Mikva and those with a disposition towards the same gender

I am going to confine this question initially to men; that is, those with homosexual preferences. I am also going to confine myself to religious men, because I don’t think that it is likely that non religious Jewish homosexuals would have any connection to this custom.

There is a custom mentioned in the Gemora, which was enacted as a Takana from the Prophet Ezra, that men should visit a (male) Mikvah when they had an ’emission’. It is also true that Mikva was used to purify: the Cohen Gadol used to immerse in a Mikva many times during the services on Yom Kippur. In the days of the Temple even if one was טהור the male went to the מקווה in order to enter the עזרה. Even today, some Chazonim will immerse themselves before certain parts of the davening and this is brought in Acharonim. [ When I led Tefillos on Rosh Hashono and Yom Kippur, I went to the Mikva (also Pesach and Shavuos)]

The main reason for טבילת עזרא (which actually was enacted for both women and men) appears in Talmud Bavli Brachos 22a, and Baba Kama 92a.

The purpose of the תקנה was to “cool down” the tendency to engage in marital relations in an unfettered way, and to keep it “regular” for want of a better term. I am not using the exact words of the Gemora.

The enactment of Ezra was annulled (אורח חיים סימן פח).

כל הטמאים קורין בתורה וקורין קריאת שמע ומתפללין חוץ מבעל קרי שהוציאו עזרא מכל הטמאים ואסרו בין בדברי תורה בין בקריאת שמע ותפלה עד שיטבול כדי שלא יהיו תלמידי חכמים מצויין אצל נשותיהן כתרנגולין ואחר כך בטלו אותה תקנה והעמידו הדבר על הדין שאף בעל קרי מותר בדברי תורה ובקריאת שמע ובתפלה בלא טבילה ובלא רחיצה דתשעה קבין וכן פשט המנהג.

All the impure read the Torah and Shema, and pray (Shemoneh Esreh) except for the one who had an emission, until they go to the Mikvah. The idea is that there is a “process” before marital relations resume, so that the men are not like unfettered  birds who just do it when they want. Later they annulled this … and it was enough that the person has washed in 9 Kavin of water

Chassidim and I suspect Mekubalim say that the enactment was annulled only for learning Torah. However, before one could Daven, one still had to perform Tevilas Ezra daily. This is why one can witness many people go to the Mikva before they have davened.

There is a story from the genius Posek, R’ Avraham Chaim Naeh, the author of the highly regarded Ketzos HaShulchan,

Rav Avraham Chaim Naeh (from wikicommons)

(whose measurements for Mitzvos I’d say the majority of the world outside B’nei Brak follow), and who asked (or was asked) rhetorically, “the words of Torah can’t become Tameh” [so what’s wrong if someone learns Torah without being to the Mikva? R’ Chaim answered, yes, the Torah doesn’t become Tameh, but can the vessel which is receiving the Torah (the person) who is Tameh, absorb Torah.

These days, one sees Chassidim go to the Mikvah (on Shabbos, and every day) and they have a custom (I believe from the Shulchan Aruch HoRav) that the water should be warm.

Even though it seems the Rambam still engaged in Takonas Ezra (I saw this but alas can’t remember where). Many Brisker wouldn’t have even seen the inside of a male Mikva let alone gone into one. On the other hand, other Litvaks, such as Rav Kanievsky (who is also a Mekubal) certainly go to the Mikva on occasions (I do not think every day, but I stand to be corrected).

This brings me to my essential question, and I’d value the opinion especially of those Rabbis who laudably make a quiet but effective effort to ensure those of an LGBTIQA preference don’t feel ostracised in an Orthodox Shule. I mean strictly Orthodox, not “Open Orthodox” and various break aways.

Here is my question:

“What if a religious person knew that he had preferences towards men (he might not act on these, I assume). He doesn’t find himself attracted to women. If he goes to the male Mikva (daily) (where I regrettably note some of the pedophilia mentioned in the Royal Commission in Australia occurred in the Mikva), even for the holiest of purposes, he will see loads of men in various stages of nudity. The showers have no doors and it is completely Hefker in my experience. Indeed, if you want to turn a non-chassidic young kid off, take him to these types of Mikvaos, where they will also pick up tinea and feel very strange. I would imagine, this is akin to a man, going into a sauna (lehavdil) full of women, where the women are in various stages of nudity. (This is a practice in some parts of Scandinavia). In such a Mikva environment, it seems to be that attendance is stoking the fire, so to speak, and making it harder to avoid stirring up homosexual tendencies towards the forbidden act. The religious homosexual knows they may not do the homosexual act. This would introduce a huge temptation to such a person (outside of the Mikva). Should they be allowed to go to a Mikva given that the Takona has been annulled and the temptation is very real.

Those who still keep Takonas Ezra, do so as a matter of Kabalistic piety. If I was a Posek, I would make it known (in a quiet way—need to think how) that those with homosexual tendencies, should never visit a Mikva (unless they are the only person there) as they will be putting themselves into a place that will make it harder to keep the Torah, especially if another homosexual in the Mikva responds to various eye movements etc or even if they are stirred up by it all.

Equally, I would say (not in the spirit of egalitarianism) that a Mikva woman, should not be a Lesbian or the like, as that experience would likely “fuel her fires” in the same way.”

But I am not a Posek. How would Rabonim pasken?

Would we see the more left-wing types, forbid it, but the more Chassidic types cast a blind eye to this practice? Or would it be the other way around. Would left-wing types permit it (equal opportunity, they can control themselves) and the right-wing forbid it, in the same way they would forbid a man to walk into a woman’s sauna?

I know it’s not a comfortable topic, and I have long argued that there is an opportunity for someone to come up with a better specifically architected/engineered male mikva, such that there is no nudity on display, and the volume needed to be accommodated maintained.

In case you are wondering whether I am inventing new laws/problems, consider learning the laws of Yichud (being alone with someone) and you will find that in our own Shulchan Aruch  אבה”ע סי’ כד, it states where there is a concern that men are attracted to each other, then they are not permitted to be alone, in the same way that a male and female are not permitted to be alone unless it’s in a public area with people still awake etc

“ובודרות הללו שרבו הפריצים יש להתרחק מלהתייחד עם הזכר”

I did ask Mori V’Rabbi, Rav Hershel Schachter this question (among others) and although he is certainly not a Chosid, he said it would be prohibited for someone with such tendencies/preferences to go to a male Mikva, where nudity is everywhere, as they would be making life harder for themselves. לפני עיוור לא תתן מכשול (don’t provide fodder to help someone do the wrong thing)

A desirable side effect of such a ruling is that potential abusers would not have the outlet they used, as outlined clearly in evidence in court, where abuse occurred with two people in the Mikva.

Please note: I have not engaged in the issue of homosexuality. Rather, the laws of Tzniyus as they pertain to different tendencies.

Ideally, I’d like to see someone clever come up with a new architecture for Mikvaos for men. I find them a tad gross, and I’m heterosexual.

Shira Chadasha’s “Modern” Orthodox appointee

Let’s dispense with this rotund canard. Shira Chadasha is not considered part of (modern/centrist) and certainly not mainstream Orthodoxy. It is part of the break away left wing “Open Orthodoxy”. The appointee (who was the first from Avi Weiss’s program who insisted on being called “Rabbi”) worked at “Mount Freedom Jewish Center” in New Jersey which is intellectually honest and describes itself as Open Orthodox. Open Orthodoxy, through  Chovevei Torah, is definitely not considered Modern/Centrist Orthodox. As Rav Schachter told me, Am Horatzus is absolutely rife therein; none of them know Mesora and Mesoras HaPsak.

It  is well to the far left. Some within Modern Orthodoxy don’t want to cut them off, but it is inevitable. It will happen. The RCA made this very clear when it stated:

Oct 31, 2015 — Formally adopted by a direct vote of the RCA membership, the full text of “RCA Policy Concerning Women Rabbis” states:

  • Whereas, after much deliberation and discussion among its membership and after consultation with poskim, the Rabbinical Council of America unanimously passed the following convention resolution at its April 2010 convention:
    1. The flowering of Torah study and teaching by God-fearing Orthodox women in recent decades stands as a significant achievement. The Rabbinical Council of America is gratified that our members have played a prominent role in facilitating these accomplishments.
    2. We members of the Rabbinical Council of America see as our sacred and joyful duty the practice and transmission of Judaism in all of its extraordinary, multifaceted depth and richness – halakhah (Jewish law), hashkafah (Jewish thought), tradition and historical memory.
    3. In light of the opportunity created by advanced women’s learning, the Rabbinical Council of America encourages a diversity of halakhically and communally appropriate professional opportunities for learned, committed women, in the service of our collective mission to preserve and transmit our heritage. Due to our aforesaid commitment to sacred continuity, however, we cannot accept either the ordination of women or the recognition of women as members of the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title.
    4. Young Orthodox women are now being reared, educated, and inspired by mothers, teachers and mentors who are themselves beneficiaries of advanced women’s Torah education. As members of the new generation rise to positions of influence and stature, we pray that they will contribute to an ever-broadening and ever-deepening wellspring of talmud Torah (Torah study), yir’at Shamayim (fear of Heaven), and dikduk b’mitzvot (scrupulous observance of commandments).
  • And whereas on May 7, 2013, the RCA announced:

    In light of the recent announcement that Yeshivat Maharat will celebrate the “ordination as clergy” of its first three graduates, and in response to the institution’s claim that it “is changing the communal landscape by actualizing the potential of Orthodox women as rabbinic leaders,” the Rabbinical Council of America reasserts its position as articulated in its resolution of April 27, 2010… The RCA views this event as a violation of our mesorah (tradition) and regrets that the leadership of the school has chosen a path that contradicts the norms of our community.

Therefore, the Rabbinical Council of America

  • Resolves to educate and inform our community that RCA members with positions in Orthodox institutions may not
    1. Ordain women into the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title used; or
    2. Hire or ratify the hiring of a woman into a rabbinic position at an Orthodox institution; or
    3. Allow a title implying rabbinic ordination to be used by a teacher of Limudei Kodesh in an Orthodox institution; and,
  • Commits to an educational effort to publicize its policy by:
    1. Republishing its policies on this matter; and,
    2. Clearly communicating and disseminating these policies to its members and the community.

This resolution does not concern or address non-rabbinic positions such as Yoatzot Halacha, community scholars, Yeshiva University’s GPATS, and non-rabbinic school teachers. So long as no rabbinic or ordained title such as “Maharat” is used in these positions, and so long as there is no implication of ordination or a rabbinic status, this resolution is inapplicable.

As for what drives the new clergy Lila Kagedan at Shira Chadasha, this quote from Lila is very telling.

“I was drawn to ritual. I felt committed to the halachic process, but to be honest, I became absolutely disgruntled several times growing up,”.

One of those times was when her 13-year-old brother was permitted to sit on a beit din for the annulment of vows before Yom Kippur. “Meanwhile, I felt like I had no status.”

Need one say anymore about what motivates such females as opposed to Yoatzot Halacha? I suppose she also feels upset that she can’t Duchen because she’s not a male Cohen? Let’s get real here.

Call a spade a spade and dispense with the charade. If they think they uphold Halacha, good luck to them. I hope they do and may it improve, but the need to force their modes of worship over well established nomenclature that rejects such modes, only indicates they have no respect for established Rabbinic Poskim and leadership. Reform don’t call themselves Orthodox, and neither do Conservative. I don’t see why putting the adjective “Open” before Orthodox is anymore than a not so clever ruse. There are many learned Jewish Orthodox women in Melbourne who exercise their scholarship and feel empowered to do so.

They don’t feel “I had no status”. The existential imperatives of Judaism come second to them as they academically dance around terminology (hopefully with a Mechitza).

Anyone who even remotely thinks this is the model of Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soltoveitchik is simply an intellectual fraud.

I wonder what Caulfield’s Rabbi Genende’s stance on this is? I wrote to the RCV that this would happen over a year ago. It’s time the RCV not only put out stance like the RCA, I’d be happy if they formally affiliated with it.

