Things we can do for Israel

Somebody sent me this link from chabad.org and noted that the one thing missing was actually being part of the non spiritual army, and fight and protect. I couldn’t agree more. That being said, I’m in Chutz La’aretz and therefore hypocritical. I also imagine that link was directed to those in Chutz La’aretz.

At the end of the day, the Rambam which was quoted by the LR and which is often repeated, says that you GO OUT TO MILCHOMO even on matters of Straw and Produce. B’Pashtus, as is the Pashtus of the Rambam in Hilchos Melachim, is that this is physical war (albeit assisted by good deeds and mitzvos and tefillos)

Avraham didn’t fight those kings with Kaballa or Chassidus. He SMOTE them AL PI CHAREV.

Tamar Ariel: an inspirational humbling young lady

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

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

יהי זכרה ברוך

Tamar Ariel ע’ה (picture from Yediot Achronot)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haredim Enlist! Good stuff

This is from here by Elchanan Miller

An unusual advertisement appeared on a number of ultra-Orthodox websites at the end of last week. “A group of Yeshiva students is organizing to volunteer with the reserves. Want to join?” it read.

“We believe that the people of Israel are in the midst of an obligatory war against ruthless enemies who seek to annihilate us,” the ad continued, using biblical language for a battle that all Jews are obligated to fight.

“We believe it is a great privilege to join the military effort, in addition to our important contribution through Torah study. We too yearn for this precious mitzvah.”

The message was an outlier in a community where army service is still taboo. Israel’s ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi community, which comprises 10 percent of the country’s total population, has traditionally shied away from service. From the founding of Israel until this year, Haredi men could postpone their mandatory military conscription indefinitely, as long as they were registered for study in a high religious institution, or kolel. This de-facto exemption ended when a new universal conscription law drafted by Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition passed in the Knesset on March 12. A three-year transitional period, ending in 2017, allows men exempted from service in the past to continue avoiding the draft.

The advertisement, published on two leading Haredi news sites, sends applicants to an online form inquiring about age, marital status and employment status.

“There is no risk of the army drafting you for service if you’re exempt, or that you will get stuck in the army against your will,” the advertisement reassures worried inquirers.

An ultra-Orthodox man walks past the army recruiting office in Jerusalem, July 22, 2013 photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90)

Yossef, a 40-year-old father of six from Jerusalem who serves as the initiative’s publicity coordinator, told The Times of Israel that the online campaign has garnered 500 volunteers since the ad went online Friday, with new people stepping forward every day.

He estimated that a total of 1,500-2,000 will end up signing on for two possible tracks: a combat track for younger, unmarried men to be trained with new immigrants and to join existing fighting units; and a shorter track for older volunteers, comprising multiple-day basic training followed by a commitment to volunteer in the reserves 12 days a year for five years.

He said senior officers within the military have expressed excitement about the idea. A request to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit for comment was not answered.

“The volunteer position must be significant, otherwise it’s pointless,” Yossef told The Times of Israel. “It’s not just something symbolic for us to check off and say, ‘Look, we came to serve in the army.’ People really want to contribute, and not simply as watchdogs in some remote installation. The volunteers also need satisfaction in their work.”

The initiative was the brainchild of five adult students based in Jerusalem, who have long debated the idea of volunteering for the army. The kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in June, and IDF Operation Brother’s Keeper, which ensued in the West Bank, spurred them into action.

‘The ultra-Orthodox see those giving their lives in battle and want to contribute too,’ Yossef said

“The ultra-Orthodox see those giving their lives in battle and want to contribute too,” he said. “It’s true we feel that the study of Torah is the greatest contribution we can make to the people of Israel, but one doesn’t replace the other. [Military service] doesn’t contradict our contribution through Torah study.”

But volunteering for the army is, Yossef acknowledged, also a show of defiance against a government that has decided to shove service down their throats. If Haredim were given a mass exemption from the army, many would volunteer to serve in the IDF and join the workforce, and “70 percent of yeshivot (religious institutions) would empty,” he said.

“We wanted to show both the army and our own public that there is a different way of doing things,” Yossef added, withholding his real name and the names of the other initiators, for fear of an angry backlash from hardliners within his community. “The forced draft is a big mistake on the part of the state, but no one — neither the rabbis, nor anyone else — can say anything against volunteering for the IDF reserves. It’s just like volunteering with the police, Magen David Adom (the Israeli ambulance service) or Zaka (the Haredi disaster victim identification organization). It doesn’t harm the Haredi lifestyle.”

Haredi recruits march during  a swearing-in ceremony  at Ammunition Hill, Jerusalem, May 26, 2012 photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The IDF has been trying to convince the ultra-Orthodox for years that military service and the Haredi way of life are not mutually exclusive. In 2002 it created the Netzah Yehuda Battalion, formerly known as Nahal Haredi, where ultra-observant men can volunteer to serve as combat soldiers in a unisex environment, eating strictly supervised kosher food and dedicating time for prayer and Torah study. But critics of the program say it caters to those on the fringes of Haredi society, not those at its heart.

Yossef believes that the volunteer track into the IDF will prove much more successful in the long run than the draft approved by the Knesset earlier this year. For that reason, he opined, some elements in the Haredi community fear this experiment. Dozens of hate messages have arrived with the online application forms over the past week.

“If we expose any names, those people’s children will be thrown out of their Haredi schools because the extremists will go threaten the schoolmasters,” he said.

