Sigh. Another nihilist post from Alex Fein

I need to start with the disclaimer. I bear no personal antipathy towards Alex. She is married to my cousin Yaron Gottlieb, and I remember their wedding fondly (the band in particular were incredible).

I’ve been busy of late, involved in matters that rather wouldn’t have required my attention. Such is life. Today, however, I received an email  (allegedly) being an article just written by Alex. I don’t feel an imperative to read Galus Australis given the stack of things I haven’t read next to my bed. (I was chuffed to see its roots though included the daughter of a colleague of mine, Dr Ron Sacks-Davis. Ron is a mild-mannered lovely person who recruited me to RMIT more years ago than I care to admit.

I read a few lines of Alex’s alleged comments and saw that it involved my Rav Hamuvhak (my primary Rabbi and teacher), the world-renowned Halachic Decisor for the OU (currently the only Halachic Consultant since Rav Belsky’s recent passing), the Rabbi of the Rabbis of the Rabbinic Council of America, someone who just celebrated 50 years as a Rosh Yeshiva and Rosh Kollel at Yeshivah University, who has a degree in Science, the youngest Rosh Yeshivah appointed by Yeshivah University, the brilliant Rabbi who could recall just about every word he heard from his teacher, the enormous father of Centrist Orthodoxy, Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik ז׳ל. More recently, three of his books have been published where he recounts the Mesora, approach and words that he heard either with his own ears, or from someone else (always naming his source). He also had a serious of Halachic treatises. One includes his decision that it is forbidden according to Halacha to return parts of Israel. No doubt, that of itself would be something that Alex would not accept, though she could not build a counter halachic argument, despite frequenting partnership minyanim which seek to raise the prominence of women in all facets of Judaism (perhaps with the exception of circumcision, although I suspect Alex might be against it because the male child hasn’t been asked whether they actually want it). Alex and Yaron now have two charming daughters.

I have a copy of every book that Mori V’Rabbi Rav Schachter has written. Steve Jobs can be credited with introducing me, and even forcing me (due to a bluetooth firmware bug in some 3rd party radios used in today’s cars) to listen to my iPhone in the car for some 40 minutes each day driving to works and then back. I’m sorry I was using green house gasses, however, I was fulfilling כיבוד אב ואם. I now use more green house gasses, via the public tram system, but let’s not go there.

Despite being a musician for longer than I’ve been an academic, the only song that might be on my iPhone at a given moment is one I need to learn for a wedding and require a refresher. 99.9% of the 128 Gigabytes, yes, Gigabytes, contain Torah Shiurim. Due to the bug in the blue tooth, as soon as I turn the car on, a random Shiur starts (or sometimes the Shiur I was listening to resumes). I just checked my iTunes list and found that I had downloaded locally 1000 Shiurim. If one visits yu.org, which is one of the biggest sanctifications of God’s name, one finds that Rav Schachter has 4,880 Shiurim. Now Alex is good with her pen (although I find her descent into profanities unbecoming and bordering on unfitting illiterate Bogan culture, let alone something that is forbidden by the Judaism that Alex loves (even by “non” fundamentalists).

My first question is, how many of the published 4,880 Shiurim of Mori V’Rabbi Rav Schachter, has Alex listened to? I would venture to say that two digits would be a stretch. As such, her personal exposure to his style, character, integrity, let alone his learning and dignity, is approaching ZERO.

My next question is, how many of Rav Schachter’s Seforim has Alex learned or studied with or without someone. Again, I venture to say none given that since they don’t seem to fall under the rubric of a quote from Wikipedia (I got a shock when I saw she has an entry)

In one article, a conservative community activist whom she had criticised accused her of an ‘evidence-light prosecutorial indictment of the community.’ Fein responded to this criticism by saying that it was this very style of argument that was driving away an entire generation of young Jews.

Fein, for example is certainly unaware that Rav Schachter is the Halachic authority that is relied upon by a movement which rallies against outing men (not sure if they are involved in women not accepting a Gett) and putting them under pressure, demonstrations etc. I will leave Alex to find out about that. Rav Schachter, though, doesn’t do things because he thinks they sit well with his “feelings”. He does them because Halacha and his feelings coincide, with the former being the last words. He is afraid of nobody and states his opinion without fear or favour.

My next question to Alex is how many times she has spoken to Rav Schachter?  I speak to him semi-regularly. I gather the questions that I have (which are not klotz kashes) and late in the evening in New York he always takes my call, and did so the first time without knowing me from a herring. He speaks with incredible humility and I have never, I repeat, never, heard a Rav say “I don’t know”, as often as I hear Rav Schachter say that in Shiurim, and sometimes on the phone. So Alex, being such an accomplished writer and journalist would you like to ring him cold and ask him your questions? You might want to read him one of your diatribes where you state

For some reason, I consent to be a part of a congregation that does not count me as an adult human.

Only adult men can form the quorum required for certain prayers. Every time I set foot in my synagogue or participate in Orthodox Jewish life, I leave my civil society feminism at the door and therefore comply with something that erases a massive part of myself.

There are plenty of rabbis prepared to insult our intelligence. They’ll tell us that all the things women cannot do in Orthodoxy—bearing witness and initiating divorce being two of the biggest—are simply because women are more spiritual than men and should not have to dirty themselves with… what? Real life and power, among other things.

How can I consent to this oppression in any intellectually honest way and still call myself a feminist?

Alex, maybe you can’t call yourself a feminist. Instead, try Jewish Orthodox person, and learn from prime sources. You do know that Rav Soloveitchik, Rav Schachter’s prime teacher encouraged women to study the Torah including the Talmud. Undoubtedly you also know that Rav Moshe Feinstein z’l explicitly forbade anything that remotely smelled of feminism. I’m not sure why that defines you more than Judaism? Does it?

By the way, just to set the record straight if you may have received the message incorrectly: Rav Schachter ruled that any functionary of a partnership prayer group, should be banned from leading services in an Orthodox Shule. Now this was one of a batch of questions on my list to ask. A number of Rabbis know that I have access to Rav Schachter, and they ask me to ask him a question on their behalf. And no, they don’t always like the answers. The issue of your own husband not being permitted to be a functionary, is an outcome of that halachic decision. It was not initiated by me in any way whatsoever. I’m sure it gnaws at you though, incessantly.

