face: From extremist haredi operations officer to national hero
Once upon a time, Zahav was the operations officer of the Eda Haredit extremist haredi group. He led demonstrations against Sabbath desecration, burnt Israeli flags, fasted and wore mourning clothes on Israel Independence Day, illegally removed dead bodies from the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute to prevent autopsies from being performed and put mice into the pathologists’ rooms, and sneaked onto archeological sites in order to prevent archeological excavations. Since then, however, Zahav has been honored by being asked to light a torch on Mt. Herzl while calling aloud in a clear voice, “For the glory of the state of Israel.” His grandfather, Rabbi Yosef Sheinberger, the mythological leader of the Eda Haredit and a fanatical opponent of the founding of Israel, refused to speak with Zahav for the last four years of his life. For Sheinberger, what Zahav did was a desecration of God’s name.
The change in Zahav began on July 6, 1989, when a terrorist blew up a bus on the 405 route from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It happened on a road in front of the Telz-Stone yeshiva (Jewish religious seminary) in Neva Ilan. Zahav and his friends wanted to see what was happening, “and then, when the dismembered bodies were laid out before my eyes, when the sirens were echoing among the smoky fragments of the bus, when the bloodstained clothes were scattered over the area, when entire families were broken and erased in an instant, I realized that the quarrels between us were meaningless. The type of skullcap you wear and the kind of clothes you wear pale in comparison with the real war we’re faced with. The Arab enemy doesn’t distinguish between the blood of a haredi, a secular person, and someone who’s modern Orthodox. We’re all connected. There’s no right or left. Everyone’s pain is the same. That was the moment when I crossed the lines and abandoned the ideology of haredi Judaism,” he later said, just before lighting the torch in honor of the ZAKA volunteers in 2003.
“Since then,” he says today, “I have been repenting. I put my efforts in the right place.” That also includes severe criticism of the leaders of the community he is identified with. “I didn’t see the haredi leaders with the bereaved families,” he said during one of the IDF campaigns in the Gaza Strip. “There were 20,000 people at the funeral, but I didn’t see black clothes there. There might have been haredim here or there, but when we want to, we can fill any place with black clothes.”