Shira Chadasha’s new spiritual dynamo (a female): some questions

They might ask:

  1. whether she answers Men’s Shaylos?
  2. why shira chadasha doesn’t have daily minyanim
  3. whether vegan and vegetarian restaurants are kosher (of course they are not!)
  4. which side of the “mechitza” members of LGBTI who identify as such should sit
  5. whether Avi Weiss is considered a world-renowned posek
  6. whether she consider herself open orthodox (and not part of the Orthodox community, as affirmed by the RCA (and should be affirmed with the RCV)
  7. whether a woman should wear a head covering to shule and if so, why?
  8. What length sleeves are halachically mandated as covering Erva
  9. Whether dresses should cover the knee even when a woman sits
  10. Whether she encourages Shira Chadasha men to wear a Tallis Kotton
  11. Whether she will eat from RMG Rabi’s kashrut business
  12. Whether supervising Rabbis should be involved in their Kashrus as a business concern
  13. Whether she supports Rav Soloveitchik’s view on interfaith dialogue
  14. Whether she considers Prof Sperber as a Gadol HaDor
  15. How much of the female chest should be revealed in a t-shirt. Up to the breast bone, or below? Is cleavage permitted?
  16. Whether men could take on the lighting of Shabbos candles if they felt strongly they wanted to do it
  17. Whether tight jeans/pants are permissible?
  18. Whether women should dispense with Tichels and hats as they are anachronistic today … 
  19. Whether she believes that Carlebach is guilty of any of the crimes alleged against him
  20. Whether mixed swimming is permitted
  21. Whether mixed dancing without a mechitza is permitted
  22. Whether a man or woman who exposes Erva should be given an honour in Shule
  23. Whether she believes that every word of the Torah is directly from God
  24. What her understanding of Mesora is
  25. Whether she believes the Jews accepted the Oral Law at Sinai
  26. What makes up the Oral Law.
  27. Whether she considers Reform or Conservative conversions valid
  28. Whether she would lie when reading a Ksuba and say a bride was a virgin if she knew she was not?
  29. Whether she would change the Ksuba so it states whether the groom is a virgin
  30. Whether she follows R’ Moshe Feinstein’s view that women who are attracted to such groups and who do so for equality and/or feminism are doing so for foreign reasons
  31. Whether she will decide Nida questions
  32. Whether she considers herself a witness at a wedding ceremony
  33. Whether entering a Reform Temple is permitted
  34. Whether Open Orthodoxy will really emerge as the new Conservative movement
  35. Whether there is anyone at Avi Weiss’s institution with the level of knowledge as Rabbi Shaul Liberman?
  36. Does a woman have to wear tzitzis on a large body scarf
  37. Should a man wear a Yarmulka all day
  38. Should a woman wear a Yarmulka all day
  39. Should a man wear a Yarmulka if he is eating in a Vegetarian restaurant? Should he may a bracha?
  40. Does she think settlements are an impediment to peace
  41. Does she think any Israeli prime minister should sit down with a Palestinian leader unless the latter agrees Israel is THE JEWISH homeland?
  42. Is Donald Trump racist?
  43. Whether a female should sing in a band such that her voice is clearly heard
  44. ……..

Rabbonim when the Bride is flashing Erva D’Orayso?

I have seen pictures even official Shule pictures in their magazines of Rabbonim officiating at weddings where the Bride is rather “fully out there” in respect of lack of Tzniyus. What gives?

Rav Soloveitchik refused to officiate at such weddings. Once when he found himself caught out, he kept asking others to get him a bigger and bigger Siddur (he also refused to do Chuppas in a Shule). When he had a really big Siddur he then officiated in a way that he could not see the bride (rather than embarrass her) and looked into his Siddur and said the Brachos etc. The Rav didn’t compromise his Judaism or our holy Mesora. The word fidelity to Judaism comes to mind.

I do not know why Kallah teachers, and every Rabbi don’t insist that each bride go to a proper inspiring Kallah teacher, where they are all told that they must wear some sort of fancy scarf covering up the parts that should be covered under the Chuppa. What are they afraid of, that they go to a Reform ceremony instead? Reform are empty. Everyone knows that. The RCV should adopt this stance as a matter of policy and no Rabbi should break the rule.

I bumped into a “Jewish” celebrant at the chemist. I looked at her and her face rang a bell. I asked her “where do I know you from?”. She then told me what she did. I then remembered. It was one wedding I did at the last minute, where they had the “ceremony” on the dance floor just before we started playing. The bride was marrying a gentile unbeknown to me and it was one of the very few times I was caught out. I told the celebrant that for the entire week after that wedding I was literally ill. She asked me why. I said

“because you are a great pretender, and you have zero to do with any authenticity, you are a blender of bull, who makes up things as you go along. That couple were never married Jewishly and all you facilitated was an impending assimilation. Your little Tallis and your blowing a Shofar were as authentic as Michael Jackson’s skin colour.”

She looked at me like I was from Mars and scowled. I told her to have a nice day, and to discover real Judaism rather than the concocted monstrosity she was selling for a fee.

It’s time some Rabbonim in  our community who are so concerned about populist interfaith dialogue, LGBT, aboriginal rights, and social justice, actually bothered to also be concerned about Mesora and implement proper Jewish Laws and customs at a Chuppa and were not “afraid” of putting Yiddishkeit first.

I remember the days when Rabbonim specified there was to be no mixed dancing until Benching and no female singers until then. Yes, you can definitely bench before dessert and have the “King Street Disco” until midnight. Why are we so bashful to make our weddings JEWISH in flavour? I know gentiles who come home from such weddings wondering why Jews were imitating them, except that for them a wedding is big with 70 people and for us it’s at least 300 כן ירבו.

I’ve watched standards drop alarmingly over the years. Holocaust survivors had MORE questions about God than our modern Gen kids, but they didn’t abandon Mesora. Our young Gen call their children by any name that sounds more gentile than a gentile, and need to be shaken up. Sometimes you don’t even see the Jewish name in the Jewish News. Did they ever get one or is it   טיפני בריטני׳ (Tiffany Brittania)

If they are having a Jewish Wedding, then make them do it properly. No “Kosher Style”, no weak compromises. Strength begets strength. It’s not the Orthodox who are assimilating, it is the Reform that assimilate in alarming levels, and the Conservative who become Reform.

It’s time Rabbonim realised that whilst it’s great to be “cool” and “friendly” and “populist” there are strict lines and they should insist on them. Frankly, it used to be unthinkable not to have the Rabbi at a Simcha in the days of old. Today, even the friendly Rabbi often isn’t invited so they don’t see the “shrimp” and pritzus.

Rav Schachter told me that it is preferable to have a Bar Mitzvah call up on a Monday or Thursday than cause חילול שבת … Maybe the father will even put on Tefillin and they can video the entire event. Is there something holy about Maftir on Shabbos? It’s not even from the main Aliyos.

PS. I don’t attend weddings that are Treyf and they offer to order me a Kosher Meal double wrapped while I sit at a table struggling with the silver foil, tape, and glad wrap, as everything spills on me, and others think I’m a Charedi weirdo. I’d rather give a present and say enjoy your party, but don’t call it a Jewish Wedding Simcha. It’s a wedding populated by Jews.

Religious women in the combat army

I am not a Rabbi, let alone someone who ought to be making definitive statements about this issue. I sit in relative comfort in Australia with the threat of terrorism, but without the threat of survival.

It was in the last year that I discovered, via Kurd tactics, that for a Muslim to be killed by a female soldier in combat, implies that this Muslim doesn’t acquire their mythical ‘olam haba’ let alone the bevy of virgins supposedly assigned to him as a result of his death during Jihad.

I do not think the following religious girls were motivated by such, but one can think of it as burying their dead in pig skin, although our world of political correctness which would demand that women have the same right to defend Israel as the LGBT rainbow movement, ought to be more comfortable with this concept.

Accordingly, I would argue that for יחידות who have a specific היתר from their parents and רב המובהק, who would need to be an outstanding Talmid Chacham, I make no comment except that every time they succeed, they will be putting the fear of being killed by a female, firmly in the mind of the terrorist who is hell-bent on the destruction of our State and People.

This is from Yediot by Dr Ruchama Weiss and Rabbi Levi Brackman. Note: Ruchama is Reform, to my knowledge, whereas Levi is the real mccoy.

In 2010, 935 young religious women joined the IDF. In 2013, the number jumped to 1,616. Every year, the army receives more and more religious female recruits, who are not only enlisting for traditional roles in the Education Corps, but are also joining combat units.
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This new trend should not be taken for granted, given the fact that one of the main statements issued by the Chief Rabbinate Council when Chief Rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef took office was that the Rabbinate “forbids IDF enlistment in any way, continuing the tradition of the previous chief rabbis.”
Serving with Pride
A woman of combat who will find? / Yossi Yehoshua
Thought religious women skip the draft or rush to get married? Meet married women who are insisting on completing their mandatory service.

But it seems reality is stronger than halachic rulings. Meet Ornella, Sari and Hila, three religious female fighters who are convinced that despite the many difficulties, a religious girl who wishes to contribute to her people belongs in the army.
A fighting family

When 21-year-old Sari Michael of Netanya joined the Caracal Battalion in March 2013, she received surprised reactions from her close and distant surroundings. She studied at the Bar-Ilan religious girls’ school, where she says the educational staff conveyed a clear message that the best place for a young woman from the national-religious sector is national service.

Sari Michael. Serves in the Caracal Battalion (Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)Sari Michael. Serves in the Caracal Battalion (Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)
“I come from a fighting family,” Michael says. “My grandfather was an instructor in the Navy’s Shayetet 13 special forces unit, I have an uncle in the Givati Brigade, another uncle who is a combat medic, another relative in Intelligence Unit 8200, and they each contribute as much as they can. I have a female cousin who joined the Caracal Battalion a year before me, and when we meet on Saturdays we share our experiences from the service.”

At her parents’ request, Michael began doing national service at the Defense Ministry, but realized after several months that her goal was significant combat service. So she left and joined the IDF, where she was sent to serve in the Air Force. “I said to them, ‘I want to be a combat soldier. I want experiences.'”

‘I became more religious in the army’

She got her share of experiences at the Caracal Battalion, which mainly deals with securing the Israel-Egypt border. About two-thirds of its soldiers are women.

Asked whether she experienced any crisis following the move from convenient national service to an exhausting basic combat training, Michael replies sincerely: “There isn’t a single combat soldier who doesn’t experience a crisis, but I received support from Captain Einat Cohen, who is responsible for the enlistment of religious girls in the army. “She fought for my rights. She also gave me her personal cell phone number, and I know that even if I call her at 2am – she will pick up the phone.”
And what do you do when you have religion-related questions?

“There is the battalion rabbi, and I also consult my father. There are clear orders in the army. One of them deals with human dignity. It doesn’t matter if you’re religious or not, Jewish or Christian or Druze; you respect your fellow man and he will respect you. My friends are considerate. They don’t listen to loud music on Shabbat, but use headphones. In my unit there are many traditional people and five religious girls – which is a lot.”

As for her difficulties as an observant Jew, she says: “It’s clear that during action it’s more problematic and harder to implement, but I believe that any soldier who wants to be religious can be religious. It all depends on you, and I have actually become more religious in the army.”

This may sound strange to some soldiers, but Michael doesn’t have a hard time when she is forced to stay in the army on Shabbat. “My mother always told me that on Shabbat a person has an elation, and I enjoy Shabbat in the army. There is the Kiddush, there are prayers in the synagogue, we sit through the meals and laugh. We also have time for ourselves, and Shabbat is really good for the soul.”

‘Israel means more to me than anything’

Ornella, 21, immigrated from France a little over a year ago in order to join the IDF. Her father was born in Israel, her mother in France, and her family lives in 15th arrondissement of Paris. As there was no Jewish educational institution near her home, she studied in a public school with many Muslim students.

Ornella. Serves in the Lions of Jordan Battalion (Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)Ornella. Serves in the Lions of Jordan Battalion (Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)
“I am familiar with anti-Semitism,” she says. “I was the only Jewish girl in school. I didn’t hide the fact the I was Jewish and walked around with a Star of David medallion. Many of the students didn’t like it, and they were always looking for a fight.”

Asked whether she hesitated before making aliyah and joining the IDF, she replies decisively in an enchanting French accent: “I have been very Zionist ever since I was a little girl. The State of Israel means more to me than anything.”

Ornella’s brother, who also immigrated to Israel, didn’t serve in the army, so her decision to sign up for combat service raised eyebrows in her family. “It scared them. They don’t know any girls in combat service. But now I’m about to end my military training, and they are proud of me and believe that religious girls can also serve in combat roles.”

3 religious soldiers out of 80

Ornella says God helped her with the basic training difficulties. “My faith helped. As they say, ‘Think positive and things will be positive.’ If I want to, I can.”

She joined the IDF in November 2014, and began her basic training in March in the Lions of Jordan, a new infantry battalion where men and women serve side by side. Asked about her service alongside secular soldiers and how she deals with the issue of desecrating Shabbat for operational reasons, she replies: “My commanders always let me pray the morning and afternoon prayers, and let me leave the light on before I go to sleep so that I can read the Shema prayer. Although we are three religious soldiers out of 80 in the battalion, the boys know I am religious and respect me. “The Shabbat problem is less problematic right now, because I am in advanced training and we haven’t reached the line yet. But the question of desecrating Shabbat began with securing communities, when we have to travel by car. Every time I had a question, I turned to the Paratroopers’ base rabbi and he answered me. I also consult my brother.”
‘You can’t please everyone’

Hila Lev Ari, 20, from Moshav Bareket, serves in the Home Front Command’s rescue battalion. These days, she and her fellow soldier have been stationed in one of the hottest areas in Samaria. She studied in the Sha’alvim religious girls’ high school and later in Yigal Alon High School.

Hila Lev Ari. Serves in the Home Front Command’s rescue battalion (Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)Hila Lev Ari. Serves in the Home Front Command’s rescue battalion (Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)
She was motivated to join combat service following a terror attack in 2002, in which terrorists fired at hotels in Netanya, murdered two and injured many. She experienced the incident as a little girl, but says it changed her.