Okay, let me now get to your article Alex. You are an intelligent girl, and I know you mean well and I have zero negativity towards you.

My comments in response to your prose will be in red

Good morning kvetchers.
There’s a rabbinic shit fight* going on that we all need to pay attention to, even those of us who are not Orthodox or have no interest in religion.**

Dear Alex, we don’t use words like that. Get a thesaurus. They are online. Furthermore, we certainly don’t have to pay attention to it when we haven’t got the foggiest idea what is behind it.
This fight represents a broader struggle for the soul of our worldwide community.

Alex, your knowledge, or should I say complete ignorance of Rav Schachter is showing ingloriously. This has nothing to do with the soul, nothing to do with the worldwide community. Rav Schachter happens to have definitional and methodological problems with the other Rabbi, and feels very strongly about those, in the same way that his teacher Rav Soloveitchik felt about Reform and Conservative, and how his approach decimated their charlatan forms of our religion.

It is a clear cut case of fundamentalist intolerance versus moderate reason.

Define your terms please Alex. What is a fundamentalist? Someone who ascribes to the Rambam’s 13 fundamentals or the 620 Mitzvos, 613 +7. And who in God’s name or his writings defines moderation as being abandoning fundamentals. You really can’t write cheap one liners like that. You are more intelligent than to descend into the one line headline grabbers of the Greens.
This fight has material implications for our collective long term future because of the current Orthodox stranglehold in Israel and over many communities, (including Australia) regarding personal status (who is a Jew, agunot, etc.)
It has personal ramifications for Orthodox, frum women like me who have felt asphyxiated by rabbinic irrationality and abrogations of historicity.

Can you please give us examples of your eruditely researched Rabbinic Irrationality. Without it, your statement is vacuous despite its clarion call to history.
What started with Rabbi Herscel Schacter – a major (fundamentalist) figure at Yeshiva Uni – tearing down the posters advertising a lecture by a rigorous but moderate rabbi, Aryeh Klapper, is transforming into a very exciting story.

Hmmm, we don’t know what fundamentalist means, but Alex has crowned Rav Schachterwith the term; someone who ordains Rabbis after a four year course fir the last 50 years! (give me a call Alex, I will tell you some of the fantastic innovations they have there which are being introduced elsewhere). 

The Rabbi Klapper incident is a Machlokes L’Shem Shomayim. Rav Schachter will have his reasons, and they will be most cogently argued as to why he doesn’t think Rabbi Klapper isn’t following Mesora and thereby should not speak at YU. To be honest, it doesn’t even interest me. That Rav Schachter took off the posters? Big deal. He felt it was a Bizayon HaTorah. 

But you know Alex, there is a thing called Divine Providence, which doesn’t have a special relationship with feminism or fundamentalism. I hopped into my car tonight to get home. As I mentioned above, a random Shiur started. Guess what, the Shiur was from Torahweb.org (he has Shiurim there and elsewhere as well) and the speaker was Mori V’Rabbi Rav Schachter. Guess what his topic was? “Why are Jews so intolerant”. He dissected the issue nicely, and I urge you to find it (I will send it if you can’t) and you will find a man who has one thing greater than his learning. His Middos. He is one of the most self-effacing humble people I have met, and he is the real thing.

This now about Orthodox Jews saying to a cabal of intolerant rabbis: enough!

Do me a favour the new Victorian Rabbinate Leadership is hardly a cabal let alone intolerant. You’ve been accused before for making statements without back up. You have done so again. If you were my student, I’d give you zero for that statement. It’s just an attack.

You do not have a hotline to God that you can steamroll opposition to your dystopian, misogynist, racist, and homophobic view of our religion.

Alex, are you working for Richard Di Natale? You have simply trotted out a series of “modern” slogans and have not linked them to an allegation that you made. It does not become someone of your intelligence to descend into cheap sloganeering.

Some important points:

The rabbi tearing down the posters, Rabbi Schacter, is considered by many a giant of Torah learning.

You can say, He IS a giant of Torah learning. The world knows that. He is a prodigy.

.He has, however, an unfortunate world view. He famously told a group of rabbis that informing the police of child rape would endanger the rapist by placing him “in a cell with a shvartze, in a cell with a Muslim, a black Muslim who wants to kill all the Jews.”

You and the forward are so damned misinformed. You take the quote and you don’t actually listen to his Halachic analysis which is valid and in-depth. Rav Schachter actually says that they must be reported to the police, however, he raised the halachic issue of sending someone to the type of prison which is against the Torah (e.g., where they get raped and beaten up). He suggested the Prison System needs to be reformed. There you go Alex, how about taking that on. I think they should be reported and if found guilty go to prison, but I do not think it is halachically (or morally) correct that they are subject to rape, and sticks up their behinds, and beatings. Do you? 

http://forward.com/…/yeshiva-condemns-offensive-racial-rem…/

. Schachter also believes women have *zero* role in public life *at all*. He doesn’t just oppose women’s ordination; he opposes their presence as public figures full stop.

You’ve dropped his title and simplified the issue to a two liner. He has many Shiurim on this topic where he dissects Rishonim and Acharonim. This isn’t about a western line of equality nor is it about sticking to medieval practices. It is about interpreting Halacha for our times. Let me remind you, Rabbi Schachter is exactly that-the biggest Talmid Chacham in Centrist/Modern Orthodoxy. Guess what Alex. His wife has Shiurim on yutorah.org (heaven forbid!) You really have zero idea and just shoot with no bullets in your pop gun.

.Rabbi Klapper is a straight down the line Modern Orthodox rabbi who sees a need to balance rigorous adherence to law with intelligent interpretations of that law. He is sympathetic to women’s desires not to be marginalised.

