Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Next Stop India: Deluxe Kosher Tours Does it Again

Join us on an unforgettable tour of mysterious, exotic India. Discover why the sights and sounds of the sub-continent draw Jewish tourists, like a magnet. Experience all this, while staying in deluxe hotels and being provided with plentiful, fresh kosher meals. For an itinerary, see here.
Make your reservations, here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Scholar in Residence Available

Just a Reminder that I will, אי"ה, be a visiting Professor at Yeshiva University this Spring. As a result, I am accepting invitations to visit communities as Scholar in Residence (or other fora). Just contact me at woolfj@gmail.com for details.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

אלו ואלו: לפרשת ויחי

בשנת ר"ל (1469/70) הריצו יהודי פירנצי מכתב בהול לגדול חכמי אשכנז בתקופה, הרב יוסף קולון בן שלמה טרבוטו (מהרי"ק; 1420 – 1480), שבאותם הימים היה גר במנטובה. מעשה שהיה כך היה.

בפירנצי, מאז ומתמיד היו החתנים שולחים לארוסותיהם מתנות יקרות לרגל השתדכותם. למתנות אלו, הידועות בשם סבלונות, לא יוחסה כל חשיבות הלכתית ולא משמעות של קידושין (השווה קידושין דף

מ"א ע,א). לכן, במקרה שלא עלה השידוך יפה (כפי שקרה הרבה באותם הימים), לא ראו צורך לחייב גט מהאישה ובבוא הזמן, הייתה מתחתנת (בשעטו"מ) עם מישהו אחר. הדברים התנהלו כסדרם, עד

שהגיעו לטוסקנה רבנים מאשכנז (במקרה הזה צרפתים) שערערו על מנהג יהודי פירנצי וטענו, על יסוד פסק דין של מהר"ם מרוטנברג, שיש לחוש שמתנות אלו מהוות סוג של קידושין ואין להתיר את נישואי

הנשים בלי מתן גט. משמעות הדבר, שיהודי פירנצי הם ספק ממזרים! לניסיון זה של חכמים אשכנזים להטיל את מרותם על יהודי טוסקנה, ולהטיל ספק בכשרותם, הצטרפו כמה חכמים מקרב האיטלקים

שהעריצו את הלמדנות של חכמי צרפת וגרמניה ורצו (אף הם) להימנות ביניהם. מובן, א"כ, הדחיפות והבהלה שאחזו ביהודי פירנצי ולמה פנו דווקא לגדול חכמי האשכנזים (שהיה בעצמו ממוצא צרפתי)

להצילם.

מהרי"ק לא אכזב. בשתי תשובות ארוכות ומנומקות, הוא פסל מכל וכל את ניסיון הרבנים החדשים מקרוב באו להטיל דופי במנהג בני פירנצי ובכשרות ייחוסם. כפי שכתב בתחילת תשובתו הראשונה (שו"ת

מהרי"ק סימן ק"ע): "כי אמרתי אל לבי שאי אפשר שיורו הסבלונות האלה ענין קדושין שהרי ידענו וגם ספרו לנו אבותינו הראשונים אשר היו לפנינו היו הרבה תופסי תורה בגלילות איטליא וחסידים ואנשי מעשה

אשר מסתמא שגם הם נהגו מנהג זה ואם היה בזה חשש קדושי' אם כן היתה מכשלה גדולה יוצאה מתחת ידם וחלילה וחס להוציא לעז על הראשונים ...וגם עוד היום חכמה יש שם וזקנה יש שם...ולפי מה

ששמעתי מזקני הארץ הזאת ותושביה שלא ראו שום פוצה פה ומצפצף להצריכה חליצה כשמת או גט כשמתחרטין אם לא על ידי חדשים מקרוב באו אשר על זה תמהו איש אל אחיו ...." במהלך התשובה הוא

מדגיש שבענייני מנהג, איסור והיתר, לכל מסורת פסיקה הלכתית יש יושר וזכות ואין להרהר אחריה, בטח שלא לבטל משום כך מעשה בית דין שהוציאו חכמים מקום, משום שלכל נהר יש את המסלול שלו

('נהרא נהרא ופשטיה').

הרעיון הזה, המעניק לגיטימיות לדעות הלכתיות שונות, בעקבות דברים שאמר מו"ר רש"י הגרי"ד הלוי סולובייצ'יק זצ"ל, מוצא ביטוי בפרשת ויחי. שם מסופר שיעקב אבינו אסף את בניו לפני מותו ואמר:

האספו ואגידה לכם את אשר יקרא אתכם באחרית הימים (בר' מ"ט, א). אלא שרש"י מספר שנסתלקה ממנו שכינה ויעקב היה מנוע מלגלות את הקץ לבניו. הגמרא בפסחים (דף נ"ו ע"א), מתארת את מה שקרה

כך: ביקש יעקב לגלות לבניו קץ הימין, ונסתלקה ממנו שכינה. אמר: שמא חס ושלום יש במטתי פסול, כאברהם שיצא ממנו ישמעאל, ואבי יצחק שיצא ממנו עשו. אמרו לו בניו: שמע ישראל ה' אלהינו ה' אחד.

אמרו: כשם שאין בלבך אלא אחד - כך אין בלבנו אלא אחד. באותה שעה פתח יעקב אבינו ואמר: ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד.' אלא שיש מקום לשאול למה ייחס יעקב אבינו את הסתלקות השכינה

לאפשרות שאחד מבניו איננו ראוי או מוכן ליטול את מקומו בשלשלת המסורה שהתחילה עם אברהם אבינו? הרי גם אברהם וגם יצחק העבירו את היעוד הא-לקי לבן אחד בלבד ולא ראינו שנפגמה הבחירה

באברהם בגין כך! אלא, נראה שגזרה ההשגחה שעם ישראל חייב להיות מורכב מ12 שבטים שונים, כשלכל שבט יש אופי אחר ושליחות אחרת בעבודת הבורא ובלימוד התורה. אם אחד ייעדר, אזי קדושת

האומה לא תחול על השאר. לכן, נאנח יעקב לרווחה, ובירך שם כבוד מלכותו ית' כששמע את בניו בקול אחד מקבלים על עצמם עול מלכות שמים.

יש להדגיש שהצורך הזה בקיומן של השבטים והדרכים השונות בעבודת הבורא מתבטא בהלכה. ישנן מצוות שחלותן מחייבת מצב של 'רוב תושביה עליה' היינו שרוב היהודים בעולם יגורו בארץ ישראל. אולם,

אין זה רק ענין שבמספרים. לפי הגמרא (ערכין ל"ב ע"ב), כל השבטים חייבים להיות מזוהים ובמקומם כדי לקיים את התנאי הזה (שיתמלא, כנראה, רק לימות המשיח. השווה רמב"ם, הל' מלכים פי"ב ה"ג).

