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?

Support for Rabbi Riskin

I had blogged on this Here

(hat tip nb) Rav Melamed is considered one of the leading Poskim for the Chareidi Leumi group (right wing religious zionists)

 

I’m writing to update you on events surrounding the Israeli Chief Rabbinical Council’s refusal to automatically renew Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s tenure as Chief Rabbi of Efrat. As I wrote last week, Rabbi Riskin has instead been summoned for a hearing, at which the Council will examine his qualifications and credentials for continuing the work to which he has devoted his life since the very establishment of the city.

I am delighted to report that Rabbi Riskin has been blessed with an incredible groundswell of support, which testifies to the meaningful, lasting impact he has had on world Jewry. 

He has been especially touched by the solidarity and encouragement expressed in letters, emails, phone calls, tweets and facebook posts from individuals spanning the globe. 

In addition, prominent members of Knesset and Israeli government ministers, communal and spiritual leaders in Israel and the Diaspora and countless organizations have spoken and written eloquently on his behalf, demonstrating the highest levels of respect he has earned from a broad cross-section of the Jewish world. 

Below is one such article, authored by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, spiritual leader of the community of Har Bracha and a leading figure in the “Chardal” (ultra-Orthodox Zionist) community. In addition to beautifully encapsulating so much of what has been written and said over the past week, the poignancy of his heartfelt advocacy stems precisely from the fact that he holds fundamentally differing views from Rabbi Riskin on many issues. 

I invite you to read and be inspired by Rabbi Melamed’s expression of steadfast support on behalf of our beloved rabbi.

With warmest regards and Shabbat Shalom

David Katz

International Director, Ohr Torah Stone

 Op-Ed: On the Rabbi Riskin Saga:

Don’t Disqualify the Torah Scroll (from Arutz Sheva)

by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed 

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin is a man who raised himself from poverty to dedicate his life to Torah and more – differences in philosophical or even halakhic approaches should not be used to disqualify one rabbi or another. 

It was recently reported that the Council of the Chief Rabbinate has expressed doubt as to whether to permit Rabbi Shlomo Riskin from staying on as chief municipal rabbi of Efrat despite recently turning 75.

The hearing ordinarily would have been nothing more than a procedural matter. But several members of the council evidently aimed to prevent Rabbi Riskin from continuing in his capacity as a result of their objections.

This, then, is the appropriate time to take a stand and praise Rabbi Riskin, a righteous, wise leader who has done extraordinary things.

Rabbi Riskin was born into a non-religious, poverty-stricken family. But from a young age, of his own free will and with the help of his grandmother, he began making his way toward the Torah and religious observance. Being a prodigy and an outstanding student, he was accepted to Harvard, the most prestigious university in the world, with a full scholarship. By choosing to study there, he would have guaranteed his professional and financial future: no door is closed to Harvard graduates.

It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, a temptation that few could resist. Yet Rabbi Riskin declined the scholarship and instead made his way to Yeshiva University, which also took notice of his abilities and granted him a full scholarship.

Since then, he has dedicated his life to Torah.

As a young, gifted, and charismatic rabbi, a captivating speaker with the ability to lift up the souls of his audience and draw them near to Torah and religious observance, Rabbi Riskin earned special esteem in the United States. Successful, educated individuals also found meaning in his words of Torah and were privileged to become acquainted with Jewish tradition under his guidance. “There was truthful Torah in his mouth, and he brought many back from sin.” The future that awaited him was that of a leader of the American-Jewish community.

Yet before even turning 40, inspired by pure faith in God and His Torah, he gave up his position in the United States and made a decision to immigrate to Israel.

In so doing, he gave up what had been his main skill in his work: his command of the English language, which had brought him the success he enjoyed in the United States. True, he learned to speak Hebrew excellently. but they say that in English few can parallel his rhetorical skills. Thanks to his vision, abilities, and leadership, he was able to bring many members of his community to Israel in his wake. He established an Israeli city at the heart of whose cultural life are the study of Torah and religious observance, whose residents enjoy a high standard of living and contribute to the economic, scientific, and social development of the State of Israel.

His ‘aliyah’ to Israel was felt by hundreds, even thousands, who followed in his footsteps to new homes in Efrat and throughout Israel, while also benefiting from the enhanced religious life implicit in such a change. Never slowing, Rabbi Riskin successfully established yeshivot and educational institutions for boys and girls in Gush Etzion and Jerusalem. Drawing on incredible sources of energy, he still makes his way to all of these institutions, where he teaches, speaks, illuminates, and imparts to his students the excitement of a life centered on Torah and Judaism.

Yet when he arrived in Israel, he was guaranteed nothing. He came with little more than the shirt on his back.

Western Aliyah to Israel

Unfortunately, though we are not always aware of it, the vast majority of those who have immigrated to Israel in modern times have come from countries where Jews were subject to persecution and poverty. Immigration from Western countries, particularly the United States, is perhaps the most impressive of all.

I therefore have a deep appreciation of Rabbi Riskin as well as all other immigrants from the United States.

