by Michael Freund
This past Sunday I got a first-hand glimpse of one of the hottest phenomena in American pop culture and sports.
The venue was Metlife Stadium in New Jersey, the occasion was the first round of the National Football League playoffs.
Just prior to the start of the game between the New York Giants and the Atlanta Falcons, after the Giants had come onto the field, eight of their players headed toward the end zone, where they did something entirely unexpected.
These hulking and intimidating behemoths, who make their living by strapping on layers of protective body gear and pummelling their opponents, each knelt down on one knee, bowed their heads, and offered a silent prayer.
This act has come to be known as “Tebowing,” after Tim Tebow, the quarterback of the Denver Broncos, whose signature prayerful genuflections have become a popular and internet sensation.
Tebow, who has led his team to some stunning comeback victories, including this past weekend when he tossed an 80-yard touchdown pass in overtime to defeat the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers, is an unabashed fan of his Christian faith. He talks about it in interviews and does not shy away from publicly thanking … Read More >>
by Dovid Kornreich
There is a recurrent theme that I’ve read on Jblogs and newspapers, and it has two parts:
1) Chareidi society somehow engenders extremism and these incidents in Beit Shemesh are its bitter fruit.
2) Neglect by the rest of Chareidi leadership to publicly condemn the extreme acts is a form of acquiescence by silence.
The response to the first charge is that your average chareidi individual living in, let’s say Bayit Vegan or Har Nof, shares very little of the *cultural* values and norms of Mea She’arim Chareidim. The sad reality is that Chareidim are an extremely factionalized and subdivided group, and the divisions are deep and operate on many different levels of which outsiders simply have no appreciation.
True, on religious and political issues vis-a-vis non-Chareidim and especially the non-religious, most Chareidim seem to rally together as a unified group to oppose a common threat. But socially, there is very little meaningful contact between Mea Shea’rim Charedim (and their RBS offshoots) and the rest of the Chareidi population.
So one can’t credibly say that “Chareidi society” engenders violence, extremism, intolerance etc. There is very little *culturally* that unites all Chareidim. And it is the uniquely … Read More >>
by Michael Freund
What a remarkable breath of fresh air.
For the first time in recent memory, a prominent American politician has had the courage to speak some unvarnished truths about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
In video footage released on December 9, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich told the Jewish Channel, a cable TV network, that the Palestinians are an “invented people.”
“Remember, there was no Palestine as a state – it was part of the Ottoman Empire,” the former speaker of the House of Representatives said.
“I think we have an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and historically part of the Arab community,” Gingrich declared.
Whatever one might think of Gingrich’s stance on various other political matters, in this case there can be no disputing the historicity of his remarks.
Palestine and the Palestinians are in fact a modern invention, a fiction created with the aim of dismantling Israel and undermining its claim to its ancient patrimony.
Indeed, prior to the 1947 UN partition plan, even Palestinian Arab leaders openly affirmed this to be the case.
Take, for example, Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, who testified in 1937 before the Peel Commission, which was established by the British government to investigate the outbreak of Arab violence in British-ruled Palestine. Abdul-Hadi told the commission, that, “There is no such country as Palestine! ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria.”
A decade later, in May 1947, the representative of the Arab Higher Committee told the UN General Assembly much the same.
Palestinian nationalism only gained steam in subsequent decades, as the Arab states found it to be a useful proxy tool in their ongoing war against the Jewish state. They cultivated a Palestinian national consciousness and identity in order to create a narrative of Arab victimhood and Israeli aggression, which suited their political agenda.
Continue reading → The Invention of Palestine
by William Kolbrener
An alert reader, who goes by the moniker “S.” in the comments, pointed out this article, which appeared on the personal blog of Professor William Kolbrener, of the Department of English at Bar-Ilan University. We thank Prof. Kolbrener for his permission to republish.
Three days ago, on December 11, Judge Joseph Shapira of the Jerusalem District Court ruled, after a four-year legal drama, that Naomi Ragen in her novel Sotah knowingly copied from the work of the author Sarah Shapiro, Growing with My Children.
Though not publicized, I was the literary expert for Sarah Shapiro, the plaintiff, and I provided extensive written testimony which was then subject to cross-examination by Ragen’s lawyers in the Jerusalem court.
In the now widely-publicized decision of ninety-two pages, Justice Shapira wrote according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “that the plagiarism was ‘tantamount to a premeditated act,’ saying that Ragen acted knowingly and copied work created by the plaintiff.”
