By Avrohom Gordimer
Last week, Cross-Currents featured an essay by guest contributor Rav Dov Fischer about the recent Morethodoxy articles which called for deletion of the morning berachah “She-lo asani ishah”.
Morethodoxy has continued on this route, posting yet another article on the topic:
The final paragraph of this latest Morethodoxy article, which is the article’s punch line, raises great concern:
Even if we adults feel comfortable with the matbe’a of “shelo asani isha”, clearly, our children perceive an undercurrent of male superiority in this bracha. Whether we choose “she’asani yisrael” or some other solution (I have been saying “she’asani isha” for years, because I am truly grateful for being female and because there is liturgical precedent for it), we must recognize that the negative messaging is getting through. Even if our girls and boys absorb negative gender stereotypes from our surrounding culture, I would not want them to perceive them from within our holy tradition.
The article, without invoking any halachic reasoning (other than an unfounded claim of liturgical precedent for reciting “she-asani ishah”), preaches abrogation of the current text in Birkhos Ha-Shachar in favor of a different text, for the current text creates “negative messaging” and … Read More >>
by Pinny Taub
I reached a point that I cannot sit idly by and watch how the Jewish people are being stepped on, day in and day out, by none other than people who call themselves Orthodox Jews. The chillul Hashem (Desecration of G-d’s Name) that is being created is beyond words. The kind of garbage that is being thrown on our gedolim (leading Rabbis) and holy organizations has not happened since the days of the pogroms and it’s all coming from within. It hurts me to write this to the very same people I once believed were protectors of abuse victims in the Jewish community. It hurts me even more to write to the very same people I once called very dear friends and believed were helping my brothers and sisters in pain.
What is important is the truth coming from my broken heart.
I am Pinny Taub, who is a survivor of one of the most horrific crimes that has happened to a Jew by a Jew. My story is known and is not important to repeat at this time. Despite all that, I decided that I would not be a victim anymore and I would … Read More >>
by Dovid Landesman
Many of us, based on personal conversations as well as perusal of various blogs, seem to share discomfort when confronted with yet another advertising campaign by Kuppat ha-Ir and its fellow travelers. It has become a rarity to see pictures of R. Aron Leib, R Elyashiv or R. Chaim Kanievsky unattached to promises of health, wealth, zivugim and/or children et. al Various deals are offered for prayers at a potpourri of holy sites in Israel and abroad, all suggesting that yeshuah is but a phone call and credit card payment away.
At the beginning of last week a flyer appeared in my mailbox soliciting funds for the provision of supplies to those who were travelling to Miron for Lag ba-Omer. In a departure from the practice of similar solicitations offering bounty for those providing chai rotel of inebriating liquids, this request was for money to purchase shoko and a lachmaniah [a bag of chocolate milk and a roll] – I assume for the children who would be attending the hilula. Incidentally, but this would be grounds for a separate posting, many people claim that Rebbi Shimnon bar Yochai leaves Miron on Lag ba-Omer because he … Read More >>
by Rabbi Binyomin Gidon HaLevi Kelsen, Esq.
Note: The following is a letter written in 1939 by the Piasceztna Rebbe to his followers before Pesach 5699 (1939). At this time, though the war had not yet begun, there were some indications of the horrors to come. The Piasceztna Rebbe had urged as many of his followers as possible to leave Europe. By April of 1939, Pesach 5699, it was becoming difficult if not impossible to get out of Poland. This letter sent out to his followers on Erev Pesach was meant to be a source of comfort and chizuk to his people. This letter was originally printed in Hebrew in Sefer Derech HaMelech, letters, p. 409.
My dear ones, I am calling to you and speaking to your souls. The Holy days of Pesach are approaching. The holiness of these days infuse us thoroughly; inside and out. Their light fills us and encompasses us.
