Do you understand Achinoam Nini?

I saw this article and cringed, majorly. What are Nini’s thoughts when she sings? Assume she respects the man as a leader of a particular religious group. Assume then that she is not disturbed enough by the allegations that he has possibly known about abuse amongst his clergy during his tenure, and that his promotion of a now disgraced Archbishop was “under his radar”. Assume then that she is not disturbed by allegations that he has not done much to address major abuse issues. Assume that she wants to expose her daughter to a leader of a religious group. Assume then that she also exposes her daughter to leaders of her own religious group. Assume then that she is not caught up with her own ego and self promotion.

Perhaps she was most impressed by his comment that

Beneath every Xtian there is a Jew

Of course we must be civil, courteous and tolerant. That does not mean that we should appear in the Vatican singing “Maria”. Surely there are alternatives.

Perhaps Nini could and should have sung the great Yonatan Razel song below, and translated the lyrics into English/Spanish for Francis’s benefit. I could have coped with that.

The Royal Wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry: a halachic perspective

There is no doubt that many people will be inclined to watch the nuptials of the latest Royal Wedding. Some will feel magnetised by the moment, others will be eager to see the habilment. One needs to remember, though, that even clothes will include vestments and the marriage is a formal Xtian marriage in a Church (כנסיה).

Those who may watch the wedding ceremony will do so through their Television or the Internet. Is there any halachic issue?

Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 3:129) stressed that it is not permitted to enter a Church, even if one only intended to admire the architecture or art. In Yoreh Deah (3:77) he goes as far as not permitting the use of Church facilities for a Talmud Torah where that Talmud Torah had difficulty finding accomodation. Mori V’Rabbi, the Rav was asked after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, whether it was permitted to watch the service on the Television. Rav Soloveitchik responded that in the same way that it was forbidden to enter a  כנסיה, it was equally forbidden to bring the כנסיה into one’s house. He noted that the clergy at the time encouraged those who were not able to attend, to avail themselves of participation in the service by watching through the Television.

In summary, it is best to spend one’s time on permitted activities, and how much more so, by having a Shiur or learning from a Sefer at that time.

STOP PRESS: I am advised that this Wedding is being held on a day that one is forbidden to watch ANY Television (Melacha). That being said, many will I estimate wish to “catch up” and watch some highlights.

Dealing with the false Messianists in Israel

[Hat tip Bobby]

See here and here and here and here for news coverage.  The following is a first hand account

I attended.

From 8:30 am to 10:30 am, I was present at a mass Tefillah protest against this mass false messianic movement. Unlike these reports, I estimated that there were between 2000-3000 people there, and very few non-Shomer Shabbos people, if any. Maybe they came later. We all Davened on a large grassy area outside the Metro-West complex at the far end of which, and blocked by numerous police, was a building where the Meshumads and their friends were doing their Christian thing.

Chairs were provided and tables set up for Bimas, some Sefardi and Nusach Sfard ad hoc “Siddurim” which were printed just for the occasion by Yad L’Achim were available, although most people came prepared with their own Siddurs and Chumashim.

Due to the largeness of the crowd, and the desire of the Sephardim and the Yemenites to have their own Minyans, not to mention a large group that wanted to Daven with or close to the Clevelander Rebbe or one around Rabbi Peretz, the mass subdivided into some dozen or so Minyanim.

The biggest problem was that there were only a limited number of Sifrei Torah and so when it came to the layning, Minyanim united.

I did not see any violence whatsoever, however, later I heard of a boy who crossed the police lines, was arrested and then followed by his father who tried to save him and was also arrested, were both beat up and bloodied in the police van. There was only one Meshugener there who walked around for a couple of minutes yelling out “kill them” (in English, Davke) but he quickly disappeared.

The Davening was very peaceful, albeit it noisy at times when some of the multiple Minyanim would call out things like “Shma Yisroel” and similar key verses, just as a protest or those closer to the Meshumad building would scream with catcalls and boos. In a way it was very difficult to get any real Kavana because of the loud Sephardim and Yemenites, not to mention the outdoorsy, disorganized, circuslike atmosphere at such events. Fortunately, there were a few relatively normal Ashkenazi minyanim, too, where I ended up.