אמור מעתה, שבלי כל הדרכים הלגיטימיות בעבודת הבורא ולימוד התורה, חסרה נוכחות העם עלי אדמתו, אפילו עם מספר היהודים בא"י משקף יותר מ50% מהיהודים בעולם.

מכל מקום, המסר הוא ברור. בתוך הציבור שומר תו"מ יש מקום ליותר מדיעה אחת ויותר מעמדה אחת (א"כ יש גבולות למותר ולאסור). לגורם אחד אין בכלל רשות לכפות את דעתו על עדה אחרת, ק"ו בן בנו

של ק"ו, לבטל את גיוריו או את גטיו. מי נוהג כך סוטה מדרך התורה, וגורם לשכינה שתסתלק מישראל, כפי שקבע יעקב אבינו ברגעיו האחרונים.

את הדברים האלה דרשתי השבת בבית הכנסת לב אפרת לעי"נ אמי מורתי פעשא בת יוסף ע"ה שנפ' בט' טבת תשנ"א , לפני עשרים שנה. תנצב"]

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Renting to Arabs: An Initial take

R. Aharon Lichtenstein has issued a letter in response to the call by R. Shmuel Eliyahu and others to ban the rental of housing to Arabs in Jewish areas. The reason for this is the abuse of this right by Arab tenants (not all) who blatantly disrespect the religious and quotidien sensitivities of the (generally, Orthodox or Traditional) Jewish residents of Safed. In addition, there is serious reason to think that some of this Arab activity is being underwritten by the Palestinian Authority, for blatantly political reasons.

Nevertheless, it is my conviction that this action by these rabbis was fundamentally wrong, and led to a terrible Hillul HaShem.

My reasons for saying so are:

1) The Hillul HaShem is an expression of their inability to communicate Jewish concerns in a manner that can command anything close to respect. Indeed, the entire situation reminds me of the way the Rambam characterizes the first of the three approaches to Drashot of Hazal. Certainly the result is precisely as Rambam describes there, that the average person ends up mocking the Torah (or worse)

2) The issue is not whether there is a problem (there is). The issue is whether this is a properly halakhic issue (very questionable), and whether it should be pushed as an halakhic issue (IMHO, absolutely, positively not). The reasons for the latter require more careful formulation. Suffice it to say that issuing halakhic diktats, which are moot (at best) is counter productive.

3) Such declarations are only as effective as the number of followers one has, and usually end up ignored. This further undermines rabbinic authority and credibility. Like excommunications, they only testify to weakness, not strength.

4) These rabbis, in particular, lack the ability to be understood by the average person whose awareness of Post-Modern Liberal ideas is far greater than his awareness of Halakhah. They are thus, willy nilly, open to a specious charge of racism.
Making this into a halakhic issue automatically puts the Torah in the sights of the anti-religious Left who control the media and distort the news. This, in turn, empowers the Left to beat up more on the Torah and alienate Traditionally minded, uneducated Jews.

What should be done is for rabbis to learn to speak in political and human rights terms. One should point out that respect goes two ways; that Arabs who live in Jewish neighborhoods must also respect the needs of their Jewish neighbors. Hamulot do move into houses, so the local authorities have to be constantly badgered to follow zoning laws and landlords could be forced to file bonds against infractions. often do so as political actions.

More to the point, the rabbis and allies should go in the Human Rights offensive. If Arabs want to live in Jewish areas, groups of Jews should settle in towns with deep Jewish historical resonance (Sakhnin, Shefaram, Gush Halav etc.) We should tell the Left to put up or shut up about Shimon ha-Tzaddiq (Sheikh Jarash). IOW, this is a political issue so the tools of politics must be used.

Once again, the weakness of a rabbinate that hasn't a clue about general culture and discourse undermines our attempts to judaize the country and to struggle over Eretz Yisrael. Personally, I have no illusions about the signatories to this letter. They are almost all on record against secular education, against gaining the tools to lead to respect of Torah by those who do not accept its discipline.

In a word, the cause is legitimate. The personnae, the means, the mode, the effect and the implications are wrong. Dead wrong.

Friday, December 03, 2010

This is the Fast I Desire

Earlier this week, there was a lot of debate about the propriety of having the Chief Rabbinate call for a Fast Day to beg for Divine intercession for much needed rain. I thought I'd made my point in the comments to this posting, and let that suffice.

As of last night, I've changed my mind.

The first reason was provided by the inferno raging on Mount Carmel (now apparently caused by Arab arson), which has killed 41 people, destroyed over 5,000 acres of forest and destroyed a kibbutz and hundreds of homes. The wide extent of this horrendous disaster is primarily due to the lack of rain (adumbrated by the lack of proper fire fighting equipment). So much for the argument that the present drought does not constitute an existential danger to us in Eretz Yisrael.

The second motivating reason was supplied by a conversation I had with someone who belittled the entire idea of fasting, prayer and beseeching God to send rain and preserve us. This, ostensibly religious, individual averred that God does not reply to our prayers and that nature will always take its course. When I objected that I could never agree to such a proposition, and that I have seen too many miracles in my life to think otherwise, I received the response that I was primitive and that if I've seen miracles, it's because I was looking for them.

So, here it is. I believe that, irrespective of the initiators of the Fast and Prayer Assembly, there is every reason to support their being held. First, the lack of water and rain is an existential problem for us. In addition, I see absolutely no reason not to continue believing that (even in a world wherein God hides His Countenance from us) rain is a sign of Divine Providence, or that God doesn't answer our prayers (though sometimes the answer is no). Isn't that the message of Hanukkah that God works through what are, prima facie, natural processes. Is this not the essence of נסים נסתרים, of Hidden Miracles? (And, by the way, Ramban actually did believe in Natural Law.) Even granting the danger of people adopting a puerile attitude toward prayer (I'll ask, God will give.), based upon a Deus ex Machina type of attitude, that does not justify not crying out for Divine Intervention.

The fast that God wanted was that we should come to know Him. Or, as the Kotzker said, God is where ever one lets him in.

When we light the candles tonight, we might as well light our souls and burn or skepticism..

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hating the Orthodox/Hating Orthodoxy (Part I)

A wise Rav once called my attention to that fact that the Midrash refers to Amalek both as a fly and mad dog (Tanhuma, Ki Tetzeh no. 12). These, he offered, refer to different types of Amalek. A fly, on the one hand, is attracted to an open wound. It is drawn to attack corruption. Similarly, there are times when the failings, failure and corruptions of the Jews invite attack from those who search out our failings. Regarding this type of Amalek, the Torah commands us (Deut. 25, 19): 'Thou shalt utterly wipe it out.' It is our responsibility to tend to the festering wounds on the body politic of Israel, and to destroy the Amalek who alights upon them.

