Prayers for Malka Leifer

If you haven’t read ‘she’s free to go’ in Israel until she gets better.

I’m waiting for the Adass Israel community to call for a day of prayer, so that Leifer, accused of 72 accounts of pedophilia gets better sooner so that her continued existence in this sick mental state subsides and the daily profanation of God’s name doesn’t continue to recur.

Does anybody want to take betting odds that this prayer day won’t occur and that it didn’t occur on the last prayer-filled event last week at the Hungarian Ultra Orthodox Haredi establishment in Melbourne? 

I will bet her name wasn’t even mentioned in a prayer for a Refuah Shelema.

Let justice take its path.

If she God forbids, lures a victim, now that she is free to roam, I’d be applying to have her institutionalised in an asylum with appropriate mental care.

Why all the brouhaha about Mikvaos in Israel for Reform

The laws of a Mikva are of the most complex that exist. They are riddled with minutiae and disagreement among even later day Rabbis. Reform has never shown an interest in archaic Rabbinic tradition, their arguments, Talmudic or otherwise; it’s about a ritual. As such, I don’t see why a Hot Pool of any type can’t be used for Reform conversions (I am unaware of them ever ruling that the minutiae of “old archaic” Rabbinic tradition should be upheld). It would be much cheaper.

Reform Judaism’s governing bodies dropped the requirement for immersion more than a century ago. The Pittsburgh Platform of 1885 stated: “We recognize in the Mosaic legislation a system of training the Jewish people for its mission during its [ancient] national life in Palestine, and today we accept as binding only the moral laws, and maintain only such ceremonies as elevate and sanctify our lives, but reject all such as are not adapted to the views and habits of modern civilization.” Thus did the Reform rabbinic authorities renounce – without banning – any and all requirements for ritual, including those involving mikveh. In 1977 Rabbi Walter Jacob commented that “the custom has fallen into disuse….Ritual immersion has completely ceased to be practiced for niddah [separation of spouses during menstruation] and is followed only by a small percentage within the Orthodox community” [Contemporary American Reform Responsa].

If they want to revive it, , perhaps in keeping with Reform philosophy, it’s time to invent an up to date,  modern “equivalent”.
If for some reason they would like a specific set of pools for this purpose, then let it be a user-pays situation.

Reform Jews are using mikvaot today in a wide variety of alternative ways: to mark lifecycle events or a change of personal status, to celebrate joy or sanctify grief. Immersions before a bat or bar mitzvah, to mark divorce or the death of a loved one, to celebrate graduation or a trip to Israel, as gratitude after recovery from a serious illness are increasingly common. And while mikveh is traditionally practiced in privacy, some liberal mikvaot are hosting groups, including women marking the onset of menopause and men taking their sons before the High Holidays.

See here for more

Sarah Hatsman, Reform Clergy, introduces new hand washing procedures with the Mikvah, and mindfulness.

 

 

The Mikvah is used by Orthodox women monthly. It is most likely that it is only used for a Reform Conversion and perhaps? before a wedding. On that basis, the State should withdraw funding from all Mikvaos and make admission based on a user pays affiliation to the type of Mikva.

Would the State fund Baptism Pools as well?

The same if true of Conservative (Masorti). There are plenty of US donors who would pay for these customised pools and rules.

Separation of Religion and State needs to occur in Israel. The Chief Rabbinate no longer is respected and has managed to descend a level each time there are new appointees.

Which Mikveh does the transexual, or fluid sexual go to?

The majority of people are aligned with traditional orthodoxy and will always be and have little to do with Reform  or Conservatives. These are mainly American phenomena that has been imported in small quantities into Israel.

Finally note the inequality. Male Orthodox Jews do not have the same requirements of a Mikva as a female. As such, according to many authorities they may be ritually cleaned in a swimming pool or a 4-5 minute shower. Certainly, it doesn’t have the “feel” and “preparation” of going to a Male Mikva, however, there is much that needs to be improved in the lack of Tznius in Male Mikvaos, which unfortunately isn’t being addressed by anyone it would seem.

Nobody complains about that. Perhaps feminists should argue they should have the easier rules as per men?

PS. The “diplobabble from some Shas MPs makes me cringe”.

Yom Ha’atzmaut: I didn’t find it funny

As I was leaving Shule today, there was a function being held. I don’t know who the caterer was, but it was under Adass supervision. The door was open, and the Mashgiach (supervisor), a rather portly chap was munching on some soup nuts. He was a jovial type and we exchanged a few pleasantries. He then asked me (in Yiddish) do you know what day the Megadef (blasphemer) in today’s Parshas Emor committed his sin? [ The blasphemer who cursed God was the son of Shlomis Bas Divri  and his father was allegedly the Egyptian killed by Moshe Rabbenu (Shmos, second Perek) and he was punished with death for cursing God.]

