Whose message is truer? Make your mind up.

If you’ve followed the news, the ‘egalitarian’ types, who contort, convolute and morph Judaism into a religion which suits their pre-determined value system, were outraged because the Government delayed a decision to provide a new gender mixed section for their prayer rites.

This didn’t just upset the emancipated left. Strangely, the President of Melbourne’s Religious Zionist Organisation, Danny Lamm, promulgated  a video of himself, with back to the Kotel, bemoaning the decision. Danny is also the President of the Australian Zionist Federation. Who was he representing? Were these his views or those designed to be elected to the World Jewish Congress or assuage the Zionist Federation of Australia. Certainly they are not views that his father or uncle, avowed Cherut/Likudniks would have held.

Judge for yourself.

Now that you have heard Danny. Please read the following honest piece which appeared in the premium section of Ha’aretz, by Irit Linur. [Hat tip Magyar]

Opinion Who Are We to Tell Religious Jews What to Do at the Western Wall?
After all, the Orthodox made the Western Wall a holy site, while we secular Jews banished God from our lives

Irit Linur Jul 10, 2017 12:38 AM

Like many secular Jews, I am not particularly interested in the Kotel. It has no shade or Zara outlet. But, I hopped over there this week for a surprise visit, and two things caught my eye. First, there was the mixed gender prayer space. It is beautiful, built on an impressive archaeological site below Robinson’s Arch. Unlike the Western Wall plaza, it is shaded, and you can enter it without a security check.

The second impression was the difference in the number of visitors to the two plazas. There were thousands of people in the Western Wall plaza on a regular weekday. There was just a cat in the mixed section. In light of the outcry that arose around the nixing of the Kotel agreement one would have expected to see thousands of Women of the Wall, imbued with religious spirit, alongside bar mitzva ceremonies in which grandma need not stand on a chair to get a peek at the men’s section. However, the mixed section was practically abandoned.

A few meters away, the Western Wall is teeming with Jewish life, despite the long – and gender-segregated – security inspection line. It is full of life because for hundreds of years its natural guardians – the Orthodox – preserved its holiness. They engage in it, with texts that are hundreds or thousands of years old, and a rabbinic hierarchy, and tradition and strict rules that if they change at all, change s-l-o-w-l-y. And they are engaged in the daily observance of commandments and prohibitions that not everyone can rationally explain, and some of them are unacceptable. And even those that are acceptable can be deceiving: Orthodox Jews’ strict observance of Shabbat does not stem from an adherence to socialism or primordial support for workers of the world but rather a godly commandment. Orthodox Jews avoid schnitzel with butter even though they know chickens do not produce milk. And the Kotel is most definitely holy because anyone who keeps chicken and milk separate is exactly the type to find holiness in stones.
The obsession with holiness is sometimes annoying, perhaps even arrogant, so particularly witty secular Jews can mockingly call God “an imaginary friend” or compare him to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But when faith in an imaginary friend begets the Bible, a people and a 2,000-year-old culture as well as a moral system that ignited Western culture, you can drop the smugness with which people brag about their atheist purity. And let’s admit the truth: Not keeping commandments is much easier than keeping them.

Some will say that even without commandments secular Jews are no less Jewish than religious ones, so they should be equal partners is determining the character of the Kotel. It is correct in principle, but there is meaning to keeping your religious traditions, or at least recognizing them, before pretending to make religious rulings. I, for example, am a typical product of state secular education. I was surprised to discover in my first year of university that the Rambam was a world-famous philosopher and not just another baba from the graves of righteous Jews. Thus, I still don’t feel ready to write a prayer equal to the Aleinu, or to prove that God is totally cool with driving on Shabbat and with a female rabbi. You have to wait 500 or 600, or even 2,000 years for that.