I’m not going to argue with you. I don’t know Rabbi Klapper from a bar of soap. However, Rav Schachter certainly knows his methodologies

https://docs.google.com/…/1EIgABKi2t9KS84yiJSHwpvkpbuz…/edit

. He is also someone who pauses from discussion of Halachic minutiae to think about other crucial, practical things impacting Jewish life, such as the cost of school fees

Are you just bigoted? This morning I heard a Shiur ALSO from Rav Schachter on this topic. You can call it minutiae but it is bemoaned by many and case in terms of Hilchos Tzedoko. If you like I can send you the Shiur. It was on the topic of Zikkuy HaGett but he went on a tangent (as he often does). You think these things don’t bother him and he’s only worried whether you eat Meir Rabbi’s mayonnaise for Pesach?

http://www.jewishideasdaily.com/…/the-moral-costs-of-jewis…/

So it’s not surprising that a man like Schacter is not going to like a man like Klapper.

Like? Please educate yourself. Rav Schachter would have nothing to do with notions of whether he likes or doesn’t like Rabbi Klapper. Any objection would be firmly based on Halachic principles (things you seem to love like to denigrate and call minutiae). Rav Schachter says explicitly that when two Talmidei Chachomim have sound approaches which disagree on a conclusion, both conclusions are God’s word. I heard him say that in the car this afternoon. Rav Schachter will have his reasons. He didn’t just have a 50th year celebration and Sefer Torah dedication at YU because he’s some simple-minded automaton.

It’s also not surprising that a woman like Alex who knows ZERO about the Halachic/Mesora reasons Rabbi Schachter may have against Rabbis who take certain paths (which by the way may have to do with Ben Pekuah and not women) will make such a sciolistic and ignorant Gzeira Shava.

What *is* surprising, is that Schacter thought it was appropriate to refer to Klapper as an apostate and crazy person, when Schachter was asked why he ripped down posters advertising Klapper’s lecture.

Rav Schachter’s words are a matter of conjecture, as I expect you know by now. He can sometimes use inflamed expression. On the other hand, if he really believed Rabbi Klapper was an Apikorus (which you aren’t) he would be able to explain why but no doubt do that behind the closed doors of the RCA. He has a right to deny certain speakers, or do you deny him that too?

Schachter also said inviting Klapper to speak was as bad as inviting a Reform rabbi.

He uses that analogy all the time. It means, it’s as bad as inviting someone who doesn’t display fidelity to Mesorah and makes Judaism fit their world view and not the other way around.

I don’t know about you, but I’m personally thoroughly sick and tired of this disgusting attitude to people who have different religious beliefs.

I know a few Doctors if you are “thoroughly sick” but I suggest you educate yourself so that you don’t sit like one of the four daughters at the Pesach table.

I’m sick of bullies in positions of rabbinic power.

You mean people who said your husband’s involvement with partnership services is not kosher? It wasn’t my question, but I most certainly accept the answer, especially in Melbourne where many of the women eat out, and don’t keep many basic Mitzvos, but demand “a pulpit” to expectorate from (unlike the Jerusalem chapter where those women are consistently frum.

I’m sick of rabbis who hate women; who are openly racist; who think it’s OK to protect child rapists.

So am I, but I don’t know any now in Victoria.

. I’m sick of these men deciding on matters crucial to the future of our people.

If they were women, you’d feel better?

But this whole episode has a very, very bright side: I had never heard of Klapper before this incident, and neither had a lot of other people.

And how many of his shiurim have you listened to now? You should start by calling him Rabbi Klapper, otherwise we may need to resort to calling you Rebbetzin Gottlieb.

Schachter’s disgusting behaviour has done the exact opposite of what he intended: it has introduced us to a great Jewish thinker of our time.

Well go and ask Rabbi Klapper about Melbourne’s partnership services. One look at that service and it would not surprise me that he will be on a flight out.

This is not to say I agree with everything I’ve read (to date) of Klapper’s opinions. But his reason, rigour and blatant decency are so refreshing.

So is the furious response from young people who are enraged that Schachter tried to shut Klapper down. This whole incident makes me more optimistic than I have been for a while.

Young people? You think older people defer to the old sage. Oh boy, you have zero idea. Rav Schachter’s knowledge is idealised by boys of 18-24. Y.U. has a left wing and Commentary can easily inflame a situation, better than you can.

PS. You aren’t young anymore, Alex.

Great, I hope you have a nice Seder

We are just at the beginning of all of this.

I’m excited.

I hope you are too.

Well no doubt you will regale both sedarim with fantastics divrei torah devoid of politics, sensationalism, and various modern appendages.

***

*It must be emphasised that the fight is very one sided. Klapper, as far as I know, has not engaged in any way. It is just Schacter calling him an apostate.

You could learn to spell Rav Schachter’s name, especially as there are two at YU who are not related. Finally, make it you next task to try and understand exactly why Rav Schachter does not like the approach to Halacha that Rabbi Klapper utilises.

Enjoy the Charoses. I hope its consumption doesn’t offend the green emission lobby.

PS. I haven’t read this. I just typed it in in one go, so there are bound to be English errors and typos. Forgive these please.
PPS. I just got a new book on the Parsha written by one of his students. Let me know if you want to borrow it.

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?

Rabbi Genende’s Drasha on Rosh Hashono

I must admit not hearing about it, but it flew across my desk, and I feel it requires some comments. I reproduce it below, adding my comments.

And every day the world grabs you by the hand and says: “This is important” and “this is important.” “This is where you should be putting your energy” and “This is where you should be directing your priorities.”
No it is the Torah that yanks you by the hand and gives direction to your heart and your hands about what you prioritise and how