There is another type of Amalek, though. Like a rabid dog, its hatred of the Jew is irrational. His is a pathological loathing that no amount of explaining, no amount of attempted (re)conciliation and no amount of self-correction can calm. It matters not whether the Jew is fully observant, or totally assimilated. The very presence of the Jew ignites a deep seated dread and animosity before which the Jew is powerless to act. It is regarding this, senseless, pathological loathing of the 'Eternal Jew' (Der Ewige Jude), that the Torah promised (Ex. 17, 14): 'Verily, I will utterly wipe out the memory of Amalek from beneath the heavens.' There is nothing one can do to address, much less to eradicate this type of Jew hatred. God Himself, in all of His Glory and Power, will undertake that task.

This dual typology is not restricted to anti-Jewish sentiment on the part of Gentiles. It is fully relevant to intra-Jewish relations. In particular, it is manifest in the attitudes of non-observant Jews to their Orthodox brethren. Many, far too many, non-Orthodox Jews relate to observant Jews on a spectrum ranging from cordial dislike to intense animosity to absolutely pathological hated.

Here, too, the Amalek dynamic engenders the animosity. There are numerous open wounds and corruptions that invite (and partly justify) the intense attacks of non-Orthodox Jews upon us. Tomer Persico has recently highlighted this aspect of the dynamic in an essay to which the second portion of this posting will, אי"ה , be devoted. We must forthrightly take responsibility for these festering wounds, these cancers on the body politic, which engender (or give succor to) hatred of Torah and its adherents.

On the other hand, there is an odium religionis judaeorum, a pathological hatred of Orthodoxy and of Orthodox Jews about which we can really do nothing. No amount of civility, no amount of self-adaptation will defuse this type of ingrained hostility. When confronting this type of hostility, one can only stand proud on one's principles, and put one's faith in God that in His good time, such judische selbst-hass will cease to exist.

The challenge, the wise Rav observed, is to have the wisdom to know the difference.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Parshat Hayye Sarah: Too Much Loss

The Parsha begins by informing us that after receiving the word that Sarah had died, Abraham came to Hevron to eulogize Sarah and to cry for her. The Rav זצ"ל used to emphasize that ordinarily the order is the reverse. First once cries. Only after time passes and perspective returns, can one eulogize the departed and evaluate who they were.

Sometimes, though, one is obligated to suppress one's primal shriek of pain in order to tell the world just who the person was who has gone. That way, the Rav said, we try to involve as many people as possible in mourning the tragedy. Once the eulogy is achieved, we may all let ourselves go and cry out in pain.

This week God recalled unto Himself the souls of two most remarkable women: Rebbetzin Shayndel Feuerstein and RivkA Matitya. They were inspirartions to all who knew them in their חסד, their optimism and their nobility in suffering. They embodied dimensions of עבודת השם, the profudity of which I have never before seen.

I am unsure what mankind did to earn their presence. It is beyond me how He could have taken them away from those that loved and needed them.

ד' נתן וד' לקח יהי שם ד' מבורך.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tehillim for RivkA bat Tirtzel

Please say Tehillim for one of the most remarkable and courageous women I have ever encountered: Rivka Matitiah (רבקה בת תירצעל).

Her friends added this to her blogpage:

As most of you know, RivkA has been hospitalized.

I would like to start an open-ended mishmeret tehillim for her. Participants would each take a chapter or chapters of tehillim to be said every day for up to 40 days. The mishmeret will start tomorrow (to give people time to sign up). Please forward this email!

Participants say 'bli neder I will say these tehillim every day as a zechut for a refua shleima for "RivkA bat Tirzel" and say their tehillim, the same chapters, every day.

It's recommended that you have a buddy, in case you cannot say your chapters or in case you forget.

Every day I will, bli neder, say the traditional prayer before reciting tehillim in the morning, and the prayer up on completion every night.

If, be'H, we can keep going after 40 days, we'll create a new page.

Please click this link and choose your tehillim.
http://tehillim.mamash.com/?signup_id=13


Read more: http://coffeeandchemo.blogspot.com/#ixzz12vvrHta4

Friday, October 08, 2010

Allan Nadler on Modern Orthodoxy: Some Initial Observations

Allan Nadler is, without a doubt, one of the most insightful and brilliant people I know. He is also fearless. He gives no quarter to those whom, he believes, deserve none. His elegant, dazzling and forthright style of writing is always wonderful to read, thought-provoking and (for many) often infuriating. Therefore, when he sets his sights on a subject, attention must be paid. [In the interest of openness and full disclosure, Allan and I have been good friends for (gulp!) almost thirty-five years.]

In the present case, I refer to his review of the latest volume published by YU's Orthodox Forum. That volume revisits the question of the '
The Relationship of Orthodox Jews With Believing Jews of Other Religious Ideologies and Non-Believing Jews.' Nadler's, admittedly disappointed, take on the enterprise is:

Despite the forum’s presumably noble aspirations, many of its essays are marked by a palpable condescension toward “the others,” rendered all the more distasteful precisely because they were made manifest in a forum whose fundamental conceit is that there is something uniquely open, modern and even ecumenical about the Modern Orthodox community. The tangible sense of the book is that this characteristic, though never properly defined, renders it more evolved, if not superior, to the Haredi community.

As far as Modern Orthodox Relations with non-Orthodox Jewish groups, Nadler decries the lack of creativity evinced by the various contributors to the volume. He zeroes in on what he views as the Rav's '
paralyzing paradigm' in which he distinguished between the 'Covenant of Fate,' shared by all Jews, and the 'Covenant of Destiny,' which uniquely belongs to those who are committed to Traditional paradigms of Observance and Belief. He properly notes the fact that, in many ways, Orthodoxy has learned from and adapted much that originated on its left flank. Nevertheless, the impression one gets is that many of the writers related to this topic in much the same conflicted manner as Caesar responded to the crown that was offered him: 'he was very loath to lay his fingers off it,' (Julius Caesar I, ii). In other words, the issue was there, but it was neither embraced nor rejected.

I am the first to admit that Nadler raises many important, painful (for me, at least) points about the present state of Modern Orthodoxy. Still, there are a number of places where I instinctively sense that the reality with which he counters the essays in the book are a lot more nuanced and complex than it would appear. For example, the Haredi/Modern divide cuts both ways, both in Israel and in the Diaspora. While there is much to bemoan about the fabled 'slide to the right' within our community, Haredim have adopted (and are increasingly adopting) key elements of the Modern Orthodox agenda, especially secular education and (unofficially), culture. From another angle, there is the issue of Hiloini-Dati relations in Israel. Here, Nadler highlights the daring and creative essay by my friend and neighbor, R. Yuval Sherlo. R. Sherlo is, indeed, a courageous and forward thinking individual. On the other hand, the dynamic between Hiloni and Dati and Haredi Jews in Israel is so fundamentally different than that which obtains in the US and elsewhere, that I am extremely hesitant to discuss Sherlo's essay with the rest.

