Thursday, February 26, 2009

End of An Era: Memories of Mr Moses Feuerstein

On Monday, by coincidence or by Providence, I attended the funeral of Moses I. Feuerstein ז"ל. By coincidence, I had planned to travel to Boston for a few days and received word of his passing just before I left New York. By dint of Providence, I was afforded an opportunity to pay my respects to a man that, together with his family, was an inspiration for the Boston Orthodox community when I was growing up. I was also afforded the opportunity to pay my condolences to two of his children, R. Mordekhai and Esty, who were my friends at several critical junctures in my life.

For religious and becoming religious college kids in the 1970’s in Boston, the Feuersteins were the aristocracy. It was their home to which you wanted to be invited on Shabbos. They were living proof that Torah and worldly success, yet they made their guests feel at home, no matter their background or circumstance. Mr. Feuerstein was warm and dignified, elegant yet accessible, pious and truly modest about that piety. As the eulogists noted, he was very proud of the fact that he had the privilege of knowing, and of being close to great scholars like R. Aharon Kotler זצ"ל and R. Ya’akov Kamineztky זצ"ל.

As R. Mordekhai Feuerstein noted, above all, Mr. Feuerstein had a long, deep and abiding friendship with מורי ורבי R. Soloveitchik זצ"ל, whom he deeply revered.
The Feuersteins were extremely close to the Rov. The elder Mr. Feuerstein, Samuel C., was Chairman of the Board of the Maimonides School for years. The family was devoted to the Rav, and supported him and all in which he believed. The affection, moreover, was mutual. One incident that I personally witnessed is both evocative and typical.

A daughter of the Bostoner Rebbe שליט"א was married in the summer of 1973 or 1974. I was learning in the Rav’s summer shiur and was invited (together with all of the other בחורים) to the wedding (though I also received a personal invitation, as the grandson of Mrs. Anna R. Woolf, who was a longtime supporter of the New England Chassidic Center). At one stage, the Rav was walking to the Huppah and Mr. Feuerstein came over and greeted him: ‘Hello, Rabbi.’ The Rav’s face broke out in a smile, and he glowingly said: ‘Mayshe!’ The affection he bore Mr. Feuerstein just shone forth from his face. I later came to learn just how deep and abiding, how multi-faceted and mutual that affection was.

R. Soloveitchik's presence was keenly felt in his home. I cannot recall any time that I was privileged to have a Shabbat meal at their home that the Rav's teachings were not a central component of the discussion.

I was deeply saddened that the other eulogizers took no note of Mr. Feuerstein's special relationship with the Rav, or of the truly heroic things that he did for Torah in Boston. In the 1950's. 60's and 70's the Boston Jewish community was overwhelmingly dominated by Conservative and Reform Jews (both rabbinic and lay). Orthodoxy was not even on the radar. The only contact that many Jewish Lay Leaders had with Religious Jews was with Mr. Moses Feuerstein. when they wantyed to know about Tradition, they asked Mr. Feuerstein.

One anecdote, which also involves the Rav, is typical. It was told to me by my teacher, R. Dr. Aaron Wieder. Sometime in the mid-1970's he told me that he had met Mr. Feuerstein at bris. The latter was bemused by an encounter he had just had with a prominent local Jewish philanthropist. It seems this secular leader had just returned from Israel. Where ever he went, when he said he was from Boston, he was immediately asked how Rav Soloveitchik was, or to send regards. When he returned to Boston, he immediately contacted the only Orthodox Jew he knew, Mr. Feuerstein. As R. Wieder recounted, he asked Mr. Feuerstein: 'Moe, everywhere I went in Israel they asked me about Rabbi Soloveitchik. Who is he? I've been living in Boston my entire life and I never heard of him!' I am sure that Mr. Feuerstein's answer (which Rabbi Wieder did not describe) was not only informative, but included the type of presentation of Orthodoxy that would leave an indelibly positive impression upon his interlocutor.

On several occasions, I heard the Rav comment on Hazal's assertion that a wise man is one 'הראוי למנותו פרנס על הציבור.' What sets such a person apart, the Rav noted, was courage, heroism, גבורה. Mr. Feuerstein was endowed with such גבורה, along with an equal measure of חסד. Such פרנסים are much needed and much too rare.

I, along with countless others (even those beyond the Boston Metropolitan area) are blessed to have known, admired and learned from him.

ת' נ' צ' ב' ה

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Five Ways to MIsery Starring....

Post-Election: Nothing

I've spent a week trying to make sense of what happened in last Tuesday's elections. Objectively, I subscribe to what Ben Chorin had to say on the subject (since he's my expert in these matters). I am, however, grappling with the deeper significance both of the elections and the subsequent behavior of the various parties.

1) Livni and Lieberman have provided further proof of the adage of my much revered, and sorely missed, rabbinic mentor, Rabbi Louis Bernstein ז"ל. Louie, who certainly knew his way around Israeli and American politics, used to say that Israeli politicians have the morals of alleycats. The country be damned, as long as they get their ego and drives fueled, who cares what the people say or the country needs. It needs, it would appear, whatever the media and the pundits say it needs.(Ironically, the only one to prima facie take his defeat like a man was Ehud Barak.)

2) The phenomenon of Avigdor Lieberman puzzles me.