A Difference of Approach

There are most definitely different approaches to various issues in Jewish law. This always has been the case in Jewish discourse, whether between the sages of the Mishnah, those of the Gemara, the luminaries of Geonic Babylonia, the scholars of the medieval era, or those of the modern period. Sometimes the differences stem from people’s different characters, as with Shammai and Hillel. Other times they stem from differences in background or intellectual method. Concerning these issues, our sages said (Ḥagigah 3b), “‘Masters of assemblies’ are those scholars who sit, some in this faction and some in that, and occupy themselves with the Torah. Some say it is impure; others say it is pure. Some forbid; others permit. Some declare it invalid; others declare it valid.

Lest a person say, ‘Then how can I study the Torah?’ the verse states that all were ‘given by a single shepherd’: a single God gave them, a single leader said them, from the mouth of the Lord of all creatures, blessed is He, as is stated, ‘God stated all of these things.’ So you, too, make your ears a funnel and develop a discerning heart so that you can hear the words of those who say it is impure and the words of those who say it is pure, the words of those who forbid and the words of those who permit, the words of those who declare it invalid and the words of those who declare it valid.

American Jewry

Rabbi Riskin’s American background plays an important part in his pursuits: American Jews and immigrants from the United States stand at the forefront of the struggle with Western culture and its principles of liberalism and equality, including feminism.

Out of their faithfulness to the Torah, Rabbi Riskin and his colleagues have forged a path to contend with these major and important questions. Among American rabbis, too, there are different approaches: how much to open up and how much to close, what to bring near and what to keep distant.

Sometimes, other rabbis, including myself, prefer other solutions. Sometimes this preference stems from habits of observance to which we are devoted, sometimes from the fact that we believe a certain way is more appropriate. For the most part, these differences of opinion and practice pertain to questions of education and society, rather than to questions of practice per se. Time will tell what advantages and disadvantages each path contains. In any event, we must not seek to delegitimize Rabbi Riskin’s path, which is one of the most important approaches to religious observance in our day. 

A Whole Torah Scroll

If a single letter is missing from a Torah scroll, it is unfit for use, and the same holds true for the pan-Jewish religious world: every true Jewish scholar has a letter in the Torah, and any person who excludes one of these scholars makes his own Torah scroll unfit for use. Any offense against Rabbi Riskin’s service in the rabbinate is equivalent to the obliteration of whole sections of the Torah.

I imagine that it was only out of ignorance that the Council of the Chief Rabbinate entertained doubts with regard to Rabbi Riskin. I am confident that once they have heard a bit of his reverence, erudition, and rectitude, the majority of the members of the rabbinical council will take his side.

If, heaven forbid, they reach a contrary decision, Rabbi Riskin’s dignity will not be harmed. His standing in his community and his institutions will keep rising, and his influence will become even greater. However, the public standing of the Chief Rabbinate as the public representative of the Torah of all Jews will be weakened when it becomes known that the Torah scroll it represents is deficient and unfit.

Policy of the Chief Rabbinate

Some have argued that the Chief Rabbinate should draw a line that all rabbis must follow, and Rabbi Riskin is not following the line that was drawn concerning such issues as conversion.

True, it is desirable that the Rabbinate take a position in pressing matters of public importance-but in order to do so, it must engage in a deep, serious discussion of each of these issues, a discussion of Talmudic, medieval, and modern literature that analyzes the reality of the matter at hand in all its dimensions. In order to expedite such a discussion, rabbis who are active in the given area would have to study various books and articles ahead of time, and then the discussion of every issue would continue for at least a few whole days.

Unfortunately, today no serious discussion is held concerning any important matter, whether in the Rabbinate or in any other religious entity. For instance, when it comes to conversion, Rabbi Ḥaim Amsalem wrote a very respectable book that is deserving of discussion. True, I draw different conclusions from his, but in objecting to what he wrote most of his opponents offer worthless arguments that rely on violence such as is accepted in Haredi circles.

I must add that despite the great value of arriving at a consensual position on every issue, such a position must not come at the expense of rabbinic discretion. Even when the Great Sanhedrin held session, local courts enjoyed a certain degree of authority, because fundamentally this position is not a thin line, but a divinely sanctioned field, a field in whose scope there are different practices and approaches thanks to which the Oral Torah becomes richer and greater.

All the more so today, when there is no Great Sanhedrin that traces its authority directly to Moses, must the Rabbinate not set a rigid line that seeks to disqualify religious perspectives of substance. The lesser the standing and authority of the Chief Rabbinate, the more it must take the various perspectives into consideration in arriving at its position. This is how the rabbis of the Jewish people carried themselves in previous generations.

“One Law Shall There Be for You All”

Aside from anything else, a single law must apply to all. When the Council of the Chief Rabbinate declines to react to profound challenges to its views and its dignity on the part of rabbis belonging to the haredi stream, who violently reject its kashrut supervision and treat the chief rabbis and municipal and neighborhood rabbis with contempt, it must also act tolerantly and fondly toward rabbis such as Rabbi Riskin, who respect the Chief Rabbinate but sometimes take a different track.

In today’s reality, the Rabbinate does not go out of its way immediately to dismiss rabbis who, contrary to the rules of Jewish law, disqualify conversions performed by representatives of the Rabbinate. It continues to recognize kosher supervision services, marriages, and conversions by “rabbis” who have the gall to publicly dismiss commandments of the Torah, such as the duty to settle the Land of Israel and defend the nation of Israel through military service, or deprecate the good that God bestowed on us with the establishment of the state and denigrate those who recite the Psalms of Praise on Independence Day.

