Heichal HaTorah needs to meet the real world

I read the publication put out by this Minyan because I’m halachically curious by nature and Rabbi Donnenbaum puts in a good effort.

One can have the odd quibble, and some are worth mentioning and others are probably not. For example, he mentions the custom to have a special reading of Parshas Zachor for women (even though they don’t need to hear it according to many opinions). There is a comment in bold that it is preferable that 10 men “be present” during the reading. The source is in Halichos Bas Yisroel which I have and just looked at. (I don’t own a Shevet Halevi so I didn’t check). Indeed, the author of Halichos Bas Yisroel notes that Rav Elyashiv z’l (among others) said to have ten men present. I had remembered, however, that Rav Gavriel Tzinner in Nitei Gavriel thought that was nonsensical unless the men had not heard Parshas Zachor. Those are minor things.

I was outraged however when I read the following

Women who want to participate in the first Megilla reading … and have arranged a non frum jewish baby sitter (eg Russian, Israeli), must ensure that the baby sitter not perform any Chillul Shabbos in order to arrive on time.

If someone can please explain to me why a Russian Jew or Jewess or an Israeli Jew or Jewess should be explicitly listed as examples of “non-frum”, I’d be interested. Indeed, why do I need examples?

This is what is wrong with some segments of Jewry. They are too quick to call people non-frum, too quick to make conclusions about who is likely to be non-frum and then do or say little positive in this regard, let alone Kiruv.

Why assume they don’t know what to do especially if they work for you and live within walking distance etc Why even mention Russian or Israeli. That is a massive put down and totally unnecessary. Sure, if it’s not a regular babysitter, then one needs to make sure they don’t cause them to sin, but if it’s a regular babysitter, you’ve probably already told them so much (“don’t warm up anything for the children?”, Meat and Milk and the list goes on.

Here is a better approach: pay the babysitter extra money and encourage them to hear a later reading of the Megila (when you come home) and invite them to your Seudas Purim (especially if you are so certain they are non-frum and clueless). Maybe tell them what Purim is all about? Drop off Shalach Monos? Perhaps Matonos LoEvyonim?

Really! We can be a bit more sophisticated and positive about doing good in this world than focussing on minutiae when bigger issues stare us in the face? What if the babysitter is indeed a Russian emigre with a husband (you have never seen), and both have never seen a Purim Seuda?

Sorry, Heichal HaTorah, there seems to be a lack of sensitivity, something that prevents Geula, rather than encourages it. Frankly, in the next edition, there should be an open apology. I think that’s at least as important as whatever else is written in the next edition.

Postscript: When I pressed post, WordPress the blog infrastructure suggested that “non-frum” be replaced with “no-trump”. I nearly fell off my chair.

A Freilichen Purim to all, frum and not yet frum.

Satmar in Melbourne. Is it different?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gay Pride March in Jerusalem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jewish LGBTI Youth! – Jews All Diverse & Equal

[hat tip magyar]

I am very reluctant to write this blog post in case I am misunderstood, or if I haven’t understood. We can all be educated, and I would welcome readers to help me understand.

The JCCV considers itself as the roof body of the Jewish Community in Victoria. At the moment, it would seem that one of the biggest issues on its agenda is that there are Jews, undoubtedly good people, who have sexual proclivities which are different to the majority of people. Now, if those people are being discriminated against in the sense that they are excluded from events, activities, meetings involving Jews, or if they are not admitted to Shiurim or lectures, then that would be outrageous. Personally, I have never seen it. Maybe my world is cloistered, however as a University Professor for 3 decades I would say that I have been exposed to all manner of different types of people.

There is a radicalism however that has crept in which is hiding behind the mantra of “sexism”, “equality”, “social justice” and I find it misapplied. Let me give an example which shook me up terribly.

I was giving a lecture about programming colours. One of the algorithms (recipes) I was talking about was how to make a red redder or less red. I like to involve the class (even if there are 200+). So, I looked around the room for people wearing red. I picked out two people and they happily stood up. I asked the class how they would describe the difference between the reds that were being worn by the two students. I noticed that the men, in general, seemed to say “oh, that one is a darker red” or words to that effect. Women on the other hand would say “that is crimson”, “that is wine” etc. In other words, they used a single word, a colour. They seemed to be able to hone in on the colour and give it a name whereas the males in the class would be more adjectival; they would describe things without honing in on a specific colour for a different shade of red.

I made a passing comment, that this was the third time I had noticed this difference in my class between males and females. At that point, one lady near the back stood up and yelled “you are sexist”. I was shocked. She stood up and started to leave the lecture theatre. I asked her to stop and explain, but she went on a rave and left.

When she left the lecture theatre, I have to admit I was very shaken. I don’t like being accused of being sexist especially if it was true. So I asked the  class. The majority of the students said “she’s a weirdo, you aren’t sexist, and neither was your comment”. In fact, as she left the lecture theatre many students booed her.

The student had a “look to her” but I’m not going to describe it as it is not the issue.

When I finished the lecture, I sat in my office, and was so upset, I actually went home and cancelled a lecture I had in the afternoon. I asked many of my colleagues, and they said “she’s just a radical, ignore her”.

This is the reality though that I face, and I therefore claim that I am well aware of current issues as I’m in touch with the young 1st year generation regularly.

Which brings me to a video apparently funded? or sponsored by the JCCV from “minus 18”.

After watching it twice, I was baffled. The messages I got from it were

  • come out and don’t be ashamed to say you are LGBTI
  • if you are LGBTI you can find a connection to some form of Judaism
  • there is a “space” for LGBTI to exist
  • You can be LGBTI and Jewish at the same time. Where there is a will there is a way.
  • You can bat for both sides, and be ex-Chabad

I asked myself what problem was the JCCV aiming to solve? Was it to encourage more people to “come out”? Was it to encourage people to group themselves according to sexual proclivity and then feel that this was a “movement”.

Is this one of the fundamental JCCV problems facing Jews and Judaism?

Compare this with those who assimilate and have gentile children, undergo fake conversions and keep nothing Jewish except Matzah Balls on Pesach. Is the Isla Fisher/Sasha Baron Cohen phenomenon of greater concern than someones sexual proclivities to the JCCV? If so, what are they doing about that.

I asked myself, are we going to have rainbow coloured pews in Shules or Reform Temples and therefore feel wanted and better? Is this akin to the apology to Aborigines which as we all know was a symbolic act that achieved nothing to improve their health and life style challenges.

Maybe more LGBTI folk are now  going to attend synagogue, eat kosher, light shabbos candles, attend shiurim, go to Zionist forums etc?. But who is persecuting (actively or passively) people with variant sexual preferences?

On an Orthodox level. clearly one can’t change Torah, so even Keren-Black of the Reform can’t expect lines of the Torah to be excised or thrown. Traditional Judaism can never give a green light to acts of homosexuality or lesbianism. If reform can, that’s their business. Maybe that’s the answer. LGBTI should go to the Alma Road Temple where all can be re-interpreted.  They seem to be able to accommodate anything with the possible exception of Pork? and say it’s got “new Jewish meaning today”. Come to think of it, why single out Pork? What did Pigs do wrong? Equality demands they be treated like cows in Reform Judaism? They aren’t dirty. Do Reform eat Pork? I don’t know. If not, why not? Happy to try and understand.

Equality and “Social Justice” (the new buzzword) seem to be a religious movement.  It’s a desire. Is there any sense in

  • LGBTI Vegans, or
  • LGBTI Vegetarians, or
  • an LGBTI choolent club, or
  • an LGBTI Swimming Team or
  • an LGBTI Mindfulness group or
  • ….

Someone help me here. I seem to not understand why we shouldn’t also have

  • “Vegans for Judaism,
  • or “Judaism for the Vertically challenged”,
  • or “Judaism for the drug addicted”,
  • ….

with “equal standing” and “no discrimination”.

What am I missing?

And this is a big project from the JCCV?

More people go to the football than identify with their religion (or if you are uncomfortable with that term “Jewish Culture”)!

Maybe set up pop up “religious” services at half time of a Carlton/Collingwood Match at the MCG. Will that bring Jews “back” to their religion, their culture, their history?

I looked up the JCCV web site, and saw Jenny Huppert quoted as follows:

JCCV President Jennifer Huppert stated, “The aim is for a fully welcoming and respectful Jewish community, where Jews of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity participate actively in the community. Everyone must be treated with respect, dignity and equity.”

Who has stopped someone from participating actively because of a sexual proclivity? Where has the wider Jewish community not shown respect? What is the dignity Jenny speaks of? What is equity? Can they not buy seats at Yom Haatzmaut, or in their Shule or Reform Temple?

I’m flummoxed.

Maybe I’m just plain ignorant or too old-fashioned. Whatever the case, someone enlighten me please?

Carlebach, R’ Moshe Feinstein and Chabad

I know there are many people who feel uplifted by his tunes. However, the Halachic perspective on this controversial figure, needs to be known.  I am aware that Vicki Polin had been accused of many things including hyperbole, but it cannot be argued by anyone who has a fidelity to historical fact, that as years progressed he became more “progressive” and there were serious accusations.

Reb Moshe Feinstein wrote an opinion in among a section of his writings one would not normally read Igros Moshe, Even HaEzer Vol. 1, No 96. In that, my reading is that until he became more progressive, his songs were fine. After that, they were to be avoided.

One Shabbos Shachris, without much forethought, I chose a Carlebach tune for Kel Adon. (Let me say that it is Halachically very problematic to sing Kel Adon in any tune, unless one does this in a form of Aniya (answering). The Chazan says a stanza and the Kahal repeat it. The same is true of Lecha Dodi. There is a special Kedusha and Mesora to this form of Answering which is an endangered species and I urge Ba’alei Tefilla and Chazonim to re-introduce it, even with song. This was the very strong opinion of the Rav).

I finished davening, and Rabbi Groner ז’ל as was his custom, thanked me for the שחרית and then asked me to sit down. He relayed a story between he, the LR and R’ Shlomo Carlebach. Rabbi Groner had been a friend of Carlebach, and had learned with him. After Shlomo went down certain paths, Rabbi Groner wondered what approach he should take vis a vis his relationship with Shlomo and inter alia his music/influence.

Rabbi Groner told me that the LR was very firm. Although the LR always stressed Kiruv (bringing people closer to God), he did do so again in respect of Shlomo. The LR instructed Rabbi Groner that all efforts should be made to be warm to Shlomo, however, and this was a big however, this was never to be done within the Mosdos (institutions) of Chabad. One should find other ways.

Rabbi Groner then regaled me with stories of Shlomo and his brother’s brilliance in learning, but he asked me not to do this again. Suffice it to say, that within a Lubavitch Mosad, I never sang a Carlebach song during Tefilla. I admit, I was also influenced by R’ Moshe Feinstein’s Tshuvah, which although is kind, and doesn’t mention Shlomo by name, is known by his Talmidim, to have Shlomo in mind.

I’m not here to judge Shlomo. However, I do think that anyone with a fidelity to Chabad absolutely must follow the LR’s instructions. Some will not know, others I know ignore these instructions. I mentioned my conversation with Rabbi Chaim Tzvi Groner, and he affirmed that he had heard it from his father himself as well. R’ Chaim Tzvi will quietly discourage Shlomo’s tunes in his Chabad House.

Make up your own mind about those who choose to not follow the LR’s very clear dictum. Do they know better?

So how controversial was Moshe Feiglin of Zehut?

In a previous article, I questioned why a religious zionist (modern orthodox) congregation such as Mizrachi would apparently not permit Moshe Feiglin to speak at Shalosh Seudos, prior to his main talk the next day at the Werdiger Hall. In response to some who have suggested “why don’t you ask your brother-in-law”, which is a valid question, my answer is simple: Whilst he is President of Mizrachi, and has been for many years, and from what I have witnessed has done a sterling job (I might be biased),

  • I suspect it would/should have been a committee decision
  • He may have a personal opinion which he may not wish to share
  • Simply because he is married to my sister ought not mean that my questions shouldn’t be asked in my blog
  • I don’t particularly want to put him on the spot, as he is משפחה at the end of the day

Now, Moshe Feiglin is certainly not the most controversial figure to speak in Melbourne at a Jewish Organisation. The left seem to be able to bring any and every type of anti-Jewish, questionably Zionist, type here with impunity. Ironically, the Holocaust generation, would have nothing of such people, but their tree hugging, reformulated Judaism as תיקון עולם not necessarily with the מלכות שד׳י that follows it, children are exactly those who are comfortable sitting with those who want to make Israel like “all the nations”.

Israel will never be like “all the nations”. As long as it follows the constant הלכה of והלכת בדרכיו where we are meant to emulate God, through his values, his published traits, his wishes, and his admonishments, we will share lots with many good countries, but we will depart on various issues. Indeed, this is why Jews and Judaism have survived. A Talmud that allows an Amora to say אין משיח לישראל doesn’t strike me as a Talmud that is afraid. Yes, I’m aware of the different explanations for this statement, my point being that, and not leaving it out, דרוש וקבל שכר …. listen and learn and understand and you will at least be rewarded for that.