This Mashgiach of the food (who was a Chossid of some sort, with long Payes, and his Tzitzis Beged on the outside) bellowed that it was the 5th of Iyar (i.e. Yom Ha’atzmaut). I have to admit that I didn’t know if he was telling me the truth in respect of the date and I just wasn’t aware or I was confused with the date of the Mekoshesh Etzim, but it doesn’t matter.

In other words, on the very the day that Hashem allowed the world to grant Israel the ability to be an independent nation, was according to this fellow the same day that the Megadef sinner was put to death for cursing God.

His point was clearly that there was a connection between the two. The notion of a new State for Jews wasn’t a cause célèbre but something akin to cursing God/sinning for which the death penalty was appropriate.

As is my way, I usually find a quick retort, and told him that the correct meaning was that anyone whose distorted weltanschauung saw the establishment of the new State of Israel as a sin/curse, was deserving the death penalty. He snorted, and didn’t respond, and I went on my way.

I simply cannot comprehend how people can speak this way about Israel. I struggle with it. Either they feel that immediately after the Holocaust God decided to “test us” and offer us a State and we should have said “NO”, or they think that the Hester Panim (concealment of God’s visage) during the Holocaust continued further and we shouldn’t have fallen for the “ruse” agreed to by the United Nations, or that we should simply have accepted the view of  R’ Yoel of Satmar, that it is (God forbid) a sin to make mass Aliyah to Israel before the Redemption (as expounded in VeYoel Moshe and discredited as an halachic argument by many Talmidei Chachomim of note).

Having been at the Yom Hashoa commemoration during the week, focussing on the destruction of Hungarian Jewry, and feeling the pain of that episode once more, I find it utterly incomprehensible that soon after 6 million holy people were murdered by the Nazis, that I am meant to see the establishment of a State as  a cataclysmic curse akin to the Megadef (the episode of which has some parallels to the Mekoshesh Etzim in Parshas Shlach).

It is times like this where I am profoundly challenged to consider such people and their views as brotherly. Not only did I not find it funny, I found it grossly offensive (he mistakenly thought I was a Chabadnik, as he had stated).

I am glad that I went home to have a nice Shabbos meal with my mother (a Holocaust survivor who lived, studied and found refuge in the new State of Israel immediately after the war) and managed to control my seething anger.

The flag of the State of Israel atop the Ponovezh Yeshivah on Yom Haatzmaut

Adass vs Mizrachi

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

Disclaimer: Ian is my brother-in-law

First, we have a letter from Adass

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

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

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

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

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

The Mesorah Of Chesed

[Hat tip to Marek]

Article by Barry Jacobsen

A beautifully arranged presentation, graciously hosted by the Wolfson family, was held this past Motzaei Shabbos regarding the upcoming plan in Eretz Yisrael to conscript yeshiva bachurim into the IDF. Sadly, at the conclusion, I left with a feeling of disappointment.

No questions were permitted from the floor. I had the opportunity to speak with one of the speakers afterwards, who generously listened to me. But that was not the same as a full discussion of a difficult issue.

I am grateful to Rabbi Bender for his infinite chassadim to my family in numerous areas. Any comments I make are in no way intended to minimize the tremendous feelings of respect I have for him. Similarly, I had the opportunity to know the father of Rabbi Ginzberg from my days in yeshiva.

He was a paragon of seiver panim yafos, friendship, kindness, and concern about the welfare of all the bachurim. Any points I raise here are only intended as an exchange of ideas and an expression of deep pain for what I and many others see in the current state of affairs.

I was inspired to devote a number of years to learning in my early youth.

The warm feelings towards Torah, Yiddishkeit, and a Shabbos table filled with ruach will never be dimmed. The desire to maximize that path motivated me to send my kids to chareidi yeshivos where they were given a warm and meaningful Torah education. However, I am deeply disturbed at what has been happening on a wider level in the klal as a whole. I believe I speak for many others, and I know my chaverim have discussed these issues with me, as well.

After introductions by Rabbi Kobre, Rabbi Bender opened with a discussion of the importance of Torah in protecting the klal. He quoted the Gemara in Cheilek that one who says “Mai ahanu lan rabbanan, ldidhu karu ldidhu tanu,” is an apikorus. (One who says, ‘What do the rabbis help us? They only learn for themselves.’ He is considered an apostate.) Rabbi Bender discussed how there were a certain number of yeshiva bachurim learning, while the soldiers fought, during the times of Tanach. He also mentioned how the chareidim have a much lower rate of incarceration in Israeli jails than the general population, thus demonstrating that the Torah teaches good behavior. Finally, he mentioned that there are a number of chareidi organizations which do much chesed for the klal as a whole in Israel, not just for the frum segment, such as supporting the poor and providing assistance with medical issues.

