A preamble to the Shir Shel Yom

The following is dedicated in memory of my mother מרת אלקה בת ר׳ צבי הכ׳׳מ on her first Yohr Tzeit, כ׳ט שבט.

I know that the quality of my understanding of certain portions of the daily davening is suspect. In particular, over the last few weeks, this was brought into focus when I found myself suddenly alerted to what seemed to be an anachronistic few sentences in the Shacharis davening associated with the daily Shir Shel Yom. I have said this all my life but have done so in a rote/mechanical way.

In Nusach Sefard, the Nusach of the Edot HaMizrach, and Nusach Chabad, the daily Shir Shel Yom is preceded by two paragraphs. The first is תפילה לדוד. This is omitted on a day when Tachanun is not recited, such as when there is a Bris Mila or a Siyum Sefer Torah and the like. The second paragraph which commences with בית יעקב is omitted on days when Musaf is recited, such as Rosh Chodesh.

Apparently, the first mention of these paragraphs as a preamble to the Shir Shel Yom is from R’ Moshe Ben Yehuda Machir in the late 1500’s in his Seder haYom. It is subsequently mentioned in the Abudraham and Tur, though not in the Shulchan Aruch.

Seder HaYom is a halachic-kabbalistic work which according to Wikipedia describes, according to its introduction, “the order one should follow in his days and nights, on Shabbats and holidays, the order of the entire year when sitting at home and walking on the way, when retiring and rising”. It was first printed in 1599 in Venice and again in 1605 in Venice. It is the source of many currently practiced customs, including the Modeh Ani prayer.

R’ Machir was a resident of Tzfas and a contemporary of the Arizal serving as the Rosh Yeshiva of Ayin Zetun. Apparently Rabbi Machir’s work shows no influence from the Arizal and is an important document in that it records others systems of Kabbalistic practices and meditations other than the Arizal’s system. Notwithstanding this fact, the Arizal firmly encouraged the saying of these two paragraphs before the Shir Shel Yom, which accounts for its recitation by the Edot HaMizrach and Chabad via the Siddur compiled by the Alter Rebbe, the Baal HaTanya.

Though the two paragraphs are printed in Siddurim which follow Nusach Sefard, it is my no means universal that they are recited. Many Chassidic Minyanim who daven Sefard, omit these and start from the Shir Shel Yom as in Nusach Ashkenaz.

The first sentence of the first paragraph also has a more recent import. The first letters of the first four words “בית יעקב לכו ונלכה‎” spell ביל”ו or Bilu which was a movement in the late 1800’s dedicated to the agricultural settlement of then Palestine.

The second paragraph, which is the subject of this post, commences with the words בית יעקב and begins as follows:

בֵּית יַעֲקֹב לְכוּ וְנֵלְ֒כָה בְּאוֹר ה׳

House of Jacob, come let us walk in the light of Hashem.

כִּי כָּל־הָעַמִּים יֵֽלְ֒כוּ אִישׁ בְּשֵׁם אֱלֺֽהָיו, וַֽאֲנַֽחְנוּ נֵלֵךְ בְּשֵׁם־ה׳ אֱלֹקינוּ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד

For all the nations walk in the name of its god, but we walk in the name of Hashem, our God, forever.

The translation above is consistent with what I saw in the translations offered by Koren, Metsudah, Artscroll and Chabad.

These are in fact two sentences from different parts of Tanach. The first sentence is from ישעיהו ב ה and describes the prophecy at the time of the ingathering of exiles. At that time, the House of Jacob will go, but they will go in the light of Hashem. The implication is that others will also go up to Yerushalayim, but they will not necessarily progress through the prism of the light of Hashem. They will go in the name of their gods.

I was struck by the word כי which is commonly translated as “because”. I read it as: Because all the (non Jewish) people will go in the name of their (false) gods, we will go in the name of Hashem forever.

What is the connection between them going on the basis of their false gods and we going in the name of Hashem. Surely, our travelling to Yerushalayim at the time of the Geula stands on its own merit and is not some “strange reaction” to the fact that others are also going, albeit for different reasons. Our trodden path will surely be independent. It is true that the others will eventually be convinced by Melech HaMoshiach and follow the honest path to Hashem, and that is a part of the prophecy, but the word כי doesn’t appear to fit.

Even if we use the word “for” as a translation for כי as is commonly used in the standard translations, it made no more sense to me. I felt the word was jarring and last night I decided to dig a little in order to see if there was an explanation that made sense to me.

The second paragraph which commences with בית יעקב is drawn from Micha in chapter 4:5. The prophecy is common to that of Yeshayahu. The Radak explains that at that time the nations of the earth will still be unconvinced until the Melech HaMoshiach sets them straight following the war of Gog and Magog. Indeed, after discussing this with R’ Shea Hecht, he looked up a few sources who seemed to imply that these were two “stand alone” Pesukim, with a common theme but the word כי was “just there” as part of the Pasuk and Meforshim didn’t really touch on a solution to its meaning in the context.

It then occurred to me that there might be an explanation as follows.

At the time of Moshiach, it won’t simply be a case that we are believers and the rest of the world are not believers. It won’t simply be the case that because there is a stark difference between Godlessness and True belief in Hashem, that we will merit and be enthusiastic to travel to Yerushalayim. It won’t be a case of Black and White; those who do versus those who do not do. Rather, the world will be a much more challenging arena. There will be all sorts of “isms”. These isms, or false gods, will present in the guise of new ethical moralities that are born from the invention and consideration of man’s limited mind. The motive for various ethical behaviours will be varied. They will challenging because they are dressed in the language of equality and more. They will appear as the “high ground”. Those mores will lead some people of the world who don’t follow Hashem, and even some Jews, to presume and conclude that they occupy a higher morality than that defined by the Torah, which is the Torah of Truth. The Torah of truth is not a set of conclusions and standards developed through current/modern ethical philosophies and political correctness. It was, is, and will be, the basis of our values and actions.

We can now read these verses as follows:

בֵּית יַעֲקֹב לְכוּ וְנֵלְ֒כָה בְּאוֹר ה׳ … Jews! Believers! Go up, rise, and travel to Yerushalayim [purely and meritoriously] in the light of Hashem.

[Why do we merit the light of Hashem in this way?] Because [in future days, Jews will be challenged, they will be challenged by the “isms” of their day and these will be powerful rational-man made concepts] others will [appear to be harbingers of a higher morality and ethic, but] they come with their (false) gods, [whereas] we come purely and solely in the name of Hashem [and our religious edifice is built on simple faith, Emuna Peshuta, via Toras Emes] and we do so לעולם ועד [forever and a day].

Vale Peter Ian McCutcheon

My career with the Schnapps band began some 35 years ago. I didn’t run the band then but was brought in as the singer when the wedding was Frum. In those days the lineup and style was different. Norman Czarny ז׳ל was the accordionist and his particular sound was distinct. When Schnapps back then began to wind up, I took over the band and remodelled it, bringing in a more regular line up. Whilst Norman could read music, Schnapps in the old days used to ‘know the songs’ and play from memory. I didn’t have that luxury and needed to find musicians that were both excellent readers, and able to adapt to the genre. I encouraged re-interpretation, spontaneity and soloing. Alas, whilst I wasn’t a good fiddle player, I was blessed with a good ear and could not tolerate a musician unless they were absolutely top shelf.

Peter on the far right of picture

My trumpet player suggested that the best person to anchor the band on keyboards was Peter McCutcheon. Peter was known visually and personally to those who watched the well-regarded Hey Hey it’s Saturday live show and especially its Red Faces segment. I spent lots of time preparing for my first transition Gig, trying to better organise the existing repertoire. I recalled how Schnapps would sometimes struggle to find the right tune amongst a heap of one or two page scores. After coming up with my system, the stage was set.

I was nervous and although I don’t remember the reason, I felt I needed to call Peter before the gig. So, one morning, about 10am I called Peter’s house. The phone call was some 5 minutes duration. At first Peter seemed stilted, but I attributed this to musicians tending to be late risers. Some years later (perhaps 8 years), when Peter was ensconced as the pianist and Schnapps was getting regular work, he casually mentioned to me at a Wedding we were doing, that I had called him on Xmas morning! Of course, for me it was just the next day, and I wasn’t duly sensitised to consider not ringing on that morning! He noted, gently and using his dry wit, that it was a bit of a strange encounter for him. He was such a giant of spirit though, that he was sensitised (despite not having yet done a gig) to realise that I practiced another religion and was simply clueless as opposed to bulldozing through sensitivities. Suffice it to say that I was mortified when he brought this to my attention years later. With a smile on his face, those band members within ear shot had a healthy chuckle. By now, Peter knew my character and was sure that I had not intended anything.

Peter was like a musical computer. Some musicians are jazz oriented; others are Rock oriented, and others are great classical pianists who have marvellous reading skills. I used to marvel at the interpretation of songs that Peter would create. He mentioned that he always intended to have a most diverse musical experience, and as I recall he had worked in a Bavarian restaurant for a several years. As I settled into my role as band leader and singer, I allowed myself to bring, through my voice and fiddle, my own overlays onto songs. I used to stress to the band members that though many of the tunes we played were rather simple, and had simple Concert Melody/Chord charts, I wanted them to “let go” and wander through the tapestry of the progressions.

Peter was a great reader of music. I was most jealous. He was literally like a computer. Sometimes a ‘must play’ song materialised in the middle of a wedding. The band members were gentiles, except for me. They didn’t know the song. I turned to Peter to write the song out. Little did I realise that as I sang the tune into his ear, while he was perched over his keyboard with a pencil and blank score, he would translate my voice into a perfectly formed chart. On the odd occasion where he would need to rub something out, that was mostly due to me not intonating properly or not remembering the song routine well enough. His skill in this regard, in real-time, was mind-blowing. Other musicians would sometimes watch on from the side, and when I shook my head in amazement, they would shake theirs as well, mumbling “he’s a monster”.

Musicians are a strange lot. They range from the bohemic to the fastidiously rigid. They mostly wear their hearts on their sleeves, and are notorious for being “too precious” over what I thought were the most trivial of matters. Sure, it’s a right royal pain to come to a venue with your heavy gear, only to be told by some over officious attendant that you had to park your car further away and could not park near the loading bay. I got used to frustrated musicians, with furrowed brows mumbling inanities and hurling invective because of a logistic problem. It was in my interest to calm the musicians down. A happy musician is a well-performing musician. Incredibly, irrespective of what the logistic or other issue was which may have interfered with a smooth set up on stage, Peter never showed the slightest inkling that he was annoyed, let alone affected. In early days one took this for granted. After a while, it was plain that his great nature as a human being meant that he rose above these impediments. He appreciated that the band leader had much stress at this time and was professional enough not to add to that pressure. The most I ever heard from him was after a few decades. One venue was notoriously difficult. They seemed to delight in placing more and more ridiculous impediments in front of professional musicians. I was fed up myself. One day, Peter mentioned that he could not play at that venue unless his gear was delivered earlier on stage. In fact all musicians felt this way, only Peter was one of the last to say so, and he never did this bombastically.

Especially in the early days, there were some venues/caterers whose food may have been kosher, but the kitchen therein wouldn’t have survived a health and safety audit. One Sunday we had a midday gig. The Saxophone player had already crossed words with the caterer (who was notorious). The caterer had made the musician feel like a little boy and was ordering him around. When the food arrived, and it was always 2 minutes before we were due to go back on stage, it was an experience in crazed ׳wolfing׳ down the already frazzled foodstuff on the plate.

Peter and (a half asleep) me

After the first course, some of the band members were feeling ill. By the time the main course had been consumed, the singer for the secular music was running from the stage to the toilets and back. The rest of the band had stories to tell about ‘the day after’. I vividly recall sitting down at the next gig with the musicians relating how their stomachs had been abused. Only one musician, Peter, had no problems. We called him ‘garbage guts’. He could eat anything. Indeed, he would go back for seconds of a dessert buffet with a plate that initiated engorgement by just looking!

Chuppas are a focus for musicians. We don’t have many instruments. It is usually very quiet and any mistake is certainly noticed (by those blessed with a degree of musical ear). We have certainly done our fair share of these, ranging from the grandiose Chuppa where we did have 5 Musicians or more serenading each separate entry, through to the more usual variety where it was just Peter on Keyboard and me on Violin (and sometimes Voice).

Peter setting up for a Chuppa

Sometimes there is a special request for an obtuse or not well-known tune as the Kallah circumnavigates the Chosson, or similar. I recall one event in a swish hotel with all the guests decked out in their evening wear. Peter arrived and we had zero time to look at the score. It was, as I recall some 4 pages long and had changes in tempo with brief 1 or 2 bar interludes to boot. I always relied on Peter to cover my less than wonderful Violin playing, and on this occasion, I didn’t know the tune off-hand and so I was reading as well. I had an advantage in that I knew the feel and the changes. To say I was nervous was an understatement, even if I had imbibed a couple of quick schnapps beforehand. As usual Peter was perfection personified. Every nuanced change, be it from me leading in a little early on my violin, or motioning with my head or indeed using other gesticulatory cues were picked up while at the same time Peter’s left and right hands glided across the keyboard.

We even had fun at “Adass” gigs

When I did Jewish dinner music, I had a penchant for re-interpreting old, but beautiful songs. Even the decidedly aged “Amar Rabbi Akiva” became a Phrygian jazz experience. I only had to gently intimate a “feel” and Peter would be “onto it” immediately, adding his lavish chords and arpeggio runs. Just to mind: one crowd favourite for many years was “Al Kol Eleh” or
“Uncle Ayley” as my band called it.  The ending was something that just came to be and was our unique blend. One evening, my voice was in fine form and we must have gone up a half a tone at least six times. Peter just smiled as I indicated “up” yet again, and accompanied me with his usual aplomb.

How many times did the great Schnapps band accompany visiting world stars, including Avraham Fried, the Chevrah and many more. We don’t forget the functions where there was also a youth choir. On the latter, Peter wrote some beautiful charts. I remember (at my suggestion) he converted the legendary Pirchei song, “Eleycho” into 6th Chords and the Asian feel was just magnificent (I’m sure some ears thought it was “wrong” though).

Chanuka in the Park. It was rarely easy to get into the venue, let alone get out. I just remember when we had to support Lipa Schmeltzer one time and the late Piamenta flautist. Let’s just say the charts were “challenging”. Peter never complained. He was the consummate professional. 

It is easy to write about Peter. Just over two weeks ago I organised a lunch at Spot On for the immediate band members and Peter. Peter, who had a bout of prostate cancer several years ago, and recovered, suddenly found his body wracked with cancer. His rather emaciated figure emerged from the car and I found it terribly sad to see him in this situation. We had a wonderful meal, laced with GlenSomething and some great wine. When the time came for it all to end, Peter’s eyes welled up with tears. I don’t think I had ever seen him teary. I can’t repeat the collective noun he used for the members of the band, but he effectively said

It’s hard for me to imagine that I’m not going to see you guys again

I retorted that he should be positive (cheap words from me) and allow the new treatment to perform a miracle. Peter knew what was coming. I did have an opportunity 2 or 3 days before he passed away, a few short weeks after, but decided that I didn’t want to see him struggling for air, in and out of drug induced sleep.

Peter was not a religious man, but gave enormous respect to those who were sincerely religious. Melbourne has lost one of its finest musical figures and I have lost a wonderful friend and colleague.

The Hey Hey it’s Saturday team, led by Daryl Somers, produced a nice facebook post about Peter, and published a video tribute  which can be seen here.

PS. I will let you in on a secret. Peter had congenital deafness (no, nothing to do with the band volume). For approximately the last ten years, he played “deaf”. He could hear the bass and drums, and followed the charts as need be. That sort of challenge can only be overcome by Peter Ian McCutcheon, of blessed memory.

ברוך דיין אמת


It is eery, once more. 

