Guest post from R’ Meir Deutsch in response to my post on R’ Cardozo on Tisha B’Av

R Meir’s reactions to my original post (which is in italicised black) are in red. My reactions to R’ Meir are in blue

About your article concerning Tischa b’Av, here are some of my observations.
About your AL CHETs (“Who can” and “Who cannot”); you mention daily events at present, not Tisha B’Av ones. Maybe we should read it on Yom Ha’Atzmaut or on its eve, Yom Ha’Zikaron to remind us that we were a nation before and take care at present that we remain one?

These are just my thoughts.

I see all terrible things, whether remembered or not remembered encapsulated in the overarching Galus. Galus, is of course not just a geographical location. It certainly includes geographic considerations which are reflected by more than 200 Mitzvos which only apply, many Rabbinically at the moment, only in our Holy Land. I stress our Holy Land because it remains Holy to this day according to Halacha. However, even with the Second Beis Hamikdosh, while some Jews lived in the Diaspora (something I find difficult to comprehend) and others actually defiled it in horrible ways that are beyond belief (as described in the Medrash), my personal feeling has always been that whilst steps are taken, miracles happen, and renaissance occurs, all of that is secondary to the eschatological final redemption. On Tisha B’Av, bdavka, I can’t help but think that גלינו מארצינו has both aspects, and is a sad reality. It is one day of mourning, akin to Shiva, where we remember עטרת ראשינו which is not perched in its proper place. And while we have דומה דודי כצבי and are sometimes seemingly teased in directions of euphoria, we then find ourselves, yes even the second-rate ones like me sitting in Australia, depressed about the state of our existence. It extends through the trio: תורת ישראל, עם ישראל and ארץ ישראל all of which portray levels of Galut which should not make it sensible to join our fellow Jews, and recite Eicha together, in a low light, and mournful tone. The qualitative aspect cannot be seen to be ideal today, and just like one doesn’t read Bereishis literally, someone of the stature of Rabbi Cardozo, would surely be able to see between lines, and interpret poetically and midrashically, without the feelings of (not a quote) “what am I doing in Shule with everyone saying Eicha, let me say it alone at home, as it’s challenging to swallow”

I read with incredulity the continuing slide to the left

What do you mean by that? .ימין ושמאל תפרוצי. What is meant by left. by respected people, such as Rabbi Dr Nathan Lopez Cardozo

Rabbi Dr Cardozo is a thinker. This is a hallmark of those with intellect. At the same time intellect may preclude a level of Bittul. I don’t have his intellect, but I’m often accused of not being able to exhibit Bittul. Indeed, this week’s parsha includes a wonderful vort from Rav Soloveitchik which sums up this concept. I wrote it for another forum and will put it up before Shabbos. It tends to be those who are more inclined to mould judaism into new trends, that I refer to as the left. Open Orthodoxy and Partnership Minyanim, and things of that nature (as opposed to Yoatzot Halacha) are the types of things which I call “left” wing. Rabbi Benny Lau is another who I see sometimes express himself this way. I don’t see Rabonim who live in this world and are not cloistered in an attic, like Mori V’Rabbi Rav Hershel Schachter, as ‘right wing fundamentalists’. He is at YU and heads Psak at the OU, and in all my correspondence with him, I have found him to be as straight as an arrow, and moderate, maintaining the strong Menorah base transmitted to him from Rav Soloveitchik. One thing he isn’t, is a philosopher.

Who can not find a day to be sad when a Jew from Jerusalem is called up to the Torah and is asked “what is your name”, and they answer “Chaim”. And after being asked “Ben?” they say “Ben Esrim V’shmoneh”? It’s not funny.

On the other hand, a relative of mine was called up in the diaspora. He said his name: Ra’anan Lior ben Avraham, the Gabai said: not your secular name, your Hebrew name.