On the one hand, I understand why people voted for him. They want a 'tough guy' to stand up to the Arabs. They are sick and scared of the open sedition and irredentism of an ever growing proportion Israeli Arabs, and the growing awareness that key elements thereof really are a fifth column within the country. (These guys don't get it.)

Furthermore, I really sympathize with the impossible situation of non-Jewish Russian 'Jews' who can't get married and can't reasonably convert because of the obstructionism and impossibly high standards of key elements within the rabbinate. Thus, Lieberman's popularity based upon his advocacy of a form of narrowly conceived civil union is eminently understandable. [I am afraid that the courts will throw out any legislated restrictions on these and would open the door for widespread intermarriage. The leftist, post-Jewish courts and 'intelligentsia' would inevitably applaud such a suicidal step. I plan to address this issue in a separate posting.]

What I can't figure out is whether Lieberman is a democrat, or really is out to set himself up as a government strong man. IOW, part of me understands his agenda. Part of me is afraid of his success.

3) One thing that I've learned is to listen to my children, who grew up here. Nothing, they assure me, will happen if Livni becomes Prime Minister, or if Bibi is forced into a rotation agreement. No self-respecting Arab will make a deal with a Leftist. He will know that it's not worth the paper it's written on. If Netanyahu, though, breaks under pressure then things will get hairy.

Food for thought.

Midreshet Yom Rishon

I've never used my blog for personal ads, but there's always a first time.

I will be speaking at this coming Sunday's Midreshet Yom Rishon at YU, at 930AM. The information is here.

Anonymous (and non-anonymous) readers are invited to introduce themselves.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fingers Crossed...Anxiety in Place

For the past few days I've been involved in an intra-town debate over voting for Likud versus Ichud Leumi. I suppose I should not be surprised that I've received a fair share of demagogical e-mails screaming that Bibi gave back Hevron and the only by voting for Ichud Leumi can we save the country.

Well, the media is reporting that Likud has its back to the wall and Kadima is licking its chops at the prospect of gaining more Knesset seats than Likud. Apparently, they're using that edge to get Arabs to vote Kadima in an attempt to stop Netanyahu (and Lieberman). The have already announced that if Kadima received just one seat more than Likud, it will demand that it receive the tap to form the government from President Peres who was elected as the representative of...Kadima. You can be sure, moreover, that the media and the Supreme Court will back that demand.

If this nightmare scenario, God forbid, is realized tonight, then the geniuses from Ichud Leumi and their ideological purist troops will have no one to blame but themselves. Yes, Likud made campaign mistakes. However, if they had not pushed against Likud, Livni would have no chance and the 60,000 more Jews she wants to evict from their homes and put in tents (like the refugees from Gush Katif) would be able to sleep in safety. Now, their lives and the fate of the country lie in the balance because the extremists had to be pure.

Say Tehillim 130.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Nationalist Camp Never Learns

In 1992, the Nationalist Camp received a majority of the votes cast in the Knesset elections. Tragically, a deadly combination of ideological purity and ego led to the splitting of parties. The result was a victory for the Left and the ongoing tragedy engendered by Oslo: Terror, Murder, 3 Wars and a wave of anti-semitism unknown since the 1930's. [I am NOT saying the Right was responsible for these. It is responsible for creating the circumstances that allowed the Forces of Darkness to prevail.]

The polls that have appeared over the past few days portend a similar end. The inability of Bayit Yehudi and Ichud Leumi to merge, again based upon ideological purity (Suslov, are you listening) and pure ego, have split the 'Orange' Vote. More ominously, a combination of hubris and compacency have led many potential Likud voters to favor Avigdor Lieberman and Yisrael Beiteinu.

The result is that should Likud, God Forbid, not receive a strong representation over Kadima; Kadima could easily create a coalition with Labor, Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu. Yes! Yisrael Beiteinu has betrayed the Right in the past and could well do it again.

Need I detail what four years of Kadima will mean when Barack Hussein Obama is in the White House?

There is only one lesson to be derived from this. Unless Likud trounces Kadima...we will be in serious, serious trouble.

Food For Thought

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Letter to ACRI

From: David Bedein []
To: Nirit Moskovich []

Subject: Will ACRI/NIF say anything about Arabs trying to blow up a kindergartern this morning?

This morning, Arabs from Gaza fired a missile in the Eshkol region near Gaza, barely missing a kindergarten.

Will ACRI, Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which raises its funds through the New Israel Fund, take out ad in HaAretz, - today, in real time, so that the media will pay attention - against Arabs who try to murder Jewish children in cold blood in order to achieve their purpose.

Will ACRI issue a statement this monring - today, in real time, so that the media will pay attention to the fact that Arabs in Gaza tried to murder children in a Jewish kindergarten this morning?

The context of this question: ACRI sought fit to take out an expensive full page ad in HaAretz on Jan 16 2009 in which ACRI ran 30 mourning ads for Arab children killed inadvertently by the IDF during the Gaza incursion.

ACRI fuels the flames of international anti-Israel hatred when it will not distinguish between Arab children, often armed, who are inadvertently killed when they are used as human shields and Jewish children whom Arabs try to kill and only express regret that they have missed their target.

David Bedein,MSWMiddle East Bureau, The Philadelphia Bulletin
Israel Resource News Agency
Center for Near East Policy Research Ltd.
Beit Agron International Press Center