The annual learnathon conducted in Melbourne has included people with views far more radical (of course to the left, never to the right) than Moshe Feiglin. Moshe Feiglin is above all a libertarian. I would now describe him as a radical libertarian. He has his own unique views on the crises facing Israel, and that Zionists, religious or otherwise basically abandoned him at the Werdiger Hall on Sunday night, is a blight on their Zionism.

The people happiest about such a phenomenon are the Benedict Arnold movements, Ameinu and J-Street, both of whom pander to left wing Western “sensibilities and politics” in the arcane belief that this will solve or should I say dissolve the problems.

I heard first hand what Moshe proposed, and although I was unwell and unable to attend, none of it shocked me or made me think he was a radical. We as a community need to ask ourselves some questions:

  • Is the view that the Oslo Accords are dead, and that a two state solution is not the answer, that of a Zionist heretic? Is it necessarily the view of someone who is violent? Can one be a pacifist and subscribe to the notion that there already is a Palestinian State and its name is Jordan
  • Is it anathema for someone whose Rabbi permits them to go to parts of the Temple Mount (note the Jewish Temples which preceded Al Aqsa) to be forbidden to pray! What sort of (Western) democracy is this? How do the magic words “status quo” which we see right at this minute with the lying induced violence conjure up an “Abracadabra” spell on thinking people? Why? Is it because we will lose American support? That’s the only reason I can think of. Surely thinking people would recognise that it makes no sense that a Jew cannot pray but someone from another religion can throw rocks, create fires, and destroy archeology?

Moshe Feiglin has his views. He was asked by an Arab MK when he was Deputy Speaker, and still a member of Likud, “What are the borders of Israel” and Feiglin replied quoting the Chumash, implying a wider, larger Israel. Is he not entitled to have or express such a view? The two state solution is the biggest lie we have seen. There is no partner, there is nobody serious on the other side. They are just a group of bickering tribesmen who are politically at each others throats and far away from even having a semblance of freedom.

I saw an article in the paper that was “shocked” because kids as young as 5 were shown programs about carrying guns in ISIS and their “friends”. Well, hello. Anyone who follows memri.org and I highly recommend it, will know that Palestinian Arabs have done this for decades. It is in an Australian paper because Australians have unfortunately also suffered at the hands of “radicalised ones”. Someone define what non radicalised means? Is that 1/2 Sharia or is it Australian Law?

Feiglin’s philosophy is very similar to that of many Australians. In fact, I read Prime Minister Turnbull make the same statement. There is Australian Law. There may be other legal systems. If you are uncomfortable with living in a country under an Australian legal system, then by all means go to a country that conforms with your definition of law.

Let it not be concluded that I necessarily agree with Moshe Feiglin’s views willy nilly. I’d need to read more and then form my own views. However, not allowing him to speak, is to me a great בזיון for this community which people like Isi Leibler laud as huge Zionists. Unfortunately, Leibler is long gone and doesn’t realise how that the old boat is sliding to the left more and more, while the sanguine views of the previous generation, are buried in Springvale and Lyndhurst.

If anyone felt that Feiglin said something that should preclude him from speaking, or from being granted a Visa, pray tell me why.

What made Mizrachi back flip on Moshe Zalman Feiglin’s planned talk at Shalosh Seudos?

I hear there are powerful forces that insisted that Moshe Feiglin’s talk at Mizrachi’s rather tame Shalosh Seudos, be cancelled. He was due to speak there by error or naturally. Mizrachi in Melbourne have certainly allowed right-wing revolutionaries from Ateret Cohanim to speak there, but Moshe Feiglin was cancelled. Was it because of the marxist left wing conservadox organisations like Shira Chadasha or is that Hadasha who had the Chutzpa to join the Reform and others and advertise their opposition to free speech. To them, I say go hug a tree. You will feel fulfilled. Go find a rabbi who fits your pre-defined view of Zionism and Judaism and give it a logo. Off you go. What was so damned offensive about Moshe Feiglin, someone tell me. I heard him on Friday night and knew little about him. He sounded fine to me. Are these the same dark forces that considered Rabbi Sprung too right-wing and who complain bitterly when Rabbis (for whom they have no respect) decide that certain whisky should be avoided. These are people who think they own Judaism. Guess what? They don’t. Ex nihilo is nonsense. The world was always filled with God. It was a matter for him to form a world such that והלכת בדרכיו not the ways of the humans who decide what is and is not moral, what is left and what is right.

So, I looked him up. I found this. Nothing objectionable:

Although Manhigut Yehudit is an educational organization that does not endorse political candidates, we believe that you will find Moshe Feiglin’s words at the Zehut Founding Conference to be enlightening and inspiring:

Dear Friends,

I must admit that I am very moved. I have participated in quite a few events in my life and have made quite a few speeches. But when you begin to understand the depth of the crisis and upheavals facing Israel and the world; when you understand that what we are doing here this evening is laying the foundation for the only leadership that is capable of understanding reality and thus, for dealing with it; when you understand that – you understand that tonight’s event is formative; it is an historic event.

A New Leadership Movement: From Zionism of Existence to Zionism of Destiny

Make no mistake. This is not a group of a few hundred Israelis who have decided to form another political party. What is happening here tonight is nothing less than a revolution.

Tonight, we are founding a new leadership movement for the Nation of Israel. Tonight, we are founding the only leadership that has the tools to truly deal with the approaching tsunami – from within and without!

Tonight, we are creating national leadership that will bring the State of Israel from one era: Zionism of Existence, to a completely new era: Zionism of Destiny.

The Vision: Identity, Meaning, Liberty

Everything so sorely lacking in Israeli politics can be found in this movement. First and foremost, what we have completely forgotten:

We have vision!

Our vision includes:

Loyalty to our identity

A message of meaning

A battle for liberty.

True answers can only be found within this vision:

Answers based on liberty to deal with all our current challenges: Housing, education, cost of living, health and of course security and foreign relations.

Only those who have vision and know the answer to ‘why?’ can provide the true answers to ‘how’.

Without Destiny, Existence is Endangered

Seventy years ago, the crematoria of Europe were extinguished and our Nation began to rise from the ashes. The State of Israel’s first seventy years are also about to be completed.

There is no doubt that the State of Israel is a success story. It has realized the vision of the prophets and has been the conduit for the unequaled historical miracle in which all parts of the Nation of Israel have participated.

But it is specifically the physical success that has made us vulnerable to a gnawing, paralyzing weakness that threatens all the achievements of the Return to Zion.

From a physical standpoint, we have never been greater and stronger; both economically and militarily. But internally – we have never been so weak.

Sometimes I feel that I should apologize to my children: I had so much fun growing up in this country. Israel was a country that radiated security and faith in the justice of its cause. What confusion and lowliness we are bequeathing the next generation – exactly at the most critical time!

Our parents, the generation of the War of Independence and the Six Day War, the generation of the Yom Kippur War and Entebbe, gave us a state that stood proud. They gave us a state in which a drizzle in Sderot meant that autumn was coming – not rockets coming out of the sky.

Missiles on Tel Aviv? Who would ever have thought?

Our parents gave us a state in which there was no need for security guards at the entrance to every shopping mall and train station.

They gave us a state whose existence was not questioned by any cultured person in the world.

They gave us a state in which every soldier in uniform understood what he represented and nobody dared attack him.

They gave us a state that would immediately obliterate any entity developing nuclear weapons to destroy us – with no warning, no speeches and no lobbying the Congress.

Our parents gave us a state in which every young couple could afford housing; a state that no matter what school you attended, you emerged an Israeli patriot.

They gave us a state in which little girls could play hopscotch on the corner unguarded.

A state without ‘protection’.

A state in which every Jew could walk freely – everywhere.

And what are we giving our children?

A threatened, helpless community that begs the world and the US air force for help?

A state that has lost its faith in the justice of its cause, a state that – more and more – the world considers a mistake?

A state in which young couples can only dream of owning their own home.

A state in which the schooling falls far short of our potential.

A state in which parents are forced to guard their children while they play outdoors.

A state in which personal liberties are being eroded.

The world is not exactly waiting patiently while we return to ourselves. The entire old order is crumbling before our eyes.

ISIS is replacing the Arab states.

Nuclear ayatollahs set the world agenda.

Europe is quickly becoming Moslem.

America stands by those who attempt to destroy us.

Where is the leadership of old? Leadership that would know how to present a vision and strategy in the face of the existential challenges falling upon us?

This is the new leadership that we are building today, here in Tel Aviv.

No more state that flees its message

No more state that flees its meaning and history.

Today, we are heralding the connection of all of these to the liberty of man.

Dear friends,

The era of religious and non-religious is over!

The era of Right and Left is finished!

All the ridiculous molds that divided us time and again are a thing of the past.

The Israeli young people yearn for the meaning taken from them.

They crave to dig deeply into their identity and liberty.

Israel’s young people desire leadership that will give them all these things. Leadership that will truly solve:

The housing shortage, the collapsing educational system, the high cost of living – leadership that will restore security to our streets.

We have all those gifts – and more – to give:

Housing: We know that liberty means that the land belongs to the citizens – not to the state. Land must be allotted by lottery to all army veterans in Israel.

The bureaucratic red tape must be cut and people must be allowed to build as they please on their land. And most important of all, we know that this is our Land and we should build throughout our country.

Education: We know how to truly solve the problem with education in Israel. Because we know that liberty means that we are responsible for the education of our children- not the State. The State will give vouchers to the parents of every child and the parents will decide where to redeem them.

Just imagine countless ‘boutique’ schools competing for your vouchers – just like the maternity wards compete for the social security funds that they receive for every new mother who gives birth in their hospital.

Every teacher will be a private tutor. And every student will be a king!

Cost of living: We know how to truly deal with the high cost of living and how to propel the economy forward. Simply, we must:

Open the Israeli market to competitive imports
Close the Standards Institute
Cut down the government mechanism to at least half
Nullify the tax on companies
Return the state payment for army veterans to social security
Stop funding our enemies.
War can never be over when the Israel Defense Force vocabulary does not include the word ‘victory’.

It is impossible to win when it is not clear who the enemy is (The rocket? The tunnel? Terror?)

If you cannot figure out who you are, (A Jew? An Israeli? A citizen of an amorphous state?) you will clearly not discover who your enemy is. Maybe we were sent here by the UN?

Now we can understand that a person or country that has no identity will never enjoy peace.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen: Only Zehut will bring peace!

We have the answer to the ‘why’? And thus, we can provide all the answers to the ‘how’?!

Dear friends, now it is in our hands!

The energies, the people, the clear plan and the will and preparedness to lead are all in this hall. They are in no other place and so, the responsibility is on our shoulders. We have all the tools with which to bring about a true revolution.

We have a year – not more – to reach every corner of this country.

Now friends, it is in our hands. And we have good reason to be excited at the eve of the New Year. To be excited and to thank the Creator, Who has brought us to this momentous and historic time, in which we have merited to establish leadership with vision for our Nation.

Shanah Tovah

I heard in Shule that he’s “homophobic”. Sorry, what does that mean. Does that mean that he beats up gay people or does it mean that he happens to accept Torah that the act of homosexuality is a SIN. Are the politically correct anonymous powers behind Mizrachi afraid to say the word תועבה … if so, they should join Shira Chadasha, the “Shule of Song”. Too far? Uncomfortable seats? Only for the young? Do me a favour people get a life.

Okay, so I looked for more, and found this.

While other Knesset members will ride off into the political sunset after their successors are sworn in to the parliament Tuesday, outgoing Likud MK Moshe Feiglin will go to the Party Registrar’s Office to officially create his new political home.

Feiglin left the Likud after he failed to get selected for a realistic slot on the party’s list for the new Knesset. He announced that he would form a party at an event held at the same time that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated with his party’s new candidates.

Feiglin’s faction will be called Zehut, which means identity in Hebrew. It will push for Israel to decide what it means to be a Jewish state.

Speaking at the Knesset after he received his “former MK card,” Feiglin boasted how people waited in line to pay NIS 500 to join the list of party founders that would be submitted to the registrar. He said 60 percent of the initial 500 founders were not religious and that Zehut would not be sectarian.

“Establishing Israel’s identity is the key to its future,” Feiglin said. “The loss of its identity is the problem, and returning it is the solution.”

Feiglin said he turned down offers of realistic slots on multiple party lists, preferring to sit out the current Knesset and build a new party from the bottom up.

“The Likud is not the answer to anything,” he said. “I prefer to advance my ideas on my own. My ideas attract curiosity and appreciation. I didn’t need a stage. What I want is to provide an alternative of leadership.”

Feiglin said that if MK Yair Lapid could start a new party and win 19 seats and Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon would win 10, he could win 20 in the next election, which he believes will take place soon after what he called a “Pyrrhic victory” for Netanyahu.

His political predictions proved right in the past. He wrote on Facebook ahead of the 2013 election, when Bayit Yehudi was polling 16 seats, that it would fall to eight when the Likud would warn its voters that the Left could come to power.

Zehut will be registered as soon as the Interior Ministry verifies the Israeli residence of everyone on its list of founders in accordance with the law.

Feiglin hopes the current Knesset will pass a bill allowing Jews abroad who are not citizens to join Israeli political parties.

Many secular people attended a pre-Passover toast Feiglin hosted Sunday night in Jerusalem.

Uri Noy of Petah Tikva, who was one of them, said he was surprised to see so many people not wearing kippot.

