Let’s be “thankful” to the Iranians

News agencies tell us

100 Iranians have held a candlelight vigil in front of the French Embassy in Tehran

If that alone doesn’t tell the deluded something, they should be sent to Krakatoa.

Now, someone, please tell me what Hezbollah has said about this. They have overtaken the “Paris of the Middle East” formerly known as Lebanon.

The lefties in Tel Aviv rightly supported the French, but I hope they are consistent with their tree-hugging, and have demonstrations saying that France is forbidden to carry out any operation which might endanger Civilians. Wait, I’ve got a good idea. The French can drop leaflets on Rakkah, warning all civilians to leave, and then carpet bomb the place. But what if civilians stay and become human shields, or D’aesh decide to wear civilian clothes. What do they propose we do, sit down bare footed in Tel Aviv and sing John Lennon songs? That will save the day. I think they call it “Social Justice” or “Tikun Olam”.

Maybe the Toldos Aharon lunatics can meet with D’aesh and convince them to hold fire on innocent goyim.

As for Rabbi Dov Lior and his knowledge of “why” this happened (because of French complicity in the Holocaust), he isn’t even on the level of Bilaam, let alone Bilaam’s Donkey. Bilaam was a prophet! Rabbi Lior is not. The donkey saw what Bilaam couldn’t. Which Seif in Shulchan Aruch is Rabbi Lior quoting. What a stupid thing to say.

An Apt Tisha B’Av Message

  
(Hat tip RC)

Mixed Gender Functions

[Hat tip MD]

Recently, a question was asked of the Charedi Leumi Posek, Rav Aviner, about a 50 year reunion of a group of couples who had been part of a youth group 50 years prior. They would be attending, were frum, all with their wives, and the idea was that they would recollect memories and have an enjoyable evening. The question asked to him was

Is such a reunion permitted according to Halacha

I guess the mere fact that they asked Rav Aviner the question before going ahead with their reunion is testament to their frumkeit and fidelity to Halacha. Those who are not so beholden to their Rabbi, would not even ask a question.

At any rate, Rav Aviner’s answer was

“חלילה. זו מכבסת מילים לפעילות מעורבת. זה איסור חמור גם אם אלו יראי שמים. ולצערנו יש פעמים רבות פעילות המשך

In other words, definitely not permitted and is a serious halachic infraction even if the participants are frum! Rav Aviner opines that unfortunately, there are sometimes serious outcomes from such events.

In other words, age makes no difference, and one would assume, a fortiori, that this would be forbidden for younger couples. I won’t extrapolate to mixed tables of singles at a wedding who are looking for Shidduchim. Rav Aviner may have the same opinion as R’ Aron Soltoveitchik that this isn’t just permitted but desirable. It is dangerous to extrapolate in Halacha.

Upon hearing of this Psak, respected Rav Amnon Bazak (whose writings I am acquainted with and if I am not mistaken he may have visited Melbourne) of Har Etzyon, disagreed with Rav Aviner on three grounds.

  1. The attitude of the Rishonim and Acharonim on issues such as this, was and is tightly connected with the practices in such communities. In other words, if it was common place for men and women to meet, then Poskim such as the Bach, opined that it is permitted (if you want to read more about this examine the issue of whether to say שהשמחה במעונו at a mixed Sheva Brachos. If my memory serves me correctly, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch is Machmir and says no). The point of Rav Bazak was that this is something which may well change from community to community. I wouldn’t expect this to happen in Satmar, or Belz, where the women aren’t even allowed to drive cars, of course.
  2. If one wants to say “those who are stringent will get a blessing”, this leaves is a sour taste because the idea that they get a blessing on account of people who really are not doing anything wrong according to plain Halacha.
  3. What’s the point in putting out words like ‘absolutely forbidden’ when this happens all the time, at tables, which involve Chachomim and Roshei Yeshivah at their meals?

There is also the question of when you have two long tables at a Sheva Brachos one with men and the other with women without a Mechitza. Some will still say this is “mixed” other will not, even according to those who argue with the Bach.

Mori V’Rabbi, R’ Hershel Schachter relates that R’ Moshe Feinstein ז’ל and R’ Yaakov Kaminetzy ז’ל  and others made weddings and there were mixed tables. He does however caution that times have changed somewhat to those days. He doesn’t use Rav Bazak’s arguments but notes that

  1. Women tend not to wear the ornate thick dresses that they wore in yesteryear, and sometimes, perhaps too often, are on the boundary of Tzniyus with flimsy clothing which leaves little to the imagination
  2. The music in those days was much slower and it was rare to find a women or man return to the table shvitzing with all that comes from that phenomenon and fine cloth.

Accordingly, he suggests caution at weddings.

Your views? I believe this is societal and something according to הרגלם and will change from group to group to the extent that a blanket opinion is elusive and probably not advised.

There is a lot of “Ess Past Nisht” and I’m not arguing. I’m just quoting and adding to this article

בענין סתירת הרמבם שלא יתערבו או שלא יסתכלו זה את זה,  כבר דשו ביה רבים

מי כעמך ישראל גוי אחד בארץ

I don’t know where Thisbe from, my daughter in law sent it. Uplifting!

A soldier on the border writes:

What’s happening here in the staging area [area where soldiers prepare to enter Gaza] is beyond comprehension, not rationally, not emotionally and begs the imagination.

Almost every hour a car shows up overflowing with food, snacks, cold drinks, socks, underwear, undershirts, hygiene supplies, wipes, cigarettes, v backgammon and more. They’re coming from the North and the Center, from manufacturers, from companies and private businesses, from prisons, Chareidim and Settlers, from Tel Aviv and even Saviyon.

Every intersection on they way down here we get stopped, not by the police, but be residents giving out food. What is amazing is that the entire situation b organized and everyone is coming on their own without coordination between the folks coming.

They’re writing letters and blessings, how they’re thinking of us all the time. There are those who spent hours making sandwiches, so they’re as perfect and comforting as possible.

Of course representatives of Chabad are here to help soldiers put on Tefillin and distributing Cha’Ta’Ts (Chumash, Tehillim, Tanya) for every troop transport and Breslov are showing up to the border and dancing with the soldiers with great joy.