“It’s not a simple thing we’re doing,” concluded Yossef, one of relatively few Haredim who served in the IDF and reserves. “But it’s very inspiring. Even though I’ve been discharged, I think I’ll join the first training course. This is something special.”

In the company of heroes

[Hat tip MT]

Sent: Monday, July 28, 2014 9:25:25 AM
Subject: In The company of heroes

Yesterday I had the great privilege of accompanying Major General ( Ret) Avigdor Kahalani to an artillery battalion, somewhere in the war zone. General Kahalani is one of Israel’s greatest war heroes, a veteran of the Six Day War, The Yom Kippur War and the First Lebanon War. It is not an exaggeration to say that were it not for the actions of Avigdor Kahalani and the men under his command, the Syrians, who had already taken most of the Golan Heights, would have been able to push into Northern Israel, and the fate, not only of the war but, of the State of Israel would have been very much in doubt. Instead, Kahalani and those under his command were instrumental, not only in recapturing the Golan Heights, but pushed deep into Syrian territory until they literally were within artillery range of Damascus. It was a feat almost unheard of in the annals of modern warfare, in which a country recovered from a devastating Pearl Harbor like attack, were confronted with totally new tactics by a well-trained, superbly well-armed adversary, adjusted to the new realities, counter attacked, and within two and a half weeks were on the outskirts of the attacking force’s capital. Quite simply, General Kahalani and others like him, saved Israel. At the end of his military career, General Kahalani entered politics, was elected to Israel’s Parliament, served as an inner circle cabinet minister, and participated in some of the Israeli government’s most critical debates and decisions. After retiring from the political arena Kahalani became the Chairmen of AWIS, the Association for the Welfare of Israel’s soldiers.

It was in that capacity that he went out to meet with the soldiers serving,  under fire, in the field. For those young soldiers it was a chance to meet a living legend, as close as Israel has to Patton or MacArthur. I thought he was going to give them a sort of pep talk, though their spirits didn’t need any rallying.

I’ve been in the Israel Defense Forces for forty years,  and I’ve never seen morale so high, and never seen the country so united behind its soldiers. The other day I was in a restaurant at a crossroad just before the Gaza border. It’s sort of the last place to get a good meal before you hit the border into no man’s land. I was hungry as your basic honey badger, and had ordered a huge meal, knowing it would probably be the only chance I’d have to eat that day. When I went to pay the bill the waitress said it had already been taken care of.

“ Somebody bought me lunch? “ I asked , wanting to thank my benefactor.

“ No “ she said, “ Somebody picked up the bill for every soldier here.” There were easily fifty soldiers eating lunch there.” It happens like that every day, now” she said and smiled.

I’ve had total strangers take me in, offer me a bathrobe while they washed my uniform, feed me, literally offer me their beds to sleep in and their bathrooms to shower in. Amazing… amazing.

So the troops didn’t need a pep talk.

But what Kahalani told them, I found extraordinary.

He spoke quietly.

So quietly the young soldiers leaned forward to catch ever word and when he spoke it was with a conviction that came straight from his heart and went straight into the hearts of all of those who heard him.

“ We never taught you to hate.” He said, “

Not this army, not the Israel Defense Forces. We never taught you to hate. And there are armies in the world who do that. And I don’t know, maybe it works to a degree, maybe by hating the enemy, you are a fiercer fighter. I don’t know. But we never taught you that. And I’ll tell you why. If we teach you to hate, you can’t undo that. You’ll come back from the war and  it won’t be the “ enemy”, it will be your brother in law, or your neighbor or your former friend. Once you teach people to hate, they’ll find someone to hate. So we never taught you that” .

Suddenly he was speaking, not like a General but like a loving father to his much loved sons and daughters.

” We never taught you that. You know why you’re here. It’s not to hate anybody. It’s to defend your people, your homes and your families. Each of you has to feel as if the whole fate of the whole people of Israel is on your shoulders. Each of you holds that fate in your hands. But it’s not about hatred. And now you’ve inherited that tradition from my generation, and you’ll be the ones to continue it. But those who inherit have a responsibility. I know you won’t disappoint me.”

That was the pep talk from Israel’s Patton during a cruel and vicious war that was forced upon us by an equally cruel and vicious adversary, Hamas.
The pep talk was , Don’t hate. Do what you need to do to defend your homes, your families and your people. But don’t hate.

To the Palestinian people of Gaza : We don’t hate you. We don’t wish you ill. We want only to live in peace side by side with you. When you come out of wherever you’ve been able to take refuge, ask yourself why Hamas never built you any shelters to protect you. They’re great at digging tunnels after all. They’ve dug them under our border, intending to murder as many of our civilians as possible; our women and children, gathered in agricultural village dining halls. Not soldiers, not warriors, but our women and children and old people.

So they’re good at building tunnels.

Why didn’t they build any for you to take shelter in?

Then look at your neighborhoods, which are destroyed now because they housed the entrance points to those tunnels, not next to your homes but IN your homes!

They were turned your homes and neighborhoods into rocket launching sites and weapons storage depots. Not by accident, but to make you vulnerable, to insure, in fact , that you would be in harm’s way no matter how many warnings Israel issued before it attacked. Ask why Hamas told you to ignore those warnings and that it was your duty to stay in those neighborhoods which they had turned into military targets.

Ask yourself why Hamas didn’t accept the Egyptian Cease fire proposal which would have prevented the ground invasion and all the subsequent death and destruction.

