Should we visit grave sites?

לעילוי נשמת אמי מורתי מרת אלקה בת ר׳ צבי ע’’ה

The following is written in memory of my mother, Mrs. Elka Balbin a”h on the occasion of her second Yohr Tzeit, כ”ט שבט.

I miss her incessantly, and not a day goes by without reflecting on her as my biggest supporter—a constant force of positivity and giving. She was a מעיין חי— a living spring—who doled out and infused us with love with every interaction.

During the first year, there was a period during the pandemic, when the Shules were closed, and I could not personally recite קדיש. Like many in this situation, this was disturbing. I looked here and there to make sense of the situation and to see what could be done to “compensate”. I had some ideas and rang מורי ורבי רב שכטר שליט”א, expressing my angst. רב שכטר responded with a comforting thought.

“What are you concerned about? Hashem asks us to follow the Halacha, and He has His ways. We say קדיש for Aliyas HaNeshama, to raise the level of the Neshama and to give a זכות to the נפטרת. Your mother was clearly a type of Neshama who didn’t need such “heavy lifting” and the fact that you couldn’t say קדיש for some time, no doubt had no negative effect above.”

He didn’t know my mother, but his comment was entirely apt.

Surely, everyone visits the בית עולם?

At first glance, based on mimetic tradition, people clearly do go to the בית עולם and visit the graves of their relatives. Rabbi Dr. Haym Soloveitchik famously wrote an important essay (with a recent follow-up, which is on my seemingly ever-growing “to be read” list) about the importance of mimetic tradition. It would, therefore, appear to be an open and shut case. Ironically, the mimetic tradition of the Soloveitchik family was not to visit the dearly departed at the בית עולם. That mimetic tradition can be traced back to the Vilna Gaon, who was against the practice of visiting the dead at their resting place. The Gaon wrote a letter to his wife (some have claimed this was specifically to women, though the practice of his students does not support that claim) stating:

“ותישמר שלא תלך לבית הקברות כלל וכלל

Be careful. Do not go to the Cemetery, ever.

אגרות הגר”א ט

Indeed, Rabbi Dr. Soloveitchik’s illustrious father, the Rav זצ’ל, wrote:

“The Gaon of Vilna, R. Joseph Dov Soloveitchik, his son R. Hayyim, his grandson, R. Moshe, R. Elijah Pruzena [Feinstein] never visited cemeteries and never prostrated themselves upon the graves of their ancestors. The memory of death would have distracted them from their intensive efforts to study the Torah.”

Halachic Man (page 30)

On both sides of the Rav’s family: Soloveitchik and Feinstein, there was no tradition to visit the בית הקברות. There are two things of note in this statement of the Rav.

  1. He describes two separate categories: (a) visiting a cemetery and (b) prostrating upon a grave at a cemetery
  2. He provides a reason for not visiting.

I think both of these points are noteworthy in the context of this ensuing discussion. Are there some who visit (perhaps more than four Amos from a grave) but do not prostrate? Is there a problem for a simpler person, who is not as intense with their Torah studies, to visit the cemetery? I do not know the answer to these questions, though they can be interpolated into the analysis.

Interestingly, the Rav found this restriction exceedingly difficult to sustain once his wife passed away, and felt it necessary to visit her grave in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, admitting to breaking with his family tradition. This was not automatic: the Rav kept his Brisker family traditions, zealously.

It would perhaps be intellectually lazy to assume that the reason one ought not to visit a cemetery is because of the frequency of pervasive metaphysical קליפות – impure forces of Halachic Tumah – at a cemetery. It would appear that if one kept four Amos (about two meters or 6.5 feet) away from an actual grave (as we Cohanim do anyway) then a concern of Tumah impurity is not germane. Therefore, if Tumah was the underlying reason for avoiding the cemetery, one could qualify the advice by saying “You may visit but don’t get too close”

I have often wondered whether a Cohen needs to wash his hands when leaving the בות עולם given that he doesn’t approach within the four Amos. (I found that both the Pri Megadim, in his Eshel Avraham 21, states that in such a circumstance a Cohen would not need to wash, see also the Chayyei Adam in 135:25)

The Gemara in Brachos 3b states that it is forbidden to say any Dvar Torah near a grave. This is codified by the Rambam (הל’ אבל פ”יג ה”ט) . Tosfos (ב”ק טז:, ד”ה שהושיבו) explains that this is okay as long as it is at a distance of four Amos. The Shulchan Aruch, however, does permit it even within four Amos (יו”ד סי’ שד”מ סעיף י”ז). Some Acharonim were careful nonetheless and distanced themselves by four Amos. Indeed, the Shulchan Aruch itself states (and is supported by the Shach (סי’ שס”ז ס”ק ג’)

שאחר שנגמר סתימת הקבר נעפר… מרחיקין מעט מבית הקברות ואומרים קדיש

After the burial one moves away a little from the the cemetery (!) and says Kaddish

יו”ד שע”ו סעיף ד’

R’ Chaim Vital (1542-1620) quotes his teacher the AriZal (also recorded by the Magen Avraham (או”ח סוף סי’ תקנ”ט))

ותמיד צריך להיות רחוק ד’ אמות מן הקברות

One should always be at least four Amos from a grave

שערי רוח הקודש, תיקון י”ב

Leaning on and/or touching the gravesite/Matzeyva would possibly be considered akin to prostrating, though I hasten to add that this is not necessarily so, especially outside of Israel, where the dead are buried in a coffin. I won’t go into detail here, but note that there is a Halachic question whether טומאה בוקעת – Tumah escapes upwards – when there is a gap within the structure of a coffin. I know of at least one local Rabbi who is a Cohen who does approach the tombstone, based on this question. In addition, there is a question of whether something buried deeper than Ten Tefachim is in a separate רשות, but this beyond of the scope of this post.

Tumah/Impurity, though, was seemingly not the source for the practice of the Vilna Gaon and his family, and those who follow the Brisker tradition on this (like מורי ורבי ר׳ שכטר שליט”א). As is well known, rulings of the Rambam are often a reason to adopt a stricture for those whose mimetic tradition derives from the practices of the Vilna Gaon.

The position of the Rambam

It appears then that the source for that tradition is a lesser-known statement by the Rambam in הלכות אבל (which curiously is inserted in the ספר שופטים of the Rambam’s משנה תורה)

והצדיקים אין בונים להם נפש על קברותיהם …ולא יפנה אדם לבקר הקברות

רמב”ם הלכות אבל ד: ד

Rabbi Touger’s excellent translation of the Rambam renders this

Markings are made on the graves. A tombstone is placed on the grave. For the righteous, by contrast, a tombstone is not placed, because their words will cause them to be remembered; a person will not need to visit in the cemeteries.

Reference

According to the Rambam, the reason that we put a tombstone on the grave is to remind and inspire us about the person who is buried there, presumably through some choice words etched on the tombstone. However, since the words of a Righteous Tzadik remind us of their memory and inspiration, no tombstone should be placed on the grave of a Tzadik! Indeed, R’ Moshe Feinstein in Igros Moshe (יורה דעה ד:נז) interprets this Rambam as implying that it is forbidden to do so and can be seen as insulting to the Tzadik!

