How Not To Deal With Allegations of Impropriety

by Shaya Karlinsky

We have been witness to an increasing number of depressing revelations about Rabbis acting inappropriately towards women they have been counseling or educating. I have no intention of discussing any specific case. I would like to discuss a pattern that is all too common in these cases.

In response to accusations of improper behavior by Rabbis with female students or congregants, lots of well-meaning people come to the defense of the accused. These people will vouch for his tremendous integrity, meticulous observance of all appropriate boundaries in every interaction they ever experienced or witnessed, and the life-changing advice and counseling they or their friends received from the accused. Since, if and when breaches of ethical and Halachic behavior happen, they happen “behind closed doors,” the only way to verify the accusations is for victims to provide detailed testimony of what they claim happened. Frequently, the victims themselves are troubled individuals, or were having some specific emotional crisis which can make them vulnerable to advances from the predator, while compromising their credibility as plaintiffs or witnesses. People can become easily swayed and confused when weighing claims of somewhat unreliable plaintiffs/witnesses against the claims and testimony of obviously well adjusted success stories of said Rabbi’s activities.

I believe the approach is completely mistaken, and a section in the Kli Yakar will give us the correct approach to take in such situations.

At the end of Parshas Ki Teitzei (Devarim 25:13-16) the Torah prohibits holding in one’s possession dishonest weights and measures. The Kli Yakar is bothered by the seeming redundancies and inconsistencies exhibited by the text. The Torah begins by prohibiting holding “large” and “small” weights and measures. It then commands that one have “full and righteous” weights and measures. And the section concludes with the verdict that “It is an abomination before G-d, all who do these, all who act corruptly.”

The simple understanding of “small and large” weights is that the “small” weight is dishonest, used to shortchange customers, as opposed to a “large” one, which would be the honest weight. The problem this raises is that there should only be a prohibition against the “small” dishonest weight! Additionally, the command to have “full” and “righteous” seems redundant. “Full” implies that it is an honest weight, so what is added by the demand that it be “righteous?” Finally, “all who do these” refers to the dishonest use of weights and measures, an obviously criminal activity. So what has the Torah added with “all who act corruptly.”

The Kli Yakar begins his explanation by agreeing that the “large” one refers to an honest weight, and the command of “full and righteous” is the demand that one not only be honest – with a “full” honest weight, not shortchanging his customers – but to be righteous, going “beyond the letter of the law,” providing “a little extra.”

He then references a similar verse in Mishlei (20:10) which has similar textual difficulties that we encounter in our text. “A weight and a weight, a measure and a measure (implying having different sized weights) – an abomination before G-d are also both of them.” If they are both dishonest, why use the language “also?” They are simply both dishonest! Rather, the verse refers to two different weights or measures, one which is honest and one which is dishonest, We are being taught that the honest one is ALSO an abomination, for it is the facilitator that enables the person to get away with cheating customers with the dishonest one. If a storekeeper had a weight with which he was shortchanging a customer, this customer would come home, discover he had received less than what he had paid for, and he would bring the storekeeper to court. The storekeeper might defend himself with the claim that some of the produce must have fallen out of the bag after the customer left the store, or was lost after he got home. But if the court would receive a number of similar complaints it would become apparent that this storekeeper was shortchanging his customers.

What is the “solution?” The storekeeper also maintains an honest set of weights, and many customers are served honestly with them. When a customer who was cheated comes to court to complain, the storekeeper can now defend himself with the claim that the shortage happened after she left the store. And to verify that claim, he offers to bring all the satisfied customers who always received the full amount due them. If the court will send an investigator to check the weight, the storekeeper will show the honest weight, proving that the he does not cheat anyone.

In conclusion, says the Kli Yakar, the honest weight is just as much an abomination as the dishonest weight, for it is the honest weight that enables the criminal to get away with his dishonest dealings.

When a Rabbi or educator is accused of improper behavior of a sexual or abusive nature, character witnesses are irrelevant to verifying whether the accusations are true. All the many people who have been helped in the past in no way undermine the credibility of the accusers. What is important is the specific accusations, whether there is a pattern to those accusations, and whether the accused can properly refute those accusations. If the defendant is being falsely accused by vindictive or unstable women, either the cross examination of the accusers will verify that, or direct testimony to contradict the claims can be provided. If the accusations are credible, if a pattern of improper behavior is verified, if the accused is guilty, then all the people who were helped should have no impact of the conclusions one needs to draw. In fact, his help is revealed to be part of his abominations, empowering him to continue preying on vulnerable and innocent victims. Those he helped are his “honest” measure, enabling him destroy the lives of those he was cheating.