And if we insist on secularism as a value, it’s hard for me to understand the accompanying insistence on sitting on the tribunal, free of religion’s bonds, and shouting out directives to a Jew who fasted not only on Yom Kippur but also on… nu, remind me … oh, right, Gedalya, and furiously reads the entire Hagaddah every Passover seder, including the part after the meal. We are arguing with these people about Judaism, and what is the right Judaism, and how Judaism should be, while we are armed with ignorance that we acquired through state secular education, a very partial study of the Bible, “Two are holding a tallis” from seventh-grade Talmud class, and that’s it. We sometimes seem like six-year-old children who are trying to join a philosophy discussion without knowing who Plato is.
You don’t have to be religious to recognize the religious contribution to turning the Kotel into much more than an archaeological site. Religious Jews made the Kotel holy long before we extended Israeli sovereignty over it, including periods in which praying there was dangerous. They prayed without a partition between men and women when the Ottoman regime forbade Jewish worship. Religious Jews adhered to their imaginary friend, whom we banished from our secular lives. We rejected large parts of the cultural enterprise that Judaism fostered, and we even defended our children from it. We complained about religious influence in the education system, instead of complaining that they didn’t teach us how a siddur looks.

Excuse me, but I don’t believe a sudden outburst of holy lust has overcome us. It looks to me like the disappointment of those who fully believed you could have a Jewish state without Judaism, and perhaps an overreaction by those whose enlightened sensitivities are repulsed by any level of religious feeling.

The fight over the Kotel isn’t really about Reform Jews. They are a marginal group in Israel. They may be a – not especially effective – barrier against mass assimilation. However, Israel is the only place in the world in which you can be a Jew and, without fearing for the Judaism of your grandchildren, cast off the burden of commandments and still feel as Jewish as Moses. None of this could exist without religious Jews. As a secular person, I believe that if we run the Kotel according to secular standards, it will look less like a holy site and more like a parking lot. Fortunately, the Orthodox will keep praying there even then.

Okay, so we have two opinions: the Religious Zionist one? from Danny Lamm of Mizrachi, and the Secular opinion of Irit Linur.

Irit emerged with remarkably refreshing honesty, void of political shadow boxing.

Do you agree?

Rabbi Danny Mirvis confirmed. Mazel Tov

Picture from Kinus Torah at Chabad’s Yeshiva Gedola
A bold move by Mizrachi. Thank God he isn’t ‘a pseudo card carrying member of Open (sic) Orthodoxy’ or Maverick ARK. 

Hopefully this will see ‘Beit HaRoeh’ move en masse into the main Shule!
From Danny Lamm, the president of Mizrachi in Melbourne.

Dear Members,I was informed earlier today by Mizrachi’s auditors that members had voted overwhelmingly (97%) in support of the Mizrachi Committee’s decision to offer the position of Senior Rabbi of the Mizrachi Organisation to Rabbi Danny Mirvis for a term of 4 years with such appointment to take effect from Rosh Chodesh Ellul 5776 (4 September 2016). 

I have, of course, informed Rav Danny and Althea of the outcome which reflect’s the extraordinary support they have already received following the announcement of their proposed appointment. 

I am delighted to inform you that a formal induction ceremony will take place in late August and that Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Rebbetzin Valerie Mirvis will make a special visit to Melbourne to participate in this auspicious event.

Farewell Rabbi Yaakov Sprung

Please note: there will be no comments on this post.

I am not a member of Mizrachi. I used to be, about three decades ago, and my Rav was the saintly Rav Boruch Abaranok ז’’ל. Rav Abaranok was a Tzadik Gamur. He wasn’t a Beinoni. He was the real thing. He received his Smicha from the Chafetz Chaim and was friendly with Rav Elchonon Wasserman הי’’ד. He didn’t wear a Kippa Sruga (knitted yarmulka) and wore a dark suit and homburg hat. He wasn’t a great orator, but his words in a one on one situation, penetrated the heart more than any orator could achieve. He was also a staunch zionist, and supported the State of Israel in a genuine fashion. I have written about him here. When he paskened, he would subsequently invite you to come the next day or that night, to his office or home, and have all the Seforim open and prepared, and would explain from inside how he had come to his Psak Din.