I find that just as sad. It’s not a contest. It’s a reflection of the poor quality of Jewish Education that the Mapai have managed to infuse into Israeli society and which the religious zionists ignored for too long while they were perhaps over focussed on outposts at the expense of spreading good Jewish education in Tel Aviv etc

I am not sure how Rabbi Cardozo qualitatively defines the Messianic era, but it seems to me, if he enunciated that, he’d have no issue, on the saddest day of the year, to join in the Shiva, that we all take part in. Don’t we eat meat and drink wine during the Shiva? On Yahrzeit we have a Kiddush (not our minhag). It is true, that our Rabbis also promised us that this will be transformed to a day of Yom Tov. We still do not have a Temple, but we have a Yerushalayim. Is it the time to transform it to a Yom Tov?

We changed the “l’Shana ha’Ba’a Bi’Yrushalayim” to “l’Shana ha’Ba’a Bi’Yrushalayim HABNUYA” the addition is for the Temple – we already are in Yerushalayim.

I feel this is syntactic and in fact supports my comments and not opposes them. Halachically, it is true, that there are ramifications being in Yerushalayim: for example Korban Pesach.

Rabbi Cardozo, surely you aren’t suggesting you see the Yom Tov, but are blind to the myriad of reasons to be sad?

I attend Yom Hashoa out of solidarity, but my real Yom Hashoa tacks onto Tisha B’Av. Each one with his own feelings and customs.

I ask myself: Why would G-d destroy HIS home? It was a place where the Jews worshiped G-d, and not a home of his people. I do not know G-d’s intentions, but shall try my understandings or reasoning. Can one imagine anyone bringing today sacrifices? How would Judaism look if they did? Can it be that G-d’s intention was to stop those sacrifices, and the best way was to destroy the building? ונשלמה פרים שפתינו.

These are questions beyond our human understanding. The Rambam who to my knowledge is the only one who codifies the Halachos of Beis Habechirah and the times of the Mashiach, is certainly not suggesting that there won’t be sacrifices. I know there are those who interpret Rav Kook as implying there may be Korbanos Mincha. At the end of the day, as the Rambam notes, we lack a certain Mesora for these times, because they were hidden from us, and could not have been passed down. He says explicitly words that “all these details we will truly properly know at the time when they happen”

About Yom Hashoa: I was interviewed by GINZACH KIDUSH HASHEM (the Charedi Yad Vashem), and asked: how can you explain the Shoah? My reply was:

We have quite a limited view of the world and its future, as against G-d who has a wider one. At the destruction of the Temple, the Jews were driven out of their city Jerusalem, many were killed others dispersed among the Nations, and many were sold to slavery. They did not enjoy those days, they suffered quite a bit. They probably said Kinot. But G-d had a wider view; my children are going to dwell all over the globe, learn different trades and cultures. Had we stayed in our country, with the Temple, I (or probably also you) would surely dwell in my tent in the Negev as a shepherd looking after my flock – just like a Bedouin. The same with the holocaust, I can still not see the whole picture, but one is that the Jews, after the terrible holocaust, are again a NATION with their own country. Would the world grant us a piece of land if there was no holocaust? Would the Jews come to Eretz Yisrael, the land of desert and camels? Maybe it isn’t yet a full Geula, but surely a beginning. Why did we need six million sacrifices? Would not one million or fewer be enough? Please do not put this question to me. I am not G-d’s accountant.

By the way, in one of the Agudat Yisrael Knesiot (5679 Zurich) there was a discussion whether Jews are a Mosaic sect or a Nation! Because of such a question my father in law, and other German Rabbis left Agudat Yisrael. I thought that Yetziat Mitzraim was our transformation from a nomadic tribe into a Nation. Was I wrong?

I’m a second generation holocaust generation, but feel it acutely, likely due to the fact that for most of my life, I was surrounded only by holocaust survivors, who would challenge my religiosity, even when I was 10 years of age and ask me questions that I could not and dared not answer. It is certainly the case that history would record that an outcome of the holocaust was the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland. These are happenings that I don’t understand either. Do I have to pay 6 million lives to acquire something that we have already been promised? Did God not have other more gentle ways to somehow not interfere and yet interfere in the ways of the world so we would have the same outcome? Why didn’t he send Eliyahu down before the final solution and say ENOUGH. ושבו בנים לגבולם. I don’t know and I don’t believe anyone knows, despite the Satmar and other rhetoric. Indeed, on Tisha B’Av, as we sit on the eve of the full redemption, we can only sit exasperated while more human korbanos occur, and anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism, and Tisha B’Av encompasses all that.