The Chareidim are coming from their yeshivot to ask the names of the soldiers with their mothers’ names so that the whole yeshiva can pray for them. It should be mentioned that all of this is done under the threat of the terrorist tunnels and rockets in the area.
Soroka Hospital (in Be’er Sheva) today looks like a 5 star hotel. A wounded friend who was recently discharged told us how the MasterChef truck is parked outside and is preparing food for the wounded.

It goes without saying the amount of prayer services that are going on. On the religious front as well, there are lectures and Torah classes, all the food is obviously Kosher. Shachrit, Mincha, and Maariv with Sifrei Torah. They’re giving out tzitzit and Tehilim by the hundreds. It’s become the new fashion! The Rabbi of Maglan [Special Forces unit] told me that almost the entire unit has started wearing them, because the Army Rabbinate has been giving out tzitzit that wick away sweat. They’re gaining both a Mitzva and a high quality undershirt. We’ve started calling them “Shachpatzitzti” (a portmanteau of the Hebrew term for body armor and tzitzit). We’re having deep conversations late into the night without arguments, without fights and we find ourselves agreeing on most stuff.

We’re making lots of jokes at Hamas’s expensive and without politics. There’s lots more to add but my battery is running low and the staff has been requesting someonekm give a class on Likutei MoharaN (Breslov).

How happy is the nation that is like this.

A sense of shame and חילול השם

It’s somewhat ironic that during the week of Parshas Pinchas, where the grandson of Aron HaKohen, failed to consult with the Manhig HaDor, Moshe Rabeinu, and murdered the two lust-filled people who were cavorting in a tent. I hear you say that Hashem gave Pinchas the Bris of שלום albeit with a shortened Vav and there are many explanations in this regard. I will leave it to readers to refresh their memories and check the myriad of diametrically opposed explanations of this act.

Fast forward. Three תנוקות של בית רבן, Yeshiva Students of the highest calibre were short and murdered because they were Jewish. Had they been Muslims, they would not have been shot or kidnapped. The perpetrators seem to be hiding in caves somewhere in the Chevron region. Time will tell. They will be caught and they will receive, hopefully, a life sentence behind bars, with no remission, and no luxuries.

It is now pretty clear that some,  overcome with the grief of this incident coupled with their sense of vengeance felt that they could take the law into their own hands and incinerate a Muslim boy in return. This is anathema. It is anathema not just in Jewish Law, but even B’nei Noach are meant to have proper courts of laws and systems. Society cannot exist while people are taking the law into their own hands. Did they even listen to the words of the parents of the slain קדושים’s parents? Did they think that the man hunt wasn’t on an enormous scale with the aim of catching the low lives who perpetrated this disgraceful act.

Yes, we can show that we didn’t demonstrate, burn tyres, cause all range of mass violence in reaction, but some, albeit a few, had been brought up and inculcated, no different to the murderer of Yitzchak Rabin, to take the law into their own hands.

This was an opportunity to demonstrate a Kiddush Hashem. The parents were inspiring. The world was watching, and then some wild ones קנאים decided that they owned the right to respond for the parents and for the State. They too must be brought to justice, and they too must be jailed for the rest of their lives, in an Israeli Jail, without the comforts of a good living. No “Glatt Kosher/Daf HaYomi” Jail for them. They should do physical labour and go to sleep each night exhausted. For they have defamed the name of Hashem Yisborach, and that in turn defames the name and kedusha of Am Yisrael.

From afar, I do not believe in territorial concessions. I believe one must be aggressive in expansion and only this will bring the Jordanian Palestinians to their senses. Either they want one state in Yehuda and Shomron, or they do not. Until they renounce violence and completely disarm, they cannot be partners for peace. Until that time, Jews have the same right to live in the previously declared Jordanian territory as anyone else. If they don’t like it, then they should negotiate. No Israeli Prime Minister from the left of the left to the right of the right has managed to find a partner for peace. Abbas is just a pretty western suit with a coiffured moustache. It’s only a matter of time before he dies of old age or sickness and then there is nobody else. He hasn’t got the guts to do anything because, unlike Sadat, he is afraid. He is afraid that someone will blow his head off. Let him go to his grave afraid. In the meantime, there is nobody with authority or credibility to talk to.

Then there is the enemy in our midst. If a Palestinian State was to be established, then Jews should be permitted to live there. If they are not, then all Palestinians within Israel should be asked to politely leave before they are forcibly removed. We live under the façade of a holy democracy. It is an incredible democracy but it has allowed people who are not genuine citizens to pretend that they are part of Israel. Anyone not ready to sing Hatikva, fight in the IDF, and do their civic duty is not a Citizen of the State. I don’t care who they are. It’s a free world. They can go to Jordan or Yehuda VeShomron or Williamsburg and live a free life over there if they hate Israel. Let’s face it, most loathe Israel.

Ironically, the words of Aharon of Satmer are but a pimple compared the acts of these Jewish young adults.

Extremists on both sides need to be sidelined. The Meretz Morons whose philosophies are astronomically in the realm of cosmology cause as much trouble as the right wing automatons who have grown out of the ill-fated Gush Emunim movement. Rav Amital would be turning in his grave.

The Chief Rabbis should have (maybe they did) attended the funeral of the Muslim Boy, and sought out his Imam, to apologise for the extremists who decided that price tag was some sort of Hetter to commit חילול שם שמים. We don’t say ה׳ ינקום דמם for no reason. Yes, we must bring them to justice, but Hashem will ultimately deal with their future, and if he sees his people behaving with similar savagery, will he be happy? I don’t know.

What I do know, is that we cannot be Hashem’s accountants. There are all sorts of Rebbalach and more who think they know why Hashem oversees certain things. They would do better by simply following והלכת בדרכיו

We don’t need more accountancy from self-appointed accountants of Hashem’s Cheshbonos. We can only deal with the here and now. The here and now is ugly and we must not let these חיות רעות invade the HOLINESS of our religion. Theirs is a profanation that cannot be countenanced.

They aren’t Pinchas. They have no Moshe. They certainly didn’t make בריתי שלום

Give us back our boys (Part 2)

After the Caulfield Shule event there was much murmuring from sections of the community about aspects that they didn’t like. This is not to imply they had a problem with the event. The feeling was positive.

I’d like to consider each one (that I know of) and that have been broadly canvassed, and offer my view, for what it’s worth. These are in no particular order.