Our son, Tzvi Yehuda, now famous for his incredible and successful chasing kosher side venture, was fortunate to have Rav Abaranok as his Sandek. I remember being flabbergasted when he arrived at the door for both the Bris and subsequent Upsherin, each time carrying a gift of Seforim. Our younger son, Yosef Dov who is learning in Israel presently, was also lucky to get a set of Seforim from Rav Abaranok ז’ל.

On Shabbos he wore a black litvishe kapote much like the dress of the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbis of Israel.

I used to bring our children (two back then) to Rav Abaranok almost every Sunday morning. His children and grandchildren were all overseas, and his wife nebach, was with him but not 100% due to her horrid experience in the Holocaust.

Rav Abaranok became very sick after a fall (as I recall). I had a strange sense that he was about to leave this world. It was too difficult for me to absorb emotionally, so I started visiting less often. He would ask me, if he saw me, “Yitzchok, what did I do. Why don’t you come anymore?”. He never realised that I couldn’t cope with seeing him slip away.

On his first Yohr Tzeit, I went and stood outside his house (which is no longer there) and just cried.

While he was still at Mizrachi, the community decided to appoint a new Rabbi. I stopped going because my father ע’’ה asked me to (the reason for which is immaterial to this post)

That Rabbi was replaced by the recently deceased and well-known, Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen ז’ל. Many members of our family still daven at Mizrachi and my brother-in-law is now the President. I was fortunate to have occasions to interact with him. My interactions were always of a Torah/Halachic nature and I enjoyed speaking “in learning” with him. He had a pleasant disposition and was a professional American style Rabbi with lots of grandeur.

Rabbi Cohen eventually left (I believe of his own accord, but I can’t recall), and was replaced by Rabbi Sprung.

Rabbi Sprung will complete 10 years of Rabonus at Mizrachi in August. I went to his home every Purim (even though he stopped serving scotch after the first year :-), and we shared divrei torah and halachic discussions. On one occasion, when there was an  injustice in the community, he was the Rabbi who was prepared to stand up, by ringing overseas, properly ascertaining facts, when he could easily have avoided the issue. He made a difference.

My wife loved his Shabbos Shiurim, and went every Shabbos to hear these. She said that he put so much preparation into each Shiur. He seemed to always be giving Shiurim. He went from minyan to minyan at Mizrachi and gave droshos. He enjoyed good relationships with the Roshei Kollel of Mizrachi’s Kollel and other Rabbinic staff.

His pastoral support was incredible. He would visit the sick, comfort the mourner or the forlorn, and his door was open. Recently, one post was perhaps too revealing about my state of mind. He doesn’t read blogs, but someone had mentioned it to him. On the next morning, I got a phone call wherein he expressed concern for me, and stressed that whenever I needed or wanted to discuss anything with him, to do so, and that his door was always open. My father ע’’ה was in hospital several times. Rabbi Sprung always visited him amongst many others. I know my father greatly appreciated Rabbi Sprung’s visits. He was in fact the only Rabbi to visit him.

Rabbi Sprung on the far left. [picture from melbourne eruv website]
On Simchos (Smachot if you want to use Ivrit) he would meticulously prepare by interviewing everyone, and then weave a wonderful Drosha where he paid tribute to the attributes of the Ba’alei Simcha and their families. I heard such Droshas many a time. We invited him and his Rebbetzin to our own Simchos, as I considered him a Choshuve Rav with whom I had developed a relationship.

Mizrachi is not like other Kehillos. There are a lot of “leaders” of other organisations who are highly opinionated who daven there as well as many highly educated professionals and “machers”. Rabbi Sprung’s fidelity to Halacha was unquestionable. He wasn’t afraid to state his firm halachic view on a range of issues, including those who led services at the conservadox Shira Chadasha (an identical view with which Mori V’Rabbi Rav Hershel Schachter agrees). These types of issues may have made him be seen as too “right-wing”, but I can’t know that with certainty. I can only describe my interaction. Perhaps Mizrachi will now employ a hatless, Kipa Sruga type. Time will tell.

