Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Jewish Case Against Barack Obama -- Part III

The Jewish Case Against Barack Obama -- Part II

The Jewish Case Against Barack Obama -- Part I

On Srugim and Modern Orthodoxy

Tonite, at 230 AM, I will be giving a shiur on some of the pressing religious issues raised in the series Srugim. The point of departure will be the exchanges between Hodaya and her niece, Shvut, and between Hodaya and Dov Elbaum (episode 15 20:15-23:12), which will be screened at the shiur. Among these will be the superficiality of religious belief, doubt as a religious category, and Pan-Halakhism. I will leave time for questions.

Asuming that people can see straight at that hour, we will also look at this text from the Rambam,
(הלכות מעילה ח, ח), available here.

The shiur will take place as part of Maale's annual Tikkun Leyl Hoshana Rabba at Heichal Shlomo in Jerusalem. Those who are sleepy, I plan to awake.

See you there.

אין לנו על מי לסמוך אלא על אבינו אלא על אבינו שבשמים

On the cusp on Hoshana Rabba, the situation of the Jews in Eretz Yisrael looks increasingly grim.

Israeli-Arabs, after the pogrom they carried out on Yom Kippur, are demanding compensation and ratching their sedition against Israel's existence up one more notch. Our non-leadership, non-Zionist, non-government know nothing else but to appease them.

Tzippi Livni, who has failed at everything he has ever undertaken, who is totally enthralled to the self-destructive ideology of pathological Jewih self-hatred that is the bon ton west of the Yarkon, will apparently become Prime Minister.

She will become Prime Minister because of the votes of 430 party hacks (and the mysterious destruction of a number of ballot boxes).

She will become Prime Minister because of fear (and knowledge) of the members of Knesset that most of them will see the next plenum from the gallery.

She will become Prime Minister because of the absolute venality of the Haredi Parties, who don't give a damn about anything but their money (and their God given right to raise families and learn at the expense of everyone else).

She will become Prime Minister because the ruling, incestuous elites (made up of 18 wealthy families and their lackies in academia, government and the media), have decided that she should be Prime Minister, because it fits their Leftist Nihilism. (They, of course, will all board their private jets and flee to the Cayman Islands if Iran gets the bomb.)

She will become Prime Minister, because the same Leftist, anti-Zionist establishment would rather obssess about how to try to appease the Arabs by de-judaizing the country and throwing 350,000 Jews out of their homes, than addressing the real threat posed by Iran. Their error in the same in both cases. In their grossly materialist nihilism, they refuse to recognize that Muslims are loyal to their beliefs and will act upon them, even at the price of their lives and fortunes.

She will become Prime Minister, because all of the above has eviscerated the outrage of the Israeli People. When you feel helpless, there's little to do but go numb. (For all of this, see Amnon Lord's Column in this week's Yoman. I'll post it as soon as it's on line ).

השתדלות is an important quality. At the end of the day, at the end of the Hagim, on Hoshana Rabba, there is nothing to do but cry out:

אבינו מלכינו אין לנו מלך אלא אתה

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Jesse Knows, Obama Dissembles (Removed)

In the upcoming US Presidential elections, I support John McCain and Sara Palin. I think that Barack Obama is too untried, inexperienced and short on subtance to guide the United States and the Free World as it enters a period of financial paroxysms and war on Global Jihad.

However, in light of the comments that my posting of Jesse Jackson's remarks about Obama, I have decided to remove it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Going Native...Shlomo Ben Ami and the Elites

I guess by definition, politicians have to fudge their beliefs in order to get elected. Once out of office, though, they have no such contraints. Shlomo ben Ami, Israel's former Foreign Minister, is a good example. In a recent article in the latest issue of Foreign affairs, he shows just how deeply the pathology of Post-Zionism has penetrated the Israeli Academy and ruling elites.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Akko and Livni: You can Run but You Can't Hide

I really tried. I gave it my best shot. I made a real attempt to enjoy the Hagim, without getting depressed by the world around me (about which there is precious little I can do anyway). I can't fix the economy. If I vote in the US Presidential election, my vote will be of symbolic value only (since Obama has New York sewn up).

The Israeli March of Folly is even more frustrating.

1) The forces of criminal hubris, ideological self-destruction and self-hatred keep gaining in strength. A new sinister government (Lat. 'Left') led by 'Ba'alat Teshuva' Livni is on its way to power, a government that will be based on Jewish concessions to the Moloch of 'Peace' (aka Islam and Jihad). The press will cheer it on, as will the Europeans and the (no longer so) monied elites.