  1. Umbrage was expressed that the Rabbinic President of the RCV and ORA was using his phone from the daïs to take panoramic pictures/videos from his place while people were involved in the event.
    My view is that this was ill-advised, and not in keeping with the solemnity and angst of the event. There were adequate photographers and the ubiquitous Channel 31 fellow quite able to take pictures and video as need be.
  2. Offence was expressed that some Rabbinic figures failed to sing HaTikva
    My view on HaTikva was formed many decades ago when I discussed the matter with a Rav from Mercaz HaRav, as a young Yeshivah Bochur during the summer break at Moshav Keshet. That is a story in of itself. The Rav was fiercely Religious Zionist, and our site was literally on the border with Syria. When we threw a rock over the barbed wire fence near where we worked each day, it was common for a mine or some other incendiary device to detonate. The Rav was obviously very spiritual. I remember waiting twenty minutes for him to finish davening Mincha after we had all finished to engage him in discussing the matter. His view was that it was unfortunate that God’s name is not mentioned therein and that there was no seeming connection to Torah. Nonetheless, he felt that when in a place where people were singing it as an anthem, not doing so, would likely cause some to make the wrong reading, and that this itself could estrange Jews from Judaism, so to speak. He told me that he made one substitution when he sang it in such situations. Instead of Lihyot Am Chofshi, he used Lihyot Am Torah B’Artzenu and suggested I focus on Hashem’s hand and Ein Lecha Ben Chorin Ela Mi Sheosek BaTorah. Since that time, I have tried to do so. Chofshi, can mean many things, but to secularists this can range from freedom to possibly freedom of the yoke of religion/heaven (from the vantage of a more Charedi reading). As my own children grew up, they noticed me making this substitution. Whether they do, is a matter for themselves. 
    That being said, it is unwise to be standing there in public view without one’s lips moving even if someone is theologically opposed. I understand that some might turn their back so nobody would notice. I understand that some have other objections. I could even foresee the bleeding left-wing objecting to the anthem on the grounds that it is difficult for an Arab Israeli to sing (this has been in the news in fact). Either way, one should absent oneself in an inconspicuous manner so as not to create heat. I saw one Rabbi leave as soon as Tehillim was over. That’s his right. It’s for his congregation to interpret. Nobody forces a Rabbi to sit anywhere they don’t want to.

    In of itself, there is nothing holy about an anthem, of course. This does not imply that one is opposed in some way to the notion that the birth of the State was Yad Hashem and a miraculous event. Let’s face facts. The majority of the RCV are not Religious Zionists, including the President nor do they need to be in terms of any constitution or mandate that I am aware of.

  3. Some from the more Charedi spectrum, who made an effort to attend in name of unity, felt that the Tefilla Lishlom HaMedina was contentious.
    It is true that Charedim, Chabad, Litvaks et al do not agree that the birth of the state implied that one should say Reishit Tzmichat Geulateynu. Some add the word “Shtehe” (rumoured to be R’ Moshe Feinstein’s suggestion) or Smichat Geulatenu.Having finished a book about the Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Amiel ז’ל, of the Gush, a holocaust survivor himself and ardent Zionist, and having a copy of his seminal book המעלות ממעמקים which I read decades ago, it is clear that even some Religious Zionists (like Rav Amiel) have problems with the issue of certainty when it comes to predictions of redemption. It is also for this reason also that I am uncomfortable when people say that XYZ is Mashiach. This type of eschatology, to me, is unimportant. The end is the goal. Exactly who and when and how things happen, as noted by the Rambam in Hilchos Melachim is unpredictable. Having said that, one wasn’t forced to say this prayer. One could easily have just stood like everyone while it was being said. Those who felt that it was just too theologically uncomfortable, could have attended a Tehillim event that was apparently held at Adass Israel on a previous day, although it would be good if they publicised these things in a better manner: they know how.
  4. There were comments about allowing a Conservative Cantor recite Tehillim.
    To be honest, I didn’t know who the (Sefardi) Cantor was. I only noticed the errors in Tehillim that he had made and wondered whether he had bad eye sight. Either way, unless the person is a Kofer/Apikorus, I don’t see an issue with saying Tehillim after him (I haven’t asked my Rav). I would assume the President of ORA checked this out and was satisfied that he wasn’t a Kofer/Apikorus.

To end on a positive note, [Hat tip BA] listen to this excellent speech from the Chief Rabbi in London.

Nice article by Shmully Hecht

See the original from the Times of Israel (which I reproduce) here. [hat tip MT]

I have no issue with Shmully’s thoughts except that

  1. R’ Chaim Volozhiner was not an opponent of R’ Schneur Zalman of Liadi. He in fact, while being the prime disciple of the Vilna Gaon, and the person who hand wrote the condemnation of Chassidim (Cherem) did not sign the Cherem!
  2. Rav Chaim Kanievsky is not a political person. He sits and learns and does little else. That this boor said “come and I will take you to Rav Chaim Kanievsky” does not mean that Rav Chaim was aware of agreed with the way he spoke or what he said. Rav Chaim is also a Mekubal who knows Kol HaTorah and if you look at what he signs, you will find dear Shmully, that he rarely if ever gives his own opinion. He is a humble man, who mostly says “if such a great person said X, then I (Rav Chaim, who he considers to be a “nothing” in his self-effacing way) join in. This is because he does not see himself as a leader.
  3. The one that you should be addressing is, in my opinion Rav Shmuel Auerbach, whose incredibly great father R’ Shlomo Zalman had more knowledge, feeling, sensitivity and greatness than his son by a country mile.
  4. As to the rest of them, and by “them” I mean ANYONE who can’t see the Godly soul of a Jew at all times (yes, this is something from Chabad that I am ingrained with) they will not change, not by your article or by our comments. The best thing that can be done is to work now with the Nachal Charedi and make sure it is the holiest battalion in the entire Army, and one which is a Kiddush Shem Shomayim BoRabbim. That, to me, is where ALL the effort should now go.
  5. The so-called “distaste” for those who aren’t yet frum (I loathe the word chilonim) is amongst the Religious Zionists as well. They too have much to answer for over the years in their preponderance with land over people. The two should have never been separated. Rav Froman ז’ל is an example of a Gush Emunimnik who was searing with love for others, just like Rav Kook. It seems though that hate is a catchy illness and love for others is an acquired and elusive taste.
  6. This has nothing to do with Brisk, save that R’ Meshulam Dovid Soloveitchik espouses similar views to that bigot on the plane, ironically his grandfather R’ Chaim Brisker was an even bigger Ba’al Chesed for a Jew than he was the Gaonic Genius of that generation. Check out his tombstone in the Warsaw Cemetery.