“My family wasn’t hurt, but these are the kinds of things that build you. I decided that if there was something I could do to prevent others from going through what I did, and turn the country into a safer and better place, I would devote myself to it.”

Lev Ari is an only child. “At first, my parents tried to convince me to do national service, but I realized that this is my life and that I can’t please everyone. My parents understood, and now they are proud of me.”

What’s wrong with trusting Rav Ya’akov Emden?

I was discussing a topic at Shule concerning why I wasn’t a regular purchaser of Hamodia. He asked me what I didn’t like. I suggested that I always felt like I was reading Disneyland when I read Hamodia’s description of any living or departed “Gadol” from yesteryear. Sure, I’m known to be a cynic. That’s different from being cycnical per se and is probably the wrong word in context. Being a cynic is probably a precursor or post effect from being a scientist of sorts. I have found that I see or notice things some do not. That’s unlikely to be a brain thing, but rather a training thing. I’ve been taught for so many years to dissect each word and scrutinise what’s written it’s invaded by mode of processing information. It’s a good invasion.

Consequently, when I read all the incredible stories about Great Rabonim and the occasional Rebbetzin? I am left with a feeling that “between the lines” there is much missing. What is missing? For me, it is the struggles, the emotions, the human side: the good and triumphant verses the struggles which weren’t always triumphant. I feel cheated. I know, as we all do, that there isn’t a family with a closet hidden and where some skeleton hangs proverbially.  With Hamodia I am being treated with a menu of  historiography and/or not well researched history. This extends way beyond Hamodia itself. Why, the (not so Holy) Artscroll translation decided they had jursidiction over the words of Rashi’s eynikel, the great Rishon, the Rashbam of the early 1000’s and chose to omit various things he “said wrong” or “should be hidden today”. No doubt, that was with permission of a “Choshuve” Rov or three, but I still don’t buy it. To me this consititites Olam HaSheker, the world of lies. Lies by commission and sometimes commission.  He, a Gerrer Chossid, opined that he could see nothing wrong with positivity as motivating force. I took his point, but countered that unlike former times, one simple can no longer escape the “real world”. If a child/talmid is imbued with brains and if they are also pursuers of truth and rigor, I think that the “world would come down” on such and they may cease to believe or start to doubt. They then separate into two types:

  • those that go through all the motions even with all the chumros, but deep down because they have felt they have been lied to, no longer believe anything . Social, Economic and other pressures make it too hard  for them to break away
  • those who have either experienced a bad incident or whose mind is too fertile to ignore the truth when they eventually discover it, either through interaction with a library, the internet, work and plain life and choose to leave the world of their parents and are banished and shamed as a result.

I’m reminded of a story which Mr Sperling of Elwood Shule used to tell me every Yom Kippur (in the days when Elwood had characters). In Yiddish he would relay how his father was very frum but his sons ranged in their frumkeit. One brother was completely not religious and was a card carrying member of the Communist party. This was not as uncommon as many people would have you believe. Yet, on Kol Nidrei night he had respect for his father and stood with all his brothers alongside their father. When the Chazan genuinely started saying (no choirs, organs, guitars and all the shticks people use today) Or Zarua LaTzadik אור זרוע לצדיק the communist boy’s leg went into an incontrollable shake. Mr Sperling used to rib him in the elbow each year and say “Nu, so you discovered God one night each year and you tzittered (trembled with awe) because your let always gives it away”.

To be sure, choosing what to expose one’s kids to it’s a delicate balancing act. It is one each parent and School considers. There are extremes and middle grounds and hilly grounds. There are a number of Schools that censure text books or story books or censor these in part. Do they think that the kids don’t notice glued pages or redacted texta? They do, and in many cases it makes them want to see the original so they know. People have a thirst for knowledge. The key is to quench the thirst in a meaningful way. Does anyone believe all the non Jewish books in the famous Lubavitch library fell in by carrier pigeon?

Defining what a “meaningful way” is complex. To give a comparison: It isn’t meaningful for anyone to give lower precedence to Tzniyis, be it for a male or female. At the same time, when one introduces laws (especially for women) that make them uncomfortably hot on a summer’s day, one really is using up מסירות נפש for the secondary, and not the primary. I’m not of course suggesting they prance barefoot in the gardens in white on Tu B’Av (would any Rav allow that today?) watched on by potential suitors. Yes, males and females should keep the עיקרים of Tzniyus. In terms of חומרות however, it is a very brave person who can pretend that their entire Kehilla are בעלי נפש people who are quietly and surreptitiously מחמיר on themselves across the gamut of Torah.

ָAnother example: we’ve over focussed on the claim that there can be nothing can be good in secular studies (unless you make a quick buck thereafter). This is simply untrue. Many of the greatest Rishonim and Acharonim disagreed. So you will say, yes, but that’s because they were on a Madrega, and we are not. I will counter that aside from the study of philosophy, where one would really need to be a learned בעל מדריגה if they were to cope with it, most University studies actually perform the side effect which allows one to see just how much צלם אלוקים they own. It is almost a פרוזדור to the real world, but one where you are learning as opposed to being bossed and working for someone else. You aren’t about to encounter כפירה if you study accountancy, computer science, law, medicine, architecture, mathematics, and much more. And if your bent is biology and those sciences, you would do well to be well acquainted with Rabbi Natan Slifkin’s books, as well as his interlocutor Rav Moshe Meisselman,  beforehand. You will be equipped. I’ve seen kids grow in their Yiddishkeit בדווקה because they are exposed to the חושך and are much more able to discern the אור and radiate within it and grow.

I remember the days when just about every Adass graduate who didn’t join their father’s business, went to Prahran Tech (as it was then known). It was normal. They used a short series of English names: George and Peter made up over 50% of them. (I will never understand how Hungarian Adassniks of yesteryear and today chose Peter of all names!). I think that was the Adass of the Germans and Oberlanders. Today it’s the world of Chassidim.

It is with this that I come to Rav Ya’akov Emden who is universally acclaimed as an outstanding Talmid Chacham. The son of the famed Chacham Tzvi, he didn’t need to even come second to his father. His entire mantra was truth which is why a healthy dose of skepticism had him at loggerheads with R’ Yonasan Eybesheutz. Most will never be told that he wrote an auto-biography. That of itself tells you lots about the man and that he did what he thought was right; not what others were doing “as right”. That Sefer is known as Megilas Sefer. I believe there have been three editions. Why so many editions? Of course, the answer is that people “greater and holier” than Rav Ya’akov Emden censored the Ya’avetz (as he is known) because “it was the right thing to do” and never allowed the whole thing to be printed.

I mentioned it a while ago in a learning hall and one צורבא דרבנן contacted me privately and asked if he could borrow my new english translation. I left it for him to pick up, and I assume he will read it and eventually give it back. Alas, many of my Seforim go walk about because I rely on a faulty memory and end up blaming myself for misplacing.

I got so much out of that Sefer as well as the banned (shock horror) “Making of a Gadol” by the Rosh Yeshivah Harav Noson Kaminestsky as relayed to him by his own father the famed R’ Ya’akov Kaminetzky. (By the way R’ Ya’akov was actually related to very well-known Chassidim from Chabad, and there is a famous picture I had which I can’t put my finger on, with him an Rav Mendel Futerfass and I forget the third)

Why do I write on this topic? Well, we have the “going off the Derech phenomenon”. I’ve read at least one wonderful book on that topic. I don’t believe that the problem is with the kids. The problem is with us. How much אמת do we exude, and when we do, how much אמת do we hide when we don’t allow them to also see חכמה בגויים תאמין. There isn’t one answer. There is a multifaceted approach, and its starts with every kid. They see our faults and they see what’s important to us. Their respect for us and יהדות stems largely from this.

I’m reminded of a story, when then Prime Minister Begin used to come to the USA he visited the Rav,  HaRav Yosef Dov Halevi Soltoveitchik (warning: anyone who calls him JB (especially Lubavitchers) don’t say it near me because I will give you a severe tongue lashing) because Begin’s father was R’ Chaim Brisker’s Shamash (some will try to change this fact, of course). Once Begin felt he wanted to discuss world politics and bounce his views off the Rav. He emerged from his meeting of an hour shaking his head. They asked him “how was the meeting” and he said “this man deeply knows as much if not more about Israeli and American politics than I did”. The Talmidim asked the Rav how he knew such things. He answered  that the prime lesson he learned from his Zayda, R’ Chaim Brisker, and his father R’ Moshe, was: reading the lines of anything be it a Rambam or a mere newspaper, was only half the work. One had to work out the line that was missing that wasn’t written. Consequently, when he read the paper, the Rav used to intuit that which was purposeful elided by reporters and editors and then work out why, and based on this and his genius, develop a view on what the Emes really was.

And here we are today: we have picture books for kids with Moshe Rabenu dressed like someone from B’Nei Brak. What narishkeit is that? Do you think Moshe Rabenu wore boots? I’d say he didn’t. Do you think he wore a turban like hat. I’d say he did. How many people (aside from poosteh Mizrachi) do you see in B’Nei Brak wearing sandals? No, it’s strictly  forbidden. It’s an almost יהרג ואל יעבור

That reminds me of another story. In the days I went to Bombay, Rav Gavriel Holtzberg הי’’ד had one of those questions. None of the remaining Iraqi Jews were Cohanim, and the Bene Yisrael had no Cohanim (especially if you believe they came from another lost tribe). In fact there were no Leviim either. One day, there was an Israeli guy, frum, who was a Cohen (I often had to Duchen on Shabbos and learned the Baghdadi chant by imitating the B’aal Tefilla). The Israeli took of his sandals and the oldest Baghdadi Jew took offence, saying how can one Duchen in bare feet. There was a back and forth, and this Baghdadi Jew who was normally very quiet (he has passed on now, and I have fond memories of his Middos) said they should not have Bircas Cohanim if the Cohen wasn’t wearing socks. Rav Gavriel in a stroke of genius suggested that the Baghdadi Jew give the Israeli Cohen his own socks and the problem would be solved. I will leave the rest to your imagination.

We’ve been taken in by the פרט or purposely erased it.

PA = Patents

Move over Sodom and Gemora

We have enough lying fakers in our midst. Out them and stuff their “holy” surnames and moralistic bull-dust.

See here for some distasteful reality. Warning. If you are sincerely frum, better you don’t look

Of course there are enough pathetic men and women who fool nobody except their fake “holy”
names and it’s not a female phenomenon by any stretch.

Same gender group in the Jewish Community Council of Victoria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

matos masei 

After Jewish men illegally consorted with Midianite women, we find a strange offer from the sinners. Instead of the usual animal or flour/incense based sacrifices, they suggest that atonement for their sins should be granted by bringing the jewellery and concealed body ornaments proudly adorning the Midianite women and used to cajole them to a sordid bed of iniquity. This is a most strange and irregular “sacrifice”. From whence did they assume that such a notion would be acceptable? The sons of Aaron died for bringing a “strange fire” as a sacrifice! There was no Torah precedent for this style of offering to atone for the injunction against iniquitous cohabitation.

Precious Jewellery represents the enticement embodied by the physical being. Man and Woman are attracted to beauty. This, in of itself, is not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, without appreciation of such, there might be no procreation. The danger is born when physicality alone conceals and constricts the spiritual essence and striving of the holy Jewish soul. The soul is rendered wounded by the attack of physicality (or excessive materialism).
Rav Kook explains that the sinners had recognised that they allowed bodily desires influenced by external considerations to overtake the essence of their spiritual and religious imperative. The shell of the egg, if you will, conceals the yolk and albumen. In such situations, our role is to break the shell, and find the essential truth which nourishes the soul. We have witnessed the shell of a deal with Iran. The devil is in the detail concealed therein. May we merit to see true peace in our country, Israel, and may all Jews be safe from the scourge of the misleading and tempestuous storm of deception and violence enveloping our world—especially now—during the nine days of mourning for the destruction of our beloved Temple.

Belzer chassidim cave in to secular pressure

Make no mistake, this was not about Judaism. It wasn’t about דינא דמלכותה it was about keeping their school open. I had blogged about the issue here. They have caved in and shown less guts than the days of yore when the Gedolim of Europe had to deal with the issue of introducing secular studies into Yeshivos. If they really followed their Rebbe, then they should have gone on Aliya to Kiryas Belz or something and followed his ruling. Instead, they decided Golus in Stamford Hill under מלכות של חסד was preferable.

From the Jerusalem Post

Plans by leaders of the Belz hassidic community in north London’s Stamford Hill to expel pupils if they were driven to school by their mothers have been countermanded by the school governors, after a strong warning Education Secretary Nicky Morgan that it was “completely unacceptable” and her instigation of an inquiry into the controversial policy.

The issue arose after the head of two junior schools – Talmud Torah Machzikei Hadass, for boys, and Beis Malka, for girls – sent out a note threatening to institute the new policy from the beginning of the new school year in August. The note stated that the edict conformed with the ruling of the leader of the Belz Hassidim, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, that women adherents must not drive.