In any event, I intend to engage the questions and strictures posed by Professor Nadler in the near future. His questions, though, should be carefully considered by those of us for whom the Modern Orthodox enterprise is not an 'option,' but the essence and promise of Orthodoxy and Judaism in the future.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hoshana Rabba: Saving the Torah

Last night, I presented an hour long shiur on Modern Orthodoxy in Israel, at Ma'aleh's Tikkun Leyl Hoshana Rabba. I am proud to say that the room was packed, such that they ended up locking the doors. For those who were unable to attend, the recording and sources are here.


אתמול בלילה, העברתי שיעור במסגרת תיקון ליל הושענא רבה שמקיימת עמותת מעלה. לאלה שלא הגיעו, או שלא יכלו ליכנס מחוסר מקום, ההקלטה והמקורות נמצאים כאן.

יה"ר שיתקבלו תפילותינו ושאיפותינו לרצון ע"י אבינו שבשמים.

פתקא טבא. א גוט קוויטל.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Clarion Call for Modern Orthodoxy in Israel

will be delivered by yours truly on Tuesday Night, the Eve of Hoshana Rabba at Heichal Shlomo (Jerusalem) at 12 Midnite.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Another Noah Feldman?

According to Tablet Magazine, eighteen year old Esther Petrack is on her way to becoming the next body blow to Modern Orthodoxy. Indeed, the writer notes that 'she dealt a blow much less eloquently, though no less severe, to the Modern Orthodox experiment as, say, Noah Feldman did in his New York Times Magazine essay, “Orthodox Paradox”' (about which I had a few things to say myself, some of which are pertinent in this case, as well).

What did she do? She appeared as a contestant on
America’s Next Top Model , and was asked by the host, Tyra Banks how she could remain Sabbath observant and keep up with the 24/7 demands of ANTM? She replied that she would be willing to forgo Shabbat in order to advance as a model, and win the ANTM competition.

I agree that Ms. Petrack's response really is a very sad moment for Orthodoxy. More than that, it's an indication of a serious malaise in Modern Orthodoxy, but not for the reasons noted by Dvora Myers in the Tablet piece. As deeply regrettable as Ms. Petrack's response was, it is light years better than Feldman's arrogant, narcissistic temper tantrum; his eloquently hysterical cry for validation and attempt at spiritual parricide. Esther Petrack, on the other hand, failed when tested. She was asked to choose between God and her own ambition, between the dazzling lights of the runway and the flickering lights of the Sabbath candles, between the glamor and fame of the super model and the lesser note of the less than super model. She chose the glamor, the fame, the money....basically she chose her own self-fulfillment. She made her personal choice, as misguided as I (and others) might think it to be. She wasn't the first and, unfortunately, she won't be the last.

Nevertheless, Petrack's case is indicative of deeper issues in the Modern Orthodox community (and, in not a few Israeli cases, the Haredi community, as well). We have accepted the the Western illusion that we can 'have it all'.

We have forgotten, perhaps because of the economic and social success of Orthodox men and women and the relative ease with which one can be observant today, that Judaism demands that man lead, as the Rav זצ"ל never tired of reminding us, a sacrificial and heroic existence. We have lost our nerve, our spiritual backbone. We cannot bring ourselves to say that there is something I desire with all my being, but the Torah says 'No.' The idea of depriving ourselves of anything is just too foreign, too horrifying, too traumatic. Most of us never have to make Esther Petrack's choice. We do have to make choices, though. So, we use our halakhic sophistication to cut corners, square the circle, and make ourselves feel good that we 'only' violated איסורים דרבנן with a שינוי, or walked to that important meeting, even though we know that other Jews might be made to violate Shabbat, as a result, or who knows what else. (And no, not everyone is entitled to the same leeway as Senator Joseph Lieberman.)

In the end, we all too often don't have the spiritual fortitude to take the high road, to stand on our principles and really sacrifice for God and for Torah. That's the message that doesn't get through.
And therein lies both tragedy and challenge.

[Afterward: I can't help thinking about Tyra Bank's reported comment: 'Tyra sternly informed her that
ANTM contestants work all the time, seven days a week....Would Esther, Tyra wanted to know, be able to adhere to the ANTM work schedule?' When you think about it, Tyra is advocating slavery. True, it's comfortable and incredibly remunerative. However, it remains a form of bondage; exactly the type of bondage that God sought to eradicate when he blessed us with Shabbat. As philosopher Eliezer Schweid once wrote, 'Unfettered freedom enslaves, submission to God through Shabbat, liberates.' ]

[Postscript: After reading, and receiving comments on this episode, it is clear that the issue is more basic and nuanced than I had previously thought. Ms.
Petrack's choice goes far beyond the question of Shabbat, and it is very surprising that the most vociferous Orthodox reactions on the Tablet article ignored that. Ms. Petrack's choice (and the focus on Shabbat) has everything to say about the internalization of contemporary attitudes towards women and their bodies, and all of my readers know that I am fiercely opposed to the radical obsession with צניעות in the Orthodox community. Still, at the end of the day Athens and Jerusalem really are in conflict. Apparently, Athens is winning, hands down.]



Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Shanah Tovah 5771


תכלה שנה וקללותיה

חזקו וגילו, כי שוד גמר לתור הוחילו בריתו שמר

לכם, ותעלו ציון ואמר: סולו סולו מסלותיה

תחל שנה וברכותיה:

צרכי עמך ישראל מרובין ודעתן קצרה.

יה"ר שתברך את כל עמך ישראל

בשנה טובה ומתוקה, שנת שלום ושלוה

שנה שבה תצילנו מאויבנו והשגחתך עלינו תתגלה לעין כל

שנת יראת שמים ותלמוד תורה, שנת בריאות ופרנסה

שנה בה נלך יחד לבית ד' ברינה:

לשנה טובה תיכתבו ותיחתמו לחיים טובים ולשלום

מברכים אתכם

ג'פרי, טובי, אבי, אריאל, חנה, אלישבע ומוריה וולף

May you be Inscribed and Sealed for a Happy and Healthy

New Year.

Jeffrey, Toby, Avi, Ariel, Chana, Elisheva and Moriah

Woolf


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Sadducees Among Us

On the night of Yom Kippur, representatives of the Sanhedrin would pay a call to the High Priest and abjure him to follow the dictates of the Oral Law when he entered the Holy of Holies, the following day. 'You are our emissary, and the emissary of the court' before the Holy One, blessed be He (M. Yoma I, 5).

They were forced to do so because, toward the end of the Second Temple era, the High Priesthood had become corrupted. The office was a political commodity, and those who occupied it were all too often unworthy. Their corruption was not only venal, it was spiritual. The High Priests were often adherents of the Sadducean form of Judaism, which denied the validity of the Oral Law and, as a result, was extremely strict (even criminally strict) in its interpretation of the Torah's commands. With the destruction of the Holy Temple (שייבנה במהרה בימינו אמן), the Sadducees lost their basis of power and authority and disappeared. (Although, there are good reasons to think that their influence continued to be felt, and that the Karaites were their reincarnation, of sorts.)