Rabbi Ginzberg focused on why even people who had respect for gedolim in the past, such as those of the stature of Reb Moshe Feinstein, now seem to have wavered, and why questioning daas Torah has become more widespread, particularly on blogs.

Rabbi Eli Paley focused on some of the technical issues, such as how many soldiers the army really needs, and some of his own experiences in the army which seemed to be difficult for a chareidi lifestyle. He seemed to imply that the army is used in some ways as a form of indoctrination and acculturation with the secular viewpoint, rather than as an absolute necessity for security.

Rabbi Kobre mentioned some of the problems chareidi soldiers have recently faced, including medical exams which intruded upon their sense of privacy, and that even in the newer chareidi programs, 25% of the alumni come out non-frum. He took umbrage with a statement from a high level army chief that the chareidim are a worse problem than Ahmadinejad. Rabbi Kobre concluded that this is a state of emergency, and we all need to cry out for salvation.

All of this is true. But it is totally beside the point. The main problem that needed to be addressed, but was totally ignored, is why the chiloni sector has turned on the chareidim at this point in time. It is my belief that we are largely to blame. If it were only a matter of logistics, with the enrollment of more chareidim, suitable infrastructure would be set up so as to better serve them. But that is not at all the point of this article.

For the past 100 years, the chareidi world has been fighting Zionism like it is some kind of poison. They coined fiery slogans such as the Zionists didn’t become frei in order to build a state; they built a state in order to become frei. Aside from being totally foolish, as one can become frei by going to the McDonalds down the block without going through the backbreaking effort of building a state, it is an insult to the downtrodden Jewish people. After suffering 2,000 years of persecution, poverty, plagues, and pogroms at the hands of their host countries, which caused the spirits of many to break, is there no understanding why the status quo was unbearable? Many were converting and leaving Judaism in droves because they couldn’t take the anti-Semitism, discrimination, and misery. Many fled to America or wherever else they could get into.

Theodore Herzl warned that things would only get worse, and his prophecy was 100% correct, as we saw in the Holocaust. He knew the answer was for the Jews to get a place of their own, and he tried his best to help his suffering brethren, despite whatever personal failings he may have had. He did magnificent work. Think about how hard it is to organize a shul dinner, and then imagine how hard it is to organize a country. He had to rally the Jews, raise funds, meet with countless heads of state. The chareidim totally vilified Herzl and forbade any hazkarah in his honor within the city of Brisk after he passed away. The rav of the main shul in town locked the doors to prevent it. But the population was undeterred and broke the lock and held a massive service with thousands of people in attendance. To this day the vilification continues.

In 1923, the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah passed a resolution condemning the efforts of the Zionists and vowed to fight any attempt to set up a state with all means at their disposal. This was 25 years before the saga of the Yemenite children whose peyos were allegedly cut off. This fighting and denigration of the medinah continues until this day. Chareidim refuse to say the tefillah for the medinah or for the chayalim in their shuls, citing all kinds of Kaballistic reasons, or because we don’t have power to write new tefillos (despite that we say new kinnos on Tishah B’Av for the

Shoah) or other creative points. However, in the old siddur Otzar HaTefilos, written about 100 years ago, there is a tefillah for Czar Nikolai, his wife, his parents, and children, mentioning them all by name, with effusive praise for each. We are allowed to say a tefillah for this individual who was no friend of the Jews, but for our brethren in the Israeli government, it would somehow ruin the davening.

The average Jew is tired of this stuff already. When a Jew goes to Israel and is greeted at the airport by the sign, Bruchim Habaim L’eretz Yisrael, his heart soars. When he enters Yerushalayim and sees the beautiful floral arrangement spelling out Bruchim Habaim LiYerushalayim, and sees the Old City and the Kotel, his heart is torn with emotion. When he sees young soldiers guarding the streets with dangerous weapons, the same age as our kids, who are often roaming the pizza shops, he is amazed at the level of responsibility and maturity they have achieved at such a young age. When he sees how advanced the country has become technologically, such that it exports its know-how all over the world, in areas such as military technology, water management, agriculture, medicine, electronics, software, and nanotechnology, his heart bursts with pride. When he realizes that there is freedom to set up as many shuls and yeshivos as he pleases, without any fear of pogroms or anti-Semitism, he is overjoyed and dumbfounded that for the first time in 2,000 years, this is possible.

Medinas Yisrael is the biggest berachah the Jews have received since the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash.

Now we run into a problem. When somebody tells us that daas Torah is opposed to this, or that the founders of the state were wrong, or bad people, or that we should not say the tefillah for the Medinah, should not celebrate Yom HaAtzamaut, should not sing Hatikvah, should not stand for the memorial sirens on Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaShoah, the average Jew becomes rather confused and torn, with his heart telling him one thing, and all kinds of yeshivishe propaganda that has been drummed into his head telling him another thing.