In an article yesterday in the Jerusalem Post, Ragen, who is a columnist for the paper, accuses Sarah Shapiro of “working out of a desire to silence my criticism of the Haredi [ultra-orthodox] community’s treatment of women, … Read More >>
By Karen Greenberg [A Young Writer Submission]
When I first decided to become an English major, I didn’t really anticipate any problems that would involve my Judaism. This is not a common choice for Orthodox college women, but I chose a different path because I knew what I loved and I was confident that I could land some sort of job with an English degree. Throughout my young adult life, I have read books that both complimented my Torah worldview and contradicted it. There were no problems with those books that were complimentary, but then I would pick up an Ayn Rand, for example, and I would have to learn to separate my aesthetic enjoyment of the work from the parts of the books that contended with my Jewish perspective on life. If I disagreed with what I read, there was no one to actively argue for the book’s point of view. In a debate between myself and a work of literature, I always won; and so I thought my college literature classes would be in the same vein. I would continue reading and writing, as I had always loved to do, and would simply filter out anything that … Read More >>
by Dovid Kornreich
I was waiting until the passing of her Sheloshim to see what the blogworld would have to say about Rebbetzin Batsheva Kanievsky’s life and unique impact on the Chareidi world before I ventured to speak my mind. To my surprise, there was nothing on the web beyond the regular online Jewish news outlet coverage and obituary-type blogposts.
Well, perhaps it is too premature to evaluate the Rebbetzin’s historical impact on Chareidi society so soon after her sudden passing, and perhaps it is inappropriate to first discuss sociology and not first express the depth of the loss of such a woman to us.
But in light of the raging blog-controversy over Open Orthodoxy’s feminist agenda, it seems that a post on the subject is timely, relevant, and important.
It is too important to let the moment pass without taking the opportunity to highlight the deep contrast in the different Orthodox societies’ responses to feminism — which the late Rebbetzin brought subtly into focus.
It is my hope that this seemingly aloof analysis of Rebbetzin Kanievsky’s unique position in Jewish society will be a catalyst to further admiration of Chareidi society, dispel harmful myths, and … Read More >>
By Robert Lebovits
I wonder if the creators of Cross Currents ever imagined that it would be such a vital forum for addressing the critical issues facing the Orthodox world. The present dialogue on the form and trajectory of Modern Orthodoxy – and the broad range of comments that have been put forward – are a testament to the success of this venue. Perhaps most impressive of all is the tenor of the discussion. Rabbis Adlerstein and Broyde have shown us all how to have discourse without disrespect, leaving polemics and acrimony by the wayside. There are some thoughts and ideas of my own that I would offer for consideration.
R. Broyde has identified the core dispute to be the question of whether the “Far Left” (FL) is or is not “seeking to leave the halachic community”. He states they are not and avers “the crux of the issue [is] they steadfastly refuse to defer to the judgments of the gedolim who dominate the community that Rabbi Adlerstein comes from and instead either put forward their own gedolim or deny the need for sanction from gedolim to make the changes they recommend”. I would suggest R. Broyde understates the … Read More >>
By Dovid Goldman
Rabbi Broyde’s article is an important contribution to an important conversation. So far, however, it only strengthen’s Rabbi Adlerstein’s points, which were almost all completely sidestepped (when a response ignores all your important points and picks on one sidebar, you know you are on to something).
Here is Rabbi Adlerstein’s main point: “The far left of Modern Orthodoxy seems to be intent on continuing an unrelenting drive to push the envelope and change the way people lead an Orthodox life… Rabbi Avi Weiss has unfortunately become the charismatic leader of what is now a movement.”
He is not focused on a list of questionable halachos being proposed and how our community ought to view them. If that were the case, Rabbi Broyde’s response might have been appropriate. But that misses the entire thrust of Rabbi Adlerstein’s argument.
Characterizing the Far Left as a “movement” that seeks to “[change] the way people lead an Orthodox life” is a far more serious charge than complaining that they’ve crossed a few lines in the case of specific halachos. This charge suggests that the Far Left represents a foreign value system – not simply that they are introducing specific foreign … Read More >>
By Yehuda L. Oppenheimer
It is not every day that I agree with the Pope.
After all, to say the least, we have several non-trivial theological differences. There is also the matter of the history of the Church, and its relationship with our people, and frankly, many more matters than I can list in this essay.
Today, however, I must say that I stand firmly with the Pope in a position that he took last week.