Towards the end of Mussaf, some people began setting up a minimum Kiddush with wine and rokalach, but I was already packed up and ready to leave.

I did not see or hear any anyone speak to the crowd or was there any attempt to get everyone to say Tehillim together or anything like that.

There are no overt signs of the media there and I only saw one person taking a photo with his cellphone. I did not see TV cameras or microphones.

For the most part, the protest went by unnoticed by the mainstream press.

Rachel was there, too, on the other side of a sheet-strung ad hoc Mechitza.

Who was yoshke

(Hat tip BA from Toras Abba)

Who was Yoshke, the Xtians believe in ?

The Ravad ( 1st) in his Sefer Hakabala writes Xtians
mistakenly claim that the Oso Ha’ish lived in the times of Hordos and his son Arkiles. Our Mesorah (Sotah 47a) tells us , he was a Talmid of R, Yehoshua ben Prachya,who lived in the times of Yanai Hamelech. This would be 110 years before their claim.

The Tosfos Harosh* (Sotah 47a) writes there are two different Mashichei Sheker mentioned in the Gomoro.

The one in Meseches Sotah is not the Yeisho Hanotzri, mentioned in M. Sanhedrin77a. The Xtians believe in the Yeisho in M. Sanhedrin . He lived 70 years before the Churban. He was hung on Erev Pesach, but he was not a Talmid of R.Y.b Prachya,who lived 180 years before the Churban
The Me’iri ( Sotah 47 & Pesicha to Ms Avos) claims the one that the Xtians believe in is not mentioned at all in the Gemoro. Yeisho and Ben Stadah are not the Yoshke the Christian believe in.

There are numerous intellectuals (lehavdil) who claim, the Xtian Yoshke is a myth and complete fabrication. There never existed .such a person at all. (never mind the so called miracles)

*It’s only in the new print (no censors ksav yad)

Transportation company nixes extra-terrestrial depiction from bus banners for fear of offending ultra-Orthodox passengers

[Hat tip to DS who pointed out the original article in Yedioth]

It was also published by Times of Israel, and reproduced below. I’m not clever enough to understand what is bothering them. Can someone explain? 

The Egged transportation company has barred ads bearing a depiction of an extra-terrestrial from being featured on company buses in Jerusalem, for fear that the peculiar advertisement may be offensive to some passengers.

The ad campaign, produced by Kiddum — a company that offers psychometric preparation courses for future university students —  features an image of a harmless-looking alien with the sentences “Advanced intelligence discovered on Earth” and “They are like us, only more advanced” written beneath him. The campaign aims to convince youngsters that Kiddum graduates are able to produce exceptional, ‘unearthly’ scores on their exams.

The ad series was launched a short while ago and was run in many major cities across Israel, including Jerusalem. Egged, however, decided to pull the ad from buses in the capital because they deemed the picture of the creature from outer space offensive to ultra-Orthodox travelers.

The Cnaan advertising company, which handles advertising for the Egged bus company, explained that Egged had decided to nix images of all people — male, female — and apparently non-humans as well, from its campaigns on Jerusalem buses.

“According to the concession agreement between Egged and the Cnaan company, characters may not be featured at all in Jerusalem, and that is why the campaign was not approved by Egged,” a spokesperson for the company said.

Ads with photos of women, and more recently men, have gradually disappeared from advertisements on buses in Jerusalem over the past years, and activists say there has been a similar, though less dramatic, trend in cinema advertisements. The advertising companies have said they are afraid of vandalism by religious extremists, and of hurting people’s feelings as a result of posting pictures of women.

[Hat tip to DS]

Yedioth had this story.