  1. When I attended Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh, there were two Israeli guys on the other side of the room, in the block known as “Sheraton”. One was Ze’ev Roitman הי׳׳ד and the other Chovav Landoi הי׳׳ד. I see their faces very clearly and their voices still resonate. I felt closer to Ze’ev than Chovav. I seemed to get on well with those of Sephardic extraction. Ze’ev had lost his father. They lived in Rechovot, near the Yeshivah. One day, Ze’ev’s father, who was Ashkenazi, went to the local clinic for an injection. Unfortunately, the needle he was given was not new, and had been used on an Arab with yellow fever, just prior. Ze’ev’s father contracted the disease and passed away. Ze’ev was brave. I admired him. He had an M16 in his cupboard, and he and Chovav were in year 3 (if my memory serves me correctly) of their 5 year combination Hesder program of 3.5 years in the Yeshivah and 1.5 years in the army. Chovav was dating at the time, and though I can’t remember the name of the girl, whom he married, I recall her name started with ‘P’. I returned to Australia and continued postgraduate studies (I had returned to the Yeshivah after my Bachelors degree for a rejuvenative time). The first Lebanon war intervened. I was to learn, to my horror, that the Yeshivah lost exactly two boys: Ze’ev and Chovav. They were in a tank that scored a direct hit and were incinerated. Chovav’s wife was heavily pregnant with their first and only child, a boy. This event played on my conscience and laid fallow any attempt to find reason, and to this day, I don’t stop thinking that while I was on the other side of the room back then, the grizzly מלאך המוות was sizing up his prey. I wondered what right did I have to live in comparative luxury and peace. I didn’t have any answers, and to be frank, the less I thought about it, the more able I was to deal with life, as it unfolded.
  2. Take 2. I was singing at a wedding on a very humid evening, overseeing the picturesque Albert Park Lake. My band Schnapps was pumping, and the atmosphere electric. I had just returned from India where I had travelled on University business less than 2 weeks earlier. In particular, over Shabbos, as was my custom, I stayed at the Chabad House of my friends R’ Gavriel Holtzberg הי׳׳ד and his wife Rivki הי׳׳ד.  They were gunned down in cold blood by Muslim terrorists whose aim was to kill peaceful Jews who were in a hidden, difficult to find, building surrounded by  chickens and all manner of domestic animal. As the news trickled in, I was beside myself with worry. Between music sets, I was ringing R’ Gavriel’s cell phone incessantly. I did get through once, but alas, the subterranean neanderthal creäture-terrorist on the other end didn’t respond, and then hung up, despite my entreaties. I have spoken and written about this episode too many times, regrettably.
  3. Fast forward. Many of us will have read about the tragic stabbing murder news of two young Rabbis: Raziel Shevach, a father of six and Itamar Ben-Gal, a father of four. Rabbi Ben-Gal

    Rabbi Itamar Ben Gal הי׳׳ד

    was from Har Bracha. Rabbi Shevach’s murderers were captured a months ago. A few moments ago my watch buzzed and I saw that they had captured Rabbi Ben-Gal’s murderer. Last week, I chanced on an article in twitter about Rabbi Ben-Gal, where his father Rabbi Daniel was also mentioned. I noticed that next to Ben-Gal, there was the name “Buzaglo” in brackets. My heart missed a few beats. My afternoon Chevrusa at Kerem B’Yavneh was Daniel Buzaglo.

  4. Speaking into the Microphone, Rabbi Daniel BenGal (Buzaglo)

  5. I remembered him very well, and his good friend and morning Chevrusa, Michael Ten-Ami.  Daniel had become Rabbi Daniel and Michael had become Rabbi Michael. I lost contact at least 35 years earlier. I scrambled to see if any of the news articles contained pictures, and yes, it certainly looked like the father of Rabbi Itamar Ben Gal, was indeed my Chavruso, Rabbi Daniel Buzaglo. I was, as they say, בהלם. I contacted the Yeshivah and emailed the secretary. Sure enough, it was indeed R’ Daniel’s son. I obtained his cell phone and email address. Entering the information into my contacts, I tentatively tried to see if the number was on “whatsapp”. Sure enough R’ Daniel was on whatsapp. What should I say? What could I say? What wouldn’t sound rehearsed or trite? I chose my words very carefully and pressed send. The next day, there was a response. He remembered me very well and reminded me that I had complained that my head was still spinning from the flight the first time we had learned together. I wrote back and hoped my simple words could achieve anything at all. I was excited when R’ Daniel wrote that I was giving him strength through my contact. I did not mention that I have a son with three young children not much younger than R’ Itamar הי׳׳ד. Erev Shabbos, I sent R’ Daniel a short message about the tradition that when we take out 3 Sifrei Torah, the Tanna R’ Yishmael tells us that this moment when the Aron HaKodesh is open is propitious for answering our entreaties. I thought this would be an appropriate  opportunity for supplication to relay to R’ Daniel. I was sure he had many things that he “wanted done”, so to speak. This early morning, R’ Daniel wrote back to me that he had used that time to daven for what was needed. Less than 12 hours later, my watch buzzes with the information that the terrorist who murdered R’ Daniel’s son, had been caught.

It is eery, once more

Rabbi Riskin has unfortunately crossed the line

[hat tip BA]

I am shocked at the latest pronouncement of Rabbi Riskin. The things we should all agree with are:

  1. We should show compassion towards someone who has non heterosexual desires/tendencies.
  2. We should treat all Jews with respect, including during their attendance and participation at Shule.
  3. We should not be in the business of being God’s Policemen by determining who does and who does not have tendencies; it is none of our business.
  4. The Torah forbids non heterosexual forms of intimacy (it is Rabbinic in the case of females according to many).
  5. There should not be fashioned  Minyanim of solely Heterosexuals and as a corollary there should not be fashioned Minyanim of solely Homosexuals. All should daven together.
  6. There is no evidence that the prevalence of Homosexual tendency is more so today than it was in past history.
  7. The Torah refers to the Homosexual act as a תועבה. The Torah does not delineate different types.
  8. Science has not unearthed a new reality in respect of non heterosexual tendencies or their aetiology. We do not say there is a “new reality” viz נשתנו הדורות.
  9. It is true that if person is an אונס, that is,  they are threatened into committing an עבירה, that the Torah does not consider the act as a wanton sin, but rather a forced act for which one is not punished.
  10. There is no link to my knowledge, in Torah SheBaalPeh, to indicate that a person’s proclivities ought be considered as an אונס. There is no מקור to state that non heterosexual activities are divided into two categories:  תועבה and non תועבה!
  11. To create a new understanding of an ancient prohibition, albeit wrapped in a concept (אונס) is creating a new Torah SheBaalPeh without any rights thereby.
  12. I would consider such a qualification beyond the pale, and something one would ordinarily hear from open orthodoxy or conservatives.
  13. I call upon the Tzohar Rabbinic Assembly to call an urgent meeting to decide on the continued membership and role of Rabbi Riskin given these statements. (It is a great pity that Rav Lichtenstein ז׳ל is no longer with us; he would have played an important role).
  14. Rabbi Lamm’s 1960’s view that “the warped family background of the genuine homosexual is considered אונס, the homosexual act may possibly lay claim to some mitigation by the Halakhah” is not considered a normative current explanation for the “source” of homosexuality. Current secular scholarship describes homosexuality as a reality rather than a “condition” that is caused by nurture.
  15. The Rambam identified that people may have certainly proclivities which may lead to sin. The Rambam suggested that these proclivities be channeled to permitted activities. For example, someone who had a tendency to violence/blood letting, should instead become a Shochet.
  16. I call upon the Chief Rabbinate to distance themselves from Rabbi Riskin’s views and to take action that they deem appropriate.
  17. I call upon any Diaspora Rabbi who subscribes to Rabbi Riskin’s opinion, to reconsider their membership of the Orthodox Rabbinate.
  18. Commitment ceremonies have no source in Torah. According to the Vilna Gaon they would be Biblically prohibited as חוקת העכום.
  19. Where someone has such tendencies, Shulchan Aruch explicitly proscribes יחוד contact; the Dinim of יחוד are a reality that are being ignored by most writers on this topic! I do not understand why they gloss over חזל!

Rabbi Riskin’s pronouncements have already led to Steven Greenberg penning an article of excited support. This is hardly surprising.

I close with the immortal words of Rav Chaim Brisker (Soloveitchik) ז׳ל

“נעבאך אן אפיקורוס איז אויך אן אפיקורוס’’

The South Head Shule controversy

South Head Shule is in Sydney, Australia. It has had a Chabad Rabbi for 30+ years. He is Rabbi Bentzion Milecki, who I recall from School Days at Yeshivah College in Melbourne. I also recall that he got straight A’s in his Year 12, and is very bright. His father used to have a well-known health food store in Carlisle Street, also in Melbourne. Indeed, when I returned from studying in Israel, many moons ago, I used to pick up Rabbi Milecki from his apartment in Melbourne, to give a Gemorra Shiur, in the board room of Mizrachi.

I have seen interchanges, back and forth. It would seem that the issue of a “younger Rabbi” is a concern for the President, and most members. It is claimed that membership is falling, and they seek “renewal” with a younger Rabbi, to arrest this claimed decline.

Whoever was in charge of South Head when Rabbi Milecki was hired may have let their community down. The contract was for a salary, which if true, could be described as ‘astronomical’ . In addition, they agreed that disputes surrounding the Rabbi’s tenure would be dealt with according to Halacha.

The issue reached a stalemate.

The Court in Australia upheld the view that Halacha was consideration of the contract, and Rabbi Milecki’s disembowelment from his position was considered illegal by the secular court which upheld the initial contract requiring the Halacha to determine the outcome.

In the meanwhile, there were all sorts of legal attempts at cutting off Rabbi Milecki from his position. Rabbi Milecki was quick to defend himself on many occasions. Rabbi Milecki claimed that he is entitled to tenure on the basis of Chazoko, and whilst there have apparently been attempts to pay Rabbi Milecki out, it would seem that he sees himself as the main Halachic presence in any new arrangement, whereas most members wish to pay him out and retain him in an emeritus role, removed from decision making.

I was asked why I haven’t stated my view. In essence, I was waiting for this issue to play out. It seems that it has, with the Shule now sadly in liquidation.

My view is:

Where any community hires a Chabad Rabbi, they need to realise that it is not a regular appointment. Any Chabad Rabbi around my age or older will have received a blessing from the last Lubavitcher Rebbe נ׳ע. As such, their position is interpreted as one of an emissary to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. This status is higher and more cogent than any contract or position in the eyes of such a Rabbi.

Ironically, nobody expressed the view that the Lubavitcher Rebbe was too old for his position! He was, however,  an expert in relating to people of all ages. This is the key. In addition, even when older and more feeble, he kept up a punishing timetable of learning and consultation with which a younger person would have struggled.

If a Chabad Rabbi, who is hired by a community, as opposed to running his own Chabad house, is asked to move on because ostensibly the younger generation is apparently not relating to him or his leadership is losing its impact, and that Chabad Rabbi has received blessings for success from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, then there is little chance, since the Rabbi is “connected” to his Rebbe, that he will give up his post. Doing so, is an abandonment tantamount to cancelling his position as an emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe! Being an emissary is the highest status for a Chossid.

Notwithstanding all the above, there is, in my view a higher imperative. That higher imperative is the possibility of a Chillul Hashem, or a Zilzul (cheapening) of the status of a Rabbi (and indeed Chabad).

The tax-free salary in this case can be argued to be beyond the pale and not conducive to כבוד התורה.

Most importantly, a Rabbi should not find himself in a situation where he has lost most his congregation. These might still be members, but there has been a process of alienation and loss of real authority. If this occurs, then there should be consideration of compensation/pay out in keeping with the years of faithful service. Following this, a Rabbi should leave quietly rather than fight a battle for the minority.

In short we have a clash of cultures: a western style appointment to a position vs a Rabbinic appointment vs a Chabad Rabbinic appointment.

My view is that Rabbi Milecki should start an actual Chabad House of his own, in South Head. They might daven in his house initially. If he has support, he will acquire premises and he can function in this more traditional Chabad way where the Rabbi is CEO and unimpeachable except in the worst circumstance. In such an arrangement, he will have life tenure and pass the baton on to one of his children after 120.

I contend that he needs to forget about South Head per se because a person should not force himself on a Kehilla. The fact that many people came together and davened elsewhere should indicate that his time was definitely up.

Melbourne has other examples of Rabbis who appear not to enjoy support. Rabbi Riesenberg of Central cannot be dismissed, as per the constitution he apparently oversaw. Whilst he is legally correct, perhaps he should re-ask himself if he is raising the crown of Torah by staying in his position, as opposed to a pay out and moving elsewhere.

My former Shule, Elwood, did the right thing with Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick. Rabbi Gutnick also offered the honourable thing and stepped aside for an incumbent youth Rabbi. The incumbent has plenty of work to do if success is measured by paid members and attendance on a Shabbos. We wish him success!

Ironically, my mind goes back to Rabbi Silberman ז׳ל who ironically used to be the South Head Rabbi, and then retired to the Gold Coast, where he was very careful not to step on the toes of the Rabbi of Surfers Paradise (also from Chabad). Rabbi Silberman managed to move sideways creating a Kiddush Hashem.

Do Chabad also douse flames?

There is a very dangerous manifestation of a pseudo orthodox far left ‘Shule’ which walks some of the walk but talks foreign talk. Having read the populist ‘weekly Dvar torah’ from its ex Chabad Rabbi, Schneur Zalman Waks (I don’t think I’ve met him formally and can’t remember him) it would be really good to get a real McCoy warm and knowledgeable Chosid to set up a proper Chabad house nearby with backing. וכל קרני רשעים אגדע

Even Breslover sing it. Would this be a Chabad thing to do in order to counter the open Apikorsus there? I don’t know but that ‘ARK Center’ represents an unholy alliance of elements of Judaism and Korach style triumphalism. Why Chabad? I don’t know of any other group that would care enough to do something about it.

Mesora based Judaism will always endure if promulgated with earnest warmth and intellectualism.

Yerushalayim IR HAKODESH

When I read the secular press, I notice how reverential (or in fear?) they may be.

You don’t read even left-wing publications without them writing ‘the Prophet’ Mohammed’. Okay, call it a title that Muslims use. They also don’t write Elizabeth. They write Queen Elizabeth, when referring to the Queen of England. One can be a republican (as I am) and still use titles as a matter of courtesy and accepted practice. In Australia you often find the press very loose. They wrote Malcolm Turnbull (not Prime Minister Turnbull). I don’t find this edifying.

Consider Ramadan. A religion considers it holy and has fasts and feasts. Does this mean that the secular press should ALWAYS refer to it as ‘the holy month of Ramadan’ as opposed to Ramadan? I’m not sure. 

One thing I am sure is that WE and here I blame Jews of Culture, Religion and History, do not use the eternal words of our own religion when we speak and write,  especially in the context of a secular readership.

When was the last time you heard someone say ‘the Holy City of Jerusalem’.

In seeking to secularise, we have out Galut-ed ourselves. One does not need to be religious to state a historical title (which has halachic import today, well before redemption).

I am starting with myself, and would like to see a world-wide campaign of EACH AND EVERY JEW and yes, even halachically Jewish  Bernie Sanders (to whom I will write about this), and the local black wiggle, Dr Richard Di Natale of the dangerous anti Zionist and anti Semitic Greens Party, that WE, who the secular press acknowledge recognise Jerusalem as our HOLIEST city, ONLY say and write henceforth

The Holy City of Jerusalem


Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh (תבנה ותכונן במהרה בימינו)

I intend to write to the Australian Rabbinate, the Rabbinic Council of America and major Rabbinic organisations (even those whose Judaism is foreign to me) to join me in this initiative.

I hope this is at least as important to stress in Sermons as the footy, or a secular poet or … And urge those Rabbis who read my blog to spread the word amongst their colleagues.

This is not a matter we should be divided about.

This message needs to be curricularised indirectly but with unending momentum.

ירושלים עיר הקודש

And everyone should be able to roll it off their lips even if they aren’t too proficient with our holy tongue, לשון קודש.


Do offender Registries have Halachic import?

I came across this article and I started to think about it from an halachic perspective. Again, remember, this blog constitutes pitputim. These are just thoughts, and mostly not researched in the way I would an academic post or lehavdil some Chidush I thought I might discover in Torah.

One key to maintaining a safe Jewish society would appear to be to protection from “dangerous entities”. This stands behind even the most basic D’Orayso command of Lifnei Iver — placing a stumbling block. I’m not even going into Rodef, which is a “live danger”.