A little while ago, there was a picture on the front page of the 5TJT of a young child hugging his father’s grave at the military cemetery. The father died so we can enjoy the freedom and the shuls, yeshivos, and mekomos hakedoshim of Eretz Yisrael that we now have. Can chareidim not give this poor child respect for two minutes and stand still while he cries? How dare any leader not emphasize basic decency in his yeshiva.

When a frum IDF soldier is stoned and rained with trash when he enters Meah Shearim, the rest of the country is sickened. We often hear that it is one meshugeneh. Totally wrong. When verbal violence is preached at the top levels, physical violence results at the lower levels.

All the chesed that the chareidim do, while certainly well appreciated (as it is here in the Five Towns, as well), it doesn’t come to a drop in the ocean of the chesed that the Medinah does. The chareidim may provide transportation, food, or advice to people in need of medical treatment.

But who provides the hospitals, medical training, medicines, instruments, research, universities where training and innovation is carried out, and roads to transport the patients and medicines, etc. They also pay for the care, to begin with.

The chareidim give generously to the poor, but how many mouths does the government of Israel feed? Who ensures that the economy runs smoothly, that there is electricity, and engineering training to design a power grid, and water, and chemists who know how to test its safety? Who protects this vast infrastructure, and provides army personnel to stand watch day and night? The Medinah dwarfs all chesed organizations put together. Where is the hakaras hatov?

The klal craves achdus and warmth. The constant anti-Zionist propaganda spewed forth by chareidim is causing giyul nefesh (utter disgust) in me and many of my chaveirim who learned in chareidi yeshivos, not to mention the chilonim themselves.

Rabbi Ginzberg asks why there is a reduction in respect for gedolim. Well, Sunday following parashas Korach there was a massive demonstration where two warring brothers found that they don’t hate each other more than anything else in the world, as previously believed. It turned out that they hate the State of Israel even more. And the entire ideology is based on some obscure aggadeta (Shalosh Shevuos) not brought down in any of the classic codifiers, which is itself based on a verse in Tanach, from which we don’t generally derive halacha, anyway. Incidentally, a possible message of the Shalosh Shevuos is not to rebel against one’s hosts, out of derech eretz. Would that, perhaps, be applicable as well to Jewish hosts, or are they less deserving than King Henry VIII or Queen Isabella? This movement often resorts to outright lies, such as that the Zionists colluded with the Nazis, when letters have recently become available that Ben Gurion begged the British government to allow Jewish fighters to go to Europe to fight the Nazis. They also claim that enormous numbers of Jews have died as a result of the Medinah, when the number is 25,000 in 150 years, far less than in many other similar eras in Jewish history.

Another rav Rabbi Ginzberg is fond of quoting spewed forth the same type of anti-Zionist vitriol for years. One can open up a book of his transcribed speeches in English. This same rav also founded new political parties. One would think some important ideology was at stake. But it was his dislike of a certain rebbe. For some unknown reason, despite this rebbe’s incredible erudition, breadth, and kindness to all segments, this rav considered the rebbe to be inferior to himself. He disliked that rebbe so much that when that rebbe’s wife passed away, he told other rabbanim not to pay a shivah call. The klal is mortified and tired of this. These types of things have led to a weakening of faith in daas Torah.

Is it telling that the preceding two-brother chassidic movement, and the preceding rav’s yeshiva are now both torn asunder by internal machlokes?

Walls have had to be built and smoke bombs have been thrown in the beis medrash of one of the world’s most prestigious yeshivas in Israel. Midah kneged midah? Perhaps. But maybe just the natural progression of things.

When multiple generations have been raised on hatred and sinas chinam, the imbibed hatred is then used on each other, as well.

A few years ago, there was a major chinuch protest demonstration, with all chareidim in Israel urging their followers to attend. What was the issue?

The Israeli government was upset that a certain school was separating the Sephardic girls from the Ashkenazic girls by means of a fence in the middle of the school building, and down the middle of the playground.

Personally, even if a thousand gedolim held a demonstration with a million followers urging people to be cruel to young Sephardic girls, I would follow my heart and simply ignore it, and instead welcome them with open arms. The hamon am is disgusted.

Torah has become an exercise in mental gymnastics, with the primary message being ignored. When Rebbe Akiva said that v’ahavta l’rei’acha kamocha is klal gadol baTorah, he meant it. It supersedes all other considerations. Am I ignoring or denigrating daas Torah? I hope not. Rabbi Ginzberg has mentioned on more than one occasion the importance of keeping mesorah. There is one mesorah we have which is even older than the mesorah of learning—by about 500 years. It is the mesorah of chesed. It was taught by Avraham Avinu. When three individuals who he actually thought were idol worshippers (see Rashi) showed up at his door, he did not spit, as some chareidim now do, at priests of other religions. Rather, he served them a delicious meal and gave them a place to rest, before sending them on their way. Chesed comes before ideology.