Parshas Ki Sisa and the Golden Calf

[לעילוי נשמת אבי מורי הריני כפרת משכבו, ר ‘ שאול זעליג בן ר’ יהודה הכהן]

According to the Ramban, no less, it is a Mitzvah MiDeorayso to read the section from the Torah once a year. All compilers of the list of 613 Mitzvos, don’t agree with each other, and this is one of those (there are about 18) where the Ramban has a different Mitzvah to the Rambam. The Gemora says that the sin of the golden calf is important to be remembered because it teaches us that the jews as a whole, even when they have sinned in a terrible way, Avoda Zara (idol worship) have a formula for Tshuva which includes specific special words, which we use in our davening.

Everyone asks the obvious question, how could the Jews however go from such a lofty state after receiving the Torah and commit such a grievous sin. There are a myriad of answers, and as in all things Torah, some of them click more than others depending on the individual.

I was walking back from Elwood Shule today, feeling rather alone and lonely, because I always walked with my father; it used to take him 40 minutes because his knee was bone on bone, and he had heart issues. He did it, though, rain, hail or heat wave. As I walked, I was thinking about this question, and the following thought materialised.

It is not a big gap between praying directly to Hashem versus praying through an Idol. Man innately has a need for Mamoshus (some physical manifestation). The Jews had just seen and heard stuff which was “out of this world.” Does it mean that in using an Idol, they repudiated what they had seen and heard? I now don’t think so. I think they took a small, but very dangerous step in seeking some level of Mamoshus. It’s a grave sin, but perhaps it’s really a small step and not necessarily one which means they abandoned fundamentals. Perhaps that’s why some leaders (incorrectly) cast a blind eye. Probably, someone says this, and even more probably I may have even read it some time, but what do you think?

I know, for example, that many/most? Hindus believe there is still one God, yet they use these getchkes to “help them” focus. We aren’t meant to do that. It’s a grave sin, even if the intentions are honourable.

January 1 as the new Year

I’m sure many of you who interact with gentiles, commonly face a situation where wishes for a “Safe, healthy etc new year” are conveyed. There are poskim who still forbid writing a non-Jewish date on correspondence. General practice is to be lenient, especially outside Israel.

Tosfos in Avoda Zara 11a describe two different styles of custom forbidden by the prohibition of imitating non-Jewish customs as described in Vayikra 18:3 vis-a-vis the Gemora in Sanhedrin 52b. The Ramo, who we follow, in Yoreh Deah 178:1 is lenient and writes that as long as a custom has no pagan origins, and makes some common sense, it is permitted. On the other hand, the Vilna Gaon ad loc takes the opposite view: unless a custom has a specific Jewish origin, it is always forbidden. In general we don’t follow the stringent view of the Gaon.

According to wikipedia:

The Romans dedicated New Year’s Day to Janus, the god of gates, doors, and beginnings for whom the first month of the year (January) is also named. After Julius Caesar reformed the calendar in 46 BC and was subsequently murdered, the Roman Senate voted to deify him on the 1st January 42 BC[2] in honor of his life and his institution of the new rationalized calendar.[3] The month originally owes its name to the deity Janus, who had two faces, one looking forward and the other looking backward. This suggests that New Year’s celebrations are founded on pagan traditions. Some have suggested this occurred in 153 BC, when it was stipulated that the two annual consuls (after whose names the years were identified) entered into office on that day, though no consensus exists on the matter.[4] Dates in March, coinciding with the spring equinox, or commemorating the Annunciation of Jesus, along with a variety of Christian feast dates were used throughout the Middle Ages, though calendars often continued to display the months in columns running from January to December.[citation needed]

Among the 7th century pagans of Flanders and the Netherlands, it was the custom to exchange gifts at the New Year. This was a pagan custom deplored by Saint Eligius (died 659 or 660), who warned the Flemings and Dutchmen, “(Do not) make vetulas, [little figures of the Old Woman], little deer or iotticos or set tables [for the house-elf, compare Puck] at night or exchange New Year gifts or supply superfluous drinks [another Yule custom].” The quote is from the vita of Eligius written by his companion, Ouen.