Sure, on Yom Ha’atzmaut and on Yom Yerushalayim, when I was a student in Israel, I celebrated. I went to Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav, and euphorically danced all the way to the Kosel, and for the entire night danced until we davened Vatikin. We know how important it is to sing and give praise. Chizkiyahu Hamelech would have been Mashiach if he had sung, as openly stated by the Gemora in Sanhedrin (from memory).

I just expressed my humble thoughts.

And I thank you so much for sharing them. I heard second-hand, that Rabbi Cardozo felt I had not understood his points. That maybe so. As it is the Yohr Tzeit of the famed R’ Chaim Brisker now, I’d like to express that his Neshomo should have an Aliya. He revolutionised Torah learning.

Post Tisha B’Av thoughts reacting to Rabbi Dr Nathan Lopez Cardozo

I read with incredulity the continuing slide to the left by respected people, such as Rabbi Dr Nathan Lopez Cardozo, in his incredulous blog post on Tisha B’Av, where he finds it difficult to mourn because Jerusalem is in a state of such glory. I won’t go through it, piece by piece, and rebut each of his arguments. I will note that Rav Goren, whilst not sliding to the left attempted to make changes to the prayer of Nachem, especially after Jerusalem was perceived as being as united.

I had no difficulty seeing the many areas in our Jewish experience that warrant a sombre, halachically mourning-oriented, day.

It is true, that I’m not poetically inclined, and the piyutim of Kinos are mostly unfathomable to me, despite the Rav Soloveitchik publication on Kinos. Perhaps if I’d spent ten years listening to the Rav on Kinos, during his marathon expositions, I’d develop a keen sense. Instead, I see those who need to go to work, rushing through, saying words they often don’t understand, and skipping around.

In the days of my youth, I saw old Chabad Chassidim sit until mid-day and longer and say each word carefully. The Aveylus/mourning of Tisha B’Av was palpable. I will never forget Rav Betzalel Wilshansky, a Chasid of the Rashab, unable to say more than three or four words of the Haftora without breaking out into uncontrollable weeping. Sure, he would have lived through the hell of Russian Jewish existence, but I have no doubt that his thoughts transcended that experience.

We are taught to be positive at all times. It’s good for the psyche, “good” for bringing up children, and is the modern mantra. When taken to the extreme, though, it is nothing more than another level of extremism, removed from reality. One must call ‘a spade a spade’ at times, and although we need to choose our moments carefully, and be cognisant of the differences of each child, and the new environment of social networking and internet and will be part of their lives, we must stay an anchor as parents and educators in ensuring the transmission of the Mesora from generation to generation. I believe the role of a parent and educator is arguably harder today than it has been. The information explosion, creates so many poorly researched and badly argued propositions. The Neshama is clouded by these manifestations. People try to now reach the Neshama, and break through to reach it, using new devices. They resort to different approaches: including neo-hippy style religion, as manifested through indie/rap/alternative modes of music. They resort to mindfulness, when they actually practice mindlessness–an evacuation of the cerebral and emotional trials and tribulations that need to be dealt with, each according to their particularised approach.

The home has become not so much a bastion of home cooking, and family get togethers for important events. People seek to eat out. They want to taste the koshered delicacies that they believe they have missed, and will fill their lives with more meaningful experience. Do I really need Facon, or Ben Pekuah farms?

How many of us sit down once a week, and learn Torah with our children, even after they are married. Technology allows us to do that by FaceTime, Skype or other means. Why not? What is the method of galvanising the chains of Mesora between us and our offspring.