Nevertheless as Dovid HaMelech is stated in Sefer Tehillim (97:11) “Ohr zarua laTzaddik, U’ l’Yishrei lev simcha” “Light is sown for the righteous and there is joy for the upright of heart”. Light is like a seedling; at the beginning it requires our … Read More >>
by Rabbi Naphtali Hoff
The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) recently released a draft of a strategic plan that speaks to the ongoing challenge facing non-Orthodox Jews in this country. The release was accompanied by data showing that the Conservative movement has lost 14 percent of its affiliated families since 2001, and twice that percentage in the northeast. This plan came on the heels of the Union of Reform Judaism’s announcement of an 18-month think tank session, to include all the major arms of the Reform Movement. While some of Reform’s need for reassessment emerged from the broader economic downturn, it was mainly driven by the loss of membership in the movement’s congregations. In a similar vein, Reconstructionist rabbis were recently challenged to “rethink the rabbinate” in light of the shrinking market of non-Orthodox Jews and the lack of congregational job opportunities. Much of the blame for dwindling numbers and general disconnect has been laid at the doorstep of the non-Orthodox synagogue. It is claimed that these houses of worship have become increasingly irrelevant. (Perhaps the only Jewish institution that suffers greater criticism is the synagogue’s stepchild, the congregational religious school.) For that reason, many Jewish funders are … Read More >>
by Jeff Jacoby
LAST WEEKEND in Itamar, an Israeli settlement in the Samarian hills, terrorists infiltrated the home of Udi and Ruth Fogel and perpetrated a massacre of the innocents.
The killers started with Yoav, the Fogels’ 11-year-old, and Elad, his 4-year-old brother. Yoav’s throat was slit — as he was reading in bed, one report said — and Elad was stabbed twice in the heart. Then the attackers murdered Ruth, knifing her as she came out of the bathroom. In the next room they killed Ruth’s sleeping husband, Udi, and their infant daughter, Hadas. Apparently they didn’t notice the last bedroom, where the two other boys, Ro’i, 8, and Yishai, 2, were asleep. It wasn’t until half past midnight, when 12-year-old Tamar came home from a Friday night youth group, that the horrific slaughter was discovered. Much of the house was drenched in blood, and the 2-year-old was shaking his parents’ bodies, crying for them to wake up.
What explains such unspeakable evil? What sort of human being deliberately butchers a sleeping baby, or plunges a knife into a toddler’s heart?
As news of the massacre in Itamar spread, young men in Gaza … Read More >>
By Rivkah Moriah
As my son’s third yartzeit approaches, I can hardly believe it has been three years already. It seems like just yesterday I would wait in anticipation for him to arrive home from yeshiva, my ears pricked to hear him walk in the door. But sometimes it seems like an eternity since I last saw him.
Avraham David was one of eight boys and young men killed in a terrorist attack on Rosh Chodesh Adar, March 6, 2008, while learning in the library of Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav. He was one of five of them who were high school students from Yashlatz.
So much has changed since then. The most obvious, for me and my family, is that Avraham David is gone. Grief never goes away, but it changes over time. Initially, there was great shock. Just hanging in there was an act of faith that, if God had a plan, He would be there for us. Now, three years later, life has a lot more routine. His brothers get to school on time, supper gets cooked, there is even time and energy for extracurricular activities for the kids and a dance class for myself.
I actually … Read More >>
by Dov Fischer
Twenty years ago, a friend arranged for me to have lunch with a prominent Jewish name-partner at a major Los Angeles law firm. My friend explained to me that the partner is non-religious and particularly skeptical about Orthodox Judaism – all of its “nitpicking over minutiae, pilpulistic nonsense, and hair-splitting over technicalities.” I was about to begin law school after having practiced actively as a pulpit rav for ten years, and I appreciated the opportunity to meet with someone who had “made it big” in this new field I was entering.
Lunch was very nice. He paid for it, which already had made it nice. Beyond that, I politely allowed him to go through his litany, and we bantered vigorously but warmly – he, a prominent, successful attorney without faith who was not going to ruin his lunch by actually contemplating certain existential questions during perhaps his only opportunity in a lifetime to sit one-on-one with a reasonably knowledgeable Orthodox rav. And me, dipping my toes into a new world, a world in which I would have to deal with such people not as their rav but as their underling, at least in the … Read More >>
On Brain Death, Cardiac Death, Defining Halakhic Death, and Trying to Hurt Torah Jews Who Disagree with You
Fair-minded people are torn by the subject of when a dying person has passed away. Outside the Torah community, doctors and patients wrestle with “when to pull the plug.” With enhanced technologies prolonging life externalities, the questions become harder and more urgent for everyone. Not long ago, a shul member told me of his relative who essentially could not die, despite his dead body, because the implanted coronary device automatically would jolt electric charges to re-start the dead heart every time it stopped beating. The device was powered by a battery with a quasi-lifetime guarantee; it just would not stop working, and the lifeless body was being jolted every few minutes for days. The hospital ethics committee had to work with the device manufacturer to bring in a company specialist to neutralize the battery by remote control because they ethically recoiled from cutting open the chest and pulling out the battery to stop the device.