“The upheaval is really happening,” he said. “I came to Feiglin because I saw that in the [2006] Second Lebanon War, Israel did not fight back. I got turned on by him, and I’ve supported him since then.”

Noy said he was in Likud with Feiglin and he was glad they left because the Likud has not been true to its political platform that calls for keeping and settling the land of Israel.

He said there was nothing wrong with a secular Jew supporting the building of a Third Temple, noting that Zionist founder Theodore Herzl wrote in favor of it in his book Altneuland.

“Leaving the Likud is not giving up,” said Binyamin Nakonechny, a former Likud central committee member who was the first person who joined Zehut. “Feiglin has faced political setbacks throughout his career but he hasn’t given up. He has just started over.”

Okay, I can’t see anything that would cause the Marxist tree huggers to try and muzzle free speech. Then I saw he was sentenced to prison for opposing the Oslo Accords (sounds like Russia to me). Well, even the left-wing moustached types cannot say anything good about the useless 20 year old Oslo Accords. They were and are bullshit. Sorry, that is fact. Try a few stabbings to remind you. Then I thought to myself, maybe he was into religious coercion etc and I found this on wikipedia

Feiglin, responding to a report that Israel’s first permanent Arab Supreme Court judge Salim Joubran had refused to sing Israel’s national anthem, asserted Joubran: “must return his Israeli ID card and make do with the status of ‘permanent resident.’

Guess what, I agree with him. It’s a joke. The Marxist libertarian left wingers in our Jewish people are so self righteous that they don’t understand basic logic.

If someone supports a Kahane policy that doesn’t make them Kahane!

Try and get that through elementary logic.

Feiglin said:

Feiglin referred to U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden as a “diseased leper” in a 2010 op-ed column published by Israel’s third largest news outlet, Maariv.

Was he wrong? Is Obama any different? What good has Obama done for Israel except kiss the orifices of Iran since he came to power.

Then I heard he was a homophobe because:

“”Throughout history,” Feiglin explained, “from Rome to Europe in our day, the approval and spread of homosexuality presaged the decline of nations and cultures. If one reads the Torah portion ‘Noah’ – this comes as no surprise. . . .The organizers of a pride parade do not wish to gain rights. They strive to force homosexuality as a culture upon the public sphere. . . . A minority has no right to take over public assets. Let the marchers kindly go back to their individual closets. And let them do it without whining, because no one interferes with their affairs in there. Let them give up their attempts at takeovers, and leave the public sphere to normal people. . . .Feiglin added in an additional post: “I have no problem with homosexuals, most of whom are, most likely, good and talented people and no one wants to interfere in their private lives. I have a problem with homosexuality as a culture. This culture subverts the status of the family. And without the family there is no nation, and without a nation there is no civilization.”

Okay, he has no problem with what people do in their private lives, but opposes Pride parades and the creation of Pride cultures. Guess what. So do I. Does Shira Chadasha or Mizrachi embrace Parades in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I don’t tell people what to do in their bed rooms.

But then I found the answer. It’s got to be the pathetic political correctness of our good tree hugging leftists.

Feiglin is banned from entering the United Kingdom due to a decision by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, made public in March 2008, excluding Feiglin on the grounds that his presence in the country “would not be conducive to the public good.” A letter to Feiglin from the Home Office said that Smith based her decision on an assessment that his activities “foment or justify terrorist violence in furtherance of particular beliefs; seek to provoke others to terrorist acts; foment other serious criminal activity or seek to provoke others to serious criminal acts and foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK.”Feiglin responded, “Seeing that renowned terrorists like Hizbullah member Ibrahim Mousawi are welcomed in your country in open arms, I understand that your policy is aimed at encouraging and supporting terror.”

So what terrorism has Feiglin fomented. Since when do we follow anti-Semitic Britain? To all you libertarian democrats and supporters of free speech I say hang your heads in shame. There are far worse right wingers in the Likud, and Mizrachi would haven did let them in to speak, that was when old Mr Lamm ע’’ה was alive. Alas, his son, Danny obviously no longer has influence. As to my own views, I am outside Israel, but as long as he isn’t advocating terrorism (like the Muslims who advocate terrorism AND live in Australia) what is wrong with free speech? I was also gob-smacked when Australia wouldn’t allow that anti-abortion campaigner in. Unless there is something about him that I don’t know, we are heading towards totalitarian Russia, where if you have charisma, they certainly won’t let you in to talk.

This is political correctness gone mad

Time for Mechila: nobody is perfect

This statement most certainly includes me. When writing my blog posts, I’ve occasionally unintentionally upset someone or have been misunderstood given the fact that perhaps I unwisely tend not to spend too much time actually writing my posts or proof-reading them.

Sometimes people send me a private email, and I act on it. Other times they send me a fake comment and when I try to reply, it bounces because there is no such address. Given that it’s Erev Yom Kippur, if there is a current or past post that you feel is unfair or has stepped over a halachic boundary, I ask you sincerely to email me, and most certainly, if it is a real email address and doesn’t bounce, I will reply accordingly.

I chanced across a comment about two? years ago where someone said I had it in for Rav Beck of Adass. Let me be very clear. Rav Beck is a holy man, a Yirei Shomayim, who has never done anything to me and I do not seek to belittle him in any way. I do have differences between the views of my Rabonim and his Shita on some things, and I do not resile for those. That should not be confused with a “personal vendetta” which I think I saw someone on the internet describe it.

So, for the sake of the record I will state those things (some of which also apply to Satmar, Toldos Aron and various other extreme groups within Adass)

  • I utterly and completely condemn their approach to the state of the Israel, and consider Veyoel Moshe, not Halacha and not LeMaaseh and it has been taken apart as a Sefer many times by people more learned than I. It’s also just reminded me of a story:
    • In the early days, Rav Kook זצ’’ל was the then Chief Rabbi, and he was informed that there were some Jewish Builders working on Rosh Hashono. What did he do? He didn’t send people to scream at them and throw stones at them etc This were before the State came to be. He immediately called his Shamash and a few others and instructed them to go to the building site, and blow the mandatory number of notes of the Shofar with a Brocha to be Motzi the Builders. The builders were bewildered. They asked who are these people. They were told these are the direct emissaries of the Chief Rabbi, the Holy Tzadik, Rav Kook. They asked what are they doing here on Rosh Hashono. They were told that Rav Kook has personally requested that they be given the opportunity to share in the Mitzvah of Tekias Shofar. The Builders were bewildered but stayed silent. They put down their tools. The Shofar was blown. Rav Kook’s emissaries then quietly left the building site and returned to Rav Kook. What transpired was the approach that I subscribe to. The builders were overcome. The sound of the Shofar and the care and indirect admonition of Rav Kook left them in a state of shock. They downed their tools, went home, and many of them apparently changed clothes and attended Shule.
  • I utterly condemn anyone who quietly visits and stays in contact with his brother Moshe Ber Beck. For those who don’t know this is the “personage” who went and continues to kiss Arafar, Ahmadinejad and all שונאי ישראל and give us the “problem” of we aren’t against Jews (like moshe ber beck) just Zionists. Well everyone should answer them truthfully. EVERY Jew is a Zionist. Every Jew believes that the Land of Israel is the Land of Jews. Some might differ with timing and method, but we pray this three times a day and more. Don’t anyone ever fall for the trick that a Jew is not a Zionist. EVERY JEW IS A ZIONIST. There is no need to go into Rashi and Tosfos on when, how, etc. To the שונאי ישראל there is NO difference. All you are doing is giving them hate fodder.
  • I utterly condemn and person who fails to alert authorities about a danger in our midst (e.g. a pedophile, a wife basher etc)
  • I utterly condemn anyone who on the basis that somebody reports such a danger, discriminates against such people. We must encourage those affected to get all the help they need to cope with what in some cases is a life long struggle.
  • I utterly condemn the infamous blog authored by Scott Rosenberg which is spite filled hate for Torah.

That being said, I am sure I have made someone unhappy and may have crossed a line in one of my many posts. If so, please feel free to email me personally or if you like write a comment and I won’t publish the comment.If on reflection (and I will reflect) I will apologise one way or another,

My blog posts are there mainly to help me. They are therapeutic. I write what’s on my mind, and I also have an outlet to spread Torah. At all times I try to be fair, but I far from perfect. If you are unhappy and don’t tell me some way (even write me a hand written letter and drop in my letter box) please do so. My email address is very easy to find i s a a c @ B A L B dot IN … just don’t send to my RMIT address as I am on leave at the moment and not reading those emails.

Wishing EVERYONE כתיבה וחתימה טובה בברכת כהן מוחזק

May all your Tefillos go straight to where they have to, and be successful, and may we all be Zoche to שופר גדול לחירותנו

Remembering Shira Banky הי’’ד

To refresh memories, this unfortunate 16 year old girl was murdered because she attended a rally. It is true that the rally’s agenda was against the ethic and laws of the Torah, without any question. This is to my knowledge the position of all Orthodox Movements. I would imagine the more right-wing Conservative and Conservadox movements (such as Shira Chadasha) also share this view. Reform of course don’t believe the Torah was the word of God, dictated to Moshe, let alone the primacy of Mesora through Tannoim, Amoraim, Geonim, Rishonim and now Acharonim so it’s undoubtedly not an issue for them.

Shira Banky attended the rally to support the views of a friend. She was 16. I might not agree with Shira’s views and condemn those views with vigour, but the minute feelings translate to violence and in this case an unnecessary murder which created nothing more than more hatred for Orthodoxy, especially Ultra Orthodoxy is there anything more that Orthodox Jews can do to palpably show their distance from despicable murder which is not only against the laws of Israel, they are against the laws of the Torah. Her murderer, Mr Shlissel, is a recidivist. In my view, he should never be released and treated in a home for psychopaths. Apparently a number of Shules have performed the following to express their revulsion at murder “in the name of God”

My thanks to R’ Meir Deutsch for drawing this to my attention. Wouldn’t it be a great expression of regret if every Shule in Melbourne did the same? I call on the RCV to recommend such an action. The picture says it all.

ShiraBanky

Same gender group in the Jewish Community Council of Victoria

I am implacably against anyone hurling vitriol or discriminating against someone because of sexual proclivity/preference, but my take on such a council as the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) is that groups with sub-philosophies within Judaism are members representing a given approach within a broader philosophic cum cultural definition of Judaism. For example, Bund, Orthodox, Sephardim, Conservative, Reform, Secular Zionist etc

I don’t know how sexual preference defines a sub culture or philosophy of Jews or Judaism per se given it crosses all groups anyway.

They should be afforded full support by the JCCV and indeed the Council of Orthodox Synagogues of Victoria (COSV) in the face of issues which they face, and pastoral/other assistance but their membership extends across the existing sub groups, I would have thought. Services to assist I fully understand and support, but I don’t understand a grouping that defines itself by its sexual preference.

For this reason I don’t understand why they need or want a formal membership separate from existing groups.

As far as Orthodox Shules are concerned, I’ve personally not encountered anyone being called out or excluded or insulted because of a sexual preference. Of course, I stand to be corrected if that has occurred especially in the last ten years.

It comes therefore as a surprise to me that apparently  Caulfield, Brighton, Blake Street, North Eastern, East Melbourne and Kew Shules will all be voting in favor. I imagine the others will either not be present or abstain or go on ‘walk about’. The COSV is pretty much a toothless tiger, and on a matter such as this, they should consult the Rabbinic Council of Victoria as well.

For an Orthodox group(s) I would express disdain for acts which highlight someone’s sexuality and/or take action verbally or otherwise against such people. I think that’s a given in our society. Is it not?

That being said same gender KIDDUSHIN cannot and will not ever be supported by Orthodoxy. That also needs to be made clear, and certainly by Sam Tatarka, Danny Lamm and other orthodox members of the JCCV. There can be no hiding or diplomatic sweeping under the carpet of this axiom  by simply not mentioning it.

An Apt Tisha B’Av Message

  
(Hat tip RC)

Win some, lose some. Chabadnik dons Tefillin on ex-Charedi lady

Some find this funny. For me it epitomises גלות. Here we have a well-meaning boy, who is trying to ignite a spark within Jews. His mode, is that of his Rebbe זי’’ע and that includes igniting the Neshoma through a Mitzvah, the Mitzvah of Hanochas Tefillin.

The only problem is, in this case it was a woman. She had buzzed hair, and to top it off had a strong Charedi broken English accent, full of the usual errors. She obviously enjoyed her moment in the sun of egalitarianism.

I feel sad that she obviously hates her heritage so much, that she is ready to mislead this well-meaning בחור. She’s no daughter of Rashi.

אוי מה היה לנו

Woe unto what we have become

IMG_2800

How different is their indoctrination?

these oh so sweet boys share views held by Melbourne’s Shomer Emunim School, a break away from Adass. How sick, sick sick

Watch this

Where are the Charedi Luminaries?

[Hat tip DS]

The original (24/4/215) in Hebrew is here from Chadrei Charedim. I haven’t seen it elsewhere in English.

A Givati Brigade Commander went to see two of his Charedi soldiers who were in dire poverty in Meah Shearim. The Jewish Terrorists of Meah Shearim, then set on him and his car for daring to come and aid etc. The mother of the Brigade Commander noted that her husband was Rav Getz, the Rav of the Kotel, who had good relationships between these Meshugoim. About 50 of them, men and children lay on the road, smashed his car and wouldn’t let him leave. They knew he was too kind to do anything to them. Have we heard any voice of condemnation from the Charedi Badatz.