But what about a registry? Is a person to be noted formally forever after if they have committed disgraceful acts such as child molestation? The argument for, is cogent. We don’t (yet) know enough about the Gene vs Environment argument to be sure and when in doubt one errs in favour of potential victims. What about other acts? Do we start a register of wife bashers? What about husbands who have affairs beyond the pale of acceptable halacha? Do we exclude those who think they’ve been “wronged”. What about the classical Mechallel Shabbos B’farhesya (the public antagonistic shabbat desecrator). In days of yore, people knew who they were. There was a quasi register. Some considered them forbidden to perform various functions (e.g. the Priestly blessings — we don’t follow that today as per the cogent arguments of Centrist Gedolim like Mori V’Rabbi R’ Schachter), or their touching of Kosher wine (non Mevushal).

I don’t know the answer(s) to these questions and categories nor if there has been an halachic study in this regard. Certainly Chazal used to perform lashings (Makas Mardus) to punish offenders whose crime was not at the brazen level of a full prohibition requiring formal Malkus.

Despite many claiming that incarceration is not a Jewish Concept (Orey Miklat anyone?), I remember hearing a Shiur some 25 years ago from a Talmid Chacham who brought many Mekoros from Rishonim and Acharonim which suggested that it was used. Alas, my memory recalls little more than his suggestions. I did find this article, for what it’s worth. Happy to be enlightened.

One thing is without any doubt. Having performed a serious sin(s), the sinner is not “free” from their obligations to perform Mitzvos, even if they rationalise it in their head, and even if their presence in a Minyan may sicken other members of the Minyan (שמעתי ממו׳ור הרה׳ג ר׳ צבי שכטר)

It’s raining women

No. they can’t tell you about mundane issues like “chicken” and Kashrus and Issurei D’Orayso.

Here is the new breed [Hat tip NB]

To me, these are the new “Chiropractors of Medicine”. They call themselves Dr as well and they are as well qualified but not as well paid as unskilled labourers in Melbourne.

What is it with titles, self-esteem, and the feeling that anything whatsoever will change that is outside millennium old Mesora.

Nothing will change. Like Reform and Conservative, either Geulah will be upon us, or they will be relegated to the politically charged Women of the Wall and the Bernie Sanders New Israel Fund types.

On Tuesday night, according to a report by Ynet, eight women received certificates of Orthodox Jewish ordination in Jerusalem and selected for themselves various equivalents to the commonly used “Rav” or “Rabbi” by males: some picked “Rav,” instantly making the title unisex; others went with “Rabba,” which would be the female conjugation of the male title, although the term is not in everyday use; some went with “Rabbi,” which in the genderless English grammar has been a common title for Reform and Conservative women clergy for decades.

One preferred to go with “Doctor,” possibly recalling the shamanist attributes for which some Jewish scholars were once renowned.

No one went with the prevalent “Rebbetzin,” presumably because to become Rebbetzin one doesn’t need to study, just marry well.

The ordination was given personally by Rabbi Daniel Landis, a YU graduate who is the head of the Pardes Institute, an open, co-ed and non-denominational Jewish learning community, based in Jerusalem and operating programs worldwide. Landis is also a senior member of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC).

In his message to the freshly ordained Orthodox female rabbis, Landis explored the fact that his graduates are different from ordinary ordained Orthodox rabbis not merely because of their sex, but in their emphasis on Jewish studies, and on any studying at all for that matter:

“I very quickly abandoned the ambition to achieve only rabbinic expertise, and moved on to the more important initiative of promoting you as creative scholars, with integrity, sensitivity and courage, who have access to the members of their generation,” Landis said.

“Yes, but can they paskin on a chicken?” you might ask. It appears that ruling on the mundane needs of rank and file Orthodox Jews was not the top priority of this ordination, which is not a comment on the quality of scholarship of the graduates. They simply appear to put a different emphasis on their future roles in the Jewish community:

Rav Avital Campbell-Hochstein, one of the graduates, said at the ordination ceremony: “Receiving the ordination is not merely a score for knowledge. Ordination, or permission, like halkha itself, is focusing on human beings, on the image of God. Human beings must be seen and heard. The halakha and the Torah are sensitive to the slimmest signs of humanness.” And so, she continued, “in order for halakha, which is an emanation of the will of God, to be relevant and applicable, we must first and foremost be attentive. Human dignity is our driving force. Halakha can be a divider and it can be a meeting ground. It can be a wall and it can be a bridge. Choosing between those component depends on the human beings who use it, and who represent it.”

So, basically, no paskining on chickens for now. Instead, there was a lot of talk about advancing the status of women in halakha and in Orthodox society. You may have to rely on someone else for your kashrut decisions, but in areas of marriage, conversion, and burial, these ordained female rabbis will make sure, as Rav Naama Levitz-Applbaum put it, “that women will be counted, in the full meaning of the word, and to feel as full partners along the path.”

Perhaps as the number of ordained Orthodox female rabbis grows and as each ordination ceases to be viewed as a revolution and starts to be more commonplace (as has been the case in every profession women have entered over the past two centuries) we’ll start hearing about women Orthodox rabbis who are not so heavily invested in the feminist politics of their role but in caring for their congregations. At which point we should be able to assess this fledgling but growing movement not based on our political views but instead on the concrete scholarship and the halakhic contribution of these female rabbis. Because, let’s face it, Orthodox Jews need rabbis to interpret halakha for them. They have plenty of social workers doing everything else

It’s a boy!

With thanks to  השם יתברך על כל החסדים שהנחילנו we are thrilled to announce the safe birth of our grandson, to Moshe and Leah Rivka Chaiton on שבת קודש

May all those needing a רפואה שלמה be זוכה לקבלת התורה בבריאות הנפש והגוף כהרף עין, כימים ההם בזמן הזה

המצפה לגאולה,

יום ירושלים עיר הקודש והמקדש,  ת׳ו

א. יצחק הכהן בלבין ומשפחתו

Two Michaels: Danby and Kroger and the Jewish News

Michael of the Liberal Party is a political Machiavellian. He is good at it, however, his criticism of Michael Danby the long-term Jewish, Zionist member for Melbourne Ports is misplaced. Allow me to dispel in brief terms some of Kroger’s points. I don’t have time for an informal dismemberment.

  1. If a politician can get preferences from an irrelevant party, viz, the Greens, then you take those preferences. They put you into power, and allow you to hold to your agenda. If the Greens do not like what Danby has said or achieved in his years in parliament, then they will not redirect their votes. Clearly, Mr Kroger, it’s a question of degrees of distaste. The Greens distaste of the Liberal party is known and is almost uniform. That being said, Mr Kroger knows how to obtain Green preferences in other seats for the Liberals in order to block Labor. Without being party political, Kroger’s comments are simply jaundiced.
  2. It concerns me greatly that Mrs Bishop and the Australian Government has anything to do, whatsoever, with the regime of the Ayatollahs in Iran. This is indefensible. Talk is cheap. Actions speak. Iran can trigger a bomb when it wishes, how it wishes, and will do so irrespective of whether Julie Bishop kowtows to the Obama left-wing Government of the USA or whether dons a Shaytel at a Jewish event in the “same” way that she placed a head covering on for the Ayatollah.
  3. In extolling the Jewish credentials of David Southwick, let me just say that I am impressed by the almost weekly attendance at Elwood Shule of Michael Danby, where a sadly dying congregation offers him zero political leverage and succour. Michael has nothing politically to be gained by going to a Shule with barely 20 people each Shabbos. David’s perennially capacious grin seems to appear at events only, especially  in the Jewish News. David know how to stamp himself.
  4. There were major errors (and I’m using a diplomatic term) in David Southwark’s CV. Claims of certain employment were fallacious and easily known to be. I knew it and remained silent. Thankfully he corrected these.
  5. Jews are known in the Talmud as רחמנים, merciful. Accordingly, there are a number of Jewish people who tend to vote Green, among a bevy of anti-Semites who do so as well. Those Jewish people, and many are intelligent, know the Greens will not win Melbourne Ports, but Michael Kroger seems to assume that they are uncomfortable with Michael Danby receiving their preference. The last time I knew, prophecy ended with Ezra and Nehemia. I’m not aware of prophet Kroger, nor do I contend he has better inside knowledge of the mind-set of Jewish Green voters than anyone.
  6. It is true that extremism is something that Jews tend to veer away from, on both sides. Whether it’s Daniel Andrews and his mindless cavorting with the Unions on matters as grave as the control of our legendary fire fighters, or the undiplomatic, and unstatesman-like rhetoric of Donald Trump in the US elections. In this vein, the past Howard Governments’ record in the UN cannot automatically be assumed to be in the same breath as the Julie Bishop visits to Iran. One would not get an answer on the record, but I would not have expected John Howard, a true friend of Israel, to send even mild Alex Downer to dine with ayatollahs who engrave “Death to Israel” on their missiles, today.
  7. I do contend that Malcolm Turnbull is a true friend of Israel. I am not convinced by Bill Shorten. In respect of policies: the Superannuation Policy of Shorten will affect me more than the Turnbull policy. We’ve seen over the last few days, that all three parties, including the extreme Greens, cannot fully explain their policy unless the relevant minister is doing so.
  8. The Greens have a bigger Jewish thorn in their ranks than Bernie Sanders. Her name is Lee Brown, Halachically Jewish on both sides, she now goes by the name of Senator Lee Rhiannon. There is little worse than a self-deprecating Jew who tries to be less Jewish than one who is not.
  9. We do have our strange Australian Jewish News editor, Zeddy Lawrence, who in keeping with his mantra? of “mixing it all up” refuses to apologise for promoting in a large photo and article, a “Jewish” wedding, which wasn’t, and which was conducted by a non-Jewish Celebrant! Be under no illusion. Lawrence received letters about this תואבה and in his usual open “democratic” style, where he serves us boring predictable left-wing letters from Henry Herzog every two weeks, Zeddy refused to publish letters critical of that editorial disgrace. He tries to sell papers. That’s his job. He needs though to be a little more responsible.
  10. In summary, those  who cannot put aside their personal party preferred preference and make your Vote 1, for Michael Danby, are guilty of commission and omission. Michael appears as just about the only sane voice in the moving, social and written media as a strong, effective and unadulterated supporter of the State of Israel.
  11. We may get to a point, where, like France, we become an irrelevancy in Australia. This will simply herald the continued ingathering of the exiles to the Holy Land.
  12. On right vs left, other examples abound: those who simply label “Avigdor Lieberman” as right-wing, and rub their hands, are being simplistic, and fail to account for real politick. Israel has not done well under the left-wing Obama regime. It never was going to. It would do worse under Bernie Sanders, and will do no better under Hillary Clinton. That was obvious as soon as B.H. Obama was elected. I doubt whether Trump will be any better.
  13. In Australia, I think Turnbull is well ahead of Shorten both in ability, intellect, experience, believability and integrity. Shorten is a nice and likeable fellow, but hasn’t got the broader touch. He’s almost an incarnation of a political Eddie McGuire, the Broadie boy. In Melbourne Ports however, there is only Michael Danby. Do not waver.
  14. Michael Kroger’s comments are a distraction down Machiavellian roads.

From left: My father ע’ה, Vice President of Elwood Shule, Fred Antman, President Elwood Shule, Michael and Amira Danby
From left: My father ע’ה, former Vice President of Elwood Shule, Fred Antman, former President Elwood Shule, Michael and Amira Danby

CSG have warned us re Purim

CSG the arm that helps protect Jews from those who conspire to harm us have correctly warned of the problems that may occur dressing up as Haman like characters or terrorists. I urge that people listen to them and that their kids don’t dress up in Arab clothing brandishing plastic swords and the like. It’s probably not a great idea to find your kid in court




Personally I would like to see 1000+ kids all dressed up as different types of injured civilians wearing a t shirt which says
Purim: Muslim Extremist Terrorism is not part of a civilised world.


Iran: Mordechai and Esther are buried there but we won’t.

I’d organise the kids in a rally and invite the Press. Do it in the middle of the City Square with permission 

This is more important to me than an eighth day Hakhel concert (let that be successful)

The Australian Jewish News on RMG Rabi

The report listed in the paper was hopeless. It lacked the broader information which has been published everywhere. As pointed out to me by [hat tip BA] they have a religious affairs writer, Yossi Aron who often sits on the fence on every issue. The fact that Aron didn’t write the story (was he even consulted!), and explain it more comprehensively without the supercilious quote from RMG Rabi being laid bare for all to see, is yet another blight on this “newspaper” whose agenda for sensationalism, especially when it involves Orthodox Jewry, knows no bounds, and is an example of very shoddy journalism.

Don’t hold your breath on RMG Rabi’s convert story. There’s lots more to it.

Question for Welcoming Shules

I have read noble expressions of welcome for those who identify themselves as LGBT.

My question is this: a woman who transgenders into a male, with operations. Is she/he eligible to be called up for an Aliya at Caulfield or other welcoming Shules?

Should they sit downstairs with the men?

Is her voice Kol Isha?

Conversely a male who is lopped and augmented and transgenders into a female insists that since they were born a male, they would like an Aliya to the Torah. Would he allow that?

Does that ex-male need to inform females of their change vis a vis use of toilets, change rooms, mikvaos as a spiritual cleansing?

As I have written elsewhere, I know many homosexuals at Shule and have to my knowledge never treated them differently to another male.

Transgender introduces new problems of ‘welcome’ as outlined above.

I know about Tumtum and Androginos.

I’m interested to know what all welcoming shule’s Rabbis pasken on such issues. Ask them?

R’ Meir Deutsch on Mishpatim

Guest post. Copyright Meir Deutsch.

כל הזכויות שמורות – מאיר דויטש תורה צוה לנו משה (דברים לג, ד)

על פי הדברים האלה כרתי אתך ברית את ישראל

בני ישראל מקבלים את התורה והמצווה בנעשה ונשמע. בפרשתנו, פרשת “משפטים”, אחר מעמד הר סיני של השבוע הקודם, בסוף הפרשה, מצווה ה’ את משה שיעלה אליו ההרה. משה עולה בצווי ה’ להר כמו שנאמר: “ויאמר ה’ אל משה עלה אלי ההרה והיה שם ואתנה לך את לחת האבן והתורה והמצוה אשר כתבתי להורותם.” משה מקבל מה’ בהר שני לוחות אבן, “והלחת מעשה א-לוהים המה”, ובנוסף ללוחות, כאמור, מקבל משה את התורה והמצווה אשר כתב ה’ להורות את בני ישראל.
הלוחות הם לוחות אבן, לא קלף, לא פפירוס, אלא לוחות אבן כבדים.
ברדתו מן ההר עם לוחות האבן שומע משה קולות במחנה. הוא משליך את לוחות האבן ומשברם. מעשה זה של משה משאיר את בני ישראל ללא עשרת הדברים שעל שני הלוחות וכנראה גם ללא התורה והמצווה שכתב ה’ להורות את בני ישראל.
לאחר זמן חוזר ה’ אל משה: “ויאמר ה’ אל משה פסל לך שני לחת אבנים כראשונים וכתבתי על הלחת את הדברים אשר היו על הלחת הראשונים אשר שִברת”. אנו רואים כי לוחות אבן אלה, השניים, היו לוחות אבן שנחצבו וסותתו במדבר על ידי משה, לוחות ארציים, שלא כלוחות הראשונים שהיו מעשה א-לוהים, לוחות שמימיים.
נמשיך במעשה – לאחר שמשה חוצב ומסתת את האבנים לשני לוחות, הוא עולה שוב ההרה, אבל הפעם עליו להעלות להר את שני לוחות האבן הכבדים שחצב. ה’ כותב על הלוחות הארציים את עשרת הדברים.
אם כן, יש לנו עתה לוחות חדשים, אומנם ארציים ולא שמימיים, אבל מה קורה לתורה ולמצווה שניתנו עם הלוחות הראשונים? אנו רואים כאן שינוי.
בעליית ההר הראשונה של משה אומר לו ה’ כי הוא עומד לתת לו מלבד לוחות האבן גם את התורה והמצווה אשר כתב ה’ להורות את בני ישראל: “ואתנה לך את לחת האבן והתורה והמצוה אשר כתבתי להורותם”. האם ברדתו הראשונה מן ההר ראה כנראה ה’ וגם משה, כי למרות ההתחייבות של בני ישראל בנעשה ונשמע אין אפשרות לבני אדם ארציים לקבל את הנורמות והמצוות השמימיים? משה שובר את הלוחות וכנראה ה’ חוזר בו מהתורה והמצווה השמימיים. לדעת רבותינו שבירת הלוחות הייתה בפקודת הקב”ה: “רבי אלעזר בן עזריה אומר לא שבר משה את הלחות אלא שנאמר לו מפי הגבורה[…] רבי עקיבא אומר לא שבר משה את הלחות אלא שנאמר לו מפי הגבורה”.
בעלייתו השנייה של משה להר הוא עולה עם לוחות האבן הארציים, עליהם כותב ה’ את הדברים שהיו על הלוחות השמימיים, אבל אין הוא נותן למשה את התורה והמצווה. ה’ אומר למשה: “כתב לך את הדברים האלה כי על פי הדברים האלה כרתי אתך ברית את ישראל”. על פסוק זה כותב ספורנו: “אף על פי שקודם העגל אמרתי לתת לך את לוחות האבן והתורה והמצווה אשר כתבתי, עכשיו שחטאו אתה פסול לך הלוחות וכתבתי ולא אתן לך גם כן את התורה והמצווה אשר כתבתי, אבל כתוב לך אתה”. מעניינים גם דברי הרמב”ן על פסוק זה. הוא כותב: “כתב לך את הדברים האלה: צוה שיכתוב ספר ברית ויקרא אותו באוזני העם ויקבלוהו עליהם בנעשה ונשמע כאשר עשו בראשונה. כי כל המעשה אשר היה בלוחות הראשונות ירצה לשנותו עמהם בלוחות השניות, ואין ספק שעשה כן. והנכון בעיני כי בעבור שישראל הם החוטאים והעוברים על הברית, הוצרך הקב”ה לחדש להם ברית חדשה שלא יפר הוא להם בריתו” וכאן ממשיך הרמב”ן : ” ואמר למשה שיכתוב התנאין”.
הברית בין הקב”ה לבין עמו ישראל נעשתה, בצווי א-לוהי, אבל לפי התנאים של משה, לפי התורה והמצווה שכתב משה, זאת אומרת לפי הנורמות של בני אדם.
ה’ כותב את עשרת הדברים בלבד, כמו שכותב האבן עזרא: “כי השם לא כתב רק עשרת הדברים”, ומצווה על משה, המכיר את בני ישראל, לכתוב את הדברים האלה, ודברים אלה שכותב משה מהווים את הברית אשר כרת ה’ עם בני ישראל. אנו רואים כי התורה היא תורת משה, וה’ אומר מפי נביאו: “זכרו תורת משה עבדי אשר ציויתי אותו בחרב על כל ישראל חקים ומשפטים”. כאשר במשלי נאמר: “בני תורתי על תשכח ומצותי יצור לבך” מוצא הרלב”ג לנכון לפרש זאת: “בני אל תשכח תורתי והיא תורת משה וקראה לה תורתי לפי שהיא מסודרת מחכמת השם יתברך”.