Today, in the Land of Israel, the Sadducees have reappeared in a different guise. Instead of the Priesthood, we have the Rabbinate and its component parts, the Bet Din system and the Marriage and divorce registry. As in Temple times, the highest and most sensitive offices are political footballs. Appointments are far too frequently based upon power politics, and not upon piety and learning. Overwhelmingly, the Hareidim have a lock on these appointments. Those who 'serve' as Dayyanim and City Rabbis are frequently not the best that the Yeshivot have to offer. These are interested only in becoming Rashei Yeshiva. The second and third raters, who need the ample salaries of a judge or a city rabbi are those who are shoe-horned into the positions.

In addition, while there are some fine judges and rabbis in the system, far too many hold the rabbinate, the State of Israel and anyone who is not Hareidi in absolute, total contempt. Thus, they impose upon the Jews of Israel rulings that evince insensitivity and an attitude of aggressive violence that is worthy of condemnation. For them it's no big deal. They don't care about anyone but their own community. They are not our emissaries!!!!

They are not the emissaries of the courts, that is of Orthodox Rabbinic Tradition!!!!

Consider:

1) The refusal of the Rabbinate to recognize conversions undertaken by the Army rabbinate is merely the latest example of the high handed, sectarian manner in which the Rabbinate tramples the rulings of Hazal, Rishonim and Aharonim. The wholesale ex post facto invalidation of conversions and divorces, which is unprecedented in the History of Judaism, is a gross violation of the fundamental principle of collegiality among rabbinic courts that allowed Halakhah to keep the Jews alive as Jews for millennia. The arrogance and temerity of these people, who could not shine the shoes of the true גדולי תורה whose rulings they belittle (e.g. ר' חיים עוזר גרודזנסקי זצ"ל) boggles the imagination.

They are not our emissaries, or the emissaries of Bet Din!!!

2) Hazal, Rishonim and the great among the Aharonim were concerned with the plight of the Agunah. The present Rabbinate does precisely the opposite. They keep women in chains. They refuse to countenance even the remedies that Halakhah has recognized for centuries, to free women from recalcitrant husbands. They blithely overturn divorces and don't give a damn if they create mamzerim.

They are not our emissaries, or the emissaries of Bet Din!!!

3) The Torah, as R. Israel Isserlein asserted לעשות נחת רוח לנשים, insofar as that was possible (and I am more conservative- small c - in this issue than most). The Rabbinate (in the person of the aparatchik who bears the exalted title רב המקומות הקדושים), drives women away from the holy places of Israel, in the name of modesty. He immorally siezed 30% of the women's section at the Kotel, leaving the daughters of Hannah little or no access to the remnant of our Temple. He drove women from קבר שמעון הצדיק. The same happens all over Israel.

At a time when more and more Jews seek God and Qedushah, the Rabbinate desecrates God's Holy and Ineffable Name in public, drives His people away from the Torah's Life giving waters.

They are not our emissaries, or the emissaries of Bet Din!!!

On the Eve of 5771, the Torah demands that we rectify our situation. Our continued life in the Holy Land requires that we come closer to God and the observance of all of the mitzvot. Ironically, I have come to the conclusion that in the present constellation of factors it is impossible to man the rabbinate with rabbis and judges who care about the whole Jewish People, and really care about the Torah. I wish that were possible. The alternative is to abolish the rabbinate, or to set up a parallel system that will create facts on the ground that the Sadducees will be unable to ignore.

יהי רצון שתשרה שכינה במעשה ידינו!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Barukh HaShem: Our Eighteenth Year in Israel


Seventeen years ago yesterday, we had the zekhut to make Aliyah. After years of planning, longing, scrimping and saving; we were able to undo the historic wrong when (for various and sundry reasons) my family left Eretz Yisrael and settled in New England.

Yesterday, Nefesh b'Nefesh brought yet another planeload of olim, and I found myself thinking about an early scene in the movie Exodus. Lee J. Cobb (the quasi-Ben Gurion character) greets new immigrants to Gan Dafna and describes how when he and his brother came to Eretz Yisrael there were no little cakes, no bands, only mosquitoes the size of horses.

When we made Aliyah, we were met by a little Old Lady from AACI, who told us to come make an appointment with a counselor, and disappeared, leaving us to the tender mercies of Misrad ha-Qelitah (and, later, to Misrad ha-Penim. To this day, in our family, if you want to tell someone where to go, you say: לך למשרד הפנים!). Essentially, we made Aliyah with the help of God and a lot of support and advice by friends (especially Israeli friends, always ask Israelis. Eventually, you'll come close to the answer to the perpetual question: How do Israelis do it?)

Anyway, no one gave us our Teudot Zehut on our arrival. There were no massive crowds or dignitaries. We were, in fact, the only US Olim on our flight (or that week or that month, from what I can tell). We lived through wars and strikes and terror attacks. We raised our five children to be proud, God fearing Jews, in the Land God gave to His People. It has been a tremendous challenge. It has been very hard.

Most of all, living here is a life worthwhile.

So, the arrival of the Nefesh b'Nefesh flights has made me feel (finally) like a vatiq, a veteran. To the new Olim I can only say:

Brukhim ha-Bai'm. You will have your own challenges. One thing I can assure you all, though. You have chosen to live a worthwhile life, in which every step you take and every quotidien deed you do, has eternal value for the Eternal People.



Saturday, July 24, 2010

On the Rotem Conversion Imbroglio: From Rosner's Domain

[I am honored to be one of Shmuel Rosner's interviewees. The following appears Rosner's Domain.]

1. Your view is that “American non-Orthodox Jews are being largely misled” on the conversion bill. What is it that they don't understand?

I get the distinct impression that many American Jews think that the Rotem Bill disenfranchises them as Jews and renders them ineligible under the Law of Return. This is simply not true. The eligibility of all Jews, including converts from the major Jewish denominations, for citizenship in Israel is explicitly upheld in the law, based upon

an explicit Supreme Court decision. The bill in no way excludes any Diaspora Jew from Israeli citizenship, or from his/her rightful place in the Jewish State.

The Rotem bill is intended to alleviate a domestic Israeli problem. Personal status issues in Israel are determined by the Orthodox rabbinate (a point to which I’ll relate further on). For reasons that are too involved to describe here, the rabbinical court system has fallen under the control of a cadre of Haredi rabbis (and politicians) whose reading of Halakhah is extremely narrow. What they demand as a minimum Jewish commitment by the prospective convert is far beyond that required by normative Orthodox standards. Many of these Haredi rabbis even refuse to recognize conversions performed by fully qualified Orthodox Rabbinical courts, both in Israel and abroad, acting along those more moderate standards. They have gone so far as to overturn conversions that had been performed decades before, leading to many personal tragedies. To the best of my knowledge, such lack of collegiality is unprecedented in the history of Halakhah.