I’d take the 50, and put them on a farm in Beersheba and make them work for a year. They slept soundly at night while this brigade leader and his soldiers risked their lives and this is the thanks they get.

Enough is enough. We have to send a message to these extremists. When they come to my door, again, I will give them the least and tell them that instead of travelling the world they’d be better off enlisting in an old age home and helping people in Israel and earning a wage. They aren’t geniuses, they are not the chosen few who should be sitting and learning all their lives. That is the domain of the real McCoy.

These Jewish Terrorists are a gross Chillul Hashem, and they remind me of the Sunni vs Shiite war that is raging. They do not see the rest of us as useful or part of the Jewish Kehilla (unless of course you are flashing hundred-dollar bills).

 

Jewish Meah Shearim Thugs

וְשֹׁחַד לֹא תִקָּח כִּי הַשֹּׁחַד יְעַוֵּר פִּקְחִים וִיסַלֵּף דִּבְרֵי צַדִּיקִים

 

 

On the Taskforce against family violence

I was interested to read it was over 20 years old and people with a bee up their bonnet should remember that and support their activities. They should not be trying to beat up frum women who have joined the taskforce with the excuse that their husbands are or were associated with organisations which had not dealt with problems properly especially at a time when people really didn’t appreciate the gravity of illness some perpetrators have.

I call on MORE women to join, and here I include women from Adass too. Anyone who thinks that there is no familial violence in the frum or ultra frum sector is a horse with blinkers. There is. Period.

Finally a sophisticated positive way to deal with חילול שבת

You don’t have to be Einstein to work out that throwing rocks, shouting shabbos, spitting, overturning Rubbish bins and every bit of meshugass the paleontological neanderthals  attempt to “increase holiness” is a complete ביטול זמן and serves to sever them more from the rest.

Here, is an approach I like. Hats off, as they say

Rebbetzin Bashi Twersky speaks

In a earlier blog post, I felt that we need to be more nuanced in the way we express our opinions on why God allows/does things. One of the Seforim I learned back in days gone by was ספר העיקרים by one of the Rishonim, Rav Yosef Albo. It “spoke to me” at the time, and I used to learn it during Mussar Seder. I remember the Mashgiach noticed what I was doing, but he (sensibly) “let me be” and learn what my heart desired. He said nothing. I don’t know if they have reprinted this Sefer, but my original one seems to have gone walk about. If I remember correctly, it was in the second perek where he wrote a phrase which has stuck with me since

לו ידעתיו – הייתיו

If I knew Him (God), then I’d be Him.

In other words, attempts to know exactly why, are axiomatically impossible.

That doesn’t mean to say that one can’t surmise, one can’t draw lessons, or one can’t initiate a Drush. But, one can’t say this is why X happened, unless God himself, or a Navi is commanded to tell us.

I think her point below is excellent and salient. Some would say I’m even guilty of promoting it, which may be true, but isn’t and wasn’t ever my intention. My only quibble with what she says relates to the cause/effect nature of her statement which implies that we know for sure.

Again, I do not disagree with her point. She is clearly an intelligent lady. This is a snippet from the Jerusalem Post

Bashi Twersky, the widow of Rabbi Mosheh Twersky – who was killed in the Har Nof terrorist attack last week – said the internal divisions within the ultra-Orthodox community that have developed over the last two years were the (my emphasis) reason why her husband and three other members of the community died in the brutal incident.

Speaking at the mass prayer rally and ceremony held in the Jerusalem neighborhood on Tuesday night for the end of the shiva mourning period for the victims, Twersky said the dispute had become increasingly acrimonious over the last year in particular.

She was alluding to the establishment of a new political movement and party that is in competition with the traditional Degel Hatorah non-hassidic haredi party.

She said that the attack had been particularly brutal, and asked how such a death could befall those praying in synagogue, “how did the sanctity of the synagogue and prayer not defend us,” she asked.

“The fire of dispute has been burning among us for a year now, and this dispute became terrible, and every day it gets worse.”

“Someone who listens to a great rabbi different from the one I listen to, someone who belongs to a different camp from me is commanded to be cruel to them, is commanded to humiliate and disgrace them, to harass them with terrible brutality.

“When we behave with cruelty to our brothers, God sends a punishment with cruelty, measure for measure.

“In synagogues and study halls they persecuted, disgraced and humiliated those who think differently from me, and therefore we were struck by the attribute of strict justice in a synagogue at the time of prayer,” the rabbi’s wife said.

She added that strengthening religious observance, as has been advised by many rabbis, was not a good enough reaction, and that rather a “drastic change” was required.

This is Satmar׳s R Aharon Teitlebaum’s חכמה

Today, while the IDF are performing the high mitzvah of mamash saving Jews kipshuto, being the eve of the anniversary of the passing of the original Satmar Rebbe, R Yoel, who I guess could be admired for being almost super stolz to his beliefs, it’s worth reflecting on what version of Torah could have brought someone to say this?

This ‘logic’ is akin to saying that the parents of a guy who sees nothing of the real world, and is closeted up in a hermetic tunnel, and who then gets excited when he walks down the street one day and is impulsed to do an Aveyra are responsible for closeting him up, instead of gently exposing him to Olam Didan in a manner that let’s him regulate his life al pi tora and his personality.

I am uninspired by isolationist hermit aka Amish-style communities. I am inspired by super heroes like Rabbi Dr Abraham Twersky, for instance, who has managed to raise chol to kodesh rather than hiding in an impenetrable tunnel all his life. He’s a true chernobyler chassid, lives in this world, doesn’t compromise and is an אור לגויים as well. There are some great interviews with him on YouTube and elsewhere and his self effacement is ever so natural. This is what it’s about.

דברה תורה כלשון בני אדם

The rest is the middle path of Dr Rambam, the horizontal love of R Yitzchok Worki. The harsher Kotzker-style derech is not applicable universalistically.

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.

Maybe it’s not just Beck and Neturei Karta?

I’m sure many of us are spending time defending Israel and its rightful inhabitants at work, in forums, in comments on various newspapers (I had a totally benign comment of mine censored by the Economist, no less)

These are TOUGH times. Jewish soccer players get attacked on the pitch. We read that a shop in Belgium hung a large sign saying ‘no entry to Zionists or dogs’ and then had Zionists replaced by the word Jews. Our people fight those who want to annihilate us every minute and protect Jewish lives. Is it Torah that doesn’t see a missile on Bnei Brak or is it the Enemy themselves who perceive such enclaves as their friends?

Many in Europe of all places are facing violence and huge barrages of protest which invariably link us to hitler Yimach Shemo Vezichro. There is a very clear approach being taken by haters of Jews.

This morning someone sent me a phone picture of a demonstration in Paris taken by a bystander. I don’t have words to describe how sick in the guts I felt seeing these low lives joining those who would be happy to see us wiped out.

I am thinking that we need a web page, a World-Wide page, of faces and names. Anyone from any country in the world who joins these protests, is made visible in their anti israel views and should be named alongside their picture.

Here is the picture that raised my blood pressure significantly.

20140724-090807-32887744.jpg

Give us back our boys!

I just attended the community Tehillim event at Caulfield Shule, and I felt ill at ease.

Let me explain. I do not understand what Hashem wants from us. On the one hand he wants us to follow Him and we do, to the best of our ability amongst swirling stormy seas of שונאי   ימח שמם, ישראל,  and the vicissitudes thrown up by the modern world of temptation and diversion.

I have a son in Israel, whose birthday is tomorrow עד מאה ועשרים and who is barely older than the three captives, and who was in that area a few days earlier with my daughter and son-in-law. Another son had been there a few weeks earlier with my grandson enjoying the beauty that only the Holy Land can produce.

We said Tehillim. I concentrated with all my might. I was gratified to see a good cross-section of people from the religious community in attendance, including a number of representatives from Adass. I felt we were one, but I found myself questioning why Hashem was abandoning us. קלי למה עזבתנו. Didn’t we all suffer enough from Gilad Shalit’s ordeal and the tendentious decision to release murderers in return. Will that kid ever be a “normal” person?

I am reminded at such times of the genuine tears and wailing of my Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Goldvicht ז’ל, who repeated over and over and over צעקו והשם שמע ומכל צרותם הצילם at times like these: we are behoved to audibly cry out in anguish, and God must listen and save us from all our Tzores. The atmosphere then at Kerem B’Yavneh was one of numbness. I often still feel it. I visualise it. None of us were remotely close to the essence of the Rosh Yeshivah’s cries to Hashem.

I vacillate between feeling like a speck asking Hashem to listen to my wishes, and the power of the whole, the קדושה of oneness displayed when people are conjoined by external trouble. Rav Soloveitchik wrote that this causative oneness is admirable and natural, but he exhorted that the challenge was to have such feelings when we are not drawn together by Tzaros.

The Rav felt that this higher level of קדושה was the עצמות of what קדושת העם is meant to be. It is our collective existential submission to Hashem that is qualitatively superior to individual pain or external causes that draw us together. This oneness existed at the time of the Beis Hamikdash through individuals literally being לפני השם. This then is the challenge: to feel לפני השם even when things are nice and comfortable and all is comparatively well. I’m certainly not near that level which is probably why I felt rather ill at ease. I know,  like everyone, where I need to improve and what I need to do. The challenge is doing it, and doing it as a team.

Keep

Yaakov Naftali ben Rachel Devorah
Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim
Eyal ben Iris Tesurah

uppermost in your Tefillos

[Hat tip to BA] for the following

Pinchas Koplowicz ע’’ה

My memories of this man are larger than life. I attended his Levaya on Erev Shabbos. To us, the Balbin family, he was known as ‘Uncle Pinye’. We were brought up never to call more senior people by their first names. It wasn’t appropriate to call him Mr, in the same way that it wasn’t appropriate to use the Yiddish “Ir” instead of the closer version “Dir”. He, as usual, disliked Mr just as much, and always said he was “Peter Kay.”

Uncle Pinye was another long-time member of Elwood Shule after his family moved from Adelaide to Melbourne. He sat at the back-most row of the Shule in the last seat of the middle section on the left, leading into the Beis Medrash named after R’ Chaim Yoffe, where daily services are still conducted. Uncle Pinye didn’t sit there because the seats were cheaper. He sat there because he was enigmatic. On the one hand, he wasn’t short of a dollar, and was munificent when it came to Tzedoko for causes that were dear to him. He revelled in the happy social murmur pervading a brunch or event that he loved to host. On the other hand, he wasn’t a person who felt comfortable “standing out” in a Shule environment. The most comforting, perhaps compromising position for him was in the back row. If anything, I felt that he was always struggling when sitting in Shule, conjoined to a seat.

To be sure, there were other members of our family who also sat in that back row over the years, and this would also have contributed to feelings of relative comfort. I use the term ‘relative comfort’ because he was constantly in a state of inner and vocal philosophical turmoil.

All Holocaust survivors struggle to find meaning or justification (if I can use such a word) to describe what they experienced, but he was an Auschwitz survivor whose tattooed number one didn’t need to see. ‘Holocaust survivor and State of Israel lover‘ were evident in a virtual tattoo that was visible constantly on his forehead and literally manifested itself in every second line of conversation I and others had with him for almost 50 years.

A close friend of my father ע’’ה for seventy years, he and his wife Resi ע’’ה loved my mother equally.

Pinchas and my father עליהם השלום
Pinchas and my father עליהם השלום

He always told me that if I needed to study the definition of Yiddishe Mamme, I should simply look at my mother. I remember my band ‘Schnapps’ flying up to Sydney to play at his grandson’s wedding. I secretly wept at select moments when nobody was watching. I played Yiddishe Mamma at his request on my violin. For him, this was a surreal occasion. I feel he was riddled with the understandable guilt of enjoyment and Nachas. What do I mean by that? Although he merited seeing two daughters build families and played joyfully with great grandchildren, he was in a state of questioning at all times. His question was

“Why me? Why did I deserve to survive? What inherent quality did I possess that was not possessed by the millions who were butchered around me?

That was not his most powerful question or indeed his constant question. He traumatised me somewhat from a very young age whenever, and I mean whenever, he saw me. He would ask:

Hey youngster! Yitzchik, I know you are an intelligent boy, a religious boy, and a good son to your parents, but one day I’d like you to explain to me why 1,000,000 children deserved to die.

As I got older, and wiser, I subconsciously, and no doubt intentionally, tried to gently steer the conversation away from that and to the Nachas he was enjoying. He wasn’t simple, of course. He knew exactly what I was doing, and sometimes managed to reverse my strategy.

He wore a small Tallis, and usually that grey hat. I suspect that the late and great R’ Chaim Gutnick ז’’ל was someone whose expressed the pain of the holocaust and a genuine love of the State of Israel as manifested in his renowned drashos, affected Uncle Pinye in a manner that captivated his attention. Rabbi Gutnick didn’t have answers either. He never pretended to. Who does? He spoke about the dry bones, and how those dry bones came to life. I am sure that message resonated somewhat with Uncle Pinye, and it was probably for that reason, and the cajoling of my father and late Uncle Yaakov, that allowed him to feel semi-comfortable enough to attend Elwood in those days.