And every day you’ve got to yank your hand back and put it up against your heart and say – “No this is important, this is what really counts! I will be guided by my heart, directed by my principles, driven by my faith.”
Actually, it is Shulchan Aruch which does that. In the rare cases, where one doesn’t see how the Shulchan Aruch should direct him, man does not go to his heart, he goes to his Rav Hamuvhak, which in my case is Rav Schachter, Head Posek of the RCA, Rosh Kollel of YU, and Head Posek of the OU. Who is Rabbi Ginende’s Rav Hamuvhak? I am interested to know. I assume it’s not his heart.
Life isn’t just about getting the logic right although clarity of mind and clear thinking are of course critical. It’s about getting your heart and mind in synch.
Is this a Pasuk or a Seif in Shulchan Aruch? What came first, the chicken or the egg. I don’t get it. My heart sometimes tells me A, but Shulchan Aruch says B. The latter is based on logic and clear thinking. Which should I follow?
At the beginning of recorded history Noah stood up, built an ark despite the cynics and sceptics. He was a righteous man, (ish tzadik bedorotav – איש צדיק בדרתיו) a Tzadik for his time and generation.
The Rabbi has seemed to not mention that it took Noah hundreds of years to convince people of the impending flood. The people were depraved. They didn’t listen. Noah Miktanei Amono Hoyo Ma’amin. He believed in even those of little faith. His generation, though, was depraved and if not for this Hero, there would have been no Avraham or Sarah!
Ten generations later the first Jew, Abraham, burst onto the world scene. He too dared to be different.
Yet we are told he used his logic, not his heart. He considered the Buddha’s and idols and inane entities so ridiculous that he SMASHED them in his father’s house. Would Rabbi Genende’s heart allow him to SMASH these today?
He was called an עברי a Hebrew, someone who chose to live on the other side, the word עברי comes from עובר as in מעבר לים on the other bank; He wasn’t transgender but he was a trans-Jew!
Call him a Chabadnik. He went to any corner and opened every door to every Jew and indeed tried to convince the non believer to believe. Guess what? We don’t hear any more of those converted by Avraham and Sarah except that they might have been the Erev Rav? Why is that?
Both were heroes, but it’s Abraham that we are named after, that we remember today in our Torah reading.
We actually descend from Noah’s son Shem. His one depraved son Cham was condemned as a violent animal and the other one Yefes, was the man of political correctness
It’s Abraham not Noah who was the first Jew.
And without Noah, Abraham wouldn’t have existed. Why is that, Rabbi?
He is our founding father, our hero. Abraham isn’t remembered for an ark but for his tent, a flimsy fragile temporary structure open with entries in all directions like a Chuppah.
Source please: Where do we know it was flimsy and fragile? What is this allegory to the Chuppa? Is this poetic license being employed?
There are two ways, two approaches to the world – the way of Noah, the ark-method, building yourself a secure and sealed structure to protect yourself from the wild waves and violent storms out there: It’s a sensible path but one based more on logic of the mind than language of the heart.
There are two approaches that must be taken according to generation and circumstance. Sometimes we must be firm as per God’s command to Noah, and other times we need to enfranchise, but Avraham only did so according to the Sheva Mitzvos B’Nei Noach. Dear Rabbi, did you ever wonder why they aren’t called Sheva Mitzvos B’Nei Avraham? Avraham wasn’t teaching them about Eiruvin. He was teaching them about monotheism
Then there is the way of Abraham, the tent open to and welcoming the winds of change but firmly planted on the ground with a strong tent pole and pegs like a steady moral compass.
So you have gone from a flimsy tent to a strong one with a moral compass. Avraham was certainly known as Midas HaChesed. Are you going to condemn Yitzchak because he was Midas HaYirah? What is your poetic meaning to gentle openly orthodox Abraham ready to Shecht his only son?
An open tent, an open heart and an open mind. Abraham is the model of compassion, he pulls his hands back to his heart. He is a massive intellect but in the end we remember him not for his magnificent mind but his exquisite heart, his creative chesed. 
Open Mind? Are you calling someone who goes into his Dad’s shop and elsewhere, and smashes every modern idol “an open mind with compassion”. Indeed he was. But, when it came to fundamentals, he didn’t dangle his toes in political correctness.
You can insulate yourself in an ark, oblivious to the world and its problems, protective of your own family and the property or you can open yourself to the world out there, embrace it, let it change you as you change it.
The kind of Judaism I believe in has always understood that you can’t stop the winds of change, but as Bob Dylan put it in Forever Young, you can ensure that you have a strong foundation, a firm tent, when the winds of change shift
Pray tell, who was the Rabbinic influence in your life that told you not to withstand the winds of change through the loving Mesora of our generations?
An open Orthodoxy as opposed to a closed one knows what it is to be a global Jew that the world’s problems are our problems that we can’t go on using our planets’ resources as if they were infinite.
Here Rabbi Genende needs to come clean. Is he a member of the Open Orthodoxy movement that embraces various unmasoretic principles and is rejected by the Rabbinic Council of America whose Posek was Rav Soloveitchik and whose Talmid Muvhak is without any doubt whatsoever Rav Hershel Schachter? The RCA has ruled that Open Orthodoxy are not to be admitted in the RCA. Tell us Rabbi Genende where are you in this equation?
We Aussies are almost as wasteful, reckless and feckless in our consumption of natural resources as the Americans. Our footprint is clumsy and large.
Our ingenuity and ability to correct the correctable is also famous.
Oscar Wilde’s acerbic retort could be applied to us – America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilisation between…
You see that as acerbic. Perhaps you should point to the current “infallible” Pope and his communist method of converting to Xtianity. His people slashed our chests with the cross in no less a barbaric way than D’aesh does with its opponents (or friends). That’s far more to the point than Oscar Wilde
We were given this earth לעבדה ולשמרה to work it
Interesting. Who was given that command? Abraham? Nope. His forebears, who you have placed as irrelevant to our times.
and protect and safeguard it for future generations (Genesis 2:15). So remember: Reduce, reuse, recycle and eat less red meat – it’s good for you and your planet.
What is a Rabbi doing telling us to eat less Red Meat? He knows he should eat Red Meat on Yom Tov, and wash it down with fine wine. He also knows that Korbanos were full of red meat. The jury is out on various diets and fads. Rabbis do have a duty to tell us what is not good for us.  חמירא סכנתא מאיסורא but if one’s motive is to modernise, become a vegan?
And open Orthodoxy knows you can’t close the ark against the world’s most pressing global challenge today: The mass displacement of people, the greatest number of refugees since War World 2. All these dreadful images etched on to our collective minds, seared into our consciousness from the lifeless pitiful body of the 4 year old Syrian Kurdish boy Aylan Kurdi washed up on the beach in Turkey, to the chaotic scenes at the at the railway station in Hungary.
This is the only way? Closing the Ark? Rabbi Genende is often pictured with Muftis and Priests. I’d like to know whether he has asked them to take in their people. They have the space, the money and the resources to do so very quickly. Has he? Would he go on the public record as being critical of them for not advocating such? Perhaps he’s not aware of this
I would be taking that message to the tree huggers. I’d also point out this 