It wasn’t a Zionist plot.

It was an Egyptian proposal, endorsed by the Arab League and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. AND ISRAEL ACCEPTED IT IMMEDIATELY AND UNCONDITIONALLY!!

It was Hamas which rejected it by launching a massive rocket attack, followed up by four separate terrorist tunnel attacks aimed not at our soldiers but at our women and children, who were meant to be murdered, maimed and taken hostage, dragged back through those tunnels into Gaza, so Khaled Mashal could declare a Divine Victory,from a five star hotel in Qatar while you eat the dust of Gaza.

Look at your neighborhoods.

How’s Hamas’s Holy War working out for you?

Are your lives better?

Do your children have a better future?

Do they have ANY future but suffering?

Hamas and their ilk have been trying to drive us into the sea for over a hundred years now.

How’s that working out for you?

Look at your lives and look at ours.

Despite not knowing one day of peace, our cities are beautiful, our women are gorgeous, our men handsome, our children, the apple of our eyes, our industry flourishes, our start up nation is the envy of the world. Our sense of personal happiness , though we have been constant victims of terrorist attacks and war, is amongst the highest of any people on earth. We live longer, have more college graduates, more computers more scientific papers published, more artists , musicians, scientists and entrepreneurs per capita than almost any place on earth. Our cows produce more milk than any other dairy cattle. Our agriculture exists almost entirely on reclaimed water and no country on earth does more with desalinized water than Israel. Draughts which would destroy another country have no affect on us. And we’ve done all that despite Hamas and their ilk’s stated plans to destroy us

. You’ve  gone to war against us three times in the last five years.

You’ve initiated each one and we’ve begged you before each , not to launch more rockets at us.

But each time you were promised a new divine victory.

The rockets would be the sword that would defeat us.

We invented Iron Dome.

The tunnels would be Hamas’s “ surprise” that would “open the gates of hell to us”

We’re inside those tunnels right now. Blowing them up.

And who has paid the bitterest price?

You.

Is it worth it? Are you getting something out of all this?

Here’s an idea. You’ve tried war three times in five years? Try something new.

Try peace.

You don’t even have to call it peace. .

Just stop trying to kill us and prepare to be amazed at how good your lives will become..

But what about the siege?

The so called “ siege” which is nothing more than a sanction regime, was put in place BECAUSE YOU KEEP TRYING TO KILL US!

So stop.

You’re smart people. You’re industrious people. Stop trying to kill us and  you won’t need to be a martyr to get into Paradise. You’ll have Paradise on earth. You can become the Singapore of the Middle East. You have beautiful beaches that can be developed for tourism. You’re on the Mediterranean for Goodness sake! You are creative and hard working and talented. Put those talents to use at trying to improve your lives instead of trying to end ours.

You will become the gateway between Europe and the Middle East. There are donors lined up and waiting to offer you a Marshal Plan that will make your lives sweet. The plan that Khaled Mashal has for you, however, leads only to death.

You don’t even have to love us.

You don’t even have to like us.

In fact you can continue to hate us, if that gives you some sort of emotional comfort. It won’t bother us. Knock yourselves out. Just stop trying to kill us

When Hamas tells you it’s a Holy War tell them to read the Quran. The Sura of The Children of Israel; Sura 17:104, “ And we said to the Children of Israel, Dwell securely in the Promised Land, and when the last warning comes,  we will gather you together in a mingled crowd”

THAT’S US!!

How much more mingled can we get? We’ve been gathered together , not just according to our prophecy, but to yours!

We come from every corner of the earth, because for two thousand years every Jew on Earth, who celebrates Passover of Yom Kippur, be they black white, brown or any of the rainbow hues the make up our people, says, “ Next Year in Jerusalem”.

So read THAT part of the Quran when they tell you to strap a suicide belt onto your son or daughter..

And for all your supporters and enablers, for those who march to end the death and destruction, if you really care about the Palestinians of Gaza, as you claim to, just tell them to try to stop trying to kill us.

Give it a decade.

Try it.

We’re not going anywhere. You won’t defeat us. You won’t destroy us. You won;t cast us into such despair that we leave the land we’ve yearned for , worked for , sweated and bled for  for two thousand years. We won’t withdraw from the Middle East. Because we live here. Our religion wasn’t born in Poland. It was born here. Our language wasn’t born in Russia or America or France or Ethiopia or Yemen or Morocco. It was born here. And I promise you, we won’t become war weary. We can’t afford to.

Just stop trying to kill us.

Because  we don’t hate you. We don’t teach our children or our soldiers to hate you. The words of our national anthem sum up the only thing we want; Lihiot am chofshi bi artzeinu, Eretz Zion, Yerushalayim ..” To be a free people. in our land. The land of Zion, Jerusalem.” Just like it says in the Quran.

Dan Gordon
Capt. IDF ( res)

ירך הלבב

This awe inspiring photo (hat tip mad) shows you can be very frum and ‘as holy’ as those who refuse to enlist. This is a milchemes mitzvah unless you practice a heathen religion related to Judaism as per Neturei Karta and their supporters, and the holy Litvaks who don’t follow Torah by defending Am Yisroel Lefi Pshuto shel Halocho Mefureshes ….