I write to you in your capacity as one of the leaders of the ultra-orthodox Jewish community of Israel, often referred to as the haredi movement.

On a flight last week from Israel to New York, I had a rather disturbing conversation with one of your of disciples. The individual was an ultra orthodox Jew and a successful Swiss real estate developer who resides in Jerusalem with his wife and seven children. He was on his way to New York for the wedding of a relative. I was returning home from Israel where I had spent the day attending the funeral of the father of a dear Israeli friend of mine from Yale, where I am the campus rabbi. I had met the deceased last year at his son’s wedding in Caesarea, where I was honored to officiate. On a subsequent trip to Israel I had put Tefillin on with this 77 year old man, preceded by an in-depth theological conversation about his Judaism and beliefs. On this return trip to Israel it was at the Shiva house where, upon meeting many of the members of my friend’s F16 squadron, a troubling conversation began. This was a conversation that crystallized on the flight back to New York while talking with your disciple.

Israeli air force pilots are in their mid-20s and 30s, a ripe time for young people to be seriously dating and in many instances newlyweds. It was ironic yet promising that despite being in the shiva house of my friend, we found ourselves discussing weddings and choices of rabbis. Here I was, surrounded by Israel’s bravest military officers, who held the most coveted spots reserved for only the brightest and best, that I began to hear about one particular pilot’s wedding. He had just returned from a trip to the US where he got married in a civil marriage ceremony in City Hall of NYC. He explained that he, like many of his friends, had done so because they had nothing in common nor any dialogue with the rabbis of Israel. I reminded him that on that particular morning we had witnessed three Israeli rabbis bury our friend’s father, a total stranger. I continued to point out some of the many great things rabbis were doing in Israel. In vain, I tried to shed some light on the rabbinate and build a bridge to this rather secular group of Israel’s elite.

Listening to him describe the gap that sadly divides the secular “chiloni“ and ultra-orthodox “haredi“ leaderships of Israel, I was dismayed and saddened by how far this split has actually wedged a division among our people. Could we have reached such a low point in our history that Jews living in our ancient homeland were flying across the world to avoid having to engage with our very own rabbis? How ironic I thought it was that I, an American rabbi, had flown to Israel first to marry and now bury a son and father of the most secular type of Israelis. Would this young pilot’s first encounter with an Israeli rabbi be at his own funeral?

Harav Kanievsky, I am convinced that the fault lies largely with us, the “religious,” and less so with them, the “secular. “ In fact I don’t believe there is an “us” and “them.” I was born a Chabadnik, where we are taught that there is only one Jew in the world. Yes, one Jew. But it wasn’t until the conversation with your disciple on my return flight that I began to comprehend the mindset that actually fuels this terrible divide. It is for this reason, and with hope of healing this terrible National wound, that I write you this letter.

“You look like a Chabadnik,” he started off, as he leaned across the aisle of our ElAL plane, “so tell me a story of your great Rebbe.” Not sure if I was sensing sarcasm or sincerity in his tone, I told him about my experience of once praying with the man I had just buried and how this person carried a photo of The Rebbe in his wallet for 20 years, despite claiming to be an agnostic. The truth is that “Rebbe miracle stories” were never really my forte, so I figured I would challenge him to a more serious theological debate in this final hour of our cross Atlantic flight. After all, I don’t get to meet many “haredis“ on the sprawling campus of Yale University. “What will you do about the pending proposed military draft?” I curiously asked my flight mate. “Well if it actually passes,” he said, “they will have to put a million of us in prison, for how can a pork eater, the son of a pork eater, tell us G-d fearing Jews to close the yeshivas and serve in the army? These Jews need to be despised and excommunicated for the way they treat the religious community.”

I was so shocked by the venom he was espousing in front of his wife and 16 year old son that I felt like stopping the conversation right there just to avoid embarrassing him. This verbal assault on the majority of Jews alive and the Jews who I consider my dearest constituents was not going to pass without a fatal blow. One, of course, I would have to deliver with love.

This man was by no means a Torah ignoramus, nor lacking in any level of sophistication. He was clearly a successful businessman, philanthropist, and learned Torah scholar. “I’m not sure you can blame a Jew for eating pork if that is what he was brought up eating,” I replied. It was an elementary response to such a loaded attack.

“After all,” I continued, “doesn’t your son [who was sitting next to him on the plane] eat what you eat?”

“How can you preach such hatred of a Jew,” I asked, “when the Torah explicitly says, ‘Thou shall not hate your brother in your heart’? Is that verse any less a part of the Torah you embrace?”

He replied, “well Esau, despite being the son of Isaac the patriarch, was the enemy of the Jews,” as if to suggest that any secular Jew had the status of an enemy. I explained that the Torah explicitly tells us that Esau and Ishmael had abandoned the ways of their parents’ home and clearly attained the status of another nation early in our history. To suggest that every non-observant Jew in Tel Aviv born to non-observant parents, or simply brought up in a non religious home, was now the enemy, was ludicrous.

His self-righteousness and arrogance was so revolting that I knew I needed to win this debate before we landed. I reminded him that the Jewish people were a family first and called over the flight attendant who was not wearing a kipa, and clearly the type of Jew he was critiquing. I asked the man if he believed we were all part of one family, to which he replied, “of course.” “If the plane went down at this moment,” I continued, “do you think your prayers would be any different than this gentleman? Do you really think your cry of Shema Yisroel would sound any different than his? Have you ever considered the probability of living parallel lifestyles should you have been born into his family, and he into yours?”

He would not concede. “The Finance Minister of Israel [he refused to mention him by name] is a pork eater, the son of a pork eater, and will suffer for the terrible anguish he is causing our community. He is no different than Jesus whom, though born to Jewish parents, is responsible for the murder of so many Jews through European history.” I reminded him that according to one account in the Talmud, Jesus left the seminary because of the lack of sensitivity of his Rabbi and perhaps that was why Christianity started to begin with. I reminded him of the commandment to love thy neighbor as you love yourself–to no avail. As I sat there I started to comprehend why my new friend from the squadron had flown to NY to have his wedding. How could he have any respect for Jewish leaders that did not officially declare this type of talk absolute heresy? Who could stomach this unapologetic self hatred by a “religious” Jew. All in the name of Torah and G-d!

