Vayeishev

This is something I wrote for David Werdiger’s excellent “Jews of the CBD” organisation, so it’s reproduced here, for posterity.

 

We pine to know what the future brings. Yet, there is no prophecy in our day. Why? Prophecy provides a temporal glimpse or mirroring of the essence of God and His message. By definition, that transmission must be imperfect, for we are imperfect vessels. What of dreams and their interpretation? In this week’s portion, we see that even Yosef’s interpretation of his famous dream was not accurate because his mother Rachel did not bow down to him. Does this make Yosef a charlatan? Can there be a half truth? We know that the remainder of Yosef’s dream did come true.
Rav Kook explains that the essence was true. The essence is immutable. If Rachel had been alive, then she indeed would have bowed down to Yosef in the same way that Ya’acov did. A dream’s message relates to what potentially could or should have occurred given the confines of human imperfection and condition. Rav Hisda in Brachos 55a says this explicitly. Although we seek advice from the special leaders of our generation, sometimes we find that their predictions are not 100% accurate. But, it needs to be that way because man is an imperfect vessel for the transmission of God’s will. The challenge is to deal with and act on the messages of our time.
For this reason, those who cannot bring themselves to acknowledge that the State of Israel may well be the “beginning” of our redemption because certain minutiae are challenging to reconcile, miss the transcendent and essential message of our time.

What a pleasure to be here

I have to thank my students. They allowed me to change my lecturing schedule through Sunday lectures so that I could dash off to the Holy Land for my cousins daughter’s wedding. My cousin Jackie z”l after whom our grandson is also named, passed away a year ago and I had promised to attend a wedding should it eventuate: and here I am. It was weird yet comforting to stand in line to board an El Al flight. It’s not Singapore Airlines, but the food is better, even the Hamasbia (I’m frumer than you) meals.

The airline crew work with what I can best describe as “ruthless efficiency”. It’s almost like a military operation. They are quick to serve, and before you can say boo, the tea and coffee is coming. I mucked up my flight plans (typical) and ended up in Hong Kong for the fast, and boarded a few hours before the fast finished. At least on EL Al, without asking, the hostess offered to give me my meal at the end of the fast. I should have asked her to Pasken for me 🙂

There were two other frumaks on the flight, wearing green crocs, and one tried to give me a knowing smile. I don’t know why, but I prefer that people don’t see me as “Charedi”. How could I be. I listen to Jazz (there were billboards today in Meah Shearim saying that it was forbidden to go to frum concerts let alone listen to Jazz); I am a University lecturer; I am comfortable with all manner of people, and don’t see the world in terms of us vs them. Indeed, my refrain since arriving has been to stop people using the word “Chiloni”. It’s a pejorative. I dislike it. The only person who is בוחן לב האדם is Hashem. Sounds cliched but that’s how I view things.

Rav Kook z”l had a famous observation. The Gemara   בבא מציעא נז ×¢”ב says:

בונים בחול ואחר כך  מקדישים

You don’t use the money from Hekdesh for the building blocks of the Beis Hamikdash, otherwise the builders may come to do aveyros (Meilah). Instead, you use normal building blocks bought from non holy money. Rav Kook said that during the time of building, even the least holy person could stand in the Kodesh Kodoshim! Where are we now? Are we built or are we building? We are building, surely? Even anti or non Zionists would say we are far from built. Based on this insight, which I took to heart many years ago, I look at everyone, including myself, as potential. If we see the potential, we might have a chance to spread kedusha. If we only see the negatives, what’s the point? We create division and hatred. Didn’t Yishmael do Teshuva even though Hashem said to look at him באשר הוא שם?

I feel at home here. It’s surreal and utopian. Yes, I’m only in a Hotel and a typical  tourist. I don’t struggle like the builders who live here; but I feel at home. No place on earth fills me with the feelings that I experience in this Holy Land, in the Holiest city on Earth, Hashem’s chosen place.