Last week, when his state of health state was undulating precariously like a yo-yo, between recovery and imminent end of life, I visited him. As a Cohen, it was a calculated decision. We donned gowns and gloves. He was lying listlessly in the bed, and when he realised that I had come with my mother, an enormous strength overcame him as reflected in his eyes and hands. Suddenly, he was the typical Uncle Pinye. I knew it, because he said , in his last words to me

Listen to me youngster (he was 93 and I have grandchildren!)  I do not intend to leave this world until I get an answer to why 1,000,000 children were allowed to be murdered.

I was frozen, as always when confronted with this style of questioning. I find it difficult to read books about the holocaust, let alone watch a movie. The latter stems from my experience as a boy, watching the Diary of Anne Frank and running out of the TV room when the Nazis ימ’’ש found her. I recall running to my room in Rockbrook Road, lying down on the bed, trembling and weeping. I don’t think I’ve ever recovered from that moment. But, this isn’t about me.

When we were young, his family lived in Adelaide. It was there that he built his livelihood. They would come (and it wasn’t cheap) for visits to Melbourne, and there was no question that his daughters were tantalised by the richer Jewish and social life in Melbourne, as well as the sense of family experienced through the wider Balbin family. Whenever they came, we were in their surrounds, enjoying many moments together. They were a permanent fixture though they lived in Adelaide. Eventually, daughters Dora and Belinda won. The family moved to Melbourne, but he used to commute because he couldn’t just leave his business interests to dissipate in wanton abandon.

He had used the name Peter Kay, because in a non-Jewish world it was easier. I recall his love of table tennis, gymnastics, hand-stands and sport, as well as the gregarious nature he oozed without tiring. He had no qualms dressing up, and his house just had to have a formal bar. The refrain

Can I offer you a drink?

still rings in my ear. It wasn’t an offer. It was essentially a command. He had it all behind that bar, and once a drink or two were quaffed, our discussion inevitably led to the Holocaust and how much he admired my parents and family.

He would enthuse that he didn’t have words for the honesty and integrity of my father and Uncle Yaakov who slaved upstairs in their factory cutting clothes and assembling them for production.

For her part, my mother knew that Uncle Pinye loved Choolent. Almost each Shabbos, especially when my father retired, we set aside the remainder to be delivered personally by my father (sometimes together with me) to his house on Sunday. If my father was ill, he and my mother would ask me to perform the delivery. I did so, willingly, of course, even if it meant a drink and talk session that lasted at least an hour. There was no such thing as a quick visit.

I remember a number of times he said to me, “Yitzchik, I have so many paintings, please choose a few and take them home for your lovely wife”. I have always felt uncomforable accepting gifts, and I kept replying that I had no art appreciation and he’d need to talk to my wife. His response was, of course, “so bring her, with pleasure”. My wife also visited on a number of occasions and he loved her too like family.

The root of this connection goes back many years. Although he was born in Lodz, he had relatives in my father’s home town of Rawa Mazowiecka. Immediately after the war,

Pinchas Kay in Rawa on the left with my Uncle Yaakov soon after the war, עליהם השלום
Pinchas Kay in Rawa on the left with my Uncle Yaakov soon after the war, עליהם השלום

when he imagined that nobody had survived, he found two of his sisters in my Booba and Zeyda’s house in Rawa. He never forgot that. I recall when the sisters (Zosia and Itka), who lived overseas, would come to Melbourne, the special bond that they too shared with my father. The kinsmanship and love were palpable. It was no problem for me to like them as well. It was a veritable hand in glove.

Like my parents, his family was his love and purpose and that kept a tortured soul focussed and grounded somewhat. The State of Israel was a miracle he was so very proud of and he never failed to be part of it, even when he wasn’t physically standing in the streets therein.

When my father ע’’ה passed away recently, he turned his attention to the isolation and melancholy that my mother understandably descended into. After her serious fall, he redoubled his efforts, even though he was physically frail. Almost a day wouldn’t go by without him incessantly ringing my mother, and then me and my sisters when he couldn’t elicit an answer from her phone. He wanted to take out the entire family for dinner. I tried to explain that we’d need to wait until the year was over, and he accepted that, but even after the year was over, my mother was and remains rather isolationist, rejecting invitations from her friends for the most simple of activities, such as sharing a cup of coffee. This will change, undoubtedly, in time, but alas, Uncle Pinye departed before she was able to bring herself to accept invitations with comfort.

He is now, no doubt, at peace. I use the term קדושי ניצולי השואה which whilst not common, cannot be seen as objectionable. For me, every survivor was and is holy. They were holy, because they had been “set aside” as a Korbon, literally a sacrifice on the altar. For reasons we do not comprehend, the Korbon survived, not because it was a בעל מום, חס ושלום, rather because

הנסתרות להשם אלוקינו והנגלות לנו ולבנינו עד עולם

The hidden mysteries are the domain of Hashem, but the revealed, is for us, our children and offspring, forever.

This is my only response, although it is not one that I ever used in discussion with Uncle Pinye. There could never be a response that would assuage his troubled, quixotic character.

He is now hovering above his grave on the journey to the Garden of Eden, at the end of the 12 months of mourning. His legacy, kindness, love, and gregarious nature, though, is set in stone in my psyche, and  in that of my mother, siblings, children and the wider Balbin family.

יהי זכרו ברוך

Postscript: at great expense and with much paper shuffling under the devoted hand of Ezra May, he decided to formally change his name back to Koplowicz. He had needed to function as “Kay” but he had never lost the Koplowicz, and that describes his essence in a single act. It isn’t surprising that Yom Yerushalayim will fall during his week of Shiva. That is also Hashgocho—the conundrum of issuing praise for the miracles Hashem wrought after the Holocaust, davka at a time of extreme mourning for an individual of this ilk.

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’m still waiting …

Where was the evening and large gathering of “all” Gedolay Torah in the World against the low life scum who kissed the rectum of Ahmadinajad?

Where were the public posters and condemnations?

Did Rabbi Beck put his brother in Cherem, or does he still visit him quietly when he travels?

No, these low life scum who kiss the Iranians, continue in their Chillul Hashem while those frum charedim who wish to do national service or army are beaten up by the “holy” ones, protecting them for their own good.

Let’s not kid ourselves. This was a Charedi juggernaut and Charedim do not equal the “entire” Torah World. Rabbis Telsner and Groner made a poor judgement and some type of apology. I think they were politically naïve.

How many Mizrachi types will still frequent the professional Kollel “olderleit” at Beth Hatalmud after their Rosh Kollel still refuses to apologise for his participation in this Tefilla/Protest and the posters rude and offensive description.

I went to Kerem B’Yavneh,he first Hesder Yeshivah. We learned hard, at least as hard as the black garbed holier ones. It always shocked me how motivated the boys were in their learning and their defence of the country. The difference was that during the first Lebanon wars, my two room mates Zev Roitman and Chovav Landau הי’’ד (whose wife was pregnant with a boy at the time) were incinerated in their tank after a direct hit. They were the only two in a Yeshivah of 500+ who were killed. The Malach HaMoves was in my room, clearly.

Maybe someone will tell me that they should not have manned their tanks, and should have learned Boba Metzia instead, but my Torah doesn’t tell me that.

The word around town is that Rabbi Donenbaum from Heichal HaTorah felt he was “forced” to sign. Perhaps he could explain why in his weekly few pages of halacha.

Incredibly, when Gush Katif, Ashdod, Ashkelon etc were under fire, it was the Charedi Yeshivas, those whose learning protect us with their constant high class learning who ran away.

I’m ashamed of their action. They could have called for a half day Taanis in their own Shules. That’s at least private and could be timed for the same time. Instead they chose the emotive time of Ta’anis Esther, when they didn’t need to do any extra fasting, and will have us try to believe they had no thought of the connection between Haman and the democratically elected government of the “Treyfe Medina” whose money hand outs they covet and which has a duty to defend all its citizens and ask all to contribute to the Mitzvah of Milchama.

The imagery of barbed war around a Torah on the Melbourne Poster was positively inciteting and spewing with a brand of hatred that sickened me to my core. Maybe they should have davened solely for peace

And now the “oh so frum” condemn a Purim skit

Not to be outdone, the holy tzaddikim who shouldn’t be reading the internet condemn this video, which was clearly done in the spirit of Purim to “connect” to the Oilom who aren’t connected, and the types of comments you read are reproduced below. They are so out of touch with how to reconnect with Yidden, it’s plainly embarrassing. The Dati Leumi community were also out of touch. At least they are now recognising that their absence created a vacuüm.

  1. geula says:

    scary! this is exactly what are grandkids can turn out to be chas vesholom. This is a result of embracing a bit of the amalek; there’s such a kaltkeit and zilzul in this video and the whole DL community. There are no gedarim or bounds. it’s selective judaism. and what they do do that is based on something is so twisted and made to fit. Complete complete busha.

Do you see light or darkness?

I saw this page on Matzav. There is a nice video there that is worth watching.

Soldiers in Israel’s Navy who set sail last week on a mission to stop an alleged Iranian weapons shipment from reaching Gaza terrorists celebrated Shabbos together by singing Shalom Aleichem and then making Kiddush and having a seudah.

“As Shabbat began last week, these soldiers had already set sail to stop Iran’s weapons shipment from reaching Gaza terrorists. In the middle of the sea, they all sang ‘Shalom Aleichem’ – a Shabbat song meaning ‘peace be upon you,’” the IDF said. “Days later, their successful mission brought peace upon the entire nation of Israel.”

The members of elite naval commando unit Shayetet 13 gathered below deck to sing together. The soldiers, who mostly wore yarmulkas, put their arms around each other’s shoulders and swayed back and forth as they prayed. After the song was over, one soldier stepped forward and made Kiddush.

Days later, the unit successfully intercepted the arms shipment in the Red Sea. The boat, named KLOSC, was headed to Sudan, 1,500 miles from Israel.

One of the weapons captured, the M-302 missile, is made in Syria and is based on Iranian technology, Israel’s Walla reported. IDF Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, oversaw the operation and gave the order to Major General Ram Rothberg, head of the Israeli Navy, to seize the KLOSC, the IDF said earlier this week.

What upset me were the comments section. The various commentators bemoaned the possibility that the video was taken on Shabbos, the last comment though captured how I felt. I didn’t even remotely think for one minute that it was taken on Shabbos. It looked pretty light to me, and it was entirely possible one person hadn’t been mekabel shabbos and took the video because he was so proud of the scene.

While these guys put their lives on the line, the bobbins who aren’t allowed to read the internet can only see darkness and sin. Their eyes are dim, they cannot see let alone imagine light. If they think that for one minute these guys are working on the basis of

כוחי ועוצם ידי עשה לי את החיל הזה

then this video is an Open Psak that they are wrong, wronger, and wrongest, but all they feel is that they are wronged. Even הכרת הטוב doesn’t enter their vernacular.

1. Comment from Shabbos?
Time March 9, 2014 at 11:45 AM

Wasn’t this video likely taken by a Yid on Shabbos?

2. Comment from anonymous
Time March 9, 2014 at 12:51 PM

who took the picture on shabbos???? nice

3. Comment from shayla
Time March 9, 2014 at 1:04 PM

They videoed on Shabbos?!
Are you allowed to watch something that came through Chillul Shabbos?!

4. Comment from shvigger
Time March 9, 2014 at 1:06 PM

This video makes me so sad.

5. Comment from Shomer Sha-bbos
Time March 9, 2014 at 1:09 PM

Why do you publicize a video made with chilul Shabb-os?

6. Comment from Radzhiner Chassid
Time March 9, 2014 at 1:28 PM

A video created on Shabboss is Maaseh Shabbos & shouldn’t be shown on a Frum Site! Also am I seeing things? Is the MeKadesh Hashabbos really NOT wearing a yarmulke?

7. Comment from mussar mensch
Time March 9, 2014 at 1:34 PM

What a kavod L’shamayim!

8. Comment from WOW
Time March 9, 2014 at 1:35 PM

I agree with all above (going on shabbos for pikuach nefesh etc), except for the guy doing the videoing!

9. Comment from niceguy
Time March 9, 2014 at 2:06 PM

was chilul Shabbos involved in taking this video?

10. Comment from omg
Time March 9, 2014 at 2:22 PM

Interesting…and heartwarming. Not too often do you get to see Shabbos videos!

11. Comment from Really!!
Time March 9, 2014 at 3:31 PM

Just a bit puzzled!
Who took the footage?
Are we enjoying something that came about through chilul shabbos?

12. Comment from joe
Time March 9, 2014 at 3:39 PM

beautiful. Who took the video?

13. Comment from Pintala yid
Time March 9, 2014 at 3:53 PM

We are an amazing people!

14. Comment from ChaimA
Time March 9, 2014 at 4:00 PM

The story is beautiful.
The video, however, may represent chillul Shabbos. Why would I want to watch it?

15. Comment from Observer
Time March 9, 2014 at 4:07 PM

Takeh, very nice. The Shaile is, who took the video on Shabbos?

16. Comment from Anonymous
Time March 9, 2014 at 4:28 PM

I’d like to point out this video was taken on Shabbos!