In such with today’s reality, the Rabbinate must restrain itself from taking action against a rabbi whose reverence, deeds, and erudition are greater than those Haredi “rabbis” whom it is overly careful not to slight. 

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.

Some questions for Yaron

Yaron Gottlieb is my cousin. We get on well, so  don’t read this as some attack. His wife, Alex is currently editing Galus Australis, and we share mutual respect and admiration. [ Every time I hear the term Galus, I wonder why anyone would want to have it as a heading on a web site: Galus is the worst situation to be in … such a depressing word … why would one want to be reminded, but I digress.]

Yaron found that Michael Danby had two different how to vote cards. One of these was tailored towards his (largely Orthodox) Jewish constituency. If his constituency was different, he might even have had three. Nu.

Question 1: Is this a sin, Yaron?
My Answer: No. It’s a suggestion on how to vote. Would it be better that he suggests, for example, that Orthodox voters choose the anti-zionist Greens? [Okay, it’s a straw man] I’m not sure who is worse, Bob Carr or the Greens. Perhaps, Yaron or Alex would prefer a green vote for the Jewish How to Votes, but crikey, it’s Michael’s call. If you want to get into politics yourselves, go for it, but there is no rule or ethic that says one can’t tailor suggestions.

Question 2: Is it a sin for Michael to suggest that a second best vote would be for Danny Nallah’s “Rise up Australia Party”?
My Answer: No. We all know this party is an ultra-conservative Xtian party. That means, they aren’t afraid to note that the homosexual act is against the Torah (Bible) and is described as an abomination. You agree with that, I expect, Yaron? Make sure Barney in the Age doesn’t know, otherwise you’ll be his next headline. I hope you can see that this viewpoint would resonate with any Jew who believes that the Torah is the word of God. Does that make you homophobic? (that was your word). We all know that Rise up are Climate Change skeptics/deniers. They are not alone; that’s not a matter of “belief” by the way. Let’s assume that they are opposed to approaches that attempt to better the climate. I don’t think anyone would say that damaging the climate prospects of the world is a pro-Torah stance, but the matter is often seen as one which requires a consistent world approach, and as such, it might well be Halachically more relevant to lobby the major polluters of our World, than Michael’s how to vote suggestion. The party is described as anti-Islam. Guess what? I’m anti-extremist Islam. I’m opposed to streams of Islam that think I should be under Shariah law. Did you ever read about dhimma? I’m assuming, and I am happy to be corrected, that the said party isn’t against any form of Islam which doesn’t seek to dominate the world and is happy to treat those of other religions (or no religion for that matter) with respect and equanimity. They aren’t my idea of an ideal party, and some of their views are over the top and loopy. Those who vote solely based on how to vote cards, however, aren’t going to change their approach because of your revelation.

Politics is politics. Things are never black or white. In the case of green, we’ve seen that tree-huggers and marxists are mostly also virulent anti-zionists. I see them at Uni all the time. They are the ones who join extreme Muslims who protest about Israel, demonise the USA, and never say a word about the slaughter of Arabs or the oppression in North Korea, let alone the Russians. They are also some of the most ignorant people I’ve ever engaged with.

Is there a single party whose stance on each and every matter we can agree with? Nope. It’s a best fit proposition tempered by clever but obvious number games on how to vote cards.

Ho hum. What a storm in a tea cup.

Jews who vote for Michael will do so because they are either:

  • Labor supporters
  • People who recognise his efforts on behalf of our community and Israel

I can’t see how either of those two categories of people will change their vote because of this revelation.

A Git Yur.

Australia Post “racist”?

What a joke. Who do they think is going to issue the stamp with Australia, Hamas or Fatah? Did they exist in 1917? Maybe Australia should have issued the stamp with the peace loving Erdogan?

[Hat tip to Benseon]

 

 

Chacham Ovadya, Efshar Livrurei!

I read some disturbing words allegedly by Chacham Ovadya in his weekly sermon. His sermons have been controversial, however, when he makes statements based on hearsay, statements of a serious nature which seem to allege that Rav Stav, one of the candidates for Chief Rabbi, is evil, then I look to try to understand.

Unfortunately, I have failed to understand, even in the context of a politically charged atmosphere influencing these words.

  1. If you really care, and you are worried about the future leadership of the State from a Rabbinic perspective, and you hear that a candidate is God forbid “Not God-fearing“, then find out for yourself. Before you go off demonising such a person further, why not invite Rav Stav over for an hour’s shmuess. See what you can discern with your own very learned brain.
  2. If the criteria for a Rabbi being unacceptable is that “even” the “seculars” like him, then I’m afraid this is nothing more than that incredible Chillul Hashem that those who were opposed to Rav Kook ז’ל are guilty of. Au contraire, if the not yet frum, like a proposed Chief Rabbi, and he is (which he is) a Yorei Shomayim who has respect for Mesora etc this is the biggest positive that one can imagine in our Rabbi-spited society, where websites (such as Scott Rosenberg’s horrid site) specialise in minutely extracting every single foible or worse committed by a frum person and highlighting them in bold to besmirch Yahadus as a primary aim.

