Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Told You so...

As a number of readers have pointed out, the ever reliable Pavlovian pit bull of the Haredi world, Jonathan Rosenblum, has published an attack on Modern Orthodoxy using Noah Feldman as his point of departure. I have already written my response, here.

No, as a few asked, I am not a prophet. As I sit here in St Petersburg, where Dr. Pavlov did his pioneering work, I can say with full confidence that it was expected. Feldman rang the bell and Rosenblum barked.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

This is a Real Estate Lawyer

I'm presently sitting in Moscow, where Jews were not allowed to live until the late 19th century, and watching two, related dramas unfold before my eyes at home.

Our soldiers are throwing Jews out of their homes, in buildings purchased by Jews over two centuries ago (and documented as such), in order to appease Abu Mazen. They are doing so with the type of brutality that makes me ashamed I ever wore the blue uniform. If Olmert had been their lawyer, i.e. if they were not some religious shnooks but rich clients who could line his pockets, he'd be out there stopping it.

At the same time, Olmert is offering a chunk of pre-1967 Israel, the size OF THE ENTIRE WEST BANK if only Abu Mazen (who has no power anyway) will make peace (Pretty Please). Any why do we tolerate this? Because the harlots in the Knesset would rather retain their seats than their country.

Chronologically, we're in the period of post-Tisha B'Av consoltation. In reality, we're stuck in Isaiah I:

How is the faithful city become a harlot! She that was full of justice, righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers. Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water. Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves; every one loveth bribes, and followeth after rewards; they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Memory and Territory+ survival

This just arrived on YNET. It should be must reading.

A state of exile
A methodical exile is taking place; the exile of location and exile of the mind

Yishai Fleisher

We all know what exile is. Exile is when you get kicked off your land. But that's not the worst exile. A nation may be forcibly exiled from its land, but if the nation longs to return, sets days to mourn the eviction, remembers every inch of the land, remembers its history there, reveres the holy places and burial sites of their forefathers, and teaches every successive generation to remember - in such a scenario, the exile is never complete because the relationship between the people and their land is never fully severed.

Memory, education, and yearning – these are all methods of warding off the full effects of exile, and they can sustain a nation until the time comes when the exile can be reversed and a return can commence.

But what then is a full exile? A full exile is when the connection between the land and the people is forgotten. If there is no memory of prior ownership, no longing to return, no stories told to children, then the exile brought about by an enemy nation which wished to impose a disconnect between the people and its land comes into full effect. If the very fact that the nation has been exiled is forgotten, then that is true exile.

The idea that the loss of collective national memory brings true exile has a surprising corollary: a nation can be in a state of exile even while living on its original soil! Like a person suffering from amnesia while sitting in his own house – a nation may be so utterly without memory that it has no idea that it is at home.

Rachel's Tomb
Such is the case in Israel today. The memory that has been carried in our collective conscience for two thousand years has steadily worn away and no longer serves to keep the exile at bay. Take, for example, the case of the Tomb of Rachel.

In terms of emotional connection, Rachel's Tomb is unequaled for the Jewish people. From the biblical narrative of Rachel's life, to Jeremiah's account of her crying for her children going to exile and God's promise of their return, to the generations who visited her grave, to the beautiful mausoleum constructed by Moshe Montefiore in 1841, the memory of Rachel's Tomb in the olive orchards of Bethlehem has kept us connected to this place through out the long exile. In 1919, Louis Brandies stood next to Rachel's Tomb at sunset and said "I know now why all the world wanted this land and why all peoples loved it."

Go to Rachel's Tomb today – if you can. A monstrosity of walls, pillboxes, gates, and chains has been erected to ostensibly keep the would-be intruder away. The place is downright ugly, and if you did manage to get in to the compound, soldiers do not allow you to walk around freely, because, they claim, danger is everywhere, even inside the labyrinth of high walls.

Take your children there. As you pass into the prison-like fortress try to teach your children about the Matriarch Rachel, our mother Rachel. You will not succeed because you will not be able to communicate a sense of the value of the place. It is too ugly, too military, too filled with fear, it is simply unattractive both physically and emotionally.

Only those who remember Rachel's Tomb the way it used to be can still have an emotional connection to the place. If the current state of affairs continues, the next generation will not remember Rachel's Tomb and the exile from this place will be stronger then it has been in two thousand years. Just as we are exiled from the physical Rachel's Tomb, Rachel's Tomb is being exiled from our minds.
This phenomenon of exile is not only at Rachel's Tomb – it's everywhere. The Tomb of Joseph in Nablus is gone, destroyed by Arabs, abandoned by Israel. Hebron, home and burial place of the patriarchs is constantly in the crosshairs of destruction. The Temple Mount, the place of two Jewish temples, is being systematically neutered of its history (let alone its future value). Judea and Samaria, the biblical heartland, is now being cut off by a snaking wall, which scars the land and cuts us off from our history and heritage. The exiling forces seem to attack the very places where our collective memory was strongest.

Cerebral exile
As we have noted, physical exile is one thing, but cerebral exile, the cutting off of memory is the final guillotine of exile. Here, the groundwork for forced forgetting has been in the works for decades. On the one hand, the Jewish people's historical connection to the land has been systematically un-taught. In schools, many Jewish children learn to hate the Bible, learn a revisionist anti-Zionist history, and are simply never taught the stories and the emotional connection to places like Rachel's Tomb. On the other hand, a new milieu and accompanying lingo fill the void left in the young mind: Occupation, Palestine, Peace, and Post-Zionism. Our history and with it, our emotional connection to our land, is being erased.