Another reason for Tombstones, not brought here, is to mark out the perimeter of the grave so that Cohanim don’t accidentally wander and become impure (see ריש לקיש היה מציין קברי תלמידי חכמים, רש’’י בבא מציעא פה, ב).

We make the following observations:

  1. Touger appears to interpret the Rambam’s advice not to visit gravesites as pertaining to the graves of Tzadikim. That is, one might be able to visit an ordinary person’s gravesite.
  2. Touger appears to reinterpret or qualify the Rambam’s words as somewhat less than a prohibition. Touger interprets the words ולא יפנה as a person “will not need” to visit a gravesite. In other words, according to Touger, the Rambam isn’t expressing a black and white view of what a person is permitted and not permitted to do. Rather, a person is permitted to visit a grave. A/The (prime) purpose of visiting a grave is to be inspired by the deeds, words, and memory of the person buried there. In the case of an ordinary person, this is a side effect induced by reading the Matzeyva. In the case of a Tzadik, however, visiting the grave in order to be inspired is not necessary. The Tzadik’s monumental legacy and inspiration is not their Tombstone, but rather the Torah and good deeds that they have spread in this world. That Torah is prevalent at all places and time without needing a visit to the cemetery in order to be (re)exposed and (re)inspired.

Simply speaking, dare I say rationally speaking, one can read the Rambam’s choice of words of ולא יפנה differently. The Rambam is giving advice to the person who seeks inspiration and/or motivation. Though it is true that reading the Matzeyvos of ordinary people may well prove to be stimulating, it is better for a person to not “choose to frequent” the Cemetery [for this purpose]. Certainly, the greatest inspiration is in the memory of the Tzadikim, and the greatest stimulation is not provided by their graveside. Rather, one should study the Torah of Tzadikim. That Torah is accessible at any time. One need not be involved looking for a פנאי – an opportunity – to visit the cemetery in order to be energised and invigorated by their memory and Torah.

Examples of this phenomenon abound. Indeed, in the Rav’s own writings, he constantly refers to the Torah and examples of his forebears with palpable inspiration. According to the Rambam then, what is to be gained by actually visiting the gravesite?

The commonly cited source of the Rambam for not building a monument over the grave of a Tzadik is

תַּנֵּי. רַבָּן שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן גַּמְלִיאֵל אוֹמֵר. אֵין עוֹשִׂין נְפָשׁוֹת לַצַּדִּיקִים. דִּבְרֵיהֶן הֵן זִכְרוֹנָן

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says, one does not build mausoleums for the just; their words are their remembrance

Yerushalmi Shekalim

And a source for his view to avoid visiting the cemetery is possibly

כל המקבל עליו ארבעה דברים [מקבלין אותו] להיות חבר אינו הולך לביתהקברות

Anyone who accepts upon himself four things [will be accepted] into the fellowship: that he will not go into a cemetery

אבות דרבי נתן מא ח

Did the Rambam’s view become the common Halacha? What do the commentators on the Rambam write?

Position of the Radvaz

The Radvaz (1479-1573) explains

פירוש “לבקר הקברות” הוא לפתוח הקבר לפקוד את המת וזה יש בו מדרכי האמורי, אבל לפקוד הקברות מבחוץ אין חשש בזה וכן נהגו כל ישראל לפקוד את מתיהם ולהשתטח על קבריהם

רדב”ז הלכות אבל ד:ד

that the Rambam was certainly not discouraging people from visiting a gravesite. The Radvaz focuses on the word לבקר הקברות from which he derives that the Rambam was concerned that people were copying the ways of the אמורי which is forbidden. The “ways of the Emori” pertains to practices and superstitions that are forbidden but were occasionally temporarily practised by ignorant Jews. The practice of the אמורי in this context is recorded in the minor tractate of שמחות as

יוצאין לבית הקברות ופוקדין על המתים עד ג׳ ימים ואין חוששין משום דרכי האמורי

We go out to the cemetery and examine the dead within three days and do not fear [being suspected of] superstitious practices

מסכת שמחות פרק שמיני

The practice used to be that the “”lid of the coffin” was opened during the first three days after death to double-check that the person was not buried alive. Apparently, there were cases where someone was incorrectly assumed to be dead. According to Mesechta Semachos, it is okay to perform this check for the first three days because it would not be assumed that it is being done for superstitious reasons (דרכי אמורי) however after three days this practice was forbidden. The Rambam, based on the understanding of the Radvaz, interprets the meaning of the word לבקר as opening the coffin at any time after burial. The Radvaz explains that this is what the Rambam meant when he expressed the view that one should not visit the grave. Visit here means for the purpose of opening the coffin, as above. According to the Radvaz then, it would appear that an ordinary visit, these days, was not something that the Rambam was writing about. In order to make this interpretation, the Radvaz would need to consider the previous statement about Tzadikim not having Matzeyvos, as something completely independent and not at all linked to the prohibited form of visitation. The interpretation of the Radvaz is not the only one.

The view of the Chasam Sofer

The Chasam Sofer (1762-1839) makes important points about both מסכת שמחות and the רמבם in his responsa (יורה דעה של”ח, בד”ה וע”ד הברייתא). He contends that a daily visit for the first three days is far-fetched and most unlikely to discover the unfortunate case of someone who was effectively buried alive! Surely, the fact that they were covered with earth (even in the days when they buried people in caves) would make it nigh on impossible to discover a mistaken burial. In the least, one would need a full-time guard for all of three days who was highly attuned to any slight movement of soil, reacting quickly. Quoting the Yerushalmi, at the end of the second chapter of Sanhedrin, the Chasam Sofer writes that there was a time when the custom was to have a two-stage burial. The first stage was a “temporary” stage, at which time there was no formal burial under the earth. This could have been achieved by secreting the body in the caverns in a rock face or similar. At a later stage, the bones were extracted and traditionally buried. During that first stage, claims the Chasam Sofer, it was possible for an occasional error, and so they used to visit for the first 3 days to be sure. However, since that time, this practice was no longer observed. As such, the Rambam writes, based on the explanation of the Radvaz, that after burial, one should not visit the grave to open the grave in order to check if the person actually died. Anyone doing so was clearly following דרכי אמורי (who also did this for a lot longer than just three days because they attributed some mystical experience around the spirit of the dead) and therefore such visitation is clearly forbidden.

Based on this explanation of the Radvaz, through the lens of the Chasam Sofer, the immediately preceding comment of the Rambam about not placing a tombstone on the grave of a Tzadik, is a separate and disconnected Halacha. Following on from that Halacha, the Rambam adds that one should not visit the cemetery for the purpose of checking, as above.

Islamic Practice

There are some who postulate that the word לבקר of the Rambam is a translation of the Arabic זיארה Ziara which was perhaps the practice of pilgrimage in Islam (outside of the Hajj according to some) and it was this practice that the Rambam was concerned about. Interestingly, it is the Shiites who have the practice of visiting graves. The Sunnis consider this practice heretical. In the Rambam’s Egypt, the vast majority were Sunni.