When Avraham was told that anshei Sdom were going to be punished, he didn’t smirk that they deserved it, but he screamed to the Ribbono Shel Olam, “Hashofet kol ha’aretz lo ya’aseh mishpat!?” Will the judge of the entire world not do justice!? He was our father, and the father of all peoples of the world. Av hamon goyim.

One of the speakers mentioned that we are experiencing a war against Torah Judaism, an oft-heard refrain of the last hundred years, that the chilonim and Zionists are aiming to destroy Torah and see the chareidim as its symbol. This is needlessly inflammatory (but admittedly effective as a way to rally the troops) and simply false. Reb Aryeh Levine dressed chareidi.

Yet the Knesset dedicated a special day in his honor and made a special plaque which was awarded to him in a major presentation. He worked with all his might to help the fighters in the early days before the state.

After davening, he walked tens of miles on Shabbos to the prisoners in jail to tell the families how their loved ones were doing. He cried out on Rosh Hashanah, mentioning each by name, when they were sentenced to the gallows. The chilonim recognized that he loved them with all of his pure heart. The chilonim, in turn, loved him with all of theirs. If we acted like Reb Aryeh, and gave the chilonim the slightest bit of hakaras hatov and warmth and appreciation for the amazing achievement they accomplished (bsiyata deshmaya), not just as a condescending ruse to be mekarev them, but with a sincere and full understanding of the miracle they created and the intense effort they put in; and if we offered to move our yeshivos to the army bases to keep them company in times of war and be mechazek them with kindness; and if we stopped our foolish and angry (and baseless) rhetoric, they would never think of drafting a single yeshiva bachur. We have only ourselves to blame for this miserable situation. Let us try to rectify it before things get worse.

For now we need to know that there is nothing more to Yiddishkeit than simple kindness and mutual love and respect. In the words of Hillel, idach perusha hi—all else is just commentary. Perhaps it is not the chilonim who have gone off the derech. Perhaps it is us. I am not rejecting daas Torah, rather I am relying on the daas Torah of Reb Aryeh Levine which goes straight back to Avraham Avinu.

The author may be reached at bdj@alum.mit.edu.

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

This type of interview is creepy

[Hat tip to Abe]

They get a nice-looking scarf-less, american-accented mouthpiece to spout plain untruths. Many in the “cultured” western world, especially left-leaning tree-huggers will conclude that even though the interviewer caught her out, there is another narrative out there, and the only narrative that should be disregarded is the American/Israeli line.

The mighty and powerful aggressors are wantonly attacking the helpless ones, whose rocket-propelled “sling shots” don’t cause damage.

This is an Olam HaSheker, a world of lies. Those who think that propaganda will overcome this intense hatred towards us, would do better to re-read history and re-focus on

תשובה ותפילה וצדקה

Which doesn’t mean we “deserve” anything. What it means is that we need to increase our good acts and the quality of our personal and Godly interaction, especially when under fire.

By all means, write letters, twitter to your heart’s content, spread across facebook, share Friday night bread with co-religionists, but remember, that this alone does not, has not, and never will be sufficient to cause an attitudinal sea-change.

הלכה עשיו שונא ליעקב

It’s a Midrash, but for some reason it rings as true now as it did in 1939. That’s not all of them, but far too many. We’ve seen it before, and sadly, we will continue to see it until ובא לציון גואל.

Disclaimer: My private views, as always, should not be construed as associated with anyone but me, and me alone.

Should certain people not join the army of the State of Israel

We have all been reading with interest about the expiration of the Tal Law, which had afforded “Kollel Yungerleit” the opportunity to avoid military service in the State of Israel on account of their extended and continued full time study of Torah. We have also heard many Gedolim say that this is a situation of יהרג ועל יעבור … that people should give up their lives rather than join the army.

Parshas Shoftim describes the process whereby the Cohen, משוח מלחמה explains the procedures before warfare. First he encourages the troops and tells them that they only should fear Hashem and not the enemy, then he describes the categories of soldier (male soldiers, of course) who are exempt from battle (anyone is engaged but yet to marry a woman, anyone who has built a house but did not move in, anyone who has planted a vineyard but has yet to reap a harvest, and anyone who feels afraid). The Shotrim (policemen/miitary staff) then repeat this to groups of soldiers, according to Rashi.

There are two broad categories of war: the Milchemes Mitzvah (loosely described as a war where one defends the very existence/populace) and a Milchemes Reshus (a type of warfare which is waged for other reasons). A Milchemes Mitzvah is obviously a more serious, life threatening situation, and so we fine that the Mishne in Sotah (8:7) states that the aforementioned exemptions do not apply to a Milchemes Mitzvah. In other words, when it comes to defending the very existence of the people/State, it’s “all hands on the deck”.