While many of my co-coreligionists may not be aware of it, on October 27, 2011 Pope Benedict XVI invited some 300 religious leaders, and tellingly, some non-religious leaders, to the city of St. Francis to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of one of the signature achievements of his predecessor. John Paul II convened a “ World Day of Prayer for Peace” on Oct. 27, 1986; an event that was part of that pontiff’s historic opening to other faiths, the legacy of which is now known as the “Spirit of Assisi.” During that event one could witness, along with a traditional Catholic prayer, Zoroastrians tending a sacred fire, Buddhists chanting to the accompaniment of gongs and drums, and a Native American medicine man in traditional … Read More >>
by Steven Pruzansky
Paradoxically, I found myself in agreement with both Rav Adlerstein and Rav Broyde in their recent comments on Modern Orthodoxy and the limits of RCA tolerance. Rav Adlerstein lays down the gauntlet in terms of the importance of parameters for RCA inclusion, so we do not define ourselves into irrelevancy, or worse, become a tacit endorser of quasi-heretical notions. And Rav Broyde’s exposition of Modern Orthodoxy as “Always at a Crossroads” is, in many ways, right on point and underscores true areas of difference, especially in the danger of witch hunts and in mandating acceptance of the views of “gedolim” who do not generally share our hashkafat olam. Additionally, the challenge to the “Far Left” of maverick approaches to halacha and minhag that destroy the envelope after first pushing its ends should also engender some necessary soul-searching and perhaps re-visiting of some views.
Yet, if my admiration for Rav Broyde only grows each time he puts ink to paper (or the modern equivalent), I remain troubled by certain assumptions that are made that I believe undermine his overall argument. This is perhaps encapsulated in his summation that states, in pertinent part, that Modern Orthodoxy “incorporates two … Read More >>
By Michael Broyde
[Editor’s Note: Rabbi Broyde penned and submitted an eloquent reaction to my piece in Ami Magazine regarding the dilemma that Modern Orthodoxy faces in regard to the Far Left. It is a more than worthwhile read, for cogently capturing a very different point of view. Rabbi Broyde and I have been fast friends for years. Despite the fact that we very rarely agree about important matters, we both sense that we share far more than we disagree about. I do not regard him as a member of the Far Left, especially because of our shared passion for serious Torah learning – even though we frequently disagree about pshat in the passages before us. We are friends neither in spite of our differences, nor because of them. We are simply friends.
Needless to say, I disagree with both my friend’s analysis of the differences between the Far Left and mainstream Orthodoxy, as well as his recommendations for action. I am hoping that readers will do much of the heavy lifting in reacting to this piece, saving me from having to write a detailed response. - YA]
Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein’s brilliantly written essay “Modern Orthodoxy at a Crossroads” is, like everything else Rabbi Adlerstein has written, full of his erudite insights into community. However, ultimately, both his diagnosis of the problem and his explanation of the solution are, I think, wrong: Modern Orthodoxy is always at the crossroads – no more now than yesterday or tomorrow. Furthermore, he fundamentally misunderstands the Modern Orthodox ethos and condition – Modern Orthodoxy will always be more embracing of all Orthodox Jews than many are comfortable with as our boundaries are determined more by the historical parameters of halacha than by current gedolim. Modern Orthodoxy will always be more open to all Orthodox Jews.
At its core, Rabbi Adlerstein’s essay is an attempt to delegitimize what he call the Orthodox “Far Left,” a term he does not define or characterize, but is used throughout in his essay. Allow me to give it a definition: the Orthodox “Far Left” is a group within the Orthodox community which is attempting to discard many aspects of minhag yisrael on matters of women’s issues and perhaps will come to adopt the same approach to other issues as well. Yet it seems that at least in intent (if not in effect, to borrow Lawrence Summer’s term), they are not seeking to leave the halachic community at all. They are, instead, seeking to expand the borders of customary practice with innovative readings of sources, some grounded in classical insights, some grounded in innovation and some grounded in social change that they perceive as present. Furthermore, and this might be the crux of the issue, they steadfastly refuse to defer to the judgments of the gedolim who dominate the community that Rabbi Adlerstein comes from and instead either put forward their own gedolim or deny the need for sanction from gedolim to make the changes they recommend.
Rabbi Adlerstein’s view is that the RCA must expel the “Far Left” and without such an expulsion, the cooperation with the Charedi community will be jeopardized. Both of these conclusions are wrong – indeed, I think that the RCA should welcome as members those whom Rabbi Adlerstein thinks is the “Far Left” with open hands; the Orthodox center and right are all better with the Orthodox “Far Left” present, and much more importantly, the Orthodox “Far Left” is better served in a community with the rest of Orthodoxy. Each will moderate and temper the other. The parts are weaker than the whole. Modern Orthodoxy has to be more embracing of all Orthodox Jews. Furthermore, if we exclude the halachic “Far Left” from our community, we will have no say in what they do and how they do it.
II. Halacha First: A Modern Orthodox Credo
First and foremost, Rabbi Adlerstein’s plea for expulsion is completely unconvincing to me. Anyone who really understands what Modern Orthodoxy ought to be, understands that after we are finished expelling the “Far Left”, there will be a new far left to expel. In this regard, the Rav’s z.t.l approach to Rabbi Rackman was correct – wrong halachic ideas are criticized and sometimes even delegitimatized – but people are not normally expelled for advocating ideas that are within the halachic universe but simply not proper or normative.