2) A few weeks ago, a nine year old kid in Yitzhar alerted the town that a terrorist had penetrated the fence and was about to go on a rampage. He, himself, was stabbed nine times but survived. For his courage he was cited for bravery by the Army. The award was bitterly condemned by Peace Now and the media. After all, he's a settler, a Jew, an obstaccle to peace.

3) The facts behind the Akko riots, as reported in the Jerusalem Post, are:

As not all readers are familiar with the time line or sequence of events, the Jerusalem Post has an editorial which details the events of the past few days.Some points that were clarified are as follows (thanks to Jameel):

1. Up to 2000 Arabs streamed into the Jewish section of the town during Yom Kippur (not 500 as originally thought). That's nearly 15% of the local Arab population that was rioting.

2. Another Arab (apparently not in the car) is the one who called up the local sheikh, who then broadcasted over the mosque's loudspeaker that the Jews were attacking, calling out the Arabs to attack the Jews. (And screaming Itbah al-Yahud!)

3. The police claim that the Arab driver was drunk.

4. The Arab riots only ended on Thursday morning.

5. The Jews only began to riot back on Thursday evening after the fast.

Only George Orwell could do justice to the way this is being presented.

The Hebrew press is banging away at the idea that there was a misunderstanding and that hot headed Jews ganged up on a poor law-abiding Arab. That evil idiot, Gideon Levy, even suggested that Jewish Racism requires Arabs to observe Yom Kippur (since the riots were started by an Arab driver. Of course, you know what happens if a Jew even drives through Ramallah...never mind during Ramadan.)

The Arabs are trying to kill Jews, and are receiving open support (in money, man power and materiale) from Israeli Arabs and Palestinians. Who do the Police and the government blame?
The Jews.

The Arabs destroyed Jewish property. The Arabs destroyed Jewish stores. What's the response? An organized trip to Akko to show support for the Arabs and patronize their businesses.

OK. That's enough. I'm putting down the paper....I need to detox before the Hag.

אבינו מלכנו אין לנו מלך אלא אתה.

אין הברכה מצויה אלא בדבר הסמוי מן העין.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Srugim 15: Erev Yom Kippur

The season finale of Srugim heightened my feelings about the deep-rooted spiritual malaise that feeds like a cancer on the body politic of Orthodoxy. It has many different sides to it.

One is the tragic inability of Israelis, Religious Israelis especially, to live with any type of complexity. Everything is a matter of all or nothing at all. Moreover, that 'everything' is extremely rigid. We have set the minimum standard of religious observance so high, so strict and so sub-group specific, as to exclude myriads of Jews from the Torah, and to drive many others out. There is no room for struggle. There is no room for variation, even if the Torah does allow for it. There is only judgement, לחומרא.

Another is our obsession with externals. We are obsessed with how things look. We give absolutely no time or thought to the content of our observance. The obsession with externals means that we have failed to develop the tools to deal with the outside world. We possess neither courage to explore, nor the humility to put on the brakes. I am not saying that everyone can do it. I am not saying that everyone can succeed. I am saying that if we teach courage and humility, many more can come closer (or stay) under the wings of the Shekhina.

Speaking of the Shekhina, where is the Ribbono shel Olam in Srugim? Where is the Ribbono shel Olam in our prayers (whether quick or slow)? Where is the Ribbono shel Olam in our inter-personal relations? Where is the Ribbono shel Olam in the idolization of Torah Learners and Rabbis? The answer is, apparently, nowhere. We read about Hester Panim ( Deus Absconditus ) in last week's Parsha. We complain about Hester Panim in our lives, in politics, in the economy. Who, though, is hiding from whom?

It's almost Yom Kippur. The sanctity of the day is already tangible. It's in the very air we breathe. The words of the Kotzker are perhaps a cliche, but cliche's are there because they are true.

וואו געפינט זיך דער בורא עולם? וואו מאן לאזט עם אריין
Where is God? Where you let Him in.
It is of all this that I hope to speak on Hoshana Rabba.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Heshbon Nefesh, Hakhel and Srugim: A Request

I have just been informed that 'Yes' has been gracious enough to allow me to screen a few key scenes from Srugim as part of my shiur at this year's Hakhel, sponsored by Maaleh. I'm really thrilled, because there is such a large audience that is familiar with the series and it raises a lot of important issues. (In addition, since I'm scheduled to speak at 230AM, film clips will be a better way to focus attention that just texts- though I'll have those too.)

Now for my request.