They have sparked an intense, important and long overdue debate in Australia about our responsibility to respond to the cargoes of hapless people and to rethink our policies on asylum seekers.
I don’t know, the last I saw Labor was claiming that they stopped the boats, so is the Rabbi advocating for “Israel hating” Greens?
In Australia as across the world the people led the way and our government responded positively. I am heartened by the wave of compassion that has swept the world but the issues are complex, the problem growing and it’s going to take resilience and determination to sustain goodwill and not to suffer compassion fatigue. And to apply the same kind of compassion to those now stranded on Nauru or Manus Island. People of all faiths and ethnicities have to continue to make space for one another, to honour our shared humanity. Fail this and we will have failed one of the fundamental tests of humanity. Fail this and we have failed the command, “Love the stranger because you were once strangers” something close to Jewish hearts.
This is an incorrect translation and I will take it as poetic license to further Rabbi Genende’s political bent
Of course part of the complexity is that a large part of these refuges will be Muslim and while I’m afraid of and oppose a Muslim caliphate fear of all Muslims isn’t a defence. If we are not part of the solution in reaching out to moderate Muslims, of helping integrate Muslim refugees and migrants into our lifestyle and helping find a way to reach young disaffected Muslims, then we are part of the problem. Stereotyping Muslims is as bad as stereotyping Jews. We are after all the “People of the Book”, nuanced readers of reality.
Which part of Sharia is unclear? What percentage is required for you to give them credence. Try this 

I draw strength from the leadership of the ICV, I draw strength from the young thoughtful Muslims I meet, from the young American Muslim leaders leading regular visits to the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem to learn about Zionism and Israel. They assure us it’s not too late; we can still stem the tide of Islamic anti-Israel sentiment and anti-Semitism. I pray they are correct because it’s going to take all the positive good-will and ingenuity we can muster.
You take their assurances. Just like Neville Chamberlain. 