Which brings me to Yerusholayim Ir HaKodesh. I do not want to fall into the pitfall of the spies and speak badly about the city. It is THE city in Israel where I feel a certain spiritual energy rising from the soles of my feet and encompassing my body. At the same time it is racked with so many problems. There are issues of violent fundamentalists. There are issues of a sad divide between Religious and Secular; the latter caused by the paucity of genuine love of a fellow jew. Love arises when commonality is seen clearly despite difference. If one is unable to break through and sense the Neshoma of the secular Jew and love that person because they share that self-same Neshoma with themselves, then they are blinded. They are not blinded by the light. They are blinded by the darkness.

I do not think anyone who transgresses should be made to feel unwelcome, today. There are very few old-fashioned Apikorsim, people who actually know enough to be called an Apikorus. At the same time, who can be comfortable with the concept of PRIDE (as opposed to respect for difference) that is visible with public sexual overtones?

Who can not find a day to be sad because Holocaust survivors who live in the State, are still not treated well?

Who can not find a day to be sad when the fake historiographers attempt to whitewash the essential Jewish Connection to the Har Habayis?

Who can not find a day to be sad when adding a Kinna to remember the horrors of the Holocaust?

Who can not find a day to be sad when the things that unite different religious groups, despite being greater than the things that divide, do not conquer?

Who can not find a day to be sad when Jerusalem, “The Light of the World”, is not seen that way by the world at large?

Who can not find a day to be sad when a Jew from Jerusalem is called up to the Torah and is asked “what is your name”, and they answer “Chaim”. And after being asked “Ben?” they say “Ben Esrim V’shmoneh”? It’s not funny.

Who can not find a day to be sad when those Jews who have some Rabbinic permission to walk at certain parts of the Temple Mount may not, according to law, even project a semblance of prayer!

Who can not find a day to be sad when reading the story of Kamtza and Bat Kamtza and realising that these things continue to go on today through so-called neutral Jewish NGOs? Do we need to unmask Bernie Sanders?

Who can not find a day to be sad when we see a George Soros or a New Israel Fund, that seeks to force an unrealistic solution with no second partner?

Who can not find a day to be sad when the new word for Anti Semite, is Anti Zionist? They are Anti Har Habayis, and our so-called peace partners in Jordan blame us for incitement when this is palpably a blatant lie

Who can not find a day to be sad, knowing that in the last year, incidents involving stabbings, especially in Jerusalem were an almost daily occurrence, and of course, the world blames the Jewish “Zionists” for their defence against such?

Who can’t see the rupture being created by Open Orthodoxy, as it morphs into the new Conservative movement?

Who can’t see that isms, such as Feminism, are used to tortuously twist Halacha, rather than the other way around?

Who can not find meaning in Eicha, and Medrash Eicha that doesn’t reflect on all the above and more? Why sit at home? Is this a protest against the prescribed Mesora of the Availus of Tisha B’Av, which parallels the Availus of Shiva?

Who can not find reason to be sad that when someone passes away, we increasingly follow the non-Jewish practice of “celebrating!” their life. The Rabbis decreed there was a time for introspectional mourning. Shiva suddenly becomes one day. In Australia, they like to get drunk after a funeral as if to wash away the sorrow. There is a time to reflect. It is cathartic. One goes to the Shiva house. One does not stay at home. For the first three days one doesn’t speak first. We wait for the mourner to speak IF they feel like it. The celebration of their life isn’t a one time event. Following the year, it is a daily remembrance of tears interlaced with good stories and lessons, through the prism of the life history of the departed.

I admit, it is hard to imagine what life will FEEL like once the Messianic era does formally occur. It has not. The sheep does not sleep near the wolf in peace. The world is a terrified enclosure, and civilians are being slaughtered everywhere “all in the name of religion”.

I am not sure how Rabbi Cardozo qualitatively defines the Messianic era, but it seems to me, if he enunciated that, he’d have no issue, on the saddest day of the year, to join in the Shiva, that we all take part in. It is true, that our Rabbis also promised us that this will be transformed to a day of Yom Tov.

Rabbi Cardozo, surely you aren’t suggesting you see the Yom Tov, but are blind to the myriad of reasons to be sad?

I attend Yom Hashoa out of solidarity, but my real Yom Hashoa tacks onto Tisha B’Av.