THESE guys are holy. They are our heroes and Shluchei HaKadosh Baruch Hu kipshuto

May they all come back healthy and all those who are injured should recover כהרף עין

20140727-232023-84023648.jpg

Nice article by Shmully Hecht

See the original from the Times of Israel (which I reproduce) here. [hat tip MT]

I have no issue with Shmully’s thoughts except that

  1. R’ Chaim Volozhiner was not an opponent of R’ Schneur Zalman of Liadi. He in fact, while being the prime disciple of the Vilna Gaon, and the person who hand wrote the condemnation of Chassidim (Cherem) did not sign the Cherem!
  2. Rav Chaim Kanievsky is not a political person. He sits and learns and does little else. That this boor said “come and I will take you to Rav Chaim Kanievsky” does not mean that Rav Chaim was aware of agreed with the way he spoke or what he said. Rav Chaim is also a Mekubal who knows Kol HaTorah and if you look at what he signs, you will find dear Shmully, that he rarely if ever gives his own opinion. He is a humble man, who mostly says “if such a great person said X, then I (Rav Chaim, who he considers to be a “nothing” in his self-effacing way) join in. This is because he does not see himself as a leader.
  3. The one that you should be addressing is, in my opinion Rav Shmuel Auerbach, whose incredibly great father R’ Shlomo Zalman had more knowledge, feeling, sensitivity and greatness than his son by a country mile.
  4. As to the rest of them, and by “them” I mean ANYONE who can’t see the Godly soul of a Jew at all times (yes, this is something from Chabad that I am ingrained with) they will not change, not by your article or by our comments. The best thing that can be done is to work now with the Nachal Charedi and make sure it is the holiest battalion in the entire Army, and one which is a Kiddush Shem Shomayim BoRabbim. That, to me, is where ALL the effort should now go.
  5. The so-called “distaste” for those who aren’t yet frum (I loathe the word chilonim) is amongst the Religious Zionists as well. They too have much to answer for over the years in their preponderance with land over people. The two should have never been separated. Rav Froman ז’ל is an example of a Gush Emunimnik who was searing with love for others, just like Rav Kook. It seems though that hate is a catchy illness and love for others is an acquired and elusive taste.
  6. This has nothing to do with Brisk, save that R’ Meshulam Dovid Soloveitchik espouses similar views to that bigot on the plane, ironically his grandfather R’ Chaim Brisker was an even bigger Ba’al Chesed for a Jew than he was the Gaonic Genius of that generation. Check out his tombstone in the Warsaw Cemetery.

I write to you in your capacity as one of the leaders of the ultra-orthodox Jewish community of Israel, often referred to as the haredi movement.

On a flight last week from Israel to New York, I had a rather disturbing conversation with one of your of disciples. The individual was an ultra orthodox Jew and a successful Swiss real estate developer who resides in Jerusalem with his wife and seven children. He was on his way to New York for the wedding of a relative. I was returning home from Israel where I had spent the day attending the funeral of the father of a dear Israeli friend of mine from Yale, where I am the campus rabbi. I had met the deceased last year at his son’s wedding in Caesarea, where I was honored to officiate. On a subsequent trip to Israel I had put Tefillin on with this 77 year old man, preceded by an in-depth theological conversation about his Judaism and beliefs. On this return trip to Israel it was at the Shiva house where, upon meeting many of the members of my friend’s F16 squadron, a troubling conversation began. This was a conversation that crystallized on the flight back to New York while talking with your disciple.

Israeli air force pilots are in their mid-20s and 30s, a ripe time for young people to be seriously dating and in many instances newlyweds. It was ironic yet promising that despite being in the shiva house of my friend, we found ourselves discussing weddings and choices of rabbis. Here I was, surrounded by Israel’s bravest military officers, who held the most coveted spots reserved for only the brightest and best, that I began to hear about one particular pilot’s wedding. He had just returned from a trip to the US where he got married in a civil marriage ceremony in City Hall of NYC. He explained that he, like many of his friends, had done so because they had nothing in common nor any dialogue with the rabbis of Israel. I reminded him that on that particular morning we had witnessed three Israeli rabbis bury our friend’s father, a total stranger. I continued to point out some of the many great things rabbis were doing in Israel. In vain, I tried to shed some light on the rabbinate and build a bridge to this rather secular group of Israel’s elite.

Listening to him describe the gap that sadly divides the secular “chiloni“ and ultra-orthodox “haredi“ leaderships of Israel, I was dismayed and saddened by how far this split has actually wedged a division among our people. Could we have reached such a low point in our history that Jews living in our ancient homeland were flying across the world to avoid having to engage with our very own rabbis? How ironic I thought it was that I, an American rabbi, had flown to Israel first to marry and now bury a son and father of the most secular type of Israelis. Would this young pilot’s first encounter with an Israeli rabbi be at his own funeral?

Harav Kanievsky, I am convinced that the fault lies largely with us, the “religious,” and less so with them, the “secular. “ In fact I don’t believe there is an “us” and “them.” I was born a Chabadnik, where we are taught that there is only one Jew in the world. Yes, one Jew. But it wasn’t until the conversation with your disciple on my return flight that I began to comprehend the mindset that actually fuels this terrible divide. It is for this reason, and with hope of healing this terrible National wound, that I write you this letter.