It’s easy to resort to black and white responses but that’s the way of Noah – you are in the Ark or you are outside.
Again the Rabbi seems to have missed the point. Noah was OUTSIDE his ark for hundreds of years more than he was in the ark. I dare say, he was more involved in ICV than the good Rabbi and for far longer. His generation, like ours, the Holocaust generation isn’t ready to have the wool pulled over our eyes by tree hugging political correctness manifestos.
That’s not the way of Abraham who from the beginning of his mission reached out to the world around him, converting and accepting his neighbours while remaining resolute in his pursuit of justice, compassion and righteousness.
Judaism since Avraham has always resisted the easy way – Just as we prefer a twisty Shofar, a כפוף to a straight one. Gimme a twisty curly shofar any time! Give me the long and winding road – a straight line may be the shortest path between two paths but it isn’t necessarily the best way between two moral poles.
Some more poetic esoterica? What has this to do with a Shofar. The best Bris Milah, which Avraham was the first to perform, was short and sharp, in the straightest line. Could you have used that line?
And being straight may be easy and comfortable but it doesn’t mean we reject Jews who aren’t straight but GLBTI.
Kindly define your terms. What does rejection mean? I’ve seen homosexuals getting Aliyos in plenty of Shules. They don’t walk in wearing a rainbow coloured Tallis nor should they need to advertise their proclivity. Do you want your congregants to come in with “I drove to Shule on Shabbos but my Rabbi still loves me” on their tee shirts or should they wear “I ate pork yesterday, but it’s okay, it was before Yom Kippur”. What the heck? What’s wrong with being like everyone else. I don’t ask people about their sexual proclivities especially in Shule. The only people I’ve heard talk about this are raucous ones, none of whom I actually know.
One of the fundamental challenges today is that of the inclusion of GLBTI individuals in the Jewish tent. 
Really. A much BIGGER problem is People going off the Derech, Shabbos and Modern Orthodoxy, and the Shidduch Crisis and the need for Gimmicks in Shule to get people to come because their Jewish Education is vacuous and synagogue based. While I’m at it. Which authority allowed a Shule, your Shule Rabbi Genende to be transformed into a concert hall. Rav Soltoveitchik wouldn’t allow a Chuppa in a Shule because it was unbecoming to Kedushas Beis Haknesses!
Orthodox Judaism has always embraced the traditional and Biblically-based definition of marriage as that between a man and woman; and that homosexuality is forbidden. Does this mean that there is no place for the gay person in Jewish life or for the Orthodox gay couple in the Orthodox community? Is it only Adam and Eve? Is there any place for Adam and Steve?
It’s easy to say – “It’s against the Bible and Judaism, that’s it.”
But you’re comfortable with public shabbos desecration about which the concept of Tinok Shenishba has been well and truly debunked by Rav Asher Weiss in Minchas Asher, quite honestly and convincingly. Do you honestly think people haven’t learned or been denied the lessons of Shabbos. That doesn’t worry you, but Adam and Steve sitting together in Shule? What do I care. There is nothing forbidding it. However, there is al pi Shulchan Aruch, and I challenge you to debate this with me, an absolute prohibition of Yichud between Adam and Steve, as there is for Adam and Eve before they perform Kiddushin. And, as a matter of fact, there is no existential Kiddushin according to either Noah’s laws or Abraham’s laws in respect of Adam and Steve, or Jill and Gill.
It’s a lot harder to say that to a sincere gay individual, to your son who has come out or to your sister who is living in a gay relationship. It’s a fearsome challenge, because if homosexuality is genetically wired as overwhelming evidence suggests how can a caring God demand they go against their nature?
I’m sorry to point out to you that you will not understand God’s way, irrespective of which morality your heart adopts. Furthermore, Rabbi Genende, what would you say if there was some Gene Therapy developed in 10 years time which obviated this “carelessness” of God? God put it there. Would you advocate it’s use to repair the אנוסים?
Indeed it has been suggested that the verse may only apply if the individual is acting out of free choice not compulsion ( אונס).
And that’s not a gun at his head? Please quote your sources?
And we need to recognise the vulnerability of young gay individuals, to affirm their right not to be alone לא טוב היות אדם לבדו , not to be driven to despair and suicide, but to establish loving relationships even as we ask of them and their heterosexual peers to show restraint in the public expression of their sexuality.
Rabbi Soloveitchik understood that Pasuk very differently to you, and he had plenty of cases, just as “cruel” like the Cohen who wanted to marry the convert etc. But, Halachic Man is bound by the Meסorah, and I dare say, Rabbi Genende, so are you. This is what makes the flimsy tent not fly away.
I don’t know why God created us differently and why the Torah decreed homosexuality forbidden. But I do know that the reality of the 21st century is that there are GLBTI Jews, that there are practising Orthodox Jews living in same-sex relationships.
Oh boy, it’s only the 21st century that has publicised this effectively. It’s always been there. If it wasn’t why is one of the Sheva Mitzvos B’nei NOACH
I do know that Orthodox Jews don’t stone sinners today even if they are desecrating Shabbat or committing adultery. In our shule we don’t ask people if they ate the abominable (to’evah) shrimp cocktail or had their name on the Ashley Madison site before we give them an Aliyah.
There are very good reasons for that, and it has NOTHING to do with your Shule. But what are your reasons? Are they halachically based on הוכיח תוכיח את עמיתך or is it a matter of “heart or constitution”.
So who knows what the future holds? Being flippant I could remind you that in the certain states in the USA gay marriage and marijuana were legalised on the same day. After all, Leviticus 20:13: If a man lies with another man he should be stoned. We have just been interpreting it incorrectly all these years…
Fair enough, old joke but a good one
Being serious I would rather err on the side of compassion than be a religious warrior without compunction. I will leave it to God to judge who is right.
Why are you a Rabbi? What morality do you impart to the masses. Are you limited to those parts of Shulchan Aruch that “fit your heart?” I haven’t seen anyone beat up a gay person in any Orthodox Shule by words or even invocation. Why would they? I had a great moral dilemma, but I dare say, I went about it in a different way to you, Rabbi Genende. We had a pedophile on bail in our Shule. I was troubled by his presence, which should have been quiet in a corner awaiting his trial (personally, in his position I wouldn’t have been able to go to Shule, but I digress). I discussed it with the Rabbi and I sensed he found this a “too hard issue” like the one you are grappling with. I rang Rav Schachter, and he said to me immediately, that I had no right to even imply that the eventually convicted pedophile should not come to Shule. He had a CHIYUV to daven like any body else, however, he should be quietly spoken to and asked to come and leave quickly and make himself unobtrusive. Is he also someone you consider an אנוס Rabbi Genende, the DNA may even indicate it. What then?
There is a fascinating Talmudic discussion about whether women can blow the shofar. While the Halachik debate focuses on obligation and responsibility there is another debate going on in Orthodoxy today about inclusion, leadership and spiritual role models.
The debate is within Avi Weiss’s break away group. The RCA aren’t debating the role of Rabats, or whatever you want to call them. They are very clear and their statements freely available.
While the ultra-Orthodox’ s position is generally that Noah steers the ark and Mrs Noah doesn’t even have a name, the Open Orthodox position is look to Sarah. When Sarah fearlessly challenges Avraham and he appeals to God (like many a Jewish husband may be tempted to), God’s response is simple and unequivocal: כל האמר לך שרה תשמע בקולה – Whatever your wife says – goes! (Genesis 21:12)Listen to her voice!
And today across the Jewish world – especially in Israel and USA we are doing just that today. We are paying attention to the learned and thoughtful voices of religious women who are achieving the same and even superior levels of Jewish knowledge to their male counterparts.
And pray tell how you extend this Drush to a Siman in Shulchan Aruch, and which commentators? NON Ultra Orthodox (and here I do mean RCA) couples listen to their wives and Na’ama as the wife of Noach is known.
While the title these women deserve may be debatable – rabbi, rabbah, Maharat – they are taking on positions of religious leadership in shules across Israel, Canada and the USA.
Do me a favour. I have a cousin who is a Yoetzet Halacha. She knows Shas and Poskim very well. She is anti feminist, as was Rav Moshe Feinstein. When she needs she consults with Rav Henkin, who by the way doesn’t approve of Shira Chadasha. Do you approve of Shira Chadasha as Orthodox Rabbi Genende? Would you advocate it being a member of the RCV or whatever new group forms?
There is still a way to go; even YU (Yeshiva University) the bastion of Modern Orthdoxy is opposed to women being ordained in any form.
Really? YU are against Yoatzot? Where did you get that from?
In my mind the debate is not about Jewish law but the power to define and control the franchise of Orthodox Judaism, about women sharing the right to decide on our collective future! I look forward to welcoming these women into Australia and in our Shule, into positions of spiritual leadership.
Well, you’d be well aware of the Rambam on this issue, wouldn’t you. He was very forward thinking. Do you know his wife’s name? I’m sure you are aware that a (male) King can’t give testimony. Let’s seek equality here too?
They are our “Women of Gold” and a women’s reading of Torah and Halacha can surely only enrich and enliven Judaism for all of us.
We have had women Prime Ministers in Australia and Israel, women running for President of the USA, women occupying highest positions in society, from COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg to CEO of Yahoo Marissa Mayer and Susan Wojcicki of YouTube. Surely the time has come for us to embrace women leaders in our Orthodox shules and institutions…after all they will still remain safely behind the mechitza.
The challenge Orthodoxy faces today is will it focus on the small (and laudably) totally committed 10% of the Chareidi ultra Orthodox or will it reach out to the fractured, bleeding majority, the Jews who are marrying out and walking away. It will be judged in the 21 century by how it responds to these challenges. This is not just a challenge for the religiously committed but for you and me – do you want your grandchildren to be and stay Jewish? How and what kind of Jewish?
We’ve also had our Madonna’s and Bar Rafaeli’s and young Ms Clinton and all those who do no service to Jews or Israel. I guess you forgot them, and forgot that Tel Aviv is the capital of the LGBTI World Mardi gras. Can you tell us in plain language whether you are opposed to the holy city of Jerusalem featuring a “Pork eating rights March” or are you governed more by Western Sensibilities than Modern Orthodoxy.
When you open the doors like Abraham and Sarah you let in all kinds of influences, some sweet breezes and some toxic winds. It’s a dangerous path because you don’t always know who you are welcoming in and Lionel Trilling has warned if you become too open-minded your brains can fall out…
But I would take the tent of Abraham any day over the ark of Noah hermetically sealed and separated by high walls from the rest of society, from my fellow human beings.
So when the world comes pulling at me and says: “This is important and this is important” I will definitely and unequivocally pull back my hand, turn it to my heart and say: “No this is important, the kind of heart I have, the soul I am growing is one that is guided by the way of positive passion wider inclusion and recognition, driven by my unerring belief in the God and the truth of Torah of Israel and the rich values we continue to share with the world.”
So I will sow the winds driving through my tent with seeds of love and scatter on them our values of dignity and equality, freedom and family, community and connectedness.
I expect you meant sew. I said enough about this above, but I will remind you that the Torah doesn’t tell us what happened to all those people Abraham and Sarah converted. Did you ever wonder why?