For decades, accusations such as these were not taken as seriously as they needed to be. Many people were damaged by ongoing abusive behavior that was not recognized. It is to the credit of those in the forefront of the fight against this abuse that the trend is being reversed. While no innocent person should be brought down by false accusations of vindictive or troubled women, no guilty person should escape because he kept “honest weights and measures” in his house.

Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky is the Dean and Rosh Yeshiva of Shapell’s/Darche Noam Institutions: Yeshivat Darche Noam/ Shapell’s and Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya College of Jewish Studies for Women in Jerusalem, both founded in 1978. He is a native of Los Angeles, California.

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Agudath Israel Statement on Recent Global Anti-Semitism

As Israel applies itself to the task of rooting out terrorists in Gaza, and destroying their tunnels and rocket launchers, there have been, as always when Israel acts to defend herself, condemnations of her effort to protect her citizens from an enemy bent on murdering them.

Seizing on the tragic consequences of even as just a war as the one Israel is conducting against Hamas, the condemners vehemently protest Israel’s actions – and, in the time-honored tradition of Jew-hatred, wax violent against Jews, wherever they may be.

And so, we have come to witness over recent weeks hatred and violence directed toward Jewish communities in France and other countries. Such incidents are reminiscent of an earlier, darker time in our history when hatred of Jews was openly and unabashedly expressed both verbally and physically. Witnessing these attacks today is a stark and chilling reminder that the scourge of anti-Semitism remains a malignant reality in the modern world.

Without questioning the sentiments or actions of the French government, or of the other governments involved, the fact that these incidents have primarily taken place in Europe, where just decades ago many “ordinary citizens” were complicit in the persecution and extermination of Jews, is not lost on us. Neither is the fact that these incidents come at a time of sharply rising anti-Semitism among the European populace, as indicated in various polls and studies.

The pretense that these attacks are not anti-Semitic, but merely a reaction to current events in the Middle East, is cynical and decidedly false. When a Paris mob besieges and throws bricks at a synagogue with 200 congregants inside, it is anti-Semitism. When a synagogue north of Paris is firebombed on Friday night and sustains damage, it is anti-Semitism. When a 17-year-old girl — referred to as a “dirty Jewess” — is assaulted on a Paris street by having her face pepper-sprayed, it is anti-Semitism. When a kosher grocery is torched in the Parisian suburb of Sarcelles, it is anti-Semitism. When a Moroccan rabbi is pummeled into unconsciousness as he is walking to synagogue, it is anti-Semitism. When anti-Israel demonstrations in France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Spain, Turkey and other countries are accompanied with calls to “slaughter the Jews,” with chants of “death to the Jews,” with slogans like “Hitler was right,” it is anti-Semitism. Pure and simple.

We have raised these concerns with our State Department and have been assured that these developments, and their grave implications, are being taken by our government with the utmost seriousness. We have every faith and confidence that the United States will not stand by idly and that these blatant manifestations of animus against Jews will be responded to in a meaningful and effective manner.

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Rosenblum’s Rule Revisited

Long-time readers are by now familiar with Rosenblum’s Rule: Where Torah Jews are in the majority their attention to issues of Kiddush Hashem declines; when they are in the minority, especially a small minority their intrapersonal behavior improves. I first formulated this rule many years ago while observing a group of kindergarten age kids in Boro Park rush out of class and promptly block all traffic on the street adjacent to their cheder. That was their turf, and they were not going to be deterred by the honking of a line of irritated drivers.
One of the research projects I’d like to see the newly formed Center for Jewish Reseach and Communication undertake is a comparative study of the attitudes of those raised in all-chareidi environments to those raised in religiously mixed cities and towns. Until then, Rosenblum’s Rule remains only a hypothesis based on anecdotal observation.
But further anecdotal evidence of the positive side of the rule came last Erev Shabbos. My wife and I were in the Galilee for around 24 hours, and decided to visit the Torah community in Carmiel, where I know exactly one person, the son-in-law of a close friend. When I was a kid, my mother’s always insisted on checking out every campus of a reasonably good college within a thirty mile radius on our family car trips, just in case one of her sons might one day wish to apply. And I have taken the same tack with respect to far-flung Torah communities: With today’s skyrocketing apartment prices, you never know where your children may end up living.
We found our way to the home of my acquaintance just as his family was crowding into their car to drive to Jerusalem for Shabbos. I asked him if he could direct us to the beis medrash of the main kollel, and he agreed. The beis medrash is nestled in a tree-filled park, and I took the first available parking spot.
My guide immediately ran over horrified. I had unwittingly parked at the end of the walkway coming out of the forest in an illegal spot. Even though the area was virtually empty and my car was not likely to block anyone, my guide instructed me to repark a few meters away. He explained that in Carmiel the community is extremely meticulous to obey all traffic laws – e.g., not parking on sidewalks – and to respect the well-manicured parks that make the city so attractive.
He mentioned that they have other practices that can only strike a visitor from Bnei Brak and Jerusalem as weird. For instance, because of the relatively low percentage of religious residents Sephardim, national religious, and yeshivish actually run on one ticket in municipal elections.
The previous evening, we had stayed in Yavneel, a quaint village set up by Baron Rothschild in 1901, about fifteen minutes drive from Tiveria. Shmuel and Chana Veffer, old friends from Har Nof, moved a few years ago to the rustic setting, where they run Villa Rimona Zimmers for those looking for a break. The ratio of secular to religious Jews in Yavneel is about 60:40.
Shmuel told me that the rav of the local community shul established the official nusach over 40 years ago to use modern Hebrew pronounciation so that the local community would feel comfortable, even though he and his family are Chasidish. The difference may be slight, but the head of the kehillah is determined to make everyone feel part of the community no matter what their background.
Similarly in the Breslav kehillah, where I davened, they are strict that all the Chassidim greet every Jew they meet on the street on Shabbos with a warm “Shabbat Shalom.”