17. Comment from Mama
Time March 9, 2014 at 4:37 PM

I’m glad they sang Shalom Aleichem, but did they have to be michalel Shabbos by filming it?

18. Comment from Yakov
Time March 9, 2014 at 5:48 PM

so beautiful

19. Comment from mig
Time March 9, 2014 at 7:10 PM

to commenters 1 to 4:

Even though they filmed it, they are still considered tinokim venishba and their effort to recognize Shabbos gave Hashem tremendous nochas. In addition, no matter what anyone thinks about the IDF, they are holy people because they are putting their lives on the line to keep EY safe from our enemies with G-d’s help.

20. Comment from The Glass is Half Full
Time March 9, 2014 at 7:32 PM

Yasher Koach to Commentors no 1 & 5 who see the beauty in other Jews and ignoring the chisronos; 2-4 have what to work on; we all have warts and pimples!!!.. . I daven for the day that the Jewish world will be filled with more people like 1 & 5..

21. Comment from Ezra
Time March 9, 2014 at 7:47 PM

Maybe it was a Druze soldier who took video.

22. Comment from michali
Time March 9, 2014 at 10:26 PM

To all you cynics, take a chill pill. Instead of knocking them, see the good in their actions. Try to emulate the Berditchever Rebbe who saw only the good in each Jewish neshoma.

May the IDF continue to watch over Eretz HaKodesh with strength.

Johannesburg and Melbourne

I have never been to South Africa. If you would have asked me 3 months ago whether I would have two future sons-in-law both born and bred in South Africa, I would have looked strangely at you.

My connection to South Africa commenced over 30 years ago when I was learning at Kerem B’Yavneh. Naturally, I found them “closer” to Australians, followed by the English, and the non New York, Americans: New Yorkers were another species altogether, as removed as Israelis. One of my Chavrusas back then was a young earnest Masmid (always learning) named Stanley Moffson, now known and loved throughout South Africa as Rabbi Shmuel Moffson of Ohr Someach fame. There were other South Africans, but I don’t even remember their names.

We could share cricket with the South Africans and Poms, but that was it. On Thursday nights we had Mishmar, where traditionally one would endeavour to learn all night. We didn’t learn all night, in general. By about 1am our brains were mush, and the words really just spun on the page (at least that’s true of me). We had a tradition of going to the basketball court, and playing 5 a side soccer for the rest of the night. Here again, the Poms and South Africans, Aussies, and Europeans studying at KBY would “go for it” as if we were representing our country. I still remember one mature English guy who used to play as sweeper and he had me on a string. I couldn’t ever get passed him: the memory still frustrates.

By the time my older son went to learn at KBY, they had a gym. This was a great idea. You need to have outlets, especially for the kids of our day, but I digress.

So, here I was an Avel no longer saying Kaddish, and our youngest daughter is engaged to a nice young man from J’Burg. We try to organise dates, but my wife is in New York for the engagement of our middle daughter, also to a J’Burger who has been in the States for a while. It was nigh on impossible to re-route and change things for my wife so she could also make the J’Burg engagement. I offered to try to book a flight which would take me to NY and then to J’Burg so I could be at both, but my wife insisted that if I’m at both, then she has to be at both. Fair enough too.

It was high season. I managed to get a flight on a full plane via Perth. On the way back I travelled on Kratzmech, and that was a Mechaye because there was plenty of room (and it was Qantas).

Arriving just after 5am in the morning, I was picked up by my daughter and the future Chosson. We dropped my daughter off, and I went to Shule on the Thursday. I didn’t realise it but I had sat (as I usually do) in the back of the Shule (the Chabad house in Sandton under Rabbi Yossi Hecht who was overseas), and the regulars thought that I was a Schnorrer. Now, if they had only had given me some Tzedoko!

I was called up to the Torah as Cohen, and although I’m uncomfortable saying HaGomel (according to the view of the Rav, Rav Soloveitchik given how relatively safe flying is), I did so and not become controversial. The Mechutan was also sitting in a back corner, and I didn’t notice him and hadn’t approached.

Davening ended and everyone shook my hand and said Sholom Aleichem and that was that. They remarked later that they were expecting me to pull out a few sheets of paper testifying that I was a genuine collector.

The thing that struck me was that apart from two dressed in dark suits, the rest of the Minyan looked “ordinary”. They weren’t bearded, were casually dressed, etc. I wondered what the attraction was to coming so early to Shule so early during the holidays. I know that mainstream Shules in Melbourne struggle to get a Minyan each day. The Mispallelim come three times a year and if you are lucky to a Yohr Tzeit. These guys, as I saw came for Shacharis and Mincha/Ma’ariv and I was to learn that this was not unusual.

As I was still technically an Avel, I did not allow myself to go touring and made do with the gym/jacuzzi/shvitz facilities at my hotel. That was therapeutic, and was a Menuchas HaNefesh and Guf which I really needed. My wife needed it as well, but she was in the snow of New York, wearing out the American Express card.

In my travels, I noticed that there seemed to be one and one only Kashrus organisation. There were no maverick entrepreneurial Rabbis who went off on their own for “utopian interests” which were really for “our” benefit. The result was that I could go into Woolworths and pick out items and find a stamp, a single stamp, in much the same way as the OU operates. What a Mechaye. Why was it happening here and in Melbourne we seem to have two Kashrus organisations: Kosher Australia and Adass, as well as the more recent  smaller maverick operation run by R’ Rabi. I won’t even start writing about the mess in Sydney where they simply can’t get their act together and separate Kashrus from Money, and agree on a single operation for all, without even a smell of self-interest.

I then asked where the so-called Charedi community “hung out”. I was to learn that J’Burg was pretty much void of (Hungarian) Chassidim. There was no “highest standard” Hechsher run by a separate Beis Din, where OO is EE, and separatism is a way of life. No, here, the Rabbinic institutions were set up by Litvaks. Even the Chief Rabbi claimed to be a Telzer, even though he apparently had learned only in South Africa.

What of Chabad? They certainly existed and were everywhere with really professional Chabad Houses augmenting the large choir-style Shules. I bumped into the charismatic R’ Sholom Ber Groner, who I knew in Melbourne. In fact, he gave me goose bumps each time I spoke with him in learning because so many of his mannerisms reminded me of his saintly father. He told me that the Ramash נ’’ע had written a letter to the Rabbonim many years ago that they should always work within the existing Rabbinical organisations and not separate themselves into another group. The Ramash was of course quite brilliant, and it came as no surprise that such sage advice was given. The result was that the Litvaks and Lubavitchers had mutual respect and genuine Chavivus. They worked together. The Beis Din is Litvak heavy but universally respected. There was a time when Chalav Yisrael was difficult to obtain, but they managed. They have “Mehadrin” Shechita which effectively means Chassidishe Shechitah. You can find that on menus in fleishig restaurants.

I guess the overall feeling had been of peace and fraternity between Rabonim, and I would argue that this is South Africa’s secret. There are no fifth columnists and private hashgochas and certainly no aspersions being cast around that “I’m frumer than you”.

The “Yavneh College” style school also impressed me. The primary school is mixed, but the high school is separate between males and females, and the males who want, have a Mesivta program where they can come back at 7pm for more learning. I was gob smacked. If something like this existed in Melbourne, with non Charedi teachers, I think Yavneh would really differentiate itself and move to a higher level of Chinuch. Again, I digress.

Yet, despite all this, many Jews from SA left. The apartheid was horrible and I detected racist feelings amongst Afrikaaners. When I suggested that it would take a generation or two of education and opportunity for reform (on the criminal level) to materialise, I was told “No, it will never change”. I loved watching the B’Nei Cham, with their ultra thick hair and perfect teeth walking around the Mandela mall. As someone who came from a persecuted people, I felt a natural affinity. I spoke with anyone who would talk to me. I could have done this for weeks. I loved them, I just felt that I had a duty to lift their morale and make them feel entirely comfortable. I tipped them too much, but what the heck. Their names were just wonderful. Names like Romeo, Delicious, Precious, etc were common place. The ones who worked in the Chabad houses were very well looked after and respected as human beings and I just loved being in that type of morality. The pejorative “Shvartzer” never passed my lips. What was Tzippora? What about Batsheva? What about our Sephardi brothers and sisters. Who are we to comment about any such things.

IMG_3058

Where was the Reform and Conservative movements, let alone the neo conservadox style movements? They barely existed. Why? In a place where Orthodoxy exudes peace, friendship and a typically Chabad and Ohr Sameach non judgemental approach to human relations, this is the most powerful antidote to counter these inaccurate and inauthentic branch offs from authentic traditional Judaism.

I came away with a great feeling. Yes, there are some security issues. Yes, you need to not go on your own without advice etc. There are challenges. As a community, though, I have to say that in general, although we might have more Kollels, their institutions achieve so much more and are more outward looking and manage to enfranchise individuals.

Disclaimer: I was only there for a week, and no doubt I was on a high, and perhaps ignorant and oblivious to various issues. This is my overall impression, however. In Melbourne, if you pass someone from a different “caste” you’d be lucky if they acknowledged you with a Good Shabbos when passing them. We have much to learn, not the least of which is learning to mind our own business and not whispering about every “bad” thing that happens in someone else’s family.

Dvar Torah for Shoftim

Tomorrow, is Rav Kook’s ז’ל Yohr Tzeit, so it is fitting that the Dvar Torah includes his thoughts, The Dvar Torah is from one of the Roshei Yeshivah of Kerem B’Yavneh (my alma mater), Rav Motti Greenberg.

Ironically, last night at Ma’ariv, there were a few international Tzedoka collectors from Israel in Shule. I was in my usually “straight ahead” mood, and asked one of them (a Chossid, with peyos)

What are your thoughts on Nachal Charedi

His responded with a pained look and said

Anyone who supports Nachal Charedi should not be allowed to enter a Shule

The problem with people like that is that they think that when they go to the toilet, it doesn’t stink. They live in la la land.

He effectively stated that I had no place davening Ma’ariv in Shule if I thought Nachal Charedi was a valid approach.  I said,

well, I support them, and you don’t come up to the level of their shoe laces, with a hateful comment like that

I don’t expect he will visit me for a donation. His paid driver heard the interchange.

Anyway, the D’var Torah … 

As part of the laws of warfare, it is written, “What man is afraid and fainthearted? Let him go away and return home.” [Devarim 20:8]. According to Rabbi Yossi Hagelili, this refers to a man who is afraid because of the sins in his hands. However, this seems backwards – to be afraid because of sins is a good trait and not a bad one, why should the man be sent away?

In Chassidic texts it is written that one time there was a delay in the construction of the succah of the Rebbe, the author of Beit Aharon. In the end, one of the Rebbe’s followers made a great effort and finished building the succah the day before the holiday, thus giving the Rebbe great pleasure. As a reward, the Rebbe offered the man his choice – he could either sit next to the Rebbe in the world to come, or he could become very wealthy. The man chose wealth. He explained to the astonished Chassidim who asked about his decision that to want to spend the world to come close to the Rebbe is a matter of selfishness, but if he had great wealth he would be able to help many other people.

Rabbi Shimon Shkop wrote in the introduction to his book Shaarei Yosher, “The foundation and the root of the goal of our lives is that all of our labors should always be geared and dedicated to the good of the community.” Rav A.Y. Kook wrote, “A person must always extricate himself from the private frameworks which fill his entire being, such that all of his ideas are centered on his own fate. This brings a person down to the depths of being small, and there is no end to the physical and spiritual suffering that comes about as a result. Rather, his thoughts, desires, his will, and the foundation of his ideas must always take into account the general – the world, mankind, Yisrael as a whole, and the entire universe. And this will also establish his personal status in the proper way.” [Orot Hakodesh volume 3, page 147].

To be “afraid of the sins in his hands” means that the person is concerned with his own sins and not with the sins of others. This is a man who lives only for himself. This is similar to what the sages taught us: “Why is it [the stork] called a ‘chassidah’ (one who is kind)? It is because it is kind to its companions.” [Chulin 63a]. But a question is asked: The Rambam teaches us that the reason birds are considered impure is because they are cruel, why then is the stork an impure bird? Chidushei Harim explains that this bird is kind, but only to its own friends.

The soldiers in King David’s army would give their wives a divorce before going out to battle. Rav Kook explains that the reason was not only to avoid a woman being “chained” to h er husband if he would be lost in battle. The Gentiles would bring their wives and children to the battlefield in order to give the soldiers greater courage, as if to say, look for whom you are fighting. But in David’s army the men would divorce their wives in order to disassociate themselves from any personal interests and to fight for the good of Yisrael as a whole. This is as the Rambam wrote, that a soldier must stop thinking about his own family and be aware that he is fighting in a Divine war. Anyone who is afraid only because of his own individual sins and does not think of the general public during the war is not worthy of fighting in the Army of G-d.

When a dead body is found abandoned on the roads, the community elders declare, “Our hands did not spill this blood” [Devarim 21:7]. “Would anybody even consider that the elders of the Beit Din are murderers? Rather, they are declaring that they did not see him and send him away unaccompanied, witho ut any food.” [Sotta 45b].