The position of the Rivash

The Rivash (1326-1408) in his Responsa תכ”א draws our attention to a question of differing versions of the Rambam’s text. We had explained that some interpret the word לבקר in our text of the Rambam to be about visiting and checking to see if the person is possibly alive. The Rivash notes another נוסח which excludes the word לבקר—to visit.

ולא יפנה אדם לבית הקברות

and therefore plainly means

“don’t turn towards the cemetery”.

What does “turn” mean in the context? It means don’t turn your attention to the cemetery. Why not? Based on the preceding comments: in the case of a Tzadik, one would be better advised to be inspired by the Torah and spiritual output of the deceased. In the case of an ordinary person with a formal tombstone and fancy wording, the Rambam is saying “don’t be distracted by such things”. The Rivash considers the comments about monuments and visiting a cemetery as strongly linked to each other, as opposed to independent statements.

The Chasam Sofer eventually concludes his treatment and states that the statements are linked and that the Rambam extends the words of Mesechta Semachos and prohibits going to the cemetery even before three days have elapsed.

The author of the Shulchan Aruch, R’ Yosef Karo (1488–1575) in his Kesef Mishna commentary on that Rambam, learns plainly like the Rivash before him that the Rambam discourages if not “prohibits” visiting a cemetery. I have used italics because the Rambam doesn’t express this using clearly normative prohibitive language.

Given the above, how are we to understand the Rambam elsewhere?

אַחַר שֶׁמִּתְפַּלְּלִין יוֹצְאִין כָּל הָעָם לְבֵית הַקְּבָרוֹת וּבוֹכִין וּמִתְחַנְּנִים שָׁם

[ In all places where these seven fasts are decreed ] all the people go out to the cemetery after praying and weep and offer supplication

Taaniyos

Clearly, the Rambam has no problem with going to the Cemetery on a Fast day in order to be inspired by the spectre of death, in order to motivate repentance. What is the intention of going to the cemetery on a fast day? The Gemara in Taanis 16a describes two reasons given by Tanoim: (a) the spectre of death induces Teshuvah, or (b) so that the dead will ask for mercy on our behalf. The Rambam adopted the first view, that the atmosphere was conducive to Teshuva, as opposed to the suggestion that one might “interact” with the departed while there. This can be seen as consistent with his previously mentioned view. One should avoid going to the cemetery unless there is an external factor (such as the need for Teshuva on a fast, or giving honour on a Yohr Tzeit). That is, do not frequent the Beis HaKevaros.

According to the Radvaz, there is seemingly no issue to visit if there is no intention to open the coffin. Based on the Kesef Mishna, Rivash and others, one could say that perhaps the Rambam was opposed to using the motivation of the בית הקברות in general, and most specifically, in respect of visiting the graves of Tzadikim—special people. Instead, the Rambam encouraged connecting and being inspired through their Torah instead. This would not preclude going on a Fast day, such as one held due to a lack of rain, or seemingly other occasions, such as a Yohr Tzeit.

Sources for visitation

The earliest example of visiting a gravesite is brought in :סוטה לד regarding Calev who went to Chevron to pray at the Mearas Hamachpela so that he wouldn’t fall under the spell of the spies. Another example is in :בבא מציעא פה regarding someone who prostrated himself on the grave of Rav Chiya, as well as the story about Rav Mani in :תענית כג who was persecuted until he too went to prostrate himself.

At the end of Yevamos, the Gemara describes the story of a certain lady, whose husband had apparently been murdered, who went to the Rabbis on three occasions to obtain permission to remarry. What were those three occasions? Rashi writes:

– שהיו תלמידי חכמים נקבצים לשמוע דרשה הלכות פסח בפסח והיתה שואלת מהם. ובתשובת הגאונים מצאתי כל הנך ריגלי דאמוראי היינו יום שמת בו אדם גדול קובעים אותו לכבודו ומדי שנה בשנה כשמגיע אותו יום מתקבצים תלמידי חכמים מכל סביביו ובאים על קברו עם שאר העם להושיב ישיבה שם

בד”ה תלתא ריגלי

Rashi quotes the responsa of the Geonim which states that these three occasions were a time when the great Rabbis used to gather each year on a famous Yohr Tzeit, at which time they gathered at the grave in honour of the day. Clearly, according to Rashi quoting the Geonim, there was a custom to go the gravesite on a Yohr Tzeit. Was the Rambam arguing with the Geonim and Rashi? Perhaps the Rambam’s advice not to visit graves is limited to those times where it is not traditional to go, such as on a fast day or a Yohr Tzeit. Perhaps this is why he used the words ולא יפנה which might mean “don’t clear your diary” on a given day, so to speak, and go to cemeteries, even if your motive is to be inspired (as opposed to grieving). This idea is perhaps expressed by the Mishna Brurah (quoting the Maharil)

דבית הקברות הוא מקום מנוחת הצדיקים והתפלה נתקבלה שם יותר, אך אל ישים מגמתו נגד המתים אך יבקש מהש”י שיתן עליו רחמים בזכות הצדיקים שוכני עפר ויקיף הקברות ויתן צדקה קודם שיאמר התחנות

The Cemetery is a place of rest for the Tzaddikim and one’s prayers are accepted there more readily, however, one should not place his expectations “on the shoulders” of the departed, but rather, one should ask Hashem to be merciful in the merit of the Tzadikim who reside in the earth and he should walk around the graves and give Tzedaka before he utters supplications.

(משנה ברורה (תקפא, כז

The Ramoh (ibid) mentions the good custom to visit the Beis HaChaim on Erev Yom Kippur and Erev Rosh Hashana.

Moshe’s Gravesite

Yet, the greatest Navi and leader, Moshe Rabenu’s resting place was purposely hidden from us

א”ר חמא בר חנינא, מפני מה נסתתר מקום קברו של משה מעיני בשר ודם, שגלוי וידוע לפני הקב”ה שעתיד ביהמ”ק לחרב וישראל יגלו מארצם, שמא יבאו לקברו של משה ויבכו ויתחננו ועומד משה ומבטל את הגזירה, מפני שחביבים צדיקים במיתתם יותר מבחייהם

:עין יעקב סוטה י’’ד

because the was a real fear was that if we visited Moshe’s resting place, then Hashem would be forced to listen to our Tefillos on account of Moshe’s merit (and his intercession). Clearly then, even though Tzadikim today are not at the level of Moshe and we know where they are buried, perhaps it does make sense that we should daven there? The Rambam would not agree, of course.

The position of the Bach

מיהו כבר החזיקו במנהג זה ואין מוחה ויש לזה סמך בספר הזוהר, ודווקא להשתטח על קברי אבות ולהתפלל לפניו יתברך על כל צרה שלא תבוא בזכות אבותיו הנקברים פה וכיוצא בזה, וכבר נתקנו סדרי התפילה למשתטחים על קברי אבות ואין לשום מורה למנוע ולבטל מנהג זה

Be that as it may, people have already adopted this Minhag (of going to Graves) and nobody seeks to prevent them. They have support from the Zohar. Specifically, they can prostrate themselves at the gravesites of their ancestors and to pray to Hashem [to save them] from every tragedy that might otherwise have come if not for the special merit of the ancestors who are buried there. And there have been special prayers constructed for this purpose … and no Posek should seek to annul the practice.