In this brave new world, halakhists must wrestle, too. If secular medical and scientific society agrees on a definition of when death happens, while … Read More >>
by Dovid Landesman
Is it possible to function as an independent community without mashiach? Or, are there problems and dilemmas that remain unsolvable before his arrival? The Talmud (Ketubot 111a) recounts that there are three oaths that set some of the parameters that govern communal Jewish life in the post Beit ha-Mikdash era. G-d made us swear that we would not forcibly attempt to recapture Eretz Yisrael nor would we rebel against the rule of the nations – i.e., seek independence. He also decreed that the nations of the world were duty bound not to overly oppress us. Whether or not there is a link between the first two oaths and the third and whether the first two might be abrogated with the permission of the nations are critical elements in the Zionist/anti Zionist debate. Although surely worthy of exploration, this is not the subject being addressed.
Interestingly, the gemara does not explain what precipitated the imposition of these oaths. Under the guise of makom hinichu lihitgader bo – they [Chazal] left room for our speculation – we can conjecture that the oaths had to be imposed because of the inherent – and perhaps insurmountable – difficulties when … Read More >>
by Rabbi Meir Goldberg
Most of us know about the tremendous chesed, kindness, which abounds in the frum community. We are oftentimes reminded of the greatness that truly epitomizes Klal Yisroel, the Congregation of Israel – of which Hashem proudly proclaims, “Yisroel Asher bicha Espoer,” The Jewish people in whom I am glorified. (Yoma 87). However, we also want to let our secular brethren know about it so that they see that being a frum Jew is something which is beautiful in the eyes of Hashem and man. We want them to be exposed to the “Diracheha darchei noam,” “its ways are ways of pleasantness,” of our Torah and those loyal to it.
The Kiddush Hashem created by the residents of the Far Rockaway/Lawrence community during the blizzard of 2010 was both awe inspiring in its depth and majestic in its beauty.
Here is the story:
This winter was an exciting one for college campus Rabbis and their organizations. 20 students from my organization, Rutgers Jewish Xperience, as well as some 200 secular Jewish college students from dozens of campuses around the country, were on their way to Eretz Yisroel on various kiruv trips such as MEOR, Pathways, Aish, … Read More >>
by Dovid Landesman
For many years, the Torah Umesorah Annual Dinner was scheduled for the week of Chanukah. One year, R. Gedaliah Schorr zt’l, rosh yeshiva of Torah Vodaat, and at the time, the only member of the organization’s Rabbinic Advisory Board who spoke unaccented and fluent English, was invited to give the keynote address. The master of ceremonies, when introducing Rav Schorr, decided to use the opportunity to offer his take on the educational needs of the country. In his lengthy remarks, he challenged Torah Vodaath to open a college and “show how it should be done.” When it was finally his turn to speak, Rav Schorr stood silently at the podium for a moment, a pensive expression on his face. He then turned toward the m.c. with an enormous smile and said: “You know, I was under the impression that we defeated the Greeks!”
The relationship between am Yisrael and Greece has always been somewhat equivocal. Greece is counted as one of the four nations [along with Bavel, Persia and Rome/Edom] who have subjected Israel to exile, yet throughout the period when we were subservient to Greece, we were never physically absent from the land of Israel. … Read More >>
by Rabbi Heshy Grossman
[Editors' Note: As a follow-up to a recent discussion, Rabbi Grossman sent us this article, which presents the oft-misunderstood theoretical framework underlying the traditional Orthodox perspective on women and Talmud study. It was originally published in Tradition magazine (Vol. 28:3) as part of a symposium on women’s education.]
Present-day discussions on this theme often overlook an obvious question: how do men and women differ in Torah’s eyes, and what are their respec¬tive roles in G-d’s eternal scheme? Once this matter is understood, the differences in Torah study for men and women are seen to be a natural, organic outgrowth of the way the classical Jewish tradition views the sexes.