But then I digressed and mentioned one of the greatest Rabbis in our collective history. Reb Chaim of Volozhin. He is, after all, the icon and example of Torah Judaism, who embodied the ultimate divine manifestation of Torah in a human being. In addition to being the crown disciple of the Gaon of Vilna and the author of Nefesh Hachaim, he was also the patriarch of the great Saloveitchik Talmudic family dynasty. So in a final attempt at reconciliation I asked:

What if I told you that the current President of Yale is named Peter Salovey, short for Saloveitchik? Though he is not particularly observant by your standards, he is a direct descendant of Reb Chaim. He is a dear friend of mine and despite being of the more secular type, he is extremely proud of his Judaism. In fact, he proudly quoted the great Mishnaic authors in his inaugural address as President of Yale. Do you know that he often engages in Talmudic discussions with me and others of the Yale community? Would you dismiss, excommunicate, and forsake the grandchild of the holy Reb Chaim of Volozhin in your self-righteous pursuit of an Israel that excommunicates the non-orthodox Jew?

It was at this moment that he got out of his seat and approached mine with an urgency. He finally realized what we were actually talking about. We were talking about that one Jew, the Jew that he could never forsake for it would mean forsaking Reb Chaim Volozhin. And so I got up and together we stood near the emergency exit door as he softly whispered these words into my ear, but more so into my heart and into my soul:

I envy you so much my dear Shmully, because in the merit of showing unconditional love to his grandson, I assure you that when you die, the great Reb Chaim of Volozhin will be waiting for you in heaven, and he will single-handedly open the gates of Gan Eden for you to enter.

These final moments of my flight were an absolute affirmation that there is hope for our people. I could not hold back my tears and replied, “how ironic, that upon my death, at the moment I would have to face my Maker, I would not be greeted, escorted, and defended by my Rebbe, Reb Schneur Zalman of Liaidi, the founder of Chabad, but rather by his opponent, the prize student of the Gaon of Vilna, Reb Chaim of Volozhin.”

And then he said, “You know, when you return to Israel, I’m going to take you to visit our leader the great Reb Chaim Kanievsky. I want you to tell him what we talked about.”

Rav Kanievsky, I don’t want to wait until my next trip to Israel. I will simply ask you what I asked him:

What would Israel look like this Pesach if you asked each and every one of your followers today to invite one non religious friend for Pesach? How amazing would it be if 1 million non orthodox Jews came home tonight and told their spouse that their religious friend or acquaintance invited them to their Seder? What if we reinterpreted, “all who are hungry may they come and eat, all who are needy may they come and enjoy Pesach,“ to mean, “not only the physically or materially poor but those less observant than us”?

Just as I’ve been assured that Chaim of Volozhin will be waiting for me in heaven, I sincerely hope Schneur Zalman of Lyadi is waiting for you. Let us hope there will be no need to imprison 1 million Jews but rather have 1 million more guests this year at the Seder.

I look forward to embracing you on my next trip to Israel.

Shmully Hecht is the Rabbinical advisor of Eliezer: the Jewish Society at Yale and can be reached at shmully@279crown.org

I have lost faith in Rav Druckman

I waited. I was hoping to be enlightened. R’ Moti Elon, who is likely to appeal charges against him, and for all anyone knows may not be found guilty, was condemned by Takana, a highly respected group of Modern Orthodox Rabbis and learned women. The court re-affirmed their findings.

In a case like this, one must be careful. Elon does have rights, and one must write alleged. At the same time, there is absolutely no Chiyuv that I know of, which would make it necessary to invite him specifically to give a Torah lecture while this very real cloud hangs over Elon.

Rav Druckman had invited him, and whilst nobody can be anything but impressed by his achievements as a human being and as an educator par excellence, one must question his judgement in this case. I waited for an explanation, but either I’ve missed it, or there is none.

Accordingly, I have suspended my faith in his judgement. It’s a pity we don’t have a body like Takana here in Melbourne. There are some dubious individuals, about which there is a raft of evidence that hasn’t yet seen the courts, circulating with clear ramifications that call for an enquiry. I see no need to INVITE such people to  speak on topics given the very dark cloud that surrounds their past. Yes, they are innocent until proven guilty, but we can do better than choosing people who seem to be moral and upright and don’t have such clouds accompanying them. If and when they clear their name, בבקשה.

It reminds me of the sad story re-told by Rabbi Riskin:

“Let me tell you a true incident which for me is a metaphor of our times. A young man attended a yeshiva in Safed.

“The first morning, he arrived a bit late for breakfast and there was no milk left for his coffee. He went to the grocery, purchased a container of milk and placed the container in the yeshiva refrigerator with a sign, ‘Private property.’

“The next morning, the container was gone.

“He bought another container, on which he added to the previous sign, ‘Do not steal.’

“The next morning, that container, too, was missing.

“He purchased a new container, adding to the sign, ‘Questionable gentile milk’ (halav akum). This time no one took his container; he left the yeshiva.”

At the risk of sounding like an Orthodox basher, let me say that far too little is written about the lack of leadership on morality and ethics on the left side of our divide. I did notice criticism of Macabbi in the 2000’s for allegedly not doing enough to separate someone wth a grey cloud over their head, from Macabbi kids. In general, the left leadership is moribund except when it sees an Orthodox target. They includes the reform and the conservatives and the “unaligned” (Shira Chadasha, who for some reason market themselves as Orthodox but are not considered as such by 99% of the Orthodox community).

Jews are a strange group. That’s why we have the crazy notion of people who want to “celebrate” Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur without God. They advertised in the paper. I would imagine they sit around in Yoga type trances and moments of thought, and make “new year resolutions” while consuming apples dipped in honey. Ultimately, they are celebrating with God, for He ordained the concepts and their meaning. They just have a pintele yid, which is clouded by secularist, do good, and tikkun olam (the modern socialist mantra). They are good concepts in the main, but whether they like it or not, God is part of our tradition! Rosh Hashana isn’t “Happy New Year”. Why not run it on December 31st with the others? Isn’t that more inclusive and likely to break down the “barriers”.

It’s actually God’s coronation. It’s not about making “commitments” per se, although one should use these times to improve.