Yes, I know, some people, even great people, think that you can make Eretz Yisrael “here”. All that you can hope for is that at the time of Binyan Beis Hamikdash borders will expand and holiness will spread like the proverbial tsunami. In the meanwhile, we live in a second best infrastructure. We may have Kedushas HaTorah and we can seek out Kedushas Yisrael, but we do not have Kedushas Ha’aretz. Combine the three, and you have that winning elusive formula?

Regards from the hypocrite who lives in Melbourne.

Have the courage of your convictions

People do not agree. This is a fact of life. There are, and always will be, emotive issues which evoke strong disagreement. Sometimes the disagreement can result in feelings of aggression even hate between antagonists. Jews are no different. If anything, because there are many issues of substance lingering around our Daled Amos, there is perhaps more opportunity, perhaps even propensity, to viscerally agree to disagree.

Rav Dov Lior, Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Hevron

Two recent examples of differing approaches to courage and expressing the truth of one’s convictions confronted me this week. The first involved Rav Dov Lior, Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Hevron, and Rosh Yeshiva and head of the Rabbinic Council for Judea and Samaria. Rav Lior is considered to be a star pupil of Rav Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook, z”l, and one of the  brightest among Gush Emunim style adherents of the concept of a greater Israel. Born into a Belzer family and subsequently orphaned, Rav Lior was touted as an Illuy even amongst the Charedi population of the State of Israel. Rav Lior and others gave their Haskama to a book which was considered to be “inciting” by the police and other authorities. Refusing to back down, Rav Lior is now likely to be arrested. Rav Lior claims that the arrest warrant interferes with his right to offer religious approbation to a book related to Torah thoughts and principles.

You can agree or disagree with Rav Lior, but you will never die wondering what his views are on a particular topic. He says it like it is, and his views are like he says. There is no diplomatic licence employed to bury his thoughts or camouflage his principles for fear of a physical or financial backlash. Rav Lior, his supporters and students, do not cower underneath rocks like proverbial green moss, afraid of the consequential glare of sunlight. Rav Lior subscribes to a philosophy that sees the hand of God in the creation of the State of Israel.

Diametrically opposed to his views are those who endorse the position of the late Rebbe of Satmer, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum z”l. Rav Teitelbaum held that the primary (perhaps only) reason for the Holocaust was God’s “retribution” against the actions of zionists who dared transgress the 3 oaths. These views, largely held by the Hungarian charedi population, are considered utterly abhorrent by many. It is simply beyond comprehension to fathom the concept of 6 million Jews murdered, gassed and burned and amongst them תנוקות של בית רבן who were hurled against walls to have their skulls fractured, all because God was angry that they dared defy British anti-semites and seek to re-inhabit ארץ אבותינו. Whatever the case may be, we know where the Satmer Rebbe stood on this issue in the same way that we know the views of people like the Neturei Karta’s  R’ Moshe Beck.

In summary, one will not die wondering what Rav Dov Lior or להבדיל R’ Moshe Beck’s views on issues are. They have the courage of their convictions to openly state their opinions. Fast forward now to the following video of a local identity, the brother of R’ Moshe Beck, Rav A. Z. Beck, the Hungarian Rabbinic leader of a separatist Haredi group in Melbourne.

STOP PRESS:

It seems the video above was removed from youtube. In some sense that says plenty. Those of you who wish to see the video, may download it

What are their views? Do they think Hitler and the SS were sent by Hashem because of the Zionists and their rebellion against the Shalosh Shavuos? Is this the view of that community as a whole? To be sure, there are exceptions, but is this the mainstream view? Do they contend that since most Jews in Melbourne consider themselves Zionist or pro State of Israel that these Jews are all Kofrim (apostates)? Is it permitted to engage in business with regular Jews in Melbourne, or is there some blanket overarching permission when it comes to making money? It is alleged that the Melbourne Rav Beck distanced himself from his brother. To what extent? Is it only the fact that the brother openly states his opinions and demonstrates the courage of his convictions? Is it only because the Monsey brother kissed Ahmadinajad ימח שמו? Is what is said in private also said in public?