That sensitivity reminded me of a friend in the United States who established a Lakewood Kollel in a large Modern Orthodox shul. He once told me that when he first went to Lakewood to interview avreichim, he told each candidate, “I don’t have time to faher you, but there is one rule that I insist on for anyone who joins the Kollel: You must smile and greet every person you meet in shul or on the street. Can you do that?”
Finally, my guess is that those who live in completely insular communities might be more inclined to stifle the impulse to share, in the name of “speaking the truth,” their negative opinion of other groups, if they ever had to look in the faces of those injured by their “divrei emes” and see the hurt in their eyes.

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Fresh Air Amid The Reek

Even more remarkable than the article itself was where it appeared.

Written by Elissa Strauss, an essayist and a “co-artistic director” of a “non-religious Jewish house of study for culture-makers at the 14th Street Y” in New York, the piece – “What Did the Orthodox Do Now?!” – graced the pages of the Forward, where Ms. Strauss is a contributing editor.

The essay’s focus was the non-Orthodox Jewish media’s “fixation with Haredi Jews”; those organs’ “hunger for sensationalism” in their reportage on the Orthodox community; the “crude laziness” evidenced by such tunnel vision; and the reduction of “a whole community of Jews” to “a kind of caricature in stories that often traffic in stereotypes.”

Points well taken, and the Forward, of course, is a good example of such invidious ink-spilling. It has some excellent reporters but also maintains a stable of writers and bloggers with chronically jaundiced views of the charedi world. And so it deserves credit for publishing Ms. Strauss’ piece, which was essentially a rebuke of its own journalistic bent with regard to our community.

Ms. Strauss attributes the obsessive negativity displayed by some non-Orthodox writers for charedim to a desire to feel a “moral superiority” over their subjects, to “pat ourselves on the back for being so much better.” But she also raises the specter of other “much more complicated emotions” involved, “possibly including envy…”

A second remarkable article appeared recently in a Jewish publication that doesn’t display any noticeable anti-charedi bent: the venerable politically conservative monthly, Commentary. On the heels of Ms. Strauss’ piece, it published a lengthy scholarly historical and sociological overview of the charedi community, written by Jack Wertheimer, a respected professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Titled “What You Don’t Know About the Ultra-Orthodox” (although the latter term is eschewed in the text of the article, in favor of “Haredim”), it presents an impressively clear and unbiased picture of the American charedi world and its ideals, and demonstrates what the piece’s subtitle promises: “The least understood and most insular American Jews have much to teach us.”

Professor Wertheimer acknowledges various grievances and complaints some Jews voice about charedim; in each instance, though, he also explains the charedi viewpoint, and does so eloquently and well.

As in every community, there are, unfortunately, distasteful things and unsavory players in our own. We do ourselves no favor pretending otherwise. “The Haredim,” however, explains Professor Wertheimer, “are expected” by other Jews “to be free of vice because they are supposed to ‘tremble in fear of G-d’.”

How wonderful a testimony to the Torah’s truth such perfection would be. Alas, free will is what it is, and living a superficial charedi lifestyle cannot preclude bad behavior. But generalizing from outliers to the community as a whole is wrong and indefensible.

As is the refusal Professor Wertheimer asserts “to acknowledge the good and not only the problematic or off-putting [to some outsiders] aspects of Haredi life.”

Ms. Strauss puts it pithily: “We aren’t really interested in the Orthodox. We aren’t willing to see a full picture, the good and the bad, the complexity of these many individuals living so differently than us.”

That’s a sort of unwillingness many of us charedim, too, are occasionally guilty of, whether the subjects of our opinionating are other groups of Jews, non-Jews or President Obama. But it is particularly glaring, all said and done, in Jewish media reportage on charedim.