“You look like a Chabadnik,” he started off, as he leaned across the aisle of our ElAL plane, “so tell me a story of your great Rebbe.” Not sure if I was sensing sarcasm or sincerity in his tone, I told him about my experience of once praying with the man I had just buried and how this person carried a photo of The Rebbe in his wallet for 20 years, despite claiming to be an agnostic. The truth is that “Rebbe miracle stories” were never really my forte, so I figured I would challenge him to a more serious theological debate in this final hour of our cross Atlantic flight. After all, I don’t get to meet many “haredis“ on the sprawling campus of Yale University. “What will you do about the pending proposed military draft?” I curiously asked my flight mate. “Well if it actually passes,” he said, “they will have to put a million of us in prison, for how can a pork eater, the son of a pork eater, tell us G-d fearing Jews to close the yeshivas and serve in the army? These Jews need to be despised and excommunicated for the way they treat the religious community.”

I was so shocked by the venom he was espousing in front of his wife and 16 year old son that I felt like stopping the conversation right there just to avoid embarrassing him. This verbal assault on the majority of Jews alive and the Jews who I consider my dearest constituents was not going to pass without a fatal blow. One, of course, I would have to deliver with love.

This man was by no means a Torah ignoramus, nor lacking in any level of sophistication. He was clearly a successful businessman, philanthropist, and learned Torah scholar. “I’m not sure you can blame a Jew for eating pork if that is what he was brought up eating,” I replied. It was an elementary response to such a loaded attack.

“After all,” I continued, “doesn’t your son [who was sitting next to him on the plane] eat what you eat?”

“How can you preach such hatred of a Jew,” I asked, “when the Torah explicitly says, ‘Thou shall not hate your brother in your heart’? Is that verse any less a part of the Torah you embrace?”

He replied, “well Esau, despite being the son of Isaac the patriarch, was the enemy of the Jews,” as if to suggest that any secular Jew had the status of an enemy. I explained that the Torah explicitly tells us that Esau and Ishmael had abandoned the ways of their parents’ home and clearly attained the status of another nation early in our history. To suggest that every non-observant Jew in Tel Aviv born to non-observant parents, or simply brought up in a non religious home, was now the enemy, was ludicrous.

His self-righteousness and arrogance was so revolting that I knew I needed to win this debate before we landed. I reminded him that the Jewish people were a family first and called over the flight attendant who was not wearing a kipa, and clearly the type of Jew he was critiquing. I asked the man if he believed we were all part of one family, to which he replied, “of course.” “If the plane went down at this moment,” I continued, “do you think your prayers would be any different than this gentleman? Do you really think your cry of Shema Yisroel would sound any different than his? Have you ever considered the probability of living parallel lifestyles should you have been born into his family, and he into yours?”

He would not concede. “The Finance Minister of Israel [he refused to mention him by name] is a pork eater, the son of a pork eater, and will suffer for the terrible anguish he is causing our community. He is no different than Jesus whom, though born to Jewish parents, is responsible for the murder of so many Jews through European history.” I reminded him that according to one account in the Talmud, Jesus left the seminary because of the lack of sensitivity of his Rabbi and perhaps that was why Christianity started to begin with. I reminded him of the commandment to love thy neighbor as you love yourself–to no avail. As I sat there I started to comprehend why my new friend from the squadron had flown to NY to have his wedding. How could he have any respect for Jewish leaders that did not officially declare this type of talk absolute heresy? Who could stomach this unapologetic self hatred by a “religious” Jew. All in the name of Torah and G-d!

But then I digressed and mentioned one of the greatest Rabbis in our collective history. Reb Chaim of Volozhin. He is, after all, the icon and example of Torah Judaism, who embodied the ultimate divine manifestation of Torah in a human being. In addition to being the crown disciple of the Gaon of Vilna and the author of Nefesh Hachaim, he was also the patriarch of the great Saloveitchik Talmudic family dynasty. So in a final attempt at reconciliation I asked:

What if I told you that the current President of Yale is named Peter Salovey, short for Saloveitchik? Though he is not particularly observant by your standards, he is a direct descendant of Reb Chaim. He is a dear friend of mine and despite being of the more secular type, he is extremely proud of his Judaism. In fact, he proudly quoted the great Mishnaic authors in his inaugural address as President of Yale. Do you know that he often engages in Talmudic discussions with me and others of the Yale community? Would you dismiss, excommunicate, and forsake the grandchild of the holy Reb Chaim of Volozhin in your self-righteous pursuit of an Israel that excommunicates the non-orthodox Jew?

It was at this moment that he got out of his seat and approached mine with an urgency. He finally realized what we were actually talking about. We were talking about that one Jew, the Jew that he could never forsake for it would mean forsaking Reb Chaim Volozhin. And so I got up and together we stood near the emergency exit door as he softly whispered these words into my ear, but more so into my heart and into my soul:

I envy you so much my dear Shmully, because in the merit of showing unconditional love to his grandson, I assure you that when you die, the great Reb Chaim of Volozhin will be waiting for you in heaven, and he will single-handedly open the gates of Gan Eden for you to enter.

These final moments of my flight were an absolute affirmation that there is hope for our people. I could not hold back my tears and replied, “how ironic, that upon my death, at the moment I would have to face my Maker, I would not be greeted, escorted, and defended by my Rebbe, Reb Schneur Zalman of Liaidi, the founder of Chabad, but rather by his opponent, the prize student of the Gaon of Vilna, Reb Chaim of Volozhin.”

And then he said, “You know, when you return to Israel, I’m going to take you to visit our leader the great Reb Chaim Kanievsky. I want you to tell him what we talked about.”