יורה-דעה סו”ס ריז

It is noteworthy that the Bach (1561-1640) adopts the approach that one should pray that “the merit of the ancestors” should save/assist them. This is in contradistinction to those who ask that their prayers be carried to Hashem through the agency of the person who is buried there. Poskim differ on what is the correct mode of prayer.

There is no doubt, however, that one needs to be exceedingly careful that their words not be understood as making supplications to the dead person. It is a very fine line and one needs to be careful not to transgress דורש אל המתים.

Acharonim

The Munkatcher, in his responsa, was known to defend the customs of the Chassidim, especially when these appeared to be different to past practice. Towards the end of my research on this topic I came across a most comprehensive responsa which lists most of the sources I have above and many others. He wrote:

והוא צורך גדול ותיקון לנפש… ולפי המנהג אף בצדיקים בונין נפש והכל מתקבצין אצלה להתפלל…

This (going to the grave of a Tzadik) is a great need and heals the soul, and according to the Minhag, even for Tzadikim we build a Tombstone/Mausoleum … and people gather there to pray

שו”ת מנחת אלעזר א:סט

The Minchas Elazar (as expected) strongly defends the practice of Chasidim to visit the grave of the Tzadik. Strangely, however, I didn’t see the Minchas Elazar in that responsa discuss and consider the Rambam quoted at the beginning of this post. He was certainly aware of it, and his words “even for Tzadikim” are well understood in the context of the Rambam, above. That being said, I do not understand why he didn’t quote and discuss the Rambam explicitly. He extends the consideration in his response to discuss the issue of דורש אל המתים – the prohibition of “supplicating” to the dead. He argues that this does not include asking the Tzadik to intervene on one’s behalf. Rav Moshe Feinstein does not agree with the Minchas Elazar. He states:

אין להפקיע הקרא דדורש אל המתים מפשוטו, דהוא איסור גם מלבקש מהמתים שהם יתפללו בעבורינו

… It is also forbidden to ask the dead to pray on our behalf

שו”ת אגרות משה חלק או”ח ה סימן מג.

The famous non-Chassidic Shulchan Aruch of the Chayei Adam (1748—1820) is explicit:

איסור דורש אל המתים… וכן עמי הארץ שהולכין על קברי מתים וכאילו מדברים עם המתים ואומרים להם צרותיהם

The prohibition of “supplicating” to the dead … and the simple people go to the gravesites and it is as if they speak with dead and relate all their problems

סי’ פ”ט ס”ק ז’

The issue extends to whether someone can leave Israel in order to visit the grave of a Tzadik. One might expect that this would elicit a positive response from Chassidim and a negative response from those who are not Chassidim. The issue transcends Chassidim and non-Chassidim. Rav Kook also writes about this problem in his responsa. Rav Sternbuch, who is generally a follower of the Brisker approach, basing himself on Rav Elyashiv’s grandfather, the Leshem, who was not a Chassid but a great Kabbalist

אם מרגיש התעוררות מיוחדת לצדיקים מיוחדים, שלומד מתורתם, לבוא על קברם ממש, יש בזה מצווה

If someone feels a special awakening when visiting the specific grave of a Tzadik, where they also learn the Torah of that Tzadik, to visit that grave, this is a Mitzvah (!)

תשובות והנהגות, ח”ג סימן סא

Rav Yitzchak Yosef in his Yalkut Yosef, Yoreh Deah on page 254 writes that

It is forbidden to go the cemetery except for a Levaya … but it is permitted to prostate oneself on the graves of the righteous or to visit the grave of one’s father or mother to honour them …

סימן י, שו”ע ס׳ שמג–שסא

So, how does one make sense of all of the above, taking into account the view of the Rambam? I think one can summarise the issues as follows:

  1. The Beis HaChaim/Cemetery is full of impurity and not somewhere to “hang out”. Someone who does so because of extreme grieving should also liaise with a professional.
  2. Visiting graves on a Yohr Tzeit or for special occasions is an ancient practice. It would appear that the Rambam was not opposed to this, although the Brisker tradition would suggest otherwise.
  3. Visiting the grave of a Tzadik can provide inspiration, especially when one also learns the Torah of that Tzadik. We see this phenomenon perhaps even more than any period of time, with visits to the graves of the last Lubavitcher Rebbe and R Nachman of Breslav particularly popular. As we have discussed, some would recommend the gravesite should inspire, but no direct interaction should take place.
  4. Visiting the grave of a Tzadik can potentially be problematic in the sense that one may speak in a manner which somewhat bypasses Hashem. Ultimately, the Tzadik was (and is, in the sense that they are “more alive” after they have passed away) a conduit. Some say that addressing the Tzadik is forbidden. When I visited the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s gravesite -long story- I followed the formulaic text of the מענה לשון.
  5. Those who are not Chassidic and whose inspiration primarily was through learning Torah (in the main) without frequenting a Tzadik for inspiration etc will not use visits to the Beis HaChaim as a source of inspiration and growth. One could argue that this is the Rational School of Judaism as opposed to the more Spiritual/Mystical School, and that the Rambam, who is often considered the prime Rabbi of Rationalist Judaism, therefore did not encourage, if not prohibited, the practice of visiting graves, especially those of Tzadikim.

I’m not advocating one approach over another. Both approaches are rooted in Chazal.

75th Holocaust Memorial Event

Melbourne was and probably still is a predominantly Polish refugee influenced community largely due to the 2nd largest group of Polish refugees coming to Australia. We are all the richer for that wide tapestry of different components which, I guess Warsaw alone represented. I don’t remember the number, but the sheer volume of different views and newspapers and groups therein was just astounding.

On the other hand we have had valuable refugees from the then Soviet Union who suffered also from the vicissitudes of the Holocaust and associated political atrocities committed there. Chabad, which is really a Lita (Litvishe) / White Russian movement that withstood the attempted erosion of Jewish identity in Russia was an early important element, but in more recent times many Russian Jews have enriched our community with their own contribution having escaped the so-called “Union” of Soviet Republics led by Stalin ימח שמו וזכרו.

Due to the hard work of Mordechai Oyberman and others Elwood Shule is commemorating the 75th memorial and I attach the flier and encourage those who are able to attend. Whilst it’s a pity that we haven’t fully united in commemoration (save for Tisha B’Av which consumes us with Jewish tragedy over the ages) I think it’s important that Jews of all “colours” make an effort to offer Tfilla, Kaddish and Kel Moleh Rachamim for the holy souls consumed by the sub-human element that comprises society.

Flier for 75 years from 22 June 1941 final eng

Women singing at public events or commemorations

The following is from the Jerusalem Post.

“A row has broken out after Bar-Ilan University earlier this week banned women from singing during its Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony on Wednesday night.

Female students were told they would be allowed to read passages of text for the ceremony and play musical instruments.