ברצוני לגעת בנושא נוסף של הלוחות. בפרק לב פסוק טו נאמר: “ושני לוחות העדות בידו, לוחות כתובים משני עבריהם, מזה ומזה הם כתובים”.
יש דעות שונות מה הפירוש משני עבריהם, לא אכנס לכולן אולם זו שבמסכת שבת (קד, א) הפליאה אותי.
אמר רב חסדא: מ”ם וסמ”ך שבלוחות בנס היו עומדין. ואמר רב חסדא: כתב שבלוחות נקרא מבפנים ונקרא מבחוץ, כגון נבוב – בובן, (רהב – בהר), +מסורת הש”ס: [בהר רהב]+ סרו – ורס – כמו במראה.

מה שאני למד מברייתא זו הוא כי בבבל, לפחות בתקופתו של רב חיסדא, שהיה דור שני של אמוראי בבל (225-250 לספירה), העברית נכתבה בכתב אשורי, דהיינו הא-ב של ימינו.
כמאה שנים קודם, בתקופת מרד בר-כוכבא (132-135 לספירה), שימש הא-ב העברי (העתיק) בא”י ובכיתוב על המטבעות שטבעו בשנות המרד.

לאור האמור בפסוק אני שואל: האם לא נראה לפי הפשט כי הכוונה בנאמר “מזה ומזה הם כתובים” הוא כי בשני הלוחות לא היו שני דפים כתובים מצד אחד בלבד, אלא ארבעה עמודים, כתובים משני עבריהם של הלוחות, שניים שניים בכל לוח כמו שכתוב: “לוחות כתובים משני עבריהם, מזה ומזה הם כתובים”. מדוע רבותנו מפרשים משני עבריהם ככתב חלול? הרי גם לפי רב חסדא לא היתה אפשרות לקרוא הכתוב מהצד השני כי הוא נכתב בצורת מראה. האם הם חיפשו בלוחות נס של האותיות מם סופית וסמך?

אחרי קביעת רב חסדא כי מם וסמך בנס הן עומדין, נשאלת השאלה: באיזה כתב ניתנה התורה?
האם היה בזמן מתן תורה כתב אשורי? האם הלוחות נכתבו בכתב אשורי? אולי הם נכתבו כמו שנכתבו חוקי המורבי, שהם היו חרוטים על לוחות אבן? או שמא בכתב עברי? אם בכתב עברי, אז לא היה צריך נס לאותיות מם (סופית) וסמך, אבל היה צריך נס לאותיות אחרות.

דבר הכתב נדון על ידי רבותינו והרוצה יעיין בכתובים. אזכיר ברייתא אחת (סנהדרין כא, ב):
אמר מר זוטרא ואיתימא מר עוקבא:
בתחילה ניתנה תורה לישראל בכתב עברי ולשון הקודש,
וחזר וניתנה להם בימי עזרא בכתב אשורית ולשון ארמית,
ביררו להן לישראל כתב אשורית ולשון הקודש,
והניחו להדיוטות כתב עברית ולשון ארמי.

כאן מקשים:
1. לפי דעת מר זוטרא שהתורה נתנה בכתב עברי, קשה הרי לכתב עברי אין תגין.
2. לפי ברייתא זו קשיא, דאיך אפשר לומר שהתורה נתנה בכתב עברי? דהא אמרינן (שבת ק”ד א): אמר רב חסדא: מ”ם וסמ”ך שבלוחות בנס היו עומדין. ודבר זה לא תמצא רק בכתב אשורית.
3. ועוד הקשו על זה, דאיך אפשר לומר שהתורה נתנה בכתב עברי, ועזרא היה משנה הכתב? ואיך אפשר זה, והלא כתיב אלה המצוות, ואמרו ז”ל (שבת שם) שאין הנביא רשאי לחדש דבר מעתה, ואפילו אותיות מנצפ”ך?

אבל גם הברייתא עצמה מפליאה! לפי הגמרא היו שני מתן תורה, זו של משה וזו של עזרא. ומפליא יותר שבני ישראל לא אימצו לא אף אחת מהן אלא “ביררו להן לישראל כתב אשורית ולשון הקודש”.

לוחות הברית עמוד מס’ 1


This won’t make one iota of difference to Meir Rabi and his business ventures but …

The Rabbis are damned if they protest and damned if they don’t. Meir will provide that infamous counterfeit smile and consider this free advertising. Those Jews however who consider themselves genuinely Yirei Shomayim (and not the type who say “a pox on Rabi if he is wrong, I’m just following him”) will take heed. Unfortunately, The Lakewood Beis HaTalmud couldn’t bring themselves to sign. I am sure Rabbi Nojowitz would have signed. Those of you who learn there should ask the current Rosh Kollel why he is missing in action. I’d be fascinated to hear any contorted reasoning for this.LetterRabonimAusFinal3

It’s a boy!

ברוב תשבחות לבורא עולם I’m thankful to announce the birth of our newest grandson נ’’י this evening, Teves 12 to our daughter Batsheva and Rabbi Yisroel (Izzy) Goldman.

Grandparents שיחיו: Rabbi Yossy and Rochel Goldman (Johannesburg),  Isaac and Leonie Balbin (Melbourne).

Great-Grandparents שיחיו: Rabbi Shimon Goldman (New York), Rebbetzin Shula Kazen (New York), אימי מורתי Mrs E. Balbin (Melbourne), Dr Ivan & Ursula Cher (Melbourne).


I’m in recess for a few months

Hi all,

I’m taking a break from my blog for a little while. The reason is because I have set myself an ambitious  timetable of Torah learning to fit into my other activities, which will push my boundaries time-wise. There is much I could write about immediately. For example, Rabbi Genende of Caulfield Shule’s support for Female Rabbis, Rabbi Dr Nathan Lopez Cardozo wanting to take his Yarmulka off, and much much more, but I can’t fit this into my intended timetable.

Many times people have seen me and said “you don’t send me your pitputim”. Well, not only don’t I send them, I don’t even pay attention to who has subscribed.

If you want to know when I resume, just enter your email address somewhere on the page where it tells you to, and you will get an email that I have resumed. I will resume, but I need the time at the moment for my timetable.

Wishing everyone well, even those who don’t like my thoughts 🙂


Dvar Torah on Chayei Sarah

The following is from Rav Mordechai Greenberg, Rosh Yeshiva of Kerem B’Yavneh.
The Rambam wrote about the evil perpetrated by the Yishmaelites towards Yisrael in his “Letter to Yemen.”(Igeres Taimon)

He wrote that Yisrael never encountered a more evil nation, adding that even though we accept their oppression without complaining, their hatred for us never ceases. A hint of this was taken from three names of leaders in Yishmael, “Mishma, Duma, and Massa” [Bereishit 25:14], meaning “Listen, remain silent, and accept the burden.” Even though we accept their governmental authority, we cannot save ourselves from their evil. While we continue to wish them peace, they pursue us with swords and war, as David wrote, “I want peace, while they speak only of war” [Tehillim 120:7].
Rabeinu Bechayei comments as follows on the verse, “Your G-d will place all of these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you” [Devarim 30:7]. “Your enemies are the Yishmaelites, those who hate you are the children of Eisav. The enemies are worse than those who hate. And because the children of Yishmael are worse for Yisrael than the children of Eisav, the verse calls them your enemies.” On the verse, “Can a maidservant inherit from her mistress?” [Mishlei 30:23], the Zohar writes that no exile is worse for Yisrael than the exile of Yishmael.
The students of the ARI wrote that the four kingdoms did not want to destroy Yisrael but only to fight against the religion of Yisrael. Yishmael, on the other hand, believes in the faith of the unique trait of G-d and is not fighting ag ainst the religion. Rather, he wants to destroy Yisrael. The promise to Hagar about Yishmael is, “He will be a human wild animal” [Bereishit 16:12]. The phrase used is “pereh adam.” In Hebrew, the noun is first, and it is followed by the adjective. That is, Yishmael is a wild animal which has human traits (“man” is an adjective modifying “wild”).
Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsh writes that “pereh” is one who refuses to accept any authority, who does not feel obligated by anything. This seems to be a contradiction in terms. On one hand, Yishmael believes, but on the other hand he will not accept any commands! The answer is that Yisrael is a hint of “Yashar E-l” – following the straight path of G-d and acting as Divine slaves. However, the Yishmaelites view G-d as their slave. It is written, “G-d has heard the voice of the youth” [Bereishit 21:17]. They are convinced that G-d hears their voices and agrees to their deeds. The name of heaven is always in their mouths, and they believe that whatever they do is in the name of Allah. Their wars are holy wars, and every murderer among them is a shahid (a martyr).
Sarah expelled Yishmael when she saw him “metzachek,” laughing. She said, “this son of the maidservant will not share an inheritance with my son, Yitzchak” [21:10]. What upset Sarah so much about the inheritance? The author of Aruch La-ner explains that Yishmael wanted to inherit everything. However, this is not easy to understand. Yishmael was indeed the firstborn, but why should he be entitled to inherit everything?
The Natziv gives an explanation for this. “And Sarah laughed inside herself, saying, will I be rejuvenated after I am worn out? And my husband is old!” [18:12]. Sarah’s laughter showed that she had a lack of faith in Avraham’s ability to have children. By doing this, she gave an opening for the people of the generati on to mock Avraham, and to say that Yitzchak was not his son but rather the son of Avimelech. What is the meaning of Yishmael’s laughter? It implies that he, Yishmael, is the only son of Avraham and that the entire inheritance belongs to him. This means that Eretz Yisrael too belongs only to Yishmael.

“And Sarah laughed inside herself.” What was her punishment? “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar laughing.”

Rabbi Riskin is wrong

In a previous post, I mentioned the issue at hand.

He has published a response (below) to the RCA resolution claiming it was political and not halachic. His arguments about Deborah and Bruria are well known and existed well before the RCA, so to claim them as proofs for his opinion is rather vacuous. Bruria is brought in a Tosefta in Kelim, but in the Mishna it is brought in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua (from memory chapter 2). Was that a political decision by Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi or was there more to it. Were the Rabbis afraid (despite Deborah et al) to name Bruria? If so, why is that? Was Rav Yehuda Hanasi a slave to social mores or were his social mores determined by Mesora which does not deny the Bruria’s of this world, but does deny them Sroro unless it’s a Horoas Sho-oh. I’m not aware of Rabbi Riskin’s appointment as a prophet, but I’d suggest he has bigger fish to fry. What is the divorce rate in Efrat compared to similarly sized towns in Israel? Why is that? That would bother me much more. Unfortunately, Rabbi Riskin doesn’t have Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik or the Lubavitcher Rebbe, both of whom he would have consulted today about such a pronouncement. I will take Rav Hershel Schachter as a Halachist over Rabbi Riskin any day of the week. By the way, does Rabbi Riskin consider Open Orthodoxy Conservative (like the Aguda pronounced yesterday)? Does he consider them conservative with a big C?

I have written to the Rabbinic Council of Victoria. So far, I have not elicited a response. I won’t let go though, till they issue their response. This issue is too fundamental for each Rabbi to make their own determinations. It’s a question about which group you align yourself with, and I suggest very strongly that the Rabbinic Council of Victoria align itself formally with the RCA.

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the municipal chief rabbi of Efrat and one of the most prominent leaders of Modern Orthodoxy, has criticized a recent resolution adopted by the Rabbinical Council of America which banned its member rabbis from giving any form of ordination to women or hiring women in a role of religious or spiritual leadership.

The RCA resolution said its members may not “ordain women into the rabbinate, regardless off the title used” or “hire, or ratify the hiring of, a woman into a rabbinic position at an Orthodox institution.”

It appeared to be mostly aimed at institutions associated with the liberal Orthodox movement loosely defined as Open Orthodoxy, including Yeshivat Maharat in Riverdale, New York, founded by Rabbi Avi Weiss, which gives ordination to women to serve as spiritual guides and give rulings in Jewish law, or halacha.

Riskin, along with other rabbis in Israel, is himself an RCA member and oversees the Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute for Halachic Leadership (WIHL) at Midreshet Lindenbaum in Jerusalem, which gives women a qualification that amounts to ordination, although it is not labelled as such.

And Riskin has also appointed a graduate of WIHL to a position of spiritual leadership, the first such appointment to the Orthodox world in Israel, when he hired Dr. Jennie Rosenfeld last year to work as a halachic and spiritual guide in Efrat.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post earlier this week, Riskin said that the RCA’s resolution was “unfortunate” and argued that it was not based on the substantive issues of women’s ordination.

“I believe the resolution they made wasn’t halachic as much as it was political,” the rabbi said.

“As such it was quite unfortunate. There is no question whatsoever that throughout the generations women have often provided halachic and spiritual leadership as is shown from Sarah the prophetess to Deborah the judge, from Bruriah, the daughter of Rabbi Hananya Ben Teradyon of Talmudic times to the rulings of major halachic decisors of today including former chief rabbi Bakshi Doron, that state that women can become the great religious leaders of the generation, the ‘gedolei ha’dor’, and that they can provide rulings for halachic direction.”

Riskin also said he was “very taken aback by the inclusiveness of the resolution.”

The terms of the RCA’s resolution banning the ordaining and hiring of women appeared to include women who graduate from the WIHL.

Women at WIHL complete a program of Talmudic and halachic study comparable to ordination programs undertaken by men, and upon graduation are given the title of Morot Hora’ah and are certified to serve as spiritual leaders and arbiters of Jewish law.

“The guide must be halacha and not politics,” continued Riskin. “One can argue about the titles and what title to give, but halachic and religious leadership can certainly be given to women.

“The RCA certainly understand this, and their resolution makes no sense halachically since they accept yoatzot halacha. That’s why it seems to be a political decision and not one based on halacha.”

Yoetzet halacha are women qualified to give halachic guidance on issues pertaining to Jewish law in the field of family purity, and the position has become an accepted part of Modern Orthodoxy in the last 15 years.