Most countries in Western Europe officially adopted January 1 as New Year’s Day somewhat before they adopted the Gregorian calendar. In England, the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25, was the first day of the new year until the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1752. The March 25 date was known as Annunciation Style; the January 1 date was known as Circumcision Style,[5] because this was the date of the Feast of the Circumcision, considered to be the eighth day of Christ’s life, counting from December 25 when his birth is celebrated. This day was christened as the beginning of the New Year by Pope Gregory as he designed the Liturgical Calendar.[6]

Accepting this historical record would imply that the notion of celebrating January 1 as a “New Year” is forbidden even according to the lenient view of the Ramo. Indeed, the idea of Yidden getting together for a New Year’s eve party, may be forbidden according to Torah law, as above. Without trying to sound too judgemental, if a Yid wishes me a “Happy New Year” or something similar, I respond that our new year is not at this time. How though does one respond to a gentile?

It seems to me, and I repeat, that my view is not LeHalacha and not LeMaaseh and just pitputim, and each person really needs to ask their own Local Orthodox Rabbi: that there would be nothing wrong with issuing a pareve style response along the lines of

“I hope that the ensuing new calendar year is a successful one for you, yadadayada”

This is not just a throw away line. I think we do want our non-Jewish associates and friends to be healthy, wealthy and wise. Mipnei Darchei Shalom and Mishum Eyvo (that is, just to be a diplomatic mentch in a non-Jewish society) I think it is appropriate to make such statements, but to leave it at that.

Chas V’Shalom to ascribe any special meaning to the day, however, even if it has now become secular. The roots are pagan, and therefore forbidden in practice. Some believe it corresponds to the Yom HaMila of אותו איש, which of course it wasn’t, but even if they think that, it’s enough.

Fraudulent Collector (Part 2)

Dear all,

I have been reliably informed that this gentleman

Alexander Shtayn (elohist)

About whom I previously posted, is in Melbourne and davened at the 7am Minyan at Ohel Dvorah.

Attached is another letter regarding him.

He has not recanted

One of the Mispallelim, wrote to me as follows:

I questioned him quite strongly, he was being very evasive, took me ages to get his last name out of him, and that he was from Milwaukee.
He told us a convoluted story about a kollel for children and elderly in S. Petersburg and in US. Overall he appeared to be a very strange guy.

Make up your own mind. Indications are that

  1. He is a Kofer B’Ikar
  2. A fraud

As we no longer have the once excellent Chesed service, can I suggest that readers pass this blog post around?

What if anything should you say בימי אידיהן

Yesterday, a number of my alumni were wishing everyone “Eid Ul Aza” or “Eid Mubarak” or similar. November 6, 2011 is associated with an Islāmic festival, sometimes called Eid al-Adha. Essentially, Muslims contend that it was Yishmael who Avraham Avinu was commanded to sacrifice on the Akeyda. They celebrate this act of faith with a feast and wish each other Eid Mubarak. I had discussed this issue in the past with some of my more open-minded alumni, and one of them said “forget who it was, just celebrate an act of extreme faith”.

I have always considered religious festivals to be a private matter. It never made sense to me that someone should wish me a Happy Chanukah anymore than I would wish them a Merry Xmas. To be sure, Muslims are not considered בעלי עבודה זרה and so the issue in this instance is somewhat different from a halachic point of view. On the other hand, this particular festival grated on me because it was contradicted by all ancient sources.

We contend that it was Yitzchak who was on the Akeyda. Even if some Muslims seemingly acknowledge that Yitzchak was also charged to be on the Akeyda with Avraham, I always viewed that as apologetic and a cop-out.

So what does one say, if anything? In the end I settled on “Enjoy your feast”. Is that kosher in the spirit of שלום?

What do you say when someone wishes you Merry Xmas? In the case of Roman Catholics Xmas is עבודה זרה.

Do you feel uncomfortable if someone wishes you Happy Chanukah? Are you as über sensitive as me?

I admit that I am overly sensitive. Towards the end of the year, our office is bedecked with Xmas decorations. I feel uncomfortable just entering the office at that time, and avoid doing so at all costs. I don’t so much care if someone pays for and displays their own personal decorations, but I do not care for University money being used for one particular religion. Are my views too extreme?