The Rotem bill significantly expands the circle of rabbis who are authorized to deal with conversion, in accordance with traditional Halakhah. Most importantly, it reinforces the authority of the special courts for conversion that were set up independently of the established Battei Din. It also prohibits the revocation of any conversion performed by a duly authorized Bet Din in Israel. This will hopefully break the conversion log jam, and allow Russian immigrants, and others, to convert to Judaism in a way that will be accepted by the overwhelming majority of the Jews of Israel.

2. Misled by whom - and what is the purpose of misleading them?

Prominent non-Orthodox rabbis have been refreshingly honest in this regard. Rabbi David Ellenson, a noted historian of Halakhah and president of the Hebrew Union College, has admitted that he opposes the bill because it places conversion under the supervision of the Chief Rabbinate. That, in turn, will prevent the non-Orthodox denominations from advancing their desire, which is understandable from their point of view, to achieve equal standing in matters of conversion, and personal status generally, in Israel.

The tragedy is that by adopting this position, in the present circumstances, the non-Orthodox streams are playing into the hands of the obstructionists, who also oppose the bill. They will, thereby, undermine a brave attempt to advance a moderate, welcoming and open approach to conversion in Israel.


3. Don't you see any problem with a bill officially declaring that "authority" over conversion will be an authority of the rabbinate? And even if you don't - can you understand why other people might see it as problematic?

Giving the Chief Rabbinate authority over conversion causes me concern, and I certainly see it as potentially problematic. I am convinced, though, that this does not vitiate the very positive contribution that this law will make. The many rabbis and leaders who desire to resolve the anomaly of Israeli Jews who are not halakhically Jewish will certainly do everything to prevent obstructionist elements within the Chief Rabbinate from undoing its salutary effect. There is, after all, a limit to the degree that the Chief Rabbinate can interfere with the extant conversion structure. Furthermore, it should be kept in mind that the Sephardic Chief Rabbi, Shlomo Amar, has been very supportive of the moderates.


4. Do you think world Jewry should have a say on such matters, concerning Israel's Jewish identity?

This is a very thorny question. I agree with David Ben-Gurion’s commitment that Israel should not act unilaterally when it comes to questions of Jewish identity. That’s why I am pleased that the Rotem bill does not impact upon the Law of Return. And that is also why I favor government support of non-Orthodox religious and educational initiatives (E.g. TALI schools). Every effort to deepen Jewish knowledge, self-expression, historical awareness and self-identification is invaluable to the survival of Israel as a Jewish State.

I think we can take our cue, in this regard, from the era of the Second Temple. At the time, there were three (or more) ‘streams’ of Judaism. They differed vigorously, and vociferously, on many different questions of religious belief and observance. However, they did not differ on the basic definition of Jewish identity.

In that light, we need to face the fact that there is a significant disconnect between the way many (if not most) non-Orthodox Diaspora Jews define Judaism and their relationship to it. American Jews are characterized by a Post-Modern, absolute individualism. Most, as a result, bristle at the very idea that any person or institution can decide who is or who is not Jewish. On the other hand, the over 80% of Israeli Jews who describe themselves as either Orthodox or Traditional (including many Israeli Conservative Jews) see things very differently. Their conception of Judaism is not totally subjective, and their obligation to the Jewish people, as a whole, and their strong connection to Jewish collective history and memory is obligating and formative.

In other words, here, the seamless combination of Jewish nationhood and Judaism, which has characterized Judaism from time immemorial, is very much alive. As a result, conversion is not simply a matter of religious self-expression.

The late Professor Jacob Katz noted that only two issues can create a real schism in the Jewish body politic: Personal Status and the Calendar. Differences concerning Shabbat, Kashrut, prayer, or anything else, divide Jews, but do not tear them asunder. Once the ethnic-tribal fabric of the nation is frayed, once they are no longer able to unquestionably marry one another – an extremely dangerous situation develops. As an historian, and not simply as an observant Jew, it is my conviction that this societal unity, what we call ‘be-yahad,’ is a critical element for our survival. It is, in many ways, more critical than the quality of arms and material with which we equip our army. That is why I believe that personal status issues in the Jewish State must be based upon a halakhic common denominator, as traditionally understood. At the same time, I maintain, in the strongest terms, that moderate and wide parameters that millennia of halakhic tradition does provide, must be actively applied in matters of conversion.


5. In your view, should Israel pass the bill - disregarding world Jewish opinion? Disregarding the price in alienation?

As I write these lines, the media has reported that Prime Minster Netanyahu has tabled the Rotem Bill for six months. I hope that this time-out will be used to reach common ground on this very sensitive issue. Israel is the homeland of all Jews. All Jews should share in its joys, and we count upon their support in hours of travail. Especially now, with the prospect of a nuclear Iran looming, we need to affirm that which unites us.

I pray that all involved will work together to transcend their differences to arrive at an acceptable resolution of the issue.


Friday, July 02, 2010

A Commercial Announcement: Scholar in Residence

I am pleased to announce that I will (אי"ה) be spending Spring semester, 2011 Yeshiva University as a Visiting Professor.

During that time, I will be available to visit interested communities for a Shabbat as Scholar in Residence. I have a broad list of interesting , and contemporary, topics to present.

Anyone interested, is warmly invited to contact me at: woolfj@gmail.com.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Emanuel Redux

My primal reaction to the events in Emanuel produced a lot of comments, and I am greatful to everyone for their observations and insights. I've not posted further on the subject, because I am also not a little confused by it all. Looking things over from a different side of the ocean, it really is a very complex, nuanced situation. Based, in part, on the incisive observations of my readers I've come to the following, developing, conclusions.



1) In stark contrast to the RZ/MO world, the Ashkenazi Haredi world suffers from serious anti-Sephardic bias, which borders on (and frequently crosses) the line of racism. It is an open secret that Ashkenazi Haredi (AH) institutions discriminate against Sephardic students. There are quotas for them in yeshivot ans seminaries. (The סמינר הישן in Jerusalem is just one example.) Sephardic Shiddukhim are shunned, leading to desperate efforts by them to 'pass.' They change their names, dress, family customs...whatever it takes to make it, according to the benchmark set by the AH community. I suspect (and I confess that I don't know) that some of the Sephardim who were against integrating the school in Emanuel fall into that category.



2) There is, as a number of the comments noted, another side of the story. The parents in Emanuel, who were today released from jail, claim that the problem may be found in the inappropriate level of religious observance and comportment among the girls in question. In other words, the parents want an elite, tribally and religio-culturally homogenous school environment wherein they can shelter their children from baleful influences.

