Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
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)
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
Friday, December 03, 2010
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
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
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
Friday, October 08, 2010
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:
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
יה"ר שיתקבלו תפילותינו ושאיפותינו לרצון ע"י אבינו שבשמים.
פתקא טבא. א גוט קוויטל.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Monday, September 20, 2010
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
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
ג'פרי, טובי, אבי, אריאל, חנה, אלישבע ומוריה וולף
May you be Inscribed and Sealed for a Happy and Healthy
Jeffrey, Toby, Avi, Ariel, Chana, Elisheva and Moriah
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
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!!!!
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!
Monday, September 06, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
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
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
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
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
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
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
This is a very thorny question. I agree with David Ben-Gurion’s commitment that
I think we can take our cue, in this regard, from the era of the
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
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.
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
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 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
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.
Saturday, June 05, 2010
Friday, June 04, 2010
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
Jeffrey R. Woolf
The flotilla that is wending its way to the
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
Then, there are the recipients of this aid; the suffering masses of
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
The flotilla that is wending its way to
Monday, May 24, 2010
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
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
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
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
אתה צוחק מאחרי גבי
אתה הרי אחי
אתה הרי אחי
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
אתה צוחק תמיד מאחרי גבי
אתה הורג אותי
אתה הרי אחיאתה 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
אתה צוחק תמיד מאחרי גבי
אתה הורג אותי
אתה הרי אחיאתה הרי אחי
כי אדוני אלוהיכם ההולך עמכם
להלחם לכם עם אויבכם להושיע אתכם ונאמר אמן.
Monday, May 03, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
(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.)