A symptom of one of the things very wrong with our society is the speed with which we condemn without checking further; public comments that should be carefully considered by a Manhig of the status as Chacham Ovadya; and the dreaded power of Askanim—the political appartchiks—both Ashkenazi and Sefardi, who relish feeding exaggerated fodder to enrage Manhigim and mislead them. The latter are quite literally infracting “Lo Siten Michshol” …. don’t put a stumbling block before the blind.

All that aside, an authentic Manhig, will not allow themselves to be swayed by politically charged, second-hand, exaggerated information.

Invite him over for a cup of tea!

פוק חזי

Yair Lapid goes too far

I don’t feel programmed to reject everything Yair proposes, nor do I feel that I should accept his proposals because “democracy is a religion”. With that in mind, the article below from Yediot, if reported accurately, demonstrates poor arguments. Using Grandad as an example, is nice emotive politics but it doesn’t make it a better argument.

  • Yair, what you need to tell us is what Sabbath does mean in the context of a Jewish State albeit in a Secular neighbourhood.
  • Does it mean that children can’t pick up their grandfather?
  • Does it mean that grandparents should come over and stay with their families and vice versa on Sabbath
  • Does it mean that in a Secular area Sabbath is no different to any other day when one walks out on the Street?
  • Does it mean that in a country where there is no Sunday, [I am a very strong supporter of a Sunday in Israel, as this not only will enhance Shabbos, but will give families a chance to bond better] Shabbat needs to morph to a Xtian Sunday in some neighbourhoods?
  • Does it mean that Israel is to become like a restaurant we have opening up in Melbourne, “Kosher” in the morning on weekdays and Trayf the rest of the time and shabbos! That is, a chameleon state depending on which street one walks into? Everyone can see through that style of “opportunity” and “strategy”
  • What are the Ghetto creating implications of your proposal?
  • Do you not want Religious and not-yet-Religious living in the same area? I think that is an absolute must for Israel’s character.
  • I don’t agree with forcing people to do Mitzvos, but I do think that the State needs some red lines which define its Jewish character. These lines cannot be of the morning kosher, afternoon trayf variety. That is just opportunism engendered by politics or money.
  • The argument about the grandfather “with funds” versus the grandfather “without funds”, and their State right to do something equal is a very slippery slope which, if I was in the Knesset, would use against you in many debates. Don’t use the “equality” card, when it doesn’t exist! You don’t have a bill of rights, but we do have a document which defines the Jewish people.

Here is the article:

“We need public transportation on Shabbat in secular neighborhoods and in secular cities,” Finance Minister Yair Lapid said Thursday evening during a live chat on Facebook. However, he said, more time was needed to sense the changes regarding this issue and economic issues.

“I think there should be public transportation on Shabbat. I said this during my (election) campaign and I’m saying it again – not in religious areas, but in secular neighborhoods and secular cities – because this issue is not related to religion and state; it is a simple social matter,” the Yesh Atid chairman wrote on Facebook.

“There is no reason that a grandfather who has money is able to take a taxi to visit his grandchildren while a grandfather who does not have money cannot because there is no bus to take him to his grandchildren,” Lapid said. “Everything cannot happen in three months. We will fight for this cause; there will be wars we will win and wars that we won’t (win), but we’ll have to wait until we win.”

According to Lapid, the Israeli economy is transitioning from a culture of stipends to a culture of work. “If you work and do not earn (money) then you should be offered help; if you do not work because you don’t feel like it, we should make certain that Israeli society tells you: Not in our house. It is not decent and it is not fair. The working man is at the center of the financial plan,” he said.

Perhaps the thing that upsets me the most about views similar to Yair Lapid, and for the record, he doesn’t upset me with the things that he says most of the time, nor do I harbour any hate whatsoever towards him, is that we, the religious community, have effectively created many Lapids.

We (both in Israel and abroad) use language that divides and not unites. We rarely invite our not-yet-religious neighbours. We don’t say hello in the street and often don’t act civilly. We don’t make an extra special effort to be inclusive. If we were all lit with the powerful atomic fuse of Ahavas Yisrael that burned so fiercely inside Rav Kook ז’ל I sense there would be less division in Israel.

Yes, outside of Israel, Chabad do a great job. They have their agenda, it’s true, but that agenda doesn’t worry me. It’s results that matter. It’s ironic, though, that so many Talmidim and Talmidim of Talmidim of Rav Kook, many became hermetic Charedi Leumi types than those who embraced the Klal, quite literally. Alternatively, they would hold onto a clod of soil with their lives, but not do the same for a Jewish soul.

I hope the new Chief Rabbis are able to re-ignite the fire of Rav Kook and spread the Ahavas Chinam, unadulterated love of a fellow Jew, throughout Israel (and beyond).

We need to move well beyond the cartoon below

Litvishe/Misnagdishe poor taste

I chanced upon Matzav.com yesterday. As always, they had a piece on the Yohr Tzeit of R’ Schneur Kotler ז’ל, complete with pictures of him beardless. I looked further down the page, and found it was also the Yohr Tzeit of

Rav Yaakov Sapir, author of Even Sapir (A Journey to Yemen), a collection of stories of his travels through India, Australia, and Yemen”

I was flabbergasted that they seemingly couldn’t bring themselves to note that it was also the Yohr Tzeit of the last Lubavitcher Rebbe זי’’ע

I commented on the blog and asked why they didn’t report it. My comment was not published: silly censorship.