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)

The excruciating pain of the 3 kidnapped yeshivah boys and the disgrace of Neturei Karta

[Hat tip DS]

My children were near that spot on Thursday night. It is spine chilling. While we normally criticise Neturei Karta for a lack of Ahavas Yisrael, in this case, they have certainly done the wrong thing. They have written about three of their own who (שומו שמים) may have been drafted into the Holy Army defending our Nation.

I find it very hard to support these people. Someone at Shule said “respect their Shita”. Sorry, this poster makes me ill in context. They complain about “ZIONIST MURDERERS”

What Mashiach would want to walk through Meah Shearim? Not even Shabtai Tzvi the faker.

I call on the leaders of Adass Yisrael to disassociate themselves from this and to attend the Tehillim tonight at Caulfield Shule

 

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.

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?

Fraudulent collector

Alexandr Shteyn was recently in Cleveland. He was mistakenly allowed to stay in the Hachnosis Orchim for two days and then asked to leave. He claimed to be collecting for his wife’s medical bills, but it was believed he was collecting for what he claimed to be Chabad/Lubavitch of MilwaukeeWisconsin. He was not authorized to collect on behalf of Chabad/Lubavitch of MilwaukeeWisconsin.

He carries Certificate No. 212231 from the Vaad Harabonim Shlit”a of Florida valid from 6/13 – 6/27/2012. Interestingly, this certificate bears the declaration, “This is not an endorsement of any person, organization or cause” but rather bears a personal declaration signed by Alexandr Shteyn that he is collecting for his wife’s medical bills. He is also carrying a Permission to Collect Funds from the Va’ad HaRabanim of Greater Seattle valid from 12/12 – 12/19/2011 also for his wife’s medical treatments.

To all Shluchim and friends of Chabad Lubavitch,
It has come to my
attention that Alexander (Sasha) Milschtein – who is an “elokist”, rachamana litzlan, and who “celebrates” Tisha B’av with a public barbeque (complete with an announcement r”l in his published calendar) – has been traveling all over the world, fraudulently presenting himself as an affiliate of Chabad Lubavitch of Milwaukee/Wisconsin.
He and his representatives, Yevgeny (Shlomo) Seskutov and Aleksander Shteyn, appeal to people in your community and are being supported by unsuspecting, rachamonim bnei rachamonim.
It is my unpleasant duty, as a Jew and a Shaliach, to bring this to your attention in order to prevent you from supporting a fraudulent and a r”l… operation. Needless to say, it is an absolute prohibition, an isur chomur, to say the least, to offer any support to anyone of his camp. It is every Jew’s duty to prevent his constituency and acquaintances from R”L supporting the above, per these letters by Vaad Rabonei Anashand Beis Din of Crown Heights:
Letter by Vaad Rabonei Anash concerning Milschtein
Letter by Beth Din of Crown Heights about Milschtein
[I call your attention below to r”l similar letters from rabbonim.]
May the Al-mighty cause them to do teshuvah immediately.
Sincerely,
Rabbi Yisroel Shmotkin
Director, Lubavitch of Wisconsin

Shule to court controversy

It is difficult for mainstream Shules to survive in their earlier form.  A powerful method of attracting people back to Shule membership is to court iconoclasts and embellish them with a podium. A Melbourne Shule is seizing the moment, so to speak, as I understand they are sponsoring a visit from Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.

Rabbi Boteach is a controversial figure. Ostracised by Chabad, I haven’t  noticed him gaining traction with Modern Orthodox organisations. let alone right wing or ultra orthodox. He is visible amongst non-Jews and those outside the pale of traditional orthodoxy. I expect he is also motivated by a wish to influence Jews to become more devout as well as inspiring non-Jews to commit to the seven noachide laws. Is he the best man to do so? Boteach did himself no favours when he poorly debated Christopher Hitchens. That debate was embarrassing, to put it mildly.

Boteach described himself thus:

… then the Rebbe died and I had a major falling-out with the Chabad leadership because of my outreach to non-Jews. Ever since then, I have reconciled myself to the somewhat lonely status of being a Lubavitcher without a community. I compensated for my sense of isolation by becoming integrated into the mainstream Jewish community

It came then as little surprise when a senior figure in Chabad, Rabbi Dr Immanuel J. Schochet branded Boteach’s most recent book as heresy. R’ Schochet forbids the provision of a platform for Boteach to promote this book. R’ Schochet’s words are chosen in the context of the book. R’ Boteach, in his response to R’ Schochet, sought to popularise being banned by stating

We Jews are the people of the book, not the people who ban books.

This statement is shallow. There are Halachos about heresy. Books have been banned because they are deemed heretical. He can argue that his book is not heresy, but this “people of the book” line is something that might appeal more to Madonna and Michael Jackson. We are the people of the book even without including books that are deemed heretical. To be sure, R’ Schochet’s statement is an Halachic one. I do not see the category of “people of the book” influencing Halacha. Schochet chooses not to elaborate on his reasons, but I surmise that they be based on Rambam Hilchos Tshuva, 3:6-8

המורדים, ומחטיאי הרבים, והפורשין מדרכי צבור

Shmuley Boteach and Michael Jackson

Boteach expresses the view that he does not understand how Schochet could argue against missionary activity and at the same time choose not to discuss Boteach’s book in any detail.