The RCA’s resolution says explicitly that it does not apply to “non-rabbinic positions such as Yoatzot Halacha.”

Giving ordination, or equivalent qualifications, to women, and the adoption by qualified women of a role in making rulings on Jewish law, is a new development in the Orthodox world, and not widely accepted. The mainstream haredi world completely rejects it.

Speaking to the Post, Executive Vice President of the RCA Rabbi Marc Dratch said that the qualification given by WIHL did not come under the definition outlined by the resolution.

“Rabbi Riskin’s program does not ordain women to be clergy in the American sense,” said Dratch. “He has been an innovator in many ways and my hope is that this should not be a point of separation between Rabbi Riskin and the RCA.”

Talking more broadly about the resolution, Dratch said that he hoped it would not lead to further division, and noted that some members of the RCA leadership had publicly stated that they were opposed to the resolution, not necessarily because they disagreed with it but because they felt it was not the best way to deal with the issue.

“It’s a serious issue but we hope it will not come to a situation which will create an un-breachable divide. We need ways to engage in a better dialogue which requires patience and respect for the integrity of the Orthodox community.”

In terms of the practical impact of the resolution, Dratch said that if an RCA member rabbi were to act in contradiction of the resolution, a concern could be brought to the association’s executive committee which could then convene a mechanism to evaluate the concern and, if required and so decided, take action.

It would not lead to the automatic expulsion of the member he said, and noted that there had always been RCA members “who deviate from the mainstream” and that “only very, very rarely has a member been expelled.”

Meira Welt-Maarek, a recent graduate of WIHL who serves alongside a school rabbi as a spiritual leader in a high-school in the Alon Shvut settlement also under Riskin’s direction, labelled the RCA resolution as “political,” saying it was not presented with any sources to support it.

“A halachic argument has a textual frame of reference and they have none, it’s just an opinion which creates divisions,” Welt-Maarek told the Post.

“Women also stood at Mount Sinai, and halachic discussions can only benefit when more people share their perspective. The Torah goes beyond political divisions and barriers. My job is to allow everyone to have access to the Torah and create their connection and path to it.”

Time to petition Heinz/Kraft

[hat tip Ba]

Spread the word on Facebook etc
Kraft Heinz Australia is no longer supporting kosher supervision for its range of Golden Circle-branded juices and cordials. As one of the few widely available kosher certified juice companies, this presents a major inconvenience to kosher consumers.
Kraft Heinz may well reconsider its position if consumers complain. After all, KH management probably does not realise how important kosher certification is to consumers and that it is simply a good business decision to continue to cater to the kosher market.
A petition has been created to present to KH – I urge you to sign it – 


Obama’s press corp

[Hat tip AN]

How’s  this for having the “inside track”?  






ABC News executive producer Ian Cameron is married

to Susan Rice, National Security Adviser.


CBS President David Rhodes is the brother of Ben Rhodes,

Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications.


ABC News correspondent Claire Shipman is married

to former Whitehouse Press Secretary Jay Carney.


ABC News and Univision reporter Matthew Jaffe is married

to Katie Hogan, Obamas Deputy Press Secretary.


ABC President Ben Sherwood is the brother of

Obamas Special Adviser Elizabeth Sherwood.


CNN President Virginia Moseley is married to former

Hillary Clintons Deputy Secretary Tom Nides. 

And now you know why it is no surprise the media is in Obama’s pocket.

Think there might be a little bias in the news?

This may also explain the cover up of Benghazi, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.

Isn’t it interesting that every place you look in Obama’s administration people fill positions

because of who they know, not what they know or how competent they are —

and you wonder why our country has so many problems.




I can’t say it better myself …

Ben Dror Yemini from Yediot published the following: (emphases are mine)

From Wikipedia, Yemini used to work for Ma’ariv. Yemini is Zionist and describes himself as a left winger. While considered by some to be conservative, Yemini defends the rights of critics of academic leftists[8] and claims he has been mislabeled as a right-winger and has a “long track record in the Israeli peace camp”; he also claims to have met with Yasser Arafat in Tunis, as well as having several friends who are PLO officials. He is a long-time believer in a two-state solution, and believes Israel should have the same right of self-determination as the Palestinians. In 2012, while being fully supportive of Israel’s motive behind Operation Pillar of Defense, Yemini expressed his support in “[making] a move which no one expects – follow a unilateral cease-fire by inviting Hamas to peace talks.”

No doubt Yemini is too right wing for the delusional New Israel Fund, J-Street, and Ameinu. Bah! Those three organisations should relocate to Uganda as per an original proposal.

Another self-deception produced by the free world

The young man approached the group of police officers, pulled out an axe and managed to hurt two of them, who were lightly wounded. He was immediately shot, in the head, by other cops who were in the area. He was killed on the spot.
Follow Ynetnews on Facebook and Twitter

It didn’t happen in East Jerusalem. It happened in October 2014 in East New York, in the borough of Queens. The terrorist was 32-year-old Zale Thompson, an American who had converted to Islam.
No one thought for a minute that the police officers hadn’t done the right thing. No one said that “both sides are required to exercise restraint.” But that’s exactly what the American administration’s spokespeople, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, have been saying in the past week.

Why the hell is the free world finding it difficult to understand that the calls for murder and for the annihilation of heretics, Christians too, are a regular thing in the global jihad’s propaganda. The use of a knife in the religious war is not random. Slaughtering has become trendy. That’s what the incited fanatics know how to do, regardless of whether they are members of the Islamic State of members of one of the jihad’s branches in the world.

Scene of stabbing attack in Jerusalem. ‘As far as the American administration is concerned, there is no Islamic terror. There are poor people acting out of distress’ (Photo: AFP) Scene of stabbing attack in Jerusalem. ‘As far as the American administration is concerned, there is no Islamic terror. There are poor people acting out of distress’ (Photo: AFP)
The Palestinians have taken it one step further. It’s not individual and disconnected preachers who are spreading the hatred. It’s Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who said that “the Jews are soiling” the Temple Mount; it’s the Palestinian Authority’s television broadcasts and educational system, not to mention Hamas, which is spreading the slanderous propaganda; and it’s the Arab leadership in Israel which is walking hand in hand with the biggest inciter, Sheikh Raed Salah.

That is not what is happening on the Israeli side. There are hooligans. There are racists. There are despicable comments. But we are talking about thousands, not about hundreds of thousands and not about an official policy. Here the fanatics failed to cross the election threshold; the Palestinian fanatics are in the government. So the European Union and American administration’s calls for restraint “on both sides,” without placing responsibility on any side, are another self-deception produced by the free world.

There is no comparison between al-Qaeda and the United States. If anything, there is a comparison between al-Qaeda and the Ku Klux Klan. Because al-Qaeda represents murder and racism, and the US is a democracy which also has racists in it. There is no comparison between those who committed the murder at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo magazine and the cartoon drawers, and the EU didn’t think for a minute that there was any room for comparison between the two sides, although the cartoons did hurt jihadist feelings. According to the logic of Kerry and other spokespeople, the US should be condemned for its bombings against the Taliban and ISIS, because “both sides must exercise restraint.”

The same applies to the American State Department’s announcement that Israel is using excessive force. Excessive? Compared to what? Compared to police officers in Ferguson and in Queens? Compared to the US planes which hit a hospital in the city of Kunduz in Afghanistan, killing dozens?

Why Martin Dempsey, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, asserted that Israel protects human life more than any other army. He even sent military delegations to learn from Israel. Why in the targeted assassinations carried out by the US, most casualties are citizens. Why unlike the US, Israel has only hit terrorists in recent weeks. And if there was a mistake, and there may have been one, it was one case out of dozens.

As far as the American administration is concerned, there is no Islamic terror. There are poor people acting out of distress. That is, of course, complete nonsense. The perpetrators of the terror attacks were not poor. Africa’s poor don’t turn to terror. There is one religion in which 5 to 20 percent of believers are in a state of insanity. There is no need to hide it. The insane minority usually murders members of its own religion. It has nothing to do with poverty. It has to do with incitement and brainwashing.

When the US administration spokespeople, including Kerry, justify the perpetrators of terror, they are not advancing peace and reconciliation. On the contrary, they are hurting the sane Muslim majority. They are encouraging the minority which has chosen the way of terror. We should and are allowed to say that – even to our friends.

They say all publicity is good publicity

Due to the incorrect, exaggerated and inflammatory reaction to Moshe Feiglin’s visit to Melbourne, his Sydney trip was a resounding success. One person I am reliably advised immediately wrote out a cheque for 150,000

Not too many amongst Melbourne Zionists do that. There was no rabble, and no rousing. Feiglin now has a strict policy that he only gives live interviews so that his words can’t be abused by the Jewish Zionist Left, religious or otherwise.

HaRav Aharon Eliezer Ceitlin ע’’ה

I knew him as Aaron Layzer. He always stood out. As a boy at Yeshivah College (Chabad) in Melbourne, Australia, he was bigger than life like. I was tiny. On my Bar Mitzvah I had to stand on a crate so that I could layn the Parsha. In my eyes, back then, the only person who was bigger, was the late Rabbi Groner.

Aaron Layzer, spoke with a deep baritone voice in keeping with his size. He was one of the first group of emissaries of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe to Yeshivah Gedola. A voice that was deep, but a demeanour that was gentle and all embracing.

We were encouraged to have at least one extra shiur during the week with one of the “Shluchim” as they were known, and in between my forays between attending Messibos Shabbos and later B’nei Akiva, I’d often have a shiur with one of the Shluchim over the years. They would come for two years, and it was always a big event to see who they were and what type of personality they exuded. That was one highlight, the other highlight was the “new song” that would be written לכבוד the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s birthday using words from the Tehillim corresponding to the year after (in age)

Aaron Layzer was one who exuded his entire מהות his essence. His English was atrocious, his smile was effusive, and his warmth radiating. He was a מדקדק במצוות כחוט השערה — punctilious in his observance of Jewish Law. This meant that he was not just one who had a relationship with God, but his relationship with people was infectious.

Like all Shluchim, after two years he left. Unlike all shluchim, however, Aaron Layzer never left. He told me later that he was living in צפת עיר הקודש, Tzfat, and his new Shlichus was to build and expand the kindergarten and primary network of schools in Tzfat.

I hadn’t seen him in some years, and then bumped into him consistently, at least once a year. I remember the first year we met him after some time. Many years had passed. My band Schnapps was gracing a Simcha, and in front of me, dancing, I saw his visage. He’d become bigger (and so had I) but he was still much larger than life. I am quite intense on the band stand, as I have musicians to coordinate, and perfection is what I seek even today, so I didn’t react immediately. The next time the gyration crossed the band stage, he waved to me and I waved back with my violin bow.

At the first break, I just had to find him. He gave me a big hug and we spoke about old times. R’ Aaron told me that he had a picture of me in the front row of the Yeshivah Choir singing solo and it was one of his favourite pictures of his time at Shlichus. I think my mother may have that picture, I’m not sure. It would have been taken by Sam Cylich ע’’ה at one of the annual Yeshiva Dinners. When I asked him what he was doing in Melbourne, I gave him money, and from that time on I assumed a completely different approach from the Band Stand.

Each year, at a Simcha, Aaron Layzer would suddenly materialise. Only henceforth, I jumped off the band stage until I caught up to him in the circle and surreptitiously put money into his hand.

from JEM and collide

I had no idea; the Aybishter works in strange ways. One year he gave me regards from our son Tzvi Yehuda in Sydney, who was doing Smicha at the time. Later Tzvi Yehuda married Leah Moss, daughter of Meir and Devora. I was not to know but Aaron Leyzer was very very close to Meir back from the times of Shlichus through to Aaron Layzer’s untimely demise. He also became close to Tzvi Yehuda who lived in Sydney initially when he married. He would tell me about החלטות (good resolutions) that he had made with Tzvi Yehuda, and I was amazed. I was the father and had zero influence (by now). Aaron Layzer would sit and farbreng and mesmerised with his stories of yesteryear and current events and had Tzvi Yehuda eating out of the palm of his hand.

Aaron Layzer came to Tzvi Yehuda’s wedding in Sydney, and I can still see him commandeering  a Sheva Brachos later held in Melbourne in Chelsea, and saying the Dvar Torah.

From that time, he would now come to our house in Melbourne and there were more than a few times he made L’Chaim with Tzvi Yehuda and I (who lived in Melbourne in our house for a time) after marriage. I loved talking to him. He was from Tzfat. I remain anti meshichist. Tzfas is known as a hot bed of paranormal Meshichisten, they even have a name — “Tzfatim”. One sees them en masse in 770 in Crown Heights and they are largely responsible for the sad split between upstairs and downstairs in 770.

(I will go out on a limb here and state publicly that I don’t think a real chosid of chabad can ever wear meshichist paraphernalia, scream Yechi, etc … I believe those people are overtaken by their delusional self-importance)

Aaron Leyzer used to complain about the “meshugoim” as he called him were destroying the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s work.

Alas, on his last visit, in a way that was quite unlike him, he was bemoaning a pain in his leg and asked for a cold drink. He found it hard to walk. We sat in the lounge room. He told me how many different types of treatment he tried on his leg, and I expressed light anger. I suggested that before one has treatment, one should be diagnosed. We have all types of scans, and yes, if diagnoses suggests a particular treatment or if there is a clear scan and blood test, then by all means, try what you will. He told me he was going to see the doctor, in the end, in Melbourne. I have no idea whether his leg problems were at all related to the illness which captured his life, far too early. He left me with חוברת of letters and divrei torah from the Lubavitcher Rebbe about Tzfas. For some unknown reason, I didn’t file it in my bookshelf, but kept it in my top draw.

On Friday night, I found out about his passing. I had sent him an email in the week before with no reply. I was and remain heartbroken by his most untimely departure from our world. I took out a bottle of my best whisky, and suggested to my family who were at the table, that in addition to drinking L’Chaim to Aaron Leyzer, we should each make a החלטה because that is what he would have wanted.

I ran to my study, opened the top draw, and staring at me was the חוברת he had left me. I undertook to learn it in his memory.

יהא זכרו ברוך

המקום ינחם את בני משפחתו בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים

The JCCV’s Jenny Huppert tells us why she is opposed to Moshe Feiglin

In particular, The JCCV is opposed to any homophobia, biphobia or transphobia by whomever or whoever expresses it. It has no place in our community. Everyone of any sexual orientation or gender identity should be respected and be given equal opportunity to participate in and contribute to the community.”

Homophobia (Oxford Dictionary): Dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people.

Dear Jenny, I have received feedback from Homosexuals that they do not consider Moshe Feiglin as Homophobic. They consider him libertarian. If your definition of Homophobia means that Orthodox Jews must accept קידושין or the act of homosexuality of ייחוד between homosexuals, then I dare say that there are many in the JCCV that would need to disaffiliate immediately.

Biophobia: (Oxford Dictionary): (not Biphobia) (Especially among social scientists) a refusal or marked reluctance to consider or accept biological (especially genetic or evolutionary) factors or theories in relation to human life. Dear Jenny, I see this issue as orthogonal to the first. The reason or reason(s) why one has certain proclivities is still a matter of debate. Indeed, there was an article in today’s paper that said Scientists had a 70% chance of predicting homosexuality based on DNA. I assume you know that proclivities go back to, and were recognised by Maimonides. A proclivity alone, no matter at what level we understand it in 2015 as compared to 2020 isn’t going to change the Torah’s view on acting on such proclivity any more than the Torah considers it unacceptable for a married man/woman to have a torrent of one nighters because of a high libido.

Transphobia: (Oxford Dictionary): Intense dislike of or prejudice against transsexual or transgender people: Dear Jenny, again, I saw no hate, dislike or prejudice against people born with or who have acquired such traits or behaviour.

Frankly, I don’t know where and when the JCCV decided to redefine Jewish standards of bedroom behaviour let alone mischievous conclusions of hate towards people who might describe themselves as such.

It was an ultra orthodox view that public Shabbat desecrators (and the topic needs to be expounded properly before any of the halachic categories this may apply to are germane) were denied honours. Personally, and I have spoken to a number of Rabbis and Presidents of Orthodox Shules, none have ever witnessed the various above phobias which you through the JCCV have latched onto.

I’m afraid, that ignorantia non excusal, really is no excuse here. Frankly, the JCCV should have sent along ONE of its respected balanced people to listen to Feiglin and made some conclusions about the various mantras of his new political party.