Not long ago we read in shul of how Bilam broke the news to his sponsor King Balak that Hashem has thwarted their plans to curse Klal Yisrael, the king responded: “Come with me to another place from where you will see them; however, you will see only a part of them, not all of them, and curse them for me from there” (Bamidbar 23:13).

At first thought that puzzles. Why would Balak think that having Bilam look at the Jews from a different place and in a limited way might facilitate a successful curse?

Things, though, can look very different from different vantage points. And a focus can be chosen. One can aim one’s sights at the negative in a people – or a community or an individual; or one can pull back to see a larger, more comprehensive, and thus more accurate, picture.

Perspective, in the end, is everything, and a skewed one can be a very misleading and dangerous thing. Balak clearly hoped that a view from a different “angle” might reveal something negative about Klal Yisroel, some vulnerability into which a curse might successfully settle. Boruch Hashem, he had no success.

Unfortunately, some Jewish media have succeeded for years in portraying charedim from a malevolent perspective, sullying our community and beliefs with selective vision, animus and unjustified generalizations.

Ms. Strauss and Professor Wertheimer deserve kudos for pointing that out, and for suggesting that those media aim to be accurate and fair. May those writers’ words be taken to heart by those who so need to hear them.

© 2014 Hamodia

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Mr. Obama, Phone (My) Home

I just can’t seem to remember whether President Obama telephoned me last night. It was a busy evening. I had a chasuna, a seder and davened Maariv.

No, I’m quite sure I didn’t get a call from the White House. But the father of murdered Arab teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir did receive one the other day from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which the Israeli leader expressed his deep condolences for what authorities have described as a nationalism-inspired killing, and pledged that the “perpetrators of this horrific crime” would face the full severity of the law. “There is no place for such murderers” in Israeli society, Mr. Netanyahu said.

Asked later by the Jerusalem Post about the call, the father said that he had received dozens of phone calls and couldn’t recall if Mr. Netanyahu had been among the callers. Ishaq Abu Khdeir, a representative of the Arab victim’s family, denied outright that the Prime Minister had telephoned the family. “This is a false claim,” he said.

The family also refused, according to the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, to allow Israeli president Shimon Peres to pay a condolence call in person. When security personnel arrived to prepare for the president’s visit, they were turned away.

The mother of the slain boy, for her part, was quoted by The New York Times as expressing her hope “that the Jewish mothers [whose sons were murdered] feel what I am feeling… May [G-d] burn them like I am burned.”

And there we have it: the amity barometer-reading for the Palestinian world.

The malice is even more manifest in Palestinian media. The official Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported the words of former PA prime minister and current PA executive committee member Ahmed Qurei, during a visit to the Abu Khdeir home. “The holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis,” he declared, “is the same holocaust that the occupation is perpetrating against our people… they kidnap children, fight civilians in their homes and houses of prayer, torch fields, and violate human rights in the most despicable manner.”

The same periodical also compared Abu Khdeir’s murder to the Holocaust, writing in its editorial: “The Holocaust lies heavily on the conscience of humanity to this very day… However, Israel is trying to emulate [the Holocaust]; with its arrogance and unconstrained brutality, its language of tanks and its racist ideology that includes despicable ‘selections,’ it constantly incites to kill Palestinians and to hunt them like beasts in order to destroy them everywhere and by every means, both at the hands of [Israel's] military forces and at the hands of the settlers, who have been unleashed [to act] with brutality unrivaled even by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria [ISIS].”

Of course, leaving the fever-dream world of Mr. Qurei and the Palestinian press, the same impressive unity that Jews in Israel and the world over demonstrated in hope, and then, sadly, mourning, several weeks ago was just as evident in the pan-Jewish condemnation of the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir. The thought that Jews could kill an innocent Arab boy left all feeling Jews stupefied and despondent.

In an op-ed published this week in Haaretz, President Obama reiterated his position that “Israel cannot be complete and it cannot be secure without peace.” That is a truism, of course.

I have a deep respect for Mr. Obama, having carefully analyzed his actions and words over the past six years. I believe he is sincere when he says, as he did in that same op-ed, that “the United States [is] Israel’s first friend, Israel’s oldest friend, and Israel’s strongest friend.” And that “neither I nor the United States will ever waver in our commitment to the security of Israel and the Israeli people.”

And I believe he means it when he writes: “I’ve seen what security means to those who live near the Blue Line, to children in Sderot who just want to grow up without fear, to families who’ve lost their homes and everything they have to Hezbollah’s and Hamas’s rockets.

“And as a father myself, I cannot imagine the pain endured by the parents of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, who were tragically kidnapped and murdered in June.”

The President was entirely responsible to add that he is “also heartbroken by the senseless abduction and murder of Mohammed Hussein Abu Khdeir, whose life was stolen from him and his family.” And by writing further that “At this dangerous moment, all parties must protect the innocent and act with reasonableness and restraint, not vengeance and retribution.”