Anyway, I digress, as usual, given this is (as always) an unedited conscious stream …

Rav Druckman (courtesy jewish community watch)

Yair Lapid goes too far

I don’t feel programmed to reject everything Yair proposes, nor do I feel that I should accept his proposals because “democracy is a religion”. With that in mind, the article below from Yediot, if reported accurately, demonstrates poor arguments. Using Grandad as an example, is nice emotive politics but it doesn’t make it a better argument.

  • Yair, what you need to tell us is what Sabbath does mean in the context of a Jewish State albeit in a Secular neighbourhood.
  • Does it mean that children can’t pick up their grandfather?
  • Does it mean that grandparents should come over and stay with their families and vice versa on Sabbath
  • Does it mean that in a Secular area Sabbath is no different to any other day when one walks out on the Street?
  • Does it mean that in a country where there is no Sunday, [I am a very strong supporter of a Sunday in Israel, as this not only will enhance Shabbos, but will give families a chance to bond better] Shabbat needs to morph to a Xtian Sunday in some neighbourhoods?
  • Does it mean that Israel is to become like a restaurant we have opening up in Melbourne, “Kosher” in the morning on weekdays and Trayf the rest of the time and shabbos! That is, a chameleon state depending on which street one walks into? Everyone can see through that style of “opportunity” and “strategy”
  • What are the Ghetto creating implications of your proposal?
  • Do you not want Religious and not-yet-Religious living in the same area? I think that is an absolute must for Israel’s character.
  • I don’t agree with forcing people to do Mitzvos, but I do think that the State needs some red lines which define its Jewish character. These lines cannot be of the morning kosher, afternoon trayf variety. That is just opportunism engendered by politics or money.
  • The argument about the grandfather “with funds” versus the grandfather “without funds”, and their State right to do something equal is a very slippery slope which, if I was in the Knesset, would use against you in many debates. Don’t use the “equality” card, when it doesn’t exist! You don’t have a bill of rights, but we do have a document which defines the Jewish people.

Here is the article:

“We need public transportation on Shabbat in secular neighborhoods and in secular cities,” Finance Minister Yair Lapid said Thursday evening during a live chat on Facebook. However, he said, more time was needed to sense the changes regarding this issue and economic issues.

“I think there should be public transportation on Shabbat. I said this during my (election) campaign and I’m saying it again – not in religious areas, but in secular neighborhoods and secular cities – because this issue is not related to religion and state; it is a simple social matter,” the Yesh Atid chairman wrote on Facebook.

“There is no reason that a grandfather who has money is able to take a taxi to visit his grandchildren while a grandfather who does not have money cannot because there is no bus to take him to his grandchildren,” Lapid said. “Everything cannot happen in three months. We will fight for this cause; there will be wars we will win and wars that we won’t (win), but we’ll have to wait until we win.”

According to Lapid, the Israeli economy is transitioning from a culture of stipends to a culture of work. “If you work and do not earn (money) then you should be offered help; if you do not work because you don’t feel like it, we should make certain that Israeli society tells you: Not in our house. It is not decent and it is not fair. The working man is at the center of the financial plan,” he said.

Perhaps the thing that upsets me the most about views similar to Yair Lapid, and for the record, he doesn’t upset me with the things that he says most of the time, nor do I harbour any hate whatsoever towards him, is that we, the religious community, have effectively created many Lapids.

We (both in Israel and abroad) use language that divides and not unites. We rarely invite our not-yet-religious neighbours. We don’t say hello in the street and often don’t act civilly. We don’t make an extra special effort to be inclusive. If we were all lit with the powerful atomic fuse of Ahavas Yisrael that burned so fiercely inside Rav Kook ז’ל I sense there would be less division in Israel.

Yes, outside of Israel, Chabad do a great job. They have their agenda, it’s true, but that agenda doesn’t worry me. It’s results that matter. It’s ironic, though, that so many Talmidim and Talmidim of Talmidim of Rav Kook, many became hermetic Charedi Leumi types than those who embraced the Klal, quite literally. Alternatively, they would hold onto a clod of soil with their lives, but not do the same for a Jewish soul.

I hope the new Chief Rabbis are able to re-ignite the fire of Rav Kook and spread the Ahavas Chinam, unadulterated love of a fellow Jew, throughout Israel (and beyond).

We need to move well beyond the cartoon below

Remembering Rav Menachem Froman ז’ל

Recently, I learned of the tragic petirah of HaRav Menachem Froman. He was well-known in the press over many years. Ironically, a founder of Gush Emunim, and described with the pejorative title of “settler”, Rav Froman was the driving force behind the city of Tekoa.

Rav Froman was a thinker, who worked outside the box. He had his own controversial views on how to relate to the Palestinian Arabs (and even known terrorists ימח שמם וזכרם) and many if not most like-minded souls who also moved, with מסירות נפש to far-flung corners of our Holy land, disagreed with his approach.

In his own words:

“My premise is that for Jews to live in all of Eretz Yisrael, they have to create a network of life with the Arabs”, says Rav Froman. “In the Holy Land, you can’t make peace without attending to the issue of holiness”.

“Isn’t it only fitting that Jerusalem be the seat of the United Nations’ cultural bodies, human rights organizations, scholarly forums? Isn’t it only proper that Jerusalem be the place where members of all faiths convene to renounce their breeding of prejudice, hostility, and war?”

Rav Froman truly believed that conciliation and peace lay only through the spreading of Kedusha through faith-based meetings and respect for adherents of Islam. If I’m not mistaken, Tekoa doesn’t have one of those security fences surrounding it. He wanted Tekoa and its residents to feel comfortable with their neighbours. When some Jewish crazies attacked a mosque and set fire, he came to the village and brought replacement texts of the Koran as a gesture of regret and respect.

My cousin, Effrat (née Balbin) (that’s how she spells her first name) and her husband Rabbi David Fialkoff are idealists who live in a caravan in Tekoa. The caravan now houses their bevy of children. They are inspiring and selfless people. David is also a big chassid of Rav Steinsaltz and has impeccable midos tovos. On Shabbos, I used to sing Chabad Nigunim especially for David, who participated with Dveykus.