Rabbi Shlomo Shefer, Bar- Ilan’s campus rabbi who is responsible for the ceremony, told Channel 10, which first reported the story, the decision was made because women singing in ceremonies on campus was not the customary practice at the university. Jewish law, in general, prohibits men from listening to women sing in person, although some rabbinic authorities are more lenient on this issue.
The university faced criticism from several quarters, including the national-religious organization Ne’emanei Torah V’Avodah (NTA), which said that singing at national ceremonies is an Israeli custom and stringencies in Jewish law should not be imposed on the general, non-religious public.

“Even if within Jewish law there are different opinions regarding women singing at public events, there are enough opinions [in Jewish law] that do not prohibit this at public ceremonies, for religious ceremonies and other events,” the organization said.

“NTA holds that women can and should appear on stage at public events. Those who have a stricter approach are free not to attend these events, but they cannot impose their strictures on the general public.”

Separately, NTA also criticized the Israel Association of Students for inviting singer Eyal Golan to perform at its annual Student Day celebrations.

Golan was accused, in 2014, of having sexual relations with underage girls, although the police investigation against him was closed due to lack of evidence. During the investigation, the singer had told the police that there was a difference between sleeping with a girl of 17 compared to a girl of 16, saying the latter was a criminal act and the former was not.

“It is difficult to accept the indifference in which performers who are caught up in moral controversy are invited to such events,” said NTA.”

My view (Note very carefully that I am not stating any more than an opinion. Halachic rulings should only be given by Rabbis of recognised high calibre unless they are an “open and shut” case as per Shulchan Aruch, which this is not, as per the parameters in Responsa on similar questions e.g. Women singing Zmiros in the Sridei Eish 2:8 especially near the end of that responsa, and reciting Krias Shma in front of a female who is not wearing a head covering these days as per the Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 75:7) cf. Mishna Berura (Orach Chaim 75:10) who disagrees.

Rav Yechiel Michel Epstein ז’ל, the Aruch HaShulchan

  1. It is proper for a University of this type to have a Rabbi to whom it refers Halachic questions and advice.
  2. It is proper for such a Rabbi to proffer his opinion on such matters, as well as providing these to students who consult him.
  3. On weighty halachic issues, I would expect any Rabbi, unless he is a recognised Posek and/or who writes Responsa which leave them open to peer review, to confer with Poskim of note who already have no halachic issue with attending this type of University establishment
  4. I think I have been at Bar Ilan once; I do not know the University except for some academic Computer Science issues (e.g. its responsa project) and some academics who publish Judaism-oriented articles.
  5. The issue of women singing (many consider this a Rabbinic prohibition) together with men at a formal ceremony, as in a remembrance ceremony or the singing of an anthem, is one which is not new. Although one may be sitting or standing relatively close to a female and hear her particular voice clearly despite a group setting (מגילה כא, ב), I would be inclined to respond as follows (assuming the questioner was free to make their own decision 🙂 ):
    1. If this issue is one which you personally feel is halachically problematic, do not attend.
    2. If your own Posek has advised you that you may attend or may not attend, then follow his Psak Din.
    3. I would consult with a renowned Posek and suggest to that Posek that, perhaps based on the Aruch Hashulchan and those who quote his interpretation, it can be argued that it is highly unlikely that anyone who is already attending Bar Ilan, and today might be sexually aroused from this group form of singing, might be permissible.
      Either way, I would suggest though that they look straight ahead or up at the sky while singing, or close their eyes (looking and “staring” are two different things halachically). In my opinion, any permissive ruling should be accompanied by a qualifier to remind the person of the fact that there is always a prohibition of a male listening to a female singing. [I was privy to a permissive ruling for my band, Schnapps, from Rav Moshe Feinstein ז’’ל. Schnapps offered a male singer only for many years, but over the last few years (in my opinion this changed when certain Rabbis did not, and some still do not, leave a Simcha when a female was singing) now offers either a younger new male singer or a male and female combination).]
    4. I would offer to discuss parameters that are inviolable according to Orthodox opinion (I exclude Open Orthodoxy and Shira Chadasha from such, as they are not considered Orthodox by Orthodoxy.)
    5. An interesting sub-question that came to mind is the case of a male who had a homosexual disposition and קול באישה ערווה. I’m reminded of one of my teachers of Halacha, Rav Yosef Efrati שליט’’א  many years ago who would answer such questions when asked publicly (on Thursday evenings when he gave his packed Halacha Shiur at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh) with: “Nu, Is this a question להלכה ולמעשה?” I don’t doubt that it is a question for some, however, my inclination is that it would be not advised to advertise such a disposition, despite the reality that those in this category are more vocal, and ask for acceptance. On the issue of acceptance, there should be no barrier placed which causes them to feel disenfranchised to the extent that they feel uncomfortable in a largely heterosexual Shule.

What would I do personally? I come across this each year at Yom Hashoa events where the partisan song and the Israel national anthem are sung (according to a Psak I received many years ago, I replace להיות עם חפשי with להיות עם תורה). I do not leave the Hall. I sing these, and usually concentrate on the lyrics, looking straight ahead. On the other hand, if a female sings alone, which is much rarer these days, I look to leave the hall earlier (there is a printed program) as if I need a bathroom break, and return some time after. I have found myself in the company of Orthodox Rabbis who attend such events and do not enjoy bothering people in the row that I sit if I don’t get an aisle seat. I attend because my father ע׳ה, a survivor, attended and my children attended with him together with my mother, עמו׳ש, who is also a survivor. I won’t digress into a discussion of forms of commemoration and Halacha, though, there are substantive views on this from Mori, VeRabbi, Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik ז’’ל.

I want to repeat: please do not under any circumstance treat this blog post as anymore than Pitputim. In practice, if you have such a question, please consult your Posek.

On the void that is a parent

There are many people who say,

“A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think about my father”,

after their father (or mother) has departed this world. I don’t doubt them. Thinking about my father ע’’ה is scratching the surface. I don’t think about him 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There isn’t a day, however, that doesn’t pass wherein I don’t reflect, either during the day, or as I try to fall asleep. I sometimes reflect on things I may or may have not done which would have met with his approval or disapproval. At other times it is surface tension.

The irony is that we have been married for more than 3 decades. During that time, I couldn’t put my hand on my heart and say I listened to everything he suggested. There were times we disagreed. However, I rarely over-argued my position, and if I we chose to take a slightly different path, I did so without fanfare or disrespect. I tried to make him unaware, but that was nigh on impossible. He had a sixth sense, and could simply tell from my voice on the phone in the car, if I had a good day.

What I have become acutely aware of during his physical void from this world, is a magnification and perhaps even the creation of my own frailties. It is true that some of those frailties were born because of the vacuüm connected to the history from whence they germinated.

A good analogy might be marking your own test. Until then, I may not have been aware or concerned to compare my test results with those of my fathers. It just wasn’t on the agenda. I was living life from day-to-day, navigating through morass and happiness (comprising much more of the latter). Comparison of test results or similar weren’t remotely registered or on any agenda.

It is only now that there are occasions where I am sure that

  • I know how my father would have wanted me to react and pass on the values of the Mesora/tradition;
  • there are instances where I am not sure, and indeed, others are also not sure.
  • the remote: the new situation that he may not have encountered where one needs to extrapolate.