Personally, I have a real problem with that kind of elitism. What happened to kiruv? What happened to Ahavat Yisrael? What happened to Torah is for everyone? On the other hand, isn't there a fundamental right of association and lack of association? [Here, the fact that the school in question receives government funds may be a moderating factor.] From this vantage point, as much as I find the behavior of the Slonimer Hasidim (and the loathsome apparatchiks of the Yahadut ha-Torah party) repulsive, there is definitely a civil liberties issue here that got lost in all of the screaming.

3) Hypocrisy cuts both ways. Many of the same fur-clad righteous (צדיקים אין פעלץ) who blasted the racism in Emanuel grew up and send their children to schools that are no less elitist, no less supercillious and no less obnoxious than those against which they took aim.

4) The Supreme Court, once again, is the villain here trying to be the dictator populae. OK, so they want integration in the school. Why do it in Une, when there are a mere three weeks left to the school year? They sit on cases for years without a verdict. Here, though, they send people to jail when there was absolutely nothing to be done. Why not issue an inunction that eveything has to be resolved by Rosh Hodesh Elul, and avoid ripping the country apart? The only reasonable explanation is that they wanted to flex their muscles and stick it to the Haredim in Emanuel, who are the flotsam and jetsam of the Haredi world, as it is. (This was a point made to me by Ben Chorin, though I don't agree with every aspect of his take.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I Could Just Scream

I honestly, honestly don't know what to say about the Haredi uprising against the Supreme Court ruling integrating the Immanuel Bais Yaakov.

I want to scream. How low can they go? How disgusting can they be? These people are preaching racism in the name of the Torah. Where the hell do they come off?

And just how Uncle Tommy can Shas be? They were elected to defend the honor of Sephardic Jewry. So they sit there and take obscene abuse from their Ashkenazi handlers, and aid and abet a Hillul HaShem.

And all that is going on while Iran is sending a flotilla to start God knows what...

Yup. Sometimes, all you can do is scream....



Monday, June 07, 2010

A Critique of Pure Reason: Thoughts on Parshat Korach

One of Rav Soloveitchik's זצ"ל most famous drashot is called 'The "Common-Sense" Rebellion Against Torah Authority,' and deals with the Rebellion of Korah (Num. 16, 1-40). In that drasha, the Rav characterized Korah as a populist who sought to undermine Moses' authority through an appeal to 'Common Sense.' [The recording is here and here; a abridged summary is here. Quotations are from the latter.]

Korah
'proclaimed that all reasonable people have the right to interpret Jewish law according to their best understanding: "For all the community are holy" (Num. 16: 3). In down-to-earth logic, the lowliest woodcutter is the equal of Moses. This appeal to populism evokes considerable support because it promises freedom from centralized authority; it flatters the people's common intelligence and it approves the right of each Jew or group of Jews to follow their own individual judgment.'

It was not, however, only cheap populism which lay behind Korah's revolt. Indeed, that was not the source of the Rav's ire, either. He objected to the idea that Judaism could be reduced to religious subjectivism.

Korah argued, using the mitzvahof tzitzitas an illustration of his point of view, that the
blue thread of the tzitzit was meant to make us think of distant horizons, of infinity, and of the mysterious link between the blue sea and the blue sky. The mezuzah, he argued, is intended to increase our awareness of God and to invoke His protection over our homes. Why, then, is it necessary to limit this symbolism to one thread or to the doorpost? Why not extend it to the whole garment and to the entire house? If blue, in the case of tzitzit, is able to evoke feelings of Godliness, then total blueness of the garment should certainly be able to do so. The same reasoning applies to the mezuzah.The mitzvahis thus reduced to the level of an inspirational means and not an end in itself. From the standpoint of religious subjectivism and common sense, Korah's argument seems quite cogent.

Friday, June 04, 2010

We Conned the World

I've been flooded all week with ideas, emotions and indignation in the wake of the lynch perpetrated by the world on Israel. Adrenaline usually gets me writing. Too much adrenaline, however, appears to paralyze.

So, Erev Shabbat, as Israel battles back (for once) against the evil insanity of Islamofascism and its Western useful idiots (especially the Israeli version), I decided that the best summary is this brilliant video that has taken the blogosphere by storm.


Friday, May 28, 2010

The New Crusaders: On the Gaza Flotilla

[I submitted this piece to a few papers. I fear, though, it might be a bit too esoteric for that. In the meantime, I've come to agree that we should let them in, and finally put the lie to the idea that Gaza is besieged.]

The Gaza Flotilla: A Medieval Moment

Jeffrey R. Woolf

The flotilla that is wending its way to the Gaza coast is a quintessentially post-modern enterprise; a perfect internet moment. Different codes, different world-views, and different scales of values are in play here. Ironically, the fundamentally disconnected character of the encounter is apparent to none of the players. From the vantage point of the ivory tower, we medievalists can discern the real contours of the unfolding drama.

On the one hand, there are the participants. Driven on by a burning sense of mission, they are determined to smash the inhuman siege of Gaza. Their determination to bring Justice to PalestinePalestine to redeem it from occupation and oppression. Pious Christians all, they sallied forth with the cry: Deus lo VultHumanitas et Justitia volunt. Phenomenologically, they are crusaders. invokes that of their ancestors a millennium ago. They, too, travelled by boat to (God wills it!), on their lips. The intrepid sailors en route at present, are similarly driven by their abiding faith in universal Justice and Liberal Humanism. Their cry might be:

Then, there are the recipients of this aid; the suffering masses of Gaza. There is no question that there are many innocent victims among them. They, however, live in a very different world than their putative saviors. Their society resembles the Palestine into which the ancestors of the Gaza flotilla sallied forth in 1099. It is a totally integrated world that revolves around a deep and abiding Islamic faith. It is a highly stratified world, in which those in power exploit the masses for advancement, both their own and that of the religio-political ideals that they share with those masses. Believing that God has placed them in power, the Hamas government of Gaza (as the Ummayids, Abassids, Fatimids, Ayyubids, Mamluks, Ottomans and Fatahids) sieze and control the material sustenance the Israel sends to Gaza, in order to strengthen its grip on the strip. Ad majorem Dei gloriam.

And then there are the Jews.

A trained medievalist cannot but be stunned by the feeling that he’s seen this all before. The Jew poisons the wells of Gaza (this time with low grade uranium), and gleefully tortures Palestinian children (as with Simon of Trent). The Jew is rapacious, unfeeling and diabolical. If he sends tens of millions of tons of supplies to the civilians of Gaza, these are either too little, corrupted or ignored. This is certainly understandable. The Jew is eternally condemned for the original sin. Once, it was deicide. For the humanitarians of Sweden, they are guilty of the original sin of returning to Palestinedhimma and establishing their state in the ‘House of Islam.’ For Jews, it is frightening confirmation of the Passover refrain: ‘In every generation they rise up to destroy us.’ and succeeding. For Muslims, they are guilty of the original crime of violating the

The flotilla that is wending its way to Gaza is quintessentially post-modern. It exemplifies the encounter of different, totalistic world-views and cultures that do not understand the ‘other.’ It is also typically medieval. Sincerely held, Faith based worlds, fueled by messianic fervor that only a medievalist can appreciate.