Does he recognize, though, that the reason peace in the region is so famously elusive is because of the mindset of people like Mr. and Mrs. Abu Khdeir, Mr. Qurei and Arab media like Al-Hayat Al-Jadida – which is, tragically, the mindset of so much of the Arab world?

I suspect he does, and that whenever he addresses both sides of the conflict as if both are equally blameworthy for the lack of peace, he is simply, as he has done in the past, offering “evenhanded” words to mollify a rabid world that he know places inordinate value on platitudes.

But should he call me tonight, I’ll make sure.

© 2014 Hamodia

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The Anti-Eyal, Naftali, and Gil-ad

The mind reels from trying to wrap itself around the fact that fellow Jews could not only have murdered an innocent Arab teenager, but done so by sadistically setting him on fire.

But there is no longer any escaping the fact that the murderers of Mohammed Abu Kdheir were in all likelihood Jewish.

As she has done so frequently in recent weeks, Rachel Fraenkel, still in mourning for her son Naftali, spoke for the almost all Israelis in her message of condolence to Mohammed’s parents: “No mother should ever have to go through what we are going through, and we share the pain of Mohammed’s parents. . . . The shedding of innocent blood is in defiance of all morality, of the Torah, and is against the foundation of the lives of our boys and of all of us in this country.”

Magnifying the evil of the deed itself is the utter senselessness of it. The perpetrators have thrown their own lives away. If convicted, there is far less chance that they will ever be freed from prison than that the murderers of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach, if captured, will one day be released in another … Read More >>

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Some Jewish Thoughts on Understanding Hobby Lobby: Religious Freedom Did Not Really Win or Lose

by Michael Broyde

Introduction

The Supreme Court has spoken again on the place of religion: last week the Supreme Court decided (5-4) that closely held private corporations as well as individuals are not bound by the administrative rules of the Department of Health and Human Services [HHS] that mandate contraception be provided as part of one’s Employer’s insurance plan. Furthermore, the Court did not mandate this result on any constitutional grounds, but purely based on the Religious Freedoms Restoration Act and its progeny. In essence, the Supreme Court held that the administrative regulations proposed by HHS violate a prior act of Congress. Although the Court does not say so explicitly, it is fairly clear that not a single justice (and certainly not five) would have any difficulty reaching a different decision if Congress were to change the laws protecting religious freedom.

Understanding the Historical Path of the Law here is Important.

This decision is yet another in a long line of religion cases that has left our law and jurisprudence somewhat confused. Here is a brief review that might help us understand. The First Amendment to the Constitution tells us simply that “Congress shall make no law respecting an … Read More >>

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When Waging War is Pursuing Peace

As Pinchas taught us, sometimes an act of violence promotes peace.

At the end of last week’s Torah reading, we are told that one of the leaders of the Tribes of Israel engaged in an immoral act, deliberately violating the Commandments. He did it brazenly, “in your face,” challenging Moshe and all of the Children of Israel. Everyone was crying, but Pinchas knew what he had to do: pick up a spear. And how did G-d respond? Per this week’s reading, He bestowed upon Pinchas His Covenant of Peace.

We have no prophets today, but neither are any necessary to understand that there is no evil in killing barbarians bent upon killing you.

To those offended by my use of the term barbarians, I offer no apology. These are not civilized human beings with the same values as you and me. People who target women and children, hospitals and kindergartens, are barbarians. People who loudly proclaim that they “celebrate death,” are barbarians. People who bring their own children into buildings after a phone call from the IDF warning them that the building is about to be destroyed, are barbarians.

It is clear that Israel is making a … Read More >>

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The Holy Jews of Yerushalayim

by Asher Brander

We have rented their upstairs apartment and they are our super-gracious hosts.

He is a pashute baalabos (a simple working man) – the gabbai of a swift and small shul that runs like clockwork. She hails from Buffalo, grew up on a farm, and has been in Israel for over 50 years; He is a relative new-comer of about 48 years from Glasgow, Scotland – who has shed his kilts, but still sounds the part.

He saw action in the YK war and beyond. On average, during his tour of duty during the war he clocked 2000 kilometers a week looking for Egyptian paratroopers in the Sinai Desert. They got ‘em all.

A few nights ago, I walk into a scene out of the 1950′s – he is in the kitchen – listening to the news by the radio. It is not great news. False rocket fire alarms in Mevasseret and Beit Shemesh. By now, practically the whole country knows the feeling.