That is the most difficult of all because subjective influences will doubtless infiltrate what might have been a logical or historical process.

Professor R’ Chaym Soloveitchik, the son of the Rav, wrote a seminal essay in Tradition magazine, many years ago, about the mimetic (think mime) tradition. I tended then to look at his thoughts through a more prism vis a vis Halacha recorded and the growing paper trails versus the מסורה/tradition handed down manually from family to family (and sung so well by Topol in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’). Tradition can subsume technico-legal aspects of Halacha and extends to Middos and behavioural mores.

One of my teachers, R’ Nochem Zalman Gurewicz ע’’ה had an uncompromising view of Halacha. He also had an uncompromising love of Jews. Although we were ostensibly learning Gemora with him in Year 12, the refrain, often accompanied by a bang on his desk was that we needed to self-imbue ourselves/become acquainted with the so called “missing” tome of Shulchan Aruch, known as the “Fifter Chelek”. This mythical tome, of course doesn’t exist in writing. R’ Chaym Soloveitchyk would probably identify some of the fifth tome as osmosis from one’s parents and grandparents.

I have heard (to the best of my recollection) Mori V’Rabbi, R’ Hershel Schachter talk about the fifth chelek of Shulchan Aruch. Likely he used that terminology as it is the terminology that is common today.

Again, to the best of my recollection, the Rav, Rav Soltoveitchik, didn’t use this terminology as much if at all. His main language: and the main language if R’ Hershel  was the terminology of

והלכת בדרכיו

Go in His ways

Based on the Ramban, this is an onus we carry each day. We are to conduct ourselves in ways that God would conduct himself. We know many of God’s traits (values is probably a better word). These are enunciated. The Rav and his father R’ Moshe and his father R’ Chaim of Brisk (after whom Professor R’ Chaym was named) held that the contents of the fifth chelek if you will, are in-between the lines of the other four chalokim. One needs to develop an acute sense of how to read a line of anything: be it Shulchan Aruch and Gemora (for which the Rav did have a formal Mesora passed down to him) and even Chumash (for which the Rav bemoaned that he never went through the exercise of reading between the lines with his father or Grandfather (The Rav does identify the Ramban, though, as the most outstanding pirush in that direction).

So, you are probably wondering why I am allowing a conscious and personal stream burst forth onto the internet about my father ע’’ה all of a sudden.

To be honest, I was re-arranging pictures, and each time his visage confronted me the פסוק of והלכת בדרכיו based on the foundation of מסורה confronted me and disturbed my status quo.

והיו עיניך רואות את מוריך

 

Back to work.

Our holiday. Part 3: 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn New York

Dear Readers,

I’ve scribbled out part 1 (and thanks to a reader for the english correction wherein I learned that I had understood a word incorrectly all my life!)

I’m jumping to Part 3 before Part 2. Why am I doing so? Perhaps you will understand when I have finished writing. I apologise as always for errors but I don’t proof-read much if at all.

My dear father’s 2nd Yohr Tzeit is on Friday. Leading up to that has been somewhat teary. A way to cope is to try to divest from  thoughts and memories and ever presence. It only helps partly. Every which way life turns, the touch and influence of his Neshoma and memory is raw and palpable. Call it second generation holocaust survivor syndrome. It’s my existential reality; I can’t escape it.

This morning I had five injections in my feet (for plantar fascia) after enduring pain for way too long. The specialist kept saying, “this is going to hurt, this will hurt a lot more etc as he dug the needle and spread it around while squirting in places where needles don’t normally wander”. I answered each time. It doesn’t hurt. Just do what you have to do. When the procedure was finished and my feet felt like they had fallen asleep from the block used in my heels, he was ready to move on quickly (too quickly to his next patient). I stopped him and explained that nothing any doctor could do would cause me to show pain. He asked why? I replied that my parents are holocaust survivors in a world of insulting and sick denial, and their pain was far worse than anything I could ever imagine. Accordingly, I stridently refuse and refused to show visible pain; what I experienced was a drop in the ocean.

He stood there somewhat speechless. He asked me if my parents had passed away. I said my father had “just” passed away. That’s not true of course. His second yohr tzeit is in a few days and ברוך השם he is weaving his magic 2005-10-09_14-47-22 with השם and cajoling him to shower our family and wider family with Simcha after Simcha. To me though, it is like yesterday, and hence my instinctive but unintentionally dry incorrect answer.

So what has this to do with Crown Heights and Part 3 of a holiday? Is Isaac Balbin off on yet another emotional outpouring? Maybe he needs to see a shrink. Maybe I do need to see a shrink but not because of this 🙂

We were only in Crown Heights for a few days. The truly wonderful Tzirel Goldman led us on a walking tour of important places, and then our Mechutonim graciously took Leonie and I out to a very nice restaurant. Unfortunately due to a gig, I couldn’t make the wedding of their son, which had just taken place.

I felt an “agenda” happening yet I wasn’t in usual control. I was moving from place to place. The area was buzzing from Chanuka to Hey Teves (& silly meshichisten) and it was on for young and old. Let’s not forget to mention the aufruf I was looking forward to attending (oh and the Kiddush in Getzel’s Shule, someone I had heard lots about)

Suddenly, our Mechutonim, the Goldmans said, let’s go and introduce you to Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky. I had momentarily forgotten he was their brother-in-law. I keep getting mixed up between Duchman and Kotlarsky for some reason, and Mendel Duchman (who I also met on this trip in Montreal) is also a Mechutan of the Chaitons.

Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky

I recognised his face, had seen him in Melbourne, and was aware that he supervised the shlichus operations for the Lubavitcher Rebbe זי’’ע. “Fine, I responded thinking perhaps I might just say a few niceties and perhaps share a tiny piece of Torah”. We came into his room and he is a big man in several ways. His office looked organised and tidy. Emails were constantly flowing in. He looked tired and weary as if the world was on his shoulders. We shook hands and I sat in front of his desk, with Rabbi Yossy Goldman, and the lady folk including Rabbi Kotlarsky’s wife (who is my mechuteniste’s sister), Leonie et al on the side.

After the usual platitudes. I mentioned to him things he (made out he didn’t know) about Rav Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg הי’’ד

The horrid Holtzberg Kvura

and we immediately had a rapport based on our collective experiences with these special korbanos tehoros. He asked me if I had been back to see what they had done to Nariman House. My response was “no” and I wasn’t sure I could anyway. On my last trip, I somehow managed to get into the bullet-riddled, blood-stained building and took a video, which I won’t show, as it is nauseating. I mentioned my chelek in the miracle that is Moshe Holtzberg and he nodded, seemingly knowingly. I had the impression that this figure knew a heap more than he was letting on. Nonetheless, I told him how Rav Gavriel’s parents majestically appeared in Melbourne for our daughter Talya’s wedding to Zalman Bassin. The others were moved, but he seemed to show less emotion. I had the feeling that he was “used to” these types of happenings and for him, they were but another confirmation of what he had experienced and what was driving him with a sense of unstoppable purpose.

Suddenly he turned to me and asked “Have you been to the Ohel?” 