Monday, May 24, 2010

What to Do When You're Feeling Overwhelmed....Write

I confess that, of late, I've been feeling quite overwhelmed.

On the home front there's teaching, a last minute rush by dilatory graduate students to get their research proposals in on time, research, writing, two deadlines for book reviews, the Bat Mitzvah of our youngest, preparing for Summer School, and marketing and preparing DKT's upcoming trip to the Baltics (aka Lita).

Then there are the larger issues, about which I've written so often here but whose real resolution I am skeptical about really affecting. You can't fight every battle, as deserving as they all are. I think I know which one I'll pick to fight. I've already started by picking up the pen in the cause.

You can guess which one I've decided on.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Join me in the Baltics!!!!

Choral Synagogue, Vilna

It's official!!!
I will be personally leading, P-G, Deluxe Kosher Tours' upcoming trip to the Baltic,
from August 1-9.

In addition to the breathtaking beauty of the area, we will visit Vilna, Volozhin, Riga and Kovna. (I am planning a few, off the beaten track visits, too).

As an added attraction, we will be joined by best-selling author, Naomi Ragen. Naomi is currently at work on a new novel with Lita as a backdrop.

Check out our website:

http://www.deluxekoshertours.com for details.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Jerusalem Day 5770: Time is Fluid

An approachable past, an anchored present and an attainable future are the basic components of the traditional Jewish sense of time and of history. I first learned that lesson from the Rav זצ"ל. Later, my appreciation of this sophisticated view of history was deepened by studying with the late Yosef Haim Yerushalmi, and by reading Geoffrey Barraclough, Mircea Eliade and Aron Gurevitch.

That kind of merging of Past, Present and Future are reinforced for me daily by living in Israel.

As I write these words, I am seated in the Reading Room of the National Library in Givat Ram (Jerusalem). It's very quiet here, as the patrons of the library are (largely) well-behaved. There are great minds seated around me, and there are great researches into the past of our people, our religion and our civilization developing on the perennial green tables that furnish this room. The stillness, for me, invokes the timeless nature of the pursuits that its patrons undertake.

Yet, it was not always so quiet or pastoral here. Forty three years ago, Jordanian guns opened up on West Jerusalem and shelled it. The shells fell not far from where I am sitting. The verdant campus outside was a staging area for the Israeli counter-attack that liberated Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount. Some of the predecessors of my colleagues in this room were killed either by shells, or in the fight to liberate the City of God, bedrock of Judaism and the Jewish People, Jerusalem.

In my imagination I can hear the shells scream overhead. They resound in the silence of this room, where the eternity of Torah and of Israel is retrieved, recorded and advanced. The quiet determination of the scholars here, along with the whispers of eternity, betray a secret that our enemies have never quite understood. Long after the Jihadists, long after the Radical Left and Radical Right have all been consigned to the dustbin of history, there will be Jews in Jerusalem; celebrating Jerusalem; studying Torah, researching our past and securing our future, here.

That's not kitsch. It's not maudlin jingoism. It's an existential reality. All you need to do is listen to the echoes of the shells in the silence, and the cry of הר הבית בידינו.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

אני אחיך

This song is being roundly condemned for incitement against Israeli Democracy, and the singer has received death threats. ) (Words and music here.)

The truth is that the song is really a heartfelt (though not too musical) protest on behalf of Israeli soldiers, patriotism and against such paragons of Israeli patriotism as Anat Kamm, Uri Blau, Ha-Aretz and the New Israel Fund. The Left, it would appear, is becoming increasingly desperate to silence the Jewish majority of the state of Israel. As it's masthead publication puts it: Haaretz: 'The Newspaper for Thinking People' (as long as they think as we do).



"אני אחיך" / מילים ולחן: עמיר בניון

אני שומר לך על הזהות

אני מגן לך על הילדים

אני מוסר את נפשי בשביל המשפחה שלך

ואתה יורק לי בפנים

אחרי שלא הצליחו להרוג אותי בחוץ

אתה בא והורג אותי מבפנים

לא ראיתי את אמא כבר חודש

לא את בני לא את ביתי לא את אשתי

אני מסתער תמיד קדימה

עם הגב שלי אליך

ואתה משחיז את הסכין

יותר מכל, המחשבה הזאת שורפת לי את הנשמה

ואתה, איך אתה עוד לא מבין

אני אחיך,אתה אויב

אתה שונא אותי אני אוהב

כשאני בוכה

אתה צוחק מאחרי גבי

אתה הורג אותי

אתה הרי אחי

אתה הרי אחי

אני עתיד

אתה עבר

וההווה בינינו נשבר

אני רעב למענך אתה זולל וסובא

כשגרוני יבש אתה שותה שיכר

הפה שלי חתום תמיד למען ביטחונך

אבל אתה מוסר אותי לזר

אני אחיך, אתה אויב

אתה שונא אותי אבל אני אוהב

כשאני בוכה

אתה צוחק תמיד מאחרי גבי

אתה הורג אותי

אתה הרי אחי

אתה הרי אחי מִי שֶׁבֵּרַךְ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק וְיַעֲקב

הוּא יְבָרֵךְ אֶת חַיָּלֵי צְבָא הֲגַנָּה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל,

הָעוֹמְדִים עַל מִשְׁמַר אַרְצֵנוּ וְעָרֵי אֱלהֵינוּ

מִהלְּבָנוֹן וְעַד מִדְבַּר מִצְרַיִם

וּמִן הַיָּם הַגָּדוֹל עַד לְבוֹא הָעֲרָבָה ובכל מקום שהם בַּיַּבָּשָׁה בָּאֲוִיר וּבַיָּם.

אני אחיך, אתה אויב

אתה שונא אותי אבל אני אוהב

כשאני בוכה

אתה צוחק תמיד מאחרי גבי

אתה הורג אותי

אתה הרי אחי

אתה הרי אחי

כי אדוני אלוהיכם ההולך עמכם

להלחם לכם עם אויבכם להושיע אתכם ונאמר אמן.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Ani Yehudi

For years I've been saying that Israel is, Barukh HaShem, becoming increasingly Jewish (something that is driving the troglodytes of Schocken Street and Ramat Aviv crazy). This video, courtest of RivkA, says it better than I ever could.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Censorship, Islam and South Park

Yael at Oleh Girl has just posted this video. It is self-explanatory and is a must see.



(Yael's blog is a must read, on its own merits, and it has been that from her pre-Aliyah life. She is, without a doubt, one of the best Aliyah success stories ever.)