As the month of Elul begins, we should remember the hint of the month’s name, an acronym of “I belong to my lover and my lover belongs to me” [Shir Hashirim 6:3]. This is a hint of the relationship between man and the Holy One, Blessed be He. But the letters of Elul are also an acronym for another verse, “Every man gave to his colleague, and also gifts to poor people” [Esther 9:22]. This refers to concern for other people.

In connection with the above, we note that all the prayers of the Days of Awe refer to the needs of the community as a whole and not to personal requests.

And one more thing …

Anyone who doubts the childishness and the lack of ethics and decency of Scott Rosenberg’s blog, should note (as I was advised last night by my children) that this person purposefully wrote my surname as Baalbin.

Ho Ho Ho.

Don’t think this was an innocent mistake.

Why? Because Scott thinks he is being clever by referring to the “prophets” of Baal.

Well, Scott, this isn’t clever, and it is indecent, and if I could be bothered, I’d report you to some journalistic ethics board. This is why your blog, especially the unfettered disgraceful comments you purposefully allow (and disallow) is considered contemptible.

But, you will get hits using these little tricks, and make money from this activity. I guess it pays your bills, Scott?

I have a day job (and night job).

Talkers and Do-ers

When I perform at a wedding as a singer/band leader, my job is not to moralise or give social commentary. Band leaders have developed techniques and share them, to overcome those who feel they just “have to tell you what you should be doing”. Twice in over 3 decades I’ve succumbed, and said something, albeit for less than a minute.

Last week, I performed at a nice wedding. It was lebedik, and all was going well until suddenly, the Mechitza started to come down down. One end of the Mechitza (lightish white curtain material) started to come down, because one end had become unattached.

It was the height of Simchas Choson V’Kallah. The band were playing, both sides were dancing. Some hadn’t realised it had come down. Others quickly noticed, and attempted to assist in whatever way they could. Some quickly picked up the Mechitza and stood there holding sections aloft, while others quickly attempted to re-attach the end that had come loose and bring it to its previously taut and supportive state.

Suddenly, two well-meaning gentlemen approached the band stage and effectively “suggested I stop playing immediately”. I doubt either had license from the Ba’alei Simcha but that’s a side issue. Halachically, they were correct. One should not continue dancing without a Mechitza. Halachically, however, there was another solution. Instead of merely being talkers, those two people could have added to the group of do-ers and held sections of the Mechitza up, so that it was temporarily functional while others were re-attaching it. 

In five minutes time, or less. The Mechitzah was back up, and all resumed as before. At the end of the music bracket, I was quietly seething. This was a reflection of our society. There were those in our community who were only too quick to “advise us” of the halachic impropriety of the descended Mechitza. They were the talkers. They are well-intentioned, and no doubt very earnest. I know both men, and they are the “real thing” in the sense that they are יראי שמים. Neither, however, was ever going to become the Rav of people.

A Rav has to (in my mind) at least find halachic solutions that are more creative. What would have been wrong with those two fine men both lending their own hands to hold up the Mechitza, and at the same time calling for 4 more volunteers? They could have proverbially killed two birds with one stone. Both Halacha would have been satisfied, and those who were actually involved in fixing the Mechitza could have continued their job, quietly and efficiently.

We are too quick to impose and pass cold and less than innovative commentary on situations. Worse, we are quick to act with our mouths, as opposed to our hands.

Today is the Yohr Tzeit of R’ Chaim Brisker ז’ל. On his Matzeyva, the words רב החסד are enscribed. Why? There are many reasons. When Brisk burned down, R’ Chaim refused to sleep in his own rebuilt house until the simple poor people had their own homes rebuilt. There was no hierarchy for him, despite the fact that he was the undisputed Torah genius of his generation. R’ Chaim ז’ל had no problem playing with little children. He would sometimes be found tied up to a tree while the children ran around with glee. This was someone who was at home with the Rambam, Ramban, Rishonim and Shas, in the same way that we breathe air. And yet, R’ Chaim was a do-er. Oh yes, he spoke, but he did.

The same people who cry עד מתי should perhaps also look at some of the answers to this question. There are some very easy things we can all do, ואני בתוכם.

Act! Don’t just talk.

What SIN did he perpetrate?

The story (there have been a few) in Yediot, of yet another Charedi soldier being lynched by those who supposedly sit all day in the Beis Medrash protecting everyone with their Torah, learning as a substitute, is sickening.

What aveyra has he done? Visiting a relative?

In anyone’s language it is at least a Safek Milchemes Mitzvah. If he believes it’s a Milchemes Mitzvah what business is it of anybody else to lynch him? Go your own way. Does he hurt you? He protects you too. Do you really think the Arab spring give a damn about you because you have lange peyos and kiss their feet. Did you every hear about Dhimma? You like it? Go there.

Is this what the Torah meant when it said to give Tochacha if you felt someone was doing wrong?

Where is the permission to hit another Jew for this? You sit in a Beis Medrash all day, so bring me the clear proof that this person is some sort of Apikorus from yesteryear? I don’t want to hear about your Shalosh Shvuos. Sorry to tell you, they aren’t what makes the world go around, and they are not taken seriously by any self-respecting Posek, today.

What about the Chillul Shem Shomayim? Even if you think he is wrong. The best you can do is go to his house and try and convince him that he should be sitting in the Beis Medrash instead, or selling shoelaces in the Shuk. What have you achieved with this violence? Only one thing. You have encouraged your own youth to think that they are all Pinchas, and that this defender of your country is some sort of Zimri. I have news for you all. You are as far way from Pinchas as he is from Zimri. Maybe you are descendants of the Erev Rav.

Where is your Moshe Rabenu? Has he protested against your wanton violence?

What sort of Emuna and Bitachon do you have in your own educational systems if you think that they will crumble because of Nachal Charedi and the like? Was all the learning earlier just a sham? Doesn’t it protect you? Take a look at yourselves.

This section of the Charedi world, with its mostly extreme element, causes people to be turned off Torah and Mitzvos. How many people will not care about Yahadus, because they will say “Zu Torah?”

In the nine days, this is a most depressing incident.

Gevalt. Where are your Gedolim? Where are their Pashkevilim? Why aren’t their Batei Din rounding up these violent people and putting them in Cherem? Why aren’t their faces plastered everywhere?

You try to talk to a Yid, who isn’t yet frum. You face a modern world with all manner of issues and questions. How much longer are we forced to say “ah, they are extremists”. We don’t need extremism. We need the middle derech, the Darchei Noam. If they don’t like it, let them go to Williamsburg.

The word  נועם has disappeared from the vernacular of so many of these Meah Shearim Charedim.

Then they wonder about people like Yair Lapid? They are responsible for it, not his father.

A haredi soldier was attacked by dozens of haredim in Jerusalem‘s ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood. The soldier ran into a nearby building and called in police forces, which managed to rescue him unharmed.

Police said that the soldier, a resident of central Israel, arrived in the Mea Shearim neighborhood to visit relatives. When he was attacked, he fled to a nearby structure, where he changed into civilian attire and contacted police to report the assault.

After clashes subsided, haredim gathered in the area, crying out against haredi soldiers and calling police ‘Nazis.’

Following the incident, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack and said that “we will take a hard line against whoever tries to intimidate the citizens who are fulfilling their duty to the State.”

Netanyahu added that “the best answer for these lawbreakers is the number of haredi recruits, which has increased significantly in the past few years and will continue to grow.”

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon also referred to the event and said: “The attack is despicable and abhorrent, and requires serious treatment. We cannot allow violent hooligans to threaten the peace of young haredim who choose to join the IDF .”

Ya’alon further added: “They should be brought to justice with zero tolerance and we will fight this trend with severity. I call on the leaders of the haredi public to condemn the violence and vigorously eradicate such phenomena.”

Nahal Haredi rabbis condemned the attack, saying it was “an act of hatred that is un-Jewish and un-Orthodox”, “blasphemy” and “shame and disgrace”.

An exceptional statement by the rabbis read that “the fact we are at the nine-day period before Tisha B’Av, in which we commemorate the destruction of the Temple, places this act of hatred in a shameful light. It is time for the haredi public to denounce the attackers.”

In response to the riots, Finance Minister Yair Lapid said that “The ongoing incitement against these violent attacks of haredi recruits, such as the grave incident that took place in Jerusalem tonight, are appalling and should be condemned by everyone.”

Lapid added that he intended to hold an emergency meeting with Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich in order to see what police can do to prevent such incidents from recurring.

Knesset Committee for Promoting Equal Share of the Burden Chairman Yaakov Peri fiercely condemned the attack and said that “any attempt to physically or spiritually harm soldiers should be dealt with harsh penalties by the State.”

Peri further added that “such event should not be tolerated by the authorities. I ask the leaders of the haredi community to take responsibility before a disaster occurs.”

Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri also condemned the assault, saying “I’m appalled of the deeds of extremist teens who shamelessly hurt a Jewish soldier.”

Violence against haredi soldiers has recently seen a marked rise, possibly due to the public dispute over the draft reform, set to conscript the previously largely exempt haredi sector.

In May, it was revealed that the IDF Advocate General was assembling cases of violence, incitement and assault targeting haredi soldiers, with the purpose of filing indictments against those behind the attacks.

RCA position on Chacham Ovadya’s statement

I had pitputted on this topic 2 weeks ago, when it arose, and I’m pleased that the RCA has adopted a similar view, as reported by Kobi Nachshoni in Yediot. [Hat tip DS]

The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) is standing by Rabbi David Stav and slamming Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who called him “evil.”

In a letter published Monday night, the organization’s leaders, on behalf of more than 1,000 members, expressed their “encouragement and support” for the moderate chief rabbi candidate, while harshly criticizing Shas’ spiritual leader for lashing out at him during his weekly sermon on Saturday night.

“We trembled upon hearing the terrible things Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said in regards to his honor,” RCA President Shmuel Goldin and Vice President Leonard Matanky wrote in Hebrew to Rabbi Stav, “and also when we heard of the events in Bnei Brak at the wedding of the daughter of Rabbi Rabinowitz,” referring to a verbal and physical assault on Stav by ultra-Orthodox teens Sunday evening.

This is the most significant support Stav has received so far following the attacks against him, as the RCA is the largest organization of Orthodox rabbis in America.

‘Woe to his rabbi who taught him Torah’

The letter praised Rabbi Stav, quoting Chazal (our Sages of Blessed Memory): “Look at how pleasant his ways are, how proper his deeds are.”

Yet in regards to Rabbi Yosef, the US rabbis quoted contradicting statements: “Is this Torah and are these its scholars? Woe to so-and-so who learned Torah, woe to his father who taught him Torah, woe to his rabbi who taught him Torah. So-and-so who learned Torah—look at how destructive his deeds are, and how ugly his ways are.”

They concluded by telling Stav that they were grateful for everything he had done “for the good of all the people of Israel, the Land of Israel and the State of Israel.” They said they expected to work with him for many years “to expand and glorify the Torah, and to bring hearts closer to our Father in Heaven.”

During his weekly sermon on Saturday night, Rabbi Yosef said that Stav, chairman of the national-religious rabbinical association Tzohar, was “an evil man” and that appointing him to the Chief Rabbinate was like bringing idolatry into the Temple.

“I don’t know Stav, I don’t know this man, I haven’t seen him, but all his friends the National Religious Party leaders come to me and say: ‘Beware, this man is a danger to Judaism…’ People in his party testified that this man is a danger to Judaism, a danger to the Rabbinate, a danger to Torah – and I should keep silent? They want to make him a chief rabbi? This man unworthy of anything! Can they do such a thing?”

The Tzohar rabbinical association issued a statement a harsh statement in response, referring to Rabbi Yosef’s remarks as “incitement” and calling on him to “repent and ask for forgiveness after humiliating a person in public.”

Prominent religious-Zionist Rabbi Chaim Druckman told Ynet that Rabbi Yosef had gone too far and that he was “extremely shocked by the blatant remarks” against Rabbi Stav.

Attack during wedding

The battle against Rabbi Stav escalated on Sunday evening when he was attacked during the wedding of Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz’s daughter.

Rabbi Stav arrived at the wedding and was even seated on the dignitaries’ stage alongside other rabbis, but when he got up to join the dancing circle, several haredi teens tried to get him to trip and kept swearing at him, calling him “evil” and “abomination.”

When he turned to leave the banquet hall they continued to harass him, shoving him and splashing water.

Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman, whose faction announced its support for Rabbi Stav as chief rabbi, said in response to the attack: “We expect a spiritual leadership, regardless of its outlook, to condemn decisively – and certainly not encourage – harm caused to a another religious leader.”

According to Lieberman, “It’s a shame that as part of a political race, and certainly for the position of chief rabbi, there are those leading the public to such dark corners. The Torah has 70 faces, and not a single one of them is of violence and incitement by one rabbi against another rabbi.”

The Mesorah Of Chesed

[Hat tip to Marek]

Article by Barry Jacobsen

A beautifully arranged presentation, graciously hosted by the Wolfson family, was held this past Motzaei Shabbos regarding the upcoming plan in Eretz Yisrael to conscript yeshiva bachurim into the IDF. Sadly, at the conclusion, I left with a feeling of disappointment.

No questions were permitted from the floor. I had the opportunity to speak with one of the speakers afterwards, who generously listened to me. But that was not the same as a full discussion of a difficult issue.