Rav Kanievsky, I don’t want to wait until my next trip to Israel. I will simply ask you what I asked him:

What would Israel look like this Pesach if you asked each and every one of your followers today to invite one non religious friend for Pesach? How amazing would it be if 1 million non orthodox Jews came home tonight and told their spouse that their religious friend or acquaintance invited them to their Seder? What if we reinterpreted, “all who are hungry may they come and eat, all who are needy may they come and enjoy Pesach,“ to mean, “not only the physically or materially poor but those less observant than us”?

Just as I’ve been assured that Chaim of Volozhin will be waiting for me in heaven, I sincerely hope Schneur Zalman of Lyadi is waiting for you. Let us hope there will be no need to imprison 1 million Jews but rather have 1 million more guests this year at the Seder.

I look forward to embracing you on my next trip to Israel.

Shmully Hecht is the Rabbinical advisor of Eliezer: the Jewish Society at Yale and can be reached at shmully@279crown.org

Adass vs Mizrachi

The following correspondence is making the rounds of email on the internet. It sheds light on the basis of the disagreement.

Disclaimer: Ian is my brother-in-law

First, we have a letter from Adass

Dear Ian
I am receipt of your email statement of behalf of the Mizrachi Organisation.
I am astounded that you would issue such a notice without the courtesy of enquiring about the aim of this gathering
You labelled this “a protest” which was “designed to attract the attention of the general community and the media” organised by opponents of the state of Israel
Unfortunately your statement is totally incorrect.
This was not a “protest” but rather a gathering of Jews – Shomrei Torah uMitzvos from most communities – to say Tehilim and Tefillos against recent decrees aimed at harming the Torah world.
We mirrored the call of the ENTIRE Torah leadership worldwide – Chassidim and Litvaks, Ashkenazim and Sfardim.
The Gedolei Hador are pained at new legislation which further erodes Achdus and Shalom between fellow Jews.
How can anyone sit back and watch as a Jewish State legislates that one Jew will put another Jew into jail for studying Torah?
This is something that saddens all of us and we pray that Hashem should bring us together as one people.

This was not a protest. No one spoke, there was no speeches. No banners or signs – Just tehillim and tefila

It was most specifically NOT done to attract the media. It took place inside a Shul – the most appropriate place for prayer.
There was no contact with the media and no street signs.

You have stated the exact opposite of what we were aiming.   We came for prayer for unity peace and you interpreted it as the opposite.

I think you owe the organisers a public apology for your words.
Wishing you a Good Shabbos and Simchas Purim
BINYOMIN KOPPEL
President
Adass Israel
 
PS Please note that I am responding on behalf of our Shul.
Mizrachi’s response is produced below
Dear Binyomin,
I refer to your email of 14 March 2014.
Your letter raises a number of complaints concerning the statement I made on 13 March 2014 which I will attempt to deal with.
First, you say that you are astounded that I would issue such a notice without the courtesy of enquiring about the aim of this gathering.
The aim of the gathering was readily apparent from the poster that was widely distributed. The poster depicted a Sefer Torah wrapped in barbed wire conjuring up the very worst images from our recent history. It called upon men, women and children aged 9 and over to “show solidarity with our embattled brethren in Eretz Yisrael regarding the proposed new law”. It contained images of large outdoor rallies held in Jerusalem and New York.  Although you assert that I should have made enquiries about the aim of the gathering before making any statement, no attempt was made to consult with the Mizrachi Organisation (or to obtain Rabbi Sprung’s signature) prior to organising the event. Presumably that was because it was anticipated by the organisers that Mizrachi would have objected in the strongest terms to what was being planned.
Secondly, you say that I mischaracterised the event by calling it a protest.
When people are called upon to assemble in large numbers to voice their opposition to legislation enacted by a democratically elected government, they are in effect being called upon to protest. A protest need not involve speeches or banners, although I note that similar events held in other cities included such features. You say that the event “took place inside a Shul – the most appropriate place for prayer”. However the poster announced that the rally would take place in the Adass Gutnick Hall.
Thirdly, you state that in organising the gathering you “mirrored the call of the ENTIRE Torah leadership worldwide”.
It is disappointing and troubling that you do not consider Mizrachi and our ideological affiliates around the world, who did not participate in any such events, as part of the Torah leadership community.
Fourthly, you assert that the legislation will mean that “one Jew will put another Jew into jail for studying Torah”.
A cursory reading of the legislation or the available summaries of it will reveal that the law has no such purpose or effect. Its intent is to gradually implement a more equitable sharing of the responsibility for protecting and defending the State of Israel and all of its inhabitants. The law does not come into effect until at least 2017. In the meantime, there is a full exemption for anyone over 26 who did not register in the past and an exemption for anyone aged between 22-26. There will be an option to perform national service rather than serve in the armed forces. Exceptional students will be completely exempt.
Fifthly, you write “We came for prayer for unity (and) peace and you interpreted it as the opposite”.
Scheduling the event on Ta’anit Esther and using the words “Gezeirot Kashot” (ie. harsh decrees) to describe the legislation recently enacted by the State of Israel plainly sought to equate that legislation and those responsible for it with with the terrible edicts decreed against the Jews by Ahasuerus at the instigation of Haman. Actions and statements such as these are plainly calculated to erode achdut. Referring to the Government of the State of Israel as “Shevet HaRasha” (the evil tribe) erodes achdut. How can you claim that you were seeking “unity” and “peace” when you describe fellow Jews in these terms.
I note that, since receiving your letter, two of the seven Rabbis who signed the poster have since expressed deep regret and emphatically dissociated themselves from the document.
You conclude your letter by saying that I owe the organisers of the event a public apology. For the reasons set out above I am not able to apologise for the statement that I made on behalf of the Mizrachi Organisation.
Yours sincerely,
Ian
__________________
Ian Waller SC
President
Mizrachi Organisation

Excellent article on the IDF exemption issue

This is from Rabbi Slifkin (whose wife is a distant relative of ours)

It is well worth reading.