Curiously, Israel allows it, but the JCCV does not.

Grok that? I don’t.

(c) Jewish Journal

When the Mafia Asks You to Clean Up After Them: A Halachic Analysis

(Thursday, October 8th, 2015)

hat tip Ba

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times

As of this writing, about 145,000 have seen it on Youtube [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixxd5DUW5VM] and probably several million have seen it on television.

His name is Shneur Freeman and he is a 31 year old carpet cleaner. He attended Yeshiva in Crown Heights. He answered a call for an estimate and asks for a name. The Italian man answering says that he prefers no names. They show him a huge red stain on a carpet and ask if he can clean the carpet without telling anyone. Shneur asks what it is. One Italian answers red wine. Another answer Marinara sauce.

Then they ask him if he can entirely get rid of another carpet. It is rolled up and there are shoes sticking out from the middle of the rolled up carpet.They slip him money, saying, “Dis is fer youse.”

He answers that he can do it, and that he is Jewish, from Brooklyn, and that he knows what’s going on.

Ultimately, it turned out to be a highly sophisticated Jimmy Kimmel prank utilizing his Cousin Sal, who has appeared in such pranks before. It also looked like Shneur Freeman was actually going to help them dispose of the body and clean the carpet.

At first glance, this may appear to be a Chilul Hashem. But the Five Towns Jewish Times contacted Shneur, and soon realized that poor Shneur the Carpet Cleaner was frightened for his life.

So the question is what are the halachic issues about getting rid of a dead body?

There is a fascinating Gemorah in Nedarim (22a), which deals with Ulla, a student of Rabbi Yochanan who travelled back and forth to Bavel. It is unclear whether he did so to teach the lessons that Rabbi Yochanan’s Beis Midrash used to teach or to raise funds for Eretz Yisroel, or both. Regardless, it explains why Shneur’s actions are, in fact, not a Chillul Hashem at all.

When ‘Ulla arose [back] to Eretz Yisroel, he was joined by two inhabitants of Chozai, one of whom arose and murdered the other. The murderer asked of Ulla: ‘Did I do well?’ ‘Yes,’ he replied; ‘moreover, cut his throat clean across.’ When he came before Rabbi Yochanan, he asked him, ‘Maybe, G-d forbid, I have strengthened the hands of transgressors?’ He replied, ‘You saved your life.’

Both the Rosh and the Ran understand this Gemorah as saying that were it not for Ulah’s life being in possible danger, it would have been prohibited to respond in this manner.

This prohibition is called Machazik Yedei Ovrei Aveirah – strengthening the hand of evil-doers. We find this prohibition (Shulchan Aruch CM 356:1) in purchasing items from thieves, which is a grave sin. It causes the person to steal more.

There are some situations where strengthening the hand of an evil-doer is a full-blown Biblical prohibition called “Lifnei Iver.” Other situations are considered Rabbinic violations. The difference lies in whether the person could have managed by himself without the input of the other party.

There is also a fascinating Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel on the Commandment not to murder found in parshas Yisro. He writes, “My Nation Israel shall not be murderers, nor friends or partners with murderers, nor shall there appear within the congregation of Israel murderers, and your sons shall not follow them and learn from them also to be murderers. For in the sin of murder destruction comes to the world.

Rav Avrohom Grodzinsky zt”l (1883-1944) the Mashgiach of the Slabodka Yeshiva explained this Targum Yonasan (Toras Avrohom – Netzach HaAdam) to mean that any partnership with a murderer is considered as if that partner did the murder itself.

Thus, unless there is a question of one’s own life being in danger, lending assistance to a murderer is tantamount to murder itself according to Rav Grodzinsky!

The Shaarei Teshuvah of Rabbeinu Yonah (Shaar 3:50) writes on the verse Do not follow the masses to do evil (Shmos 23:2), we are therefore warned not to strengthen the hand of evil-doer in words nor to be associated with those who agree to do evil. Even to do a Dvar Mitzvah it is forbidden to befriend an evildoer.

In conclusion, the actions of Reb Shneur are, in fact, not a Chilul Hashem, but were warranted in light of the circumstances.

For those who are curious, we did manage to ask Shneur a few questions and were able to clarify some points.

• He has been in the carpet cleaning industry close for 8 years and started his own company in 2013.

• This events in this video took place a few weeks before Shavous, in May.

• The Jimmy Kimmel people did not unwrap the “dead body” for him – even afterward. They were doing their best just to show the feet, and succeeded.

• He walked out of that house with a few hundred dollars.

More questions:

What were your thoughts?

What was I thinking?…. so much … At first, before they brought in a rug with a dead body I was actually pretty calm. I thought: maybe they had a fight with some unfortunate fellow and this was the outcome. This was not the first time I have been called to clean up a blood situation (nothing like this situation at all though). But once that big guy walked in, I tell you he scared me (I did not see the legs hanging out of the rug until they asked me to put the rug on my car). He had this look of, “Do what I say or you’re next..”

Were you davening?

So, at this point, I am thinking to myself, “Oh boy, what did I just get myself into? You can bet all your money I was praying. I was praying that I can do whatever they want so I can go home in one piece.

So where were you going to dump the body?

That is a good question. I really don’t know. I’m so glad the situation didn’t go that far.

What did you tell your family afterward?

I don’t think I really told my family much about it (I had to sign a waiver). I just called in to say, “I love you” to them all. For a minute 

I thought I was going to die. I think a near death situation reminded me how much I miss my family.

PLEASE NOTE THE FOLLOWING: Shneur, by the way, is 31 years old, single, and owns CARPET CLUB LA in Los Angeles, California. Cousin Sal is not a Mafioso. Jimmy Kimmel does not ask shailos before he scares people half to death. And the Five Towns Jewish Times is being distributed on Friday instead of Thursday this week – on account of the Yom Tov schedule.

Rabbis with integrity. That ought to be a pleonasm, but sadly as we know, it is not

[Hat tip BA]

Of course in Melbourne, we have solved this problem with Super Rabbis, able to clear halachic practice with a single huff and puff. We need more Rabbi Aryeh Sterns around the world.

Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Rabbi Shlomo Amar has recently refused to implement a proposal designed to reduce corruption in the arena of kashrut supervision in the capital, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Severe questions have been raised about the integrity and reliability of the kashrut supervision provided by the Jerusalem rabbinate in recent months, with concerns that some kashrut supervisors do not properly execute their supervisory duties.

One problem in particular is a phenomenon in which supervisors are awarded supervision over more restaurants and food businesses than they can physically supervise in one day.

Kashrut supervisors get paid either directly by the businesses they supervise, or in some instances by a manpower organization that provides the supervisors to the different businesses.

The more establishments a supervisor is responsible for, the more money he is able to make.

However, regulations of the Ministry of Religious Services stipulate that a supervisor spend at least one hour, and many cases two or three hours, in each restaurant, supermarket, catering company or other food business they supervise, per day.

According to sources within the Jerusalem rabbinate, there are several supervisors within the Jerusalem religious council’s kashrut department who are registered to supervise more than 10 businesses each.

It appears unlikely that a supervisor could maintain this workload and at the same time comply with the stipulations of the Religious Services Ministry for a supervisor to be present for at least one hour in every supervised establishment.

Allegations of possible corruption in the Jerusalem Religious Council were reported to the police earlier this year.

During a hearing of the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee on July 29, Supt.

Isaac Simon of the Jerusalem fraud squad said that an examination was being made of the requirement to hold an investigation.

In recent months severe deficiencies have been found by staff in the office of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Rabbi Aryeh Stern, including supervisors who did not turn up to the establishments under their supervision and serious kashrut issues at some restaurants and businesses with kashrut certificates from the Jerusalem rabbinate.

In one of the restaurants, a well known cafe in central Jerusalem, it was discovered that the designated supervisor visited the site approximately once a week. The establishment in question requires three hours of supervision a day.

At the cafe, Stern’s staff discovered that the flour used for baking bread and other products was not generally sifted and that there were insects present in the flour, which would be a clear violation of kashrut laws.

In order to try and tackle these issues, Stern recently proposed that, as is common practice in many other major cities, the names of each supervisor should be printed on the kashrut certificate that is displayed in restaurants and businesses in Jerusalem with kashrut supervision.

This would help prevent abuses, since if a supervisor would have more businesses to supervise than is feasible in one day such a situation would be readily apparent.

Amar, however, refused to implement such a system. Although local religious councils have administrative authority over such policies, municipal chief rabbis sign kashrut certificates and could theoretically refuse to sign if certain policies are not implemented.

The secretary of the Kashrut Department of the Jerusalem Religious Council, David Malka, said in response: “The Kashrut Department and the Office of the Chief Rabbi do not conduct Jerusalem’s kashrut policy through the press or media. This is how we have acted for years and how we will continue to act.

“Despite the fact that in the current quarter the names of supervisors do not appear on kashrut certificates, the kashrut certificates are signed by both municipal chief rabbis.”

Kashrut certificates are issued four times a year, but Stern has refused to sign more than 100 certificates, out of the approximately 1,500 certificates issued to kosher establishments in Jerusalem, for the latest quarter. Some of these certificates are currently on display with only Amar’s signature.

Stern is insisting on interviewing the supervisors of the establishments in question, primarily supermarkets, before appending his signature to their certificates.

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Rav Aryeh Stern (pic from JPOST)

So how many Rebbetzens are there?

Check out this article. While we have the politically correct, Orthodox incorrect group of “Rabbis” or whatever pseudonym they want to be called (I specifically exclude the anti-feminist Yoatzot Halacha who don’t seek non Jewish politically correct equality), we now have a non Jewish court in Portland Oregon telling us who can say what and who is what. Mind spinning.

A Female Rabbi? Just Don’t Call Her That
7 SEPT 27, 2015 11:00 AM EDT
By Noah Feldman
Is what you tell the rabbi’s wife a secret that she can’t be required to reveal in court? The Haredi Jewish newspaper Yated Ne’eman has reported on a fascinating decision by a judge in Portland, Oregon, holding that the answer is yes.

The twist is that the women who successfully asserted the privilege were members of a branch of Orthodox Judaism known as “yeshivish,” which staunchly denies that women can be rabbis or even rabbinic advisers. Their argument was that the rabbi’s wife is, practically speaking, a kind of adjunct clergywoman in whom female members of the community confide in the expectation of privacy.

The judge’s decision required weighing informal norms against official doctrine. It raises many questions, including whether, very much against the intentions of these rabbis’ wives, the decision might mark a step toward the eventual acceptance of female rabbis within orthodoxy.

The issue arose in the course of a divorce proceeding. The husband subpoenaed the testimony of two women, each of whom was married to a rabbi. Their husbands weren’t ordinary congregational rabbis employed by a synagogue to teach and perform pastoral work. They were employees of the Portland Kollel, an organization funded by national donors in which rabbis teach and study Torah as a form of educational and social outreach.

The kollel phenomenon is itself part of the changing face of American Judaism, especially orthodoxy. For most of the 20th century, religiously observant Jews in America, like other affiliated Jews, organized their religious lives around synagogues and sometimes children’s schools. Over the last several decades, however, an increasingly large number of Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, Jews have formed their affiliations around yeshivas, the traditional Talmudic academies where adults study classical Jewish legal sources. The phenomenon has given rise to a new term, yeshivish, which describes a class of Orthodox Jews who see the yeshiva and the full-time study of Torah as the center of their spirituality.

The Portland Kollel, like others around the country, is an outpost of yeshivish Judaism. Its rabbis study on their own, but they also intend to attract unaffiliated or non-Orthodox Jews to their way of life. In this explicit goal, the kollels owe much to the outreach of Chabad Hasidism, as pioneered by the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

The sociological details help explain why the rabbis’ wives in Portland identified themselves as “rebbetzins,” the Yiddish word for a communal rabbi’s wife, not simply as women who happened to be married to men who happened to be qualified as rabbis. In the kollel, as in Chabad missions, the rabbi’s wife often serves as the outreach point for women — a logical model in a community that insists on separation of the sexes.

Given this context, the judge was probably right to treat the rebbetzins as clergy for purposes of the privilege against testifying. They would certainly have provided counseling and advice in much the same way their husbands might have done for men — indeed it’s possible they did more counseling than the rabbis, who tend to focus on teaching.

When the women asserted the privilege of clergy, they were apparently unworried about validating the ideal of female rabbis, which yeshivish Jews unqualifiedly reject. From their perspective, the role of a rebbetzin was clearly not that of a rabbi, and the state of Oregon’s clergy protection has no implications for their religious beliefs.

Yet in the world beyond the yeshivish, the question of female rabbis within orthodoxy is hotly contested. Yeshivat Maharat in New York recently became the first self-described Orthodox yeshiva ordaining women to the serve as clergy. To avoid violating Orthodox sensibilities, the yeshiva doesn’t calls its graduates rabbis, but it trains them in the same way Orthodox rabbis are trained at peer institutions that describe themselves as “open Orthodox.”

Unsurprisingly, more religiously conservative authorities have condemned Yeshivat Maharat, as indeed they’ve condemned open Orthodoxy. But more liberally minded Orthodox congregations and schools have employed its students and graduates. The struggle over women as clergy is thus on the way to becoming a definitional one within American Jewish orthodoxy.

Will the Oregon court’s decision affect that struggle? It won’t change the minds of yeshivish Jews. But the decision will be used by advocates of Orthodox Jewish female clergy to support the argument that contemporary Judaism demands that women play a significant, visible, formalized role in the Orthodox community.

The Portland rebbetzins do in fact show that women play a central part in contemporary yeshivish Judaism, especially when the goal is outreach to the broader Jewish world. In practice, the women are acting as clergy of a sort.

What divides the yeshivish community from open Orthodoxy is the latter’s willingness to formalize women’s leadership roles within the framework provided by traditional Jewish law. The goal of formalized equality is identifiably contemporary and American. The more the yeshivish world reaches out to contemporary American Jews, the more it will encounter the imperative to formalize. This is a new challenge for the movement — but as perhaps the fastest growing strand of American Judaism, it has the resources to address it.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Noah Feldman at nfeldman7@bloomberg.net

Is it a Mitzvah vs a meritorious act to say Kaddish?

Most kids are only too quick to grab the Yerusha (inheritance) from their parent(s). It’s not a Mtizvah to do so, but if you do, then you must give Tzedaka from it (that’s a Mitzvah).

They take Shiva (SEVEN days) and convert it to one minyan or two. That’s not seven days mourning. Don’t worry, they will take seven or six or five figure inheritance without asking the Rabbi much quicker. It’s just “too much” to sit for seven days and mourn the loss of a parent etc

With this in mind, I noticed the Jewish News had an advertisement stating it was a MITZVAH to say Kaddish. I’m not learned, but I don’t know of any Mitzvah to say Kaddish. It’s a well known Minhag to say it at least once a day. I don’t like the idea of taking money for Kaddish when that doesn’t also include trying to educate and carry out the idea that Shiva and Shloshim are Halochos Beruros (clear Mitzvah) and teach these. Earn your money.

Perhaps this is an old-fashioned approach, it needs to be a less opportunistic “chasing coffin” exercise and actually involve doing something about teaching people the Jewish way in Death and Mourning. It’s a Dying Minhag, unfortunately. “Give a few dollars to someone to say Kaddish” and all is good.

Oh yeah, Minhag Yisroel, Din. You can do better than that.

It’s a girl!

With thanks to Hashem we are happy to announce on Chai Av*, the birth of our new granddaughter to Rabbi Zalman and Talya Bassin (née Balbin), a sister to brother Jackie (יעקב מאיר נ״י ).


Isaac & Leonie Balbin;

Vicki Bassin (Sydney); and

Pinchas Bassin 

Great Grandparents

Elka Balbin;

Ivan & Ursula Cher;

Trudy Schneider (Sydney); and

Nora Bassin (Sydney)

  • יום הילולא של מורי ורבי הרה”ג איש החסד מו״ר הרב ברוך אברנוק זצ״ל

This is Rabbinic scholarship?

Meir Gershon (don’t forget the middle name) Rabi has responded to my post about his business transmogrifying Wrigleys into ‘it’s okay’ by describing the post and learned comments that followed as 

‘Brainless Judaism’

He even failed the detect sarcasm test.

I won’t stoop to calling him names or describing his learned decisions with invective. He craves this publicity.

