Thursday, September 27, 2007

An Agenda for Tzohar

Rabbi Elli Fischer, who I don't know but whose writing I've often admired, has thrown down the gauntlet at Tzohar. Basically, he sees them as well-intentioned but lacking both the guts and the vision to do what needs to be done in re-forming a/the rabbinate. Most of what he says has merit. One paragraph, though, was particularly jarring. Fischer writes:

Ultimately, they suffer from no small amount of hubris; they feel that they have a better finger on the pulse of ‘the people’ than today’s local official rabbis. Indeed, there are segments of the population – the urban Religious-Zionists and religious kibbutzniks, for example, and perhaps even the pro-Jewish but anti-religious cosmopolitan secular Ashkenazim- that they understand better than today’s empowered rabbis. ‘The people’ also live in Afula, though, not just Ra’anana.

To begin with, any and all would-be reformers require a heavy dose of hubris. To think otherwise would be naive. Indeed, Hazal were more than willing to countenance a positive self-image in the advancement of Torah.

I don't think that's the issue. I fear that Rabbi Fischer is accusing Tzohar of racism, anti-Sephardic, paternalist racism. Otherwise, what does he mean by contrasting the well-heeled of Ra'anana with the downtrodden of Afula?

This is a cheap shot, unworthy of its source. True, Tzohar derives much of its support from Ashkenazim, and especially westernized Israelis. However, it is specifically the sympathy that it elicits among this popoulation that will facilitate the success of its efforts. However, it is unfair to ignore the important impact that Tzohar has had among non-Ashkenazi Jews, helping to staunch the secularization that has been spreading there among.

Besides, this is not about Tzohar. this is about cleaning the Augean Stables of religion in Israel. Many, many rabbis (who, like myself, are not members of Tzohar) will hopefully join together to support their efforts. Our community has produced more than enough talented, God-fearing rabbanim and dayyanim to man alternative rabbinic structures, which can be made largely venality-free. (There are no total guarantees.)

The real challenge lies in simultaneously creating a community/shul rabbinate that will serve the people while not being dependent thereupon financially. (Here, I agree with Fischer.) That means: a) Mandatory general education for rabbis b) Mandatory pastoral training c) Mandatory management training.

A two pronged effort to create a rabbinic network and a parallel rabbinate for kashrut would go a long way to saving this country's soul. Yes, there are dangers (like Reform and Conservative tremping). However, the alternative is worse.

So, if Rabbi Fischer has ideas, let him please spell them out...without the nasty edge.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mi La-Shem...La-Tzohar

The Rabbis of Tzohar have announced the creation of an alternative kashrut framework, in the wake of the impossible situation set up by the present denizens of the Rabbanut and their handlers.

I unequivocally applaud the initiative by Tzohar.

1) No one has ever said that one MUST use the Heter Mekhira. If one wishes to use Otzar Bes Din or buy Arab produce, that is his right. Indeed, I strongly encourage anyone seeking a higher level of observance (though, on principle, I refuse to subject Jews to bankruptcy buying from Palestinians - whose money funds the murder of other Jews. My late, beloved friend, Rabbi Dr. David Ha-Levi Applebaum, HT'D, did not rely on the Heter Mekhira, and bought all of his vegetables from areas outside the area held by Olei Bavel. After Zman ha-Bi'ur he told me with a smile that he can live without tomatoes. Buying from Sonei Yisroel, however, was out of the question).

However, as Reb Yisroel Salanter once said, no one has a right to do mitzvos 'oyf yenems playtzes.' The Haredim have no right to impose their view on the entire Jewish population, and try to bring the Israeli economy to its knees. Never mind the outrageous and incalculably horrible Hillul HaShem that the rabbinate and its Haredi handlers are causing; just as the rest of the Jews in this country want to be more Jewish. The Heter Mekhira, especially the way it is presently implemented, is absolutely valid. [Though, once the majority of the Jewish People live here (in a decade or less), all bets will be off.] Therefore, הנח להם לישראל. אם אינם נביאים בני נביאים הם

2) The RZ rabbanim of Tzohar are, overwhelmingly, Rashe Yeshiva and Rabbanim with impeccable credentials in learning, psak and (more importantly) Yiras Shamayim. The canard that they are somehow not up to snuff reminds me of the same type of idiocy that was directed at RY at RIETS. (Indeed, a very prominent member of the Rabbanut recently offered that it is absolutely impossible that there are Gedole Torah in America. When the name of mori ve-rabbi Rav Schechter was raised he begrudgingly was willing to give him a 'maybe.')

Et La-Asot La_shem, Qiyyemu at Toratekha...

(The above is an edited version of a comment posted at Hirhurim.)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

After Yom Kippur

A quick glance at my dates and my sitemeter tells me that it's been too long since I posted. So much to write and so little time....

In the interim, as I collect my thoughts, I want to send everyone to a very insightful posting at QED, about a long lost (and sore needed) rabbinic voice: Rav Shlomo Goren זצ"ל. Too many people think of him in political terms, unaware that he was a great Talmid Hakham, who possessed a quality unknown in the contemporary rabbinate: Fearless Courage.

Absolutely Required Reading.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

On the Cusp of 5768

In just a couple of hours we will intone the perennial wish:

תכל שנה וקללותיה, תחל שנה וברכותיה.
Oh God, let the year and its curses end. Let the New Year and its blessings commence.

I feel a bit mixed about the sentiment, because there is a lot that happened this year for which I have to thank God. Everyone is healthy, and home for the Hagim. I got tenure, was picked for a lot of really great projects and my book is steaming along. My wife was graduated from Beit Berl and is working as an Art Therapist. Number one son finished his BA and is finishing his MA proposal. Number two son finished Hesder and the army. Daughter Number 1 is starting universitt. Daughter number two is doing wonderfully in High School. Daughter number three went into fourth grade and gets up early so as not to be late for school. Barukh HaShem!

Nationally, though, next year lookks more ominous than this past one. Olmert is running a liquidation sale, and both God's house and (le-havdil) my house may be on the block as he does everything to stay out of jail, and the all-knowing Left cheers the sounds of self-destruction. The Bet haVaad is a Bet Zenut (M. Sotah, end). The Syrians may have nuclear missiles and there are Neo-Nazis in the Shfelah. And what is our biggest problem?Shemittah.

And yet, Rosh Hashanah brings comfort. It is, as we know, the day of God's coronation. He is the King. He is the Judge. He decides. Ultimately, the sense of helplessness we feel about the world around us, brings us back to that fact. Modern man, as the Rav zt'l said, confuses 'What' with 'Why'. We know how things work. We don't know why, and Science can't tell us. Only God can, because only He knows.

So, at the end of the day, as we crown our King tonite and for the next two days, המלך הקדוש, it's a reaffirmation of our utter dependence upon Him, and Him alone.

אנו לי-ה ועינינו לי-ה.
והיה ד' למלך על כל הארץ ביום ההוא יהיה ד' אחד ושמו אחד.
כתיבה וחתימה טובה לכל בית ישראל.