Do you see light or darkness?

I saw this page on Matzav. There is a nice video there that is worth watching.

Soldiers in Israel’s Navy who set sail last week on a mission to stop an alleged Iranian weapons shipment from reaching Gaza terrorists celebrated Shabbos together by singing Shalom Aleichem and then making Kiddush and having a seudah.

“As Shabbat began last week, these soldiers had already set sail to stop Iran’s weapons shipment from reaching Gaza terrorists. In the middle of the sea, they all sang ‘Shalom Aleichem’ – a Shabbat song meaning ‘peace be upon you,’” the IDF said. “Days later, their successful mission brought peace upon the entire nation of Israel.”

The members of elite naval commando unit Shayetet 13 gathered below deck to sing together. The soldiers, who mostly wore yarmulkas, put their arms around each other’s shoulders and swayed back and forth as they prayed. After the song was over, one soldier stepped forward and made Kiddush.

Days later, the unit successfully intercepted the arms shipment in the Red Sea. The boat, named KLOSC, was headed to Sudan, 1,500 miles from Israel.

One of the weapons captured, the M-302 missile, is made in Syria and is based on Iranian technology, Israel’s Walla reported. IDF Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, oversaw the operation and gave the order to Major General Ram Rothberg, head of the Israeli Navy, to seize the KLOSC, the IDF said earlier this week.

What upset me were the comments section. The various commentators bemoaned the possibility that the video was taken on Shabbos, the last comment though captured how I felt. I didn’t even remotely think for one minute that it was taken on Shabbos. It looked pretty light to me, and it was entirely possible one person hadn’t been mekabel shabbos and took the video because he was so proud of the scene.

While these guys put their lives on the line, the bobbins who aren’t allowed to read the internet can only see darkness and sin. Their eyes are dim, they cannot see let alone imagine light. If they think that for one minute these guys are working on the basis of

כוחי ועוצם ידי עשה לי את החיל הזה

then this video is an Open Psak that they are wrong, wronger, and wrongest, but all they feel is that they are wronged. Even הכרת הטוב doesn’t enter their vernacular.

1. Comment from Shabbos?
Time March 9, 2014 at 11:45 AM

Wasn’t this video likely taken by a Yid on Shabbos?

2. Comment from anonymous
Time March 9, 2014 at 12:51 PM

who took the picture on shabbos???? nice

3. Comment from shayla
Time March 9, 2014 at 1:04 PM

They videoed on Shabbos?!
Are you allowed to watch something that came through Chillul Shabbos?!

4. Comment from shvigger
Time March 9, 2014 at 1:06 PM

This video makes me so sad.

5. Comment from Shomer Sha-bbos
Time March 9, 2014 at 1:09 PM

Why do you publicize a video made with chilul Shabb-os?

6. Comment from Radzhiner Chassid
Time March 9, 2014 at 1:28 PM

A video created on Shabboss is Maaseh Shabbos & shouldn’t be shown on a Frum Site! Also am I seeing things? Is the MeKadesh Hashabbos really NOT wearing a yarmulke?

7. Comment from mussar mensch
Time March 9, 2014 at 1:34 PM

What a kavod L’shamayim!

8. Comment from WOW
Time March 9, 2014 at 1:35 PM

I agree with all above (going on shabbos for pikuach nefesh etc), except for the guy doing the videoing!

9. Comment from niceguy
Time March 9, 2014 at 2:06 PM

was chilul Shabbos involved in taking this video?

10. Comment from omg
Time March 9, 2014 at 2:22 PM

Interesting…and heartwarming. Not too often do you get to see Shabbos videos!

11. Comment from Really!!
Time March 9, 2014 at 3:31 PM

Just a bit puzzled!
Who took the footage?
Are we enjoying something that came about through chilul shabbos?

12. Comment from joe
Time March 9, 2014 at 3:39 PM

beautiful. Who took the video?

13. Comment from Pintala yid
Time March 9, 2014 at 3:53 PM

We are an amazing people!

14. Comment from ChaimA
Time March 9, 2014 at 4:00 PM

The story is beautiful.
The video, however, may represent chillul Shabbos. Why would I want to watch it?

15. Comment from Observer
Time March 9, 2014 at 4:07 PM

Takeh, very nice. The Shaile is, who took the video on Shabbos?

16. Comment from Anonymous
Time March 9, 2014 at 4:28 PM

I’d like to point out this video was taken on Shabbos!

17. Comment from Mama
Time March 9, 2014 at 4:37 PM

I’m glad they sang Shalom Aleichem, but did they have to be michalel Shabbos by filming it?

18. Comment from Yakov
Time March 9, 2014 at 5:48 PM

so beautiful

19. Comment from mig
Time March 9, 2014 at 7:10 PM

to commenters 1 to 4:

Even though they filmed it, they are still considered tinokim venishba and their effort to recognize Shabbos gave Hashem tremendous nochas. In addition, no matter what anyone thinks about the IDF, they are holy people because they are putting their lives on the line to keep EY safe from our enemies with G-d’s help.