Headlines about bans on women driving led to close attention on the Belz community in particular and hassidic Jews in general, with parallels being drawn with Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to drive. Jewish communal leaders – including Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Rabbi Joseph Dwek, the head of the Spanish and Portuguese community – distanced themselves from the ruling.

Morgan, who also serves as women’s and equalities minister, said the government would take any necessary action to “address the situation.”

Faced with negative reaction, Ahron Klein, chief executive of the boys school, issued a statement at the end of last week in which he stated that the head teacher had “sent out the letter on behalf of the spiritual heads of the community, who had not taken into account the implications of such a policy.”

He added that Neshei Belz, the community’s women’s organization, had also issued a statement saying that Belz women’s values may be compromised in driving a vehicle, although they added that they respect individual choices made in this matter.

Klein pointed out that the message that children would be excluded had not come from the school’s board of governors, “who did not approve the letter in advance.” And he clarified that the schools believe that women have a choice about whether they want to drive, “and our policy is to accept all children who are members of our community, which we have been doing for the last 40 years.”

Klein confirmed to The Jerusalem Post that, indeed, women driving their children to school would not be faced with their children being turned away, though he emphasized it was generally accepted by hassidic Jews – and not just by the 700 families of the Belz community in the UK – that for reasons based on their form of Judaism, women do not drive.

While welcoming the clarification, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, which declared the policy “unlawful and discriminatory,” announced it had written to the schools demanding further clarification that they were complying with UK law and seeking confirmation no pupils driven by their mothers to school would be subjected to sanctions.

I wonder which היתר they used and whether it was sanctioned by their Rebbe? Whatever, they have come out of this looking quite silly.

Same gender marriage

My first point is a Jewish one. Marriage does not equal Kiddushin. It is a civil concept. Were it not a civil requirement for certain privileges, many Jews would simply not be involved in secular marriage.

Kiddushin is well defined. It is JEWISH marriage. On that front, there is no compromise and there can not be a change. The Torah is explicit. Those who find an opening can call it what they like, but it’s not KIDDUSHIN, and anyone who calls it Kiddushin belongs to the Reform movement and is not considered part of mainstream Judaism.

How should Jews then react to the Civil contract of Marriage? I look at these issues through the eyes of Halacha. The Halacha which is germane, is that of B’nei Noach. The reality is that we cannot be seen to be supporting something contrary to the Noachide laws. Those people, however, have free choice. When they live in a union, which they already do, without the civil contract, they are technically in breach, although one wonders whether Tinok Shenishba applies 🙂 I do not think the Jewish vote classifies as Mesayea Lidvar Aveyra or that this even applies because they already do it without the contract.

So, what would I say if asked? I would say that Judaism does not support same gender  marriage contracts. Judaism doesn’t proselytise, and whilst we have our views we recognise that the non Judaic world are governed by the laws of that land. We adhere to the laws of the land, but our personal stance as a religion is that there should be no change. At the same time, we do not support making someone an outcast because of their proclivities. Those are personal matters. We also feel that should the civil concept be legalised, all groupings based on gender preference should dissipate as this only causes animosity.

The Charedi Male Burka

10425356_1590666974515418_1164827599723612175_nHeaven forfend. In my opinion they are transgressing the Torah command of לא תלבש גור שמלת אישה

If they had Tzniyus as their concern, they should have come wearing their Tallis over their heads (which ironically is known mechanically as עטיפת ישמאלים)

It’s almost certain they are Chassidim and not Litvaks.

 

Guest Post: on the misrepresentation of pictures

Thanks to Reb Meir Deutsch for his copyrighted contribution.

Why should only women be blurred in pictures? Do not women have HIRHURIM? The whole thing of ERVA originates from SHIR HASHIRIM. The description of the Shepherd by the NOTERET are (her הרהורים ):
דודי צח ואדום

ראשו כתם פז קבוצותיו תלתלים שחורות כעורב

עיניו כיונים על אפיקי מים רוחצות בחלב

לחייו כערוגות הבושם

שפתותיו שושנים נוטפות מור עובר

ידיו גלילי זהב ממולאים בתרשיש

מעיו עשת שן מעולפות ספירים

שוקיו עמודי שש מיוסדים על אדני פז.
Is it less HIRHURIM than the Shepherd’s ( his הרהורים):
עינייך יונים מבעד לצמתך

שערך כעדר העיזים שגלשו מהר גלעד

שינייך כעדר הקצובות שעלו מן הרחצה

כחוט השני שפתותיך

כפלח הרימון רקתך מבעד לצמתך

כמגדל דוד צווארך

שני שדייך כשני עופרים

אפך כמגדל הלבנון צופה פני דמשק – בטח, הרי זה אף יהודי

ראשך עלייך ככרמל

חמוקי ירכייך כמו חלאים מעשי ידי אומן

בטנך ערימת חיטים סוגה בשושנים

Blur them both. Is there an ERVA only in women? Let us see:

בספר חסידים (מרגליות) סימן תריד. “מכל מה שכתוב בשיר השירים צריך להיזהר שלא ישמע קול אישה והוא הדין שלא תשמע [האישה] קול איש, שמכל שהאיש מוזהר האישה מוזהרת. […] וגם אם שער ראשו יפה ואינו נזהר בו לוקה כאבשלום שנתלה בשערו.” 

There are many POSKIM, but I would like to quote Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. He writes:

בזמנם [של חז”ל], שלא היו רואים אשה בחוץ שכל כבודה בת מלך פנימה, ובראיית אשה מיד באים לידי הרהור במחשבה שבלב, משא”כ עתה שהנשים עוסקות במשא ומתן, ומורגלות בינינו, ואין האדם מתפעל בראייתן ובשיחתן לבוא לידי הרהור

ומעתה י”ל שגם לענין ק”ש כנגד נשים שהורגלו לצאת לרה”ר בגילוי הראש, וכל אדם העובר ברה”ר יראה כהנה וכהנה, ואין הרהור מצוי כ”כ בזה מרוב הרגלן בינינו, אין בזה משום שער באשה ערוה אע”פ שעושות כן שלא ברצון חכמים, דלגבי דידן הו”ל כבתולות שרגילות בכך. ושו”ר הלום להגאון מהר”ר משה פיינשטיין שליט”א בשו”ת אגרות משה (חאו”ח ס”ס לט), בד”ה ולכן, שכתב: וכבר הורה זקן הגאון ערוך השלחן שבזה”ז מותר לברך ולהתפלל כנגד שער נשים הרגילות לצאת פרועות ראש.

Let us have pictures of landscapes, oceans and famous buildings. Why do we need pictures of people, if they are showing nothing (all blurred), or showing a picture made up and not a genuine one.

See: http://www.calcalist.co.il/local/articles/0,7340,L-3659853,00.html

More on blurring out women from the world

I had written about this here.

Check this out from Agudas Yisrael.

(from kolbishaerva blog)

and compare to pre-war picture of graduating class of Beis Yaakov

Graduating Class of Beis Yaakov. Clear faces!

The charedi press distorts Judaism

They, and I explicitly exclude myself from their interpretations of Judaism, have a right to publish their own newspapers (even though they fight anyone who brings historical proof that the Netziv, R Chaim Soloveitchik and many more Gedolei Torah read the newspapers).

They don’t need to have pictures, and here I find myself in agreement with Uri Regev when they distort the image of a female. In a bizarre way they are in fact using what is new to present a distorted world.

Now, you might ask why it bothers me? Well it bothers me because I try to follow Torah, not some new invention. As such if it was a picture of Amalek there might be a positive command to erase him etc (practically we don’t know who Amalek is Lehalocho). Charedim might cogently argue that they won’t publish a picture that shows knees. Ok. If their clientele prefer digital burkas covering the face, that’s not ok. It’s not halachic and those people should never leave their houses let alone read any newspaper. 

So, in summary, the Charedim have created a mitzvas aseh (a positive command) to digitally distort women in pictures so they are not there, where in fact there only exist negative commandments. Such negative commandments can be fulfilled by not including the picture.

Ah, but it’s got nothing to do with Halacha in fact. It has everything to do with POLITICS. They must somehow show that they are in government visually, so they want to show their male members of the government of the state of Israel.

I have no time for such false religiosity.

I said it would happen, and it will become more common

With militant anti-specist vegans growing in numbers, and the charismatic Peter Singer’s of this world, it’s only a matter of time before:

  1. Someone starts pushing for legality because the animal is enjoying it and not showing signs of distress ( definition of “no” will have to be proven) and is therefore not rape
  2. The human has a genetic predilection to such things called zoophilia, so it can’t be called an illness
  3. Jews will lead the way in arguing for marriage to בהמות with Reform leading the way, followed by tree-huggers
  4. Others will claim it goes against the Judeo/Xtian ethic (but that has little clout now)

Warning: this is a disgusting story. See here if you can stomach it.

I once debated this issue with one of my alumni, and whilst she wouldn’t engage in such behaviour,  she was absolutely militant about the issue, calling me all sorts of names etc because I dared eat meat, or drink milk etc. She even called on people to be killed on sight for eating meat and she wasn’t kidding. I knew her when she was quiet and would never have dreamed that she would become a priestess of this movement.

A very useful website

I remember in the old days when I played in the band for Adass weddings, before Yumi’s band took over 99.9% of those gigs. Rav Beck was a lot younger and many times I was asked to see if my microphone could reach the head table. Rav Beck is a holy man, he barely looked up, and when I handed him the microphone it was as if it was a foreign object not to be used. He had no technique and didn’t realise that one had to speak directly into the microphone. Nevertheless, I noticed that even on a microphone stand, he was hesitant to get close to it. Some explained to me that it was a Tumeneh Keyleh. I didn’t understand, although these days I notice he at least holds it. Why do I mention this? I do so because for particularly Hungarian types where anything new is forbidden חדש אסור מן התורה so much of the modern world is not rehabilitative. Many examples about: a modern phone, is more likely to be used for sin; phones themselves were originally forbidden as they ’caused’ Lashon Hora. Eventually, things normalise, and solutions are found.

For me, just about everything I do, except if I’m in front of a Sefer, is something I can potentially turn into bad. It’s my view that there is a single world, an imperfect world, and our job is to turn חול into קדש and not run away from everything that may divert.

Can a person in Summer in Melbourne, Ripponlea, or Miami, or … not find themselves seeing women dressed for the weather, and not wearing thick black seamed Satmar socks? It’s unavoidable to the normal person, let alone those who work in the work force. It is for this reason that the ערוך השלחן stated that saying שמע in front of a woman who wasn’t wearing a head covering wasn’t an issue because we are used to this now as a norm.

I mention all this because my iPhone, as much as I love gadgets and technology, is so full of Torah, and a source of Torah, it’s literally mind-boggling. I hear and sometimes see Shiurim from people I never would have been exposed to. In my world, this IS Hashem’s plan. Like all of them, I could use the internet for the wrong things, and that is a real problem especially in closed societies (Rabbi Professor Twersky has spoken of this many times). For me, I sometimes feel it’s inappropriate to have my phone in the toilet in my pocket as it is so full of Kedusha!

With this in mind, here is yet another example of a wonderful website that can be used by those who appreciate it.

Check it out here and enjoy (if your Rov lets you). Remember, I am not Lehalacha or LeMaaseh. I just dilly dally at the edges of what interests me. By the way, those of you with iPhones check out this app. It’s an absolute beauty and is constantly being updated. I believe there is a google play version but it’s not as developed. I don’t know because I don’t use Android.

Enjoy making Kedusha use out of Tomei Keilim. The number of people who snuck TVs into their houses by asking the TV shop to place the TV into a refrigerator box so the neighbours wouldn’t realise was and is a regular ruse in Israel. TV cards were also highest per head sales in Yerusholayim. Go figure.

Ironically (is there such a word in Judaism) the first Lubavitcher to see opportunities to spread Torah through the internet was Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Kazen ז’ל. I used to be in touch with him as one of the few other Jews on the net before it was called the internet so to speak. Little was I to know that one day he would be the (late) Uncle of my daughter.

Computers are forbidden

My Whys over Pesach?

The AJN target Yeshivah and are not at all even handed.

[UPDATED: I was not aware that my post (in good faith, by a friend) was published on Facebook. I don’t use Facebook except in a private professional capacity to stay in touch with my 450+ postgraduate alumni of nearly 3 decades as it is a most convenient forum.

I understand some people had nice, not nice, and some scathing comments to make about my “Whys”. It’s only a relatively a free country, however, and as author of my thoughts I reserve the right to publish and/or respond to anyone reacting to these. Accordingly, if you feel like it (and frankly it is not my aim to attract comments) and are ready to put a real name to your comment (unless you are, of course a victim of crime) I will moderate your comment according to my understanding of Halacha and common law. If such an arrangement does not suit you, go ahead and write a critique. I won’t be engaging in debate, as this is not why I write. If I want my blood pressure to rise, I have a myriad of better techniques at my disposal 🙂 ]

Onto the article, which I will now proof-read in anticipation of a wider audience than I would normally expect.