I am grateful to Rabbi Bender for his infinite chassadim to my family in numerous areas. Any comments I make are in no way intended to minimize the tremendous feelings of respect I have for him. Similarly, I had the opportunity to know the father of Rabbi Ginzberg from my days in yeshiva.

He was a paragon of seiver panim yafos, friendship, kindness, and concern about the welfare of all the bachurim. Any points I raise here are only intended as an exchange of ideas and an expression of deep pain for what I and many others see in the current state of affairs.

I was inspired to devote a number of years to learning in my early youth.

The warm feelings towards Torah, Yiddishkeit, and a Shabbos table filled with ruach will never be dimmed. The desire to maximize that path motivated me to send my kids to chareidi yeshivos where they were given a warm and meaningful Torah education. However, I am deeply disturbed at what has been happening on a wider level in the klal as a whole. I believe I speak for many others, and I know my chaverim have discussed these issues with me, as well.

After introductions by Rabbi Kobre, Rabbi Bender opened with a discussion of the importance of Torah in protecting the klal. He quoted the Gemara in Cheilek that one who says “Mai ahanu lan rabbanan, ldidhu karu ldidhu tanu,” is an apikorus. (One who says, ‘What do the rabbis help us? They only learn for themselves.’ He is considered an apostate.) Rabbi Bender discussed how there were a certain number of yeshiva bachurim learning, while the soldiers fought, during the times of Tanach. He also mentioned how the chareidim have a much lower rate of incarceration in Israeli jails than the general population, thus demonstrating that the Torah teaches good behavior. Finally, he mentioned that there are a number of chareidi organizations which do much chesed for the klal as a whole in Israel, not just for the frum segment, such as supporting the poor and providing assistance with medical issues.

Rabbi Ginzberg focused on why even people who had respect for gedolim in the past, such as those of the stature of Reb Moshe Feinstein, now seem to have wavered, and why questioning daas Torah has become more widespread, particularly on blogs.

Rabbi Eli Paley focused on some of the technical issues, such as how many soldiers the army really needs, and some of his own experiences in the army which seemed to be difficult for a chareidi lifestyle. He seemed to imply that the army is used in some ways as a form of indoctrination and acculturation with the secular viewpoint, rather than as an absolute necessity for security.

Rabbi Kobre mentioned some of the problems chareidi soldiers have recently faced, including medical exams which intruded upon their sense of privacy, and that even in the newer chareidi programs, 25% of the alumni come out non-frum. He took umbrage with a statement from a high level army chief that the chareidim are a worse problem than Ahmadinejad. Rabbi Kobre concluded that this is a state of emergency, and we all need to cry out for salvation.

All of this is true. But it is totally beside the point. The main problem that needed to be addressed, but was totally ignored, is why the chiloni sector has turned on the chareidim at this point in time. It is my belief that we are largely to blame. If it were only a matter of logistics, with the enrollment of more chareidim, suitable infrastructure would be set up so as to better serve them. But that is not at all the point of this article.

For the past 100 years, the chareidi world has been fighting Zionism like it is some kind of poison. They coined fiery slogans such as the Zionists didn’t become frei in order to build a state; they built a state in order to become frei. Aside from being totally foolish, as one can become frei by going to the McDonalds down the block without going through the backbreaking effort of building a state, it is an insult to the downtrodden Jewish people. After suffering 2,000 years of persecution, poverty, plagues, and pogroms at the hands of their host countries, which caused the spirits of many to break, is there no understanding why the status quo was unbearable? Many were converting and leaving Judaism in droves because they couldn’t take the anti-Semitism, discrimination, and misery. Many fled to America or wherever else they could get into.

Theodore Herzl warned that things would only get worse, and his prophecy was 100% correct, as we saw in the Holocaust. He knew the answer was for the Jews to get a place of their own, and he tried his best to help his suffering brethren, despite whatever personal failings he may have had. He did magnificent work. Think about how hard it is to organize a shul dinner, and then imagine how hard it is to organize a country. He had to rally the Jews, raise funds, meet with countless heads of state. The chareidim totally vilified Herzl and forbade any hazkarah in his honor within the city of Brisk after he passed away. The rav of the main shul in town locked the doors to prevent it. But the population was undeterred and broke the lock and held a massive service with thousands of people in attendance. To this day the vilification continues.

In 1923, the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah passed a resolution condemning the efforts of the Zionists and vowed to fight any attempt to set up a state with all means at their disposal. This was 25 years before the saga of the Yemenite children whose peyos were allegedly cut off. This fighting and denigration of the medinah continues until this day. Chareidim refuse to say the tefillah for the medinah or for the chayalim in their shuls, citing all kinds of Kaballistic reasons, or because we don’t have power to write new tefillos (despite that we say new kinnos on Tishah B’Av for the

Shoah) or other creative points. However, in the old siddur Otzar HaTefilos, written about 100 years ago, there is a tefillah for Czar Nikolai, his wife, his parents, and children, mentioning them all by name, with effusive praise for each. We are allowed to say a tefillah for this individual who was no friend of the Jews, but for our brethren in the Israeli government, it would somehow ruin the davening.

The average Jew is tired of this stuff already. When a Jew goes to Israel and is greeted at the airport by the sign, Bruchim Habaim L’eretz Yisrael, his heart soars. When he enters Yerushalayim and sees the beautiful floral arrangement spelling out Bruchim Habaim LiYerushalayim, and sees the Old City and the Kotel, his heart is torn with emotion. When he sees young soldiers guarding the streets with dangerous weapons, the same age as our kids, who are often roaming the pizza shops, he is amazed at the level of responsibility and maturity they have achieved at such a young age. When he sees how advanced the country has become technologically, such that it exports its know-how all over the world, in areas such as military technology, water management, agriculture, medicine, electronics, software, and nanotechnology, his heart bursts with pride. When he realizes that there is freedom to set up as many shuls and yeshivos as he pleases, without any fear of pogroms or anti-Semitism, he is overjoyed and dumbfounded that for the first time in 2,000 years, this is possible.

Medinas Yisrael is the biggest berachah the Jews have received since the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash.

Now we run into a problem. When somebody tells us that daas Torah is opposed to this, or that the founders of the state were wrong, or bad people, or that we should not say the tefillah for the Medinah, should not celebrate Yom HaAtzamaut, should not sing Hatikvah, should not stand for the memorial sirens on Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaShoah, the average Jew becomes rather confused and torn, with his heart telling him one thing, and all kinds of yeshivishe propaganda that has been drummed into his head telling him another thing.

A little while ago, there was a picture on the front page of the 5TJT of a young child hugging his father’s grave at the military cemetery. The father died so we can enjoy the freedom and the shuls, yeshivos, and mekomos hakedoshim of Eretz Yisrael that we now have. Can chareidim not give this poor child respect for two minutes and stand still while he cries? How dare any leader not emphasize basic decency in his yeshiva.

When a frum IDF soldier is stoned and rained with trash when he enters Meah Shearim, the rest of the country is sickened. We often hear that it is one meshugeneh. Totally wrong. When verbal violence is preached at the top levels, physical violence results at the lower levels.

All the chesed that the chareidim do, while certainly well appreciated (as it is here in the Five Towns, as well), it doesn’t come to a drop in the ocean of the chesed that the Medinah does. The chareidim may provide transportation, food, or advice to people in need of medical treatment.

But who provides the hospitals, medical training, medicines, instruments, research, universities where training and innovation is carried out, and roads to transport the patients and medicines, etc. They also pay for the care, to begin with.

The chareidim give generously to the poor, but how many mouths does the government of Israel feed? Who ensures that the economy runs smoothly, that there is electricity, and engineering training to design a power grid, and water, and chemists who know how to test its safety? Who protects this vast infrastructure, and provides army personnel to stand watch day and night? The Medinah dwarfs all chesed organizations put together. Where is the hakaras hatov?

The klal craves achdus and warmth. The constant anti-Zionist propaganda spewed forth by chareidim is causing giyul nefesh (utter disgust) in me and many of my chaveirim who learned in chareidi yeshivos, not to mention the chilonim themselves.

Rabbi Ginzberg asks why there is a reduction in respect for gedolim. Well, Sunday following parashas Korach there was a massive demonstration where two warring brothers found that they don’t hate each other more than anything else in the world, as previously believed. It turned out that they hate the State of Israel even more. And the entire ideology is based on some obscure aggadeta (Shalosh Shevuos) not brought down in any of the classic codifiers, which is itself based on a verse in Tanach, from which we don’t generally derive halacha, anyway. Incidentally, a possible message of the Shalosh Shevuos is not to rebel against one’s hosts, out of derech eretz. Would that, perhaps, be applicable as well to Jewish hosts, or are they less deserving than King Henry VIII or Queen Isabella? This movement often resorts to outright lies, such as that the Zionists colluded with the Nazis, when letters have recently become available that Ben Gurion begged the British government to allow Jewish fighters to go to Europe to fight the Nazis. They also claim that enormous numbers of Jews have died as a result of the Medinah, when the number is 25,000 in 150 years, far less than in many other similar eras in Jewish history.

Another rav Rabbi Ginzberg is fond of quoting spewed forth the same type of anti-Zionist vitriol for years. One can open up a book of his transcribed speeches in English. This same rav also founded new political parties. One would think some important ideology was at stake. But it was his dislike of a certain rebbe. For some unknown reason, despite this rebbe’s incredible erudition, breadth, and kindness to all segments, this rav considered the rebbe to be inferior to himself. He disliked that rebbe so much that when that rebbe’s wife passed away, he told other rabbanim not to pay a shivah call. The klal is mortified and tired of this. These types of things have led to a weakening of faith in daas Torah.

Is it telling that the preceding two-brother chassidic movement, and the preceding rav’s yeshiva are now both torn asunder by internal machlokes?

Walls have had to be built and smoke bombs have been thrown in the beis medrash of one of the world’s most prestigious yeshivas in Israel. Midah kneged midah? Perhaps. But maybe just the natural progression of things.

When multiple generations have been raised on hatred and sinas chinam, the imbibed hatred is then used on each other, as well.

A few years ago, there was a major chinuch protest demonstration, with all chareidim in Israel urging their followers to attend. What was the issue?

The Israeli government was upset that a certain school was separating the Sephardic girls from the Ashkenazic girls by means of a fence in the middle of the school building, and down the middle of the playground.

Personally, even if a thousand gedolim held a demonstration with a million followers urging people to be cruel to young Sephardic girls, I would follow my heart and simply ignore it, and instead welcome them with open arms. The hamon am is disgusted.

Torah has become an exercise in mental gymnastics, with the primary message being ignored. When Rebbe Akiva said that v’ahavta l’rei’acha kamocha is klal gadol baTorah, he meant it. It supersedes all other considerations. Am I ignoring or denigrating daas Torah? I hope not. Rabbi Ginzberg has mentioned on more than one occasion the importance of keeping mesorah. There is one mesorah we have which is even older than the mesorah of learning—by about 500 years. It is the mesorah of chesed. It was taught by Avraham Avinu. When three individuals who he actually thought were idol worshippers (see Rashi) showed up at his door, he did not spit, as some chareidim now do, at priests of other religions. Rather, he served them a delicious meal and gave them a place to rest, before sending them on their way. Chesed comes before ideology.

When Avraham was told that anshei Sdom were going to be punished, he didn’t smirk that they deserved it, but he screamed to the Ribbono Shel Olam, “Hashofet kol ha’aretz lo ya’aseh mishpat!?” Will the judge of the entire world not do justice!? He was our father, and the father of all peoples of the world. Av hamon goyim.

One of the speakers mentioned that we are experiencing a war against Torah Judaism, an oft-heard refrain of the last hundred years, that the chilonim and Zionists are aiming to destroy Torah and see the chareidim as its symbol. This is needlessly inflammatory (but admittedly effective as a way to rally the troops) and simply false. Reb Aryeh Levine dressed chareidi.

Yet the Knesset dedicated a special day in his honor and made a special plaque which was awarded to him in a major presentation. He worked with all his might to help the fighters in the early days before the state.

After davening, he walked tens of miles on Shabbos to the prisoners in jail to tell the families how their loved ones were doing. He cried out on Rosh Hashanah, mentioning each by name, when they were sentenced to the gallows. The chilonim recognized that he loved them with all of his pure heart. The chilonim, in turn, loved him with all of theirs. If we acted like Reb Aryeh, and gave the chilonim the slightest bit of hakaras hatov and warmth and appreciation for the amazing achievement they accomplished (bsiyata deshmaya), not just as a condescending ruse to be mekarev them, but with a sincere and full understanding of the miracle they created and the intense effort they put in; and if we offered to move our yeshivos to the army bases to keep them company in times of war and be mechazek them with kindness; and if we stopped our foolish and angry (and baseless) rhetoric, they would never think of drafting a single yeshiva bachur. We have only ourselves to blame for this miserable situation. Let us try to rectify it before things get worse.

For now we need to know that there is nothing more to Yiddishkeit than simple kindness and mutual love and respect. In the words of Hillel, idach perusha hi—all else is just commentary. Perhaps it is not the chilonim who have gone off the derech. Perhaps it is us. I am not rejecting daas Torah, rather I am relying on the daas Torah of Reb Aryeh Levine which goes straight back to Avraham Avinu.

The author may be reached at bdj@alum.mit.edu.