Simple and smart, he talks about just opening both our eyes to see the miracles all around us. He means it. I probe and ask what he has in mind:

“If only we learn … Read More >>

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Thoughts From the Emotional Maelstrom

The past weeks have not been easy, to put it mildly. I cannot recall a similar period in which HKBH placed us on a fast-moving roller-coaster, carrying us to and from such emotional peaks and valleys in so short a space of time. Eighteen days of anxious prayer and the finding of common cause with so many Jews, followed by the let-down of tragic discovery. The bursting of the bubble of national unity by both the words of an inauthentic Yaakov, and the treacherous, murderous actions of Jewish yedei Esav that heaped shame upon our sorrow. The anxiety of waiting under siege from what might rain down from the sky, while brooding over the consequences of what we all expect will be the next moves on the ground – already anticipating the condemnation certain to come from the world community. Like Yaakov Avinu, we are afraid of the prospect of being killed, and vexed by the prospect of having to kill others – but prepared for both.

No profundity here. Just some disjoint observations, mostly from others, about recent events, written half as catharsis, half as informational to anyone who has not come across some of these items.

No … Read More >>

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If Only

To re-read Rachel Fraenkel’s words in a New York Times report that appeared mere hours before the discovery that her son Naftali and his two friends, Hashem yinkom damam, had been murdered is to experience anew the shattering moment that accompanied the first reports of the discovery.

Confiding to a reporter her belief that the kidnapping would “end in a positive way,” she took care to add: “Not that I don’t consider other things. I’m not in denial. If I have to fall apart, I’ll have time to do it later.”

The time, to the anguish and agony of us all, came.

I was on the phone with a colleague discussing an important legal development when I heard a mid-sentence gasp on the other end of the line, and thought I sensed tears. Although no official word had yet been released, my colleague had just received an alarming e-mail and informed me that some news sources were reporting a “development.” Suddenly the legal issue had not the slightest importance.

It was astounding how so many Jews so far removed from one another – geographically and otherwise – came together in hope and tefilla during the weeks the boys were … Read More >>

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“No Haredim Enlisting Anymore”

Yair Lapid can provide actions in support of unity, not just words, by working with the Haredi community instead of against it. … Read More >>

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Klal Perspectives – Summer 2014

Too long went by without a new issue of Klal Perspectives, a journal that always provoked animated discussion about matters vital to the Orthodox community. The Summer 2014 issue is devoted to the state of boys’ high school chinuch, and marshalls the opinions of some of the most respected names in secondary Torah chinuch in the West.

Why the long delay since the previous issue? Did the editorial board run out of steam? Did the readership lose interest? None of the above. Below you will find a more accurate (although perhaps not more satisfying) explanation in the Foreword to the issue. (I know the guy who wrote it….) Following it are the summaries of the individual contributions.

The editors hope that not only will this issue stimulate vigorous discussion, but that the contributors will be brought though it to closer personal contact. Perhaps, through working together, they might develop practical solutions to some of the problems discussed.

Matters of great worth and significance, says Maharal (Gevuros Hashem, Chapter 30), cannot spring up willy-nilly. They take time to develop. They grow slowly, from darkness to light. While Maharal teaches this in regard to things of great supernal value, the … Read More >>

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In Brief:

“Of Public Record”

-- 10:58 am

A culling of interesting quotes from recent days’ media reports can be seen here .

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A New Look at Tehillim 140

-- 5:16 pm

Contributed by Doron Beckerman

Psalm 140 May Have Never Been More Apt

למנצח מזמור לדוד:
(1) To the conductor. A song of David.

חלצני ה’ מאדם רע מאיש חמסים תנצרני:
(2) Extricate me, O Hashem, from a wicked person. Protect me from a man of depravities.

אשר חשבו רעות בלב כל יום יגורו מלחמות:
(3) Who scheme evil in their heart; every day they have war within their dwelling places (Rashi).

שננו לשונם כמו נחש חמת עכשוב תחת שפתימו סלה:
(4) They sharpen their tongue as a snake; venom of vipers is constantly under their lips (as they foam at the mouth spewing their rhetoric; Radak).

שמרני ה’ מידי רשע מאיש חמסים תנצרני אשר חשבו לדחות פעמי:
(5) Keep me, Hashem, from the hand of an evildoer, protect me from a man of depravity; those who scheme to make my steps falter (and fall into their traps; Malbim).

טמנו גאים פח לי וחבלים פרשו רשת ליד מעגל מקשים שתו לי סלה:
(6) The haughty have set snares before me, and cords. They have spread out nets on the pathways on which I tread. They have incessantly placed stumbling blocks before me (even after multiple failures, they try again and again – Metzudos).

אמרתי לה’ אלי אתה האזינה ה’ קול תחנוני
I say unto Hashem, You are my Almighty! Hearken, Hashem, to the voice of my supplication!

אלקים ה’ עז ישועתי סכתה לראשי ביום נשק
(8) The Almighty, Hashem, is the strength of my salvation. You have provided a shield over my head on a day of armaments. (On the day they attack me with lances, arrows, and all manner of weaponry, You are a helmet of salvation over my head; Radak.)

אל תתן ה’ מאויי רשע זממו אל תפק ירומו סלה
(9) Do not grant, Hashem, the desires of the evildoers. Do not allow his plots to come forth; may they elude him forever!

ראש מסבי עמל שפתימו יכסמו
(10) The leader of those who surround me, may the toil of his lips engulf them.

ימיטו עליהם גחלים באש יפלם במהמרות בל יקומו
(11) May coals rain down upon them; may it cause their downfall in fire, in deep ditches from which they will never arise. (The ditches themselves will be full of fire, from the coals that rain down on them from above – Malbim)

איש לשון בל יכון בארץ איש חמס רע יצודנו למדחפת
(12) A man of evil tongue shall not have a foothold in the land; evil will hunt down a man of depravity for endless jostling.

ידעתי כי יעשה ה’ דין עני משפט אבינים:
(13) I know that Hashem will maintain the cause of the poor, uphold justice for the destitute.

אך צדיקים יודו לשמך ישבו ישרים את פניך:
(14) Make haste! (Rashi) The righteous will give thanks to Your Name; the upright shall sit before You (as they appreciate and recognize Your Hashgachah Peratis – Malbim).

(Readers of the original Hebrew may have picked up on the passage’s keyword – [חמס[ים)

Rabbi Doron Beckerman contributes from time to time from where he says Tehillim in Israel.

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Knesset Speaker to the US: Do More to Prevent Civilian Casualties in Iraq

-- 2:20 pm

It didn’t really happen this way. But perhaps it should. A reader who must remain anonymous for professional reasons contributed this analysis:

Yesterday, US State department spokesperson, Jan Psaki expressed concern over the high civilian death toll in Gaza during the latest round of hostilities. She said that Israel can do far more to protect civilians than it has done to date. There were no specific suggestions offered, although Israel would certainly welcome any advice on how to further reduce civilian casualties. In addition to warning civilians to evacuate before targeting a specific area, Israel has called off bombing missions with targets already locked in sights, out of fear of harming civilians who at times were deliberately led there by Hamas.

Now, let’s see how the US measures up to Ms. Psaki’s expectations. According to Palestinian sources, 80% of the 248 people killed during the first 10 days of fighting were civilians. That would mean – even if true, which was never the case in the past – 198 civilians were killed in 10 days. While estimates of civilian casualties in Iraq vary greatly depending on the source, the official Iraq War Logs of the US Army put the number at 66,081 in 6 years of war That breaks down to 30.17 civilian deaths per day or 302 in 10 days. Iraq’s population density is 160 per sq. mile, vs. 9,713 for Gaza. That makes it 60.7 times more likely for a civilian in Gaza to be unintentionally killed in warfare than in Iraq. Extrapolating from the American experience in Iraq, we would have expected 18,331 civilian unintentional civilian deaths in Gaza in the ten days of operations.

We are not sure whether Jan Psaki needs a bit of help better understanding the parameters of the Hamas War, or just some help with arithmetic. It is important that she not continue to misrepresent the more sensible views of the American public, which supports Israel by a large margin in a poll of just a few days ago.

If it is understanding numbers that is the problem, we can recommend some excellent remedial help, in both Iraq and Gaza. She can choose where she will feel safest.

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7 Comments

COJs, not OTDs, may be our bigger problem

-- 12:50 pm

An article I wrote about “Cultural Orthodox Jews” in the Forward can be read here.

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Letter in Today’s NYT

-- 10:29 am

To the Editor:

“A Damaging Distance” (news analysis, Sunday Review, July 13) may well be right that the reduced interaction between Arabs and Israelis is lamentable. But to attribute Israel’s erection of a barrier wall between Palestinian land and Israeli land to “the common wisdom that the two nations needed not greater intimacy but complete separation” ignores something rather important.

The wall was built for one reason: to prevent terrorism. In the three-year period after its erection, only a handful of murderous attacks were carried out in Israel. In the three-year period before it was built, 73 such attacks took place, and 293 Israelis were murdered as a result.

(Rabbi) AVI SHAFRAN
Director of Public Affairs
Agudath Israel of America
New York, July 13, 2014

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AIA Statement on Ground Action in Gaza

-- 6:18 pm

With the news that a ground invasion of the hornets’ nest known as Gaza is underway, Agudath Israel of America calls on all Jews to pray for the safety of the soldiers and the citizenry of Israel, and to undertake meaningful acts of kindness, charity, Torah-study and special observances to help merit Divine protection of our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisrael, on the front lines and everywhere else.

As has been the practice in many shuls over past years, in response to the call of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, the recitation of Tehillim (Psalms) 83, 130 and 142, followed by the tefila of Acheinu, is recommended. But our every prayer should include entreaties on behalf of our fellow Jews.

May our tefillos be received in mercy by Hakodosh Boroch Hu, and help usher in days of peace and security.

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Agudath Israel Statement on Hamas Cease-Fire Rejection

-- 12:47 pm

Today’s news brought the report that Hamas has rejected an Egyptian-brokered cease fire, while Israel’s cabinet has expressed its willingness to abide by its terms. Once again, Hamas has shown what it truly is — a terrorist organization bent on wreaking death and destruction, not only upon Israel, but upon its very own people. Its aim is to reject peace and coexistence and its violence is intended to take Israelis and Palestinians further from the negotiating table.

We express our deep appreciation to President Obama for his strong support of Israel during this difficult and desperate time. The U.S.-funded Iron Dome defense system has proven to be invaluable asset and has saved countless lives. The close military cooperation between the U.S. and Israel that has taken place over these past years has clearly played a critical role in assisting Israel in responding to the terrorist threat it faces now and on an ongoing basis. As both Americans and Jews, we are proud that our country remains a stalwart friend of Israel.

In light of Hamas rejectionism, we urge President Obama to strengthen even further American resolve in dealing with the terrorist threat it poses. We should make clear to the world that the consequences of continued fighting for Gaza and its civilian population rest squarely on Hamas’ shoulders. We should make clear to President Abbas that a Palestinian Authority that includes Hamas is not a partner for peace. And we should make clear that Palestinian violence will have a detrimental affect on American support — both diplomatically and financially.

Only through the strong and unequivocal support of the U.S. for Israel will Palestinians realize that peace, nonviolence and coexistence are their only options.

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ונגש הכהן ודבר על העם

-- 1:52 pm

Read with pride the letter of Colonel Ofer Winter, Commander of the storied Givati Brigade, sent to his troops as they massed near Gaza, poised to enter.
Givati chizuk

[Hat-tip to Harvey Tannenbaum, Efrat]

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Gratitude and Fortitude — Agudath Israel Statement

-- 12:34 pm

As enemy missiles continue to rain on Jewish communities in Eretz Yisroel, and many are intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, it is incumbent on all Jews to feel hakaras hatov, “recognition of the good,” toward the United States of America, which has funded the system over the years of its development. We are reminded, at a time like this, how America has made a major contribution to the defense of Israel, for which we must be deeply grateful.

At the same time, we must remember that Im Hashem lo yishmor ir, shov shokad shomer – “If Hashem will not guard the city, for naught does the guard stand vigilant” (Tehillim, 127) – and that it is therefore to Hashem that we must focus our entreaties with special intensity at this critical time.

Our prayers should include entreaties for the wellbeing of our fellow Jews under attack, as well as for those who are risking their lives to defend them and defeat those who wish us harm.

As has been the practice in many shuls over past years, in response to the call of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, the recitation of Tehillim (Psalms) 83, 130 and 142 after Shacharis, followed by the tefila of Acheinu, is recommended.

Torah-study on behalf of our beleaguered brethren is also deeply appropriate, and should be intensified.

May our teshuvah, tefilla and tzeddaka prove worthy merits for future days of peace and security.

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Hamas Terrorism in 140 Chars

-- 6:16 pm

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Agudath Israel statement on arrests in murder of Arab boy

-- 4:28 pm

Reports of arrests of members of the Jewish community in connection with the recent murder of an Arab youth, Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir, should fill us all with revulsion.

The Jewish faith does not tolerate violence other than in self-defense and condemns murder as a grave crime. To take the life of an innocent human being is not only an indefensible, evil act but, here, brings our people down to the level of our most implacable and cruel enemies. It is a chillul Hashem, a desecration of G-d’s name.

The entire Jewish world was plunged into mourning at the news of the three innocent Jewish teens who were murdered several weeks ago by as-yet unapprehended parties. And mourning was, and is, the proper response of individuals to such crimes, not misguided attempts by vigilantes to exact “revenge,” which is the Creator’s to dispense.

May the families of both the murdered Jewish boys and the murdered Arab boy be comforted. And may governmental authorities successfully bring all the murderers to the justice that can be meted out in this world.

We beseech the Creator, the One who “makes peace in His heavens,” to send us the day soon when peace will reign over the Holy Land.

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Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali in 140 Chars

-- 7:43 am

Sometimes it really can be expressed in a single comment to Twitter — in this case, by Rabbi Steven Burg, Eastern Director of the Wiesenthal Center:

Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a is said to have remarked that the three boys got a tremendous zechus, merit, because of all the hisorerus and chizuk that happened — throughout all of Klal Yisrael. May the achdus, the unity, stay with us.

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2 Comments