Strangely, the Rambam at the beginning of the seventh chapter of Hilchos Melachim, states that the Cohen also announces these exemptions for a Milchemes Mitzvah. How can the Rambam contradict a clear Mishna? One explanation I read from Rav Schachter in the name of the Rav is that there is a dual obligation when anyone goes to war. One obligation is a national obligation. The person is part of the כלל and in the sense that the כלל is threatened in a Milchemes Mitzvah, the Torah does not provide an opportunity for exemption. There is also an individual obligation, the obligation of the פרט, the potential soldier who signs up for military service or considers doing so. In a Milchemes Reshus, the Cohen explains that someone who is in one of the aforementioned categories is strongly urged to stay home. They aren’t needed, and furthermore it could be argued that they may even damage morale by virtue of their preponderant thoughts.

According to the Rav, the Rambam is saying that even in a Milchemes Mitzvah, the Cohen explains the laws of the פרט being absolved from joining the armed forces before they defend the nation. It is necessary to explain the difference, and stress that this is only an exemption in as much as they are private individuals, however, since they are about to embark on a life and death battle for the defence of the people and the State, the aspect of the כלל affords them no exemption.

Of course, there are other explanations. Reflecting on this on Parshas Shoftim, I have great difficulty understanding how those who ostensibly don’t feel politically part of the State, give themselves the right to also not feel existentially part of the כלל.

Certainly, as I sit in Melbourne, Australia, I’m not exactly entitled to criticise the life and death decisions taken by those who live in Eretz HaKodesh. I am, however, entitled, I believe to ask for an explanation in light of the above.

A great speech from Ron Prosor of Israel’s UN Mission

Statement by H.E. Mr. Ron Prosor, Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Israel to the UN
24 October 2011

Security Council-“Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question”

Thank you, Madame President.

At the outset, I would like to extend my condolences to the People of Turkey following yesterday’s tragic earthquake.

Let me begin by reminding this Council that the name of today’s debate is the “Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question” – and not vice versa. This morning I’d like to take the unusual step of actually focusing on the situation in the Middle East.

Let me assure you that I will give proper attention to the Israeli- Palestinian Conflict. However, first, let’s look at the facts: the Middle East is in turmoil. Thousands of innocents have been gunned down in the streets. People are calling for their freedom and demanding their rights. Yet, month after month, this Council deals with and focuses disproportionately on one and only one conflict in our region.

I don’t claim that this Council does not deal with the situations of specific countries in the Middle East. It does. However, I think it is time to start connecting the dots so that we can face the bigger picture.

For generations, the Arab World has failed miserably to address the needs of its own people. The United Nations Development Program has sponsored five “Arab Human Development Reports” since 2002. Year after year, the Arab researchers who write these reports offer a glimpse into the real world of the Middle East.

Young people struggle without access to jobs and education. Women are denied basic rights. Free expression is repressed. Minorities are persecuted. Elections are a sham.

And with their world in flames, Arab Leaders continue to blame Israel and the West for all their problems. For years, it’s the only explanation that they have been able to offer to their own people. From time to time, they spice up the story. When a shark attacked a tourist in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, the local Egyptian governor suggested that the Mossad was using sharks to harm Egyptian tourism. Everything wrong in the Middle East, according to many Arab leaders, is simply Israel’s fault. If it’s not the Mossad, it’s the CIA, or MI6, or some other “foreign force.”

Today the people of the Middle East demand real answers for their plight. We have seen their brave stands in public squares. We have heard their cries. And we have witnessed the deadly response to these calls for freedom.

In Hama, Daraa and Latakia, the Syrian regime slaughters its citizens in a desperate bid to hold onto power. Some members of this council remain blind to Assad’s brutality.

In Libya, the reign of Moammar Qaddafi is over after more than 40 years of repression and many months of bloodshed. The Libyan despot’s violent end illustrated what Churchill once described as a signal disadvantage of the dictator: what he does to others may often be done back to him. This truth haunts the minds of many leaders in our region — and Qaddafi’s fate rings an alarm for them.

In Iran, an Ayatollah regime represses its own people as it helps other tyrants to butcher theirs. Last week, UN Special Rapporteur Shaheed briefed the General Assembly, offering a chilling picture of what daily life in Iran looks like. His report highlighted, (quote) “a pattern of systemic violations of… fundamental human rights…including multifarious deficits in relation to the administration of justice…practices that amount to torture…the imposition of the death penalty in the absence of proper judicial safeguards…the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, and the erosion of civil and political rights.”