20. Comment from The Glass is Half Full
Time March 9, 2014 at 7:32 PM

Yasher Koach to Commentors no 1 & 5 who see the beauty in other Jews and ignoring the chisronos; 2-4 have what to work on; we all have warts and pimples!!!.. . I daven for the day that the Jewish world will be filled with more people like 1 & 5..

21. Comment from Ezra
Time March 9, 2014 at 7:47 PM

Maybe it was a Druze soldier who took video.

22. Comment from michali
Time March 9, 2014 at 10:26 PM

To all you cynics, take a chill pill. Instead of knocking them, see the good in their actions. Try to emulate the Berditchever Rebbe who saw only the good in each Jewish neshoma.

May the IDF continue to watch over Eretz HaKodesh with strength.

An honourable protest

Whatever ones views may be in regards to the new laws requiring Yeshivah students to enlist in the IDF, it seems to me that those who protested in a manner which was a kiddush hashem.

[Hat tip also to MD] See here

Chabad and Israeli Military Service

The following is from Israel National News. You would think that MK Stern is a tad naive. No Chabadnik would remotely consider themselves an emissary of anyone other than the Rebbe Ramash נ’’ע, in keeping with attempts to bring Geulah quicker.

That being said, he is suggesting that influencing Jewry to become more observant (albeit through the particular prism of the Chabad approach) is a formal State service. That, in of itself, is a significant development.

Wouldn’t it be deliciously ironic if someone who wasn’t going to go on Shlichus, now did so because they would (also) be serving the State’s needs in a different way to enlisting in the physical army?

Israel should recognize young adults who volunteer with the Chabad hassidic movement as having done national service, MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua) has proposed.

Stern’s proposal was accepted by the Committee for the Equal Burden of Service (Shaked Committee), the Knesset committee weighing Israel’s options regarding hareidi-religious military service.

Stern suggested that under certain circumstances, yeshiva students who volunteer with Jewish communities overseas should be recognized as having done national civilian service, an alternative to military service. Among those who would benefit under the criteria he proposed are Chabad youth, many of whom spend time overseas working with Chabad emissaries.

“There is an organization that is active around the world, on a purely voluntary basis, that does not get recognition from the state of Israel,” Stern said. “The Chabad movement sends people to every corner of the earth.”

Roughly 250-300 Israelis are volunteering with Chabad at any given moment, he said. Chabad emissaries engage in outreach and support to local people in places as diverse as Eastern Europe, Africa and the Far-East, and are often a welcome site for Jewish backpackers and tourists as well, providing them with kosher food and other services.

“There are many elements to the Chabad emissaries’ activity with clear parallels to civilian national service,” he said of Chabad’s social activism. “They do important work in Jewish communities around the world and we need to recognize their important work.”

“I want the Chabad emissaries out there to know they are emissaries of the state,” Stern declared.

Very Poor attempt at besmirching the IDF and Nachal Charedi

[Hat Tip AN]

There are so many falsehoods in this video, it is beneath contempt. A straw man is created and then attempts are made to turn all those who fight these “secularists” whose aim is to uproot Torah as the enemy that one has to fight. When I got to the part about Bar Kochba, I literally laughed. This is brought by the Rambam in Hilchos Melachim as someone who Rav Akiva thought was Chezkas Moshiach, no less! I guess they would have stoned Rabbi Akiva! Yet, they carried swords and fought. They didn’t fight with a shas. A Shas doesn’t stop a katyusha. Sure, one cannot descend to pure secularism, that is an extreme. We do not subscribe to Kochi V’Otzem Yodi, but the clear message is that is if we DO subscribe to the fact that Hakadosh Baruch Hu OSO es Hachayil hazeh, then it is halachically mandated, either as a Milchemes Mitzvah or Milchemes Reshus.

I don’t see the Rabbi addressing the inordinate number of bench warmers who have no business assuming leadership or positions of influence, and instead, running around the world to collect money for themselves. You’ve got to DO something. Kol Torah Shein Imo Derech Eretz, Sofo Lehisbatel.

These are the archetypical Yoreh V’Rach HaLevov. These are the one’s you could never rely on in times of war. These are the spineless ones who would rather send out their brother to be killed in defending their lives.

To be sure, there are certainly an élite that must be supported. They are the leaders, and they have specific outcomes from their learning. They don’t use their entire lives to play pilpul with no end in sight.

They do not engage in any way. Not in the army, and not in society. Their ability to answer the Apikorus is so banal, they should be hidden. Who of them can assume the role of the Ramban, as needed. Which of them could sit in a Polish Government like R’ Meir Shapira. Next to none.

This isn’t a war of culture. Recalling Jabotinsky and Ben Gurion is living in a time warp. These aren’t our problems. Kibbutzim barely exist. Life has changed. The question is, if they DO want to live in a Jewish homeland, then they should follow the rules. If they do not, then then they should leave en masse and go to Gibraltar or the the Congo.

They want Kedusha and Avoda, but they think that defending fellow Yidden, whoever, that might be can never be done by using a gun. Go tell the next Palestinian Terrorist that one.

Torah is critical. Torah however includes being a part of society, and unless you are a protected person because you are part of an élite intelligentsia, so many are just pre-programmed robots without an original thought in their heads, and with spite filled agenda based on 100 years ago.

A nice production on the Internet (no less) which one is not allowed to look at. They use and abuse the internet when it suits them, and put people in Cherem for having a “smart” phone. Hypocrites personified.