In 2006, I had the Zchus to attend their wedding. It was then that I first laid eyes on Rav Froman. He was one of those people whose eyes were alive, and who had this aura surrounding him. You could just feel his presence. He had such a peaceful and happy demeanour. I remember he sporadically began a dance before the Chuppa with my Uncle Hershel Balter. He personified Ahavas Yisroel and a love for others. I tried to talk to him and engage him on some of his views, and he simply wasn’t interested. He undoubtedly felt that I was attempting to cajole him into a controversial discussion. He wasn’t having a bar of it. We were at a wedding, and he probably sensed that I wasn’t really at the level of having a meaningful conversation on the topic. After all, I was from Melbourne, Australia. What business of mine was there in talking to someone who was an inspiration to the entire community of Tekoa.

You couldn’t help liking him. If he had worn a Rebbishe Spodik he would have fit the part of a  Jew who had this burning attraction to another Yid’s Neshoma Elokis, and who was attracted to them like a magnet.

I’m told that Tekoa is in severe grief and mourning. It is very difficult for the to cope with the loss of their inspirational leader. In the picture below, which I took back then, Rav Froman is reading the Kesuba while Rav Shteinsaltz looks on.

I liked the man, lots.

יהי זכרו ברוך

Rav Froman (on the right) and Rav Steinsaltz on the left.
Rav Froman (on the right) and Rav Steinsaltz on the left.

The Honeymoon is over (part 2)

HaRav Chaim Drukman, who was awarded the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement in 2012, was interviewed regarding his reaction to the boycott I pitputed about yesterday. He was in charge of the Israel Conversion Authority, and was the subject of a now maligned opinion from Rabbi Avraham Sherman regarding his conversions, where Rabbi Sherman had attempted to anul conversions on the basis that the Beth Din members were not “kosher”.

Rav Drukman is a holocaust survivor who was part of the establishment of Gush Emunim. He is known as an Ish HaChesed. As Rav Aviner wrote

By contrast, “if the Torah scholar scrupulously makes sure to greet all people gently, humbly and graciously, and he suffers insult without insulting in return, if he treats others with respect, even those that treat him lightly, and if he radiates integrity in his business dealings… until everyone praises him and loves him and appreciates his deeds, then he has sanctified G-d’s name. Of him it says, ‘You are My servant, Israel in whom I glory’ (Yeshayahu 49:3).”

Indeed, Rav Druckman is amongst those who suffer insult without insulting in return.

He really does get insulted and hurt a great deal. It is impossible to describe just how much, and it really does hurt him, but he never returns an insult.

Such is the humble person under discussion. He is an open saint, but a secret saint as well. In other words, his personality is so open, it radiates so fully, it has such a great influence, that one could think that what we see is all there is. Yet that is not the case. There is to his modesty much more than what we see. Don’t ask me what. I don’t know. Because Rav Chaim is a humble, modest person, who doesn’t often reveal what’s inside of him.

Watch the video interview with Rav Druckman. Turn on the English captions if you can’t understand Ivrit too well. He accurately notes the disdain that Charedim have held Religious Zionists in, as a matter of perpetuity. You see, for Charedim, Rav Druckman isn’t “frum enough”. Period.

The Honeymoon is over

Let’s face it. Charedim have never considered any religious zionists—Mizrachisten) “frum enough”. That’s a generalisation, of course. Notable exceptions, such as Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ז’ל or indeed his son-in-law, Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg שליט’’א never saw things in black and white (sic). Rav Shlomo Zalman’s son, Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, however, is most extreme in his views.

The Charedim were considered “black” (in keeping with their attire) and the religious zionists (with their white crocheted Shabbos Yarmulkes were the white ones). In truth, the right-wing of religious zionists, such as those from Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav, are easily “as frum” as the frummest Charedim, across the board, although they didn’t wear the uniform of hats and jackets or follow the dictates of Agudisten or “Daas Torah”. It’s no different in Melbourne.

We have four kollelim:

  1. The Chabad Kollel
  2. The Lakewood Kollel (Litvishe Misnagdim)
  3. The Adass Kollel (various Hungarian and other Chassidim)
  4. The Mizrachi Kollel MiTziyon (Religious Zionists)

The Chabad Kollel is an arm of the general Chabad movement. People learn there for a couple of years and then go into Chinuch, the Rabbinate, or the general work force. It’s not a life time job to sit in Kollel. The Kollel is interested in people outside of Chabad, in the same way that Chabad is interested in anyone (with the exception of farbrente Misnagdim with whom they share no love).

The Lakewood Kollel was split asunder by a massive disagreement between its own constituents which saw one Rosh Kollel go back to the USA and the other remain in his position. Many important Ba’aley Batim left the Lakewood Kollel, never to return. For many of the full timers, it’s a lifetime job, to “sit in Kollel”. The Lakewood Kollel isn’t really interested in Religious Zionists. It is mainly a common ruse to attract such people to attract funding to support their activities. Behind the scenes, religious zionists are not considered “frum enough”. This is no different to any other such institution around the world.  It is not unique to Melbourne.

The Adass Kollel keeps completely to itself. It is made up of people who have retired as well as young and not so young marrieds. It isn’t interested in the wider melbourne jewish world outside of its own hermetically sealed group and it certainly has no time for Religious Zionist types from a Torah perspective.

Kollel Mitziyon, isn’t really a Kollel. It’s a quasi yeshivah and does a good job continuing the type of learning program that those who studied at religious zionist style yeshivas experienced before returning to Australia. It normally imports a Rosh Kollel and Israeli Hesder Bachurim; their Rabonim though are simply not treated with any respect by the other Kollelim or their constituents.

So what honeymoon is over? Has there ever been a marriage? There has been a “quiet peace” between Charedim and Religious Zionists. While the latter learned in Yeshivos and went to the army, the former generally avoid the army at all costs because they see their torah learning as protecting Jews, and many also see it as a full time, life-long vocation.

Until now.

The new style Mizrachi party, Habayit HaYehudi no longer supports a carte blanche arrangement where significant numbers of Charedim are able to avoid going to the army and sit in Kollel for the rest if their lives. The retribution has been swift. Incredibly, joining the anti-semites and anti-zionists of the world, the Charedi parties have decided to no longer support produce from the “settlements” beyond the green line!

I find this disgraceful. That they could give strength to the types of boycotts imposed by both Jewish and non-Jewish anti-semitic anti-zionists is simply breathtaking, but not surprising. They will stop at nothing to make sure that their sole vocation remains Torah study. To put it in other words, it would be akin to the Lakewood and Kollel Beis Yosef deciding that they would no longer use any businesses associated with the Mizrachi (religious zionists), here in Melbourne. Chabad, of course supports settlement activity given that the last Rebbe was staunchly against returning land for peace.