I look forward to the full and real redemption: each day: so should Rabbi Cardozo.

Brushing teeth on Tisha B’Av

I know that most Poskim forbid it. If my hands are dirty, then I am permitted to remove the dirt with water and soap if necessary, preferably up to the knuckles if possible.

Now that we know that our teeth are actually dirty with plaque.

From Wikipedia

Components of plaque

Plaque consists of microorganisms and extracellular matrix.
The microorganisms that form the biofilm are mainly Streptococcus mutans and anaerobes, with the composition varying by location in the mouth. Examples of such anaerobes include fusobacterium and actinobacteria.
The extracellular matrix contains proteins, long chain polysaccharides and lipids.
The microorganisms present in dental plaque are all naturally present in the oral cavity, and are normally harmless. However, failure to remove plaque by regular tooth brushing means that they are allowed to build up in a thick layer. Those microorganisms nearest the tooth surface convert to anaerobic respiration; it is in this state that they start to produce acids.
Acids released from dental plaque lead to demineralization of the adjacent tooth surface, and consequently to dental caries. Saliva is also unable to penetrate the build-up of plaque and thus cannot act to neutralize the acid produced by the bacteria and remineralize the tooth surface.
They also cause irritation of the gums around the teeth that could lead to gingivitis, periodontal disease and tooth loss.
Plaque build up can also become mineralized and form calculus (tartar).

I understand that on Yom Kippur we have an additional issue of Inuy, afflicting oneself.

ילמדינו רבינו
Why isn’t plaque considered like “dirt” that may be removed?
It could be argued that nobody, even a dog, would swallow tooth paste let alone listerine.
Why not allow brushing with a half a cupful of listerine or similar?

Yom Hashoa

I have just returned from Monash University where the Melbourne Jewish Community commemorated Yom Hashoa, remembering the 6 million Jews who were murdered by the Nazis, may their names be blotted. Many families were seen attending together with a parent or grandparent, who are holocaust survivors. What person would not join their parent or grandparent on such an occasion? Sadly, I witnessed some families attend, as they always did, only this time without the Holocaust survivor in tow. Alas, the survivor had gone to meet their maker.

When I was a boy, attending this event was almost a punishment. It used to be held at Dallas Brooks Hall and maybe even Festival Hall before that. It tarried for what seemed an eternity. One could barely hear a non-Yiddish phrase. The evening was full of long speeches by people who spoke only the Queen’s Yiddish—the Litvishe style Yiddish so consummately enunciated by Bundists. I used to pray for the choir of old men and heaving women to emerge, for I knew that when they plodded onto the stage, it was time to sing the famous Partisan Song, that haunting melody forever etched in my mind. The lyrics were composed by Hirsh Glick, and tonight in Melbourne, we heard from Glick’s friend, Phil Maisel, formerly incarcerated in the Vilna Ghetto, who personally related the scene when Glick wrote the poem, thereafter describing how Glick was murdered by Estonian prison guards after trying to escape with a group of 40 inmates.

The Rav said that every time a Jew stops and remembers the Holocaust he fulfills the positive Torah command of remembering Amalek, זכור את אשר עשה לך עמלק. Times have changed. We no longer endure the long and winding speeches mainly from members of the Bund. We have also lost the heart-rending and eloquent speech from Rav Chaim Gutnick ז’ל who captivated every heart on these occasions, often on the theme of the dry bones coming to life, the עצמות היבישות of the נביא יחזקאל. Instead, the devices of multi-media are intermeshed with chosen personal testimony, interesting narrative, and soulful choirs. The commemoration does not take long, is usually very powerful, and serves the purpose of transporting many of us, back in time, amongst the Nazi killing fields.

The traditional universal day of mourning to remember and mourn Jewish tragedy is Tisha B’Av. The Rav strongly felt that Tisha B’Av should also be the day when the Holocaust is remembered. When Menachem Begin, then Prime Minister of the State of Israel, visited the Rav, one of the topics they discussed was contemporary modes of Holocaust commemoration. The Begin and Soloveitchik families were very close in Brisk, with Menachem Begin’s father being R’ Chaim Brisker’s Gabay. The Rav reportedly convinced Begin to press the Knesset to adopt Tisha B’Av as the (correct) day to also commemorate the Holocaust. A young Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, was also present at the Rav’s house at that meeting, as he describes in his wonderful collection of essays entitled “Listening to God” (I highly recommend his book). Upon returning to Israel, Begin, however, faced oppostion to this concept on practical grounds, because Israeli school children would be on holidays on Tisha B’Av and Ministers felt that the commemoration would be largely uneventful with the secular public.

Ironically, whilst the Kinos on Tisha B’Av are literally crying out for a Kina related to the Holocaust, and I have been personally moved by the Kina authored by the Bobover Rebbe ז’ל, the Rav (like his Uncle R’ Velvel ז’ל but for a different reason) was opposed to us adding new Kinos since we don’t have the ability to write with the requisite authority and style. The Chassidic genre, like the Bobover Rebbe, had no trouble adding a Kina and neither did the German-derived Rabbi Schwab ז’ל of Breuer’s Shule.

An interesting question can be asked: during the time of the second beis hamikdash, did the Jews fast on Tisha B’Av? On the one hand, the first temple was destroyed, and the level of miracles was lower in the second beis hamikdash. On the other hand, is it not anachronistic to mourn the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash whilst the second Beis Hamikdash is standing and in use? It appears that both Rashi and the Ritva in Gemora Rosh Hashono 18B held that during the second beis hamikdash they did not fast on Tisha B’Av. On the other hand, the Rambam in his Pirush Hamishnayos to the first perek of Rosh Hashono, in the third Mishna, opines that the Jews did observe Tisha B’Av even during the time of the second Beis Hamikdash. The reason would seem to be, that although we regained the right to bring Korbanos (sacrifices) in the second Beish Hamikdash, after the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash, there has been and there is no end to the tragedies that befell and continued to befall our people. The Rambam held that until the Redemption, there is a direct link beginning from the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash extending until our times. Tisha B’Av essentially commemorates the beginning of, and the continuation of, Jewish suffering. The second beis hamikdash was a temporary hiatus; it did not signal an end to Jewish suffering and so the Jews, according to the Rambam continued to fast.

The Rav, perhaps following the Rambam, felt that no new mournful days should be added and that Tisha B’Av was more than just the destruction of the Temple. Tisha B’Av signified both the beginning and the continued suffering of the Jewish nations, reaching the contemporary unfathomable holocaust of our generation.

The Gemora in Avoda Zara 17A relates the famous story of R’ Elazar Ben Durdaya. R’ Elazar performed an intense level of repentance after an encounter with a famous harlot. This lady had indicated that R’ Elazar’s Teshuva would never be accepted in Heaven. R’ Elazar tried to summon all manner of help to effect T’shuva, after which he finally came to the realisation that the only way he could do T’shuva would be through his own efforts. With that cognisance, he sat down on top of a mountain and cried until his soul left him. A Heavenly voice proclaimed that Rav Elazar Ben Durdaya had entered Olam Habo –the World to Come. When Rebbi heard this story, he began crying and remarked,

“There are some who acquire their share of Olom Habo in just a moment.”

יש קונה עולמו בשעה אחת

Many ask why Rebbi cried. Surely he should have been happy that R’ Elazar Ben Durdaya had been accepted to Heaven with a “clean slate”. Reb Chaim Shmulevitz ז’ל explains that Rebbi cried in recognition of universal human frailty. Each one of us potentially experiences a gripping moment in our lives that is capable of transforming our thoughts and deeds. Rebbi cried because so few of us are able to recognise or “seize the moment”. Our generation lives with that moment. It’s in our blood.

In terms of the Mitzvah to remember and not forget Amalek, our generation was cursed through the cataclysmic and inhuman tragedy of the Holocaust. If this remembrance though means that some, especially in our generation, choose a different date to remember, or different devices to remember, so be it. I will live with their choice, and join them.

If only we could all seize the moment.