The biblical difference between men and women is literally expressed in their given names, ish and isha. The letters yod and heh mark the differences in these names. The Talmud (Menahot 29b) says cryptically: This world was created with the letter heh; the world to come, with the letter yod.” Maharal and others write that the yod, the man’s letter, represents the metaphysical – a world of pure thought – that which transcends the earth. Therefore the yod, a simple dot, floats above the line of … Read More >>
by Sara Yoheved Rigler
I sat in the car, parked at the end of the trail, nervously waiting for my children. We usually did family hikes, but the Yehudiya, Israel’s most popular hike, is “for experienced hikers only,” with several steep ascents. That disqualified me. Our 19-year-old daughter Pliyah and 13-year-old son Yisrael were anxious to do the hike, so my husband and I decided to let them go by themselves. My husband had dropped the kids off at the trailhead at 10 that morning. Now, at 4 PM, allowing extra time for a hike that was supposed to take five hours, I started to worry.
I couldn’t phone them because they had purposely not taken their cell phones. The trail cuts off at the top of an 8-meter waterfall. The hiker has to jump into the large, deep pool below, swim across, and resume the trail on the other side. Only water-friendly devices survive.
I recited Psalms, trying to remain calm, but after 40 minutes of waiting, I left the car by the locked roadblock and started to walk along the trail from the end. I had been walking less than five minutes when I spotted a figure … Read More >>
by Shmuel Jablon
I have what may be described as a more “diverse” background than many other Rabbis who serve as principals of Orthodox Day Schools. I am a Baal Teshuvah who grew up in the Reform movement, briefly flirted (as an 18 year old) with Reconstructionism, started studying at the Conservative Rabbinical School in Los Angeles (where I did earn an education degree) and then ended up learning at Yeshiva of Los Angeles. From there I went to Hebrew Theological College (Skokie Yeshiva) where I learned Torah and earned smicha in a Makkom Torah that is truly a home for all kinds of Orthodox Jews. Since then, I have been profoundly influenced by -HaRav Shlomo Aviner shlit”a- Rosh Yeshiva of Ateret Yerushalayim, Rav of Bet El and author of over 100 sefarim. In many ways, he is my Rebbe. He not only has deepened by sense of Religious Zionism, he has also taught me a great deal about Ahavat Yisrael. As a Baal Teshuvah, I often have the impulse to be strident or extreme. Yet, he has always stressed the importance of love and respect for all, even those with whom we have honest disagreements. He also stressed … Read More >>
By Shimon Stern
News item from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism: [Women of the Wall activist Anat] Hoffman points to a photograph on the wall of her office of Rosa Parks being fingerprinted, and likens her experience this week to that struggle for civil rights.
Anat had just dozed off at her desk under the photograph of Rosa Parks — the one she always liked to point out to guests — when suddenly she felt the presence of someone else in the room with her.
Slowly moving her hand to a letter opener, she grabbed it and swiftly turned around. Relief washed over her and she smiled. It wasn’t a haredi, only an elderly black woman.
“Who are you?” she asked.
Without a word, the visitor pointed to the photograph on the wall, of when she was younger, and alive. It showed her being fingerprinted by a Montgomery, Alabama police detective.
Anat was incredulous. “It’s you?” she gasped.
The apparition spoke. “Yes,” she said, nodding her head. “I understand that you have been invoking my memory.”
“Yes, yes!” Anat enthused. “I am like you. Look, see!” And with a flourish, she held out her finger, … Read More >>
By Dov Fischer
NEWS ITEM: In a special news report published online by the NEW YORK JEWISH WEEK, a woman was designated by Rabbi Avraham Weiss to lead Kabbalat Shabbat services on Friday night, July 30, for the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, an Orthodox Union synagogue.