Idle threats aside: I do not understand why the Charedim do not institute a Hesder system like the Mizrachi did so many years ago. Let them have a ten year Hesder program, where they do 3 years of army interspersed with an extra 7 years of Torah study. What would be so bad? But to boycott any place over the green line in the way they are proposing makes me sick in the gut, and convinces me even more that it was only ever a platonic “marriage”, and the honeymoon is now well and truly over.

The right to pray is sacrosanct

You won’t see the bleeding left, especially those on Galus Australis and the feel-good New Israel Fundniks and the like upholding the inalienable democratic right of a person to pray. No, they will bleat and scream, while complaining that Moshe Feiglin (whose political views I have not studied in detail) is breaking Israeli Law and offending our peaceful Muslim brethren. What is his new sin? According to the Jerusalem Post

According to police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby, Feiglin, who is No. 23 on the joint Likud Beytenu list, prostrated himself in the plaza and tried to pray out loud. Praying aloud, going through ritual motions or using any type of traditional prayer objects such as tefillin, tallitot or prayer books, are forbidden for Jews at Judaism’s holiest site due to tensions with Muslim worshipers at the Aksa Mosque.

Or according to Ha’aretz (try and register and you will see you have an optional “country” called Palestinian Territories (occupied))

Police plan to recommend charging right-wing Likud politician Moshe Feiglin for obstructing them in the line of duty, inappropriate behavior in a public place and violating a legal order. Police detained Feiglin Tuesday for attempting to pray on the Temple Mount. “We expected that the closer the campaign got to Election Day, the more provocations we would see whose purpose is to influence the outcome of the election,” Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino said yesterday. “I have said and I say again: We have no intention of allowing anybody to disturb the peace or break the law.”

Ha’aretz conveniently forgot to mention that Feiglin goes there on the 19th of every month, as omitted by Commissioner Danino, quoted ad loc. As far as I am concerned, if a Muslim can pray there, then so can a Jew. There cannot be one law for the Muslim in Israel. If they can’t control themselves when they see a Jew davening on Har HaBayis, then they should take a bus to Mecca to the Kaaba instead. I am not making a statement regarding the Halachic issue of whether it is permitted or not to stand on Har Habayis. Most hold that it is forbidden, or delineate carefully where one can go. I assume Moshe Feiglin is following his Rabbinic Psak. Let them arrest him. I can’t think of a more stupid act, if they do. Oh, and for the bleeding green left, davening in this way also constitutes the ubiquitous neo-mantra of “Tikun Olam” especially B’Malchus Shadee”.

Have the courage of your convictions

People do not agree. This is a fact of life. There are, and always will be, emotive issues which evoke strong disagreement. Sometimes the disagreement can result in feelings of aggression even hate between antagonists. Jews are no different. If anything, because there are many issues of substance lingering around our Daled Amos, there is perhaps more opportunity, perhaps even propensity, to viscerally agree to disagree.

Rav Dov Lior, Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Hevron

Two recent examples of differing approaches to courage and expressing the truth of one’s convictions confronted me this week. The first involved Rav Dov Lior, Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Hevron, and Rosh Yeshiva and head of the Rabbinic Council for Judea and Samaria. Rav Lior is considered to be a star pupil of Rav Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook, z”l, and one of the  brightest among Gush Emunim style adherents of the concept of a greater Israel. Born into a Belzer family and subsequently orphaned, Rav Lior was touted as an Illuy even amongst the Charedi population of the State of Israel. Rav Lior and others gave their Haskama to a book which was considered to be “inciting” by the police and other authorities. Refusing to back down, Rav Lior is now likely to be arrested. Rav Lior claims that the arrest warrant interferes with his right to offer religious approbation to a book related to Torah thoughts and principles.

You can agree or disagree with Rav Lior, but you will never die wondering what his views are on a particular topic. He says it like it is, and his views are like he says. There is no diplomatic licence employed to bury his thoughts or camouflage his principles for fear of a physical or financial backlash. Rav Lior, his supporters and students, do not cower underneath rocks like proverbial green moss, afraid of the consequential glare of sunlight. Rav Lior subscribes to a philosophy that sees the hand of God in the creation of the State of Israel.

Diametrically opposed to his views are those who endorse the position of the late Rebbe of Satmer, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum z”l. Rav Teitelbaum held that the primary (perhaps only) reason for the Holocaust was God’s “retribution” against the actions of zionists who dared transgress the 3 oaths. These views, largely held by the Hungarian charedi population, are considered utterly abhorrent by many. It is simply beyond comprehension to fathom the concept of 6 million Jews murdered, gassed and burned and amongst them תנוקות של בית רבן who were hurled against walls to have their skulls fractured, all because God was angry that they dared defy British anti-semites and seek to re-inhabit ארץ אבותינו. Whatever the case may be, we know where the Satmer Rebbe stood on this issue in the same way that we know the views of people like the Neturei Karta’s  R’ Moshe Beck.

In summary, one will not die wondering what Rav Dov Lior or להבדיל R’ Moshe Beck’s views on issues are. They have the courage of their convictions to openly state their opinions. Fast forward now to the following video of a local identity, the brother of R’ Moshe Beck, Rav A. Z. Beck, the Hungarian Rabbinic leader of a separatist Haredi group in Melbourne.

STOP PRESS:

It seems the video above was removed from youtube. In some sense that says plenty. Those of you who wish to see the video, may download it

What are their views? Do they think Hitler and the SS were sent by Hashem because of the Zionists and their rebellion against the Shalosh Shavuos? Is this the view of that community as a whole? To be sure, there are exceptions, but is this the mainstream view? Do they contend that since most Jews in Melbourne consider themselves Zionist or pro State of Israel that these Jews are all Kofrim (apostates)? Is it permitted to engage in business with regular Jews in Melbourne, or is there some blanket overarching permission when it comes to making money? It is alleged that the Melbourne Rav Beck distanced himself from his brother. To what extent? Is it only the fact that the brother openly states his opinions and demonstrates the courage of his convictions? Is it only because the Monsey brother kissed Ahmadinajad ימח שמו? Is what is said in private also said in public?