Strident words on the limits of inclusion

The following is from Rav David Rosen, Dean of the Zomet Institute.

The Torah spoke of four sons: One who is wise, one who is evil, one who is simple, and one who does not know how to ask. What does the evil one say? What is this service to you – to you and not to him. And since he removed himself from the community he has rejected the essence. Dull his teeth… If he had been there, he would not have been redeemed.” [From the Haggada of Pesach].

Family Inclusion

Homiletic experts from all the generations have delved into and analyzed the four sons: the essence of their questions, the suitability of the replies we give, and mainly the fact that they have all been invited to the same place – our Seder table. Speakers of the last generation have added a fifth chair, meant for a son who doesn’t even make it to the Seder. Not only doesn’t he know how to ask the questions, in fact he has no interest in asking, and he might well block his ears so as not to hear anything. And even so, our speakers tell us, and rightly so – we maintain a warm corner in our hearts for him. “For as I speak of him, I will yet remember him. Therefore my insides pine for him, I will have pity on him…” [Yirmiyahu 31:19]. Women speakers of the last generations, who are working hard to translate the Torah into a feminized format, will also present a group of four daughters, in an effort to maintain equality. (What do you call the bad daughter? Evil? A shrew?)

Sermons will be made, and I will make my own attempt to add my words to the issue which is called “inclusion” – that is, everything can be included, everything is treated in the same way. This word, which comes from the realm of psychology, is today used to denote acceptance of and compassion for the “other” – whether he or she is different, strange, and even a bit eccentric – just a s they are, without any hint of rejection, without preaching to them, and without trying to make them change their behavior or their outlook. I can partially identify with this concept, but with one important limitation: The “other” must be aware that he or she is different and that his behavior is wrong as far as I am concerned. In this case, there is indeed room for friendship, a partnership, a combination, and a conversation. From my point of view I do not flatter him but act in accordance with the definition: “inclusion.”

Let us return to the Seder table and to family containment. Many religious and Torah-true families find it difficult to accept sons and daughters who have strayed from the path, and who have removed the yoke of the mitzvot (partially or completely). However, the Seder table calls out to all of them and “includes” them, placing special emphasis on the “evil one” who sits on the sidelines. We must have only praise for the communities of the east, who during many generations have developed the techniques of “including” those who stray from the path of Torah – people who come to the synagogue on Shabbat and then continue as on a weekday, but they still define themselves as “traditional.” Reform Jews, on the other hand, who parted in anger from the Ashkenazi communities, do not exist in the eastern communities, and they are certainly not “included” in the communities of Ashkenaz.

Community Inclusion?

I have in front of me a document with the title “Halacha and Inclusion,” by the “rabbis of Beit Hillel and their wives,” which was distributed in the synagogues on Shabbat Hagadol. (Since containment in Hebrew is “hachala,” the Hebrew title is a play on words: ” Hachala V’Halacha.”) The rabbis of this modern-Orthodox enterprise produced a “position paper in the spirit of halacha,” as they put it, which calls for opening the hearts and the gates of the communities to people with a homosexual orientation. If I understand correctly, this would even include same-sex “marriages” of either men or women. Well, the son might ask, but in this case the father totally rejects such “inclusion” using the building tool in his hand, as Shammai once did under other circumstances!

I am not opposed to some simple elements included in the document about the need and the positive effect of outreach to sinners and not to reject them, and about the positive halachic attitude towards those who sin because of an innate urge, and about such things as “spiritual rape,” and more. 

However, I have sharp criticism about subjects that do not appear and as a result about the inclusion approach, which has evidently led to instability of the 14 rabbis (including some I know personally, and whom I do not understand) and the 7 women who signed the “ruling,” as it is called. (I note in passing that the title “ruling” on a halachic position which is mainly based on a world outlook reminds me very much of the rulings of the “Conservative Rabbinical Court.”)
Just what is missing in this document? As is noted in the Haggada, we should “remove from the community” all those who pride themselves in sporting a peacock’s tail in order to make their sins into a banner for all to see . We cannot “include” one who is proud of his or her sin and is a member of a sinful organization. The goal of such a declared organization is to draw other people into the circle of sin, and to provide legitimization of a forbidden pathway. Anybody who is part of such an ostentatious group cannot be accepted, and they should not be “included” in any of our communities (the family or the Seder table is different, and this should be discussed separately). This absolute diagnosis is totally missing from the above “ruling,” and it is clear from publicized material that the purpose of the document is to show appreciation for the progressive approach of Beit Hillel, which knows how to “include” everybody!

Here is the main point in summary: It is not possible to “include” institutionalized single-sex “families” within a community (and it is unclear whether this applies to a family grouping around a Seder table). “Chessed hu – It is a sinful act” [Vayikra 20:17]. “Tevel hu – it is an abomination” [18:23]. And it is also “hevel” – a vain approach. 

I wonder: Will these people react in the same way to men who marry Gentile women? Perhaps the answer is yes, who can know the spiritual depths of Beit Hillel? I want to note for the authors of this “ruling” that even among the abominations of Egypt, they never stooped to “writing a Ketuva for men” [Chulin 92b].

(Written after the end of Shabbat Hagadol.)

Pesach and the Jewish Calendar

Guest Post from R’ Meir Deutsch (c) [lightly edited by me]

© מאיר דויטש ניסן ה’תשע”ו
את חג המצות תשמור […] למועד חודש האביב
The Hebrew calendar is based on a combination of the lunar and solar calendars, as written in Bereshit:

“יהי מאורות ברקיע השמיים להבדיל בין היום ובין הלילה, והיו לאותות ולמועדים ולימים ושנים.” 

Our calendar is based on the Babylonian one. The names of the months are very similar, and the Babylonian calendar has also a leap year with ADARO SHENI. The Hebrew Calendar, according to Rav Ada (lived in the third century in Pumbedita) has a cycle of 19 years to merge the lunar and solar years. In his calendar we have:

365 days

5 hours

55 minutes

25 seconds.

The length of a year as known today is: 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds, a difference of just 6 minutes and 39 seconds.

For order’s sake, I want to mention, that according to Shmuel  in Eruvin 56a the solar year is 365 days and 6 hours.

ואין בין תקופה לתקופה אלא תשעים ואחד יום ושבע שעות ומחצה.

In HALACHA Shmuel’s calendar was adopted. According to his calendar the ברכת החמה is fixed. Shmuel’s calendar is based on the Julian calendar. As the HALACHA is based on Shmuel’s calendar, the calendar of Rav Ada is not mentioned in the Talmud, but most of the calculations are based on his calendar.         

Today we are in the Jewish year 5776 = ה’תשע”ו, and it is a leap year. When do we add another Adar to our calendar to match the two calendars? According to the formula of the Hebrew calendar the leap years in the 19 year circle are גו”ח אדז”ט, meaning that the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years are leap years.

What do our sages say in that matter? The Talmud in Sanhedrin 12a says:

“תנו רבנן: אין מעברין את השנה לא בשביעית, ולא במוצאי שביעית.”

Don’t we have a problem this year with that? Last year we had a Shmitta year, if so, how come that the current year is a leap year? This problem can be solved by the Yerushalmi:

מסכת פאה פרק ה הלכה א: “ר’ יונתן ברי’ דר’ יצחק בר אחא שמע לה מן הדא אין מעברין את השנה לא בשביעית ולא במוצאי שביעית ואם עברוה הר”ז מעוברת.”