This is not the first time when an attempt to sever the Jewish memory of the land of Israel has been made. Of course, there were the two great exiles when the Babylonians and the Romans sacked Jerusalem and dispossessed the nation.

Yet there is another case that is a clearer reflection of what is happening today: Yerovam Ben Navat was a wicked Jewish king of the Northern tribes during the period of the divided kingdom (10th century BCE). He wanted his vassals to forget about the Davidic dynasty that still reigned in Jerusalem and therefore built two idolatrous temples as an alternative to the one that stood in Jerusalem and bade his people to worship in these shrines.

But the people persisted in going up to the real Temple, so Yerovam then constructed manned roadblocks that barred aliyah to Jerusalem. He hoped that by forcibly stopping people from going to Jerusalem he would make people forget all about it. It took two centuries for this "security barrier" to be removed, but by then it was too late, the people had indeed forgotten.
Today, those who still teach and preach a connection with these places are branded extremists, so their message makes little sense to our people. Say the word "Hebron" to a young disconnected Israeli and he will only conjure up an occupied Arab city with a few cantankerous crazy Jews who cause all the problems. The majesty of Hebron's history from Abraham to King David to the first Hasidic settlement of 18th century, to the murderous Arab riots of 1929, to the valiant return in 1967, is completely lost on him. It is no wonder then that for him it makes sense to "give it back" since nothing seems to tie us to these places in the first place.
Today's post–Zionist leaders have made Israel into a State of Exile, exiling our people from their homes, exiling our land by cutting it off and giving it away, and exiling the minds and hearts of the Jewish people by teaching them to forget. After waiting for two thousand years to return, Jews are being taught that Hebron isn't Jewish, that Bethlehem isn't Jewish, that Nablus isn't Jewish, that the Temple Mount isn't Jewish. A methodical exile is taking place, the exile of place and the exile of mind.
Yishai Fleisher is the founder of Kumah, a grassroots pro-aliyah organization, and a broadcaster at Israel National Radio

Friday, August 03, 2007

It Will Break: A Response to Comments

My remarks about the Herem placed on the Jewish Music Concert elicited several types of comments that deserve a posting of their own.

1) I absolutely meant no disrespect to Gedole Torah. However, greatness in lehrnen was not the issue. My point is that I see the disasterous results of this policy of socio-cultural constriction and constant prohibiting the allowed. It destroys people, adumbrates the break up of families and actually contributes to people leaving Torah. So, it might be that the signatories on the herem were misled. However, as in חושן משפט so in יורה דיעה, you bear full responsibility for your signature. [I might add that if you read books like Karlinsky's, Rishon le-Shushelet Brisk, you learn that there was no lock-step Daas Torah position on most things.]

2) I agree that Ger is not dour, except in matters בינו לבינה. It was of those we were speaking.

3) Not every Litvak is dour (at least not 24/7).

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Bend It Too Far, It Will Break

While Noah Feldman is trying desperately to push the envelope leftward, the Haredi leadership is pushing in the other direction. At least, that what it looks like from this item:

Rabbinical "Ban" on Hassidic Music Concerts
by Hillel Fendel

(IsraelNN.com) Hassidic music stars Avraham Fried and Yaakov Shwekey are to perform in Jerusalem before over 10,000 Thursday night - but Rabbi Elyashiv, the Gerrer Rebbe and others say it's forbidden to participate or attend events of that nature.

Flashy posters all over Jerusalem and elsewhere advertise a high-powered Hassidic music concert scheduled for Thursday evening at Teddy Stadium. It features two of the genre's greatest stars, Fried and Shwekey, as well as guest appearances by Aharon Razel and the up-and-coming Elad Shaar. Called "L'Chaim in Jerusalem," the event commemorates the 40th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, and will feature an extra-large orchestra.
A damper was placed on the event, however, in the form of a grave rabbinic ban appearing in the hareidi-religious press. The ban is signed by leading rabbis including Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the Gerrer and Bezler Rabbis, Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, Rabbi Shmuel HaLevy Vozner, Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Sheinberg, and more.

The ads state: "We trembled at hearing about the terrible breach in our camp of 'music evenings' and 'concerts' in which musicians sing before men and women sitting together, Heaven forefend, and even not together. All Torah leaders have in the past clearly forbidden these events, even when men and women are separate." The rabbis say the ban applies to men, women and children and of course the performers. Newspapers are not permitted to advertise these events, according to the ad, and musicians who sing "in front of men and women together" must not be invited to sing at other events.

Now, I've seen these ads and all of them say there will be so much segragation of the sexes that there might as well be two concerts. So what gives here? I'm not really sure. However, if the extremely dour Rav Eliashiv, and the legendarily dour Gerrer Rebbe keep it up they will make the lives of Haredim so bitter that they will have created a crisis that will be heard around the world. You can't take away people's parnassah, forbid them to educate themselves, forbid them to go hiking and take away their very few forms of entertainment without a reaction.

Oh, as long as we're at it the same article reported:

"It is known that Rabbi Moshe Feinstein [the pre-eminent Torah authority in the U.S. in the 20th century - ed.] permitted events of this nature if the proceeds were for charity," a source close to one of the rabbis said, "as is the case in Thursday's concert, so I'm not sure how to understand this."

Reb Moshe Feinstein? Who's he? Oh yes, I remember. He's the rabbi who, a prominent Haredi Rav objected to, because he had the temerity to disagree with the Mishnah Berura and the Hazon Ish.