Both before and during Pesach I found myself full of pitputim that I needed to express. I held myself back for reasons that aren’t worth recording. One of these was that I didn’t think it was permitted on Chol Hamoed. Maybe I was the proverbial תם (simpleton) of the Hagadda and should have fired thoughts as soon as they occupied my neurones, but, for various reasons, I held back and wrote them immediately after Pesach (when I undoubtedly should have helped my wife). Undoubtedly that was not the right timing, but let’s not go there (thanks CBN).

Some of the responses to these questions need people to retrospect through new glasses; as such I was reticent. This is a hard job, Accordingly, I’m going to frame some of my thoughts as a series of why’s as opposed to proffering cheap advice.

  1. Why has the disgraceful Australian Jewish News continued to remain the mouthpiece of few, as opposed to a faithful unbiased reporter of Jewish news allowing for a wider range of reporting of fact. To give but one example, anyone on Facebook (and I am not on Facebook except with my University alumni although I have an account I originally set up to see pics of my grandchildren) can look up Avi Yemini and find most serious accusations which he apparently alleges will now be formalised via the police against his father Steven (aka Tzefania) Waks. Why Steve? Well, he has clearly shown a preference to a centrist orthodox way of life, dispensing with charedi garb and beard. For the record, I am often regarded as centrist and my name is Isaac. Some persist in calling me יצחק and from my perspective both are quite ok. Indeed, halachically speaking one cannot will away a name that one was called formally even if done via deed but lets not go to that area of Halacha. More to the point:Why is the Australian Jewish News seemingly ignorant of Avi Yemini and his siblings and their views of the father of Manny Waks? I met his siblings in Miami and it wasn’t a pretty description, and backed up Avi. Indeed, they don’t like to talk about it. Guess what AJN? That (comparative silence) in of itself is news, and should be reported. Why didn’t you do that? There is more, but I won’t write it.
  2. Why is Tzedek “off the map?” I did see an advertisement this week, which is good but there is no denying the demise of Tzedek and it worries me. At best, it served as an important encouragement to those who have been abused (earlier in their lives) to give voice to that abuse; and encourage others to give voice. This is critical to unveiling the mask of perpetrators and ensuring educational programs become de jure in organisations to recognise and prevent such perverts. We don’t hear comparatively less from Tzedek since their controversial CEO resigned, although I have absolutely nothing against those running it now and I am sure they are as committed to the cause as those who preceded them; irrespective of whether some were victims. I am not a victim of abuse, but I pursued Cyprys until his veil was lifted. I believe Kramer was after my time, and I certainly didn’t experience any abuse from any of my teachers, be they religious or secular in my 12 years in the School and neither did my siblings.
  3. Why are victims creating websites? The manifestation of private websites authored by professed victims serves good in my eyes only if it’s cathartic for them and not investigative. I’m not a psychiatrist but I’d hope their psychiatric advice would be to pursue such channels only if it was part of their healing. There are existing channels. I’m not sure why they aren’t apparently being used. Shouldn’t they channel their life long challenges to established professionals and professional organisations? I don’t think personabused.com.au is the best idea on the planet and furthermore many will see it as self-serving gold-digging. There are formal community and private bodies to help deal with these life long issues and give aid using the best professional methods, as they are developed. At worst it may give the impression that those abused seek to make a career from being abused and I doubt that this is their intention. Well, I hope not. If it indeed is their sublime intention, then I suggest they need even more professional help than they realise.
  4. Why is it that The Australian Jewish News seems to only report one school and institution-the Yeshivah Centre. We all know that the Yeshivah Centre and Chabad in general have done more than arguably any group for Torah observance, Kiruv, and the welfare of those in need. They are not judgemental. Their mantra is love albeit played through the love strings of their Rebbe’s violin. This is their great strength. They do, in the main follow, a system which was typified by their late and great Rebbe. They have rotten apples. No group is immune from that reality. The last Lubavitcher Rebbe (and his father in law) didn’t join groups (e.g. Aguda) and felt they could achieve their aims through an independent well-structured agenda: bringing Jews and Judaism to Torah and Mitzvos through spreading Chassidus Chabad. He rarely (to my knowledge) interfered with the nitty-gritty of problems in his myriad of institutions but was surely bombarded by such (indeed I once did so). He expected that same independence and intellectual purity to be demonstrated by his trained and faithful emissaries. Sure, they asked his advice, but he wasn’t aware of cleaners and locksmiths and groomers of kids in Mikvaos irrespective of the stories you hear of his greatness and vision.Now, it is clear to all, that the SCHOOLS, (Yeshivah and Beth Rivkah) which are really the raison d’être of the entire organisation are employing best practice, to the extent that they are perhaps overly strict. It is known that they are allegedly being sued by some employees who step out of a very strict line and who don’t allegedly practice world’s best standards. This was instituted before the Royal Commission and as soon as word of the criminals Cyprys and Kramer became love children for the reporters of “the Age”. The other love children of “the Age” are Israel and the “Palestinians”. I know some of the reporters from the Age. They hunkered for Jewish stories and used to call me (and read my blog) as I am straight on these matters and always tried to be. Indeed Mr Waks senior rang me almost daily in my pursuit of Cyprys. As a board member of Elwood Shule, I felt an extreme responsibility to stop this pariah from parading in the way he did.
  5. Why is Yeshivah singled out for its particular mode of governance, when all Chabad Houses still function in a similar way and have not been abandoned in any way. Few complain, because they trust the Rabbi and his advisors and they all benefit. Are some going to conduct an audit of a Rabbi Raskin/Engel/You-name-them and their specialised Chabad Houses, or, say Rabbi Lieder who works tirelessly for Israeli back packers (and ironically leave Melbourne with more knowledge of Judaism than what they learned when in Tel Aviv?) No. I don’t hear any call from the Jewish News or the holier than thou’s asking for a different form of transparent governance. Why not? Is it a matter of amount or principle? Don’t get me wrong here. I think they should all, without exception, including Adass’s offshoot extreme school, subscribe to the strictest codes especially given the Chillul Hashem we have endured. I also happen to disagree with the mode of governance but having grown up witnessing the hopeless squalor that Rabbi Groner lived in, I never considered him to have anything other than the institution in his mind. Indeed, when my father gave him some money before Pesach, the next day there was a receipt from the Yeshivah Centre.
  6. [Please note] The information about Heichal Hatorah (Rabbi Donnenbaum) was miscommunicated. It isn’t based on video surveillance. There is a policy, as I understand it being developed by professionals which as I am informed will be an approved policy that can stand up to accepted standards.  We apologise for that previous innacuracy.
  7. Why only Chabad? It’s not just Chabad. Rabbi Kohn, a controversial figure himself, runs what is effectively the identical model of a Chabad house, except that his is a private business like Meir Gershon Rabi. Will anyone ever know the finances? Cyprys went to Kohn’s minyan! I heard Rabbi Kohn say he learnt his craft from R’ Nochum Zalman Gurevich, who we all knew and loved. Well he learned some of it, the bits that garnered donations. Yes, Kohn’s bent could be described as non Hasidic or anti Hasidic, but who audits his books? What real governance exists? What standards do they use there? Is there a community list—even a Shomer Shabbos list—of every single place that has an acceptable verifiable standard. Let’s not forget, people like Cyprys would try to hire a Shule Hall or a Youth Hall and use that as their modus operandi. He worked for the CSG no less and they had no clue.2015 is not 1985 or 1995 or earlier. The world has changed we must completely eradicate this scourge of scum. It is in fact far worse overseas, if you can believe it because they are so much “holier” and use cattle prongs to elicit a gett as long as you pay through your teeth.
  8. Why are Adass Israel ignored? Peyos don’t make the man. Malka Leifer, has strangely not been a constant focus of those affected by Cyprys and/or Kramer and she runs free allegedly in Immanuel in Israel. Credible rumors abound that she is seeking to avoid extradition to face serious charges on the grounds that the “West Bank” where she resides is not Israel! and Australia has no extradition treaty. Can you believe such a Chutzpah? If true, this is a clever but grossly offensive defence by smart attorneys. I ask why the silence from the Adass Congregation that provides us with so many products and producers. Is it only about food and profit? You cannot get Adass to do anything until you hit their hip pocket. The rest of us are unwanted pimples of the Sitra Achra. Don’t be mistaken. This is what they are taught. I have heard it from the number 2 in the Rabbinic side of the organisation. The youth of Adass are not the old generation. They have little love and are taught thatAhavasYisroel only exists for aShomer Shabbos.There are some wealthy people in Adass. Why isn’t Leifer’s picture in the local Immanuel paper weekly saying “Beware of this person. There are serious allegations of lesbian pedophilia against her”. Should she be teaching or ever left alone even with her own children? Has she even admitted she was wrong, short of fleeing the next day. I asked arguably the third most senior Rabbi at Adass and he shrugged his shoulders saying “What can we do”. I urge you to ask them when you bump into them at various establishments. Ask at the bakeries, ask at the fish shops, ask at the next function you attend. You can do plenty Adass but you thumb your nose at the non charedi community and now also deny that many of your own are “off the derech” something you prided yourself with and now send away so “nobody will notice”.
  9. Why aren’t other schools in the frame? I was informed reliably by someone at the Royal Commission that there were n students of Mt Scopus abused some time ago and a then headmaster was approached and said “Shoosh” it will cause a Chillul Hashem. Sound familiar? I know the AJN were at the Royal Commission. Was there an order barring the names of other schools affected by the despicable reprehensible pedophiles to be reported. I had wondered about the timing of a later letter by Rabbi Kennard (who reads my blog). He didn’t reply. Why? Rabbi Kennards letter was correct and proper but should have been written at least 6 months earlier.
  10. Why don’t people re-internalise that Yeshivah was a one man band. An incredibly wonderful one-man band with more success than people could ever imagine. It was the late and great Rabbi Groner, who whilst consulting with professionals, would not today remotely repeat his approach if he had his time again. Is there anyone game enough to say he would? There was always a committee, but they were and are toothless tigers who took ultimate direction from Rabbi Groner. If he said “no” the committee could proverbially jump. He told them what he thought they needed to know. I have no doubt there were many private things he took his grave. Tonight is his birthday as I just saw from an email.Much was in his head and certainly never on paper. He was the Shaliach. People were only too happy to call him their friend and get his calls in hospital while he was in hospital himself, and come to functions in his honour and he is on the record as vociferously castigating some of the parents whose children became victims (and they ignored him on occasion). Is there a real need to destroy the man after his passing, together with his significant life work, now, while the place has initiated a process to modernise its governance when ill-timed votes threaten its existence financially? Sure, if their new governance is a façade, go for it, but for crying out loud, give them a chance to go through a process. It doesn’t happen over night.
  11. I know of another very well-known (real) clergy (not charedi) who the Jewish News chose NOT to name over allegations of past pedophilia. The name would shock. He was by no means “ultra” orthodox. In that case the AJN (correctly) did not name the person because he couldn’t defend himself against the odious claims. Why only Yeshivah? Because some Rabbis showed themselves to be second-rate and/or clever by half?
  12. Why are there so many (self-proclaimed) counsellors permitted to discuss all manner of most serious topics to congregations and groups “as if” they are experts. If you are a counsellor, then register with the Australian Counselling Association and/or other similar bodies. Your commerce degree isn’t enough. There are enough complaints about counsellors themselves but if, unlike psychologists, some can get away with a load of ill-advised counselling, and more, without being answerable to a formal board, then no Jewish organisation should let them into their four walls to speak and nobody should seek them for any advice except which chewing gum to buy. Some maybe okay, but others are straight out charlatans, Register! Did victims go to a psychiatrist and spill their guts out and get medication where indicated or did they run rings around the counselling option of people who don’t answer to a board of counsellors.
  13. Why are people skeptical about those who sit on Yeshiva’s board or sat on that board? I have emails from about a decade ago where (it now turns out) some victims and others were looking to change things while Rabbi Groner was alive. One hears all types of stories of “this board member” being stubborn, “that one” being nepotistic etc. Some of it is true especially in a vacuüm. I know three former board members and I don’t think they aligned with any of the above. I know they gave thousands of hours of their lives to keep the institutions above water and growing in a way that no Jewish child was ever turned away. Remember, I happen NOT to be a card-carrying member of the “Chabad only” approach to Judaism, although members of my family happen do. We live in peace and in harmony. It’s not hard.There is a review of governance allegedly taking place. It doesn’t and can’t take 5 minutes. Instead, I hear people saying “it’s a PR trick”. How do they know that? I know a serious person who is looking at the structure and they are definitely not looking at it from a PR point of view. Yeshivah is in transition. It had to happen after Rabbi Groner’s passing following that of his mentor. It’s a shock and terrible that the spectre of pedophilia needed to be the back-breaking catalyst, but in the words of a good friend “it is what it is”. So people why don’t you sit back and see what comes forth. By all means if it isn’t transparent and in keeping with the law, bleat and bleat and bleat. Until then, surely wait a little while.
  14. Why do people feel that beating Rabbi Telsner or Rabbi Glick is the answer? It isn’t. It’s 2015. I especially rang Rabbi Telsner because I wanted to know exactly what he said that got the Jewish news positively apoplectic on their front page and what was said to him. How the AJN could then say “tell us it’s not so Rabbi Telsner” is beyond me. Rabbi Telsner and I have a love/less love relationship. He doesn’t like it when I raise Chabad issues with him (halachic) and he’s not my Posek but he doesn’t deserve to be manipulated.
  15. Why isn’t the Association of Jewish Psychologists being used more. They respond. They don’t go looking for work. I went to a talk and was very impressed with Dr Dan Gordon. He is someone who every School should use for an in-service for their teachers. Why was this a well attended event by Rabbis and religious people and yet so poorly attended by others including headmasters and/or vice-principals? I have a feeling my wife may have been the only senior teacher there. These are specialist psychologists, with PhDs and experience; they have authority and wisdom and aren’t running shonky practices. Listen to their professional wisdom.
  16. Why is the AJN becoming more of a left-wing “Age” newspaper seemingly only haranguing religious institutions (except Adass who don’t buy their paper and buy Hamodia). Religious groups certainly deserve it in some cases, but as I’ve pointed out the AJN are transparently biased. I dislike Hamodia with a passion because it is such a fake fairy tale “feel good” paper full of omissions. I saw a new paper emerge over the break. I hope it takes form. To be honest, I wouldn’t be unhappy if the AJN disappeared if it didn’t seriously reform to become a properly neutral paper instead of a harbinger of an agenda together with pictures of who attended what. I’m tempted to cancel my subscription and my advertising. If it’s possible and the AJN is listening, let me know and I will cancel. Call me tomorrow. My blood pressure will be healthier without your articles and the predictable Henry Herzog et al propaganda that we all skip and are sick to death of.

On the Royal Commission

I had previously written that I was so upset by the thing that I couldn’t bring myself to watch proceedings. Yesterday, towards the end of the day, for some reason I can’t explain, I decided to see what was happening, and caught about an hour of Yossi Feldman’s testimony. Some aspects of that testimony made me feel ill, quite literally. It disturbed my sleep last night significantly and I awoke in a nightmarish state imagining I had spent the night in the Royal Commission watching proceedings. I missed Shacharis because I was affected by what I had heard and seen in that one hour and woke in an agitated state.

Many things struck me, but one was reverberating in my head as I drove in to work. When asked whether he had undertaken any specialised education since the issue became headlines, Yossi Feldman admitted had not but intended to do so in the near future. I could not understand why one, who by his own admission, had at best a very immature understanding of sexual crime involving minors (and I note that his answer of 13 years of age (Bar Mitzvah) was disingenuous even from a Jewish point of view because one is not a Bar Onshin (punishable) until they are 20 thereby making a person a “minor” in respect of punishment until they are 20 according to Jewish Law) had not undertaken any formal education in this area himself immediately. I recognise some live cloistered lives, but it is precisely those people who need that type of education more so than those who live in the real world. The world is a much crueller place than some imagine.

I then noticed the laudable statement from the Jewish Taskforce in Victoria this morning which stated

We have been following the Royal Commission into Child Abuse with concern as we hear the awful experiences people have gone through.
We feel deeply for all the victims and applaud their courage in coming forward to tell of the pain they suffered and continue to bear. We encourage all victims  and their families to reach out for support; whether that be in reporting to the police,
in seeking therapeutic assistance or for whatever else they require.

We would like to reiterate that all institutions must have appropriate policies in place to safeguard children so that there will be a clear understanding
of appropriate behaviors and the ramifications of not behaving in accordance with the law. We therefore encourage those organisations who have not yet put
policies in place to attend the JCCV training sessions, or similar appropriate ones. Child abuse is heinous and unacceptable. The responsibility lies with all of us as a community and society to ensure we take action to prevent it.

Debbie Wiener – Chair
Jewish Taskforce Against Family Violence Inc.
Admin line: 03 9523 6850
Support line: 03 9523 2100
PO. Box 2439, Caulfield Junction, 3161
admin@jewishtaskforce.org.au
http://www.jewishtaskforce.com.au

and it dawned on me that perhaps there is no chapter of this organisation in New South Wales? If this is indeed the case, there is a strong argument simply based on one hour of what I watched, that all in positions where they educate the young or interact with the young etc undertake a series of courses as described by the Jewish Taskforce and often offered by them. Certainly, I would make it compulsory as part of Rabbinic Studies designed for communal leadership. If there is no such organisation in Sydney, then it’s time some from NSW came down and followed the processes used here to make such facilities available. It would be silly to assume that this problem only existed and will continue to manifest itself solely in Victoria and NSW. These types of education programs should be compulsory in every state, even those with fewer students. I extend this call to Bar/Bat Mitzvah teachers, those who give Shiurim in a Kollel or house of learning, and anyone in a position where they interact in a way that may be amenable to grooming or whether there is a power differential. Knowledge is power. People need to know and understand. Clearly some do not.

Blotting out women

I have a little “shiur” each Sunday with my grandsons. I looked for a set of books which were considered better than “little midrash says”. Short enough to keep their attention and informative. It’s been fine, and I notice that the pictures are a great incentive for their concentration.

One grandson today, after I mentioned that Sarah was hidden in a box by Avraham, (Sorai, Avram), asked me “where is Sarah”. I said she’s in the box in the illustration. He persisted but where is Sarah. There are pictures of Avraham, Moshe and Yehoshua etc and admittedly the illustrators tended to not show faces of these people, but it dawned on me that women seemed to have disappeared from every Parsha as far as illustrations were concerned. Now Sarah was good looking. That’s why she was hidden. That’s essential to the story. How you capture that in an illustration is not my problem.

The solution however is heavy-handed. The other ridiculous aspect is that everyone seems to have peyos. From where  do they know this? Ironically the evil people during Noach’s time, look like common criminals in our time.

I’m very strongly attached to the truth. That doesn’t mean to say that one needs to breach Torah Law to tell the truth or draw the truth. They did illustrate idols, ironically! It reminds me of wedding invitations where the female is lowered to the level of רעיתו and her name has disappeared into thin air. Let me note, that R’ Chaim Brisker (Soltoveitchik) signed his son’s wedding invitation as

Chaim and Lipsha Soloveitchik. He didn’t even call himself HoRav, even though he was undeniably one the Torah geniuses of all generations.

Picture from vos is neias

Tamar Ariel: an inspirational humbling young lady

I’ve struggled with understanding the myriad of Israelis who after their army service make their way to Nepal, and India, then sometimes down to Australia. Nepal and India have their significant risks. I’ve only been able to understand it in terms of a need to “come down” from the psychological experience of being in the army. In this regard, I think that whilst having Chabad Houses to support these Israelis is great, the IDF needs to do lots more to develop their post IDF program, especially given the spiritual vacuity that so many seem to experience as soon as they are confronted with life after training and/or combat.

Tamar Ariel is a hero though. I don’t know why she went to Nepal, and I don’t fit her shoes so am hardly in a position to proffer opinion, but a frum girl, who was a pilot, wore a skirt to her ankles, didn’t even shake hands with commanders, is someone who had much more to her than the Chitzoniyus of Tznius. This was a lady who internally was probably more modest than her external fidelity to Halacha. She was one of a kind.

יהי זכרה ברוך

Tamar Ariel ע’ה (picture from Yediot Achronot)

The article can be found here, by Mitch Ginzburg. I reproduce it below.

Cpt. Tamar Ariel, Israel’s first female religious air force pilot, a rear-seat, F-16D navigator, was buried on Tuesday, several days after she died high in the Himalayas. Hundreds of people, including dozens of IAF pilots and commanders, accompanied her on her final journey. Ariel was 25 years old.

She loved motorcycles and fighter jets and wore an ankle-length skirt to her IAF Flight School graduation in December 2012. When Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, the commander of the air force, came down the line of new graduates, he nodded her a greeting, rather than clasping her hand; she nodded vigorously in return and beamed him a smile.

She was a modest and unassuming woman who resented being put on a pedestal. Her aunt, speaking over her grave, said that she did not want to pose for the photo op with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the flight school graduation ceremony because she felt it overshadowed the achievement of her fellow pilots. And though in her life she went to great lengths to state that she was not a role model, she will likely be remembered as such by many in the modern Orthodox community in Israel, which is split by the competing values of army service for all, particularly among the younger generation, and the deep-seated social conservatism that spurred rabbis to press the state, since its inception, to grant all religious Jewish women the right to bypass army service with an oath of Orthodoxy.

Ariel was raised on a cooperative farming community, Moshav Masuot Yitzhak, in a home on the edge of an avocado orchard. She was the third of six children, born to a father who was second generation on the moshav and a mother who made Aliya from Puerto Rico, Yedioth Ahronoth reported in 2012.

She went to a co-ed local school as a child and to an ulpana, or yeshiva for girls, as an adolescent. In 11th grade, she received her first army summons and was found suitable for flight school. After taking several preliminary tests, she decided, in 12th grade, to fall in line with what most of the ulpana girls were doing – national civilian service. “I was afraid of ‘becoming rotten’ from a religious perspective,” she told the Yedioth daily. “I thought that serving within the framework of religious institutions was more protected and safe in that regard.”

She stated that she was Orthodox, received an exemption from army service on the spot, and served for two years as a Bnei Akiva youth leader and a counselor in her former school.

Upon completion, she decided that she still had not fulfilled her potential and turned back to the army, rescinding her earlier statement. In April 2009 she passed the week-long physical exam and was accepted to the prestigious course.

Nighttime navigation drills, when paired off with a man, were awkward, she said, but not “something that anyone dies from.”

After several months in the course and after being placed in the combat fighter section of her class, she flew her first solo flight. As she lined up the landing, wheels already on the tarmac, she felt that she was losing control of the plane and that it might spin off the runway. She pulled the eject cord, according to protocol, was rocketed skyward, and broke a vertebra in her back.

After months in an elastic body cast, the army took her back to the course but moved her into the navigator track.

In December 2012, she graduated, making history. “I don’t think that women need to go to flight school — I think that they can,” she told The Times of Israel at the time. “I recommend that any woman, religious or not, give it a shot. If they call you in, if you pass the tests, it means that the army thinks you can do it. So go ahead — try.”

During Operation Protective Edge this summer she flew the most combat missions in her squadron, her commander said earlier this week.

And then, seeking some R and R, she went, along with another pilot, to vacation in Nepal, to walk the Around Annapurna circuit at what is considered the optimal time of the year. “I didn’t worry during the trip to Nepal,” her mother, Anat, told Army Radio. “The trip was planned to the minute and I had faith in her and in The Holy One, blessed be He.”

Last week, though, a highly unusual storm blew through region, pelting the high mountain passes with snow. Ariel and dozens of other trekkers encountered the brunt of the storm on the Thorong La pass, the highest point on the circuit. Sapped of strength by the altitude and the cold and the fast-accumulating snow, Ariel could no longer walk as afternoon turned to evening and the clusters of trekkers tried to make their way down from the pass to safety.

She died in the snow along with Agam Luria, Nadav Shoham, Michal Charkesky, and 36 other people, half of whom were Nepali.

“You became a public leader,” moshav rabbi Meir Nehorai reportedly said at the funeral, “the object of admiration from all around.”

That admiration is likely to endure and to serve as a beacon to many young Orthodox women charting their path in life.

Clarify your systems and policies El Al and stick to them

An article appeared in the Jerusalem Post by Sharon Udasin (reproduced) below. It is effectively in many papers, and I’d imagine it will end up in the non-Jewish press in time.

More than a thousand people have signed an online petition calling on El Al Airlines to protect female passengers from harassment by ultra-Orthodox men.

More than a thousand people have signed an online petition calling on El Al Airlines to protect female passengers from harassment by ultra-Orthodox men.

The petition on Change.org was launched Sunday, days after an El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv was delayed in taking off when haredi male passengers refused to sit next to women. As of Tuesday afternoon, the initiative had more than 1,100 supporters.

Sharon Shapiro of Chicago, who initiated the petition, said she wanted to stop the phenomenon of “passenger shaming.”

“Some men become belligerent if their demands aren’t met, and spend flights bullying and harassing women who refuse to change seats,” she wrote.

The petition recommends that El Al “reserve a few rows of separate-sex seating on every flight, where for a fee, those passengers who need such seating can pre-book their seats and not annoy or coerce other passengers before take-off to change seats with them – thereby avoiding arguments, bullying, and delayed take-off.”

While El Al did not provide a reaction to this specific petition, the company responded to last week’s incident, stressing that the airline “makes every effort to provide its passengers with the best service all year round.”

“Traffic is currently at its peak during this Jewish High Holiday season to and from Israel and representatives of the company, in the air and the ground, do their best to respond to every request,” a statement from the company read. “El Al makes every effort possible to ensure a passenger’s flight is as enjoyable as possible while doing our utmost to maintain schedules and arrive safely at the destination.”

It added that the airline was “committed to responding to every complaint received and if it is found that there are possibilities for improvement in the future, those suggestions will be taken into consideration.”