I answered truthfully. A בית החיים gives me the heebee geebies and I avoid them. As a Cohen I am somewhat cocooned but that came to an abrupt end when my father passed away and a scene I had never been close to, invaded me with shock. I mentioned the opinion of the Gro and Beis HoRav (Soltoveitchik) and Mori Rav Schachter and explained I was a soul with a foot from Brisk and a foot from Amshinov. It’s a contradiction in terms, which might explain my often ebullient meshugassen and eccentricity (well maybe not, but it’s a good try :-). I explained that I find it very difficult to go to my father. I unashamedly attend the least of my entire family. He asked me for the reason, and I explained that I was ממש a nothing compared to him and feel emotionally distraught even from the distance, after which I would be disturbed for days. He asked why? “That’s a good Midda to have. One should feel useless when standing next to giants”. I countered that the giants are around even outside the בית החיים and that is a fundamental. Why did one need to effectively go to a “sack of bones” which was even Tomei to experience their special presence. I suggested that maybe people can achieve things in different ways.

He cajoled me undoubtedly through his demeanour and presence, to “not” leave Crown Heights without a visit.

I launched into the issue of Doresh Al HaMeisim (I can make grown Rabbis scream, but he was very calm) and that I had no Minhag to go to Mikvah, wear slippers and knock on doors. He responded that’s all unnecessary. You can go in the way you feel “comfortable”. I said that DAVKA at a Tziyun, there is a natural tendency to “ask” from the Niftar, and tried to side track him with Brich Shmei and Shalom Aleichem which aren’t said by some for similar reasons. He then said, “Nu, take a simple Maaneh Loshon and say that”. I heard what he said, and understood him well. He had more than a touch of charismatic “Rabbi Groner” about him.

When I go to my father’s Tziyun, I say very specific Tehillim. I do that to stop myself from ASKING my father to do things. You can’t do that, but it’s a very natural tendency. I said I’d consider it seriously, but if I did go, it would be a very great mental strain to stop myself from lapsing into Doresh Al Hameisim when standing in front of two people who were responsible for my Torah education and much more.

In another part, I will explain what eventuated in terms of decision time.

I then mentioned that I had written but once to the Lubavitcher Rebbe yet had never received a reply. He didn’t ask what I had written, but I was comfortable saying it. I said that Melbourne was going through a particularly difficult and potentially splitting moment where two icons were jousting and Lubavitch was splitting. I had mentioned my family history, and made it clear that I could not be considered a Chosid in any shape, but I knew that the only person who could resolve the issue was the Rebbe himself and I asked him to. I never got an answer, and the Rebbe then had a stroke. I always assumed that the reason I hadn’t received an answer was because the Rebbe was B’Sakono and wasn’t in any position to respond with the same immediacy and wisdom as people were accustomed. I left it as a תשבי. One day I’d find out.

At that moment, Rabbi Kotlarksy said but you did get an answer, you just didn’t know it. I will now tell you what happened. As a result of the momentum of letters such as mine (I don’t claim any special powers!), he was summoned immediately to the Lubavitcher Rebbe who instructed him to travel to Melbourne and sort out the “mess”.

Rabbi Kotlarsky then told me how he sorted it out, and he did so quickly. I was very impressed by the ביטול of Rabbi Y.D. Groner ז’’ל about whom I could never imagine as “lower” than anyone, given his towering presence. That was a new greatness that I discovered. I was blown away by what Rabbi Groner had done. I was also blown away by the fact that on this particular trip after our daughter married into a well-known family, I had about an hour with someone who I never expected (or had a desire/need) to meet. I had no common business, so to speak.

But “the Aybishter Firt Der Velt”, and it was השגחה that I was to unravel a long mystery. I liked Rabbi Kotlarsky. He gave me the impression that he’s someone who I could sit for five hours listening to at a farbrengen. His finger was literally on the Chabad pulse.

We said our good byes, and I thanked him for allowing us to interrupt his very busy schedule. He was due to spend Shabbos at the Ohel for Hay Teyves and seemed to always be on planes, in cars and any vehicular transport, as he explained to me.

I’ve obviously not gone into all details, as they aren’t necessary and help nobody today.

So I come home to the Golus of Melbourne, and I’m due to now go the Tziyun of my dear father. I’ve had a practice run, so to speak, and it was mentally draining for me to keep my thoughts halachically sound and emotionally relevant.

I have to admit, that I am still implacably against people who write “to” the Rebbe as I noticed in many letters (even though they were torn) the people either didn’t know the Halacha, or were never taught it properly by some single-minded teachers who probably assumed something transcending Halacha. I don’t change my views on that and don’t apologise. I understand Chassidim emulate, but I am sure that the Lubavitcher Rebbe never ever was Doresh directly of his father in law. He was a Medakdek B’Mitzvos K’Chut Ha’saaroh and could not be questioned on such issues. I feel this was also why he had a common thread with the Rav, who is also known as the איש ההלכה.

So, until my next post, I will try to do the things one should do to give my dear father’s Neshoma nachas, although I can’t help but feel that there ought to be a motive to pile these up during the year, and just unload so to speak on the Yohr Tzeit when the Neshoma will go up a level (or levels).

I hope I haven’t bored you too much, but most of my posts are rather selfish. I heal myself through writing them.

Torn between what I think is right and a Torah law

In the evening, as I lie in bed hoping I can fall asleep quickly, I often take to my iPad arguing the outright lies put out by Hamas sympathisers disguising themselves as spokesman for the Palestinian cause.

In an among one stream of debate, a past moral and respected alumni of mine called for money to help the citizens of Hamastan. I asked her whether she was motivated by helping only Muslims or whether it was a civilian gesture to help all citizens caught up in the war begun by Hamas. She didn’t like me introducing that angle to her appeal, although she had published figures where she had already politicised the debate. She was, I believe, one of the vocal supporters of the rabble-like demonstration together with the great unwashed: consisting of the Marxists, Socialist Alliance, and other anti-Semitic no hopers living on Government subsidies in the main. I see them putting up posters all around my workplace. I take them down, if I pass such posters. I have the same right to take down a non mandated poster as they do putting them up.

Suddenly, one of my alumnus’ friends posted a horribly offensive picture of Hitler ימ’’ש with the words “I didn’t kill all the Jews, I left some for you to kill” followed by Share the post etc

I was fuming. I tried to control myself, but as a child of holocaust survivors and like many of us who lost relatives in the genocide targeting a race–the largely helpless Jews–I felt that justice needed to be effected. I quickly took pictures of the said disgraceful post and researched the background of the person who sent it. I asked him to contact me as he was in breach of State and Federal Laws, after which he quickly took down the post.

He wasn’t a Yobbo. He is very intelligent, having completed an Aeronautical Engineering degree from RMIT. He was from Pakistan, living in Melbourne, occupying a very senior role in a well-known company, and was undertaking a part-time MBA part-time at Melbourne Uni.

I asked our common acquaintance to contact him. Our common acquaintance/alumnus is a nice person, also a Muslim, and she and I have mutual respect. He refused to contact me. When a week passed, and I saw another objectionable post from him, I decided that I had to do react. The Police were outraged and informed me that he had likely broken both a local and federal law and if convicted faced a term of up to 3 years in prison and all that flows from that. The police suggested that we need to react to such hate speech.