Towards the end of his Rabbonus contract in August, Mizrachi decided that it would only extend the contract after a democratic vote of all members. I can’t recall whether they had a democratic vote to appoint him, but I do recall there were a few candidates. One can surmise that after 10 years in the role, some no longer appreciated what he offered.

I am sad to see Rabbi Sprung’s tenure at Mizrachi Melbourne come to an end. Knowing him, he will see it as Hashgocho (divine providence) and depart as gracefully as when he arrived. I know he was widely respected by the Melbourne Rabbinate, and he avoided politics when  possible. I’m guessing Rebbetzin Naomi Sprung may feel somewhat blessed that she has an opportunity to relocate to an area closer to her children and grandchildren. Melbourne, isn’t exactly close by, and to be dislocated from family would be a strain for anyone.

I wish Rabbi and Rebbetzin Sprung immediate future success, together with lots of Nachas and joy.

We now wait to see who the (democratically elected?) new Rabbi will be.

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
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 Waller SC
Mizrachi Organisation

Yom Yerushalayim 2011

On this day, many Jews refrain from saying תחנון and replace this with psalms of הלל, some with a ברכה and others without. On this day, those Jews who have no problem with praising ה’ יתברך for the ניסים he afforded עם ישראל do so. On this day, those Jews who are capable of “forgiving” the fact that הקב’ה wrought his ניסים despite the fact that some of his שלוחים were מחללי שבת and members of secular Zionist groups, do so, and praise Him for this wonderful step towards our pregnant גאולה. On this day, those Jews who can rise above petty politics and pent-up hangups over historical maskilic Zionists do so, and visually touch the יד ה’ extant on this wonderful day. On this day, those who not only crow about not giving back territories, but actually go out there and live in those territories, celebrate the feeling of immense קדושה which emanates from the Holiest city in the world. On this day, those Jews who are able to feel that even under exile, ירושלים is מקודשת from all other cities, increase in their Tefilla, and exclaim הודו לה’ כי טוב.

On this day, Rav Kook ז’ל also arrived in Israel to take up his position as Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Jaffa.  The press (Ha-Hashkafah) described it thus:

“On Friday, the 28th of Iyar, our new rabbi made his appearance in our town. … He was received with great honor by residents of the community from all sections of the population. Messengers came from Jerusalem, to welcome him in the name of Rabbi Shmuel Salant and the Aderet. Delegates also came from the villages of Rishon Letzion, Petach Tikvah, and so on, to receive their new rabbi.”

“Important representatives from the Sephardic community also arrived, and he spoke with them in pure Hebrew. It is rare to find an (Ashkenazic) rabbi who can speak such a pure, flowing Hebrew. On the Sabbath morning, the rabbi spoke well with a clear, unadulterated Hebrew, and the Sephardic Jews also understood his words and enjoyed the sermon.”

“Even the Chabad Chasidim expressed their opinion that they consider the new rabbi to be the best possible choice. They concluded that such a rabbi was on par with the rabbis of the greatest cities of the world, due to his great wisdom and erudition…. They also consoled themselves, that even though the new rabbi was educated in non-Chasidic yeshivas, on his mother’s side he is descended from Chabad Chasidim, and is endowed with several Chasidic qualities.”

On this day, I attended the communal יום ירושלים evening service, as I do each year. Personally, I do not think that this day belongs to the Mizrachi Organisation. I would like to see the service rotated among the mainstream Shules of Melbourne. I would like each Shule to ensure that when the service is hosted in their Shule, that they enfranchise their membership to attend. I don’t subscribe to the particular נוסח currently used. We never did anything like that at כרם ביבנה and I know that the Rav was against additions to the נוסח unless they were after עלינו and were simply couched in terms of הלל והודיה.

On this day, we see most of the Chabad Rabbis attend each year (with the exception of the Yeshivah Centre itself) despite there being a tension between such a service and the view of successive Lubavitcher Rebbes. I was personally very impressed that for the first time, on this day, not only was the Principal of Beth Rivkah in attendance, but the new Principal of Yeshivah College was also in attendance. This, to me, is an expression of real participation in a communal sense, something that the previous principal would never have entertained. Congratulations on this initiative.