First, a review of the “Key Players” associated with American Modern Orthodox (MO) Judaism: Most MO pulpit rabbonim typically have hailed from Yeshiva University (YU) in New York and its Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS). MO synagogues typically affiliate with the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (UO) or the National Council of Young Israel (sometimes both), and the rabbis tend to be members of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA). Ten years ago, Rabbi Avi Weiss, who taught for many years at YU’s Stern College for Women and who is Rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale (HIR), founded Yeshiva Chovevei Torah (YCT) to provide an Orthodox seminary to the Left of RIETS. Rabbis in YCT tend to associate in their own rabbinical body, the grandly named International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF), because the RCA does not admit most of them to membership. A few of RCA’s 900-plus members also join … Read More >>
by Dovid Landesman
This evening I had an experience that reinforced my sense of the singular quality of the Jewish community living in Eretz Yisrael. There is a unique familial relationship that this land can and often does evoke from its citizens. In place of the divisions along ethnic grounds or according to the level of religious commitment, I was privileged to witness an example of klal Yisrael at its finest hour of achdut. For a short period of time there were no barriers – just a group of brothers working together in perfect harmony.
The scenario: My son, who serves as a volunteer medic for Hatzalah and Magen David Adom, is also on call as member of a police unit responsible for search and rescue in the Judean hills. Tonight, as we were about to begin learning, he received a call from the police dispatcher informing him that a cyclist had fallen in Nachal Sorek, a popular trail that begins near Hadassah hospital and ends near Beit Shemesh.
The area where the cyclist was injured is accessible only by four wheel drive vehicles, so we got into my son’s pick-up and set off. My son-in-law, a paramedic in … Read More >>
by Doron Beckerman
Yoav Lalloum is no newcomer to the anti-discrimination scene. His Noar Kahalachah organization was established in 2002 in order to eradicate the ongoing rejection and humiliation of Sefardi applicants to Ashkenazi-run schools, ostensibly on religious grounds.
There is no question that, as the various writers here have acknowledged, racially motivated discrimination can be found in Ashkenazi Charedi society, and that some school principals refuse to follow guidelines, sometimes even directives, from Charedi Torah leaders to increase their Sefardic student body. Yoav Lalloum, in claiming racial prejudice, undoubtedly has a leg to stand on.
But is that what happened in Emanuel? As in most cases, there is probably some truth on both sides of the debate, but I am convinced that the underlying issue was never ethnic prejudice. A reasoned analysis of the facts yields that there is indeed a significant number of Sefardi families who are, or can be, a negative influence. The Sefardi mother who exhaled a plume a cigarette smoke into the TV camera, claiming her daughter was not accepted solely because of ethnic prejudice, is an image burnished into the collective mind of many observers. There are also many Sefardi families who do … Read More >>
By Dov Fischer The recent brouhaha in Israel, occasioned by an unfortunate rush to pre-judgment by the Israeli High Court of Justice, raises a question for us all to consider: How do we indeed relate to the Other? In a world where there is racism and bigotry between Black and White, Shiite and Sunni, Hutu and Tutsi – where and how do we Jews stack up?
For that matter – in a world of bloodshed and internecine violence among nations and between individuals, in a world marred by reports of corruption and immorality – who are we, the Jewish people, as a Community of Israel?
We are a good people. Whether Haredi or “Modern” or, for that matter, utterly non-Observant, we are – as a People – an accepting people. Racism is not our way. Similarly, despite the presence among our number of some egregious financial cheats, we are a profoundly honest people. Despite an occasional act of violence ascribed to one of our own, we are a monolithically peaceful people. As the prophet Bil’am described us: We are a nation that dwells alone, whose behavior patterns and values lie utterly outside any realm of contemplation of the Nations. … Read More >>
by Rivka Gedalia
Eight o’clock in the morning, Tuesday June 22, a cool breeze blew over the Shomron hills as the mothers of the Beis Yaakov Chasidi gathered at the chartered bus headed to the Supreme Court. This was their third summons – the first on April 29, the second, last Tuesday June 15. On both occasions, not one of the parents were put on the stand or asked any questions, not one was cross examined.
“What are you being subpoenaed for?” I asked innocently.
“We don’t know,” said Sarah, “we only found out yesterday that we have to be in court today. Last week in court, we were not allowed to speak. In April, only two men spoke, no one else.”
It was at that hearing on April 29 that the representatives of the Beis Yaakov Chasidi were ordered to come to a compromise with those who initiated the lawsuit. And since coming to an agreement on religious education is unlikely when working with anti-religious activists, Judge Levy ordered: have your separate tracks, but do it my way: Ashkenazim and Sephardim will be separate for prayer and classes on Jewish law. For the rest of the classes, put the girls together.