Iran remains the world’s central banker, chief trainer and primary sponsor of terror. Recent events have shown that its state-directed terrorist activities extend from the Persian Gulf to the Washington Beltway, with targets that range from innocent protestors to foreign soldiers to official diplomatic representatives. This is the way the regime behaves today. One can only imagine what it would do with a nuclear capability – with the dangerous combination of extremist ideology, advanced missile technology and nuclear weapons.

IAEA reports make clear that Iran continues to march toward the goal of a nuclear bomb in defiance of the international community. We cannot allow it to place the entire world under the specter of nuclear terrorism. The world must stop Iran before it is too late.

Madame President,

The Middle East is trembling. Its future is uncertain. And two roads stand before us.

There is the future offered by Iranian and Syrian leaders – a future of more extremism, greater violence and continued hate. Their vision will not liberate human beings, it will enslave them. It does not build, it destroys.

And there is another road – a path of progress, reform and moderation.

The choice before us is clear – and it has never been more critical to make the right choice for the future of the Middle East and its inhabitants. It is time for this Council to stop ignoring the destructive forces that seek to keep the Middle East in the past, so that we can seize the promise of a brighter future.

Madame President,

Make no mistake: it is important for Israel and the Palestinians to resolve our longstanding conflict. It is important on its own merits, so that Israelis and Palestinians alike can lead peaceful, secure and prosperous lives. But it will not produce a sudden outbreak of stability, harmony and democratization from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea. And seriously addressing the underlying problems of the Middle East will be essential for advancing Israeli – Palestinian Peace.

The road to peace can only be built on a foundation of mutual recognition and dialogue.

A month ago, President Abbas stood in this building and said the following (and I quote):

“I come before you today from the Holy Land, the land of Palestine, the land of divine messages, ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the birthplace of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him).”

He denied 4,000 years of Jewish history. It was not a small omission. It was not an oversight. The Palestinian leadership attempts to erase the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.

Others in the Arab World have offered a different message.

For example, in 1995, King Hussein came to the United States and said (quote): “For our part, we shall continue to work for the new dawn when all the Children of Abraham and their descendants are living together in the birthplace of their three great monotheistic religions.”

Let me repeat this. King Hussein said three monotheistic religions, not one or two.

Those who seek peace do not negate the narrative of the other side. On the contrary, they recognize its existence and choose to sit down and negotiate peace in good faith. This is what President Sadat did. This is what King Hussein did.

The ancient Jewish bond to the land of Israel is unbreakable. This is our homeland.

The UN recognized Israel as a Jewish state 64 years ago. It is time for the Palestinians and the more than 20 Muslim countries around the globe to do the same.

Let there be no doubt: Israel wants peace with a future Palestinian state. Let me repeat that: Israel wants peace with a future Palestinian state. In word and in deed, my Government has demonstrated time and again that we seek two states for two peoples, living side-by-side in peace. You don’t ever hear the Palestinians say “two-states for two peoples”. If you any of you do, please phone me on a “9-11 number” immediately.

Prime Minister Netanyahu stood in this hall last month and issued a clear call to President Abbas. Let me reiterate that call today to the Palestinians. Sit down with Israel. Leave your preconditions behind. Start negotiations now.

The international community has called on the Palestinians to go back to negotiations. Israel has accepted the principles outlined by the Quartet to restart negotiations immediately, without preconditions. We are waiting for the Palestinians to do the same.

Madame President,

The Palestinians suggest that settlements are the core cause of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. It’s an interesting assertion considering that our conflict was raging for nearly a half century before a single settlement sprung up in the West Bank.

From 1948 until 1967, the West Bank was part of Jordan, and Gaza was part of Egypt. The Arab World did not lift a finger to create a Palestinian state. And it sought Israel’s annihilation when not a single settlement stood anywhere in the West Bank or Gaza.

The issue of settlements will be worked out over the course of negotiations, but the primary obstacle to peace is not settlements. This is a just a pretext for the Palestinians to avoid negotiations. The primary obstacle to peace is the Arab World’s refusal to acknowledge the Jewish People’s ancient connection to the Land of Israel — and the Palestinian’s insistence on the so-called right of return.

Today the Palestinian leadership is calling for an independent Palestinian state, but insists that its people return to the Jewish state. It’s a proposition that no one who believes in the right of Israel to exist could accept because the only equation in political science with mathematical certainty is that the so-called right of return equals the destruction of the State of Israel.

The idea that Israel will be flooded with millions of Palestinians is a non-starter. The international community knows it. The Palestinian leadership knows it. But the Palestinian people aren’t hearing it. This gap between perception and reality is the major obstacle to peace. The so-called right of return is the major hurdle to achieving peace.

Since the Palestinian leadership refuses to tell the Palestinian people the truth, the international community has a responsibility to tell the Palestinian people about the basic compromises that they will have to make.