As we say in Australia, I will let this ball through to the keeper. He’s been smashed for so many sixes, the opposing side has declared at 0/1000

What a sad story this private business has become

Rav Druckman on the Rav Riskin controversy

Someone I know well had an opportunity to speak with Rav Druckman about his view on the Rabbi Riskin and Chief Rabbinate disagreement. I have written about it herehere and here.

I have also written about my great displeasure that Rav Druckman supported Rav Elon here. I have not changed my mind one iota on the Rav Elon issue. He was found to have perpetrated inappropriate contact with some men/boys. I have expressed my negative view about Rav Druckman’s judgement on that issue and I continue to stand by it.

They did not ask Rav Druckman directly about his support for Rav Elon, but Rav Druckman’s aid, expressed the view that they had all begged Rav Druckman not to show any support for Rav Elon. It seems Rav Elon had come to Rav Druckman, crying and saying that he was not guilty of what some had claimed and that he gave Rav Druckman a promise that he would not even get close to such situations again.

Be that as it may, one can only hope, forlornly, that Rav Elon will not re-offend. That being said, I do not support Rav Druckman’s approach.

The other interesting part of the conversation was directly with the octogenarian Rav Druckman, who said that he literally loved Rav Riskin and had huge Kavod for him, but objected to his approach. Rav Druckman claimed that when he was involved in Geyrus, he taught (the mainly Russian) converts everything about Judaism and was guided by the strict Halacha, with the urgency to make sure that there wasn’t a genealogical mess in Israel as a result of an influx of Goyim (or “half Jews”). Rav Druckman felt that Rav Riskin’s approach would downplay the Chief Rabbinate’s role even further. Although Rav Druckman felt that the Chief Rabbinate was no where near an institution it should be and was highly politicised and controlled largely by Charedim, nonetheless, it was a State Institution that was a buffer against Conservative, Masorti and Reform elements in Israel. He felt for this reason alone, it would be better to continue to have one state Orthodox institution for conversion. I tend to agree. Throwing out the baby with the baby water may be more cataclysmic than any of Rabbi Riskin’s proposals and wish to break from the mould (sic) of Charedi hegemony.

Rav Druckman

More on the Belzer ban on woman driving

[Hat tip BA]

I’m not always a fan of Rabbi Yair Hoffman’s halachic analyses (in the sense that I don’t always agree במחילת הכבוד)

Here is his take from Yeshiva World News. I am not the greatest fan of the Be’er Moshe. He would never have been my Posek. There are some weird weird Tshuvos in his Sheylos U’Tshuvos, which I own and looked through years ago. Personally, I felt his brother, the Btzel Hachochma ex-Melbourne of Rockbrook Road! has left a bigger imprint with his Tshuvos on the dateline. Anyway, here is Rabbi Hoffman’s take. Belz wouldn’t take notice of Rav Elyashiv. Apart from being ex-Rabbanut, he was a litvak. They have their own Poskim. I’m pretty sure my Posek, Rav Schachter, would stay out of politics, and say we don’t do things like that and give reasons and leave it at that. He might even give a Shiur on it. Who knows.

Good think they don’t do Shidduchim with the Imahos. They would have been unTzniyusdik riding on a camel.

I’d love to see a world wide ban on boys under 18 going to Mikvah. That would be a much more important thing to deal with given what we are seeing the world over. A shower is a Mikvah iפ you are in long enough and so is a swimming pool, to me it’s good Chinuch to tell the kid why they can’t go. ובערת הרע מקרביך

The media has widely reported that a Belz Yeshiva in England has forbidden women from driving their children to Yeshiva. It was further reported that if the mothers do not comply, the children will be thrown out of Yeshiva.

In a letter sent to parents last week, seen by the Jewish Chronicle, they say there has been an increase in the number of mothers driving their children to school and add that this has led to “great resentment among parents of pupils of our [Hasidic] institutions”.

The letter says the ban, to come into force in the summer, is based on the recommendations of Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, the Belzer spiritual leader in Israel.

It says that if a mother has no other choice but to drive her child to school – for medical reasons, for example – she should “submit a request to the special committee to this effect and the committee shall consider her request.”

The question is what does halacha have to say about this?

It seems, of course, that the majority view of the Poskim is to allow it, as most Chareidi communities certainly allow women drivers. It was also the view of Rav Elyashiv to allow it. In a work entitled Ohel Yaakov (page 302), Rav Elyashiv zt”l is quoted as saying that although women should not drive in areas where it is not the custom to do so, there is no concern whatsoever in women driving elsewhere. This is certainly the predominate halachic view.

On the other hand, there are Poskim in the Chareidi community that have written otherwise. Rav Menashe Klein z”l in his Mishnah Halachos (Vol. XII #300) writes to forbid it, Rav Mordechai Gross Shlita a Rav in Bnei Brak also writes that it is a problem of Tznius in his work V’haya machanecha Kadosh (p. 15). The biggest authority who looks askance at the practice is Rav Shmuel Vosner z”l in his Shaivet haLevi (Vol. IV #1).
With due respect to the view of the latter three Poskim, however, I would like to suggest a source that indicates that, at least in the time of the Shulchan Aruch, it would have been permitted.


There is a fascinating Shulchan Aruch (CM 308:1) that discusses whether someone who rented a donkey may allow a woman to ride on it without having had specifically contracted to allow it. The conclusion is that the renter may not do so. Rav Yehoshua Ben Alechsander HaCohain, the author of the Smah (1555-1614) explains that the reason is because of weight pattern differentials between genders.

The Chasdei Dovid on the Tosefta in Bava Metziah (7:6) provides a different explanation. He writes that women are not as proficient at riding as men are. Therefore, the one who rented it did not have them in mind necessarily, and it would require that it be stipulated specifically that a woman is riding the donkey.
It is clear, however, that both according to the Smah and the Chasdei Dovid, there is no breach in modesty whatsoever in allowing a woman to ride a donkey. There is no question that riding a donkey in public allows for more public exposure than driving a car. We see, therefore, that from a strict halachic point of view, there was no basis whatsoever to restrict a woman from driving a car.

One could perhaps argue that we are on a higher spiritual level than the people who lived in 16th century Tzfas. However, the general understanding of things is that as each generation progresses we are on a lower level of spirituality, as seen from the Gemorah in Shabbos 112b: If the earlier generations were like angels than we are like men etc.

Aside from this, however, there are four factors that are perhaps relevant to the issue. Admittedly, some readers will vehemently disagree with these four points, but these points do bear on the issue at hand and must be considered. These issues should be discussed with intelligence and not emotion.


Another issue that must surely be taken into account is that when we forbid women to drive and they have a necessity to get to where they must go (doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, schools, and numerous other things) what ends up happening is that they need to take taxis. This creates an exposure that can, in our generation be much worse. This author is personally aware of two such incidences involving cab drivers that were, indeed, quite horrifying. Often these incidents are suppressed, however, and the general public is unaware of them. One can speak to Askanim to ascertain that these incidents are, in fact, quite real.
The communities in Eretz Yisroel are far different than those in Chutz La’Aretz in terms of distance. Our institutions in Chutz LaAretz are not “around the corner” as they are in Eretz Yisroel communities. We must be ever careful in creating a situation where we are forcing our women to be at the mercy of men. Logically, it is far safer for a woman to be able to travel by herself than to have to be dependant upon men, strangers or no strangers, for rides.


One way or the other, these children have to get to school. If the wife is not driving them, it will probably end up that the husband would be driving them. In the working Chareidi community in the United States, many of the men are attending shiurim in the morning or at least they are learning some of sort of Seder during these precious morning moments. Causing the men to drive car pool or to bring the children to school will invariably be the cause of Bitul Torah.


There is yet another very significant point that the new rule is affecting. The Gemorah in Brachos 17a poses a question as to how the women of Klal Yisroel earn merit. The underlying rationale behind the question is that since women are exempt from the Mtzvah of Talmud Torah, and the merit of that Mitzvah is so extraordinary, how then can women earn a parallel merit to their husbands? The Gemorah answers in that they bring their children to the Bnei Knishta to study.

The repercussions of this new change are that the special merit that was discussed in the Gemorah about how women can receive a super-charged merit akin to the merit of Talmud Torah will be undone. Do we really have a right to undermine the merit discussed in the Gemorah?


A final issue is also relevant. The great leaders of Torah were always looking to make things easier for Klal Yisroel. This is a manifestation of the Torah Mitzvah of v’ahavta l’rayacha kamocha. Thus, we see in the Gemorah in Moed Katan 27b how Rabban Gamliel haZakain, when he saw how Jews were burying their dead in the finest of clothing, declared that plain burial shrouds should be used instead. He did so to make life easier for Klal Yisroel. In Hilchos Shabbos, we see how the great Tzemach Tzedek (of 17th century Poland), cited by the Mogain Avrohom in the beginning of hilchos Shabbos, once ruled (responsa #28) that when local fishermen collude and lift up the price the fish excessively, a prohibition can be levied upon the consumption of fish on Shabbos. It may take a week or two or even three, but eventually the collective buying power of ordinary people would force the price back down. The Tzemach Tzedek did so to make life easier for Klal Yisroel.

This new rule seems to be making things more difficult for both the men and women of that community. There is no question, of course, that Tznius is a very important aspect of our Avodas Hashem. However, all of the above factors must be taken into account – especially when it is highly likely that the “cure” may create an even greater breach of Tznius.

May Hashem guide us all in all our endeavors.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

– See more at: http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/headlines-breaking-stories/314938/forbidding-women-drivers-a-halachic-analysis.html#sthash.hljNWIq3.VxypzTCD.dpuf

So some chassidim want to emulate Wahabist Saudi Arabian Islam

I knew they had to wear little hats on their Sheitels, were forced to wear boiling stockings with closed shoes despite long skirts or dresses but this new  decree from the Belzer Chassidim in London is something that I cannot comprehend. A Belzer woman is no longer permitted to drive a car! Is it a local decree or one that will need to be adhered to the world over. Clearly there is no concept in this sect of a decree that most can’t adhere to, because most is limited to themselves and perhaps Saudi’s. While my understanding of Judaism seeks to enfranchise women, bound by true halachic principles I cannot fathom this new stricture. Has there been fraternisation between women dropping their kids off at school and other men? Has someone committed the ‘sin’ of saying Good Morning? Sorry, Git Morgen. What is going on? Do they have a higher percentage of perverts? Do they have some problem with their men and women or are they reading psukim absolutely literally and ignoring established Halacha?

This weeks Australian Jewish news biases

  1. The valid question of why it took Scopus so long to write their letter warrants a response
  2. The point that incidents of pedophilia or failing to act on them are not a CHABAD phenomenon by any stretch is never made, except in a letter

  3. Jeremy Loebenstein and Sue Susskind were planning to resign well before the Royal Commission and at least one of them was procrastinating for other reasons.

  4. Shira Chadasha is not Orthodox despite Mark Baker’s claims, and their level of observance is not a flea on the real Shira Chadasha in Israel. It is conservadox if we need to assign nomenclature. Males who lead services there can be counted in a minyan but should not be awarded any kibud, according to the most authoritative modern orthodox poskim (let alone Charedi ones)

  5. The Jewish News failed to consider why TRUSTEES of Yeshivah should resign. I know from my old Shule Elwood, the trustees were not in the know about most things and were just bureaucratic signatures.

  6. Let’s hear from Henry ‘the lefty’ Herzog whether Mark Dreyfus is halachicaly Jewish. Doesn’t matter to me, but he is called that everywhere. Maybe he is.

  7. I’m sick of this social justice mantra from Mark Baker and his ‘all singing’ temple. What are the rest of us? Followers of unsocial injustice because we maintain fidelity with recognised Halacha?

  8. Cyprys hired the Hall from Betar to conduct his own private martial arts classes. God only knows what happened in there or thereafter. Thankfully one brave character told him to leave forever or he’d have him evicted. [This is a correction, it wasn’t a Betar sponsored function]

9. CSG who used Cyprys were strangely missing in the royal commission. What of their governance over many years?

I can go on but this paper tries so hard to fill its pages to the extent that  we are meant to be impressed by the prognostications of Danny Lamm, Ron Weiser and others have on the Israeli elections? I’d rather listen to Isi Leibler on Shalom TV; he is far more informed.

  1. Avi Yemini (née Waks) is given no air time despite 3 important videos he published

I’m temporarily indisposed

Hello readers,
I’m currently overseas and my mind is overflowing with blog posts. Being a much needed holiday, though, I’m avoiding writing so as to rest, and share proper attention to my wife. R Meir Deutsch has a very good post on the censorship of the Rambam which he has been prevented from publishing elsewhere. Meir, knowing the readership can I suggest you email it to me in Ivrit AND ENGLISH as it will have more impact. The issue is too important to allow fallow.


Guest post from R Meir Deutsch

(Apologies for sending this late but the internet in New York is slow and flakey)

                    פרשת ויגש                     מאיר דויטש            © כל הזכויות שמורות

נגמרו החלומות של יוסף, החלומות של השרים וגם פרעה סיים לחלום, ואנו חוזרים למציאות. יוסף, העבד היהודי נהיה המשנה למלך והאדם החשוב במצרים. יוסף קורא לאביו ולאחיו לבוא אליו לגלות, וה’ אומר ליעקב: “אל תירא מרדה מצרימה כי לגוי גדול אשימך שם” – שם בגלות תהיה גוי גדול.
“לגור בארץ באנו כי כבד הרעב בארץ”, לגור ולא להשתקע. החליפו את המגורים הניידים של אוהלים לבתים קבועים עם דלתות ומזוזות, נכסים שאינם ניידים. אם לא להשתקע באו, מדוע לא שב יעקב אל ארץ מגורי אביו בתום שנות הרעב – דהיינו אחר 5 שנים, ונשאר שם עד מותו – שבע עשרה שנה?

יעקב עם כל משפחתו ורכושו יורדים למצרים.
“ויקחו את מקניהם ואת רכושם אשר רכשו בארץ כנען ויבואו מצרימה יעקב וכל זרעו אתו.” ומפרט: “בניו ובני בניו אתו, בנותיו ובנות בניו וכל זרעו הביא אתו מצרימה.” (בראשית מו ו-ז),
ובהמשך, ספירת הבאים למצרים ממשפחת יעקב – “יעקב ובניו”.
בבני זילפה אנו מוצאים גד – 8, אשר -8. ס”ה 16 נפשות.
בבני בלהה : דן -2, נפתלי – 5. ס”ה 7 נפשות
בני רחל שבאו עתה מצרימה – בנימין 11 (הפורה שבין האחים).
בני לאה: ראובן – 5, שמעון -7, לוי -4, יהודה -6, יששכר – 5, זבולון -4, ודינה 1. ס”ה 32 נפשות.

כדי לא לטעות ולבדוק שהכול בסדר מבחינה מתמטית מציבים משוואות ובהן המספרים, או האותיות המסמלות את המספרים. גם רבותינו וגם המפרשים הציבו משוואות. יש לנו כאן מספר משוואות.

אם נסכם את המספרים במשוואה שלנו – של כול הנפשות – נגיע למספר האמור בפסוק – ששים ושש: “כל הנפש הבאה ליעקב מצרימה יוצאי ירכו, מלבד נשי בני יעקב, כל הנפש ששים ושש.”
בפסוק האחרון של המניין נאמר “[…] וכל הנפש לבית יעקב הבאה מצרימה שבעים.” כאן יש לנו משוואה נוספת הכוללת, מלבד אותם ששים ושש נפשות, את יעקב עצמו ויוסף ושני בניו. ברור מהפסוקים שחלק מהנתונים במשוואות הם זהים = אותם נתונים.

יש לנו גם את ילדי האימהות. במשוואה של ילדי לאה, אם אנו סופרים את ילדיה, כולל את דינה אחותם, אנו מוצאים 32 ולא כפי שאומר הפסוק “שלושים ושלוש.” אופס! המשוואה לא מסתדרת.

נחזור לספירה שלנו.
בעניין בני לאה, ידוע לנו הנאמר: “רבותינו פירשו: זו [החסרה מילדי לאה] יוכבד, שנולדה בין החומות [במצרים, אבל ההיריון התחיל מחוץ למצרים]” – ראה בראשית רבה ורש”י. לכן אם נוסיף את יוכבד במשוואה נקבל את המספר 33.