(But this is not enough of a vision for the Modern Orthodox community – as we have to decide what idea and conduct are outside of these parameters. Our tent needs to have walls – otherwise, what kind of tent is it? More on this in the next section)
Second, and most importantly, Modern Orthodoxy is – as its name suggests – an attempt to meld the classical rabbinic tradition with the best of the modern world, and it requires, indeed even mandates, that the modern world be examined to determine what is in it that ought to be part of the Orthodox community. This can be found in the rabbinic idiom that “The best of the house of Yefet should reside in the house of Shem” – the best of western culture should be part of the Jewish community. Continue reading → Modern Orthodoxy is Always at the Crossroads
By: Etana Hecht
As many of you know, this past week in Bet Shemesh has not been a pleasant one. For those of you who have been hearing bits here and there, or reading articles in the press, I’d like to give my account as a Bet Shemesh resident.
I’m not an Orot parent (yet! hopefully next year), and I don’t even currently live in Sheinfeld (the Dati Leumi neighborhood across from the school), but I lived there for three years, hope to move back sometime soon and am a Bet Shemesh resident. I first came to Bet Shemesh eight years ago, and from the very beginning loved this city. The community of Sheinfeld is amazing, warm, and welcoming with terrific people and shuls. When we first moved in, the Ultra-orthodox community of RBS B was new, and expanding all the time. Slowly the buildings of RBS expanded until they were directly across from the border of Sheinfeld. Gezundeheit, welcome to the neighborhood.
When tensions started due to signs that were put up across the street demanding that women who walk through ‘their’ streets be dressed properly, some Sheinfeld people decided to try and diffuse the … Read More >>
by Chaskel Bennett
It was 1993 and today few remember the first attack on the World Trade Center when extremists detonated a bomb laden vehicle in the lower level of the underground garage. Though there was a tragic loss of life, minimal structural damage was sustained by the towers themselves, and few long- term safeguards were implemented at that time to protect and solidify the Twin Towers from future attack.
Fast forward a few short years to September 11 2001, when a small group of Islamic terrorists brazenly attacked the same World Trade Center, hijacking humanity and placing America on a war footing not seen since the attack on Pearl Harbor. As a veteran Hatzoloh first responder at Ground Zero whose personal safety was put in jeopardy on that fateful morning, I have been forever impacted by those events and wish to again publically thank Hashem for His kindness bestowed upon me and my fellow Hatzoloh members.
The terror attacks of 9/11 sent a shudder through the heart of the nation and brought downtown Manhattan, a symbol of American dominance, to a crashing halt. The collapse of the towers, in our own backyard, killed thousands of innocent people and … Read More >>
by Jonathan Sacks
It was the same city but it might have been a different planet. At the end of April, the eyes of the world were on London as a dashing prince and a radiant princess, William and Kate, rode in a horse-drawn carriage through streets lined with cheering crowds sharing a mood of joyous celebration. Less than four months later, the world was watching London again as hooded youths ran riot down high streets, smashing windows, looting shops, setting fire to cars, attacking passersby and throwing rocks at the police.
It looked like a scene from Cairo, Tunis or Tripoli earlier in the year. But this was no political uprising. People were breaking into shops and making off with clothes, shoes, electronic gadgets and flat-screen televisions. It was, as someone later called it, shopping with violence, consumerism run rampage, an explosion of lawlessness made possible by mobile phones as gangs discovered that by text messaging they could bring crowds onto the streets where they became, for a while, impossible to control.
Let us be clear. The numbers involved were relatively small. The lawkeepers vastly outnumbered the lawbreakers. People stepped in to rescue those attacked. Crowds appeared each … Read More >>
by Eli Julian
The recent comments of General (res.) Avi Zamir regarding the status of religion in the IDF and headlines about the text of Yizkor at IDF ceremonies, are causing quite a few people to dust off that old issue of the charedi attitude towards the army and give it some more attention.
As a charedi soldier in the IDF, the issue is obviously of special interest to me. I would like to infuse the discussion with some up-to-date personal observations by sharing some of my experiences and those of my fellow charedi soldiers.
After having studied for seven years at Yeshivas Toras Moshe, I was finding it rather hard to maintain my family without any significant source of income. I tried my hand at safrus for some time, and also dabbled in chinuch, serving as an Av Bayit in a yeshiva for boys from weak Torah backgrounds. However, I quickly discovered that even though I was relatively good at what I was doing, both those fields had become flooded with the myriad other Avrechim in similar circumstances, making it difficult for all of us to eke out a living.
It was at this point that I … Read More >>
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 >>