Rabbi Schochet seems to have significantly changed his approach to Judaism and Christianity since his lectures under my auspices. Back then he orated openly on Jesus and the New Testament, rebutting missionary claims and engaging missionaries in public dialogue and exchange. There are hundreds of his tapes that attest to this fact.

R’ Schochet undoubtably considers it more difficult to engage in dialogue with missionaries and/or those who are ensnared by them precisely because of Boteach’s new book. Boteach admits as much himself quoting this review  [light editing from me]:

“Kosher J” is, after all, a book which Publisher’s Weekly — the platinum standard in book reviews — called an “informed and cogent primer on J. … a brave stab at re-evaluating J through an intensive look at the Xtian Testament and historical documents … and a well-researched analysis that will certainly reopen intrafaith and interfaith dialogue.”

R’ Schochet may or may not agree that it is “well-researched” but he too clearly feels that it will reopen intra and interfaith dialogue. Does Boteach expect us to be convinced that his book can’t be heretical because of the review by Publisher’s Weekly?

R’ Schochet’s son, R’ Yitzchak Schochet, is also a prominent Rabbi in the UK and has been considered a possible future Chief Rabbi of the Commonwealth. He had this to say about R’ Boteach

I question whether Rabbi Boteach has brought even one Jew involved in Christianity back to their roots through his debates, and suggest that it is little more than image and soundbite.

R’ Boteach reacted with:

Indeed, his father [R’ Schochet], who wrote this bizarre attack on me out of the blue calling me a heretic,

I don’t see anything in the letter that calls Boteach a heretic. Rather, R’ Schochet carefully crafted his words to refer to Boteach’s book as problematic.

Boteach has a liberal view of Apikorsus/Heresy in general. In the September 2000 issue of Nishma, Boteach stated in response to R’ Avi Weiss (who is considered a paragon of left wing modern orthodoxy, and who ordained the first female rabba)

I know that for Rabbi Weiss, even the willingness to be open to talking to apikorsim is a risk. But when the goal of the discussion is already a foregone conclusion, the conversation isn’t very risky.

Rabbi Boteach might not think it’s risky; others clearly do, and they do not feel an obligation to elaborate and give Boteach more airtime, as this would simply provide fuel for the fire.

Let’s be under absolutely no illusions here. R’ Boteach is not a Rabbi Slifkin. Rabbi Slifkin’s books were banned by people who couldn’t read English, let alone who had read Slifkin’s books. R’ Slifkin is an author of erudite and learned Jewish books based on Rishonim and Acharonim. Time will show that Rabbi Slifkin’s approach to documenting an orthodox perspective on Evolution eminently sound and commendable. I’m a fan of Rabbi Slifkin and his essays.

Boteach isn’t a Rabbi Kamenetsky either. Kamanetsky’s book “the Making of a Gadol” was unfairly banned and later modified because it was seen to embarrass R’ Aron Kotler ז’ל and other Lithuanian Rabbis look “too human”.

The audience for Boteach’s book, however, is mainly the non-Jewish world and perplexed Jewish fringe dwellers. Is the correct approach to attempt to re-educate our co-religionists that they should see themselves as derivatives of Judaism? They worship J, and see him as “above Judaism”. What will Boteach achieve through this passively aggressive attack on their well-seated belief system?  Will the world become happier and a pluralistic paragon of peace? Does Boteach think that he’s the first who realised that Saul of Tarsus was the man who fashioned what that religion is today?

I have a religious colleague at work who likes to regale me daily with his “inspiration”. I’m quite tired of it, to be honest. In the last week I asked him to come back to me with the historical record of when Shabbos became Sunday, who initiated this, and why. It has quieted him. I don’t see any value whatsoever in challenging his belief system (he thinks he can speak in tongues) and I don’t expect him to challenge mine.

The Rav, in his famous 1964 essay “Confrontation” was firmly opposed to theological disputation or cooperation with the Church, except when dialogue was limited to shared societal values such as feeding the poor, helping the sick etc and where Jews needed to be partners with all people in advancing such activities. His grandson, R’ Meir Soloveitchik put it thus:

The Rav’s opposition to communal, and organizational interfaith dialogue was partly predicated upon the prediction that in our search for common ground — a shared theological language — Jews and Christians might each sacrifice our insistence on the absolute and exclusive truth of our respective faiths, blurring the deep divide between our respective dogmas. In an essay titled “Confrontation,” Rabbi Soloveitchik argued that a community’s faith is an intimate, and often incommunicable affair. Furthermore, a faith by definition insists “that its system of dogmas, doctrines and values is best fitted for the attainment of the ultimate good.” In his essay, the Rav warned that sacrificing the exclusive nature of religious truth in the name of dialogue would help neither Jews nor Christians. Any “equalization of dogmatic certitudes, and waiving of eschatological claims, spell the end of the vibrant and great faith experiences of any religious community,” he wrote.

A left-wing organisation known as YCT—Yeshivat Chovevei Tora—a brainchild of R’ Avi Weiss, has over the years promoted a stance which sees Rabbi Soloveitchik’s ruling as no longer binding in our time. YCT planned to join the Rabbinic Council of America (RCA) but withdrew those plans when they realised they would not be acceptable to the RCA.  In a learned panel discussion on this topic, Rabbi Dr David Berger, one of the outstanding academics in this field, said:

Rabbi Soloveitchik worried that theological dialogue would create pressure to “trade favors pertaining to fundamental matters of faith, to reconcile ‘some’ differences.”  He argued against any Jewish interference in the faith of Christians both on grounds of principle and out of concern that this would create the framework for reciprocal expectations.  Now, the changes in Catholic attitudes detailed by Dr. Korn are real, welcome, and significant, but they do not undermine these concerns.  Quite the contrary.  The trajectory of dialogue to our own day has confirmed the validity of Rabbi Soloveitchik’s analysis to an almost stunning degree.

With this background clearly in mind, perhaps the Melbourne Shule that has now invited R’ Boteach to speak has also broken ranks with the Rav and the RCA and embraced the views of YCT. As noted above, R’ Boteach’s views are seen to be even more left-wing than YCT. It should make for a controversy that will occupy the Jewish News and further seek to redefine the relevance of Shules and methods for attracting and retaining membership.