מי זאת יוכבד זו?
יוכבד היא בתו של לוי ואחות לגרשון, קהת ומררי.
קהת הוליד את עמרם הנושא לאישה את דודתו יוכבד, שהיא אייזן דודה, דהיינו הדודה הגדולה של משה אבל גם אימו. אם היא נולדה בכניסת יעקב למצריים, אז היא ילדה את משה בגיל 130 (הרמב”ן בפרשתנו דן באריכות בנושא התאריכים), נס גדול יותר מאשר כניסתה של שרה להריון.

רבותינו נוהגים לפתור כל בעיה ובעיה בנפרד. הם מציבים משוואות, כמו אצלנו בילדי לאה, בודקים את הסיכומים, אם לא מסתדר, אז מחפשים ומוצאים את הנעלם – כאן אצלנו את יוכבד. מפליא כי אין הם בודקים אם הדבר שהוסיפו, יוכבד, מתאים למשוואות האחרות. האם שינוי במשוואה אחת אינו משפיע על תוצאת משוואה אחרת.
אם נוסיף את יוכבד לילדי לאה נמצא אומנם את המספר המבוקש שלושים ושלוש. האם אין פתרון של בעיה אחת מביא אותנו לבעיה אחרת? על זה יכול להיאמר: “מה הואילו חכמים בתקנתם”. אם נאמץ דעה זו של יוכבד, הרי אנו נימצא בבעיה גדולה יותר. כאשר סיכמנו את בני יעקב הבאים מצרימה, כאשר בני לאה הסתכמו בשלושים ושתים קיבלנו את התוצאה שבפסוק – ששים ושש. אם נסכם עתה את הבאים מצרימה יוצאי ירך יעקב, כולל כאמור את יוכבד, נקבל ששים ושבע, מספר שאינו שווה לששים ושש שבפסוק! רבותינו פתרו את משוואת בני לאה, אבל בזה פגעו במשוואה של הבאים מצרימה.

כאשר נתקלים בבעיה כזו, אני מנסה להיעזר ברשב”ם. (חבל שברוב החומשים צנזרנו אותו בפרקים הראשונים של ספר בראשית). מה אומר הרשב”ם:

בבני לאה נאמר: “ואלה שמות בני ישראל הבאים מצרימה, יעקב ובניו […]”, דהיינו בספירה הראשונה של 32 צאצאי לאה יש לכלול את יעקב ונקבל 33. אין כל צורך להכניס את יוכבד, שכאמור אינה פותרת דבר רק מקשה עלינו יותר. גם רד”ק מאמץ דעה זאת של הרשב”ם – לא יוכבד.

גם אנו נעזוב את יוכבד לנפשה. הגענו למספרים הדרושים בלעדיה.
אם אין אנו זקוקים ליוכבד במשוואות שלנו, ייתכן וההיריון של אימה ולידתה של יוכבד היו במצריים שנים רבות לאחר ביאת יעקב, ולכן אין אנו זקוקים גם לנס של לידה בגיל 130.

לימוד תורה מתחלק לארבע – ידוע בשם פרד”ס = פשט, רמז, דרש וסוד. הדרש עצמו מחולק לשניים: דרש הלכה ודרש אגדה.
לאחר ההקדמה הקצרה ברצוני לחזור לפרשתנו. האם הצלחנו לתרץ הכול? במשוואות שלנו הכול מסתדר. הכול בא אל מקומו בשלום. אבל-

ברצוני לעבור לרגע לפסוק מו, ז, שם כתוב: “[…] ויבואו מצרימה יעקב וכל זרעו איתו. בניו ובני בניו איתו, בנותיו ובנות בניו, וכל זרעו הביא איתו מצרימה.” פירוט נרחב של הבאים.
נבדוק פסוק זה.
יעקב עצמו בא למצרים.
בניו ובני בניו מנויים בפרשה,
בנותיו, אומנם רק אחת דינה, מופיעה ברשימה.
מי אלה בנות בניו? ברשימה שלנו יש אחת – שרח בת אשר.
יש מפרשים שאומרים כי הייתה עוד אחת מלבד שרח בת אשר והיא אותה יוכבד שהכרנו קודם.
שהייתה רק בת אחת של יעקב קשה גם לרמב”ן. ילקוט שמעוני (פר’ וישב) כותב כי עם כל לידת בן ליעקב נולדה גם בת, לפיכך היו ליעקב יותר מבת אחת – דינה. אבל בין הבאים למצרים לא נמנו יותר מאשר אחת – דינה. על כך משיב הרמב”ן בציטוט מב”ר (פד יט): אמר רבי יהודה לאחיותיהן נישאו השבטים. כאשר מנו את הבאים למצרים הן לא נמנו, כי הנמנים היו “מלבד נשי בני יעקב”. יפה! פתרון אלגנטי. עכשיו כולם בעלי דם כחול.
האם הרמב”ן באמת פתר את הנאמר בפסוק שלנו? כל אותן בנות שנולדו עם בניו של יעקב נישאו לאחיהן. נשארת לנו רק השאלה: מדוע דינה נכללה במניין של יוצאי ירך יעקב שבאו מצרימה? הרי לפי דרש בב”ר (פ יא) – אותו ב”ר שמצטט הרמב”ן קודם – דינה נישאה לאחיה שמעון {ראה רש”י על בראשית מו, י}, והראיה – שאול, הבן של שמעון, הוא בן הכנענית = זאת דינה שנאנסה על ידי כנעני = שכם בן חמור. אבל שכם לא היה כנעני כלל, הוא היה חיווי. אם דינה היא עתה אשתו של שמעון היא צריכה להיכלל בין “מלבד נשי בני יעקב” ולא להיספר כמו כל אחיותיה האחרות, וכידוע לנו היא נמנית ונכללת בספירת הבאים.
אז הינה יש לנו סיפור נוסף מב”ר (פרשה פ) הדן שם בעניין בן הכנענית ומפנה אותנו לדינה: “רבנן אמרין נטלה שמעון [את דינה] וקברה בארץ כנען. ומתנות כהונה אומר שם: וקברה בארץ כנען כי שם מתה, וזולתה לא מת אחד מבני יעקב בארץ כנען, ועל שם כך נקראה הכנענית.” זה פותר את עניין שכם החווי אבל מתחיל להסתבך. הכיצד, לפי דעה זו, הצליחה דינה להגיע למצרים כאשר היא כבר מתה ונקברה בארץ כנען?
אם נאמץ את דברי בראשית רבה שבני יעקב נישאו לאחיותיהן, אז את השאלה האחרונה שלנו לא פתרנו. בעצם לנו, אם נאמץ את הפשט של הנאמר, אין כמעט בעיה, אם אין אנו מאמצים את יוכבד ולא את בנות יעקב שנישאו לאחיהן, ואת דינה כחיה וקיימת. מדוע לא להישאר עם הפשט של הנאמר? גם חזקוני, אבן עזרא ורד”ק אומרים שהזכיר את בן הכנענית כי שמעון עשה שלא כהוגן ולא קיבל את הציווי של אברהם לא לקחת כנעניות – אין כל צורך לערב את בן הכנענית ולהדביק את התואר לדינה. שמעון, כמו אחיו יהודה, נשא לאישה אישה כנענית, למרות שסבא רבה שלו, אברהם, התנגד לקחת מהן אישה ושלח את אליעזר לחפש אישה לבנו יצחק שלא מבנות כנען. גם יצחק ציווה את יעקב “לא תיקח אישה מבנות כנען.” (בראשית כז ב)
השאלה שנשארת היא מדוע בנות יעקב ובנות בניו ברבים כאשר יש רק אחת – בת =דינה, ובת בנו=שרח? על שאלה זו ניתן התירוץ – זה דרכו של מקרא כאשר מדבר ברבים. הרי כשמנה כאן את בני דן הוא כותב: “ובני דן חושים.” לשון רבים למרות שיש רק אחד.

מדרש אגדה מספר לנו אגדות והסברים – הזיות וחלומות. כפי שראינו, הפירוש לפי אגדות מביא אותנו לבעיות נוספות ולא לפתרון בעיות. דיברנו על בני דן חושים – ברבים. מה אומר בראשית רבה, פר’ צד, ה: בתורתו של רבי מאיר כתוב ובן דן חושים.

עלינו לזכור את מה שאומרת הגמרא: “אין מקרא יוצא מידי פשוטו” (שבת סג, ע”א).

יש גם הסברים נחמדים במדרש רבה. אקח דוגמה אחת של מדרש רבה לפרשתנו. כאן משתמש המדרש במשל על פסוק במשלי:
“מים עמוקים עצה בלב איש, ואיש תבונות ידלנה (משלי כ ה). אומר המדרש: משל לבאר עמוקה מליאה צונן והיו מימיה צוננים ויפין, ולא היתה בריה יכולה לשתות הימנה, בא אחד וקשר חבל בחבל ונימה בנימה. משחה במשיחה ודלה הימנה ושתה, התחילו הכל דולים ממנה ושותים ממנה” (בראשית רבה פרשת ויגש פרשה צג).

Artscroll, censorship and the Rashbam

By R Meir Deutsch

ידוע על צנזור הרשב”ם. מעניין הוא כי עתה, היום, עדיין מצנזרים.
האם “ארטסקרול” הפך לצנזור? מי הסמיך אותם לכך? האם יצנזרו מחר את התנ”ך? את התלמוד?


הוצאה יכולה להחליט לא לפרסם את אחד המפרשים, אבל לומר כי זה הפירוש של הרשב”ם כאשר מקצצים חלק מדבריו? מי שיצטט את הרשב”ם יקבל הערות מקוראי חומשי ארטסקרול שיאמרו הרי אינך מצטט את הרשב”ם ?
צנזור מאין זה הוא בעצם סילוף דבריו של הרשב”ם.

לדעתי יהיה זה ראוי להוציא חרם על הוצאת “ארטסקרול” על ידי כל רבני ישראל (במיוחד רבני ארה”ב).

How does one react to tragedy in an authentic Jewish manner

We say, many times, מפני חטאינו גלינו מארצנו. This is undeniable, and a basic tenet of Judaism. It goes to the concept of שכר ועונש Reward and Punishment (with apologies to Camus) and without which there could never be בחירה חפשית, free choice. Mankind was handed the choice, and through those choices, God through his נסתרות, his Godly account book, decides when, where and how we will get what is “coming to us”.

To pretend that any human being can fathom Godly logic is simply heretical in my opinion. It implies that using one’s own logic and calculations they understand the Godly ledger and plan. This is tantamount to imagining that a human being can work at that level, and that is heresy. We are given hints, advice, and when there was נבואה the direct word from God. We were also given the gift of תשובה which for matters between Man and God, we have the capability of being forgiven at opportune times, or even יש קונה עולמו בשעה אחת. It’s an involved process as outlined by the Rambam in הלכות תשובה, but it’s do-able. If we are earnest, Hashem is there. For matters between man and man, it is more difficult. Man’s capacity to forgive, despite the dictum of והלכת בדרכיו is disturbed by man’s frailties and predilections. Accordingly, one may have all the correct intentions, and yet, the person from whom one seek forgiveness refuses your entreaties (there are הלכות about how many times one must seek such forgiveness but ואכמ’’לֹ this is not the place to discuss these).

Who can say why Hashem hid his face so to speak, and allowed an atrocity such as the one in Har Nof to go ahead? The Rambam says that those who attempt to ascribe reason are מאוס they are despicable.

There may be some imbued with temporary phases of רוח הקודש and even non Jews who are given the power to see into the future (Bilaam is a famous example). But what does that mean to the public person in the street?

I can’t speak for the man or woman in the street, but I can speak for myself. My own view is that if a universally respected Rov, whether they are a Kabbalist, a Rebbe or a Rov, or whether it is one’s Rav Hamuvhak, one’s “special” Rabbi, suggests that following events, a person, each person, should retrospect, and seek to improve themselves in ways that actually may and will vary according to the vagaries of one’s pattern of sin needing improvement, then this is correct and proper. I also think that the timing for such statements is critical, and in fact, need not be tied in specific terms to a particular incident. When we feel most vulnerable, we are most amenable to listen, in general. Do we still feel their pain after Shiva or Shloshim?

A Rabbi who thinks they know “the reason for the Holocaust” or “the reason for the Chmelnitzki massacres” or “the three boys who were kidnapped at bus stop and murdered” or the Rabonim גזע תרשישים butchered while davening in Tallis and Tefillin is as close to an heretic as I can imagine. Unless they can show consistent רוח הקודש and some accompanying supernatural influence from above that can be tested and verified, what gives them the knowledge or power to be able to second guess God? This, to me is the height of חוצפה and bad manners.

Somebody once asked the Klausenberger Rebbe why he does not go to the demonstrations where they shout שבת and throw stones (who did they learn this stone throwing tactic from?). He shrugged his shoulders. The questioner was not satisfied and pressed on by saying that it was a Torah command to complain about those who are less observant in certain ways. The Klausenberger Rebbe answered, nu, did your protests help? Did they do any good? We already saw from Ya’akov Avinu, and presumably the Malach in Rivkah’s tummy, that when Eisav wants to go into a house of Avoda Zora, any yelling and screaming didn’t help. To admonish implies there needs to be a reasonable chance that the admonishment will help. If it doesn’t, you may well be pushing the person further away from Judaism. Achronim pasken this way L’Maaseh.

We saw three grades of reaction to this tragedy. The first was from the שונאי ישראל the arch haters of Jewry, the Neturei Karta. These low lifes had the unmitigated gall to actually attempt to comfort the family of the ישמאלי who had topped himself, and about whom the modern blood libel that “the Jews killed him” was swallowed “hook line and sinker.” They have been put in Cherem by many. Do they exist in Melbourne? Yes, they most certainly do.

The next grade of reaction was that of one of the Satmar Rebbes. There are two. They fought and continue to fight. As usual his thoroughly offensive comments were not only extremist, but dripping with a lack of compassion. In the midst of the Shiva for יראים and שלימים, not to mention the Druze who is in גן עדן as one of the חסידי אומות העלם he trotted out the headline grabbing “reason” that is the hallmark of the vacuous movement known as Satmar. Who are they, and who is he, that he knows why Hashem allows things to happen? Does he also go public with his advice to his own Kehilla about the hushed pedophilia in that community? What is the reason for such? Which lunatic would  claim that the reason for that phenomenon is due to the fact that they are anti the State of Israel when their Rebbe, R’ Yoel was saved by Zionists whom he despised! It’s all documented, not by artscroll of course. They tell me that R’ Yoel was not such an extremist in reality, and that when he heard of the death of any Jewish soul, would weep uncontrollably. I hope there was not a remote smell of triumphalism in the Satmar community that the murders in Har Nof, and the problems in Yerusholayim are due to “we are right, and you are all wrong”. That attitude stinks to high hell. If R’ Yoel had רוח הקודש why did he go to Israel and leave penniless. He failed dismally in Israel. Did he make a mistake? Are you allowed to say such things?

The third grade of reaction was the incredible one from the actual אלמנות of the slain Rabbis. They didn’t want any arguments or finger-pointing over Shabbos. They wanted no Loshon Hora or Rechilus or speaking ill of others. For this reason, in my home, their wish was respected and we tried our outmost to expel any negativity, and personally I did the same. This post would have been written on Friday, but as soon as I received their request, I was frozen, and resisted. Are there Satmar in Melbourne? Plenty.

We all have much on which to improve.

Stop being God’s accountant. Be your own accountant. Each of us knows exactly the aspects which we need to improve. If you don’t, that’s your first problem. It isn’t the same for everybody, nor can we be lumped into some group, all transgressing certain or the same sins.

Faith, according to Rav Soloveitchik, is about not questioning. It is about axiomatic acceptance. The only time questioning is a useful activity is if one has accepted the axioms, and uses questioning to enhance their understanding of the ways of Hashem.

I refrained from posting pictures of the first two grades of people because frankly, they don’t deserve a bit or byte. Perhaps a bite according to the Gemora.

How do you see comments?

On Shabbos someone approached me and said they had wanted to see the comments thus far and add their own. The trick is to click on the TITLE of an article and then the comments should be below (if there are any).

To be honest, I only know about comments because I get an email telling me there is one and showing me what the comment is.

When you show all the comments by default, I think you take up valuable real estate. That being said, I am a believer that all hypertext links should be underlined. Nobody would know to click on the title of the article to see more. That’s just plain bad UI design (something I’m not responsible for, unless I’ve missed some option somewhere)

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!

%d bloggers like this: