Belief in Torah Min Ha-Shamayim: Damage Control by YCT: Subtly Defending the Indefensible

by Avrohom Gordimer

FOREWORD

The beliefs of a rabbi are no small issue. They can impact the validity of geirus, gittin and kiddushin performed under the rabbi’s review or that hinge upon his testimony, and the halachic integrity of those institutions that affiliate with a rabbi whose beliefs are unacceptable becomes suspect. Our focus on the current topic is hence not in the realm of the theoretical or “merely hashkafic”, but relates to something that has ramifications for the most weighty of halachic matters.

Back to the Discussion

Cross-Currents recently addressed the fact that R. Zev Farber, YCT Yadin Yadin musmach, coordinator of the IRF Vaad Ha-Giyur, and IRF and Yeshivat Maharat board member, has publicly and in writing disseminated his views that the Torah is not the Word of God, that God did not give the Torah at Sinai, that God did not ever communicate with the Prophets, that He did not bring the Jewish People forth from Egypt, that He did not author the halachos of Torah She-b’al Peh, that the Torah is the flawed work of biased men, and that the narratives in the Torah, including the Exodus and the existence … Read More >>

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Banishing the Zealots From Our Midst

by Yakov Horowitz

[Editor's Note: Once again, Rabbi Yakov dares to publish what others won't even say aloud. He reviews the harm caused by kane'im/zealots, and calls for help in ousting them from the community, any way possible. Those who wish to take advantage of the links in the original version can go to his website here.]

While the bulk of the ire and anger from the charedi community over the “Sharing the Burden” initiatives are directed at Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett, many of us who work with the teens-at-risk population feel strongly that some of this resentment should be redirected toward the radical kanoim (zealots) who have been contributing to the charedi-secular divide in Eretz Yisroel for decades now. Why? Because over the years, they have employed tactics of intimidation and violence to antagonize our non-observant brothers and sisters, and to disrupt the efforts of our gedolim (sages) in Eretz Yisroel to make the type of changes that are now being forced upon the charedi community. –>

In the late 1990′s the leading gedolim of North America met to discuss the pressing need to find appropriate placements for the dozens of young men who were in … Read More >>

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Meet the New Chief Rabbi

by Steven Pruzansky

[Editor's note: I came across a short "insider" bio of Rabbi David Lau, who was elected earlier today as the next Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi. Rabbi Pruzansky wrote it two weeks ago, but it became more important today.]

“…The primary alternative candidate now is Rav David Lau, Chief Rabbi of Modiin, with whom I have developed a very warm relationship over the last few years. Son of a former Chief Rabbi, Rav Yisrael Meir Lau, whose life story should be read by and inspire all Jews, Rav David should nonetheless not be perceived as a legacy candidate, driven to higher rabbinic office by the effects of nepotism. He is an exceptional human being – warm, friendly, engaging, personable and dedicated to Torah and Klal Yisrael. By the standards of the Israeli rabbinate, he is unique. I have personally witnessed Rav Lau walk miles on Shabbat morning to participate in the smachot taking place in a variety of kehillot, only because as the city’s rabbi he deems it appropriate. (Few, if any other chiefs, do the same – Rav Shlomo Riskin in Efrat being the exception, but an exception that proves the rule.) That approach, more typical of … Read More >>

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Torah Min-Hashamayim: A Reply to Rabbi Nati Helfgot

Avrohom Gordimer

Last week’s Cross-Currents article, From Openness to Heresy, which featured what were for many readers some quite alarming and startling statements by R. Zev Farber about the authorship of the Torah, has garnered much interest and support from all segments of the Orthodox community. R. Farber’s standing in the Open Orthodox rabbinate as the sole recipient of Yadin Yadin semicha from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, qualifying him as a dayan, and his role as coordinator of the Vaad Hagiyur of International Rabbinic Fellowship and as an IRF and Yeshivat Maharat board member, make his publicly-espoused positions on the Ikkarei Ha-Emunah/ Principles of Faith extremely important. Of great import also are how YCT and IRF leadership react to what would appear to be the highly problematic theology one of its most high-profile, influential and authoritative rabbis, who directs its geirus authority and establishes standards for Kabbalas Ha-Mitzvos of prospective converts.

In response to the aforementioned Cross-Currents article and in an effort to defend R. Farber’s views regarding the authorship of the Torah, R. Nati Helfgot wrote an article for Morethodoxy in which he musters several interesting sources that allow for more liberal parameters of acceptable belief … Read More >>

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From Openness to Heresy

By Avrohom Gordimer

Outright heresy is emanating from the heart of the YCT rabbinic world. No, this time we are not dealing with Open Orthodoxy (as YCT founder Rabbi Avi Weiss refers to his movement) innovating novel practices that can sort of be reconciled with minority or exotic halachic opinions, nor are we dealing with Open Orthodoxy promoting yet another new brand of controversial inclusiveness or further blazing socio-religious trails that mainstream Orthodoxy and its halachic leadership deem as beyond the pale. This time, we are dealing with denial of the singular Divine authorship of the Torah – heresy of the highest order – publicly espoused in writing by one of Open Orthodoxy’s most prominent rabbinic leaders. And we are also dealing with the rest of Open Orthodox rabbinic leadership refusing to condemn this heresy in its midst.

Rabbi Zev Farber, PhD., who holds Yoreh Yoreh and Yadin Yadin semicha from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, is coordinator of the Vaad Hagiyur of International Rabbinic Fellowship and is an IRF board member, and is an Advisory Board member of Yeshivat Maharat. Rabbi Farber recently published a brief article entitled “The Opening Of Devarim: A Recounting Or Different Version Of The … Read More >>

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The Yeshivish Brand

by Yaakov Rosenblatt

It was not my finest hour. Looking back, it was one of my worst.

My wife and I moved from Lakewood, NJ to Dallas, TX to join a Kollel in February, 2000. After two year of learning, we moved to an up and coming neighborhood, charged with adding vigor and verve to a small but growing community. At the time, we had two young children and were expecting a third. Contrary to the area in which we lived, there was no eruv in that neighborhood, which meant that my wife and kids would have to spend Shabbos at home. There was also but one shul to attend, a remodeled home which used folding chairs in its Sanctuary; a room that also doubled as a social hall. At the time, the average age in the community was 50 and the average hair-color was gray.

There was, however, a practical challenge to the move: the Kollel budget didn’t allow for a paid position in that neighborhood. It was willing to pay about 50% of my salary for this endeavor, but I would have to supplement my income with other work. A job opened – that of … Read More >>

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Mood Poetry For the Three Weeks

by Yossi Huttler

[Editor's note: I am once again going to indulge my weakness for the poetry of Yossi Huttler. It is hard to get through Kinos without mourning for the lost art of responding to poetry as an evocative language. The various authors of the kinos took for granted that their audiences would be moved through meter, alliteration and assonance. We react to them by glancing at our watches, and counting off the minutes till the ordeal is over. Perhaps appreciating some contemporary frum poetry can give us a glimpse of how kinos once touched every reader's soul.

I am leaving intact the comments of the poet.]

The first poem concerns inyana d’yoma inasmuch as the Shoah is a part of what we mourn during the Three Weeks:

Prozdor

at the far end of the prozdor standing on the lip of a self-dug grave or the doorway to a gas chamber stripped of all chatzitzot between them and their Creator as at birth souls ready to tread the next step

About the second poem: After talking last week to a friend who recently turned thirty while still unmarried, during which conversation I recalled my own dating experiences before … Read More >>

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The Price of Halachic Power

by Shaya Karlinsky

There has been a lot of talk about how, ten years ago, the Charedi leadership intentionally picked a less-than-ideal candidate to undermine the credibility, authority and ultimately the institution of the Chief Rabbinate. I think there was another, more subtle yet significant motivation for the Charedi support of Rav Metzger’s candidacy against Rav Yakov Ariel. Understanding the underlying dynamic can add more context to the push-back we are witnessing against Charedi society, as well as the continued politicization of the Chief Rabbinate.

One of the main issues that seems to have motivated Rav Elyashiv was Rav Metzgers agreement that as Chief Rabbi he limit, as much as possible, the reliance on “heter mechirah” for the shmittah year. This led to a much more stringent approach in issuing Rabbinate Kashrus certificates throughout Israel, followed by legal challenges, and a hearing before the Supreme Court. The court’s verdict opened the door for Tzohar to begin providing officially sanctioned Kashrut supervision. It led to serious – unwitting – shimittah violations by the public at large, probably even by readers of Cross-Currents. And it was an example of Charedi power being exerted in way that. while based on good intentions, … Read More >>

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Orthodox Women Rabbis: A Rejoinder to Rabbi Wolkenfeld

By Avrohom Gordimer

In response to “Ordaining Women and the Role of Mesorah”, R. David Wolkenfeld, Vice President of the International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF – the rabbinic umbrella organization under which graduates of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (and others of the Far Left) group), posted an article that attempts to justify Orthodox ordination of women and to refute the many halachic arguments raised in objection to this most recent innovation.

While R. Wolkenfeld does his best to argue his case, at times being matter-of-factly dismissive of opinions expressed by renowned halachic authorities and arguably using a tone of stridency and force that others would not use when waging battle against eminent poskim many times their age, he fails to muster any mekoros for his position to sanction the Orthodox ordination of women, and, in fact, his major caveat to circumvent the most potent objection to such ordination is disproven and undermined by the very people who are granting the ordination.

Let’s evaluate this all carefully.

After issuing a long and fierce shot across the bow, R. Wolkenfeld proceeds on an effort to dissect and discount R. Hershel Schachter’s initial objections to ordaining women:

Rav Schachter’s … Read More >>

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Ordaining Women and the Role of Mesorah

By Avrohom Gordimer

A current opinion piece in The Jewish Week, authored by two leaders of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA), opens with the celebration of an upcoming watershed event in Orthodox society:

Orthodox women are making history in front of our eyes. On June 16, three women will be ordained to serve, in effect, as Orthodox rabbis, given the title of Maharat (an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning leader in legal, spiritual and Torah matters). They will graduate from Yeshivat Maharat in New York City, the first and thus far only women to receive institutional ordination as religious and spiritual leaders in the Orthodox world… Next month’s graduation will mark the first time Orthodox women will be formally and publicly ordained with institutional recognition for the profound role women rabbis can play in Orthodox communities…

Following the celebratory section of the article, it turns negative:

Indeed, the Rabbinical Council of America recently came out with a statement condemning the Maharat graduates: “The RCA views this event as a violation of our mesorah (tradition) and regrets that the leadership of the school has chosen a path that contradicts the norms of our community”…This position is … Read More >>

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Unconditional Love: An Exchange

by Rabbi Shneur Aisenstark

[Editor’s Note: Rabbi Shneur Aisenstark, an extremely well-regarded veteran educator in Montreal penned an article in last week’s Mishpacha Magazine that created some confusion among readers. “Unconditional Love Has Its Limits” seemed to be both a contradiction in terms (by making unconditional love very much conditional) as well as quite dangerous in the estimation of professionals who have dealt for many years with off-the-derech (OTD) children.

One day, people will begin writing not only about OTD children, but the related phenomenon of the great number of those children (at least anecdotally) who return to Torah observance. If there is one factor that is important in producing the BOTD (back on the derech) child, it is the unconditional love of his or her family. Professionals warn not to scrimp or be sparing on the love shown to the errant child. Love needs to be unconditional; it is not synonymous with acceptance, which may allow for setting expectations and limits.

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is no stranger to these pages. Also a veteran mechanech, he heads up Agudah’s Project YES. His creativity in curricular areas is famous – but he is perhaps most famous for his … Read More >>

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Jerusalem, City of Unity

by Moshe Hauer

This week the Jewish world will celebrate the 46th anniversary of the liberation and reunification of Jerusalem in the Six Day War. This miraculous event restored unity to the city that symbolizes Jewish unity, described by the Psalmist as “the city that is united together” (Psalm 122). In fact, King David only established Jerusalem as Israel’s capital after mending the divisions within the Jewish People and gaining their unified support (Samuel II, chapter 5). As such, and with keen awareness of all that continues to divide our People – especially in Yerushalayim – I would like to share three quotes from Rav Avraham Yitzchak haKohein Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Palestine. The quotes present a concept and a strategy of Jewish unity.

The Concept The quote below comes from Rav Kook’s “Ayn Ayoh” commentary to the Aggadaic passages in TB Berachos (64a), and is also found in his “Siddur Olat Riyah” (quote translated by Chanan Morrison). It presents a concept of peace and unity that clearly guided Rav Kook’s communal thinking and activities.

“Rabbi Elazar said in the name of Rabbi Haninah: Torah scholars increase peace in the world. As it says, “All of Your children … Read More >>

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Purim: Blame It on the Rabbis

An anonymous submission in honor of Purim — Adapted from Michtav M’Eliyahu Vol. I p.75

The casual observer of the story of Purim will often overlook and/or misunderstand some of the most crucial aspects of the narrative. Take, for example, the chronology of the story. Although the tale of the Book of Esther is often told inside of a quarter of an hour, the actual story spanned more than nine years.

The Book of Esther famously begins with the feast of Achashverosh, which occurred during the third year of his reign. Our sages reveal (Megilla 12) that Mordechai prohibited the Jewish People from attending this feast. However, this was not due to restraints of the Jewish dietary law, as many assume. Strictly kosher food was available, and one of the two chief butlers at the feast was none other than Mordechai himself (Rashi ibid). Yet, Mordechai prohibited the Jews from attending. The Jewish People did not heed this directive from the generation’s Torah Leader and they attended, facing no repercussions.

Then, nine years later, in the twelfth year of Achashverosh’s reign, Mordechai refused to bow to Haman because of the idol Haman would wear on his neck. … Read More >>

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It Has Merely Just Begun

by Rabbi Meir Goldberg

I wrote this article in December as a response to the Klal Perspectives Kiruv edition, and specifically the article by Rabbi Ilan Feldman. I first sent it out to Kiruv Rabbis via listserves, and after hearing much positive feedback, I submitted a condensed version to Mishpacha Magazine, which was more understandable to those not involved in Kiruv.

I prefer the original since it touches on many important issues relating to Kiruv, and it is more passionate as well.

The older generation of kiruv (Jewish outreach) professionals often waxes poetic of the kiruv glory days, which began sometime after the Six-Day War and ended in the early 90s. Rav Noach Weinberg’s dream of changing the world was, to a large extent, successful: tens of thousands became frum, and so many more were reconnected in some meaningful way to their heritage.   Over the last 15 years, the secular Jewish landscape and the kiruv response has changed. As a result, the editors of Klal Perspectives, an online magazine, asked 17 kiruv leaders to write about current outreach efforts, how success is measured, and whether kiruv has run its course due to assimilation and the … Read More >>

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Challenge to All Anonymous Voices

By Yoel Finkelman

[Editor’s Note: As mentioned a few days ago, Dr. Yoel Finkelman submitted a thoughtful but challenging reaction to an earlier piece that spoke of an anonymous Torah Voice. Others will certainly disagree, but I firmly believe that we fail in our mission if we cannot listen to tough criticism couched respectfully. We need either to refute it, or to concede and change when problems are pointed out to us. The best criticism often comes from people outside our arba amos. I hope to find the time in a few days, BEH, to pen a response, unless readers beat me to making whatever points I plan to make.]

Dear Rabbi Adlerstein,

Once again, I find myself impressed with your writing and with your recent post about the significant Torah personality who took his community to task. A young observant man, an amateur boxer and Israeli champion, refused to take part in a Shabbat weigh-in and was disqualified from an international tournament. Rather than appreciate the mesirut nefesh, some lambasted him for ever getting involved in boxing. That Torah personality challenged the community’s small-mindedness and lack of bein adam lechaveiro. He boldly insisted that God has granted people … Read More >>

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The Halo Effect and Good Fences-The Weberman Case and Abuse Prevention in Our Community – Part Two

by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

Imagine entering a nearly deserted shul one morning and seeing a fellow taking a number of dollar bills from the pushka (charity) box. Would you suspect that he was stealing charity money? Well, it depends. If the person is attractive, well-dressed, and “your type,” you will probably assume he had put a large-denomination bill in the pushka and was merely taking change. However, if it was an unsavory character, you would be quite certain that he was helping himself to some of the charity funds.

The logic that drove your thinking was coined “The Halo Effect” by Edward Thorndike, former president of the American Psychological Association, in an article published in 1920, where he described it as, “A generalization from the perception of one outstanding personality trait to an overly favorable evaluation of the whole personality.”

He based his findings on a study conducted on two commanding officers who were asked to evaluate their solders in terms of physical qualities (such as neatness and bearing), intellect, leadership skills, and personal qualities (including responsibility, selflessness, and cooperation). He discovered that once a soldier was given a high rating in his physical qualities, he was far … Read More >>

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Reacting to the Weberman Case

by Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz

[Editor's note: Presumably, CC readers are not interested in sitting in judgment about events they have neither the knowledge nor the authority to judge. Many of us, however, do need to learn much more about the parameters of abuse, and the possibility of witness intimidation. A high-profile trial (with others waiting in the wing) in the frum community increases our awareness of problems with death-dealing consequences. Since I have the pleasure of speaking at times with Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, who possesses a rare blend of experience, professionalism and courage, I encouraged him to submit some reaction. He first offered to submit an original piece; when that proved impracticable for him, we agreed to post the essay he published on his own blog. Here is Part One -YA]

Dear Readers:

Many of you have asked tough questions regarding my advocacy on behalf of Weberman’s victim and I would like to thank those of you who took the time to write and ask them. From my vantage point, questions are a quintessential sign of respect; it means you considered the issues to be worthy of your time and thoughts.

Here are some of the questions … Read More >>

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Torah Values, Right – Wing Politics, and Health Reform

by Micah Segelman

Socially conservative principles and strong rhetorical support for Israel, among other factors, attract many in the Orthodox world to the GOP. While in of itself this is perfectly reasonable it’s a serious mistake, too often made, to conflate Torah values with right wing politics as a whole. While the right shares some of our values they betray others. Admittedly, with the Republican Party’s current disarray following the election and years of infighting it’s difficult to define a coherent Republican platform to evaluate. But it seems that one of the defining positions of the GOP since Obama’s 2008 election – their stark opposition to health reform in 2009 – 2010 – is inconsistent with our principles.

A Jewish society run according to Jewish law would be required to provide health care for those who can’t afford it. This is apparent from the Chofetz Chaim in Ahavas Chesed (3:3) and the Tzitz Eliezer (15:40:17). The Tzitz Eliezer writes that, “…the government, which must be concerned with the health of the population as one of its top priorities, must set aside funds …” (for more background see Noam Solomon’s “Concierge Medicine in Halacha”). The degree to which someone must … Read More >>

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Chasing Away The Sandman – The Hurricane Sandy Wakeup Call

by Yehuda L. Oppenheimer

Much has been, and will continue to be written, about the calamity that was Hurricane Sandy. Thousands rendered homeless, millions without power; an incalculable loss of money, possessions, any sense of security. . . the full extent of the suffering is really beyond comprehension. Economists claim: “There has not been such devastation affecting so many participants in the US economy before.” That is to say, even when compared to the trauma of 9/11/2001. Although there was far more loss of life at that awful time, the calamity did not directly injure as many people as Sandy has. For the American Orthodox Jewish community in particular, I am not aware of any incident that directly affected so many with serious hardship as this hurricane. In fact, as time goes on, it seems that the impact is growing, as the scope grows larger and larger.

How do we think about such a tragedy from a theological perspective? What message is Hashem sending us with such a large megaphone? Although I claim no special insight into His inscrutable ways, it would seem that Chapters 40 and 41 of Yeshayahu are particularly germane. Chapter 40 begins with the famous … Read More >>

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Staying Still to Serve

By Binyamin Ehrenkranz

When He finished speaking with Avraham, G-d left [him]. Avraham then returned to his place. — Gen. 18:33

Frank took me to the Oval Office (my first view of it) . Henry Kissinger was also there, with Nixon, and when the exchange had gone on for about fifteen minutes Dwight Chapin (appointments secretary and dirty trickster) entered discreetly and handed the President a note.

I instantly inferred that this was the procedure by which guests were signalled to leave, and was therefore surprised when Nixon said to Chapin, “Tell him to wait just a minute,” and resumed his conversation with me. Upon the conclusion of the point he was making, I rose and said the usual thing about how busy the President was, we all shook hands, and I left. As Frank and I walked away from the White House, he told me that I had violated protocol. “The way it works is you never terminate a session with the President, he terminates it . As long as he says nothing abortive, it signifies that he wants things to continue as they are, and the tradition is that we are all there at the pleasure … Read More >>

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Death: A Nice Opportunity for Regret

by Erica Brown

THOMAS ARNOLD KEMP was executed this past April through lethal injection. He stole $200 from a college student in Tucson in 1992 and then murdered him. It took seven minutes for Mr. Kemp to die. His last words: “I regret nothing.”

Really?

I have been thinking about Mr. Kemp and death and regret, perhaps obsessively. Regret incites us to review and reflect on our actions; when we miss the mark, regret generates disappointment and grief. Regret would not have kept Mr. Kemp alive. But it might have kept him decent.

Regret is an essential part of repentance in Jewish law, and, as a Jewish educator, I find myself thinking about regret each year before Yom Kippur. As part of my research into the subject this year, I handed out index cards to my students from age 18 to over 80, and asked them to list a small regret and a large regret.

Here is a random sampling.

In the small-regret category:

I didn’t participate more in school.

I am sorry I didn’t take more vacations.

I was nasty to people.

I regret not trying harder in college.

I should have paused to notice a stranger and … Read More >>

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The Decline and Fall of the American Empire

by Steven Pruzansky

The most charitable way of explaining the election results of 2012 is that Americans voted for the status quo – for the incumbent President and for a divided Congress. They must enjoy gridlock, partisanship, incompetence, economic stagnation and avoidance of responsibility. And fewer people voted. As I write, with almost all the votes counted, President Obama has won fewer votes than John McCain won in 2008, and more than ten million off his own 2008 total.

But as we awake from the nightmare, it is important to eschew the facile explanations for the Romney defeat that will prevail among the chattering classes. Romney did not lose because of the effects of Hurricane Sandy that devastated this area, nor did he lose because he ran a poor campaign, nor did he lose because the Republicans could have chosen better candidates, nor did he lose because Obama benefited from a slight uptick in the economy due to the business cycle.

Romney lost because he didn’t get enough votes to win.

That might seem obvious, but not for the obvious reasons. Romney lost because the conservative virtues – the traditional American virtues – of liberty, hard work, free enterprise, private initiative and aspirations to moral greatness – no longer inspire or animate a majority of the electorate. The notion of the “Reagan Democrat” is one cliché that should be permanently retired.

Ronald Reagan himself could not win an election in today’s America.

The simplest reason why Romney lost was because it is impossible to compete against free stuff. Every businessman knows this; that is why the “loss leader” or the giveaway is such a powerful marketing tool. Obama’s America is one in which free stuff is given away: the adults among the 47,000,000 on food stamps clearly recognized for whom they should vote, and so they did, by the tens of millions; those who – courtesy of Obama – receive two full years of unemployment benefits (which, of course, both disincentivizes looking for work and also motivates people to work off the books while collecting their windfall) surely know for whom to vote; so too those who anticipate “free” health care, who expect the government to pay their mortgages, who look for the government to give them jobs. The lure of free stuff is irresistible.

Imagine two restaurants side by side. One sells its customers fine cuisine at a reasonable price, and the other offers a free buffet, all-you-can-eat as long as supplies last. Few – including me – could resist the attraction of the free food. Now imagine that the second restaurant stays in business because the first restaurant is forced to provide it with the food for the free buffet, and we have the current economy, until, at least, the first restaurant decides to go out of business. (Then, the government takes over the provision of free food to its patrons.)

The defining moment of the whole campaign was the revelation (by the amoral Obama team) of the secretly-recorded video in which Romney acknowledged the difficulty of winning an election in which “47% of the people” start off against him because they pay no taxes and just receive money – “free stuff” – from the government. Almost half of the population has no skin in the game – they don’t care about high taxes, promoting business, or creating jobs, nor do they care that the money for their free stuff is being borrowed from their children and from the Chinese. They just want the free stuff that comes their way at someone else’s expense. In the end, that 47% leaves very little margin for error for any Republican, and does not bode well for the future.

It is impossible to imagine a conservative candidate winning against such overwhelming odds. People do vote their pocketbooks. In essence, the people vote for a Congress who will not raise their taxes, and for a President who will give them free stuff, never mind who has to pay for it.

That engenders the second reason why Romney lost: the inescapable conclusion that the electorate is dumb – ignorant, and uninformed. Indeed, it does not pay to be an informed voter, because most other voters – the clear majority – are unintelligent and easily swayed by emotion and raw populism. That is the indelicate way of saying that too many people vote with their hearts and not their heads. That is why Obama did not have to produce a second term agenda, or even defend his first-term record. He needed only to portray Mitt Romney as a rapacious capitalist who throws elderly women over a cliff, when he is not just snatching away their cancer medication, while starving the poor and cutting taxes for the rich. Obama could get away with saying that “Romney wants the rich to play by a different set of rules” – without ever defining what those different rules were; with saying that the “rich should pay their fair share” – without ever defining what a “fair share” is; with saying that Romney wants the poor, elderly and sick to “fend for themselves” – without even acknowledging that all these government programs are going bankrupt, their current insolvency only papered over by deficit spending. Obama could get away with it because he knew he was talking to dunces waving signs and squealing at any sight of him.

During his 1956 presidential campaign, a woman called out to Adlai Stevenson: “Senator, you have the vote of every thinking person!” Stevenson called back: “That’s not enough, madam, we need a majority!” Truer words were never spoken.

Continue reading → The Decline and Fall of the American Empire

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Personal Invitation to an Orthodox Community Bloc Party

by Shlomie Boehm

Our community is being invited to a party. Valuable party favors will be distributed. There is just one caveat — the community must show up en masse, for ten to fifteen minutes per person. I am talking about the November 6 elections.

Just a few days remain until the 2012 elections, and political fever has gripped the country in a manner unprecedented since perhaps the Civil War. Everywhere you turn people are debating the pros and cons of candidates, frequently with passionate views on both sides of the debate. The presidential race is currently viewed as a dead heat, and many local New York elections, as well as local elections around the country, are similarly a dead heat. Candidates, particularly for State Senate and Assembly positions, as well as candidates running for the United States House of Representatives, are so desperate for every vote that they are happy to meet with even small groups of constituents in the hopes of garnering those one or two elusive votes that may decide their campaigns. Importantly, close elections are wonderful news for bloc constituencies, such as the Orthodox community.

A “bloc constituency” is a group of voters that … Read More >>

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Genesis and the Higgs Boson

by Daniel Korobkin

Jews worldwide have just begun again the weekly Torah reading cycle with the book of Genesis and the story of creation. This comes on the heels of this summer’s most important announcement in physics of the last 30 years, the discovery of the Higgs boson particle.

In layman’s terms, here’s how it’s explained: for decades in the 20th century, physicists have theorized the existence of subatomic particles that make up all that exists in our universe. Some of these particles have mass, like electrons, and some have no mass, like photons, the particles that comprise light. These particles were first created during the Big Bang, some 15-20 billion years ago according to the current scientific understanding, and formed the basic building blocks of all matter and energy that we find in our universe today. This theory is known as the Standard Model of particle physics. Over the last several decades, scientists have been able to verify the existence of many of these subatomic particles using a big machine called a particle accelerator collider, which, by generating a huge amount of energy, causes particles to collide. Scientists observe the results of these collisions and can thus confirm … Read More >>

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Metzitzah and the Halachic Process

by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

The Metzitzah controversy is nothing new.

In the 1800’s, in Germany, the elements of Reform sought to ban circumcision entirely, attacking the “barbaric” practice of Metzitzah b’peh (MBP), where a Mohel would suck the blood away from the circumcision site.

A little earlier history is in order. The Talmud requires that after a Bris is performed, the blood must be suctioned away from the wound. The reason given is for the safety of the baby. Presumably, the purpose of Metzitzah is to cleanse the wound area of any germs and prevent infection.

It is easy to understand the claim that using the Mohel’s mouth to clean the wound is counterproductive. Some children were becoming ill in the 1800’s and Metzitzah was being blamed. Due to the controversy over Metzitzah b’Peh, many of the Sages of that time permitted the use of a tube to suction the blood.

This innovation was controversial, but many of the greatest authorities of that time and more recent times accepted it.

The Chofetz Chaim quotes the opinion of the Yad Eliezer, who permitted blood to be pressed out of the wound with an absorbent cloth, such as a … Read More >>

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