 

My views are:

  • It isn’t halachically necessary to ask to move to a seat next to men, but if you feel you need to or want to, or you have been so directed by your Posek/Rabbi, then you must ask extremely courteously. This is not a right, this is a privilege that someone who may have carefully chosen their seat earlier for a range of reasons (unknown to you) may wish to extended to you as a courtesy. If this causes a mass kerfuffle of people moving all around the plane and bags being shlepped to other overhead lockers, think carefully about what may be caused by you together with others who are doing the same thing as you. You might even consider giving a gift of thanks. No doubt you will thank the person/people several times with a cheery disposition. If the person is not Jewish, if you do give a gift later, then I do not think you are transgressing לא תחנם
  • El Al really should not get involved in these issues en masse at the beginning of a flight; there has to be a better system. As an airline, any airline, all requests about food and seating should be made beforehand. One could even add a question about seat preferences along gender lines with the rider that there is no guarantee. They might consider some rows at the back of the plane as male only and female only, and if those fill up, study patterns adjust, but there can’t be a guarantee.
  • Flights should never leave late because of such things. This is a major discourtesy to fellow travellers.
  • If there is even the slightest sign that the person/people are reticent to move, then one has an opportunity for a Kiddush Hashem, and to be friendly and not show even the slightest umbrage at their desire to sit on their allocated seat and accept their decision with a smile. Failure to do so, may cause a Chillul Hashem, and that is far more severe than what the person was attempting to avoid.
  • If somebody cannot afford to buy three seats so that the one on their left and right are empty, or upgrade to those business/first class seats which are separated, then they should consider travelling on Muslim airlines, where they are more likely to be seated in male only areas.
  • Create your own Charedi Airline if you have the patronage
  • I’m presuming that the people, most of them at least, are not simply Anti Charedi or Anti Religious. I think this is a reasonable assumption given the description of circumstances presented.

Finally, as noted by many Poskim, daven sitting quietly in your seat and forget about disturbing people with “minyan, minyan”.

Make up your own mind or ask your Local Orthodox Rabbi!

Policing Tznius

The halachic definition surrounding the limits of Tznius are the discussion of many a book and Responsa in Halacha, let alone Shulchan Aruch. In general, though, these tend to focus on the female aspect of Tzniyus. A good recent fundamental discussion of the issues (although it is technical and deep) is that of R’ Yehuda Herzl Henkin, author of שו’’ת בני בנים who is a grandson of the great Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin ז’ל, and who undertook shimush with his grandfather.

There are a range of views in the arena of female Tzniyus. Some relate to more fundamental aspects, and other relate to what we term Minhag HaMakom (the custom in a given place). I am certain that if someone lived in the New Square, or Williamsburg enclaves, there are strict minhagim of those micro Makomos. That does not mean that anybody from outside such communities needs to follow their dictates. It’s a free world, bound by Halacha.

It is well-known, that the Orthodox world accepted the lenient definition of Shok (section of the leg) as enunciated by the Mishna B’rura, and, as such, defined it as “over the knees” in a sitting situation (if the knees are visible while sitting then one would need to make sure they always stood?). Others, such as various Chassidim, Chardal and more are stricter and only accept skirts which are extended to the calf area. In general, none expect that the skirt should be “skin-tight” to the extent that it advertises the outline of the anatomy. Each to their own Rav HamuvHak, and one should not blithely condemn anyone for following an acceptable Psak. To do so, is the antithesis of the halachic process and an insult to the honour of respected Poskim who established their criteria with the permission of the Torah (even if we arguably no longer have Smicha today).

Other areas of the anatomy are always a matter of Minhag. I’m not aware of a Minhag that a female has to wear gloves. Her hands from the wrist bone to the tips of her fingers are never considered Erva by any opinion I have come across. If a reader knows of one, please tell. On the other hand, from the ankle down, is a matter of rather strange contention, with some saying that unlike hands, the foot area is a matter of Tzniyus, while other say it is a matter of the Minhag of the place, and others stating that since there is generally no accepted minhag in a larger city, one may follow any minhag. Some are careful on this matter on Shabbos, but not during the week. That is usually a matter of being elegantly dressed or a function of the heat in a particular place. Each to their own. To criticise someone for clearly halachically valid views is not effective and according to most Acharonim, even when a practice is halachically invalid, a stranger would have no liability to admonish, as their words would not be listened to, and we have lost the “art” of admonishment. Certainly, the Satmar Rebbe, who was extreme in all matters, and who one does not have to accept as the yardstick Rabbinic authority, specified a curious view of stockings, in particular:

“The rebbe taught that even 70-denier stockings should not be worn. The numerical value of sod (secret) is 70, so the secret is out that this [stocking] is also transparent.” There then follows a lengthy account of Teitelbaum’s creation, with the help of a Brooklyn businessman named Lipa Brach, of an exclusive line of fully opaque women’s hosiery:

Money in hand, Reb Lipa Brach began to work on the project. He went to several hosiery manufacturers, collected samples, and brought all of them to the rebbe to inspect. The rebbe was very pleased with the progress, and he tested each sample by pulling it over his own arm. If his hair showed, it was no good…. The new stockings were given the brand name, “Palm,” the English translation of the Rebbe’s surname…. To this day every Satmar woman and girl wears Palm stockings.

Fast forward to schools and acceptable Tzniyus practices as recently described here. This is not only applicable to Schools, but also to camps (where I have a reliable source to confirm that often girls have to put on socks as soon as they emerge from a women-only pool, and cannot even walk to the bunk house in any other fashion).

I do think that it is critical that Schools (and Camps) enunciate what is acceptable, and anyone who enrols their child in a school should not complain about that level. They do have a choice. They might wish to send their children to another school if views on Tzniyus are considered too right-wing. Often Schools are either inconsistent and/or lax. This can be constant or may reach a crescendo, from time to time. In such a case, the question is how one now educates existing girls about the need to adhere to the standards in the shadow of inconsistent practices of enforcement.

I am opposed to the approach of having non-Jewish (or even Jewish) Tznius “police” casting their eyes up and down girls as they enter the gates and either expelling or calling them out if they breach an aspect. If the school had been inconsistent in the past, then it needs to take a far more sophisticated and educative approach than simply policing with halachic batons. Such policing will simply turn people off, possibly forever, and make them respect no Tznius Police style people or their comments.

What would I do? For a start, I wouldn’t try to single girls out especially publicly. I would take silent note of what the issues are, and away from the school gaze, enunciate the views of the school and source these in a halachically mature and respectful way. That way should not disqualify other approaches but should contextualize the varied approach(es) adopted. It may be necessary to have a weekend seminar, and bring in thoughtful and soft people who are knowledgeable both about the halacha and mind-set of those who sometimes get excited only by these issues. Failure to do that (and there may be other solutions) are likely to be doomed and disenfranchise and cause more underlying dissension than had existed before.

Once a consistent standard has been in place for a few years, a different approach can be adopted, but, again, I’d try not to shame someone in front of their peers.

There are halachic views, as I recall, mentioned by Chacham Ovadia Yosef stating that if the approach in a Xtian country is for a unmarried girl to wear a hat to Church as a matter of modesty and respect, that a Jewish girl should do so no less!  It cannot be that the אומות העולם grab the high ground. At the same time, there are limits. Burkas and the like are not within the confines of reasonable halachic parameters (although we see demented people in Yerushalayim and Beit Shemesh following such antithetical and condemned practices).

Women may well argue, and do argue, that there is a degree of misogyny on display. Why is it that the focus appears to be largely on females and not males? This is a good question. I recall in Malaysia and Indonesia where I often saw a poor (hot) female dressed from top to toe (inclusive) in a gown that allowed only her eyes to peak out. Her husband and kids were walking along in tow. The often bearded husband ironically wore shorts, a singlet and flip flops! That is, the type of clothing many people wear in hot weather. I couldn’t understand why Islam seemed to have two standards. Does Judaism have the same attitude? It could be argued that a man wearing floppy shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops isn’t technically breaking any law of Tzniyus, save a possibly “Minhag HaMakom” where “Makom” doesn’t purely exist, such as in places like Melbourne, where a multiplicity of views is extant. Sure, during davening, men have dicta, some of which are relativistic, but it seems that the female folk are the ones who are getting all the attention. There is a level of existentialism in this, although some may argue.

Is the approach taken by a school and others that “yells” and “calls out” right? Is it fruitful? More importantly, is the shouting, embarrassing, policing style approach likely to achieve anything positive?

I think not. Most attitudes are formed at home. That is the place for education, and it needs to start early.

I wish they put as much effort into protecting innocent children

[Hat tip BA]

From Yeshiva World News.

After Israel’s Supreme Court declared mehadrin buses illegal, we are introduced to mehadrin
elevators. The חן ארמונות simcha hall in Givat Shaul, Yerushalayim, has set up a mehadrin
elevator divided by a curtain that separates men and women in the elevator. The elevator is
optional, for guests who wish to offer this new mehadrin service. A nylon curtain is placed in
the elevator, permitting men and women to ride without seeking one another, in theory at
least.
Hall owner Yosef Cohen told Walla News that on the day of one’s chupah, many wish to be
especially careful regarding shmiras einayim and this is just another way of assisting them,
nothing more. Cohen adds that one hall in Bnei Brak has two elevators, one for men and a
second for women but he purchased the hall, which only has one elevator so this is the
solution for those wishing it.
When asked what he has to say to the critics, Cohen questions why anyone finds this
bothersome since it is only used upon request of a bal simcha.
It seems to me that some of them need Shmiras Yodayim and other Eyvorim, and as Rodfim, should be chemically castrated if they have a confirmed illness. I know I’ve jumped from one Chumra to another issue, but frankly the latter issue of disgraceful pedophiles worries me a whole lot more than someone who can’t stand in a lift looking straight ahead. The owner should have told them to use the stairs, and reminded them that they have to walk in front of women, not behind. Groise Tzaddikim. Not.
By the way, where is Malka Leifer? Still walking the streets or “educating” with impunity?
(Pic from Scientific American)

Modern Orthodox High School in New York Allows Girls to Wear Tefillin

[Hat tip from Krakover]

This is from the forward.

Two SAR Students Break Ritual Barriers

Published January 20, 2014.

SAR High School, a Modern Orthodox institution in Riverdale, New York, is now allowing girls to wear tefillin.
Rabbi Tully Harcsztark, head of the school, sent out an email explaining that two girls were granted permission to wrap tefillin at the school’s daily all-girls meeting,reports the Boiling Pot, the online student newspaper of Shalhevet High School in LA.
 
“I have given permission to two female students… to put on tefillin during tefilah,” Rabbi Harcsztark wrote Dec. 8, in an email to the school’s faculty, obtained by The Boiling Point. “They do so every day and have not been permitted to do so in school until now. “I believe that it is halachically permissible although it is a communally complicated issue.”
 
Ronit Morris (‘15) and Yael Marans (‘16) will now be wearing tefillin every day, the SAR Buzz reported.

“(This mitzvah) has been very important to me for a very long time and I’m really glad to be doing it at SAR,” Morris (‘15 told the Buzz. “I started putting on tefillin after my bat mitzvah. I lay tefillin for three years straight at [Solomon] Schechter every morning, and then I came to SAR and it did not seem like that was a thing that the school was going to go for at the time, and we put it off for a while.”
 
Marans (‘16) told a similar story, adding that her mother also wore tefillin every day. “Just before my bat mitzvah, I began putting on tefillin. It was just what my mom did, and, of course, what my brothers did,” she explained. “But I was one of a few girls in my grade that did. It made me think a lot about individuality, and eventually, when I wasn’t so overwhelmed by this new ritual, I realized it was making me think about God. I’m not going to say that every time I lay tefillin I feel a renewed awe of God, but sometimes it really makes me think. It’s just something in my day that makes me really conscious and concentrated.”
 
According to a Ricki Heicklin, a senior at SAR, meetings with every grade were held to address the reasoning behind the controversial decision.
 
“There were a handful of students who saw tefillin as something strongly correlated with the Conservative movement.” Heicklen told The Boiling Point, adding: “I strongly support the girls and I think it’s absurd that anybody would be upset about Rabbi Harcsztark’s decision.”
 
“Regardless of my personal choices, I think everyone at SAR should be allowed to connect to Hashem in whatever way they find meaningful, as long as it falls within the scope of halacha, which this clearly does,” Heicklen said.
 
Praying with tefillin — boxes containing the Shema prayer that are wrapped around the head and arm — is an obligatory mitzvah for boys. 
 
Girls are not forbidden to do so by halacha, but rabbis from different streams of Judaism disagree as to whether or not they should.
My opinion on this and similar matters has remained steadfast over many years. It is greatly influenced by the views of the Rav and R’ Moshe Feinstein.
There will always be people who do things which are permitted according to Jewish Law, when performed in earnest, not as a temporal manifestation of a Jerusalem Syndrome or the like, and most certainly not motivated in any shape of form by the populist egalitarianism and equality arguments bandied about by the left, as if they are the two missing links of the ten commandments.
Let’s call it as it is. Men and Women are existentially different. Period. The Torah  also provides for different roles and responsibilities. This is a legally grounded Mesora.
There are degrees of freedom. They are applied, also based on Mesora, to those who have attained a certain level of kedusha. That’s not the same as saying that every man already has that kedusha when they are born, of course. They do not.
There have been female Rebbes. Read about it. There have been and are women who put on Tefillin. Maybe some want to wear Tzitzis etc. Those who are at that level, consult a Rav, and act accordingly. Judaism hasn’t censored these acts or hidden them. It is condoned, but it is controlled.
What I do object to, is the institutionalisation of such practices. No school or similar should allow these things to be done with the style of pomp and ceremony implied by the article above. Those girls are quite capable of doing these things, in a modest way, without their school or they advertising their predispositions.
I don’t say Tikun Chatzos. If I did, frankly, I’d be a complete joke. Why? I’m simply not at a level that I could meaningfully sit and cry each night at midnight about the Churban. Those who do, do so in private. Sure, some of their family will know, but they do not make it known, nor do they announce a Tikun Chatzos evening.
One of my daughters who attended Lindenbaum (Brovenders) started to get sick and tired of her Halacha class. I asked her why. She said, because they were learning the laws of Tzniyus and most of the girls (from the USA) who are extremely bright, were attempting every which way to argue with the Rav, about sleeve lengths, hem lines, and neck lines. They started with the premise that the lines (sic) were too long, and then tried to argue their way through the sources to find support for their views. The Rav who taught, engaged them, quite correctly, explaining the various views etc. Eventually, my daughter stood up in the class (as an Aussie would) and said
“Hey, I came to learn Halacha. I didn’t come to spend months arguing about skirt length and pants etc. Many of you don’t keep these Dinim anyway, and you argue. Just accept what the Halacha is, and if you can’t/don’t keep it, then it’s your business with Hashem. Can we move onto other topics please.”
I was proud of her. That’s not to imply that my daughter was a paragon of Tzniyus etc. Rather, her balance was there, and she was more comfortable knowing what Halacha and Mesora were, and their parameters, than trying to somehow stretch and play with it so that they matched her parameters of comfort.
Ten females will never be considered a Minyan. That’s another halachic axiom. If you have Yiras Shomayim, you accept it. If your religion is egalitarianism/equality, you won’t.
It reminds me of words my father ע’’ה used to say in Yiddish when I asked him a question he didn’t think he should answer:
Do you have to know, or do you need to know

Talkers and Do-ers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act! Don’t just talk.

What did they achieve?

Matzav.com reports

The chief rabbis of Tzfas shlita, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu and Rabbi Mordechai Bistritzky are working to close a pool operating in the holy city on Shabbos, “Tzfas Country”. As a result of the efforts of the rabbonim, calling on the tzibur not to use the pool because of its chilul Shabbos, more than a few members of the pool have cancelled their membership in protest.

In a local Tzfas newspaper the pool operator writes “I am alone, all alone in this battle. The few chilonim who remain in Tzfas are not taking part nor is the mayor. The chareidim are canceling their planned pool rental for groups. This has resulted in significant loss and the need to lay off workers. At moments of despair I ask myself why bother – who needs this when you can just close on Shabbos. However, when I return to clarity of mind I tell myself that I must continue and I mustn’t give them a victory. They won’t dictate to us how to live here”.

Pashkavilim are appearing on the streets informing residents that anyone supporting the pool is working against efforts to close it down on Shabbos. (The pashkavilim are not from the local rabbonim). “A bit more and we will succeed in closing the pool on Shabbos” reads the pashkavilim.

City Hall has released a statement regarding the effort to close the pool. “It is unfortunate that of late extremist chareidim are doing their utmost so that the upcoming local elections will surround a confrontation between the religious and secular”, BaKehilla reports.

Let’s analyse. Those who want to swim, will find an alternative. Swimming on Shabbos, isn’t the worst aveyrah in the world. It can be mitigated. Maybe it would be better to organise a Seudas Shabbos with Torah at a particular time knowing that the swimmer will attend? Recognise what you can achieve and what you can’t. Closing down their pool will make it much more likely that they won’t attend your Seudas Shabbos. You achive ZERO. Wake up Yidden!

Women’s Prayer Protests at Western Wall Are Just Childish Provocation

[Hat tip to MT]

This is from the Forward. I’ve always enjoyed Hillel Halkin’s articles. I think I used to read them in the Jerusalem Report. Article reproduced below.

I am, in my religious behavior, somewhere between what Israelis would call ahiloni or “secular” Jew and a masorti or “traditional” one. My wife and I light candles on Shabbat, we celebrate the Jewish holidays with our children and grandchildren, and now and then, for one reason or another, I find myself in a synagogue. (Preferably, an Orthodox one. It’s the only kind I know how to pray in.) On the whole, though, the religious customs and rituals that I don’t observe vastly outnumber those that I do. And of course, I don’t bother going around with my head covered, as observant Jews do, unless it’s raining.

Why am I telling you this? Because in certain places — on a rare visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, for example — I’ll put on a kippah even though I resent having to do it. As a Jew and an Israeli, I feel that the Wall is as much mine as anyone else’s; being forced to place a round piece of fabric on my head, or the ridiculous cardboard substitute that’s handed to me if I’ve forgotten to bring one, irritates me.

Why do I have to meet religious standards that aren’t mine for the right to stand in a public place that resonates with my people’s history and that I respond to with genuine emotion?

Why am I telling you this? Because if someone were, improbably, to come to me and say, “Listen, next week there’s going to be a demonstration of bare-headed Jewish men at the Wall; we’re going to pray and sing and keep coming back every month until our rights are recognized — and we’d like you to join us,” I’d politely tell him to get lost.

First, though, I might say: “What kind of stupidity is that? I don’t like having to wear a kippah at the Wall any more than you do. But we have the whole world to go around bareheaded in — why insist on doing it in the one place where it’s going to offend the sensibilities of hundreds or thousands of people and perhaps even cause a riot? If you need to go to the Wall, just cover your head and don’t indulge in childish provocations.”

The Women of the Wall, as they’re called, are childish provocateurs. They have all of Israel in which to pray with tefillin and tallitot. Doing it demonstratively at a site that is and always has been heavily frequented by observant Jews who find the spectacle of women in traditionally male ritual garb repugnant has nothing to do with religious freedom. It has nothing to do with any sane kind of feminism. It has nothing to do with rational political protest. It has to do only with the narcissism of thinking that one’s rights matter more than anyone else’s feelings or the public interest.

This is a narcissism that’s typical of our me-first age. An Orthodox Jew is hurt by how I behave in his presence? That’s his problem. (If he were black, gay or transsexual, of course, it would be very much my problem — but that’s another story.) Large numbers of Jews coming to pray at the Wall have their experience spoiled by me? That’s their problem. I’m besmirching an Israeli government that’s simply trying to keep the peace by portraying it throughout the world as reactionary and misogynist? That’s its problem. I have my rights! And indeed, the Women of the Wall do have their rights, because Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled that there’s no legal hindrance to their singing and dancing at the Wall in tallitot and tefillin all they want. In democratic countries, we all have our rights. I have the right to stand with a group of evangelicals outside a Catholic Church during Sunday mass and sing Baptist hymns. I have the right to make insulting remarks to a woman walking in my ultra-Orthodox neighborhood with bare arms. I have the right to publish a dumb cartoon making fun of the Prophet Muhammad in a country with millions of Muslims. These rights are important. The police and courts should protect them. But does that mean I have to flaunt every one of them?

The Women of the Wall believe that the cause of Judaism can be advanced by abolishing all traditional Jewish gender distinctions. Many Jews agree with them. Many (of whom I happen to be one) do not. The argument is a legitimate one, but the Western Wall should not be its venue. It isn’t, despite what many American Jews seem to think, Selma or Montgomery. No woman who tries to turn it into that can really care about it as much as she pretends to.

Hillel Halkin is an author and translator who has written widely on Israeli politics and culture and was the Forward’s Israel correspondent from 1993 to 1996.

On the dangers of being a singer at weddings

I’m not sure if I could be insured for this type of situation, but it happens all to often. Maybe playing in a cage would be safer.

Hat tip to frusk

You can picture the scene. Benny Friedman was invited to do a guest spot by both Mechutonim/Chosson-Kalla. It’s not cheap. He starts, together with the existing singer, and all of a sudden an overweight “holy man” who can’t cope with the “modernishe” sound of the song, keeps approaching and eventually takes the microphones away.

מי שמך לראש?

Who gave him the right. No, he wasn’t a Mechutan. He was a guest from Israel who felt that, like many extremist Charedim he had the right to dictate what could or could not be played.

It is a very horrible situation to be in. In my case, it’s even worse, because my band are Nochrim and they see it as grossly unacceptable and unprofessional—read, חילול השם ברבים

I have had my share of these “situations”. The most infamous one was where I met with Chasan and Kallah and one Mechutan and went through what should/should not be played. I followed it to the letter. I have always done so. I proffer advice, but at the end of the day, it is the client who chooses. Suddenly, while playing a Shwekey Mizrachi style song, I was approached by a group of angry zealots, who turned out to be the Mechutan from overseas (a highly extreme and opinionated Rosh Yeshivah, and his Hefty holy sons). They tried to pull out the electrical chords. I asked them to confer with the other Mechutan and to come back, but he was having nothing of it.

I don’t know how I stayed cool, but I gracefully stopped the bracket, and tried to explain later that Shwekey was far from a Goy, but nothing helped.

Ah, for the old days. Holocaust survivors had another approach. They used to come up to the band stage waving $100 bills and asking whether we could play a particular song next. Suffice it to say that I never took the money, and always played within the rules provided to me. I told them to speak to the Mechutanim first.

Indeed, I played at a wedding last week, and someone wanted me to do something extra and brandished some $100 bills. I told him to give them to Tzedaka, but I’d do as I was professionally bound to do.

What should that Ferd (horse) who attacked Benny Friedman have done? If he was a mentch and didn’t like the song, he should have gone to the foyer, eaten a few more knishes and come back.

You might be giggling, but I can tell you, it’s a horrible scene. Everyone has an opinion. Only one opinion counts, however, and that is the Mechutanim in concert with Chosson Kallah.

One of my acquaintances in New York, has gone as far as specifying a contract which states that nobody is permitted to approach the band stage with their narishe requests except through the Mechutonim. I’m not sure if that helps, but it’s another approach.

A fantastic shiur

I guess people might have time during Chol Hamoed to listen. It’s well worth it. It’s given by Rabbi Wallerstein, on the topic of Shovavim, but is intriguing as he recounts his own interactions with an addictive vice. A refreshingly honest shiur. He sounds like a great teacher.

Make sure you have an hour to listen. I heard it in the car, on the way to work and then back home.

Download it here

I can’t stomach this attitude

Is it any wonder that people are so sensitised and seem to have more of a propensity to abuse? The Rambam advocated a middle road. This is an extreme position, largely influenced by the influx of Hungarian Charedim to our Holy Land. It needs to be seen for what it is, a crazy chumra which serves no halachic purpose and if anything is an abuse of Halacha in the sense that it places a (future) stumbling block before the “blind”. The day somebody gets excited or over-refreshed by such “brazen imagery” is the day they need to see a psychiatrist.

I don’t see it as some attitude against women. I see it as a complete and wanton abuse of men.

From yediot:

PurimNonsense

No Queen Esther in Purim costume ads

What does one do in order to avoid blurring the faces of little girls in Purim costume ads? Very simple: Show boys only.

After being criticized in recent years for concealing girls’ faces for “modesty reasons” or replacing them with dolls, this year some Israeli toy stores have decided to completely remove pictures of girls from their advertisements.

Ads published by some chains in ultra-Orthodox newspapers in recent weeks are surprisingly missing costumes which were included in their ads in the past, although these costumes are still on sale.

For example, the biblical matriarch Rachel and even Queen Esther are absent from the ads this year, as part of an ongoing trend in the haredi media not to publish pictures of women or feminine clothing items

Last year, girls were blurred (upper photo) – this year, they’re gone

Religious Jews belonging to moderate factions are protesting the haredi press’ radicalization, which they say has reached the “exclusion of four-year-old girls,” but are also criticizing ads showing young girls in revealing costumes in the general press, which they say “border on pornography.”

Religious-Zionist movement Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah, for example, responded cynically to the two extreme phenomena: “It appears that there are those who prefer to read only the parts related to Ahasuerus’ feasts in the Book of Esther, while on the other hand there are those who completely hide Esther.

“The despicable treatment of women, on both sides, strengthens extremism and creates a public domain which ranges between over-conservatism and over-permissiveness. The public is responsible for designing a road in the middle, which respects human beings and does not see them as an object.”

The latest chumra for Shidduchim

[Hat tip to my ex-room mate at Kerem B’Yavneh]

There will be other developments, no doubt, which include an opaque perspex divider when these seats become part of the norm in parks and gardens. There will also be super bus terminals built around this design in certain neighbourhoods, where the Yetzer Hora is too powerful. I’d insert a smiley in this post, except that it might be misplaced.

The Shidduch Bench (c)