Madame President,

The many issues that remain outstanding can only – and will only – be resolved in direct negotiations between the parties. Israel’s peace with Egypt was negotiated, not imposed. Our peace with Jordan was negotiated, not imposed. Israeli-Palestinian peace must be negotiated. It cannot be imposed. The Palestinian’s unilateral action at the United Nations is no path to real statehood. It is a march of folly.

Today the Palestinians are far from meeting the basic criteria for statehood, including the test of effective control. The President of the Palestinian Authority has zero authority in the Gaza Strip. Before flying 9,000 kilometers to New York to seek UN membership, President Abbas should have driven 50 kilometers to Gaza, where he has been unable to visit since 2007.

In the same breath that they claim their state will be “peace-loving”, Palestinian leaders speak of their unity with Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization. Hamas and “peace-loving”? There is no greater contradiction in terms.

This month, on a fundraising excursion for terrorism with his Iranian patrons, Hamas Leader Ismail Haniyeh stood in front of an audience in Tehran and said, “the correct strategy to liberate our country and Jerusalem is violent resistance.”

Under Hamas rule, Gaza remains a launching ground for constant rocket attacks targeting Israeli civilians, which are fueled by the continuous flow of weapons from Iran and elsewhere. Israel has the right to defend itself. As the Palmer report made clear, the naval blockade is a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea.

When it is not attacking Israelis, Hamas is oppressing its own people. In Gaza, civil society is nonexistent, political opponents are tortured, women are subjugated, and children are used as suicide bombers and human shields. Textbooks and television glorify martyrdom and demonize Jews. Incitement against Israelis also continues in the West Bank and in the official institutions of the Palestinian Authority, which names its public squares after suicide bombers.

The unresolved questions about a future Palestinian state cannot be simply swept under the carpet. They go to the core of resolving our conflict. They have to be addressed. Let me be clear: for Israel, the question is not whether we can accept a Palestinian state. We can. The question is what will be the character of the state that emerges alongside us and whether it will live in peace.

Madame President,

The Palestinian’s unilateral action at the UN breaches the Oslo Accords, the Interim Agreement, the Paris Protocol and other bilateral agreements that form the basis for 40 spheres of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation – all of which could be jeopardized by a unilateral action at the UN.

This unilateral initiative will raise expectations that cannot be met. It is a recipe for instability and potentially, violence. Members of the international community should be clear about their responsibilities: You vote for it, you own it. All those who vote for unilateral recognition will be responsible for its consequences.

At this critical juncture, the Palestinians’ true friends will encourage them to put aside the false idol of unilateralism and get back to the hard work of direct negotiations.

Speaking of friends, the many so-called Arab champions of the Palestinian cause have a responsibility to play a constructive role. Constructive support from the Arab World is vital for building the civic and economic structures necessary for real Palestinian statehood and peace. Instead of simply adding to the chorus of state-bashing, the Palestinians true supporters will help advance state-building.

Arab donors provided just 20 percent of the international funds for the Palestinian Authority’s regular budget last year. Let me put this in perspective: last year, Arab donations to the regular PA budget accounted for a little more than half of what Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin-Talal spent on his newest personal luxury jet.

People in Washington, London, and Paris are struggling with an economic downturn, but still providing the bulk of support for Palestinian institutions, while Arab states saturated in petrol dollars don’t even give the Palestinians crumbs off the table.

Madame President,

In the Jewish tradition, we are taught: “whosoever saves a single life, saves an entire universe.” This sacred principle forms the backbone of Israel’s democracy. It drives our Government’s policy. We witnessed a clear reflection of these values last week – as all of Israel welcomed home our kidnapped soldier, Gilad Shalit, after more than five years in Hamas captivity. It was a moment of great joy, but it came with tremendous costs.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Secretary-General personally and some of the countries represented here today that played an important role in the release of Gilad Shalit.

For us, the supreme value of a single human life justified releasing more than a thousand terrorists and criminals covered in the blood of innocents.

The values inherent in such an act shine bright in our region. Many took note. On Twitter, one Syrian blogger, Soori Madsoos, wrote “Their government is prepared to pay the ultimate price for one citizen, while our government kills us like we are animals and our Arab neighbors say that it’s an internal matter.”

Time and again, Israel has shown that it is ready and able to make bold and courageous decisions to preserve life, to uphold human dignity and to pursue peace.

Madame President,

Sustainable peace must be negotiated. It must be nurtured. It must be anchored in security. It must take root in homes, schools and media that teach tolerance and understanding, so that it can grow in hearts and minds. It must be built on a foundation of younger generations that understand the compromises necessary for peace. A brighter future in the Middle East must be forged from within, when we are open and honest about the challenges before us – and resolute in our determination to meet them together.

Thank you.

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