I made a further comment about kosher bourbon production in another article, and that got through Matzav’s censors.

Now, to be fair, I don’t think Chabad would ever mention R’ Kotler’s Yohr Tzeit either, but what about the Emes and Kavod HaTorah. Can’t people be civil?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe was an exalted Gaon, a Manhig, and a source of inspiration for many. How can one simply “forget” he existed on his Yohr Tzeit?

Is this what the Torah wants and advocates? Matzav call themselves the voice of “World Jewry”. Hardly. Och und Vey.

Even Yeshivah World News, which is usually more right wing than Matzav, had a feature.

Both also reported the sad Petira of R’ Neuwirth, the author of Shmiras Shabbos K’Hilchoso, which revolutionised the presentation and psak of Hilchos Shabbos in an unparalleled manner.

Politics=Sinah

So as not to end on a negative. One of the Mispallelim in Elwood Shule, has his birthday today on Daled Tamuz. He is one of two emigres from Russia who devote themselves to the Shule 24/7 and are regular daily attendees. His name is Alex (aka Chanan aka Sasha) Livshiz. There was a Kibbud on the table after  davening, and I asked  aloud “who has yohrtzeit today”. Alex was in the middle of davening (I assume Krias Shma) and put his hand up. It transpired that it was his birthday and he had decided to wear Rabbeinu Tam’s T’fillin for the first time. I pointed out that Daled Teves is also the Yohr Tzeit of Rabbeinu Tam himself! Hashgocho Protis?

Of course, in Melbourne, it is also known widely as the Yohr Tzeit of R’ Yitzchok Dovid Groner ז’ל who devoted his entire life to building up the community and was held in the highest esteem by most, including me.

The good work of Rabbis is often invisible

The reality is that newspapers and reporters are seemingly more likely to report and aggrandise horror stories and mistakes than they are to report excellent outcomes and outstanding effort, especially when it comes to Orthodox Rabbinic work. Sure, if a philanthropist donates money, they will report that as a big story with a nice picture spread. You won’t, however, find the headline on the front cover

“Reform rabbi speaks in favour of the anti-zionist BDS-supporting AJDS”

The “passionate” support of the Reform rabbi happened. It was mentioned in an article about the meeting of the ECAJ. I’d suggest such a view and display of passion has bigger ramifications for the reform movement and the opinion of many Jews than a Zablo that was screwed up and set aside by a NSW court. We should have had a transcript of what she had said.

As Rabbis Ullman and Moshe Gutnick noted in their letters to the Australian Jewish News, the focus on positive work and outcomes of Orthodox Rabbis seems to occupy no space in the AJN.

I wonder how the left-wing, and Limmud Oz supporters would react if it was suggested that they invite the following Neturei Karta people to speak about why we should be appeasing Ahmadinajad and dismantle the State in favour of Palestinian Arabs. After all, it’s all about tolerance, diversity and giving everyone a fair go to express their views?

No, Limmud Oz wouldn’t ever invite Neturei Karta, even remotely by video conference. Why not? I wonder if the AJDS would support them being invited? I imagine they would. After all, democracy is their religion. And yet, Limmud Oz invited Slezak! I don’t see much difference. In retrospect, there is a significant difference. Slezak is taken more seriously, especially by the young and green, and the young and green are mainly behind Limmud Oz.

People like Jeremy Stowe-Lindner, principal of Bialik College in Melbourne, writing in an article in the Australian Jewish News that amounts to a whitewash of a serious error by Limmud Oz in inviting Slezak, should now support Neturei Karta using his own arguments. Would Stowe-Lindner also use an error of inviting Neturei Karta to promote his agenda of sidelining denominational issues to the category of personally baked pareve cheese cake?

I know of recent cases where the Victorian Rabbinate, through the Beth Din, have solved very serious and long running cases of recalcitrant husbands not giving a Get. Was that a front page story? Heck, no.

It’s also the Rabbinate’s fault. They need a PR person in this day and age. In addition, they should have supplied statistics about the number of mediations they have overseen over the last few years which have been successful and not been challenged and compare those with  secular mediations and arbitrations that have been challenged.

No, you won’t see any of this in our Australian Jewish News. They are in the business of selling papers, and horror stories especially about Orthodoxy are better.

[AJDS really should rename themselves ADJS because I struggle to find Judaism in their politics. Left-wing democracy would seem to be their religion.]

Remembering Rav Menachem Froman ז’ל

Recently, I learned of the tragic petirah of HaRav Menachem Froman. He was well-known in the press over many years. Ironically, a founder of Gush Emunim, and described with the pejorative title of “settler”, Rav Froman was the driving force behind the city of Tekoa.

Rav Froman was a thinker, who worked outside the box. He had his own controversial views on how to relate to the Palestinian Arabs (and even known terrorists ימח שמם וזכרם) and many if not most like-minded souls who also moved, with מסירות נפש to far-flung corners of our Holy land, disagreed with his approach.

In his own words:

“My premise is that for Jews to live in all of Eretz Yisrael, they have to create a network of life with the Arabs”, says Rav Froman. “In the Holy Land, you can’t make peace without attending to the issue of holiness”.

“Isn’t it only fitting that Jerusalem be the seat of the United Nations’ cultural bodies, human rights organizations, scholarly forums? Isn’t it only proper that Jerusalem be the place where members of all faiths convene to renounce their breeding of prejudice, hostility, and war?”

Rav Froman truly believed that conciliation and peace lay only through the spreading of Kedusha through faith-based meetings and respect for adherents of Islam. If I’m not mistaken, Tekoa doesn’t have one of those security fences surrounding it. He wanted Tekoa and its residents to feel comfortable with their neighbours. When some Jewish crazies attacked a mosque and set fire, he came to the village and brought replacement texts of the Koran as a gesture of regret and respect.

My cousin, Effrat (née Balbin) (that’s how she spells her first name) and her husband Rabbi David Fialkoff are idealists who live in a caravan in Tekoa. The caravan now houses their bevy of children. They are inspiring and selfless people. David is also a big chassid of Rav Steinsaltz and has impeccable midos tovos. On Shabbos, I used to sing Chabad Nigunim especially for David, who participated with Dveykus.

In 2006, I had the Zchus to attend their wedding. It was then that I first laid eyes on Rav Froman. He was one of those people whose eyes were alive, and who had this aura surrounding him. You could just feel his presence. He had such a peaceful and happy demeanour. I remember he sporadically began a dance before the Chuppa with my Uncle Hershel Balter. He personified Ahavas Yisroel and a love for others. I tried to talk to him and engage him on some of his views, and he simply wasn’t interested. He undoubtedly felt that I was attempting to cajole him into a controversial discussion. He wasn’t having a bar of it. We were at a wedding, and he probably sensed that I wasn’t really at the level of having a meaningful conversation on the topic. After all, I was from Melbourne, Australia. What business of mine was there in talking to someone who was an inspiration to the entire community of Tekoa.

You couldn’t help liking him. If he had worn a Rebbishe Spodik he would have fit the part of a  Jew who had this burning attraction to another Yid’s Neshoma Elokis, and who was attracted to them like a magnet.

I’m told that Tekoa is in severe grief and mourning. It is very difficult for the to cope with the loss of their inspirational leader. In the picture below, which I took back then, Rav Froman is reading the Kesuba while Rav Shteinsaltz looks on.

I liked the man, lots.

יהי זכרו ברוך

Rav Froman (on the right) and Rav Steinsaltz on the left.
Rav Froman (on the right) and Rav Steinsaltz on the left.

The Honeymoon is over (part 2)

HaRav Chaim Drukman, who was awarded the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement in 2012, was interviewed regarding his reaction to the boycott I pitputed about yesterday. He was in charge of the Israel Conversion Authority, and was the subject of a now maligned opinion from Rabbi Avraham Sherman regarding his conversions, where Rabbi Sherman had attempted to anul conversions on the basis that the Beth Din members were not “kosher”.

Rav Drukman is a holocaust survivor who was part of the establishment of Gush Emunim. He is known as an Ish HaChesed. As Rav Aviner wrote

By contrast, “if the Torah scholar scrupulously makes sure to greet all people gently, humbly and graciously, and he suffers insult without insulting in return, if he treats others with respect, even those that treat him lightly, and if he radiates integrity in his business dealings… until everyone praises him and loves him and appreciates his deeds, then he has sanctified G-d’s name. Of him it says, ‘You are My servant, Israel in whom I glory’ (Yeshayahu 49:3).”

Indeed, Rav Druckman is amongst those who suffer insult without insulting in return.

He really does get insulted and hurt a great deal. It is impossible to describe just how much, and it really does hurt him, but he never returns an insult.

Such is the humble person under discussion. He is an open saint, but a secret saint as well. In other words, his personality is so open, it radiates so fully, it has such a great influence, that one could think that what we see is all there is. Yet that is not the case. There is to his modesty much more than what we see. Don’t ask me what. I don’t know. Because Rav Chaim is a humble, modest person, who doesn’t often reveal what’s inside of him.

Watch the video interview with Rav Druckman. Turn on the English captions if you can’t understand Ivrit too well. He accurately notes the disdain that Charedim have held Religious Zionists in, as a matter of perpetuity. You see, for Charedim, Rav Druckman isn’t “frum enough”. Period.

Frum and the not yet frum: Separate or Join?

A powerful set of questions are raised in an article titled “Maybe the Secular Are Right?” that was published this winter in the Haredi Kikar Hashabbat, Rabbi Bloch (who is the Head of Nachal Charedi, and a Ram and Rosh Kollel) asks: “Why is it so common for Haredi pundits and public figures to pin the motives for secular hatred against Haredim only on the formers’ bad qualities, their emptiness, anti-Semitism and the ignorant man’s hatred for the scholar? And another question we should ask ourselves is whether, sometimes, the value benefits from this conduct or another are worth the consequent heavy price of hilul Hashem (desecration of the Holy Name).

1. We’ve chosen, for understandable educational reasons, to withdraw and live in exclusively Haredi cities and neighborhoods, avoiding as much as possible any social contact with the secular.

This is legitimate and understandable, but as a result they don’t really know us, amd so they naturally view us as bizarre, in our manner of dress, our behavior, and our language. This creates aversion and alienation. Why, then, we are angry at them for treating us this way?

2. We chose, for educational reasons—although some of us really believe it—to teach our children that all secular Israelis are sinners, vacuous, with no values, and corrupt.

This could possibly be a legitimate view, but, then, why are we shocked when the secular, in return, teach their own children that the Haredim are all primitive, with outdated and despicable values?

3. We have chosen, for the sake of the preservation of Torah in Israel, to prevent our sons from participating in carrying the heavy burden of security, and instead tasked them with learning Torah.

Of course we could not give that up, but why are we outraged and offended when the secular, who do not recognize nor understand this need—or rather most of them are familiar with the issue, but argue that there should be quotas—see us as immoral, and some despise us as a result?

4. We chose for our sons who do not belong, by their personal inclination or learning skills to the group of Torah scholars (Yeshiva bums and worse), to also evade enlistment—including into perfectly kosher army units. And when it comes to the individuals who have joined the Haredi Nahal, we do not praise them, but despise them instead, and we certainly show them no gratitude, while the Haredi press ignores them—in the best case.

Why, then, are we outraged when the secular don’t believe our argument, that the purpose of keeping yeshiva students from enlisting, is to maintain Torah study and not simply the Haredim’s unwillingness to bear the burden?

5. We chose to teach our children not to work for a living, and to devote all their time to Torah study. Clear enough, but, then, why are we shocked when the secular—who do not consider Torah study an all encompassing value—feel that we are an economic burden on their necks, as a mere 38% of us take part in the labor force, and they hate us for it.

6. We chose not to teach our children any labor skills, and we condemn those who do pursue a profession. As a result our kolelim include all of those who do not belong among the scholars and still prefer not to work for a living.

Why, then, do we complain when the secular feel, and say so with an increasing volume, that we are parasites, living off of their efforts?

7. We chose (for educational considerations?) not to educate our children to show gratitude to the soldiers who risked their lives and were killed or injured for our sake, too. So we do not mention them in any way by any special day or prayer or special Mishna learning that’s dedicated to their memory. Moreover, not a single Mashgiach or Rosh Yeshiva ever talks about it in a Mussar Schmooze, and you’ll find no mention of it in the Haredi press.

Why, then, are we surprised that the secular feel that we are ungrateful and despicable, and that the reason for our not enlisting is simply because we are parasites, living off the sacrifices of others in society?

8. When extremist, delusional groups behave in ways that besmirch the name of God—e.g. the spitting in Beit Shemesh, dancing during the memorial siren, burning the national flag—our rabbis chose not to condemn them, clearly and consistently ( except for a few faint statements here and there). Why, then, are we explaining away the fact that the secular believe we all support those terrible acts? Why do we insist that their hostility stems from their hatred of the scholars?

9. We’ve opted to allow our public officials and pundits to curse out all the secular all the time. Why, then, when the secular media treat us the same way, are we offended and cry out that they’re persecuting us?

10. The Haredi press will never offer any praise of or express support for secular Israelis who perform good deeds. Why, then, do we jump up and down when we are rewarded equally? And, in fact, while Haredi spokespersons rarely point anything positive about secular society, the secular media often gives positive coverage to Haredi organizations like Yad Sara, Hatzala, Zaka, etc.

11. We would not agree, under any condition, that secular Israelis turn up in our schools to teach our children heresy, and we would have kept them from putting up stands with books of heresy in our areas. Why, then, do we not understand when the secular do not agree that we seduce her children into denying their parents’ heresy?

12. We do not agree—in my view, rightfully so—that secular people move into Haredi neighborhoods. So where do we get the arrogance and audacity to call anti-Semites those secular who don’t agree that Haredim move near their homes, in secular neighborhoods?

Achdus=Unity or Sloganeering?

We have emerged from an intense month. Starting from the Ellul lead in, through Rosh Hashona and Yom Kippur, onto Succos/Hoshana Rabba and culminating in Shmini Atzeres/Simchas Torah. I use the word culminating, because in a pristine existence, it is meant to be a culmination after which ויעקב הלך לדרכו, the newly inspired and invigorated Jew “goes on his way”.

In the days of old, when distractions of worldy existence were minor and inconsequential, and when tomorrow was simply a new day, it was arguably less of an issue to exult in finishing the leyning of the Torah. (It wasn’t always the case that we completed the Torah each year, but I digress).

I fondly remember dancing the night away at (the Religious Zionist) Mizrachi Shule only to arrive in the late evening at (the Chabad) Yeshivah Centre. We were young, restless and more daring back then and attempted to hijack the singing by introducing “Tziyon Halo Tishali” (a Satmar tune for those interested in trivia, and one which connotes sadness vis-a-vis Kinos on Tisha B’Av). This song, was akin to a Religious Zionist anthem, and we were determined to show that “we have arrived” and perhaps, just perhaps, we could all sing together. We got away with it, and the singing and dancing continued in the usual uplifting vein.

Rabbi Groner ז’ל  together with other “elder”  Chassidim, hosted all with a classic Farbrengen on Shmini Atzeres. Regaling us with stories of his youth, and more, we sat spell-bound for hours. Snippets of Chassidus were spoken, and anyone could pipe up and say something. Some interloping comments were interesting whilst others displayed the result of someone who was less able to hold their liquor. There was, however, a feeling of Achdus and inspiration.

In later years, Rabbi Groner would be wheeled in, but the Farbrengen continued as long as he had an ounce of strength left in his body. To be sure, there were other significant iconic Chassidim of yore, R’ Zalman, R’ Nochum, R’ Chaim Serebryanski,  to name a few. It was like a pseudo-pantomine. They often criticised each other, under the influence of some Mashke (alcohol) and although we sometimes witnessed Rischa D’Orayso (heated interchange, for want of a better description) it was never acrimonious and, importantly, nobody pulled rank. Indeed, Chabad is a binary system as far as people go. There was the Rebbe and then the rest. It was, as in the beginning of Parshas Nitzavim: from the Rosheichem, the leaders, right through to the water drawers.

Mashke was a lubricant. It released the inhibitions. It facilitated an ability to dispense with the Tirdos (worries) of Olam Hazeh, the world we live in, and temporarily immerse in something more corporeal. In short, it was a means to an end. It was never an end of itself. Personally, I found that as I got older, Mashke helped me to “lose” the relative trivia that might be occupying my neurones and focus. It sounds contradictory, but it’s the reality. Mashke is sufficient, but it is by no means necessary, so to speak.

Fast forward. It’s Shmini Atzeres. Nusach Sfard and Chassidim perform Hakofos in Chutz La’aretz. There is a Kiddush (in the Chabad Yeshivah Shule where I have davened for eons) and many said kiddush (in the Succa) ostensibly to resume Hakaofos, somewhat liberated by the Mashke. In the last few years, I have felt decidedly uncomfortable going into the Succa for this preparatory libation. I do not refer to the issue of under age drinking. That is a separate item and not the topic in this post. The atmosphere of late, especially this year, seems to have become one more akin to a tavern/pub (lehavdil). Many never return to Hakofos, and the kiddush on mashke, has become an end, and not a means to an end. It is true, that my attention was also somewhat “distracted” as I was learning about Cohanim, Air Planes, Tumah, Moving Tents and floating carpets, and came to the realisation that I was close to clueless about the intricate Dinim of Tumas Ohel and Kelim, so I could be described as “preoccupied”.

The next day, as a Cohen, I duchened. I was somewhat psychologically affected by a Halachic question I had been reading from R’ Oshry ז’ל regarding a Cohen in the Ghetto whose voice box had been dismembered by the Nazis, may their memory be blotted forever. I felt strangely inspired to “give it my all”. I had a voice box. I wasn’t tormented. All I needed to do is have thoughts of אהבה and ask Hashem to give everyone everything they needed.

We then retired to the Shmini Atzeres farbrengen. I made kiddush, and then a little more, and waited with pregnant excitement to hear words of wisdom. It was probably me. All I heard was sloganeering and seemingly parroted thoughts that I had heard so many times before. There was no “git vort”, no “geshmake mayse”, not even a new Chassidic insight into the day we were meant to be only happy.

I began to question things being said our of sheer frustration. Perhaps if I hadn’t been exposed to the “good times” or had been more tolerant towards this somewhat more mediocre experience, I would have stayed silent.

I wanted to say something. It was to be my attempt to steer the ambient discussion towards some Tachlis. It had been on my mind during davening, and while there could have been an opportunity to do so in the good old days, and did, it sadly had no place anymore.

The shutters were up. The Arba Minim are meant to signify a unity and tolerance of all types of people and philosophies. Call it a symbol of Achdus or Unity, the personification of ואהבת לרעך כמוך. I felt that it was relegated to sloganeering. There was no action. One kind soul, attempted to assuage me

Isaac, if you were sitting in a Belzer Succah, do you think they would allow a non Belzer to say a Dvar Torah?

It was then that I realised he was right. This is, sadly, what we have become (in most places). We have compartmentalised to an extent where everyone thinks they have the (sole) mortgage on the truth. It’s my way or the highway. There seemingly can no longer be more than one path to serving Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Eventually I left.

As I walked home, I reflected on the words of the first Amshinover Rebbe, R’ Yaakov Dovid ז’ל

The Rebbe asked about the well-known Passuk in Tehillim:

הנה מה טוב ומה נעים שבת אחים גם יחד

Behold it is good and pleasant when brothers are sitting also together

The verse should have read:

הנה מה טוב ומה נעים שבת אחים יחד

Behold it is good and pleasant when brothers are sitting together

The word גם—also—is superfluous and misplaced. The Rebbe explained that there are many occasions where brothers (and sisters) sit together. However, it’s only good and pleasant when they are also together, sharing a commonality.

I wondered how each original Rebbe, who was a student of the Magid of Mezeritch sat around the same table. They had nuanced differences in their outlooks. Were they together? Of course they were. In our day, each Chassidic group is basically in its own cocoon. The same is true of non Chassidim.

On Shmini Atzeres/Simchas Torah, one would have thought that the uniting element, the Torah itself, would have the pulling power to create the גם יחד.

Maybe next year. I’ll be positive. There is no other choice.

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 ….