I have some ideas as to which scenes to request. For example, Betzalel's refusal to use Stacey's Tefillin; the שיחת נפש between Shvut and Hodaya about God; Hodaya's trip to the miqveh and Avry's reaction; Reut's attitude toward Yohai, both before and after he goes to work for his uncle; the Rav's psak to Naama and Amir (which, btw, I think was incorrect).

However, before I give Yes my answer, I'd welcome any suggestions as to scenes that you think most evocative and suggestive. You can leave your comments here or write to me at

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sefer David Avdi: In Memory of Rav Dr. David HaLevi Applebaum זצ"ל הי"ד

It's been five years since David Applebaum הי"ד and his daughter, Naava הי"ד, were murdered in a פיגוע at Cafe Hillel on Emek Refa'im Street. For me, as for those many whom he touched, it seems like just yesterday. In the intervening years, though, David has been generally remembered as a doctor and humanitarian (which he was), and the person who revolutionized Israeli medicine through the founding of Terem. All of this was, of course, true. It was also insufficient. David was first and foremost a a devoted עבד השם; a Talmid Hakham of the first order; and a Brisker Lamdan, whose soul was in Volozhin. He lived and breathed Torah and thirsted constantly for דבר השם.

His wife Debra ת"מ has now edited and a published a wonderful sefer that will set the record straight for all time. Entitled 'David Avdi' it contains (alongside a biography and some appreciations), a treasure trove of Divrei Torah, Letters and halakhic studies that are stunning for their brilliance, thoroughness, sensitivity and passion. Of special note are the Kol Nidre Drashot he delivered at Ohel Rivka in Kiryat Shmuel. [The halakhic pieces are extraordinary, when you consider the fact they were written בזמן שלא מן היום ולא מן הלילה in places like Gainesville, GA.]

The sefer is a gem. I can't imagine how wrenching it was for Debra to put it together, but this labor of love is something that I will always cherish and should be in the hands (not just the library) of everyone who knew or knew of David.

[I"d like to add a personal note. I want to thank Debra, from the bottom of my heart, for including my remarks in memory of David in the book (along with portions of a reminiscence, in English, that I wrote during the shiva). I have never had a ידיד נפש like him, a חבר hose friendship was a קשר של תורה, and therefore a קשר של קיימא. Though we saw each other infrequently in the years before his murder, when we did see one another, we just picked up where we left off, in Volozhin and Brisk, in Boston and Chicago, in Jerusalem and Efrat.

I have written over thirty academic monographs, dozens of non-scholarly pieces and seven hundred entries on this blog. The book I'm trying to finish already stands at over three hundred pages (typescript). I am proud of (almost) everything I've ever written.

However, these remarks will always mean more to me than almost anything else I have ever (or will ever) write.]

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Srugim- Lessons for Torah in Our Time

No, I haven't been hiding. No, I haven't abandoned my blog. I've just been busy. I'm in a real writing swing. Chapter One is done. Chapters Two and Four are nearing completion (and the book is becoming a reality). Then there are the Hagim, 'nuff said.

Well, perhaps not. I've also spent my leisure time catching up on Srugim (yes, I'm an addict. I sign off on everything the Mukata has to say about it, and more.) It's well acted, sensitive, amazingly accurate and very engaging. It's respectful of religious people and their struggles. In its honesty it does Judaism a favor (as opposed to the croakings of certain circles.) In fact, if things work out, I hope to use clips from the show as texts for my shiur at Maaleh's Hakhel on Leyl Hoshana Rabbah. I hope to indicate how the show lies at the interface between Torah and the world. and frankly exposes the superficially procrustean image we have of ourselves and of others.

Much of this is already implied in the theme song, written by Erez Lev Ari.

The words are as follows and (again, kudos to Lurker) are food for thought in these days of Heshbon ha-Nefesh:
אני רודף אחר חוקיך, מחדמאידך תשוקתי אותי רודפתבוש ונכלם אבוא בשעריךוהלילות הארוכים והבדידות ושניםוהלב הזה שלא ידע מרגועעד שישקוט הים, עד שינוסו הצללים
לאן אלך, אנה אפנה, כשעיניך מביטות ביאיכה אברח, איך לא אפנהבין אמת לאמתבין הלכה למעשהבין הימים ההם לזמן הזהבין הנסתר לנגלהבין העולם הבא לעולם הזה

רודף אחר חוקיך, מאידך תשוקתי אותי שורפתעזה כמוות, איומה כנדגלותהלילות הארוכים והבדידות והשניםוהלב הזה שלא ידע מרגועעד שישקוט הים, עד שינוסו הצלליםהשיבני
לאן אלך, אנה אפנה