Yes, it is also true, I was grossed out by the assault perpetrated by Zach Gomo, and this was also on my mind. Zach has been to our house several times, with his lovely partner to be.

There was a rally, which I couldn’t attend. I understand it was poorly attended. In my opinion the proper JEWISH response was not to wear red (a colour we are enjoined to avoid), but to blow the Shofar, to the sound of Teruah (it is a Machlokes Acharonim whether this applies today) and to issue prayers for the safety of the defenders of our Holy State. The agenda should not be led by Zionist organisations alone. They sometimes invent new modes of protest and rally. As Rav Soloveitchik stressed: the Chachomim defined the limits of Torah according to tradition-Mesora. We should not be inventing new traditions. The Mesora informs us what we should be doing. We must follow the Mesora at all times. Unfortunately I could not attend. I was teaching Torah at the time to two people who are the future of our people. I hope the rally achieved success and the organisers were pleased.

Now, I wanted my interlocutor to visit the Holocaust Museum and issue an advertisement apologising for his racially genocidal incitement. In other words, I wanted him educated.

I had rung the Neil Mitchell program on Monday when the topic arose, and related what a low-life had perpetrated. Neil took my number off air but never followed up. I wouldn’t expect Jon Faine to have any more sympathy even Neil although he is technically Jewish and has two very fine traditional parents.

Yes, my angst is trivial compared to a family that has lost a love one, but I can’t help the seething frustration, where weeds are permitted to sprout with impunity in a “multi-cultural” Australia. That being said, a Torah Law prohibits me taking the next steps, and one must bow to the Torah and I will leave it at that.

This is from Debbie Schlussel. It’s not what he posted. What he posted was much worse and I dare not even let anyone see it as it is distressing.

Beit Raphael: An act of Chessed from Adina and R’ Shimon Allen

I sit next to Shimon Allen at Yeshivah Shule, in Melbourne Australia. I have done so for many years, as has my father. We’ve developed a rapport and he teases me about the fact that my wife doesn’t offer Griven (a heart attack causing, cholesterol laden morass of congealed and fried chicken fat, which happens to be delicious (think of it as real chicken bisli). I’ve mentioned it before. I point out that whilst he has herring on occasion, his isn’t the real McCoy because there aren’t copious lashings of Tzibelle (onion). We also share our “delight” that when invited to modernishe houses, they serve copious amounts of rabbit food, and one is expected to force a smile through the mountains of lettuce leaves, broccoli, pine nuts and every meshugass they find at the vegetable shop. Yes, they are “healthy for you” but when was the last time that you felt “full” one hour after such a meal? Why do our bodies require this gas-forming roughage. Is this Oneg Shabbos, let alone Kavod Shabbos? Sometimes I feel the right response is “Moo” while eating, as opposed to a hearty greps after a good choolent, washed down by some Bromfen, and followed by an antacid (pareve of course) and two cholesterol tablets.

Enough of the mirth.

Erev Shabbos, and my father took gravely ill due to a series of life threatening blood infections. I rushed from work to be at his bed side, as were my siblings and all our children. I was still in my work clothes, and asked many to say Tehillim, while I did so myself. We rang R’ Shimon and his wife, and immediately the key to their apartment across the road was made available to us. After davening Mincha and then Kabolas Shabbos, my stomache reminded me that I had not had anything all day other than a single cup of coffee. Baruch Hashem, I asked my incredible wife to organise 24 Vurst Sandwiches so that team Balbin, Leibler and Waller would not go hungry. Diana and Yirmi Loebenstein, for whom my parents are like a second set of parents (they live across the road and are very close) brought a stack of Schnitzels and some Challah etc. My own incredible wife even managed to buy little electric incandescent lights and relying on (at least) R’ Chaim Ozer, we made brachos over the licht.

Words cannot describe the effort that Adina and R’ Shimon have put into the unit directly across the road from Cabrini. Every last thing was available. The fridge was stocked a plenty. There was wurst, and drinks, and beer and nash, you name it, it was there. It was on the bottom floor. The key had already been made into a shabbos belt. There was a Shabbos light next to the beds. I can go on and on. None of us should ever need to use such a facility, but it gave us a dose of menuchas hanefesh and meant my father had more support than he could ever have dreamed about. It was also a rather hot day, and yet we didn’t feel any heat. We only felt true warmth.

Baruch Hashem, my father is slowly but surely improving, albeit slightly, each day.

Shaul Zelig HaCohen Ben Toba Frimet, may he have a Refuah Shelema B’Karov.

All the grandchildren brought sleeping bags, and were able to sleep in the lounge room. It was amazing, really. I’ll stop here because Shimon and Adina will be angry that I have written the above anyway and mentioned them explicitly.

That they are able to use their financial resources and care for the community in such a way is simply inspirational. I’m sure that in Gan Eden, their teacher and mentor, R’ Zalman Serbryansky is alerting HaKadosh Baruch Hu to their Mitzvah and is lobbying for appropriate Brachos to come their way.

Shimon and Adina Allen are pleased to advise of the opening of Malvern Beit Rafael Hospital Accommodation.

All members of the community are welcome to avail themselves of this fully furnished apartment which is situated close to Cabrini Hospital, whilst they have family members receiving treatment at the hospital.

A pantry stocked with kosher non-perishables and a fridge/ freezer containing kosher meals will be at your disposal.

Beit Rafael continues to offer accommodation at North Melbourne assisting families with loved ones receiving treatment at the Royal Children’s Hospital,

Royal Melbourne Hospital and the Royal Women’s Hospital.

Please enter the contact numbers into your telephone:

0421 408 522 – Shabbat: 0421 327 859

Beit Raphael

Respecting your elders

My experience has been that the older I get, the easier I find it to listen to my parents. It’s paradoxical in one sense. When you are younger and less mature, you might expect to be more in need of the sage counsel of parents. At the same time, while one develops their own firm views of life, there is a tendency to perhaps discount alternate suggestions. After marriage, one ought to learn the art of joint decision-making. Someone who ignores the views of their spouse, may also ignore the requests from their parents. There are pathological extremes, but they aren’t  in my purview. When one is more “independent”  that doesn’t mean they don’t show כבוד or יראה to their parents. There is perhaps something missing: the element of being able to be מבטל one’s approach and adopt the (sensible) wishes of one’s parents. Graphically, I’d present it like this. Your mileage may vary. The cosine coefficient varies for different people of course.

Interestingly, I’ve found that as I get older, and perhaps finds it easier to be מקיים this מצווה, at least as far as minimising  personal views on a given matter, the level of inherent joy in following a missive is enhanced. It’s a cause to celebrate even though it is ironically a voir dire. I find that the older I become, the more joy I derive from quashing my own predilections and views and submitting to those of a well-meaning (and sensible) parent. You might say this is all so obvious and no חידוש. Perhaps so, but my blog isn’t about חידושים per se; it’s about giving expression to those things that temporally invade my head space.

והמבין יבין

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