We mentioned earlier which years are leap years according to the formula. Does this formula match the learning of out sages?

Let us have a look at Sanhedrin 11b:

“ת”ר על שלושה דברים מעברין את השנה: על האביב, ועל פירות האילן, ועל התקופה”.

Why do we have to make a year a leap year?

We are ordered to celebrate Passover. We have a date on which we should celebrate it, but we have a condition for fixing the date – the season. The Torah, in Shmot (23, 16) says:

“את חג המצות תשמור […] למועד חודש האביב”

And in Devarim (16, 1) we find written:

“שמור את חודש האביב ועשית פסח לה’ א-לוהיך”

The dates are; for the Pesach sacrifice the 14th of the month (Nissan), and Chag Hamatzot the following day. These dates are according the lunar calendar, but the condition that it should be in the [first] month of spring is determined by the solar calendar. The Rambam writes on this matter:

(רמב”ם הלכות קידוש החודש פרק ד הלכה א): “ולולא הוספת החדש הזה היה הפסח בא פעמים בימות החמה ופעמים בימות הגשמים.”

We have four seasons, Autumn/fall, winter, spring and summer, we call them:

תקופת תשרי, תקופת טבת, תקופת ניסן ותקופת תמוז.

As we are dealing with seasons, they are fixed by the solar calendar.

Tkufat Nissan – 21st March (length of day and night equal)

Tkufat Tamuz – 21st June (the longest day)

Tkufat Tishrei   – 23rd September (length of day and night equal)

Tkufat Tevet – 21st December (the shortest day).

Rashi in Mesechet Rosh Hashana 21a explains the saying of Rav Huna:

“ואביב הוא יום תקופת ניסן, שניסן של חמה נכנס בו, שניסן קרוי אביב על שם בישול התבואה, ובישול התבואה אינו אלא לחשבונה של חמה, שהקיץ והחורף אחר חשבון החמה הם, […] ואילו היה תקופת ניסן ביום חמשה עשר – לא היינו צריכין לעבר את השנה, אלא נעבר אדר ונדחה את ניסן יום אחד, ותפול התקופה ביום ארבעה עשר, אבל כשהיא באה ביום ששה עשר בניסן – לא די לן בעיבורו של אדר, וצריכה השנה להתעבר […].”

And the Rambam writes on this matter:

(רמב”ם הלכות קידוש החודש פרק ד הלכה ב)

“על שלשה סימנין מעברין את השנה, על התקופה ועל האביב ועל פירות האילן, כיצד? בית דין מחשבין ויודעין אם תהיה תקופת ניסן בששה עשר בניסן או אחר זמן זה מעברין אותה השנה, ויעשו אותו ניסן אדר שני כדי שיהיה הפסח בזמן האביב [שהוא 30 יום הראשונים של תקופת ניסן], ועל סימן זה סומכין ומעברין ואין חוששין לסימן אחר.” 

Tkufat Nisan starts on 21st March must start by the 14th of Nisan. If it starts on the 15th we add one day to Adar, and if it starts on the 16th or later we make it a leap year and add the second Adar, otherwise Passover will not be celebrated in the spring, which is the first month of Tkufat Nisan.

Let us take for example this year – 5776. If we did not add the second Adar, the 14th of Nisan, would fall on the 24th of March, which is within the first month of Tkufat Nisan, and Passover would be celebrated in the month of spring. Did we have to add, according to Rashi, the Rambam or the Talmud, the second Adar to the calendar this year? Do we celebrate Passover this year in the first month of spring? 

חג מצות שמח.

Rabbi Dr Nathan Lopes-Cardozo on the Hagodo

I’m amazed at Dr Cardozo’s  latest piece. You can read it. I found it facile. I will summarise my reaction

  1. We are the people of the book. It is called the Torah. It can’t be “read” away. It is immutable.
  2. There purposely has always been an oral component, handed down at Sinai. We don’t need Plato for the insight of reading and understanding.
  3. The text is called HAGODO which means “telling/saying”. In other words, the point is dialogue. The text is the starting point. Not having a locus to commence from leads to the neo style evenings which turn Pesach into yet another commemoration of the Holocaust, something Rav Soloveitchik railed against vociferously. The left will of course humanise the story of Jews and turn it into “the evening of social justice” where we commemorate Darfur, Slavery, and what have you. Sorry. This is about Yetzias Mitzrayim which is indelibly woven both rationally and Kabbalistically  with Matan Torah. Matan Torah is what it’s all about. The former, Pesach, is the journey.
  4. Reading doesn’t require verbalising. The Hagodo does as he notes, but doesn’t amplify
  5. Rebbi Yehuda Hanosi wasn’t concerned with pharmakon! He was concerned that the oral discussions not be lost. Learning Gemora is the quintessential exercise in trying to piece together any contradictory mesoras that were transmitted
  6. I’m not at all clear what Dr Cardozo’s message means in the context of an audience that doesn’t understand the basics of what was written, and to expand that into dialogue. As I alluded to above, this is not ab nihilo. The Baal Hagodo gave us a starting point. If one isn’t even at the level of the starting point, then the starting point becomes exactly what should be taught this year, so that new insights are introduced in the following year. The beginning is most definitely reading and more reading and more reading. We most definitely do start from a point. It is called Mesora.
So much for Plato

 

My Whys over Pesach?

The AJN target Yeshivah and are not at all even handed.

[UPDATED: I was not aware that my post (in good faith, by a friend) was published on Facebook. I don’t use Facebook except in a private professional capacity to stay in touch with my 450+ postgraduate alumni of nearly 3 decades as it is a most convenient forum.

I understand some people had nice, not nice, and some scathing comments to make about my “Whys”. It’s only a relatively a free country, however, and as author of my thoughts I reserve the right to publish and/or respond to anyone reacting to these. Accordingly, if you feel like it (and frankly it is not my aim to attract comments) and are ready to put a real name to your comment (unless you are, of course a victim of crime) I will moderate your comment according to my understanding of Halacha and common law. If such an arrangement does not suit you, go ahead and write a critique. I won’t be engaging in debate, as this is not why I write. If I want my blood pressure to rise, I have a myriad of better techniques at my disposal 🙂 ]

Onto the article, which I will now proof-read in anticipation of a wider audience than I would normally expect.

Both before and during Pesach I found myself full of pitputim that I needed to express. I held myself back for reasons that aren’t worth recording. One of these was that I didn’t think it was permitted on Chol Hamoed. Maybe I was the proverbial תם (simpleton) of the Hagadda and should have fired thoughts as soon as they occupied my neurones, but, for various reasons, I held back and wrote them immediately after Pesach (when I undoubtedly should have helped my wife). Undoubtedly that was not the right timing, but let’s not go there (thanks CBN).

Some of the responses to these questions need people to retrospect through new glasses; as such I was reticent. This is a hard job, Accordingly, I’m going to frame some of my thoughts as a series of why’s as opposed to proffering cheap advice.

  1. Why has the disgraceful Australian Jewish News continued to remain the mouthpiece of few, as opposed to a faithful unbiased reporter of Jewish news allowing for a wider range of reporting of fact. To give but one example, anyone on Facebook (and I am not on Facebook except with my University alumni although I have an account I originally set up to see pics of my grandchildren) can look up Avi Yemini and find most serious accusations which he apparently alleges will now be formalised via the police against his father Steven (aka Tzefania) Waks. Why Steve? Well, he has clearly shown a preference to a centrist orthodox way of life, dispensing with charedi garb and beard. For the record, I am often regarded as centrist and my name is Isaac. Some persist in calling me יצחק and from my perspective both are quite ok. Indeed, halachically speaking one cannot will away a name that one was called formally even if done via deed but lets not go to that area of Halacha. More to the point:Why is the Australian Jewish News seemingly ignorant of Avi Yemini and his siblings and their views of the father of Manny Waks? I met his siblings in Miami and it wasn’t a pretty description, and backed up Avi. Indeed, they don’t like to talk about it. Guess what AJN? That (comparative silence) in of itself is news, and should be reported. Why didn’t you do that? There is more, but I won’t write it.
  2. Why is Tzedek “off the map?” I did see an advertisement this week, which is good but there is no denying the demise of Tzedek and it worries me. At best, it served as an important encouragement to those who have been abused (earlier in their lives) to give voice to that abuse; and encourage others to give voice. This is critical to unveiling the mask of perpetrators and ensuring educational programs become de jure in organisations to recognise and prevent such perverts. We don’t hear comparatively less from Tzedek since their controversial CEO resigned, although I have absolutely nothing against those running it now and I am sure they are as committed to the cause as those who preceded them; irrespective of whether some were victims. I am not a victim of abuse, but I pursued Cyprys until his veil was lifted. I believe Kramer was after my time, and I certainly didn’t experience any abuse from any of my teachers, be they religious or secular in my 12 years in the School and neither did my siblings.
  3. Why are victims creating websites? The manifestation of private websites authored by professed victims serves good in my eyes only if it’s cathartic for them and not investigative. I’m not a psychiatrist but I’d hope their psychiatric advice would be to pursue such channels only if it was part of their healing. There are existing channels. I’m not sure why they aren’t apparently being used. Shouldn’t they channel their life long challenges to established professionals and professional organisations? I don’t think personabused.com.au is the best idea on the planet and furthermore many will see it as self-serving gold-digging. There are formal community and private bodies to help deal with these life long issues and give aid using the best professional methods, as they are developed. At worst it may give the impression that those abused seek to make a career from being abused and I doubt that this is their intention. Well, I hope not. If it indeed is their sublime intention, then I suggest they need even more professional help than they realise.
  4. Why is it that The Australian Jewish News seems to only report one school and institution-the Yeshivah Centre. We all know that the Yeshivah Centre and Chabad in general have done more than arguably any group for Torah observance, Kiruv, and the welfare of those in need. They are not judgemental. Their mantra is love albeit played through the love strings of their Rebbe’s violin. This is their great strength. They do, in the main follow, a system which was typified by their late and great Rebbe. They have rotten apples. No group is immune from that reality. The last Lubavitcher Rebbe (and his father in law) didn’t join groups (e.g. Aguda) and felt they could achieve their aims through an independent well-structured agenda: bringing Jews and Judaism to Torah and Mitzvos through spreading Chassidus Chabad. He rarely (to my knowledge) interfered with the nitty-gritty of problems in his myriad of institutions but was surely bombarded by such (indeed I once did so). He expected that same independence and intellectual purity to be demonstrated by his trained and faithful emissaries. Sure, they asked his advice, but he wasn’t aware of cleaners and locksmiths and groomers of kids in Mikvaos irrespective of the stories you hear of his greatness and vision.Now, it is clear to all, that the SCHOOLS, (Yeshivah and Beth Rivkah) which are really the raison d’être of the entire organisation are employing best practice, to the extent that they are perhaps overly strict. It is known that they are allegedly being sued by some employees who step out of a very strict line and who don’t allegedly practice world’s best standards. This was instituted before the Royal Commission and as soon as word of the criminals Cyprys and Kramer became love children for the reporters of “the Age”. The other love children of “the Age” are Israel and the “Palestinians”. I know some of the reporters from the Age. They hunkered for Jewish stories and used to call me (and read my blog) as I am straight on these matters and always tried to be. Indeed Mr Waks senior rang me almost daily in my pursuit of Cyprys. As a board member of Elwood Shule, I felt an extreme responsibility to stop this pariah from parading in the way he did.
  5. Why is Yeshivah singled out for its particular mode of governance, when all Chabad Houses still function in a similar way and have not been abandoned in any way. Few complain, because they trust the Rabbi and his advisors and they all benefit. Are some going to conduct an audit of a Rabbi Raskin/Engel/You-name-them and their specialised Chabad Houses, or, say Rabbi Lieder who works tirelessly for Israeli back packers (and ironically leave Melbourne with more knowledge of Judaism than what they learned when in Tel Aviv?) No. I don’t hear any call from the Jewish News or the holier than thou’s asking for a different form of transparent governance. Why not? Is it a matter of amount or principle? Don’t get me wrong here. I think they should all, without exception, including Adass’s offshoot extreme school, subscribe to the strictest codes especially given the Chillul Hashem we have endured. I also happen to disagree with the mode of governance but having grown up witnessing the hopeless squalor that Rabbi Groner lived in, I never considered him to have anything other than the institution in his mind. Indeed, when my father gave him some money before Pesach, the next day there was a receipt from the Yeshivah Centre.
  6. [Please note] The information about Heichal Hatorah (Rabbi Donnenbaum) was miscommunicated. It isn’t based on video surveillance. There is a policy, as I understand it being developed by professionals which as I am informed will be an approved policy that can stand up to accepted standards.  We apologise for that previous innacuracy.
  7. Why only Chabad? It’s not just Chabad. Rabbi Kohn, a controversial figure himself, runs what is effectively the identical model of a Chabad house, except that his is a private business like Meir Gershon Rabi. Will anyone ever know the finances? Cyprys went to Kohn’s minyan! I heard Rabbi Kohn say he learnt his craft from R’ Nochum Zalman Gurevich, who we all knew and loved. Well he learned some of it, the bits that garnered donations. Yes, Kohn’s bent could be described as non Hasidic or anti Hasidic, but who audits his books? What real governance exists? What standards do they use there? Is there a community list—even a Shomer Shabbos list—of every single place that has an acceptable verifiable standard. Let’s not forget, people like Cyprys would try to hire a Shule Hall or a Youth Hall and use that as their modus operandi. He worked for the CSG no less and they had no clue.2015 is not 1985 or 1995 or earlier. The world has changed we must completely eradicate this scourge of scum. It is in fact far worse overseas, if you can believe it because they are so much “holier” and use cattle prongs to elicit a gett as long as you pay through your teeth.
  8. Why are Adass Israel ignored? Peyos don’t make the man. Malka Leifer, has strangely not been a constant focus of those affected by Cyprys and/or Kramer and she runs free allegedly in Immanuel in Israel. Credible rumors abound that she is seeking to avoid extradition to face serious charges on the grounds that the “West Bank” where she resides is not Israel! and Australia has no extradition treaty. Can you believe such a Chutzpah? If true, this is a clever but grossly offensive defence by smart attorneys. I ask why the silence from the Adass Congregation that provides us with so many products and producers. Is it only about food and profit? You cannot get Adass to do anything until you hit their hip pocket. The rest of us are unwanted pimples of the Sitra Achra. Don’t be mistaken. This is what they are taught. I have heard it from the number 2 in the Rabbinic side of the organisation. The youth of Adass are not the old generation. They have little love and are taught thatAhavasYisroel only exists for aShomer Shabbos.There are some wealthy people in Adass. Why isn’t Leifer’s picture in the local Immanuel paper weekly saying “Beware of this person. There are serious allegations of lesbian pedophilia against her”. Should she be teaching or ever left alone even with her own children? Has she even admitted she was wrong, short of fleeing the next day. I asked arguably the third most senior Rabbi at Adass and he shrugged his shoulders saying “What can we do”. I urge you to ask them when you bump into them at various establishments. Ask at the bakeries, ask at the fish shops, ask at the next function you attend. You can do plenty Adass but you thumb your nose at the non charedi community and now also deny that many of your own are “off the derech” something you prided yourself with and now send away so “nobody will notice”.
  9. Why aren’t other schools in the frame? I was informed reliably by someone at the Royal Commission that there were n students of Mt Scopus abused some time ago and a then headmaster was approached and said “Shoosh” it will cause a Chillul Hashem. Sound familiar? I know the AJN were at the Royal Commission. Was there an order barring the names of other schools affected by the despicable reprehensible pedophiles to be reported. I had wondered about the timing of a later letter by Rabbi Kennard (who reads my blog). He didn’t reply. Why? Rabbi Kennards letter was correct and proper but should have been written at least 6 months earlier.
  10. Why don’t people re-internalise that Yeshivah was a one man band. An incredibly wonderful one-man band with more success than people could ever imagine. It was the late and great Rabbi Groner, who whilst consulting with professionals, would not today remotely repeat his approach if he had his time again. Is there anyone game enough to say he would? There was always a committee, but they were and are toothless tigers who took ultimate direction from Rabbi Groner. If he said “no” the committee could proverbially jump. He told them what he thought they needed to know. I have no doubt there were many private things he took his grave. Tonight is his birthday as I just saw from an email.Much was in his head and certainly never on paper. He was the Shaliach. People were only too happy to call him their friend and get his calls in hospital while he was in hospital himself, and come to functions in his honour and he is on the record as vociferously castigating some of the parents whose children became victims (and they ignored him on occasion). Is there a real need to destroy the man after his passing, together with his significant life work, now, while the place has initiated a process to modernise its governance when ill-timed votes threaten its existence financially? Sure, if their new governance is a façade, go for it, but for crying out loud, give them a chance to go through a process. It doesn’t happen over night.
  11. I know of another very well-known (real) clergy (not charedi) who the Jewish News chose NOT to name over allegations of past pedophilia. The name would shock. He was by no means “ultra” orthodox. In that case the AJN (correctly) did not name the person because he couldn’t defend himself against the odious claims. Why only Yeshivah? Because some Rabbis showed themselves to be second-rate and/or clever by half?
  12. Why are there so many (self-proclaimed) counsellors permitted to discuss all manner of most serious topics to congregations and groups “as if” they are experts. If you are a counsellor, then register with the Australian Counselling Association and/or other similar bodies. Your commerce degree isn’t enough. There are enough complaints about counsellors themselves but if, unlike psychologists, some can get away with a load of ill-advised counselling, and more, without being answerable to a formal board, then no Jewish organisation should let them into their four walls to speak and nobody should seek them for any advice except which chewing gum to buy. Some maybe okay, but others are straight out charlatans, Register! Did victims go to a psychiatrist and spill their guts out and get medication where indicated or did they run rings around the counselling option of people who don’t answer to a board of counsellors.
  13. Why are people skeptical about those who sit on Yeshiva’s board or sat on that board? I have emails from about a decade ago where (it now turns out) some victims and others were looking to change things while Rabbi Groner was alive. One hears all types of stories of “this board member” being stubborn, “that one” being nepotistic etc. Some of it is true especially in a vacuüm. I know three former board members and I don’t think they aligned with any of the above. I know they gave thousands of hours of their lives to keep the institutions above water and growing in a way that no Jewish child was ever turned away. Remember, I happen NOT to be a card-carrying member of the “Chabad only” approach to Judaism, although members of my family happen do. We live in peace and in harmony. It’s not hard.There is a review of governance allegedly taking place. It doesn’t and can’t take 5 minutes. Instead, I hear people saying “it’s a PR trick”. How do they know that? I know a serious person who is looking at the structure and they are definitely not looking at it from a PR point of view. Yeshivah is in transition. It had to happen after Rabbi Groner’s passing following that of his mentor. It’s a shock and terrible that the spectre of pedophilia needed to be the back-breaking catalyst, but in the words of a good friend “it is what it is”. So people why don’t you sit back and see what comes forth. By all means if it isn’t transparent and in keeping with the law, bleat and bleat and bleat. Until then, surely wait a little while.
  14. Why do people feel that beating Rabbi Telsner or Rabbi Glick is the answer? It isn’t. It’s 2015. I especially rang Rabbi Telsner because I wanted to know exactly what he said that got the Jewish news positively apoplectic on their front page and what was said to him. How the AJN could then say “tell us it’s not so Rabbi Telsner” is beyond me. Rabbi Telsner and I have a love/less love relationship. He doesn’t like it when I raise Chabad issues with him (halachic) and he’s not my Posek but he doesn’t deserve to be manipulated.
  15. Why isn’t the Association of Jewish Psychologists being used more. They respond. They don’t go looking for work. I went to a talk and was very impressed with Dr Dan Gordon. He is someone who every School should use for an in-service for their teachers. Why was this a well attended event by Rabbis and religious people and yet so poorly attended by others including headmasters and/or vice-principals? I have a feeling my wife may have been the only senior teacher there. These are specialist psychologists, with PhDs and experience; they have authority and wisdom and aren’t running shonky practices. Listen to their professional wisdom.
  16. Why is the AJN becoming more of a left-wing “Age” newspaper seemingly only haranguing religious institutions (except Adass who don’t buy their paper and buy Hamodia). Religious groups certainly deserve it in some cases, but as I’ve pointed out the AJN are transparently biased. I dislike Hamodia with a passion because it is such a fake fairy tale “feel good” paper full of omissions. I saw a new paper emerge over the break. I hope it takes form. To be honest, I wouldn’t be unhappy if the AJN disappeared if it didn’t seriously reform to become a properly neutral paper instead of a harbinger of an agenda together with pictures of who attended what. I’m tempted to cancel my subscription and my advertising. If it’s possible and the AJN is listening, let me know and I will cancel. Call me tomorrow. My blood pressure will be healthier without your articles and the predictable Henry Herzog et al propaganda that we all skip and are sick to death of.

Poetry to my ears, a paunch to my boich

Remember, our parents and grandparents couldn’t have been wrong. Poskim always have trouble saying something is forbidden if Rishonim and Acharonim said it was ok.

Reverend Shimon Allen will of course tell me that there is nothing new in this.

Finally, I have some ammunition. (click on the link)

My father ע’’ה exulting in his yearly dose of Gribenes on Erev Pesach
My father ע’’ה. R’ Shaul Zelig HaCohen Balbin exulting in the yearly dose of Gribenes and liver and Kartofel on Erev Pesach

Bnei Brak rabbi calls for gefilte fish boycott

The following article is from Yediot. I’m assuming it’s correct as it quotes Hamodia, the Haredi newspaper.

What’s holy about gefilte fish as opposed to Shmura Matza? The latter costs a fortune, and so many impoverished families struggle to find the money to buy them even with Maos Chittin contributions. In regards to Shmura Matza, even the [just as kosher, if not better] machine variety costs at least $11 a box in Melbourne. Why? I saw that in Johannesburg, Rakusen’s Machine Shmura Matza was going for some $3.50. Is it also under the BaDatz? Why the variance? Yes, it is meritorious to have meat (is chicken enough?) and wine on Yom Tov, but apart from the “Basar Vedagim Vchol Mataamim” is someone not Yotze Yom Tov (Pesach) without Gefilte fish?

In Melbourne, the cheapest way is to do it yourself, and buy whole fish from the market, but these days, everyone buys those logs (which you probably have to wash for, except on Pesach when they don’t add flour, which is perhaps why they are either more expensive or smaller). All this to avoid Hilchos Borer and bones in fish? Eat some veggies instead if it’s too expensive. or simple egg and onion (hopefully you aren’t paying a fortune for egg shells that don’t have ink on them)

Although I don’t have a problem with Rabonim getting involved in saving Jews money: Indeed, I think a number of Chassidic Rabbis have declared that one should not buy real fur Shtreimlach or Spodiks, I don’t buy all of this brouhaha until such time as the money side of Hashgochas are all managed by lay bodies of unimpeachable honest professionals. No Rav, especially today when Emunas Chachomim is at a low ebb, should be involved with money, except as part of a set wage and the books should be open to all. By all means, build in KPIs and reward, but never because you give a hechsher, as this is prone to corruption.

Where would the relatively tiny BaDatz be if they opened their books. What a ridiculous situation we have when you buy something and it has three hechsherim on it. Why? It’s all business, and not Kashrus. It’s the same with private hashgochas (as we regretably have in Melbourne, and which are not trusted by the majority of orthodox Jewry).

If people would worry at least as much about what comes out of their mouths, as what goes in them, we’d have a much happier world.

Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer Stern issues unusual halachic ruling in bid to prevent stores from charging exaggerated prices for carp fish ahead of Passover.
Akiva Novick
Published: 03.23.14, 01:41 / Israel Jewish Scene
An unusual halachic ruling published Wednesday calls for a consumer boycott on carp fish and the traditional gefilte fish dish, in a bid to prevent fish merchants from charging exaggerated prices ahead of the Passover Seder.

In about three weeks, the Jewish people will gather around the table for the Seder meals. Many homes, particularly Ashkenazi ones, will enjoy a dish of ground carp with a piece of carrot on top – also known as gefilte fish. Yet quite a few stores have the habit of raising the price of that particular fish right before the holiday.
A halachic ruling issued by Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer Stern of Bnei Brak seeks to prevent that from happening. The rabbi is calling for a gefilte fish boycott, stating that “all halachic rulers believe that the unfair exaggerated raising of prices must be stopped.”

The ruling, which was published in ultra-Orthodox newspaper Hamodia, explains that after receiving information on fish prices, the rabbi suggested “a regulation of the generation’s great sages to forbid the purchase of fish for a limited period of time, until all those involved understand that they must back down on the unjustified price hike and reduce the prices to a reasonable and appropriate level.”

The rabbi further describes how one of the rebbes of the Chabad Hasidic movement announced a fish boycott hundreds of years ago, which lasted about two months.

According to Yehuda Ashlag, who owns a Bnei Brak delicatessen called “Leibale,” gefilte fish sales soar every year ahead of Passover. “It’s really part of the holiday tradition,” he says. “Some people cannot do without gefilte on Passover, and the sellers use it to their advantage. I personally don’t raise the price,” he says.

Aviad Nurieli, a fishpond worker in northern Israel, says that “it’s all a matter of supply and demand, and these are the market rules.”

Maos Chittin and the definition of requirements

Here is my question for today. We know that there is a Mitzvah on everyone of us (unless we are destitute so to speak) to donate money for Chittim before Pesach for the needy people of our city.

As we know, the price of Shmura Matza is going up each year. I’ve even heard that “Brisker” Matzos cost $50 a pound. This is perhaps a new definition of Lechem Oni, bread which makes one poor.

Now, technically, it’s the first night (and sometimes second) that Minhag Yisrael is to have Matza Shmura. Standard Kosher Matza suffices for the rest of Pesach, although there is no command to actually eat Matza if you don’t want to after that.

What does a Maos Chittin fund do if the recipient specifies that they will not eat anything but Matza Shmura for the entire Pesach, and they are accustomed to Matza X for this purpose. Do they have to provide this to the recipient as per Dinei Tzedaka, or do we say this is different?

It could be argued that if the recipient normally eats Matza Shmura and doesn’t on the later days of Pesach, then they might have to have Hatoras Nedorim (annul a vow) because after having a Chazaka of a Chumrah/practice, it becomes like a vow/Neder.

On the other hand, one might also argue that Matza Shmura does not need to be hand baked (some, as we know are machmir not to have hand baked for kashrus reasons, and others are machmir to only have hand baked for the reasons of Lishmo (for the Mitzvah of Matzo which they don’t feel is satisfied by utterances at the time of pushing a button on a machine)

Would it be acceptable halachically to use machine shmura for those in need for Chol Hamoed and the last days? After all, you don’t need Lishmo then, do you? Or do you say that the implicit Neder applies to the Cheftza of a particular style of Matzo? What if a fund could feed more people this way or provide more to a particular family this way?

Of course, one could annul their implicit vow, but we’d not want a person to do so unless there was no choice.

Quinoa on Pesach (again)

I have pitputed about this in the past. At the OU, the two senior Poskim are Rav Hershel Schachter and Rav Yisroel Belsky. They agree on most things. Let me state first, that my personal posek (on matters that are complex and/or not clear in Shulchan Aruch etc) is Rav Schachter, so I do have a bias. On very rare occasions, I have not “understood” the reasoning of a Psak, but I am not a Posek, and he is, and so I listen. That’s our Mesora. That’s what we are meant to do.

As the article from the JTA below shows, they disagree on Quinoa. My earlier views on this matter happily are consonant with Rav Schachter’s Psak. The OU however as a policy will follow the stricter opinion of the two Rabonim disagree. There is in fact a private kuntres, in the spirit of Milchamto Shel Torah, where the two give formal Psokim and their reasoning, for the occasions where they disagree. I haven’t seen it. The kuntres is only available to recognised Rabonim who are formally or informally affiliated with the OU standards.

Kosher Australia (correctly in my opinion) advises people to check with their own Rabbi about Kitniyos, and notes that it doesn’t approve/use Quinoa in any of its own supervised products for Pesach.

Personally, if someone in Melbourne, brought in supervised Quinoa (eg from the Star K), I’d have absolutely no problem consuming it.

By Chavie Lieber · March 11, 2013

NEW YORK (JTA) — On any given day, a wind might blow through the farmlands of South America, pick up an errant grain of barley and deposit it nearby among the vast rows of cultivated quinoa. If that barley manages to make its way into a sifted batch of quinoa, and avoid detection during repackaging, it could wind up gracing your seder table on Passover night.

However dubious it might seem, the scenario is among the reasons that the world’s largest kosher certification agency is refusing to sanction quinoa for Passover consumption, potentially depriving Jewish consumers of a high-fiber, protein-rich staple that many have come to rely on during the weeklong holiday.

The Orthodox Union announced last year that it would not certify quinoa as kosher for Passover out of concern that quinoa falls into the category of kitniyot, a group of legumes forbidden because they look similar to grains proscribed on the holiday.

Menachem Genack, the CEO of O.U. Kosher, also cited the danger of quinoa crops grown in close proximity to wheat and barley fields.

Star-K, a rival kosher certification company based in Baltimore, has been certifying quinoa as Passover-friendly for years and dismisses what it sees as an outlandish prohibition.

“Rav Moshe Feinstein said we weren’t to add on to the rules of kitniyot, so I don’t know why anyone would,” said Rabbi Tzvi Rosen of Star-K, referring to the esteemed decisor of Jewish religious law who died in 1986. “And what’s more telling of this ridiculous debate is that quinoa is a seed, not a legume.”

Long a staple of the Andean diet, quinoa has earned a reputation as “the mother of all grains,” celebrated for its high nutrient quality and as an alternative for those following a gluten-free diet. But quinoa is not a grain at all. It’s a member of the goosefoot family, and closely related to spinach and beets.

On Passover — when wheat, oats, rye, spelt and barley are all prohibited — quinoa has emerged as a popular substitute.

That could change, however, with the world’s major kosher certifier refusing to give quinoa its Passover seal of approval.

“We can’t certify quinoa because it looks like a grain and people might get confused,” Genack said. “It’s a disputed food, so we can’t hold an opinion, and we don’t certify it. Those who rely on the O.U. for a kashrut just won’t have quinoa on Passover.”

The O.U.’s non-endorsement is the result of a debate within the organization’s own ranks.

Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, the head of Brooklyn’s Yeshiva Torah Vodaas and a consulting rabbi for the O.U., maintains that quinoa qualifies as kitniyot because it’s used in a manner similar to forbidden grains. Rabbi Hershel Schachter, one of the heads of Yeshiva University’s rabbinical school and also an O.U. consultant, agrees with Rosen that the category of kitniyot should not be expanded.

Rosen said the Star-K certifies only the quinoa that has no other grains growing nearby. This year, for the first time, the company sent supervisors to South America to supervise the harvesting, sifting and packaging of the product.

“Whenever there’s a new age food, there’s always a fight between kosher factions,” Rosen said. “But we should be worrying about other things, like all the cookies, pizzas and noodles that are Passover certified but appear to be chametz. Quinoa is the least of our problems.”

The O.U. is recommending that kosher consumers look to their local rabbis for guidance on the quinoa question. But for Eve Becker, risking a rabbinic prohibition on a staple food probably won’t sit too well in her house. A Jewish food blogger who maintains a strictly gluten-free kitchen because her daughter has Celiac disease, Becker said quinoa is one of the most important foods.

“It’s a tiny powerhouse packed with protein, vitamins and minerals, and it’s an important grain alternative, especially on Passover,” Becker said. “It’s great to have it on Passover instead of the usual potatoes, potatoes, potatoes. Most of the Passover foods just end up tasting like Passover, so we rely on quinoa to be that side staple.”

Ilana S., a mother of two who lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, said she trusts the O.U. and will refrain, begrudingly, from buying quinoa this Passover.

“These rabbis are always changing their minds, so I’m confident they’ll have a new statement next year,” she said. “Until then, its only eight days.”

Diet Coke on Pesach (segue)

In a previous article, I was critical of the wording and approach to this issue by Kosher Australia. In particular, they announced that people should not buy these diet drinks as they were Kitniyos. I argued that they were likely Kitniyos Shenishtane and therefore a matter of disagreement among Poskim and Kashrus Agencies and that people should ask their local orthodox rabbi (who would presumably liaise with Kashrus Authorities and advise their congregant as to the Halacha). I did not feel that Kosher Australia should make a certain pronouncement on the matter.

It is true that the Diet products have a Hechsher of the Rabbanut. It is equally true that some will rely on such a Hechsher and some will not. Some may rely on it during the year, but not on Pesach. Others may never rely on it. Some will only rely on a specific Rabbanut Hechsher: e.g. Yerushalayim.

I have also learned that R’ Lande has issues with one variety of Diet Coke preparation even during the year (let alone Pesach). It seems then that those who follow R’ Lande’s hashgacha need to investigate this fully with his office, depending on where in the world they find themselves wishing to drink Diet Coke and the like.

I asked the OU about the Israeli Diet Coke which doesn’t have a Mehadrin Hechsher, and only bears a Rabbanut Hechsher. The reply I received from the OU stated:

“Diet Coke from Israel is certified by OU. However, the OU symbol is not used on Coke products in Israel. One of the issues involved is kitniyos shenishtane”

In other words, like other Mehadrin standards, the OU does have some issues with this production which prevented them placing their Mehadrin OU stamp, however, the product is certified for use (clearly for those who do not necessarily seek Mehadrin).

Unsurprisingly, my attempts at eliciting further details failed. The OU are not about to provide me with details of changes that ought to take place before they put an OU on the product. I understand that  the OU have instigated some changes in USA production and therefore are able to place their imprimatur on that production line. Whether they rely on Bitul for Kitniyos Shenishtane when they have their OU imprimatur, I do not know.

So, in summary, if I was a Kosher Supplier of groceries in Melbourne, I’d either

  • approach the OU to see if they are able to instigate a process whereby the Israeli product gets the OU stamp, or
  • import the diet drinks from the USA with the OU stamp

Clearly the former is better, as we support Israel and Israeli goods.

The other contentious issue is that of Quinoa. As I mentioned, there was a finding by a respected Kashrus Agency that some Quinoa was proximate to Chametz during production. This is a concern. I notice that Eden has a Quinoa that is certified year-round by the OK. If I was a Jewish greengrocer, I’d be approaching the OK to see if they can ensure that Eden Quinoa is certified as OK Kosher for Pesach as well and stamp it as such. That way, those who use Quinoa because it is not Kitniyos, will be confident and free to do so.

Disclaimer: I must stress again, that all my comments on Halachic topics should be deemed pitputim b’almo. In other words, they are not L’Halacha, and not L’Maaseh. Discuss the matter with your local orthodox Rabbi.

Remembering a giant: the 18th Yohr Tzeit of Morenu HaRav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik ז’ל

I received  the following loose transcript of an oral shiur given by the Rav on the 31st March 1999. It isn’t clear when the Rav actually delivered this shiur.

Sippur, as in Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim, comes from the word Saper, the same root that includes Sofer, which is Hebrew for scribe. A scribe is not the same as a simple writer. Throughout Tanach the word Sofer is used to indicate that the position of scribe was one of importance, for example Sofrei Hamelech in Megilas Esther. In Talmudic parlance, Sofer means a Talmid Chacham, a scholar. In contrast to Divray Torah we have the term Divrei Sofrim, which are the teachings of the scholars. There are many examples in the Talmud where the word Sofer refers to the scholar. Apparently the Hebrew language scribe or scholar is distinguished by his ability to write. A Talmid Chacham must be capable of writing. Historically, when a Jew showed the ability to write, he was accepted as a scholar. The statements of the transmitters of learning, the Maatikay Hashemuah, are referred to as Divray Sofrim.

The definition of Sippur goes beyond simple oral story telling, but it includes the ability to tell a story through writing it down. The word Sefer, book, derives from the same root, L’Saper, to tell a story. In Hebrew, writing and oral communication are both included in the framework of the root word Saper. The Gemara says that Megilas Esther refers to itself first as an Igeres, letter, and later as a Sefer, a book. There are significant differences between these 2 forms of writing. A letter is written for a short term purpose. It does not need to be written on parchment; it can be missing letters and may not be complete yet it still conveys the gist of the story. In contrast, a Sefer is intended to transmit the story to future generations. It requires parchment and if even one little letter is missing it is halachically voided. For example, the prophet commanded the people to write contracts on their land in a Sefer and place them in earthen vessels so that they may last a long time. Sefer documents an event for present and future generations. Another example: Hashem commanded Moshe to document the eternal conflict between God and Amalek in the Sefer and transmit it to Joshua. This message could only be transmitted through a Sefer.

Chazal note that a major Kabbalah principle is that Hashem created the world through acts of Kesiva, writing. For example, the notion of writing is found by the 10 commandments that were written Betzba Elokim, K’vayachol, by the finger of God. The Sefer Hayetzira maintains that the world was created through 3 Seforim (forms of the word Saper): B’sfor, B’sippur U’Bsefer, through counting, relating a story and through the book. We know from the Torah that Hashem wrote the Luchos, but how does the Sefer Yetzira know that the world was created through these 3 forms of the word Saper? According to the Kuzari, when the Torah repeatedly mentions Vayomer Elokim, it is referring to the act of Sippur by Hashem. The result of this Sippur was the Sefer, all of creation. It was the word of God that created the world and is embedded in nature and continues to drive it. At the same time, nature must obey the will of Hashem. If  the flowers bloom, the birds fly, man walks and the heavenly bodies remain in motion it is because this is the Ratzon Hashem, the will of God. The manifestation of the will of God was inscribed into every function of nature. According to the Baal Shem Tov, the word of God, the Vayomer Elokim, that created everything is as real and ongoing today as it was at the time of creation, Udvarcha Emes Vkayam Load, and Your words are true and everlasting.

Chazal valued very highly of the ability to write. Chazal say that Ksav Vmichtav were among the miraculous things that were created at twilight of the sixth day prior to the onset of the Shabbos. Chazal recognized the amazing gift in the ability of man to  to record events that happened thousands of years ago in such a way as to allow subsequent generations to identify with, understand and appreciate the thoughts and feelings that moved the author so many years before. The events of past generations are alive for us today. For example, when we read in the Torah the stories of the patriarchs and the 12 tribes, we feel as if we are part of the actual events that are unfolding before us. We cry with Joseph when he is sold into slavery by the brothers and we rejoice with him when he is elevated to the position of Viceroy of Egypt. We travel with Abraham as he leaves Charan for the unknown land of Canaan and our hearts skip a beat as Yaakov narrowly departs with the blessings before Esau enters his father’s room. Reading the written word allows us to span generations in an instant and to identify with our ancestors. Educators today must make the stories of the Torah come alive for their students and make them feel as if they are part of the story and not some impartial bystander.

In contrast, the Rav noted that today, unfortunately, parents and children can’t communicate across a gap of a single generation. Children of today can’t understand or relate to the experiences of their parents. To many Jews today, the Lech Lecha of their parents, their life experiences and their Judaism, means nothing to them. In order for us to inject meaning into the stories that we write during our lives, we must do more than simply put words on paper. We have to create a climate through which we appreciate all the events that shaped Jewish history, for example to feel the pain of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash or to understand other events in Jewish history. Today we have many aids to study, unprecedented numbers of  translations of the various texts are readily available to the masses to assist them in study. However in too many cases, we have words written on paper, but we lack the atmosphere of involvement and participation in the events we study. The greatest Sofer, scribe, is not one who can write on parchment or paper, but rather the one who can write on the hearts of living beings and influence their lives. The great scribe is the one that can transmit a living Torah that passes on the Torah world of Rabbi Akiva, the Rambam and the Vilna Gaon to the next generation. This is Torah Shbeal Peh, which is dependant on the ability of each generation to make these experiences come alive for the subsequent generation to ensure that the flame of Torah burns for eternity. The scholars were called Sofrim because they were the transmitters of the tradition between generations. Their greatest accomplishment was not the writing of Torah on paper, but rather etching Torah into the hearts and souls of their students to keep it alive for subsequent generations, creating living Seforim.

One need not write tomes during his life to earn the title of Sofer. For example, we have no recorded writings from the Baal Shem Tov. Yet his vast Torah was spread throughout the world by his living Seforim, the many students that he taught during his life. Moshe Rabbeinu was called Safra Rabba D’Yisrael, the great scribe of Israel. Did Moshe spend his time as a scribe of Sifrei Torah, Tefilin and Mezuzos (STAM)? We find that Moshe wrote a Sefer Torah towards the end of his life. Yet he earned the title as the great scribe in Israel because of the Torah he taught all Bnay Yisrael and how he inscribed it into the parchment of their hearts and souls so that they might act as the scribes that would teach the next generation. Just as the original word of God continues to drive nature, so to the Torah that Moshe gave Bnay Yisrael in the desert is as alive for us today as it was thousands of years ago. It is the ability to transmit from generation to generation, despite great difficulties, without diluting the message that makes Bnay Yisrael unique.

Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim is more than telling a story. Vhigadta L’Bincha means that the father must write the book that will become his son. It is the obligation of the father to view his son as a Sefer to be carefully written and not as an Igeres. The obligation to be the scribe of this book extends well beyond the Seder night to encompass all of life. Bchal Dor V’dor Chayav Adam Liros Es Atzmo K’ilu Hu Yataza M’Mitzrayim, in every generation the Jew must view himself as if he has just left Egypt. Man must feel that he has participated in the entire, collective Jewish experience and he must inscribe this knowledge into the book that is his child. Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim is the book of Jewish existence. The greatest accomplishment is when a father carefully transmits his experiences so that he may pass it on intact to his child before he passes on.

There were many great scholars who were not able to permanently inscribe themselves into the Sefer that was their children. They were only able to write an Igeres, a short term note, that their  children quickly erased when they left home. Yet there are simple parents who succeeded in making a permanent inscription into their children’s personality. They were able to write on the hearts of their children their Seder, their feelings on Tisha Bav, the beauty of their Shabbos, the solemnity of their Yom Kippur and their blessing of their children before Kol Nidrei in a way that made a lasting impression on the child, an impression that stayed with him throughout many years of separation and struggle. The Rav asked why should the scholar fail where the simple person succeeds?

Chazal say that there  are 10 synonyms for prophecy, one of which is the word Masa. There are 2 explanations why Masa refers to prophecy. The first is that the prophet would raise his voice when presenting the message of God to the people. The second is the Rambam in the Guide (Moreh Nvuchim) who explains that Masa is used to indicate that prophecy was a heavy load for the prophet to bear. The essence of prophecy is that it is a truth entrusted only to the specific prophet. He is the only one privileged to know this truth communicated to him by Hashem. The vision is a burden that does not let him rest. He has a need to spurt forth spontaneously and a desire to share it with others. For example, when someone is entrusted with a secret they have a difficult time maintaining the confidence. They find themself constantly struggling to refrain from blurting it out. The prophet seeks to unburden himself by telling the message of God to others.

When it comes to a prophecy or to Torah that a Jew knows, the only relief from his load comes through sharing it with others. The Rambam says that the prophet is required to tell his prophecy to others even when he knows that his intended audience is not interested in the message and may seek to harm him as a result of it, even if it costs him his life. Jeremiah was an example of a prophet who wanted to hold back his prophecy when the scoffers opposed him but he could not hold it back. When the Jew has a prophecy or Torah to transmit, he must view it as a Masa, a heavy burden, that in order to endure must be transmitted with great care and exactness as a Sefer to the next generation and not as an Igeres.

The ability of the Jewish parent to sacrifice themself for their child is so great that it approaches the point of self negation. How can such a person refrain from transmitting to his child the beauty of Shabbos, Yom Tov, Tanach or Torah Shebal Peh and the great Jewish personalities? Like the prophet of old, he can’t control himself, he must blurt out the message. If he does not transmit it to his child, the reason must be because he himself is lacking the feeling for these things. In order to be a successful scribe, you yourself must feel the burden of prophecy, the Masa Dvar Hashem.

In essence, this is the Mitzvah of Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim, V’Higadta L’Bincha, and you shall instruct your children. A Jew must present his child with a Sefer and not an Igeres. Inscribing such a Sefer for the next generation is the way for every Jew to attain the level of prophecy in his lifetime. If you would ask what is the greatest characteristic of Knesses Yisrael, it is the  great wonder of Jewish History, the ability to engage in Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim not just on Pesach night. It is the ability for one generation to turn the subsequent generation into its carefully written Sefer.

The Rav noted that the night of Pesach is a symbol for this inter-generational transmission process. We are all familiar with the story of the great rabbis that were assembled in Bnay Brak and were involved in Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim all that night till dawn. The Rav asked which night was it? The Rav interpreted the night as extending beyond that immediate night of Pesach. The “Night” refers to the long and dark exile period that we have endured for 2 thousand years. It is the long night of pogroms and blood libels and crusades and inquisitions and holocaust that we have endured. Not only were Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Yehoshua at that table, but Gedolei Rishonim and Achronim who lived through the rain of Jewish blood and misery throughout the ages were there as well. Yet despite all these difficulties, Gedolei Yisrael recognized that they had a mission to be the scribes of the their generation, not in terms of writing books but as scribes that engrave a love of Torah in the heart of each Jew. Gedolei Yisrael carried the burden, the Masa Hashem, and transmitted their Torah as an inter-generational Sefer and not as a fleeting Igeres. They seized on the method Hashem uses, the Sippur Bsefer, writing on the book of creation, to ensure the continuity of faith in Hashem and the eternity of the Jewish people. The Torah remains alive to us today because of them. If not for their efforts, we would not be able to sit at our Seder table and discuss the exodus on the night of Pesach.  Jews are called the Am Hasefer, the people of the book, not because they are avid readers, but because each and every Jew is a living book that has been authored by the previous generations.

How long must we function as Sofrim, as scribes? When does the Jew complete his assignment of studying Torah? How long must we emulate the ways that Hashem created the world, through Sfor, Sippur and Sefer? Until we see that the next generation is ready to shoulder the load and assume its role in this never ending chain. Until the students knock on their teachers’ door and say “Our Teachers, the time to recite the morning Shema has arrived”, that they are now ready to assume the leadership role. The essence of Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim is to create the living books, the Seforim, that will ensure the continuity of Torah and Judaism, is not limited to the night of Pesach. It is an eternal mission.

Copyright 1999, Josh Rapps and Israel Rivkin, Edison, NJ. Permission to reprint this Shiur, with this notice, is granted.

Are we being misled by Kashrus Authorities-Quinoa revisited

Quinoa (pronounced Kin-wa). It’s not a grain; it is related to spinach. Its ברכה is האדמה. Its seeds may or may not be ground in the same way as Potatoes maybe ground and everyone eats potatoes (despite the חיי אדם trying to make them אסור on פסח because of Kitniyos). There are, of course, others, who assert that the גזרה of Kitniyos on Pesach doesn’t apply in Israel, but we won’t go there in this article. Let’s just look at Kosher Australia.

Quinoa

Recently, a letter was circulated by Kosher Australia, explaining the reasons for food items becoming non kosher “suddenly” together with an explanation denying a sudden lurch to “the right.” It was a well written letter and I am a supporter of Kosher Australia aligning their standards with the OU. The OU, in my opinion, is the premier and most trusted Kashrus Authority in the world. Okay, I’m  biased because I ask (major) questions to Rav Schachter, who happens to be one of the two Poskim for the OU.

On the matter of Quinoa on Pesach, Kosher Australia advised us that it was following the practice of the OU and that as a result Kitniyos were not to be used. Coincidentally, I had printed out the 2011 OU Pesach Guide and was reading it. I found that the assertion by Kosher Australia vis a vis Quinoa and Kitniyos was false! In earlier years, the OU had been negative, but this year they decided (quite correctly in my opinion) that the issue of whether to use Quinoa was a matter for individual kehilos.

Let’s face some facts. Determining whether something is or isn’t Kitniyos is not the same as telling us whether treyf is used as an ingredient in foodstuff. Kitniyos is in many ways a more complex question and one that requires a Psak from one’s own Rabbi who I believe will consult with his own Posek Muvhak given the nature of the question. I think the OU got it right. If you want to use Quinoa you should ask your Rav unless you happen to also have a family Minhag of חדש אסור מן התורה. This was also the basis for Rav Moshe’s permissive ruling on peanuts, but of course it didn’t matter if it was Rav Moshe, the Machmirim on the right eventually squeezed out a universal issur on peanuts (and peanut oil). I can remember in the old days we had oils that eventually “became” kitniyos. And no, we never had those nuts in Poland!

Kosher Australia has no business determining what is and what is not Kitniyos.

In fact, they have done a good thing by listing a table of items which some consider Kitniyos. This is the way it should be with Quinoa as well. This episode is a very subtle way that Rabonim are attempting to create a Minhag in Australia by default, by “trying to be all things to all people”. Yes, we are Machmir on Pesach. But even Rabonim said not to be Machmir on Potatoes. I know, Potatoes are a European staple and this avant-garde  Quinoa stuff is something Charedim can’t spell or say, let alone know how to integrate into an oily cholent.

Yes, it is true that the London Beth Din don’t allow Quinoa, equally, the  Star K and Chicago cRc do allow it. Kosher Australia should have adopted the stance of the OU and kept out of this. Rabbi Sprung in Melbourne paskened for Mizrachi that it was fine as long as it was supervised.

By the way, the list of “maybe Kitniyos” listed in Kosher Australia’s booklet is also wrong. It claims that carrots are not Kitniyos according to all. That’s not true. I understand that Belzer don’t eat carrots.

PS. My wife over-ruled me and she won’t let me use Quinoa unless it has a hechsher. I tried to tell her that Eden were certified as one of the brands that had no grain whatsoever in the fields or processing plants and, therefore, it was okay. She wouldn’t hear of it. “Where is the Kosher stamp?”.

Ah, for Shalom Bayis ….