But there never were separate Sephardi and Ashkenazi tracks, the girls always learned the entire gamut of Jewish law as well as prayed together. How could he invent his own form of discrimination when this suit was supposedly against discrimination? Continue reading → I Accompanied the Women of Emanuel to Court Today
by Dovid Landesman
Events in the last twenty-four hours have caused my inherent uncertainties about life in Israel to resurface. This afternoon I attended the mass demonstration [peaceful and orderly, thank God] in support of the parents from Emanuel who were sentenced to jail terms for contempt of court in refusing to re-enroll their daughters in the local Beis Yaakov as per the decision of the Israeli Supreme Court. My conflicts began as I made my way toward Rechov Yirmiyahu where the rally was to take place. I passed a young man wearing a knitted kippah, holding a placard that read “sinat chinam” (needless hatred). I asked him to whom he was referring and he answered, “the demonstrators.” The early afternoon sun was brutally hot, so it was critical that I try hard not to loose my cool. I calmly asked him, “Do you really feel qualified to make that kind of accusation against Rav Elyashiv and Rav Aron Leib Shteinman?” Noticing his perplexed demeanor, I walked away, wondering why he did not understand what I wanted from him.
Permit me to share my feelings and fears with you. As a caveat, I am convinced by evidence that I … Read More >>
by Doron Beckerman
A reaction to the recent Cross-Current debate, in verse.
Meager meals, discarded peels, joy in truth discerned Grand ideals, delighted squeals, trashcans being burned
A focused life, a scalpel knife, study, persevere Avoiding strife, man and wife, your kind’s not wanted here
Invite the guest, pass the test, benevolence and grace See the best, thanks expressed, another abhorrent case
Guarding eyes, eschewing lies, praying with heart aflame Heeding cries, spiritual highs, rocks that blight and maim
Passion, drive, souls alive, belief as strong as cedars Wake up at five, for greatness strive, misinforming leaders
Yet these exist, they will persist, a beacon to the nation Through haze and mist, the catalyst, for merit and salvation.
[Rabbi Doron Beckerman is a Rebbe in Yeshivat Ohr Yerushalayim. Once upon a time, he was American]
by Dovid Landesman
My mother-in-law is an avid reader of The Jerusalem Post and awaits its daily delivery with great anticipation. As she peruses it, however, she becomes increasingly angry at the consistent chareidi bashing. I often wonder why she doesn’t simply cancel her subscription but suppose that she uses it as an outlet so that none of her minimal bad temper is ever directed at those she loves. I choose not to disagree with her as regards the issues she raises; however, I do feel that we – i.e., the chareidi community – have a marked tendency to mask many of the deficiencies that exist within our community by claiming that they are no more than the frightened ramblings of the leftist/secular world who live in trepidation of the demographics that might soon create a chareidi majority in Eretz Yisrael. I am also deeply concerned by the chareidi triumphalism often voiced on this blog as well as other chareidi media outlets which loudly proclaim how “goodly are our tents” – a statement that I am not certain is consistent with the facts on the ground. Can we be certain that if the media were absolutely unbiased public perception … Read More >>
by Dovid Landesman
I have often speculated to myself whether cynicism, of which I have been blessed with an inordinate amount, is in any way an exemplary or positive middah and I should thus try to direct it toward positive use, or if it might not be just another disguise employed by my yetzer ha-ra in which case I should do all that I can to suppress it. On the one hand, the Torah clearly expects us to demonstrate respect in ascribing purity of motive to our fellow Jews; the ideal of being dan l’kaf zechus even when an action appears to be incorrect or foolish. On the other hand, Chazal made it abundantly clear that they had little patience for behavior which fell within the parameters of the chassid shoteh. Given this unresolved apparent paradox, I allow myself to castigate not only those who sin, but also those whose actions clearly point to an abysmal lack of kavannah when reciting ata chonen l’adam da’as. To those who might feel that sarcasm has no place in the lexicon of bnei Torah, I point to the familiar words of Eliyahu ha-Navi in confronting the prophets of Ba’al [Melachim I 18:27]:
… Read More >>